Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Return to Training

Workout of the Day

WOD 1 – in the afternoon…

Camber Bar Box Squat 1RM
Thick Bar Sumo Deadlift 4 x 6, 1RM
Bent Row 3 x 10
Elevated plank holds with 200# chains 3 x max time
DB and plate pinches for max time

WOD 2 – in the evening…

For Time:
Wall Ball
It has been quite a sabbatical for me on the old blog, mostly due to the insane amount of time, effort, and fun put into this year’s Anywherefit adventures.  Couldn’t have asked for a better turnout or experience than what I got, so for all those who partook, THANK YOU!!!! 

But, the time has come to train.  The next 4 weeks (I’m actually already in week 2) will look something like this:  Back Squat/Deadlift @ Super Training in the afternoons + a short metcon in the evening on Day 1.  Rest day.  Heavy pressing and pulling in the afternoons + a middle distance conditioning session in the evening on Day 3.  Rest day.  Olympic lifting in the afternoons + a super long, monostructural style session in the evening on Day 5.  Rest day.  Rest day.  After 4 weeks of this structure I will add a 4th training day per week.  After week 8 I will add a 5th training day.  After week 12 I’ll cycle back down to 3 per week. 
My goal for the next 6 months is simple: get bigger and stronger.  Now I’m not saying balloon up and try to cut weight by conditioning my ass off before the Open and Regionals, but to make a serious effort to eat, lift, and sleep enough to be 10 lb heavier than I am now.  I sit around 185# pretty comfortably, so the goal will be 195# by April with squat numbers up over 450#, Deads over 500#, and more consistent Olympic lifts.  I’ve enlisted the help of Mark Bell to jump start the strength side of things and my plan is to scale back conditioning sessions to more of a maintenance pace.  1 short effort per week (sub 5 minutes), 1 medium effort (10-20), and 1 long and slow (1 hour+).  In the meantime I’m planning on eating like a horse and sleeping more than usual.  The proof will be in the pudding at the end, but I think it will be fun to try something a bit different.  And not to worry, much of this training will be done outdoors and by creative means...

So far, I’m loving the things I’ve done at ST with Mark.  I’m training alongside my old friends Justin and Travis from CF East Sac and Ben Alderman of CF Gold, so that makes things even more fun.  A lot of great techniques and methods to be learned from the powerlifting world when it comes to producing force, but perhaps the most influential is this: don’t bitch out on the assistance work.  All the good mornings, GHD raises, grip drills, rows, and core stuff that these guys do is no bullshit.  It makes you straight up strong through the middle.  Not saying it’s the reason I did it, but I’ve been going for 3 weeks and PR’d my snatch last weekend at 255#.  Of course, I followed that up with a pretty shitty display on the clean and jerk, but the snatch part happened nonetheless.  Today we box squatted with a camber bar, something I’ve never done before.  Tricky and weird is the best way to describe this longhorn looking thing (the picture below is the best I could find on the internet.  Don't worry, I haven't gained THAT much weight).  It swings a lot when you try to stand up so you have to really be in control of the movement.  The other part of today that I loved was the weighted planks with chains.  Totally hits you in the gut the same way a heavy back squat does.
As for the conditioning set, I waited until this evening and knocked it out at Clint’s gym in Fair Oaks.  The only goal was to go unbroken and I achieved that.  I felt surprisingly good on the pullup bar for not having done a lot of pullups lately, but I can tell my arms are going to be very sore from it since they’re still having a hard time fully extending.  My time for this was 3:09.

For those of you keeping track, only 9 spots remaining for AWF 2013 this February in South America.  Get on it people!!!

Monday, September 24, 2012

AWF Munich-Vienna-Prague Days 9-10

Workout of the Day

12 minute AMRAP:
20 thrusters (95#/65#)
60 meter shuttle
20 burpees over box (24”/20”)
60 meter shuttle
20 kb swings (24 kg/16 kg)
60 meter shuttle
20 hand release pushups
60 meter shuttle

