Thursday, October 28, 2010

CrossFit again

My wife continues to believe this is perfect for me. Get pushed hard, do it with a group, and come home pumped from workouts. I've basically been working out solo, at least 95% of the time, since I moved away from CA almost 14 years ago. Working out in a group is great. And, because I'm the new guy, I'm finishing last in many workouts. This means that everyone else is watching me and encouraging me, and I can't back down or go half-assed.

Last night, we started with some foam rolling and using lacrosse balls to massage "hot spots". Then, a warm-up of 50 kettlebell swings at a weight and pace of your choosing.

Then, ten minutes of form work on split presses. Then 3x10 of box jumps - sit on one box and in a single continuous movement, stand up and jump up and onto another box. I almost killed my shins on this one until the coach helped me with a more appropriately sized box.

And then, the real workout. Because I can't yet do a muscle-up (sort of a pull-up followed by a dip on rings), I did the substitute sequence:

7 deadlifts, 14 band-assisted pull-ups and 21 push-ups. Times three. For time.

I used #235 for my deadlifts - well below my max, but something that would be tough for 3 sets of seven. The first set went well. The pull-ups, even assisted are not easy for me right now. Then, push-ups, deads and pull-ups again. And then, it was Pukey the Clown time again. I have to get better at pacing myself or maybe try using lower weights until I get used to the pace of the workout. After a 2 minute break out back, I returned. Some people were done, but I wasn't. And, I wasn't going to quit. So, with most of the gym watching, I pushed through the workout, finishing in 10:30.

The coach gave me my CrossFit shirt last night, so I guess I'm really part of the "team" now.

I'll go to one more class tonight before I head out of town to see the Michigan at Penn State football game this coming weekend.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

To "Helen" Back

Last night's CrossFit workout was as follows:


- Clean and Jerk Complex (1 rep consists of 1 Deadlift, 1 Squat Clean, 1 Hang Power Clean, and 1 Split Jerk. Complex must be completed in 20 seconds): 1-1-1-1-1-1-1

- "Helen"- 3 rounds AQAP
Run 400m
21 Kettlebell Swings 53/35
12 Pull-ups

Post results/thoughts to comments

Awesome job on the Olympic work today everybody. We went through the Burgener Warm-up to get going and many of you are starting to get a better handle on those movements. Way to push those lungs on "Helen" today you guys all pushed hard and are all making strides in both your conditioning and all of the strength movements we've been using. Pull-ups are getting way better for many of you. Awesome work. See you tomorrow. Cheers."

Again, it sounded easy. Plus, after not doing a workout for 12 days, I deliberately took it easy. Only 65 pounds on the C&J complex, where I'm sure I could have done 95-105. I used the 35 pound kettle-bell. And, I used a band for my pull-ups.

Somehow, I still struggled. On my first 400 meter run, my calves felt like they would cramp up. No running for a while will do that. The swings went OK, but I seemed much slower than everyone else. Some photos later revealed that my range of motion was more than needed. And then, even with the support band, I sucked at pull-ups. It was tough.

I was the last person to finish the workout, so I got all of the coach's attention at the end. He hurried me through the final set of pull-ups. I finished. Last, but I finished.

And suddenly, I knew I was about to "meet" the CrossFit character you don't want to meet. He's known as "Pukey the Clown". Some CrossFit gyms give out T-shirts for people who meet Pukey. I was hoping no one would notice. I went outside and dry heaved for what felt like 10 minutes. By the time my stomach settled down, everyone else was about done with their cool-down. I tried to pretend that nothing had happened. I don't know if they bought it or not.

In two hours, I'll be back for another round.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Eleven Days Since My Last Post

Getting sick sucks. But, even though I was sick most of last week, life has been interesting since my last post.

Right after my last post, I went to see Roger Waters perform The Wall again, this time, with my wife in Hartford, CT. It was a great show (again) and my wife and I enjoyed getting away for a trip to the "big city".

Then, suddenly, I started to feel sick. My boss sent me home from work early last Monday. That kind of stuff can happen when you work for doctors. I managed to get some work done from home the next few days, but I was really sick. By Friday, I felt good enough to go to the office, but still not quite 100%.

