Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Who like to Press?

Workout of the Day

Close Grip Floor Press 10 x 1
Weighted chin ups 8 x 3
Ring Pushups 5 x 12
Front Rack holds at bottom of squat 3 x max time with 110# sandbag

Continuing to get stronger pressing weight away from my chest, even with a closer grip variation.  The biggest issue I'm finding is maintaining proper shoulder alignment during the lift.  I notice it's easy for me to want to elevate my shoulder blades and try to over reach the movement.  This is bad for 2 reasons.  1) I'm not as strong as when I pin my scapula to the ground and 2) I can feel slight impingement in my left shoulder when I do it.  This is not something I want to progress so loving everything down is a must.  Top set for these was 285#.

Photo: Jason showing off his spine/tibia relationship.

The coolest part of today's session was definitely the front squat holds.  I had the folks in Wales do a version of this during their first WOD, but today I decided to up the ante a little.  The weight was far heavier, and the object much more uncomfortable.  110# of sandbag is an awkward beast that doesn't let you breath comfortably or allow your arms the freedom of upward angles.  The result is the need for absolutely perfect bottom position in your hips and torso in order to support the weight.  I held each set for approximately :30, and could feel my upper back and shoulders failing before my legs, same as in a real front squat.  Not only do I think this is a good way to get people comfortable with a full depth front squat for technique, I think its a hell of a stretch to increase mobility there.  Only thing I'd suggest is not attempting to stand up out of your squat after staying down there for more than 5-10 seconds.  Sheering force will be pretty great and the muscles will have slackened from holding so long.  Not a good recipe.  Definitely work it in and see what you think.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Fitness Is...


Get comfortable with it.[1]

Someone once said that nothing worth having comes easy.  While I tend to shy away from superlatives when analyzing the real world, I think this is true more often than not.  Maybe we unconsciously categorize the things furthest from our grasp as “best,” fundamentally requiring a great struggle to acquire them.  Or maybe in the course of a hard struggle we come to appreciate things more for the effort it took to achieve them.  More than likely there are elements of both at work, but the fact remains that we seem to value most those accomplishments that nearly break us.  
Nowhere is this more evident than in the world of fitness.  Because our bodies are hard wired to survive rather than excel, we must consciously push past our boundaries in order to improve.  That means sweat, blood, and lactic acid.  It means sunburns and blisters, frustration and pain.  Try as you might to find your way around it, there are no exceptions to this rule.  Embracing this truth is perhaps the most difficult task you will ever face, but here it is, in plain English, so you can know it, and know it well:  IT NEVER GETS EASIER. 
You might think that the more you train the less things hurt, and in an absolute sense you’d be right.  The stronger you are at squatting, the less difficult 100 lbs is going to feel.  But in relative terms, you’re no longer squatting the same weight.  If 100 lbs used to require 90% of your strength to lift, and now only requires 50%, it is no longer a reliable standard for your measuring your effort or workload.  Remember, effort is everything.  Unless we are pushing beyond what we can currently do, we will not progress.  Perhaps now 150 lbs feels the way 100 lbs used to, so that’s where you will need to train in order to improve.  No matter how strong or fast you become, you will never out pace this process. 

Take an example.  Ask any football player, hockey player, boxer, or wrestler about the rigors of their sport and hear what they tell you.  The hits taken never stopped hurting, they just got used to the pain.  Ask Michael Jordan how he felt before every game winning shot and he’ll say he was nervous, just like every other human on the planet.  He was just great at managing his emotions.  The most impressive ability of these types of men and women is not their physical strength or stamina, it’s their adaptation to pain and anxiety.  To them fear, pain, and discomfort are part of the job description.  They revel in the challenge to overcome them.  For most of us these things are like the plague.  We cringe at the thought of putting ourselves through any sort of awkward or embarrassing situation, let alone a physically painful one.  It’s no surprise that when the moment comes to put up or shut up we make like ants running from a ground fire.  Watch a class of people in the moments before Fran and you might not know a thing about them because it’s all internalized.  Watch that same class during the round of 15 and you’ll know all you need to know.  The warriors commit and the pretenders crumble.  Becoming fitter requires you to go beyond your physical limits… Guess what?  This fucking sucks!  It really hurts and it’s always going to.  Own it.  You’ll never be able to do what it takes to get what you want unless you start accepting this as a cold, hard fact.  All the rational explanations you gave yourself for working out don’t mean a thing without this most basic understanding.

