Friday, April 30, 2010

Core Strength

Workout of the Day:

5 rounds of:

20 sandbag situps

20 band pull throughs

Today was a quasi-rest day, as John and I just focused on core conditioning in anticipation of a big training weekend. We headed back to University Park and found some suitable dirt to make a heavy sandbag (35 kg or so) and carved a spot under the trees to stay out of the rain for out workout. The sandbag situps are more like rolling situps, as you must use your legs to help swing your body upright. The key thing here is to keep the bag on top of your shoulder during the motion and not let it slip too far onto your chest. We did 10 on the right and 10 on the left before transitioning to the pull throughs. These were done using a pullup assistance band of average thickness wrapped around a narrow tree trunk. This is one of Louis Simmons’ favorite exercises for glute and lower back strength, and it works. The idea is to be dynamic and really thrust the hips forward while pulling the band from between your legs to hip height. By the 5th set my low back was fried and really felt like I had done the job.

All told, this took us no more than 20 minutes to do, sandbag creation and all. A great circuit for core conditioning if you’re getting tired of toes to bar, back extensions, and ghd situps. Scotland tomorrow. Hum-yee.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

RAF Mildenhall

Workout of the Day:

Snatch 3, 3, 2, 2, 1, 1, 1

50 double under

3 rounds of:

30 box jump

30 wall ball

30 pullup

50 double under

John and I got out early and headed east towards Cambridge for our appointment with the guys at Royal Air Force Mildenhall. Arriving in Cambridge a few hours before we were set to meet up with Mike, we decided to rent a pair of bikes and cruise around town. Awesome idea. For 8 pounds we were side by side on purple street cruisers weaving in and out of traffic through downtown Cambridge, which is, incidentally, beautiful. We grabbed lunch, walked around, and largely just relaxed before heading back to the station.

We met Mike at the Newmarket train stop a little after 3 pm and drove over to the base where Rob, Justice, Matt, and the rest of the crew were waiting for us. We got everything set up at one end of the base’s enormous basketball court where a 25 foot wall mounted pullup bar made its home. There were targets for the wall balls and boxes with 45 lb weights on top. Things were dialed in.

To start it off we worked some Olympic lifts in the adjacent globo-style base gym. Hexagonal plates aside, it felt good to lift some heavy weights. We worked through some technical aspects of the movements and made a couple of tries at big numbers. I missed 3 attempts at 215 before calling it a day. Rob practically power snatched 185 for a PR, and John got 135 in his 3rd snatch session ever. But the metcon was still the main item on the agenda so that’s where our primary focus was.

Testing my ankles out on the double unders and box jumps was not promising. The down portion of the box jump was especially uncomfortable as the joint tried to absorb and rebound all in one motion. Luckily, Rob located some athletic tape that I used for an impromptu tape job that helped a ton confidence-wise. I figured I would just take it as it came and be careful with the box jumps.

There were 6 of us going for it, making the atmosphere competition like. The double unders went fast, without breaks for both John and I. The box jumps were awkward and I could feel my right leg taking most of the force on the way down. I wasn’t bouncing directly back up in an effort to limit the jamming action, but I think this just made things worse. Heading to the wall balls I felt okay and knocked out the 30 without dropping the ball at all. I had opened a little space between John and I by this point but not much. I did 20 pullups unbroken, rested a few, then did the last 10. Really felt good on these. I’ve been just feeling better and better when it comes to pullups in WODs, which I couldn’t be happier about. The second round felt better on the jumps as things had started to warm up, worse on the wall balls, and by the pullups I was sucking gas. After 10 butterflies I transitioned to standard kipping and felt much stronger. This was the way I went for the remainder. The 3 round was strictly mental. Physically I was tired, but not crushed—I just had to keep going. I did, getting to the 18th pullup before ripping a callas on my left hand. PISSED. Really hate when this happens and so close to the end. I finished the repetitions and went through the double unders in 2 sets, stopping the clock at 12:59.

This was a great workout with some great guys. Afterwards, John and I joined Rob and Mike for some great grub at a local spot off base before grabbing the train back home. Being on the base was a ton of fun and I can’t thank everyone enough for being so welcoming. I’m looking forward to seeing them again in a few weeks in Sweden.

Tomorrow is for schoolwork, maybe a swim, then off to Newcastle and Scotland on Friday. Coming for you J Mull.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Rest Day

Back at CrossFit Thames

Workout of the Day:

30 handstand pushups

40 pullups

50 kb swings (1.5 pd)

60 situps

70 burpees

John and I shot into London this afternoon just as soon as I had finished my first class in Oxford. We did a little sightseeing, some walking around, then made our way down to CrossFit Thames to meet up with Jami for another round of near-life experiences. The workout was one pulled from the main site in an effort to simulate the competitive atmosphere of the regional in two weeks.

My gameplan heading in was to split sets judiciously to avoid reaching total exhaustion—hspu’s 3 x 10, pullups 2 x 20, etc. My resolve didn’t hold long however, as the first set of handstands I found myself trucking through til number 15 without stopping. The next set was 8, then 5, then 2. Needless to say, could’ve done better there. I got to 20 on the pullups without much trouble. The second set I hit 12, the third 8. Overall not bad, but I think could’ve gone 25 and 15 here instead. At this point I was behind Jami by 15 seconds or so and John about the same distance behind me. The kb swings I did unbroken until 37, when my grip started to go. I dropped for a few seconds then finished the last 13 before getting straight to the situps. Never had to stop on these. My pace was steady, but in comparison with John’s, not so fast. The burpees were hell. I was hoping to do sets of 10 the whole way with short breaks between, but my hips and quads were pretty weak after the situps. I got to 20 according to plan, but then had to slow down before hitting 30. 40 felt a little better, but from 50 on it was groups of 2 fast, 2 slow. Finally I finished in a time of 10:36, about 50 seconds ahead of Jami.

