Friday, April 29, 2011

Shoulder Update

I hurt my shoulder in early March in a hard ski fall - directly onto the shoulder while moving at a pretty good speed.

Four weeks ago, the doctor used X-rays and ultrasound and decided it looked like just a bad bruise to the rotator cuff - the supraspinatus muscle. He gave me a cortisone injection, and had me schedule a four-week follow-up, but he thought I'd cancel the appointment. The cortisone helped, but within days, the pain returned. I feel like I'd had a small improvement overall, but not a lot. For example, with a good warm-up, I'm able to crank out push-ups, which were almost impossible before. But, the pain is still there and it's been getting tougher to sleep at night due to pain.

Yesterday was my follow-up appointment - an appointment I'd never even considered cancelling.

After a discussion of symptoms and some strength tests, the doctor pulled out the ultrasound machine again. This time, the swelling was gone from the injured area, giving him a better look at the tendon. It looks like I have a partial tear to the tendon. He suggested a number of options for treatment. The most conservative was physical therapy alone. Next on the list was PT plus a series of Traumeel injections. Traumeel is a homeopathic treatment that can be used in various forms - pills, ointment or injections. Next was platelet rich plasma treatment, which I've had done on a torn hamstring tendon with a good level of success. PRP is not covered by my insurance and will cost about $1000, so I'll pursue other options first. Last was a referral to a surgeon, but the doctor didn't think a surgeon would even want to see me given the low level of the injury.

I opted for PT plus a Traumeel injection. Before he started the injection, the doctor asked me how I do with uncomfortable injections. Between a prior PRP treatment and a Synvisc One injection, this guy seems determined to cause me pain. He used ultrasound to guide the needle and did a series of injections that was quite uncomfortable. He told me my shoulder would be sore afterward and it certainly is. I'm also supposed to take it easy on the shoulder for a few days and I have some pain medication to help with the short-term soreness and to help me sleep.

After the appointment, I got out for a run with my wife and the dogs. I ran about 2.5 miles with them and then went out for another half hour alone, taking it pretty easy.

Today, I think I'll walk the dogs if the rain isn't too bad after work.

I'm planning to ski tomorrow, but I certainly don't want to fall on my shoulder.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Work You Weakness - Burpee Mania

I've been waiting for this workout ever since the last one. Here is what I saw on the board yesterday:

Work Your Weakness:

20 Minutes - every minute on the minute - pick two movements and do 1-5 reps of each ten times - ten sets of one and then ten sets of the other.

Then, 12 minutes as many reps as possible - pick two more movements and do as many of each as possible, alternating between the two.

I hate burpees. CrossFit burpees are worse than what I used to call a burpee, because they essentially incorporate a push-up:

I had been planning ever since the last work your weakness workout that I was going to use the first 20 minutes to do burpees - so a single movement, 5 reps, every minute on the minute - 100 burpees. The coach said that we were supposed to do two different movements, but I explained that I hate burpees, I need the practice, and it would be brutally hard. So, she said to go for it.

As expected, it seemed easy for a little bit. At first, I was doing five reps in 23-25 seconds, but then my time started to drift up. Near the end, it took me 38 seconds to do my reps (18th or 19th set, I think), but I made it through.

Then, as I was gasping on the floor, I remembered that I had to set up for the second half of the workout. For the second half, I alternated 4 Turkish Get-Ups with 10 Abmat sit-ups. I don't know that the sit-ups are a true weakness, but I don't do them that often, and they paired well with the get-ups.

This was one of the toughest CrossFit workouts I've ever done, in terms of just being gassed. I'm not sore today in any way, just tired. Very tired.

Today, I have a follow-up appointment with the orthopedist about my shoulder. It's been 8 weeks now since the hard ski fall that caused the injury, and it's still bothering me. Four weeks ago, I got a cortisone shot and it seemed to help, but the shoulder has gradually gotten worse over the last two weeks. It's still better than a month ago (I couldn't do push-ups or burpees properly a month ago), but not right.

After the appointment, if the weather allows, I'll do a nice easy run for an hour or so, maybe with one or both of the dogs.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Low Carb Blues/Flu

I try to eat a fairly Paleo/Primal diet. But, I have my weaknesses that don't fit into these eating modes, three of them in particular:

High quality bread
Potatoes, especially mashed potatoes

Recently, I've stopped drinking all alcohol, so the beer hasn't been a problem. But, there has still been bread and potatoes. Amazingly, ice cream isn't a problem. I like it, but I don't have much of a sweet tooth. I do eat some dark chocolate on occasion, but controlling how much chocolate I eat is not a problem. Desserts are a take it or leave thing for me. In a nice restaurant, I'd rather finish a nice meal with a cheese course and some Port than a sweet dessert. Of course, the Port has sugar in it, and any bread or crackers with the cheese have carbs as well. And cheese is OK for some people under the Primal umbrella, but not for the Paleo types.