I did manage to make it to Boston to see some friends last weekend and see Gary Numan in concert, a 30th anniversary tour for his Pleasure Principle album. It was a solid show, although I can name a handful of songs I wish he'd played beyond the entire anniversary album.

The past two nights, I've slept a lot. I'm still just tired from being sick. My last workout was on Thursday, 10/14. Tonight, 12 days later, I'm finally going back to CrossFit. I really only have 5 or so weeks to get myself into better shape for ski season. As the ski season progresses and I hopefully get back to being consistent with my workouts, my fitness should improve. But, I have to admit that I wish I was in better shape as the ski season approaches.

Just before I got sick, I'd really started to get consistent with my workouts. Now, after 12 days, it feels like starting over in some ways.

Friday, October 15, 2010

How hard can it be?

CrossFit Workout of the day:
- Strict Press: 5-5-5-5-5
- 3 rounds AQAP:
Run 400m
75 Air Squats

It doesn't look that hard, does it?

Because I'm the new guy, the coach only had me do 35 air squats per round.

I was going to do the entire workout, but he was right. I did well on the presses - good form and the right weight for me right now - 85 pounds. The very last rep on each set was tough and on the last set, the last two were very tough.

So, we then started the "real" workout. After one 400m run, I started my air squats. I cruised through them. On the ramp back outside to run my second 400, my legs almost buckled. WTF? On the second set of air squats, I had to take a break partway through. The last run was terrible. And them more air squats? It took me 12 minutes for the whole thing and it was hard.

Oh yeah, then we spent about ten minutes stretching. I'm so inflexible I couldn't even get into the correct position for the stretches. But, that's what I'm there for. I'm not sore today, just tired again.

It's snowing in the mountains right now. Some people will probably be hiking to make some ski turns tomorrow, but I won't be one of them - too many other things going on.

I like this CrossFit stuff, but I sure hope I survive it. Next week, I increase the number of classes.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


So, for a few years, I've been thinking about trying CrossFit workouts. But, for a long, long time, Vermont had no CrossFit affiliates, so the opportunity didn't really exist. Recently, I decided to take a look again and I was surprised to see 2 affiliates in Vermont. One is in Montpelier, about halfway between my home and my office and the other is about a mile from my office. Last night, after work, I went to the one close to my office for a tour and to watch a workout.

People new to CrossFit, at this gym at least, are required to take a 4 session beginner class that focuses on teaching correct form for the various exercises. However, because the owner of this franchise knew that I am already a lifter and a runner, I went there prepared to work out, if he offered. And, of course, he did. And, I did indeed get worked.

CrossFit uses a standard warm-up, according to their web-site:

3 rounds of 10-15 reps of
Samson Stretch (do the Samson Stretch once each round for 15-30 seconds)
Overhead Squat with broomstick
Note that for a workout that's dip or pullup-centric, you might want to do something else in the warmup.

The overhead squat is a nemesis of mine from the gym. It shows my lack of flexibility in a few places, especially ankle dorsiflexion. And, my limited ankle dorsiflexion affects my skiing in a very negative way. This is part of why I am interested in CrossFit. Years of long distance running have resulted in a very inflexible body. Lifting weights has helped, but CrossFit places emphasis on flexibility, agility and balance, in addition to just being "strong" or having endurance.

I found out quickly where the "Our warm-up is your workout" phrase came from. It was an interesting introduction to CrossFit, and I wasn't at the workout yet. Next came ten minutes of "WYW" - Work Your Weakness. The owner took this time to teach me a lift I'd never done before that I'd need for the main workout - the squat clean. It's a complex move and I definitely struggled with it. After the 10 minutes were up, he suggested I use a power clean instead for the workout, which is an easier move overall. He suggested that I could use 95 pounds for the workout, based on my squat and deadlift maxes.

So, the workout was named Elizabeth, and was two different exercises with rep patterns of 21-15-9. There were two lifts: squat cleans and dips. Basically, as fast as possible, we were supposed to do 21 reps of each lift, then 15 of each and then 9 of each. There were a limited number of ring sets, so being the new guy, I gladly substituted push-ups for the dips. The coach said "Go" and we were off.