I felt great about the effort, but weak on the strategy. For me, I think this workout can be done closer to 9:30. Still, a great routine in a great atmosphere at CF Thames. Thanks to Jami for setting it up.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

University Park

Workout of the Day:

5 rounds for time:

25 foot rope climb

10 fireman squats (85 kg)

20 ring dips

My boy John got here yesterday afternoon, much to my delight. Not only is he a badass firefighter, a ton of fun to be around, and an seriously high quality guy, but he is as “down for whatever” as you could ever want in a workout partner. It’s a nice bit of timing that he’s coming to visit now with just 2 weeks left until the regional qualifiers.

Today we went to over the University Park and brought the rope and rings in hopes of finding a tree big enough to support the both. No problem there. There are some of the most beautiful and accessible trees I’ve seen in Europe scattered around this park, and, even though we eventually were instructed that they were protected from climbing, hanging things, etc, we found a couple to support the WOD quite nicely. I went first and felt great on the climbs and the squats all the way through. The biggest killer were the dips, surprisingly. Squatting with someone on your back requires a lot more from your shoulders than squatting with a bar and I think this took its toll when I got to the rings. The first set was unbroken, the second took 3 sets, and from there on it was 5 or more to get all 20 done. I finished in 13 minutes.

John took his shot at it next and shot up the rope without using his legs at all the first set. This would prove a little costly, as his arms gassed quickly by set #2. I tried to coach him on the art of using your feet as you climb, but doing so in the middle of the workout was pretty tough. He muscled his way through and pounded the squats and dips in the same pattern as I did, finishing in 17 minutes when all was said and done.

This is likely just the first in a line of great workouts we will be doing over the next 10 days so I’m really excited. Getting to London once more, out to Royal Air Force MIldenhall on Wednesday, and then up to Scotland next weekend. Come on!

Rest Day

Saturday, April 24, 2010

3 for 1 in London

Workout of the Day:

Part I…

10 minute AMRAP

Box Jump up

Bear Crawl down

12 x 18” stairs

Part II…

30 Muscle Ups for time

Part III…

Back Squat 5, 3, 1, 1, 1

15 minutes Chest to Bar technique

BIG day today. Was up and out of Oxford by 9:15 this morning, heading east on the train to Paddington Station in London. After a few unsuccessful ventures into sporting goods stores looking for Olympic weightlifting shoes, I met up with Dellus, Rob, and Jami (Owner of CrossFit Thames) at London Bridge Station. We headed toward the tower bridge and settled ourselves in a new age amphitheater just in front of the mayor’s office along the river. The four of us had plenty of spectators during the lunch hour WOD, even competing with an impromptu 3-man theater performance for crowd attention at one point. The workout itself was grueling. Jami and I went first while Rob and Dell filmed/stretched. Because the elements were so short and light, this turned out to be a real burner. We flew out of the gates and had 3 rounds done in the first minute. That pace didn’t hold up, but I did manage to finish with 21 ½ rounds (262 steps jumped/252 stairs crawled). My ankles were fatigued but not in pain, and the main area of exhaustion was my hips and my lungs. Jami finished with 18 ½ rounds, Rob with 17, and Del with 15. The video is below.

From there we walked across the Tower Bridge where we each did a ceremonial muscle up (pictured above) then along the river past London Tower Prison. We crashed at Starbucks for 30 minutes or so before continuing on to a park near Del’s house. We hung up the rings in a friendly tree and, 1 at a time, took our best shot at a post-bearcrawl 30 MU’s for time. I don’t remember everyone’s times exactly, but I think Rob was just under 7, Jami just over 6, Del just under 6, and I was 5:18. I tried to strategize, doing 5 at a time then resting 30 seconds before going on. This worked until 18, when I started to lose the false grip between reps. I got to 20 at around 3 minutes and just started doing singles from there. I missed 2 in the last 10 and ended with a time that I think could be better.

After the park, Rob headed home and Jami, Del, and I grabbed some food at the market to eat before heading over to CrossFit Thames for the evening. The space is nestled in London's financial district of Canary Wharf, just around the corner from a beautiful row of waterfront pubs and restaurants. It's young, spartan, and ready to boom. I wouldn't be surprised if Thames outgrows its current space by the end of the summer.

We got in just before 6, so Jami had to start coaching right away. Del and I hit the squat rack, hoping for anything positive after all the jumping and crawling earlier in the day (not to mention car pulls yesterday...)—both of our legs were starting to feel it by this point. For me, this was a good thing because having to lift heavy when tired is going to happen at the regionals so I need to train for it. We both cleared 170 kg before missing 180. Not really a huge surprise being weak here, so I was happy I got what I did.

Afterwards I practiced finding my rhythm on chest to bar pullups using a gymnastic kip. I probably did 10 sets or so, trying different swings, grips, and tempos. Overall things felt pretty decent, but not perfect. Really glad I did it and need to work more in the next 2 weeks to keep it fresh.

I’m resting tomorrow before my boy John comes in from Sacramento. In fact, he might already be on the plane. He’s a firefighter and loves to work, so it’ll be a big couple weeks with him around.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Out in the Country

Workout of the Day:

4 rounds for time, rest as needed between rounds:

100 meter car push

25 shoulder to overhead (30 kg)

Additional core/balance work:

Headstand with repeated extensions

I took the train from Oxford to Charlbury today to visit my friends from DC, Robin and Taryn. Robin’s family still lives here in England and they were nice enough to have me over for the day. We went hiking through the valley, ate lunch at a pub/hotel that’s been around for 900 years, and enjoyed the still inexplicably gorgeous English weather.