So, now that my brother challenged me to lose some weight with him, I simply stopped eating bread and potatoes. Many low-carb eaters have a rough transition when eliminating carbohydrates, and it's often called the low carb flu. It tends to last a week or two, depending on how many carbs you were eating and how hard you try to exercise.

Last night at CrossFit, I just felt lethargic. We started with some mobility work and then some medball work. After that, ten minutes of rope jumping, which went pretty well. I can't do double-unders yet, but I'm working on doing streaks - trying to be consistent enough to do 100 reps without screwing up. Last night, I did that a couple times in 10 minutes of work.

Then some bar hangs with knees up or in an "L" position to stress the ab. And then the main WOD was as follows:

7 minutes, as many reps as possible
3 thrusters
3 pull-ups
6 thrusters
6 pull-ups
9 thrusters
9 pull-ups

I think the pattern is pretty obvious there. I thought I would get pretty far through the round of 15, given my weight of 65 pounds for thrusters and band-assisted pull-ups. As it turned out, I felt exhausted and only got through the round of 12, and never even started the round of 15. I think I had the lowest rep total in the class.

Within a week, I'm sure I'll be feeling better and I'll be able to exercise better on low carbs, which will hopefully get the fat burning going.

When I start bike commuting next week, this is how I hope my typical weekday will go:

5:00 a.m. - wake up, cup of coffee
5:30 - 3 mile walk or run
6:30 - breakfast, shower
7:00 - On my bike for the half hour ride to work
8:00 - Ready to work
5:00 - Leave work by bike to go to CrossFit - about 5 miles
5:45-7:00 - CrossFit
7:15-7:45 - Easy bike ride to my rented room.
8:00 - Shower, dinner, sleep


On the weekends, I hope to do longer runs with my wife, and then start hiking in the mountains once the trails are clear.

But, plans mean nothing without fastidious execution.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Sibling Rivalry

Yesterday, I was talking to my brother by e-mail. We both started lifting about the same time, and our progress has been very different. At first, he had me killed in the bench press and the squat, and I had him in the deadlift. Then, I finally caught him in the squat, but he made progress in the deadlift while I stagnated there. He referred to my new deadlift PR of 365 pounds as "a ton, well, not literally".

He told me that with the nicer weather, he's been getting out to walk for a few miles most evenings. He ran cross country years ago and just doesn't enjoy running any more. His real love is tennis, but a chronic injury has him at a point where he needs risky surgery to even have a chance of playing tennis regularly again. So, he lifts, walks, and does some other training in the gym. He's been playing around with Intermittent Fasting (IF).

I ski, run sometimes, lift, do CrossFit, cycle some, etc.

Both of us try to eat a Paleo/Primal diet, but we both love things that don't mix well with those diets. It's simply a never ending struggle.

When I see pictures of myself at my lowest adult weight, 165 pounds in the summer of 1987, I can't believe how skinny I was. And yet, I remember thinking even then that I was fat.

Yesterday, I was complaining to my brother that my weight has been steady for a year, but basically near my lifetime high weight. He had dropped from over 250 pounds to 205, eating Primal/Paleo, but over the winter, gained ten pounds back.

We're both unhappy with where we are. My brother told me yesterday in an e-mail "You're a competitive person. How about a little contest to lose some weight?" I thought it sounded like a great idea. And then, he suggested we each target 40 pounds (I am 40 pounds from where I'd like to be and he is as well). That's a lot of weight - not a short-term contest.

Can we stay focused? Will one of us bail? Both of us? How long will it take? The first ten pounds are easy. The second ten, not too bad. It always goes like that. And then, a plateau, frustration, and a vat of ice cream or a keg of beer.

My ultrarunning buddy Joe was giving me grief last week over my "weight obsession". For people who've never been overweight, I honestly think they have no idea what it is like to be constantly fighting that battle. It's a burden that never goes away, and it tortures you. "This time, I'm going to lose the weight." "I'm going to keep it off." "I'm going to get fit." "I'm going to look OK in a swimming suit/naked/whatever." But, it never works out. Yeah, there are brief victories. My sub-3 hour marathon at 168 pounds in 1995 was pretty sweet after six months of obsessing for one race. In the next year, I gained forty pounds and gave up all that fitness.

My Wasatch finish in 2003 and Hardrock in 2004 were pretty sweet, but the next summer, I got complacent and went to Western States weighing way too much. I missed the time cut-off with 6.7 miles to the go to the finish line.