Obstacle Course for time

All night dance party
Day 9 was our last official day of activity, and it started early.  We were awake and outside the hotel catching the tram by 5:20, connecting at the central train station at 5:50.  Impressive mobilization by our crew who, by this time in the trip, are pretty much professional get-up-and-go types.  Everyone had their bags and pillows clutched tightly to their chests, a few small snacks from the hotel for breakfast, and long, tired, faces.
The train ride out of Prague was enjoyable. I found myself a coach with enough room to lay down, so that helped things a bit.  Roughly 2 hours away, the town where the event was held definitely had a different feel from every other place we’d been on the trip thus far.  The train station was not in the town center, but rather on the outskirts amidst overgrown grass and crumbling brick buildings.  The landscape was heavily wooded and quiet, giving the place a forgotten feel.  Immediately when we stepped off the train everyone was in awe of the surroundings.  This was a slice of Eastern Europe that harkened back to the Cold War and I could tell the group was loving every minute of it. 
We walked through town, not seeing a single pedestrian besides out party.  Perhaps it was because it was a Saturday morning before 9:00, but it felt eery nonetheless.  We arrived at the local school house where the challenge was to take place and made our way through registration without much event.  The interior of the gymnasium was priceless.  Old, stained wooden floors with retractable gymnastics rings hanging from the ceiling; stretching bars on the walls and parallel bars in the corner.  It reminded me of the place I trained in Paris while studying there: old, out of date, but completely austere and charming. 
The events were planned to take place out back on the black top, so we started making our way there to get a better idea of what was in store for us.  Our hosts were very accommodating in their explanation of the event, realizing that we weren’t understanding a word of Czech.  It sounded like we would be able to participate in the first 2 events before our train back to Prague departed and both WODs looked great. 
The first was a total ass kicker.  12 minutes of thrusters, burpees, kb swings, pushups, and shuttle runs.  For the majority of the people on the trip, this was about to be their first experience with competitive crossfit and they were looking understandably nervous.  As everyone who has been in this position knows, however, as soon as the WOD started there were no issues.  It became about the work and nothing more.  A few notable performances:  Alexis did the entire workout rx’d while 5 months pregnant, Marlyn did it with a sprained foot, and Brittany with back spasms.  John, Jeff, and Jenn formed a team and finished with the best time of any affiliate there.  Sven and I finished more rounds than any other male competitors and Nica was the 3rd best female.  All in all, the Anywherefit crew represented pretty damn well!
The second WOD was a short obstacle course that included a rope climb, a crouched weave between fence posts, hurdle jumps, a wall climb, and lateral cuts around cones.  With the slippery surface outside this was a true challenge and pure fun.  People were sliding all over the place, trying to move too quickly around the fence posts, and barreling over the 6 foot wall.  The whole time I was going through the course I couldn’t help smiling at the trickery of it all.  Here we were racing through a series of obstacles like we would when we were kids, something anyone could set up anywhere with the right creative outlook, testing fitness and loving every minute of it.  It was a great event for this trip and this group of people. 

As soon as everyone finished their run, we started packing up our gear and heading back towards the train.  Between the atmosphere of competition and the location of the event, I have to say this was the best way I could ever imagine wrapping this trip up.  The group was tighter than it had ever been, mutual respect across the board for all participants, and a sense of relief at what had been accomplished. 
We made a quick turnaround at the hotel and had one more phenomenal dinner as a group out in Prague.  Afterwards we hit the town in what can only be described as decidedly “unhealthy” style.  I won’t include details of this here, but it was one hell of a send off for a group of individuals that certainly deserved it. 
The following morning everyone went their separate ways, promising to stay connected via facebook and all other means of new age networking.  The first reunion has already been set for late October in Sacramento for the birthday of John Arroyo.  Again, the bond formed during 10 days of experiences like the ones we shared is the real payoff.  Views, museums, castles, places… all these things are static and re-creatable.  The Charles Bridge is breath taking, and will always be so.  20 strangers carrying bumper plates across is and doing pushups and deck squats there is the special part.  That is unique and unforgettable. 

Stay tuned for the highlight reel from Primal TV… coming soon!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

AWF Munich-Vienna-Prague Day 8

Rest Day

Day 8 was a free day for everyone in the group to explore Prague in any way they wished.  Different groups made different plans, some hiking all over the city viewing castles, museums, and cafes, while others chose a single area and spent more time off their feet relaxing. 
That evening we all reconnected for dinner in the Old Town Square at the Rott hotel.  Amazing organic food at this place, FYI.  Everyone was telling stories from their day, sharing pictures, and enjoying the food.  I could tell that people were pretty worn down, though, from the long day yesterday and just the accumulated wear and tear of the trip.  I had hoped that the day off would serve to re-charge everyone’s batteries and that the would be ready to roll the following day for the Czech Beast Challenge, but as I looked around the room I wasn’t so sure.  Especially since we were going to have to wake up at 5:00 am to catch our train out to the town where it was being held.  But aside from getting a good night’s rest, there wasn’t much else to be done.