Round about 3:30 we decided it was time to sweat. Robin’s dad had a new Mercedes Benz wagon that looked tasty enough, so we wheeled it down the driveway, around the corner, and onto the stretch of unused road that bordered the pasture. It was flat, straight, and long, read: must be used to push cars. I walked off a distance of 100 meters (looking for a nice round number to sprint), putting a bag at one end and the log we would use for the shoulder to overheads at the other. The first round was a little hesitant, wanting to check the ankles, the potholes, and the degree of difficulty. The sprint didn’t feel too tough, but the overheads required a lot more air than I thought. By the end I was out of breath and the clock read 1:32. Robin went next, using an open hatch technique for his sprint to get lower and finished in 1:32 as well. My second set I was moving the car much faster. The ankles felt good and I was confident in the footing so I let it out, finishing the circuit in 1:25. The aftermath was worse, obviously, as I could feel my lungs burning and my mouth really drying out. My third round time was 1:29 and finished with wobbly legs and a burning stomach. The lunch we ate at the pub was threatening to come up (ham, eggs, fries, and soup wanted their revenge). The last round felt different. I definitely didn’t have the same juice as the first 3, meaning I had reached a point physically where I could no longer fully recover in the time it took Robin to do his turn. Still, I went with what I had and busted ass down the road. I had trouble getting the log up to my chest, wasting a handful of seconds struggling with it. Wound up finishing in 1:36 and was spent, dizzy, and jellied. Great work.

We made our way back up to the house and chilled for 30 minutes or so before going to the lawn to play around with hand balancing and core control. Robin showed me an exercise he learned from Jim Bathurst (our mutual good buddy from DC who runs where you raise into a headstand with hands as supports, then lower your knees back to your elbows before fully extending again at the top. The object is to do several in a row and control the movement fully and slowly. Definitely a challenge and so much fun. We were getting them, missing them, stringing a few together, then falling over in heaps. Taryn got some great pictures that I will hopefully have my hands on by the weekend.

I forgot my camera so no video from today unfortunately. Tomorrow I head into London to meet up with Dell for a WOD on the Tower Bridge, then swinging to CrossFit Thames in the evening. Hopefully with Oly shoes in tow.

Rest Day

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Use Your Bike

Workout of the Day:

Partner WOD, 5 rounds…

800 meter bike sprint

AMRAP strict toes to bar

I woke up this morning feeling very sore from yesterday. My chest, shoulders, and hamstrings were all tight and talking to me. The ankle continues to improve and I think I’ll be able to do some lifting on it by the end of this week, assuming all goes smoothly until then.

This morning’s WOD was a bit of a ramshackle production, just because of the limitations I’ve placed on myself the past week or so. Niels and I found a spot at the bottom of what appears to be the only hill in Oxford where we could hang and do toes to bar. The hill was long and gradual and it set up for a decent climb for a bike. Since I recently purchased a used hybrid to move myself around town, this was perfect. We dropped it into the largest gear to maximize the resistance and took turns sprinting to the top while the other did toes to bar. Definitely harder than I thought, and waaay more fun. Sprinting on a bike is a different sensation and boy do you get moving. Definitely use yours for more than long rides if you have one.

At the bottom, my sets were: 23, 23, 20, 21, 19. It took us exactly 20 minutes to finish. This wasn’t the most strenuous or challenging session by any stretch, but it was fun and different, and probably was about right following yesterday’s high volume workload.

Will rest tomorrow, then head to the country to visit some friends from DC in town for a week. Excited about that. Then, to London on Friday for what should be an interesting AM/PM split.

Monday, April 19, 2010


Workout of the Day:

In the morning…

15 minutes alternating Tabata rounds of:




In the evening…

For time:

Burpees and Elevated bridges

50-25, 40-20, 30-15, 20-10, 10-5

Reclaimed a bit of intensity today. Everything was still bodyweight and nothing too extreme for the ankles, but it was a step in the right direction.

I got up early and met Niels for Tabata rounds in a parking lot around the corner from his place. We used a bike shelter that stood 8 feet or so off the ground for the pullups. The bar we hung from was 2” x 2” square aluminum piping, so grip was a factor immediately. I began getting between 10-12 pullups per set, but that dropped quickly as it soon became nearly impossible to use my legs and hips to kip up without slipping off the bar. The last 5 or 6 sets were all in the 6 repetition range, producing a final total of 78. The pushups were surprisingly strong. I didn’t dip below 15 repetitions until the 6th set, and after that was still getting 12-13 per. I finished with 153 total. The squats were almost a non-factor. I hit 17 once, but every other set was 16 on the nose—161 total. I didn’t feel fatigued at all from these, and my heart rate only elevated slightly. Jumping squats is the way to do tabatas… I know this, but I was wary of putting too much pressure on the feet so we kept things on the ground. Great way to start the day, looking forward to early morning workouts on the regular from here on out.

This evening I was looking for stamina. Since running is still not an option yet and I have no access to a pool or a rower, burpees were the obvious choice. I tested the feet out and things felt fine on the soft grass so I went for it. I managed to smoke the first 50 in 2 minutes, only coming up for air once, while still conserving energy (meaning it wasn’t an all out sprint). The second set was much worse. The first 15 went fast, but then the fatigue crept in. 40 felt like 100 and it definitely took me at least 2:30 minutes to get them done. 10 less reps in :30 more time is not saying much for my recovery. But I rebounded. The 3rd set was better, and the last 2 I finished unbroken. I was gasping at the end, but overall I thought my body responded pretty well for not doing much more than walking around the past week.