Today, I don't even care about race times that much. I am just sick and tired of never being satisfied with my body composition. Yet, at the same time, I'm skeptical that I can win. I wish that wasn't true, but I'm being honest. I've been fighting this battle for almost 40 years. I'm tired of the fight. I understand why people would kill for a pill that would solve this never-ending problem.

But, I'm not conceding anything to my little brother. He is a great guy, and maybe we can somehow cajole each other to some significant improvements.

It can't hurt to focus my efforts one more time. Well, it can hurt if I fail, but for today, I'm not going to worry about that.

My workout last night was just over 40 minutes of running, with ten repeats of 60 seconds each. Tonight will be CrossFit.

And, by the way, if anyone who reads this feels like telling me to simply move more and eat less, or that it's simply calories in and calories out, I'll delete your comment. The only people who make those comments, in my experience, are people who have never been overweight and don't know the realities of trying to lose weight and sustain the loss.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Friday Deadlift PR!

CrossFit on Friday was a lot more than deadlifts. But, the highlight of my workout was a single deadlift rep.

We started with our normal mobility work. Then the strength work was as follows:

Deadlifts - sets of 10, 8, 6, 4, 2 - all heavy
Strict Press 5, 5, 5, burnout

For the deadlifts, I started my working sets at 225 x 10, the 245 x 8, then 275 x 6, and 295 x 4. Next, my plan was 315 x 2. But, just a week or two ago, I did 335 x 5 and it felt good. I felt that day that a PR was in the future for me. My current PR was 355. So, rather than racking 315, I put 365 pounds on the bar to try for a PR.

I got the bar off the ground by 2 inches or so and I just locked up. I had already done the 2 hardest inches of the lift, but I couldn't go any further. Oh well, another day, when I didn't already have 28 lifts of 200+ pounds in the past 15 minutes. But, the coach had another idea. He suggested I take off my shoes, which would reduce the distance I had to pull the bar by 1/2" or so. Why not, I thought.

Normally, when I'm doing deadlifts close to my max, I do them with some trepidation, because there is so much tension in my body, that I'm waiting for something to pop or explode. But, my second attempt at 365 was nothing like that. Basically, it was a slow motion version of a normal deadlift. My form was as good as it gets. I got the bar off the ground and it almost stopped where I'd stopped on the previous attempt. But, I kept moving. I was barely aware that everyone else in the gym was watching me go for this PR attempt. The bar kept moving, ever so slowly. As it passed my knees, I knew I had it, and I just kept going. When I got to the top of the lift, I made sure to hold the bar for a couple seconds and be in a fully upright and locked position. I didn't want there to be any doubt that I'd finished the lift. It had been 17 months since I'd done my 355 lift and this was my first rep over 335 this year. I was thrilled.

The rest of the workout was irrelevant, although it did involved some torture with sand-filled mini-med balls and squat snatches.

On Saturday, I wasn't sore so much as deeply tired. I had some shopping to do for Easter dinner for my wife's family, and some other stuff to do, and a run never happened.

My wife and I did get out for a nice relaxing run with one of the dogs on Sunday afternoon. Both dogs wanted to run, but our younger male just got neutered and he's wearing one of those silly lampshade/cone sort of things, so we didn't let him run.

Today, I'm planning a fartlek run after work.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Six months of CrossFit

I was looking at my workout logs this morning and realized that it's been six months since I started doing CrossFit. That seemed like a good time to take an assessment of what I think so far. Is it helping me to get fitter? Leaner? Am I having fun? Is it a good value? Does it fit in with the rest of my life? Should I keep doing it or is just another passing phase?

One thing that disappointed me is that I've averaged only two CrossFit workouts per week for six months. So, in some respects, I don't have enough data points to know the full potential benefits (or risks) of CrossFit. I have been to the gym another 17 days for lifting on my own in those six months, so I've been to the gym about 70 times in six months. I also skied almost 50 days in those six months, plus I've gone for a run on occasion.

Here are my CF workouts by month since the first of the year:

January - 7
February - 1
March -7
April - 9

February included a lot of skiing, a week of vacation, and a lot of stress at work, especially early in the month. To be honest, I didn't feel like going to the gym much of that month, but that is in the past now.

So, what were those questions?

Is it helping me to get fitter?
I think the answer to this has been a definitive yes, when I go. In the past six weeks, I've noticed some significant improvements in both strength and working at my limits (anaerobic threshold, lactic threshold, whatever you want to call it). On Tuesday night this week, as I finished my workout and I was holding onto a door and trying to catch my breath, I realized that this same effort would have had me throwing up a month or two ago. Last night's workout was the same way - lots of burpees which tend to completely gas me, and I got through the workout pretty well.