After about ten reps of power cleans, I had to rest for a bit. I did about 3 more reps and had to rest again. After my 17th rep, I was about to throw up. I stepped back from the bar to allow myself to recover. The coach noticed and suggested that I remove some weight from the bar. He said it was more important to keep moving rather than focus on the amount I could lift. So, we dropped from 95 pounds to 65 pounds, and I continued. It wasn't easy, but at least I wasn't hurling, so I guess the reduction in bar weight was a good idea. I finished in just under 8 minutes. Oh yeah, half of my push-ups were from the knees.

It was a killer 8 minutes, but I could see the value in something like this. It definitely hit me in a lot of areas where I'm weak. Not physically weak, but just not the best all-around athlete that I could be.

After the main workout, we still had a cool-down - 3x30 of either Abmat sit-ups or 3x30 of "toes to bar". I don't even know if I'm flexible or strong enough to do 1 rep of the latter, so I did (most of) the sit-ups. I was whipped.

So, next Monday night, I start the four "beginner" sessions. But, because I have experience in the gym, I've been invited to continue doing regular workouts while I go through the beginner classes.

Today, I'm not sore, but I can feel that I worked hard. I think this is going to help me a lot in a number of areas, especially with weight loss and improving my skiing. The improvements in my skiing will be by-products of CrossFit, but I'm sure they'll happen. Some people have likened CrossFit to a cult. I can see that perspective, and if it is true, I guess I'm going to drink the Kool-Aid.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Best Workout Week in Months

I had a great week in the gym and running last week - the most workouts I've done in a week in months. It could have been better, but I did so much better than I've done recently. I still need to be better with my diet and my beer consumption, but just getting a workout nearly every day is a victory for me.

Tonight, I'm going to visit one of the two CrossFit gyms in Vermont. I've been thinking about the upcoming ski season and some of the weaknesses in my skiing. In particular, CrossFit addresses some areas of "fitness" where I know I don't excel. First, my skiing is hurt by my lack of flexibility. Secondly, anything that helps with balance cannot hurt my skiing. In reality, all of the fitness goals of CrossFit should help to improve my skiing. Plus, doing CrossFit should help me to lose some weight before I'm on the snow. So, depending on the visit tonight, I may soon be trading my normal lifting workouts for CrossFit.

Right now, I really want to focus on my fitness for ski season and my weight. After ski season is over, if I accomplish what I want over the winter, I then want to see how a more serious return to running goes in the spring. But, for right now, I'm going to focus on exercise that helps me to be stronger, more agile, and more flexible, in the hope that I'll have a great skiing season.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

A good string of workouts

Last week was a little bit light in the workout department. Way too light - just two days.

So far this week, I've worked out every day - a heavy leg day in the gym, a running workout of mostly sprints, an upper body day in the gym, focusing on the bench press, and a nice easy steady state run today.

Tomorrow, my daughter has an afternoon soccer game, so getting in a workout might be tough, but I'll give it a shot.

I've got no real plans for this weekend, which should make it easier to get in some workouts this weekend, which I failed to do last weekend.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Roger Waters Performs "The Wall" - A Review

I was lucky enough, or maybe stupid enough, to be in the front row for the Sunday, October 3rd show at the Boston Garden. The concept of stupidity is related to the price of my seats.

I must admit up front that The Wall has been my favorite album for many, many years. If I had to guess what album I've listened to the second most times in my life, I'm not sure what it would be. But, there's no doubt that I've listened to to The Wall more times than any other album.

At first, I wasn't even going to go. From Pink Floyd, it was only Roger Waters in this show. In the 1990s, I'd seen the rest of Pink Floyd in Oakland, and it was a really good show, but without Roger Waters, it wasn't really Pink Floyd. And, despite the fact that The Wall is really Roger's album, it still wouldn't be Pink Floyd. But then, I read an article/interview about the tour in Rolling Stone, and the next thing I knew, I wanted to go.