The second part of the couplet was an exercise that is great for the hamstrings, glutes, and lower back (areas I need to improve) but rarely gets done. My window ledge provided an ideal height for doing them, and they’re a great compliment for a quad dominant exercise like burpees, so it was a no brainer. The only points of performance is to touch your ass to the ground at the bottom and reach full extension at the top (should be slight upward curve). These torched my hamstrings the first 2 sets. It’s a funny sensation because there’s no physical reason why you can’t continue, it’s just uncomfortable to do so. Rounds 3, 4, and 5 went quick and I finished in 12:33. 150 burpees, 75 bridges, no ankle issues, and two chewed up pieces of lawn where my feet were landing… Not bad at all.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Wheelbarrow Walk

Workout of the Day

7 rounds for time:

20 meter human wheelbarrow

7 handstand pushups

14 situps

First day training since falling off the wall last Wednesday (pictured left). My right ankle is still a bit swollen but not bad, and the left heel bruise is almost gone. Niels and I went to the Oxford University park to do this routine and found ourselves some space amidst the sunbathing masses in England. I don’t think people are used to 18 degree weather (close to 70 farenheit) so they were out in force.

I can’t remember the last time I did a wheelbarrow race, but it’s too long ago. This was really fun. I was worried that the wheelbarrows plus the handstands would be too much on the arms, but it was actually much more of a core-centric exercise. This made the situps much harder than they otherwise would’ve been. The handstands weren’t that bad, in fact. Doing them without a wall certainly helps, I think. Having a partner there to keep me in a vertical path rather than pushing into a static wall definitely conserves energy. I did all 7 sets without breaking, finishing in a total time of 10:18. Short, sharp, felt great.

Tomorrow I get my student card and official affiliation with the University, including their sport facilities. I’m hoping to check out the pool and weightroom to get a better idea of what I’ll be working with the next 2 months.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Recovering Well

Things continue to feel better with my ankles and feet day after day. Today I probably walked far more than I should have, running errands and getting myself set up in Oxford. A group of us also met this afternoon to give punting a shot on the little tributaries around the town. Punting is the Venice-style, pole in the water method of moving a boat up and down stream. It took a bit to figure out the technique, but once we got it things got fun. We were racing, picnicking, and relaxing for close to 2 hours before calling it a day. On the way back to the city center, Niels and I spied a park that should support a decent workout tomorrow. Looking forward to doing something again, even if it doesn't involve anything on the lower half.
Also, I've attached the link to a video from the series of workouts last week at CrossFit Central London. Had some trouble uploading it earlier in the week.

Friday, April 16, 2010


Tuesday morning I took to the rails and ventured up to Manchester to visit CrossFit 3D and CrossFit Central Manchester. I was met at the station by Pete, a new friend and training partner who frequents both locations as a coach and athlete. Pete qualified from the UK sectional last month for the European Regional in Halmstad but isn’t going to be making the trip. He took me on a brief driving tour of Manchester before dropping in to Central’s box to say hello. We were met by Simon, owner and operator, and chatted for a bit. Their facility is located beneath a rail arch, very similarly to the space I saw at CrossFit Central London. The plan was to head back in and train with Simon and co. the following day, but, as I will explain, circumstances didn’t permit this return visit.

From there we headed to 3D, a new facility opened by Karl Steadman in south Manchester. It’s in an industrial park well within sniffing distance of the local brewery. Due to this, open door workouts are privy to wonderful aromas—smells like a fresh bread bakery out there. Pete and I began training with his boy Jaime, a 3D regular and 2009 Games competitor. I worked rack jerks, Pete did front squats to jerks, and Jaime worked snatches. I felt pretty strong overall and ended up setting a personal best at 135 kg. I tried 140 kg twice but neither was clean or close so I let it alone at that.

Afterwards we headed out to the parking lot for a strongman circuit that was simply crushing. Using a prowler sled loaded to 170 kg, a 20 m length of rope attached to 40 kg flat sled (plus 75 kg Karl riding on top), and a 60 kg sand bag, we did the following for 3 rounds:

20 meter prowler push (170 kg)

20 meter rope pull (115 kg)

40 meter bearhug carry (60 kg)

20 meter prowler push (170 kg)

My times were 1:21, 1:31, and 1:29. I hated this and was on the ground for a good while afterwards. Pete and Jaime were not far away, equally sprawled. Hard to imagine such a short interval being so completely exhausting, but such was the case. It was actually a bit comical how wiped out everyone was.

I rested about an hour then joined Karl’s 7:00 class for their MMA inspired Fight Gone Bad mash up.

3 x 1 minute rounds of:

Battling ropes

Sledge swings

Tire flips


Bear hug getups (20 kg bag)

I felt great throughout this routine. My recovery was good during the 1 minute break and my numbers for each 5 minute block were surprisingly consistent: 190, 189, 191. All told, it was a great afternoon with some great guys who know how to push it. A few of us headed out for a beer and dinner afterwards and they helped me get set up with plans to visit the city of Chester the following day (ancient city with Roman walls still intact). The plan was to return the following afternoon to say goodbye. That, however, did not happen.

I arrived in Chester by 10:30 the next day, expecting a little sightseeing before heading back to Manchester to train with Simon. Walking about, I quickly found the famed wall—super cool and impressive. The northgate area, especially, has been preserved and refurbished to perfection. Along my walk I did some weighted pullups and weighted inverted rows from the undercarriage of a low hanging railway bridge, kind of peaking my exploratory interest. Then, as I was walking along the old moat, I came to an area of the wall that looked quite climbable. It was only 25 feet or so to the top ledge and there were a couple of locals hanging out below encouraging me so I figured I’d give it a shot. The first sign of trouble was the looseness of the dirt covering much of the ancient wall. To all those reading: DON’T climb on loose dirt. I took my time and worked what was a relatively simple line up the wall until I was literally on the top ledge. Then, just as I was pulling myself up, the hold under my left foot gave way and I was sliding backwards fast. I bounced a little on the ledge blow and my slide turned into a freefall to the walkway and the locals below. I managed to land fairly square on my feet and absorbed most of the impact without endangering my head or back by crumpling quickly and rolling. However, it was still a 20 + foot fall onto a cement surface, leaving my feet bruised and my ankles sprained. I got myself back up to the train station and made my way directly back down to Bourne End, skipping the back half of the Manchester trip for obvious reasons.