I haven't stepped on the scale for a while. And, I did fail miserably at the Paleo challenge at the gym. I started out OK in the challenge, and then as work got more intense and I took some vacation time, my diet fell apart and I was drinking alcohol on a regular basis. But, since early March, I have virtually stopped drinking alcohol and my diet is better as well. I'm going to the gym more often and I've started running a bit again. And, I'm getting leaner. I'm hearing that from people at the gym and I can tell by the way my clothes fit. I'll probably never be as lean as I'd like, but CrossFit is helping. I still think that body composition is about 80% diet and 20% exercise, but CrossFit is helping me to think more about what I put into my body.

Am I having fun?
This is a good question. In February, I would have said no. My motivation to go to the gym was pretty much zero, yet I felt pressured by the ongoing Paleo challenge. But, in the past six weeks, my attitude has turned around a lot. I think it's become a snowball effect. I started to go to the gym more, which improved my fitness, making the workouts more fun, which makes me want to go to the gym more. I think the nine days so far this month (#10 tonight) is a good indicator that I've turned some kind of corner.

Is it a good value?
From an equipment perspective, it's cheaper than running. I use an old pair of racing flats for footwear and my warm-weather running clothes. That's it. I was one of the early members of the gym, so I pay less than the newer members of the gym pay. In February, it was not a good value. But overall, I think it is a good value.

Does it fit in with the rest of my life?
This one is a little bit tougher. There are no showers at the gym and I have no shower at work. That means I can't really go there for morning workouts. And, the gym is near my office, which means it is 60+ miles from my home. I can only train there on days when I work in my office. And, the classes late in the day are at 4:30, which means leaving work early, or 5:45, which means getting home at 8:00 at night. So, there is definitely some inconvenience. But then again, my job is inconvenient too and I still go to work.

And, in a couple months, the CF gym is moving to a new location that will include showers. This will be a big boost for me.

I think the no-car experiment for the next few months will give me more feedback. I will be spending less time with my family for a while, but I'll be at the gym more, cycling more and probably running more as well. By getting rid of commuting time almost entirely, going to the gym will fit in much better with my life. I still have to see what effect being gone from home midweek will have on my life.

Should I keep doing it or is just another passing phase?
Well, I just committed to a 3-month experiment that makes going to CrossFit much more convenient. I will have the time to be at the gym. I'll have more time for working out overall.

I will certainly stick with it for those three months. At the end of July, it will be time to re-assess my commute, the workouts I'm doing, and how my entire life is scheduled, I suppose.

But, right now, I'm enjoying the progress I'm making, I'm enjoying the encouragement of working out in a group and with coaches, and I'm looking forward to going to the gym on a regular basis.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Tuesday and Wednesday Workouts plus Bike Commuting

Tuesday at CrossFit:

5 rounds - 90 seconds rest between sets:
These movements must be unbroken
10 Clapping Push-ups
10 Box Jumps 36/30
10 Medball Slams 20/14

5 rounds AQAP:
7 Deadlifts 315/205
21 Double-unders

This was a bit of a change. Rather than doing mobility, followed by strength, followed by the main workout, we did two "mini" workouts back to back.

For the first one, I was still babying my shoulder, so I did the first two rounds as knee push-ups and the last three as regular push-ups. For the box jumps, I can jump 24", but not without resting in a set of 10, so I did 18" instead. And, I did 14# medballs. I don't know if that corresponded to any level, but it's what made sense for me.

In the second workout, I tried to start with 275 pound deadlifts, but halfway through the second set, I knew it was too much weight, and dropped to 225 pounds. Because I can't do double unders (yet - I will get there), I was supposed to do 21 single unders and 7 high knee jumps. It was a fast, intense workout and left me gasping for breath. As I was recovering at the end of the workout, I was thinking that just a few weeks ago, I probably would have thrown up if I'd pushed that hard. I am adapting to the intensity of these workouts.

Yesterday, I took the day off work, but still made it to CrossFit at lunchtime. It seemed like half of our normal 5:45 class was there, which had me wondering if lots of people are working out twice a day. I doubt it, but I know some people do that, at least some of the time.

Last night's workout was more traditional:


Front Squats - 8-5-3-1
Strict Press - 8-5-3-1

On the last set, which was supposed to be a single heavy rep, we were encouraged to push to failure. I managed to get three front squats rather than one, and on the strict presses, I set a PR at 115, and then did two more as push presses.

The main workout for me was as follows:

As many reps as possible in 12 minutes:
6 Knee-ups on the pull-up bar
6/side weighted lunges - 18# kettlebells in each hand
6 jumping pull-ups

This workout was based on your "best" ab movement while hanging on the bar. Some people can take their toes to the bar. Not me. Some can take knees to armpits. Not me. I can do a knee raise, so my knees are parallel in front of me, but that's it. I got through 8 rounds plus 6 reps. I felt like I should have pushed harder - maybe more weight for the lunges.