After eating well the group headed home to hit the sack and prepare for the final challenge of the trip.  

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

AWF Munich-Vienna-Prague Day 7

Workout of the Day

WOD 1 – in the morning…
Stretch and Mobility

WOD 2 – in the afternoon…
Night Chipper Through Prague

Day 7 saw us up early and off to Schonbrunn to allow those who missed out the day before the opportunity to enjoy Austria’s premiere castle grounds.  As soon as we arrived, the group hiked up the hill overlooking the back gardens and found a shady spot beneath the Roman-inspired chateau at the top.  The cool stone felt amazing and the stretch was just what everybody needed after the last 4 days of hard training.
Afterwards the group split up for the next 2 hours to enjoy and explore the area.  Some went through the zoo, others the labyrinth, and some others took in one of the many gardens that Schonbrunn had to offer.  If you find yourself in Vienna, make it a point to visit this place.  You could spend an entire day just walking around and not see the same thing twice. 

We reconvened after lunch and made our way back to the city where our bus was waiting to take us to Prague.  This was going to be our longest ride of the entire trip—estimated at 5 hours and change.  Unfortunatley, European law dictates that drivers must take a 45 minute break for every 4 hours they drive.  This was something I had not planned for in our itinerary, and after a little bit of traffic my estimated 5:00 arrival time suddenly turned into 7:00.  This left the group a little cranky, tired, and very hungry.  Not the ideal scenario going into what was supposed to be our most grueling workout of the week.  But, like the warriors they are, everyone rallied at the hotel and made the quick turnaround we needed to get over to CrossFit Praha in time. 
The workout was designed for teams of 4, each team responsible for carrying 2 20kg bumper plates for the duration of the WOD.  We began at the gym, travelled through the city streets to the National Theater and began a sequence of thrusters, planks, overhead holds, and what felt like an introductory break dance move.  This took each group about 10 minutes to complete, then we were off again.  We made our way across the famed Charles Bridge and down into the Mala Strana where we did the next sequence of exercises: deck squats, inch worm pushups, planks, and overhead holds.  Finally, we finished by running the rest of the way with the bumpers to the top of Prague Castle for an incredible view of the city at night.  
Hands down one of the most memorable team workouts I’ve ever done.  The night element was surreal with all the people out and about and the lights shimmering everywhere.  It’s hard to describe what Prague is like to someone who hasn’t been there, but take my word for it when I tell you it’s unique.  Certain areas look like they are straight out of a period movie about knights and dragons.  Others are so gritty you expect to walk into a cafĂ© and see nothing but starving artists.  There are sculptures on every building, character in every doorframe.  It’s a place you have to see to believe.
The only downer from the night was the hour… We didn’t get back to the gym until close to 10, and by the time we made our way to the hotel it was past 11.  This meant that no restaurants were open to serve us, relegating the now ravenous troupe of crossfitters to ordering delivery pizza and mixed salad.  Not exactly what you have in mind for your first night in Prague, but kudos to everyone for rolling with the punches. 
I could tell that the next few days were going to be special.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

AWF Munich-Vienna-Prague Day 6

Workout of the Day

Partner WOD (all movements done by each partner)

200 meter Fireman carry
40 Fireman step ups
200 meter piggy back carry
30 sexy situps (1 partner hooks heels around others waist and bends back to the ground like a GHD)
200 meter bridal carry (partner lying in arms)
20 partner squats
200 meter wife carry (partners thighs on shoulders)
Day 6 began at Vienna’s Museum Square, a courtyard where 4 of the city’s museums were placed.  Definitely a place begging for a workout.  In the center of the square was a network of walkways and benches where patrons could sit and drink coffee or chat with friends.  We decided to use the circumference of this network as our track.  We quickly paired up into partnerships of similar weight and started moving. John and I were partnered up like old times, so it was an especially fun workout.  This workout was very cool, but also much more difficult than expected.  Right off the bat going from carries to step ups was pretty brutal.  I remembered from an old WOD where I had to carry a partner up a flight of stairs how difficult that could be, but I was still surprised by how tired my legs got.  And the secret killer during all these movements was being the one that was carried.  It’s not a break when you’re fighting to keep someone’s shoulders and elbows from knocking the wind out of you. 