Being the all or nothing type of person that I am, I decided that if I was going, I wanted good seats. After all, in some ways, I'd been waiting 30 years for this show. I looked around the internet for tickets in either Montreal or Boston. I found out that the third and last show in Boston still had front row tickets available, but for quite a premium.

Before this show, the most money I'd ever spent for a concert ticket was $95 to see CSNY right after Neil Young released Living With War. That show was worth the money. But, this show was going to be 3.5 times as expensive if I wanted to sit in the front row. And, I had to buy two tickets. Even if I was stupid enough to spend almost $350 for a concert ticket, I still needed to find someone else that stupid.

Luckily, one of my skiing buddies (I'll only use his initial here, which sounds a lot like his name), J, was just the guy I was looking for. An ex-college roommate (and best man at my wedding), who happens to live near Boston, offered to put us up for the night after the show. And then, he got us some great seats to see the Yankees play the Red Sox on the last day of the regular season. Suddenly, this day was getting really expensive. And really memorable, even before it happened.

After the baseball game, J and I got some food with my friends from Boston and then we headed to the Boston Garden. We got our tickets and headed inside. When we got to our seats, I was amazed. It really was the front row. I kept worrying that I'd misunderstood and paid a fortune for a seat in the front row of the back section. But, the stage was right there in front of us.

There wasn't a whole lot to the stage at the start - the big circular screen in the center, the instruments for the band, and the beginnings of the wall to the left and the right.

I'm not going to go into a lot of detail about the show itself. The band was excellent, although it seems like it took at least three people to replace David Gilmour between his guitar work and his vocals. The vocalist did a great job though.

Musically, the show was very true to the album, with a few additions and some changed lyrics. There were some clear messages during the show that weren't necessarily part of the original album or at least weren't as big a part of the album. There are many references to the stupidity of war, and some icons on the screen (red icons dropping from a plane, apparently as bombs, but shaped as religious and corporate icons) blaming religion and corporatism for wars. There were many messages about NOT trusting the government ("Mother, should I trust the government?" "Hell No!").

And, as the first set progressed, the Wall was gradually being built. Some highlights of the first set included the pyrotechnics after In the Flesh. The final burst sent a wave a intense heat right to our seats. Giant "puppets" appeared for Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2, and of course, the Mother puppet during Mother. One of the coolest things was the exact timing of the construction of the Wall. As each brick was put in place, the constant animation that was projecting on the wall would be expanded to the newest brick. The timing of everything was very precise.

At times, brief obituaries were shown for soldiers and civilians - some who had died in WWII, and others who have died more recently in Iraq or Afghanistan or even London. As the first set neared its close, the wall was completed and we went to an intermission. During the intermission, the wall was covered with more brief obituaries:

The third side of the album (yeah, I'm old) might have been the least interesting, in some respects. Yet, it contained a lot of animation and film on the wall, with mostly Roger singing in front of the Wall while his band was behind the Wall. It's not that I don't like the music. I love it. But after the theatrics of the first set, this was kind of tame.

The most poignant moment of the entire night was during Bring the Boys Back Home. A film was projected on the Wall that showed what appeared to be an American girl in her school classroom. She had a look on her face that can't even be described - something either amazing or horrible had rendered her absolutely speechless and incapable of emotion. Finally, she stands up and runs across the room to hug a soldier, presumably her father. This scene had me on the verge of tears, mostly for how emotional it was, but also because it reminded me of all of those reunions that never have taken place. The never-ending cost of war in terms of human lives remains unfathomable to me. Some live. Some die. Everyone suffers, it seems, except the people who make the decisions. But, enough of that subject.

The third side of the album ends with Comfortably Numb, just an amazing song. It was done by Roger Waters in front of the Wall with the David Gilmour replacement above the wall on some scaffolding. At least that's how I think it was done; it was hard to see from where we were.