So, yes, my life remains something like sleep, commute, work, work out, commute, eat dinner, relax (read or TV), repeat.

In just over a week, I'm going to mostly eliminate the commute. I spend too much time each week commuting. I spend way too much on auto costs for the commute. So, I'm going to rent a room somewhat close to where I work and where I work out, and stay there midweek for a few months. I'll ride the commuter bus to the office on Monday mornings, get around by bike until Friday afternoon, staying in my rented room at night, and then ride the commuter bus home on Friday evenings. It will mean less time at home, but my wife and I have decided to give it a shot to save some money, save some time, and see how it goes. I'm guessing that this will help me to improve my fitness, work the hours I need to work, and drop some weight.

Hopefully, my wife will find life easier if I'm doing my own laundry and not making the kitchen dirty all week. She should have more time for exercise as well.

We are both on a 100 on 100 team in August and we are each thinking of a road race in the Mad River Valley in early July. I'm leaning towards the Mad Marathon and my wife is thinking of doing the half marathon.

Time to start training, I guess.

Hopefully, the modified commuting schedule and some weekend runs together will get us ready for these races.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Short but intense run

After work yesterday, I headed out for a fartlek run. I had no watch, no fixed plans, no fixed route. I just started running. After I felt warmed up, I picked out a landmark and ran hard to it. Then, I would walk for a while, jog for a while, and then run hard again for a while. The only measurement I did was to count to 10 hard reps. I am sure I ran no more than 5 miles, probably less than an hour, but I didn't really care.

I made sure to do some of the reps on level terrain, some on downhill and some on uphill. Some were deliberately longer and others were deliberately short.

What an amazing day at Boston yesterday. All kinds of "records" were set that won't count as world or national records, but "only" as course records. Both the elite men and elite women had great races, and the US had a 4th place male and 2nd place female.

I've run Boston three times, and I don't think the conditions were ever as favorable when I ran as they were yesterday. My first Boston was 20 years ago - a 3:09 in 1991.

Twenty years ago?

Suddenly, I feel really old.

CrossFit tonight.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Turkish Get-Ups

Friday night's workout included Turkish Get Ups, an exercise I knew about but had never done before. They were quite challenging.

After our warm-up, we did 5x5 of clean-pulls, fairly heavy, for our strength work. This is a component of Olympic lifting, especially needed for the Clean and Jerk. My form on them is still rough, but at the higher weights, around 200 pounds or so, I was starting to get the movement down.

Then, came the main workout:

Three rounds, as quickly as possible:
5 TGUs, left side
5 TGUs, right side
10 burpees
10 pull-ups

I was the last one done, and the coach was in my face, pushing me through my last two sets. As I started the pull-ups, I took a brief rest and he jumped on me to push it and finish up. I told him I was going to throw up if I did that. His response was "let it happen" or something like that. So, while already pretty gassed, I cranked out ten (band-assisted) pull-ups. Ten seconds later, I was outside puking in the bushes.

I might not be the fastest guy there, but no one can claim that I don't work hard.

After the workout, I headed home for the weekend. My son and I went skiing for a while on Saturday, but with cloudy conditions and cool temperatures, the snow was pretty firm and not a lot of fun. We skied a double-black diamond bump run that was pretty much frozen solid and scary. But we survived.

After skiing, we went shopping to look at bass guitars for my son. In the past, he's had a saxophone phase, a keyboard phase, and now he wants to learn the bass. We got him a used bass and he will have to live with my amp for a while, rather than a bass amp, until he proves he's serious about playing the bass.

My wife and daughter were out of town for the weekend, a trip for my daughter's 13 birthday, so my son and I just hung out all weekend. On Sunday, I hoped to run, but I was coughing like crazy from the cold I've had. So, I took a rest day, did some reading, watched some baseball, and generally goofed off.

The cold is still dragging me down a bit, but I hope to get in some sort of workout after work today.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Just another CrossFit Thursday

Let's see. What hurt yesterday at this time from my Wednesday workout? My shoulders - all over. My biceps. My calves. My lower back (not injured, but sore muscles). My abs a little bit. My hamstrings.

But, after six days off, and doing heavy deadlifts, I expected to be sore. I worked a long-ish day yesterday, getting to the office before 7:00 and leaving after 5:00, with no break for lunch. Even though I was tired, after a long day, I wanted a good workout.

After our warm-up, we worked on heavy overhead squats. I suck at these for all kinds of reasons - limited shoulder mobility, limited range of motion in ankle dorsiflexion, making it hard to keep my heels on the ground, and just a general lack of strength with a barbell over my head.