The good news is that when you do, you’re in for a huge payoff.  There’s the physical change—an inevitable acceleration in your progress.  Rather than merely getting through your workout and surviving, you will be attacking each session and demanding the equivalent response from your body.  Things will look, feel, and perform better.  MUCH BETTER.  Your body parts will shake where they’re supposed to shake and your records will start breaking in bunches.  That is a promise.
Not only will your body change in both appearance and ability, but there will be a psychological shift as well.  You’ll start tapping into that deep satisfaction that only comes from overcoming something difficult. You’ll start craving that feeling of total exhaustion, knowing what it will cost you to achieve it, and craving it just the same.  You’ll walk taller in the hallway at work, knowing that what you’re about to do barely measures in comparison with what you’ve already done.  Your approach to everything will be different because you know what it means to truly give it all; to be lying on the ground withered and gasping, then to get up do it again. 
This is why CrossFit is the optimal training environment, in my opinion.  You know exactly what you have to do, you know exactly how much it’s going to hurt, you’re surrounded by a group of people that know all the same things as you. The only thing left to do is go there.  The warriors of the world accept these consequences knowingly.  They know that it’s hard and that it’s going to hurt, and they do it anyway.  To continually grow and improve, this is the outlook we must all have.   At 100% effort, Fran is always going to hurt.  Running 1 mile for time is always going to hurt.  Embrace this reality.  Know that it’s going to suck and don’t back down.  Wear it like war paint every time you train.  When you do, you’re no longer the ant.  You are the ground fire. 

[1] “Get comfortable with uncomfortable.” –James Fitzgerald.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

AWF Wales Day 3

Workout of the Day

WOD 1 - in the morning...

Tree Climbing and Laser Tag

WOD 2 - in the afternoon...


WOD 3 - in the evening...

For completion:
100 yard bear crawl
300 yard run
1/2 mile uphill bike
20 deadlifts (100 kg)
20 pullups
1/2 bike carry downhill
100 yard walking lunge
300 yard run
1/2 mile uphill bike
20 deadlifts (100 kg)
20 pullups
1/2 mile bike carry downhill
100 yard burpee broad jump
300 yard run
1/2 mile uphill bike
20 deadlifts (100 kg)
20 pullups
1/2 mile bike carry downhill
1/2 mile uphill bike

Photo: 1 week away until the awesome trip begins. Excited much? :) #awfwales2012

Our last day in Wales was a doozy.  It was spread well between some applied fitness (tree climbing, laser tag), some skill acquisition (archery), and an all out ball buster of a workout (that horrible looking marathon above).

The weather started out beautiful and cold, but quickly gave way to a more traditionally Welsh gray and wet.  Being out down in the ravine trying to climb trees as the rest were darting around the rainy forest trying to "kill" each other was pretty surreal.  You could hear the guns echoing and people crashing through the brush like it was the Vietnam War.  I half expected an aerial napom assault from the kids on the zipline.

After lunch we took to the tournament field where we got to try our hand at archery.  I have to be honest: I was looking forward to this all weekend.  I haven't fired an arrow since I was a kid and have always wanted to be able to do it well.  Looking back on it now, I should've created a workout that involved the bow and arrow.  How cool would it have been to do a thruster/arrow couplet?  Not a new concept if you consider the Biathalon in the winter olympics, but still kind of a cool twist.  I'm going to find a way to make this happen at some point.

That said, this was such a fun experience!  Not as difficult as I was expecting, but certainly not easy by any stretch.  The slightest wobble on your release and the arrow is guaranteed to come off wonky.  After a few practice rounds everyone was starting to get the hang of it.  More than a few bulls eyes out there, and only a few air balls.