While then I wasn’t sure how serious things were and feared the worst, today I can say that I dodged a bullet. Things have already begun to feel better and I’m walking close to normal. It will probably be a week or so before I even try to run or do anything strenuous on my legs, with the main focus to be 100% by the qualifiers in May. Moral of the story is that this was an unnecessary risk that didn’t need to be taken. Luckily the result wasn’t catastrophic, but that shouldn’t divert attention from what could’ve happened. With climbing, especially, precaution must win out over adventure in an untested environment. Needless to say, the next week or so will be upper body dominant routines and a lot of ice and ibuprofen to help the healing process along.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Snatch Heavy

Workout of the Day:

1RM Snatch

3 rounds for time:

5 full range HSPU

10 full range pullup + full range toe to bar

15 man on fire burpees

So I have been waiting over a week for my BritRail train pass to come in the mail, but have been dealing with issue after issue with the courier service. Finally, this morning, the representative agreed to let me come pick up a duplicate from her office in London. This meant I was going back to the city and I figured I might as well drop in to CrossFit Central London for some heavy Olympic lifting. So I sent a quick message over to Dell and Rob, my training partners from the other night, and we agreed to meet over there at 5 pm. With the gym practically to ourselves and the video camera as an aid, we went about establishing 1RM’s.

I warmed up with 40, 50, and 60 kg for sets of 3, then did a single at 80 kg. Felt good, so I bumped it to 90 kg. Hit it first try with ease. Decided to go straight to 100 kg, my PR and a weight I hadn’t hit since moving to Europe. Stuck it first attempt. REALLY fired up at this point. Then I proceeded to attempt and miss 105 kg 6 consecutive times, getting it halfway up one time before losing it left. This was frustrating, but encouraging. Until the last few sets, the weight didn’t feel too heavy, I was just missing it by a few inches. Anyways, going into regional qualifiers having matched my PR’s in both Olympic lifts within the last month, things could certainly be worse.

To make things even better, Rob and Dell each improved their lifts as well. Rob’s technique looked amazing, just a few little wobbles in the bottom of the squat caused him to miss reps at 80kg. Next time he attempts, I’m sure he will get it. Dell is like a spring off the ground and has seriously raw power. He power snatched 70 kg (almost a muscle snatch), and just needs to get comfortable diving under the bar to get much higher numbers.

We set off on the metcon without a clock because it was being used for the class happening around us. Even after the heavy snatches I was most interested in how I would do with the handstand pushups. Answer: not bad. The first set I felt strong and got 4 + 1. Everything from there was singles due to the fatigue of the other exercises, but I only missed one attempt the entire time.

The full range pullups with full range toes to bar were the toughest bit. CCL has a monkey bar setup that we used to pull our heads between until our shoulders hit the bars. Then, from a full hang without kipping, we lifted the feet all the way beyond our heads (almost like a skin the cat) before beginning the second repetition. Definitely wears the arms out fast but a great challenge on the core as well, and almost therapeutic after all the heavy hip extension we had just done.

The last bit was a variation I’ve been wanting to try for a while. Hitting the ground like a standard burpee, then log rolling left before pushing up and clapping. Back down, rolling right, then jumping and clapping. This required more coordination, more arm strength, and more time than regular burpees. The heartrate didn’t jack up as quickly, but it was a good way to get out of the sagital plane of motion that we so often get trapped in.

Overall this was an excellent session with tons of positive points to carry forward. My next few days will be a bit wild as I’m heading to Manchester Tuesday/Wednesday, then to Iceland from Thursday to Monday. It’s a hell of a 7 days so stay tuned.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Run Test

Workout of the Day:

In the morning…

16 half gassers (50 meters and back)

Sprints meant to be kept under 16 seconds, rest remainder of minute

In the evening…

20 foot legless rope climb

20 pushups

20 second iron cross

No time, no set rest, do as many rounds as you feel like

Another beautiful day of weather in England, and another day of great outdoor workouts to accompany it. This morning I made my way to the stretch of turf that lines the space between neighborhood houses here, and marched off a distance of 50 meters. We used to do this run test every year coming in to summer conditioning for football at Princeton, but it was always on a proper all-weather track. Today’s track was grassy and inclined. Not ideal. Given these factors, I gave myself an extra second’s grace on the time, pushing for 17 seconds or less on all rounds, rather than 16 seconds or less. Good thing. Don’t think I made it under 16 once. I did, however, make every time under 17, only slowing a bit from start to finish. My legs felt the brunt of this and it was not fun overall. But, I have to say I was happy with my ability to recover in just over 40 seconds each set.

Took a few hours off to get some work done then headed up to Marlow Wood to play around in the trees. The idea tonight was to lay off the legs and to do some climbing without a lot of structure. I wound up finding a tree with endless branches to climb and all kinds of creative options. I probably could have tied my rope up 30 or 40 feet up if I wanted, but things would have been precarious getting down to say the least. Just to the side of the rope limb was a set of branches wide enough to do elevated pushups. The branch where my hands were was giving plenty of flex, making the pushups a little more challenging for the stabilization. On the other side of the tree there were two trunks widening out just enough to support a suspended iron cross between them. This was fun, but a little scary as I got tired during round 3. 20 seconds was doable the first 2 rounds, but the 3rd I only had the strength for about 10.

After 3 rounds of this rotation I decided to work a little extra on rope climbing technique. Got an extra 4 climbs in before calling it a day and heading back home. Tons of fun at a great location. Video is below.

Rest Day

Saturday, April 10, 2010

CCL round 2...