Our sets were 5-3-3-2-1-1-1. I only made it to 105 pounds for one of the singles before my overhead strength did me in. My partner, Del, made it to 225 pounds. Del is a beast but I like training with him.

After the squat work, the main workout looked somewhat long:

3 rounds, as quickly as possible:
800 meter run
21 kettlebell swings @ 70#
12 pull-ups

Level 1 dropped the KB swings to 53#. Level 2 dropped the run to 600 meters and the KB weight to 35#.

I settled on a mix of 1 and 2 - 35# is plenty for me for sets of 21 KB swings. But, I can handle 800 meters of running, so I mixed the two levels. I did band-assisted pull-ups.

The running turned out to be the big time factor in this workout, and I have to admit that I didn't run very fast. In the first 800, I felt like my calves were going to cramp from the workout the day before and it took a while for them to get loose. The second and third runs went much better. The KB swings went OK (no rest during the set), but I had to rest on the pull-ups. It was one of those workouts where I knew I would finish last, which is fine, because I finished. The only problem with finishing last is that the whole class is cheering you to the finish, which tends to make me work really hard, which pushes me towards working so hard that I lose my lunch. It was very close last night, but I pretty much held it together. Total time was 20:42.

I'm tired and sore again today, but I'll go to CF after work.

It looks like the weather for the weekend might allow for some comfortable skiing tomorrow, so I'll probably get out for a while. Sunday's weather looks pretty windy and rainy, so I might run or perhaps do a gym workout close to home.

Tonight, on the way home, I will pick up my road bike from its recent tune-up and the installation of a basic bike computer. I was tired of trying to get my Garmin Forerunner to work on the bike as well as for running. It's a good running tool, but I don't really like it for the bike.

That's it. Happy Friday to everyone.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Where did that come from?

I was happy when I got to the gym last night, because the scheduled workout was more strength based than endurance based. I was afraid that a long main workout would leave me coughing and struggling. After our warm-up, the workout was pretty simple:

5x5 Deadlifts (heavy)

30 Snatches
30 Clean and Jerks

Those last 60 reps were done for time. The Rx'd weight was 135, level 1 was 95, and level 2 was 65.

My plan for yesterday was to ease back into things, as my cold is still working its way out of my system. I hadn't done any workouts since last Thursday's run.

I was going to lift by myself, but Ken asked if we could partner up. Ken and Del and I are three of the stronger guys in our 5:45 class, so it makes sense for us to work together. And, because they are both stronger than I am, they push me, which is good for me.

We warmed up at 135 and 225. It's funny that I still remember the day I first did a 135 pound deadlift, and how excited I was. That's now a trivial warm-up weight. We did our first working set at 275 and then one at 295. After that, Ken wanted to go to 315, but the 295 set had felt tough, so I went to 305. This was my first ever set of 5 reps at 300 pounds or higher. And, it didn't feel so bad. After Ken did his 315s, I decided to give that a try - three big wheels per side for five reps. It went better than I expected. Ken then went to 365, a PR for him at 5 reps. He struggled on the last two, but made it. Despite being less than 100% (maybe I was just rested rather than sick), I decided to go to 335 for my last set.

That weight has been a barrier for me this winter. About 16 months ago, I pulled a 355, and I repeated that a couple times in the following months. But this winter, when my strength usually peaks for the year because I'm in the gym a lot, I had been stuck at 335. I'd had some workouts where I'd failed at 315, 325, and 335. So, for me to attempt five reps at 335 was a major challenge. And yet, I got through them just fine. Every rep of 335 this winter has been a slow grind, slowly pulling the bar from the floor and doing just one rep. Something was way different last night, and I was amazed to get through the five reps as easily as I did. Clearly, I have to pick a day to try to beat my one rep PR of 355 pretty soon. I think I'm ready.

For the main workout, as I said I would do, I stayed at level 2 - only 65 pounds. That would allow me to not over-stress my shoulder, and also allow me to move at a reasonable pace and get through the lifts without going over the edge. Ken did the Rx'd workout and he looked like he was working really hard. I don't think I could have done 135s last night.

The snatches were harder than the clean and jerks, but I moved through them fairly quickly. For each lift, I did about 15 reps, took a short break, did 7-8 more, a short break, and then finished. I pretty much did muscle snatches, which require less form and more strength compared to hang snatches or squat snatches. If I'd done 135, I wouldn't have been able to do muscle snatches.

I'm a bit sore today from the deadlifts, but fine otherwise. I'm still not 100% recovered from being sick, but I'm better each day.

This weekend, my wife and daughter are going out of town for my daughter's birthday, so my son and I will be at home. I am hoping to go skiing, but the forecast is looking pretty dismal - rain and wind most of the weekend.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Easing back into it

I am vertical today and in my office. I'm going to go to CrossFit in a couple hours. But, I'm not going to do the Rx'd workout, and probably not even level 1. I'll probably lallygag my way through level 2 - just to ease myself back into the workout.