After going around the square for the piggy back carry we began our sexy situps—such a cool exercise!  I have to give Sven all the credit here because I’d never seen or imagined this exercise before.  But it was a LOT like a GHD situp.  As with everything else, the static person was working almost as hard as the moving person.  Holding your balance while another of your same weight is bending and pulling on you is tough.  If you try this with somebody else, be sure to really sit back and almost create a shelf for the one doing situps with your knees.  Otherwise they’re going to take you down.
Happy to report that when all was said and done John and I had finished the fastest of the group, a fact we were happy to report to Icelanders Sven and Hilmar.  After everyone had finished we split up for the afternoon to walk around town, check out museums, and get caught up on things back home.  I chose to go into the Leopold Museum, home of 20th century art including a few works by Gustav Klimpt.  Although it was cool walking around and appreciating art and history as it always is, I wasn’t impressed with this museum.  The main theme was “From Expressionism to Objectivism,” leading me to believe I prefer Expressionism.
Following the museum a small group of us caught the train to Schobrunn, the Versailles of Austria.  This place was magnificent.  Impossibly huge and grandiose, the outer walls stretched close to 2 miles in length.  Once inside those walls I couldn’t believe the garden I was beholding.  Huge fountains and ponds, Romanesque structures with columns and statues, colorful flora stretching everywhere, labyrinths, zoos, you name it.  The place was massive and filled with more things to see than an afternoon could hold.  Because this place was so cool, I decided to bring the entire group back the following morning before departing for Prague.  Everyone agreed it was worth the trip.
For our last night in Vienna, Sebastian suggested we head to the river for dinner.  The place we chose had sort of a beach theme, which vibed surprisingly well with the urban surroundings of graffiti, traffic, and elevated trains.  The entire group sat at a single long table and shared stories, drinks, and laughs until late into the night.  At this point I could really feel the bonds between us getting tighter, just as they had during the Iceland trip a month earlier.  It was a great night and a great sign for what was to come in Prague.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

AWF Munich-Vienna-Prague Day 5

Day 5
Workout of the Day
WOD 1 – in the morning…
Castle Courtyard WOD
1 minute rounds of the following for max repetitions:
Box Jumps
Kick to Handstand
WOD 2 – in the evening…
Establish 1RM for the following:
Floor Press
Front Squat
Having a walk around Salzburg on the morning of day 5 was probably the best kept secret of the entire trip.  I had intended this detour to break up the drive from Munich to Vienna, but it turned out that it went way beyond expectations.  The place is literally carved out of the mountains, so that wherever you look you can see rock towering above the buildings.  The architecture and layout were quaint and endearing, the streets tightly lined with restaurants, pubs, and tourist shops.  The river between the old town and new town was cris-crossed with bridges and everything was impossibly clean and tidy.  The old town was maze-like in it’s construction, with small tunnels and alleys cutting through and under the large buildings to connect thoroughfares.  The streets were bustling with markets and musicians and it seemed everywhere one looked there was something to see. 
We made our way to the medieval fortress that sits high above the town via a near vertical train.  Once inside, it was like stepping back in time.  The museums were filled with ancient weapons, instruments of torture, and decorative artifacts from 1000 years prior.  The state rooms were maintained as they used to be, with original wood beams, cracking tile, and gilded paint throughout.  I’m having a hard time remembering if I’ve ever seen a castle preserved in this way.  Typically you’ll see rooms re-created as they were, rather than maintained in original form.  It’s a different feel entirely.  Naturally, the view was phenomenal.  360 degrees of mountains, forest, and fertile valley. 
It didn’t take long to get the group motivated to do a WOD in these surroundings, so we headed to the main courtyard and did the sequence described above.  This was surprisingly kind of a gasser.  The burpees jacked the heart rate right away and because it’s only 1 minute of work you really can’t justify slowing down at all.  Going from that straight into box jumps (done on a 3 foot stone ledge) was a little dicey.  I clipped my toe on the 3rd round and have a nice shin gash to prove it.  And then throwing yourself upside down repeatedly on the handstands never really allowed me to settle into a rhythm.  Couple all that with the fact that we were in an ancient stone fortress and we had ourselves a kickass morning workout. 
The next few hours were everyone’s to grab lunch and make their way back to our hotel where the bus was waiting to take us on to Vienna.  The plan from there would be to hit a heavy WOD at CF Vienna, then take in a film festival at City Hall that night.  Everyone was pretty excited to check out another CrossFit box since we hadn’t lifted any real weight since the first day of the trip, so the Deadlift/Floor Press/Front Squat total really hit the spot.  The gym itself was right downtown, off a main avenue a few blocks from the city center.  You walk in to what feels like an upscale apartment complex with marble staircases and wooden banisters before heading down to the basement.  Here things get gritty.  No windows, no ventilation, just sweat, dirt, and iron.  The workout space wasn’t more than 1000 square feet, but it had additional rooms for changing, storage, and showers.  Everyone immediately fell in love.  We carved out a little corner where we could do our thing and not impede the progress of the WOD already taking place, quickly organized ourselves into stations, and started getting after it.  15 minutes each station to establish our 1RM, for some their first at these movements.  I partnered up with AWF veteran Paul Frick for all 3 lifts, and watched him PR his deadlift and his front squat by nearly 20# each!  And the deadlift was just a few lbs shy of 500, a number that I know he’d have pulled if we’d had more time.  I watched Jeff Binek front squat 160 kg and make it look easy.  People were soaking through their shirts, screaming through their reps, and cheering each other on as though they’d known one another for years.  It was great to see.  My numbers were DL-210 kg, Floor Press-140 kg, Front Squat-140 kg.
After showering up we all walked down to City Hall for the film festival, essentially an enormous projection screen set up in front of stadium seating and hundreds of portable chairs in town square.  Around it dozens of vendors were selling food and drinks, making this a straight up party for the evening movie go-er.  The only hiccup was that the showing was a 70’s German opera that appeared to be more of a comedy than anything else.  None of us could really understand what was going on and I found it hard to focus on anything other than the ridiculous costumes and set.  But the experience was cool nonetheless, and the food was delicious.  I was already in love with Vienna after being there not more than 3 hours.  Lucky for me it would lonely get better.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