Workout of the Day:

5 x 5 sumo deadlift

5 x 6-10 good morning

3 rounds for time partner WOD:

40 OH squat (55 kg)

50 pullup

60 box jump

70 double under

400 meter run

(I wore 20 lb vest)

Made it back in to London today. I spent an hour or so in Hyde park with a friend of mine from the States, then headed over to London Bridge to meet up with Dellus from CrossFit Central London. He’s an Osteopath working in the city and after last nights work he offered to see me today for a once over. This was great. Not only did he work out some kinks, but we chatted at length about CrossFit, the role of his practice therein, and our experiences in general. Afterwards he walked me through a bit of old London, including Borough Market, the Clink, and some great neighborhoods between the bridge and CCL.

When we got to the gym it was seething again. Brian was teaching a foundations course with 3 new members and there were a handful of others doing the workout of the day (as described above). Dellus, Rob, and I started in on some strength work, doing 5 x 5’s of sumo deadlifts (dead stop in between repetitions) followed by 5 x 6-10’s of weighted good mornings. The deadlift sets were 120 kg, 140 kg, 150 kg, 160 kg, and 170 kg. I felt pretty strong with these, the biggest limitation being the grip. The last set at 170 was a struggle, but in a good way. Never was there a chance of it not getting up. Del looked strong the whole way and Rob made it look easy. Kid is built to deadlift.

We transitioned to weighted good mornings from there, an exercise neither of my workout partners had done much of. I’m interested to hear how they’re feeling tomorrow. We worked at 60 kg for the first few sets, then bumped it to 70 kg for the last 2. I got at least 7 every time, with a few 8’s mixed in. Loved this for strength building in the lower back and hamstrings. Hoping to do a lot more of it as we head towards Sweden in May.

The partner WOD was tough. Rob and I paired up, with me wearing the 20 lb vest for a little extra umph. As the workout progressed the weight vest felt heavier and heavier, my compressing more and more. We necessarily split the workload based upon our strengths, so I wound up doing 60 % of the OH squats, Rob doing closer to 70% of the pullups, splitting the box jumps, me doing 60 % of the double unders, and obviously both doing the run. In total the workout took us 26:07 to finish and it was a burner. The first round felt real easy, but the rest was not fun. The weight vest took its toll on me, especially on the pullups and the run. I was able to get through the OH squats without much trouble on any of the rounds and the double unders didn’t feel much different with the extra weight. Overall, though, I was pretty kicked afterwards.

After the guys locked up, a group of us headed around the corner for a few beers and chatted til 10:30 or so. It was a great finish to the night and I genuinely enjoyed the company. Brian got some great pictures and I’m hoping to get my hands on them as soon as he posts them on Flicker. Hopefully this is not the last time I train at CCL. Great spot.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Run Forest...

Workout of the Day:

In the morning…

5 rounds for time:

1200 meter run

200 meter weighted run (40 kg)

In the evening…

Establish a 3RM front squat

3 rounds for time:

12 ground to overhead (40 kg)

15 pullup

21 kb swing (32 kg)

Even after taking yesterday off to rest, I was feeling stiff this morning. My quads and ass especially. I also felt a general soreness in my shoulders, but nothing big. Still, I was excited to get back outside and build on the momentum I created Tuesday.

The morning workout was designed to be long, mentally grueling, and to challenge the cardio vascular conditioning that I’ve neglected in Paris. Just down stream from the Bourne End bridge there’s an open farm plot with telephone poles dotting down it’s center spaced just under 100 meters apart. This was my spot.

The first run around the perimeter felt great. I kept my pace under a 7 minute mile (with the exception of the couple mud puddles I had to navigate) and I got back to my starting point in 5:15. I used the same log I had the other night for the OH squats for the weighted carry today. It felt light. Definitely had a Rocky moment running with it across my back through the field, only my field wasn’t covered in snow. The second run was a little tougher, but not too bad. By the third I was wishing I hadn’t set out to do 5 rounds, but I pressed on only dropping my pace a little bit. The weighted runs never really got hard, to be honest. This has to be thanks to all the sandbag stuff I’ve been doing the past 6 months. Surprisingly, it’s much easier to handle the huge log than it is the lighter sandbag.

The 4th and 5th rounds were gut checks. I tried to pick up my pace on the home stretch and dropped the log with the clock reading 30:19. I had set 30:00 as a goal after I saw the time on my first leg, so I was a little pissed I had come so close. This was still a cool twist on doing a distance run and I recommend people give it a try. Next time I will pick a location with some hills for the running portion.

The evening session took place at CrossFit Central London, the city’s first and largest CrossFit affiliate. Brian, the gym owner, had invited me in months back and today was the day to take him up on his hospitality. I went in to the city around 2 to do some sightseeing. No pictures though, because my camera has failed me yet again. Sadness. I walked around the town, saw the standard sights, was super impressed with the Parliament building even though I’d seen it a million times in movies and on television, and made my way over to CCL by 6 pm. The location is beyond perfect, in my opinion. On the south bank in the old city of Southwark, CCL is tucked in a converted arch of the railroad line passing overtop. The address actually reads: Arch 57. Not kidding. Apparently the railroad company decided the space was too valuable to go to waste and converted about a dozen of these arches into storage facilities for rent. Down the row there’s a boxing gym, an Astin Martin dealership, and a custom framer.

The interior is tall and huge. They’ve actually taken up two arches, giving them (by my estimate) around 2000 square feet of usable space. At the moment they’re only using half of it at comfortably supporting 50 regular members. Tonight I was training alongside 12 other people and didn’t feel crowded in the least. These guys have a great situation here. I’m jealous.

The Workout of the Day called for heavy front squats followed by a short metcon. Perfect. I hadn’t done any heavy in what felt like forever so I was excited to see those front squats. By sets looked like this: 100 kg x 3, 110 kg x 3, 120 kg x 3, 130 kg x 3, and 135 kg x 2. Barely got the second repetition on the 135 and thought better of attempting the 3rd. Had no chance of getting another. Pretty happy with this result considering the morning’s activities. I don’t remember any previous numbers for a 3RM, but I’m sure this is my best. I think my best 1RM might have been 135 kg before, so tonight wasn’t bad at all. This is my chief weakness when it comes to cleans and I don’t do it enough. But it felt good to see the numbers going up anyways.