My road bike is in the bike shop right now. I will get it back early next week. Given the time and cost of my commute, my wife and I have been discussing me renting a room close to the office, and bike commuting around town during the week, and then riding a commuter bus home for the weekends and back for the work week. I think we would end up saving money, even with the cost of renting a room. We would certainly save wear and tear on the cars. We would save me a lot of commuting time, or my commuting time would be on a bike, not in a car.

I would give up some time with my family for a while, which is not my first choice. But, if we do it, it will be an experiment that we can quit whenever we decide it's not working.

Back to work...

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


I went to bed last night feeling a lot better. I even packed my gym bag to go to CrossFit tonight.

And then, when I woke up this morning, I spent about 15 minutes coughing. Including a post-dinner nap on the couch while the Red Sox were getting pummeled, I probably slept 11 hours. And, I'm still not back.

I'm not going to risk prolonging the illness by getting back to the gym too soon.

So, I'll just take it day by day. At least I feel good enough to work in a vertical position, rather than lying in bed with my laptop.

My son is home sick from school today. My daughter isn't 100% either, but she's at school.

My daughter turns 13 this coming Saturday. Both my children will be teenagers. I will turn 50 in January. Where does the time go?

Monday, April 11, 2011

Not much to report

By Friday afternoon, it was pretty clear that I was sick. I managed to go for groceries with my wife on Friday evening, after her workout, but that was it.

By Saturday morning, I felt like I'd been run over by a car, a truck, and a train. I watched TV most of the day, and worked for part of the day. I managed to cook dinner, watch a movie and then went to bed early. My wife skied all day and then gloated about good the conditions were. I was happy for her, considering how much more often I get to ski compared to her.

Sunday was no better - basically a repeat of Saturday.

This morning wasn't much better either, but I finally got vertical and took a shower. I am now working at a coffee shop and feeling better, but not good. Maybe I'll be ready to go to the office and do a workout by tomorrow.

If I still feel OK at the end of the day today, I'm going to take my bike to the bike shop for its spring tune-up, since that never got done this past weekend.

Regretfully, my children seem to be getting sick now. It seems like a lot of people in our town are afflicted. I want to find Patient Zero, and sarcastically thank that person for the loss of the last few days.

CDC maps currently show that northern New England is "regionally" affected by influenza, which is the second highest standard level, below only "widespread".

My training has been going so well recently that I'm really unhappy with this interruption, to be honest.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Quick Post About a Slow Run

Yesterday, it got up to almost 50F here and the sun was out all day. I wrapped up work at 4:00 and started running a few minutes later. I ran for about 25 minutes to my wife's office and met her, and we ran another 40 minutes or so together. This was my first run longer than an hour in quite a while.

After six good days in a row, today is a rest day. I seem to have a cold right now, although I don't feel too bad at the moment. I'm hoping that a rest day today will have me feeling better by tomorrow, so my wife and I can spend the day skiing.

That's it. Happy Friday!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Work Your Weakness

Yes, this is another boring CrossFit post.

Other than CrossFit these days, my life consists of the following:

Dinner with the family
Catch up on Stewart and Colbert on the DVR

So, if I feel compelled to tell the whole world about my life, CrossFit seems to be the least boring thing to write about.

Otherwise, my post for yesterday would be as follows:

Slept in a hotel near the office to save on gas money and commute time, but didn't sleep too well. Got up at 6:00 and made it to the office by 7:00. Produced a number of data sets for our chief medical officer. Spent a couple hours doing database migrations and restores to our test environment. Documented a couple new bugs and enhancements for our software system. Contacted a data provider after giving up on an exasperating data analysis task. Left work a bit early for a medical appointment. Went to CrossFit, worked out, drove home, ate leftovers for dinner (my wife and daughter were gone for the evening), watched Stewart and Colbert from Tuesday and went to bed at 9:30.

It's my life and I'm not bored, but it's not the material for compelling memoir. My work would be boring to many people, but it's complex and challenging to me. The minutiae of building and maintaining computer systems to help doctors and patients work together to manage chronic diseases are probably not interesting to any athletes who read this blog.

And so, there's CrossFit.