As the daylight started to fade, we hustled up the hill and rented bikes for everyone, got sized up, and made our way down to the Beaverfit pull-up rig at the back end of our caldesac.  After a quick rundown on what we were to be doing, we headed to the lake where the workout was to begin and kicked things off.  The path around the lake measured almost exactly 400 yards, so we used that as our track.  And the track was wet!  We were bear crawling through puddles, mud, and gritty bricks.  From the start it was clear that this workout wasn't going to be pleasant.

That trend was only furthered during the bike ride up the hill.  Squishy tires and heavy bikes put a hurtin' on the legs before getting to the deadlift bar.  Wet hands didn't make things any easier, especially when we moved to the pull-up bar.  But managing the elements in a longer WOD like this is par for the course, so everyone seemed to settle into things after a short while.  Sven and I were working neck and neck pretty much the entire time, as usual.  The portion of the workout where I could make up the most time was during the bike carry downhill.  Sheer awkwardness is the only way to describe this exercise. Metal bike frame on the shoulder and neck while running = severe discomfort.

The coolest part of this workout was that people were scattered all over the place, all at different points in their WOD, but constantly encouraging one another.  As I was biking uphill I was getting cheered on by those carrying their bikes downhill.  As I was finishing the burpee broad jumps and getting back on my bike to head up to the top, I was hearing it from the people just dismounting.  Such a fun environment to train in when everyone is so excited and supportive.  Couple that with the challenge of the elements and you're bound to have a seriously memorable day.

AWF Wales wrapped up almost immediately following the workout.  Quick showers, quicker good byes, and everyone was suddenly back on the bus and heading toward Cardiff.  Despite the abrupt conclusion, this trip was phenomenal.  33 people from all over the UK, Germany, and the U.S. descending on west Wales and bonding in such a short period of time.  Though different than past trips to Iceland and Europe, AWF Wales was in keeping with the main idea that makes these trips work: take people away from where they're comfortable and put them in situations where they're so physically challenged that they have to band together and endure.  It's what CrossFit does in boxes around the world, and it's what these trips are all about.  I can't wait to see the video RC Films will produce of this weekend.  So many great memories.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

AWF Wales Day 2

Workout of the Day

WOD 1 - in the morning...

Muscle Up and Tumbling Skill session

WOD 2 - in the afternoon...

1 Snatch every minute on the minute @ 90% 1RM for 10 minutes
Establish 1RM Hang Squat C&J
Front Squat 4 x 5

WOD 3 - in the evening...

In 10 x 2 minute intervals, complete the following:
10 situps
100 meter sand sprint
5 burpees

Day 2 kicked off early, all of hitting a proper Welsh breakfast at 8:00 am at the resort's main restaurant. Filled and happy are two words to describe the group's sentiments as we were walking out to the bus afterwards, but that would only be built on as the day wore on.  Our first stop of the day was Llawhaden Castle, just 30 minutes west of Bluestone.  We were the only tourists onsite, so we had the place to ourselves.  Perfect situation to hang some rings and work on muscle ups with everyone.  Because the group was so big, we broke it into halves and let one group work on handstands and tumbling while the other hit the rings.  Doing this type of thing in an ancient castle made it that much more special, and a few people ten set some personal records.  1st muscle ups, 1st handstand hold, furthest ever walked on hands, muddiest fingernails, etc.  At the end we even had everyone give a go at max consecutive muscle ups, during which I set my own PR at 13.

After about an hour and change we moved on to the second location, Freshwater West.  This is an enormous stretch of coast and beach that we used for our day's strength session.  Warming up by carrying 600 kg of bumpers and bars over the dunes to the beach, everyone was more than ready to get lifting.  Getting used to the footing was a bit of a challenge for most of us, but after awhile people were starting to lift comparable weights to what they did in the gym.  We didn't bring any smaller denominations than 10 kg plates so our options for totals were limited, but the majority of our group were able to sync up with a decent amount of load.