AWF Munich-Vienna-Prague Day 4

Workout of the Day

Climb the Mountain (not that mountain :-)
On day 4 we departed Munich and headed towards Salzburg, Austria.  Having seen and experienced so much in Germany already, it was hard to imagine what our group would look like entering a new country.  But as soon as we boarded the bus, I knew it was right.  As on the Iceland trips before, there’s something very appropriate and appealing about a group of exploratory personalities on a bus.  The seeds of bonding that had been planted during our first workouts in Munich immediately took root and we were one whole.  I’m convinced that it’s as much these transitional elements as it is the picturesque workouts that make this trip such a unique community building experience.

Our WOD for the day was simple, get to the top of the mountain.  The peak in question sits just more than a mile above sea level atop a small ski village on the German-Austrian border of the Alps.  In a word: sick.  We cautiously looked over the map to pick the right trail but quickly discovered that there were plenty to choose from and none were clearly marked.  Following Sven’s lead, our party turned away from the switchbacks and instead headed right up the face of the ski run.  There was no running; in fact we were barely walking for most of it.  The grade was so steep that the group quickly spread out from itself, with one person barely being able to see the person in front or behind him.  Despite beautiful conditions and cool temperatures, I was literally pouring sweat.  We weren’t 20 minutes in and I was completely soaking through my shirt.  Some of this came from the pack I was carrying, but the majority of it was simply a result of mountaineering being downright hard.  They ain’t kidding when they say Sherpas are the fittest people on earth. 

About ½ mile from the top the grade leveled out and I was able to run again.  This was a welcome break from the constant burning that had been in my legs and calves for the last 45 minutes.  Coming around the corner I could see the lodge at the top which promised warm food and beer, giving me a surge of energy that I could ride to the end.  At the top were Sven and Ross, cheering me on.  After me came John, Matt, Maddy, and Vlad.  The view was spectacular, as you might imagine an Austrian Alps view to be.  The mountains stretched into infinity on one side of us—the valley with dotted with tiny German towns fell away on the other.  As each member of the group conquered the final climb we cheered louder.  In response, everyone finished running and smiling.  In all, we had gained approximately 1200 meters in elevation over the course of only a few kilometers.  Our times ranged from :49 to 2:00. 

After eating a warming meal at the lodge, we headed back to the trail to explore the top of the range a bit.  Not far from our trail we stumbled upon a rocky outcropping right on the edge of the cliff that was begging to be climbed.  After establishing that it was secure and not extraordinarily complicated to maneuver, we began scaling it one by one.  Now, as anyone who has experience climbing can attest to, it takes a few holds to get your groove back when hugging a rock.  You can only imagine what whose in our crew were feeling who’ve rarely climbed at all.  This was one of those spontaneous opportunities for people to face their fears and for the rest of us to help coach them through it.  Everyone that attempted the climb made it the 80 or so feet to the top and got to take in the amazing view.  This proved to be a seminal moment in the trip for many in the group.