The metcon, 3 round for time of 12 ground to overhead (40 kg), 15 pullups, and 21 kb swings (32 kg), I was excited about. I knew the limiting factor would be the grip, something that tends to be an Achilles heal of mine from time to time. The prescribed weight for the kb swings was actually 24 kg, but we ran out of kettlebells. I was happy to bump it up, remembering all too well the way the 32 kg bell crushed me in Copenhagen 2 months ago. I started off snatching the ground to overheads—felt super light. The pullups went quick as well. The swings felt heavy from the start. I didn’t break the set, but I knew that I would have to in the rounds to follow. I picked the bar up for the 2nd round of GTO’s and it was like someone slipped an extra 50 pounds on there when I wasn’t looking. Where the first set I had really just been flipping it up with my wrists, this set I was power snatching it with my entire body. The pullups I broke after 8 and finished in two go’s. The swings were tough but not unbearable. I did them in 3 sets of 7. The last set of GTO’s I did clean and jerks instead of snatches, and broke the pullups in 5’s. Coming in to the last 21 swings I knew it was going to be rough. My forearms were exploding and the grip was starting to go. It took me 5 sets to get to 21, with a final time of 6:52.

I feel great about today overall. I pushed myself hard and got a lot out of being in a group setting again. Hoping to see these guys again tomorrow night if I can get myself back into the city.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Fitness is...


Go find it.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned during this trans-national adventure of mine, it’s that there is nothing like training out in the open. Urban environment or rural environment, city street or barren trail… get outside and train without walls.

Some might argue that cities, by their very nature, don’t lend themselves to physical exploration. They’re lazy. Some say the countryside encourages accessibility, freedom of movement, and an exploratory eagerness that cities do not. Maybe it’s not our environment that cultivates these characteristics in us, but we that find it in them. There are no objects in nature whose equivalent can’t be found in a city if you’re looking with open eyes. Mountains are just nature's staircases, trees are her climbing walls. Carrying a bag of cement is the same as shouldering a fallen limb, and lifting a stone is, well, you get the picture. The point is, just because most of us live in cities doesn’t mean we are bereft of outdoor fitness potential. Usually it just means we’re addicted to air conditioning and the comfort of what’s habitually easy. But I digress.

The main objective of this post is not to argue the pro's and con's of the urban/rural life, but to highlight the importance of forging a connectivity with our surroundings wherever they may be. That, more than anything, is what fitness boils down to in my opinion: How capable are you of engaging and mastering challenges in an unpredictable physical world?

Answering this question in the current climate isn’t so easy for many of us. After all, a great challenge in someone’s physical world could be changing the filter in the coffee machine. Most people proudly spend every ounce of their energy avoiding physical challenges, as though that were the rightful culmination of the experiment known as modern civilization. Here we stand on the shoulders of our ancestors so that we no longer have to stand. Let us, for the sake of my sanity, disregard this perverted idea of evolution as the purest form of rationalized lethargy and, instead, engage with a world where physical challenges must be overcome by individuals whether they like it or not. What then?

First, there’s the problem of gyms: people measuring their fitness by a standard that has no practical authenticity. Gyms are a simulation of reality. A very valuable simulation, I grant you, but a simulation nonetheless. They plug the gaps when the weather is bad, help to build bases of strength and conditioning for athletes and the de-conditioned, and assist in training specific movements that must be practiced again and again to perfect form and technique (rehab/sport). These are all great uses, and if this is how you see your gym I have no objection. Unfortunately, the vast majority of people view their gym as a fitness mecca, the only place where their quest for beauty, strength, and discipline can endure and be validated. The image of a dog chasing its tail comes screaming to mind. In reality, gyms are a crutch on which we lean too heavily and quickly become dependent upon. Largely, this is because they are controlled environments and are grossly convenient. They’re also expensive, sterile, and largely devoid of practical usefulness once you leave. Globo Gyms, CrossFit Gyms; every kind of gym is merely a tool with which we build fitness for a life outside their doors, a life filled with broken elevators, dead car batteries, and the occasional evasive maneuver. That life is variable, it’s non-linear, and it rarely comes with chrome-plated barbells. If you never train strength, speed, agility, balance, power, accuracy, etc. in the environments for which they are necessary, what good are they? Life, as it were, happens everywhere. Act accordingly.

Beyond the logical reasoning outlined above, there’s also this: training outside is a far more satisfying experience. Remember that connectivity I mentioned earlier? It’s real and it only happens when you get out and start interacting with the rest of the physical universe. I cry for the individual who runs 5 miles a day, 5 days a week, and never gets a sunburn. I pity the man who does endless pullups but never gets to see anything above the bar. It’s the totality of the experience that makes outdoor training different, and it’s something you cannot simulate. When you’re outside there’s endless sensory input: wind, noise, temperature, visual space, etc. There’s constant variation in the tools you use, be it bags, beams, bridges, walls, ropes, hills, cars, or people. An environment with this much possibility literally stimulates creativity and breeds confidence in the individual’s ability to overcome all things. The more stuff you use and the more tools you touch, the greater the connectivity you create and the greater the belief in your own ability to master your surroundings. Such is the ultimate brand of fitness.

In short, these thoughts boil down to this: Be it urban or rural, fitness is only as measurable as it can be applied to overcoming challenges in the randomized physical world around us. And, while controlled environments are useful, even necessary to preparing us for this world, they are not the most critical proving grounds. The extraordinary satisfaction we get after conquering natural obstacles and the totality of the experience in general are proof of this fact.