After finishing the EMOTM sequence we went straight into hang cleans + jerks and then into the front squats.  I love squatting in the sand, personally.  It allows you to position your feet at any angle so mobility isn't as much of an issue, while at the same time forcing you to really focus on controlling your footing.  We were lucky all day with the weather, only adding to the setting we were lucky enough to find ourselves in.

We ate lunch in the car park just off the beach, everyone ready to refill their muscle stores before the final WOD of the day.  For this last sequence we headed to Barafundle Bay, voted the most beautiful beach in Europe.  Hiking from the bus to the beach didn't prepare us for what we were walking into.  Across impossibly green pastures and rolling hills we could see the ocean and cliffs where we  were headed.  But it wasn't until we were within a hundred yards that we saw the wall separating the grass from the beach.  The stones looked centuries old and were jagged across the top like a medieval fortress.  After passing through a small doorway in the wall we could see the sheltered cove far below.  It was breathtakingly secluded and beautiful.  Walking down the long stairs to the sand I could hear each person's exclamation behind me as they passed through the wall one by one.

For the workout we marked a 100 meter course across the beach and stretched along it until we were shoulder to shoulder.  As the intervals began, it was quickly clear that we were in for a tough road.  The sand, though firm on top, was nothing more than a soft center covered by a hard crust.  As soon as we took real strides our feet were sinking and our legs fighting to overcome the deficit.  After round 4, people were really hurting, but having the halfway mark in sight pushed everyone to continue.  For me, it was the promise of a cold dip in the ocean to cool down afterwards.

Walking up the stairs and away from Barafundle after the workout I was first exhausted, but also so impressed with the beauty Wales has to offer on a clear day.  That beach is definitely among the most gorgeous I have ever seen and I can only imagine how much better it would be in late summer/early fall.

To celebrate the day, we took to the town of Temby and enjoyed a few beers at the pub while watching an English Premier League game.  It was a proper Welsh ending to the day.

Friday, November 16, 2012

AWF Wales Day 1

Workout of the Day

In teams of 5:

Team member 1 - 1200 m trail run
Team member 2 - rest
Team member 3 - front squat bottom hold (log)
Team member 4 - AMRAP kb swing
Team member 5 - AMRAP shoulder to overhead (25 kg sandbag)
Continue until team has completed 8 runs.

Everyone met up at Dragon CrossFit at 1:00 pm to depart Cardiff and head for West Wales.  There were some familiar faces for me: Ben, Ricky, and Marco were part of the original Iceland trip in 2011, as well as a few others; there were quite a few repeaters from last year's Wales trip as well.  Only 2 hours in the bus and we were at Bluestone, the 5 star resort compound that will serve as our home base for the weekend.

The weather didn't break for us a bit, unfortunately, so we took to the grounds amidst drizzling rain and light fog.  Everyone was itching to train after the bus ride, however, so we hit the ground running.  Teams of 5 were quickly determined and the entire group began the jog across the village to the "Steep Ravine."  This is Bluestone's high adventure ropes course, complete with zip lines, tree climbing, and cargo nets.  All these fancy apparatus were closed, but the ravine itself was more than inviting.  On our walk through I instructed each team to select one object from a pile of chopped logs to use in the workout.  At this point they didn't know what they would use it for, I should add.

The workout began with just enough light to see the path down the ravine, but within 10 minutes that trail was darkening quickly.  Thankfully the hill climbing out the back side of the ravine was in a clearing so that piece wasn't a problem.  It was easy to see how difficult the front squat holds were proving, as everyone was fighting to keep their elbows from crashing almost immediately.  The penalty for dropping the log or coming above parallel was 10 burpees.

Every rep completed on the push press and kb swing would be counted as a second off their final time so nobody was slacking there.  The fastest team took 23:30 to finish the runs, but with their reps counted the time dropped to 7:15.  By the end of the WOD the sky was almost completely dark.  We trudged back to the lodge and changed quickly before heading over to the Blue Lagoon, a heated aquatic center complete with slides, wave pool, and lazy river.  It was a great way to chill out after the hard workout and long day.

Tomorrow we head off site to train in some of the most beautiful places Wales has to offer.  Gonna need the rest.