On the fourth side of the album, thing get a little weird. The Waters character, Pink, has a meltdown of sorts, perhaps a psychotic episode, and believes he is performing in some neo-Nazi type of band. Regretfully, my few pictures of this sequence didn't come out too well. My friend J has some good photos from this part that I might add later. At this point, the band formed in front of the wall, as the "surrogate band" for Pink, who the audience is told isn't well. It all went down like some sort of musical Nazi rally - a very important part of the show, and a connection to the death of Roger's father in WWII while Roger was a child. This all takes place in 3 songs - In the Flesh (part 2 - the same, yet different, song that opened the show), Run Like Hell (Roger claimed this was for all the paranoid people in the audience) and Waiting for the Worms. Run Like Hell is one of the better known songs from the album and is a great follow-on to In the Flesh, part 2.

At this point in the show, I have to admit that I was feeling kind of sad. The show had been great, but it was almost over. Only 3 songs to go, with one of them painfully short. In the first song, Stop, Pink decides that maybe hiding behind the Wall wasn't the best decision. Adultery, overbearing teachers and mothers, the loss of his father, and the success of his band, which pushes him to large impersonal arena shows, have been too much for him. But, maybe some spark of humanity remains, and in Stop, the possibility is suggested: "I wanna go home; take off this uniform and leave the show".

Then, comes the climax of the show - the Trial, with the Judge, and testimony from the teacher, the mother and all of the other characters in the story. If Pink had had his doubts about the Wall, the verdict took care of that for him: "Tear Down the Wall!" There were some amazing graphics through this part of the show, and then suddenly, the wall toppled towards the audience. Security guards protected people in the first few rows by deflecting cardboard "bricks".

And then, just the denouement - the band in front of the exploded wall, singing a short but simple song that ends with the phrase "After all it's not easy, banging your heart against some mad bugger's wall". The band took their bows and filed offstage.

So, was it a good show? A great show? I say yes on both accounts. But, I'm biased. It's my favorite album of all time and an amazing band played it really well. Roger's voice is still quite good and he has assembled a great team to play the music and to stage the show. It is an amazing experience - the story itself, the construction and destruction of the wall, the use of video and other effects - just amazing.

I'd gladly see it again. I think any Pink Floyd fan who didn't hate the Wall (and there were quite a few of them) should see the show. In the story/interview in Rolling Stone, there were comments that this might be it for Roger and touring. This isn't just a concert. It's a show. An amazing spectacle. And, it was worth every penny I paid for it.

Friday, October 1, 2010


I never worked out yesterday, but that was OK. I needed some sleep, so I went home, had some dinner and went to bed before 8:00. I got 10.5 hours of sleep and I feel much better today.

On the way to work this morning, I decided I was going to delete yesterday's whiny post, but two friends had made encouraging comments, so I left it there.

I have been having problems sleeping recently. I remember when my grandmother told me this would happen to me as I got older. I didn't believe it. Actually, a lot of adults warned me about how my life would change as I got older, and dammit, they were mostly right.

My sleeping problems seem to have me sleeping in a sine wave manner. One night, I can't sleep at all, the next day, I can't stay awake. On these days, when I'm tired, I often skip my workouts and go to bed early. Then, I get a lot of sleep and feel better for a day. And then, I can't sleep the next night.

I certainly don't want to take any pharmaceutical to help me sleep. Beer doesn't seem to help either.

In the past week, I went to my 30th High School reunion and had a great time. Some people there would say I had too much fun, but there were lampshades involved.

After my workout today, I'm going out for dinner with my wife and son. My daughter won't come along because of a junior high dance, even though her "boyfriend" isn't attending anyway.

Tomorrow, I get to go to one of my daughter's soccer games. Plus, I'll make a trip to the farmers' market, and then I'll watch some football.

Sunday, I'm in the front row to see Roger Waters perform The Wall at the Boston Garden. This is perhaps my favorite album ever and the early reviews on the show have been great. I might even take in a Red Sox/Yankees game Sunday afternoon before the concert.

Compared to most people, I have absolutely no reason to be unhappy, apathetic, etc. But, yesterday was just one of those days. I think the facts that my fitness level is the lowest it's been in years, and my weight is perhaps the highest it's ever been have combined to make me a bit grumpy. There's only one way to fix that, I suppose.