Don’t believe me? That’s okay. Keep chasing that tail. I’ll be out back whenever you’re ready.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Bourne End Bridge

Workout of the Day

In the morning…

20 minute AMRAP:

5 Handstand Pushup

10 Atomic Situp (knees to chest)

15 Walking Lunge (ea)

In the evening…

For Time:

30 Muscle Ups


30 Ring Dips

Every broken set do 10 thick bar OH Squats (40 kg)

Incredible day. Off the charts good, in fact. I didn’t find anything heavy to lift, but I had so much fun doing this stuff instead that it didn’t matter much. I was up and out by 7:30 am, heading to the Bourne End Bridge just outside of town near the field from last night. The walking bridge that parallels the railroad crossing has high banisters on each side, making handstands doable without any danger. I used the length of the bridge for the walking lunges and just started my next round wherever I finished my 30th step. Surprisingly, the handstands were no problem at all. Neither were the situps. The only real challenge in this WOD was the lunges, and those were really just because of how long they took. At no point during this workout was I significantly out of breath, reaching muscle failure, or losing focus. I finished 13 rounds plus 5 pushups, 10 situps, and 2 lunges, bringing my totals to 70, 140, and 197, respectively.

Afterwards I did a little bonus, ala the Butcher’s Lab in Copenhagen. 4 sets of pseudo iron crosses on the banisters, playing with L-sits and different leg positions while holding. This was really tough. The handrails were at my limit width wise, really forcing me to squeeze down and out to stay suspended. Great exercise though. I wanted to include a video clip, but blogger was being a bastard and I couldn't get the thing to load. Oh well.

After joining Colin to his sound studio for show and tell (he works as a audio mixer on motion pictures, TV, etc… so cool), I headed back to the bridge for the second part of my training day.30 muscle ups and 30 ring dips, with 10 thick grip overhead squats every time a set is broken (I found a huge log nearby that did the trick nicely). By this time my butt was starting to feel the lunges and my calves were feeling the hill from the night before. Whatever. This workout kicked ass. It was a perfect night, no one was around, and the exercises meshed seamlessly. I began by ripping off 10 muscle ups—feeling strong. The log was incredible, but it wasn’t centered weight so balancing was a challenge as I pitched forward and back trying to keep it steady. The second set of MU’s I got 5. The squats were actually better, but because it was so thick my forearms and hands were doing a lot of work. The third set of MU’s I only got 4. Just 3 on the fourth. Now the rest of my arms were feeling it on the squats. Keeping my balance front to back was getting tougher as my shoulders tightened up… technique was at a premium. I got 4 the fifth set and finished with 4 on the last. The clock was at 10:41 by this point. Strategically I had been taking my time between the squats and the muscle ups, trying to give my arms a chance to recover.

The ring dips were much easier—I got them in 3 sets: 13, 10, and 7. But the OH squats were murderous during this last stretch. I was squeezing for all I was worth trying to keep the thing from sinking onto my head or falling forward. My final time was 15:53, and while that’s not super fast, I couldn’t help but feel great afterwards.

I hung out for a little while afterwards and enjoyed the best hour of the day. Hoping to do something strength related in the morning and save up for a real tough endurance effort in the afternoon. Weather permitting, of course. Should be another good one, but I can’t imagine it will top today.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Winter Hill

Workout of the Day:

3 rounds for time

20 box jumps

300 meter hill run

5 meter legless rope climb

Alison took me and the dogs on a walk today up to Winter Hill, a ridge running along the edge of yet another wide open space of public land. In addition to being beautifully green, this place was completely empty. It felt like I was on an episode of Man versus Wild and had just been dropped in the middle of nowhere with Bear Grylls. On top of the ridge I found a perfect tree from which to hang my rope. It had a branch 5 meters up that hung away from the rest and looked over the field below.

The idea with this workout was to get as out of breath as possible. Box jumps, hill run, rope climb, repeat. First of all, the hill was STEEP. I made it up the first time pretty quick. The second time I was breathing fire and my legs were cement but I still got to the top without stopping. The third was half walk half run and I felt like death. I concluded afterwards that the lack of trails in Leiden and Paris have taken their toll on my aerobic capacity. I used to do 5 mile trail runs consistently in Washington before I left and the benefits were enormous. Now that I’m back in an environment suitable to this I will be doing it again.

I used a bench for the box jumps, no problems there. The rope climbs weren’t so difficult either. The hill was everything in this WOD. I finished in 13:21 but I should've be able to do it under 10. Heading out tomorrow morning for some exploration...maybe find something heavy to lift.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

English Easter


I am just a few days into my English residency and already I’m loving the experience. I’m currently staying in Bourne End with family friends Colin and Alison Chapman, two people whom I’ve just had the pleasure of meeting but have accepted me into their home with the utmost graciousness and hospitality nonetheless. The surrounding area here is beautiful. The Thames runs right past their town and cuts a wonderful swath through the countryside, much of which is open to the public for walking, jogging, dogs, etc. I aim to get out there tomorrow and utilize this to its fullest.

Today was a FEAST. We ate with Alison’s sister and her family around 1:30, but Colin was up early preparing pork loin, roasted potatoes, cooked leeks, carrots, onions, parsnips, broccoli, and some other vegetables I’d never heard of. There was gravy, some special English rolls, all kinds of cakes and tarts, and, of course, Cadberry eggs. This meal lasted at least 3 hours and I’m not exaggerating. It felt like Thanksgiving. I stayed away from the cakes, had only a few bits of chocolate, but crushed the rest. There’s no way I’ll be eating like this once classes start and I’m over at Oxford, but if I could, I’d be putting on good weight without question. Made me realize how little I normally eat compared to what’s possible.

Since tomorrow is a bank holiday, Colin, Alison, and I are taking advantage of the day off and heading over to Windsor Castle to see the Queen. Well, we probably won’t see the Queen but maybe we’ll see her window. I’m just excited to get out and see my first real English historical sight. Tomorrow is also my first day back training and I couldn’t feel better after this week of rest. Tons of energy and motivation to carry me through this next month.

Oh yeah. Go Butler.