Back in Wales

Workout of the Day

WOD 1 - in the afternoon...

Strict Press 3 on the minute for 10 minutes @ 80%
Bench Row 6 x 5
Handstand Eccentrics from parallettes 3 x max
Ice Cream Makers 3 x 10

WOD 2 - in the evening...

Snatch technique session

Back in Wales!!! Doesn't seem like a year has passed since last year's AWF weekend here, but alas it has.  Thankfully this part of the world hasn't gotten any drier or sunnier, at least we can count on mother nature's consistency.  Another thing that can be counted on is a long wait at Heathrow customs upon trying to enter the UK.  Allot at least an hour in your travel plans for this fiasco, otherwise you'll miss your car, bus, train, or connecting flight.

Okay, now that that's out of the way, I have to say how exciting it is to be back in a place where there is true history all around you.  From the stone architecture to the tight streets, Wales is so authentically ancient it's staggering.  Ross and I drove out to West Wales to survey the locations for AWF this weekend and everywhere we drove there were castles dotting the hill tops--crumbling stone and weather beaten structures that tell a very long story.  I'll save the detailed descriptions of the places we'll be training for later blogs, but suffice it to say they will be memorable.

After getting back to Cardiff we stopped in at Dragon CrossFit to train.  The place has grown quite a bit in the last year, expanding their already spacious interior to include an additional 1000 square feet.  It has what seems like miles of lifting platforms, an entire room dedicated to power lifting, and the same hard working, blue collar vibe that has drawn over 200 members through its doors.  To say the place has become the premier home of CrossFit in the UK wouldn't be an exaggeration.

In addition to the wonderful facilities, Dragon has also enlisted a professional Olympic lifting coach to teach classes every thursday night for its members.  Luckily for me, I was able to drop in on this session in the hopes of gleaning some information that might be useful.  The focus for the day was the Snatch, concentrating on tempo through the 2nd pull and consistent foot placement during the squat.  Definitely felt good about the coaching and wound up getting quite a lot of reps in.  Add that to the pressing from earlier in the day and I won't be surprised if things get quite sore tomorrow.

As it stands we are off to Bluestone in the morning for day 1 of AWF Wales, a day that will include a pretty sick team WOD and some good eating.  Can't wait!

Band Assisted Squats

Workout of the Day

In the Morning...

Band Assisted Squats 7 x 3
Overhead Squat 5 x 5
Sumo Deadlifts 6 x 5
Bent Row 3 x 10
Glute Ham Raise 3 x 10
Good Morning 3 x 10

Band assisted squats are designed to give assistance at the bottom of the movement, where you are presumably weakest.  Like using chains, it allows you to load the bar heavier than you otherwise would be able to, giving your body the sensation of super heavy weight without having to support it through the entire movement.  Even if it were only for the confidence of putting more weight on your back I think this would be a worthwhile exercise for strength purposes, but what actually happens is it encourages you to fire faster out of the bottom of your squat.  I was able to work up to 425# for 3 with 1/2" bands from a 7 1/2 foot pull-up bar.  At the top of the movement the bands exerted no tension, only stretching as I got deeper in my squat, giving me a rebound out of the bottom.

For the overhead squat sets I kept the weight at 205#, working on balance mostly.  It had been awhile since I did overhead squats for multiple sets and I could feel myself out of practice.  Good to get a few sets in to remember.  I actually felt pretty strong on the Sumo Deadlifts, though, working up to 395# for 5 on the last set.  The time spent with Mark Bell has definitely paid off on this movement.  Posterior chain is more solid and my efficiency much higher.

Rest day tomorrow then off to the UK for Anywherefit Wales 2012!!!  Going to be an awesome weekend filled with ridiculous outdoor workouts.  Hopefully will be updating throughout the trip, so stay tuned...

55 muscle up WOD

Workout of the Day

WOD 1 - in the morning...

Floor Press w/pause 10 x 3
Weighted Chin Up 10 x 1
Ring Dips 3 x 12
Hollow Rocks 3 x 40
Fat Bar curls 3 x 10

WOD 2 - in the evening...

For Time:
10 to 1 Muscle Ups
1 to 10 KB snatch (each arm)

After a long rest week that included indoor rock climbing, gymnastics, and a light trail run, I started off week 1 in my new cycle by hitting the weights hard and feeling strong.  Floor Presses with pause is such a great exercise for teaching your body how to store tension.  Because the ground doesn't allow you to rebound like a normal bench press, you have to hold onto the tension in order to spring back out of it and take advantage of the muscles stretch/reflex potential.  I got up to 295# for 3, much more than I expected.  The weighted chins weren't as strong, mostly due to some elbow tendonitis that hasn't flushed all the way out yet.  I actually found that if I focused on squeezing more through my thumb that the pain lessened considerably.  Might be a technique worth trying next time this condition starts creeping in.

In the evening I hit a conditioning workout meant to test my ability to do muscle ups while tired.  High volume, short rest intervals was the goal.  I found this WOD to be encouraging early and discouraging late.  In the early rounds I was able to adjust my technique on the rings to become more efficient, feeling when I was pulling too early or not using my hips enough and making the adjustment.  Towards the end, however, I found I wasn't as keen in my perceptions.  Tired is just tired, after a while.  I finished the workout in 17:46, which isn't horrible, but I'd like to see this closer to 15:00.

Hitting up some big squats tomorrow, looking forward to it!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Training Week in Review

Took me a little while to recover from the Warriorz Throwdown a few weeks back... found myself drained until about thursday of last week.  The event itself was a total blast though!  For those of you out there who aren't familiar with this event, it's put on by Charlie Zamora of Warriorz CrossFit in an effort to bring health and wellness to the forefront for the people of Elk Grove.  It's a well run event with a relaxed vibe that everyone participating really appreciated.

The unique part of this competition is that you are partnered up on the day of the event without prior knowledge of your teammate. Charlie invited most of the top athletes in California to take part, including Jenny Labaw, myself, Katie Hogan, Ben Alderman, Rebecca Voight, and more.  My partner was Sarah Hopping, an absolute studette from the bay area and a joy to compete with.  The whole day was a blast, the events ranging from a 2.5 mile medball carry for time to a combined DL/C&J total.  The only controversial moment came when one partner was asked to drape a set of rings over his/her shoulders and support the other partner doing ring pushups beneath them.  While I balked at this initially, it turned out to be a pretty cool part of the event.  100% of the weight was distributed to the legs, so no head or neck issues, and since the act of performing an isometric hold is so foreign to crossfit, it made the event pretty cool.

When all was said and done, Sarah and I tied for first place with Chad Augustine and Jenny Labaw.  But the bigger takeaway was seeing all these intense athletes relax and enjoy competition without pressure.  If everyone can carry this mindset into any given competition I guarantee they perform their best.

Getting back to my training, the last week has been a great one.

DAY 1:

Push Press 5 x 3 - Top set @ 225#
Bent Row 10 x 2 - Top set @ 245#
Pipe Flips 5 sets @ 330#
GHD Situps 4 x 25

DAY 2:

Back Squat 1RM - PR @ 426#
Deadlift 6 x 3 - top set @ 425#
Bent Row 3 x 8 @ 185#
Weighted Planks 2 x max time @ 160#
Sled Pulls 10 x 25 yards @ unknown weight

DAY 3:

Barbell Lunges 6 x 12 steps - top set @ 300#
Close grip Bench Press 10 x 4 - top set @ 265#
Sled Pull Throughs 3 x 25 yards - top set @ 280#

Saturday I am competing in another partner competition with a 13 year old girl from my gym.  Her name is Shea and she took 2nd at the CF Kids competition in the Games last summer.  If you don't know her name, take note of it now.  Girl is a serious athlete and beast.  Since we are hitting it hard this weekend, I laid off the conditioning this week.  Hopefully that strategy pays off for us, although the competition will be steep.

I attached the link for the 300# walking lunges below.  Never thought I'd be able to do that.