One component of CrossFit is constant improvement, not just in strength or endurance, but also form in a variety of movements. And, everyone seems to have a different weakness. Sometimes our warm-up will include 10 minutes or so of working on form in an area where you are weak. And, sometimes, we have "Work your weakness" workouts, which is what we got last night:

Warm-up, including kettlebell swings
10 minutes WYW on a strength movement - do 1-5 reps every minute on the minute for ten minutes.
Repeat previous item with a different movement
Then, 12 minutes, as many reps as possible, alternating between two WYW movements that can be done quickly

I chose to start with overhead squats. I have some mobility issues that make it difficult for me to do this move correctly, so it's a definite weakness. I did 10 sets of 4 at 75 pounds - not heavy at all. But, as the sets continued, my form definitely got better. I was using a box behind me for safety (to prevent me from falling over backwards if I lost my balance with weight overhead) and also to gauge the depth of the squats. By the time I was halfway done, I was squatting to the box on every rep. The key for me really seems to be sure that my hands are far enough apart on the barbell.

Next, I did ring dips. My form there is terrible and so is my strength. I did them with a band for assistance and focused more on form than strength. After returning to push-ups for the first time in a month the previous day, my triceps were a bit sore, so I needed to limit the weight and protect my shoulder.

Then came the truly tough part of the workout. I opted for the following pairing:

10 burpees
10 Wall Balls (Start in a squat with a medicine ball, come out of the squat and push the ball high on a wall, then return to the squat position as the ball is falling, and catch it near the bottom of the squat)

CrossFit burpees just plain suck. I used to do burpees in the gym on my own, as follows:

Stand straight up. Squat down, putting your hands near your feet. Jump your feet back so you are in a push-up position. Jump your feet forward to where they were. Jump up and clap overhead.

Those are hard enough, but in CF, we add an actual push-up as well while in the push-up position - pure torture. Apparently, many people think of this one as torture or a weakness, because lots of people did burpees last night.

In 12 minutes, I did 5 rounds plus 9 additional burpees. I was spent.

As I sat on the ground, I looked around the gym, and I could tell everyone had picked a true weakness for their work. Everyone ended up flat on their back, gasping for breath. Twelve minutes had reduced us all from laughing and smiling people to prone pools of sweat

My clothes are fitting better, I'm recovering better, I'm eating better, I'm not drinking alcohol at all right now, and things are moving the right direction.

The Godfathers sang a depressing song that summarized life as "Birth, School, Work, Death". I'm having a lot of fun these days, even if that means getting excited by having burpees kick my ass.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


Last night, when I got to the gym and looked at the main workout, the first word that came to mind was "Cruel". And then, I did the entire workout with Bryan Ferry's song "Cruel" in my brain. It's still lodged there this morning. Most readers should be safe because it's a fairly obscure song, but if you've ever been a Bryan Ferry or Roxy Music fan, Frantic is an amazing album, in my opinion.

Where was I? Oh yeah, Cruel. The lyrics actually had nothing to do with the workout. The song is about much bigger topics (Big "Why?" type of questions) than my CrossFit workout. But, the word fit. On Monday, we had done a longer-than-normal workout with rowing, running and rope jumping. I was hoping for more upper body work yesterday.

After our warm-up, we started with 5x5 of heavy back squats. That's not upper body work. Then, the main workout was as follows:

15 minutes, as many reps as possible:
Row 250 meters
25 push-ups
25 double-unders (or 40 single unders plus ten high knees jumps)

So, just like the night before, we had rowing and jumping. And, I haven't done a push-up in over a month because of my shoulder. But, I guess that's what CrossFit does best - find ways to stress you that you wouldn't have done on your own.

We only have six racks in the gym for squatting and we had 16 people there last night, so we had to double-up and triple-up. I joined the two strongest guys in the gym because I knew no other group would go over 225 pounds.

We each started with a set of 5 at 225. Then, Ken and I did 235, while Del did 315. Then, 245 while Del did 345. I eventually worked up to 255, my highest weight ever for a set of 5. Ken made it to 275, and Del went to 405. We all got in some good work sets, but we finished last and everyone else was ready to start the main workout. We got very little recovery between the squats and the main workout.

Because I hadn't done push-ups in a while, I thought about doing dumbbell presses again. But, I tried some knee push-ups (knees on the ground rather than toes) and they felt OK. The prescribed workout was regular push-ups, but Level 1 was knee push-ups. That sounded perfect for me.

Because of the number of people and the fact that we only have 8 rowing machines, we started the workout at different spots in the rotation. I started with push-ups and the first set went OK. Then the rope jumping and high knee jumping. And, then, a short rowing split.

And then, things went downhill. Starting with the second set of push-ups, I couldn't do them uninterrupted. I guess that's what happens when you don't do a certain movement for more than a month. My form on rope jumping got sloppy and I started to get tripped up. The night before, I'd had some stretches of 80-100 reps without messing up. Last night, a set of 10-15 uninterrupted felt like a victory. Most people made five full rounds or close to it. I fell 250 rowing meters short of finishing my fourth round.

But, I had worked hard, I was soaked in sweat, and it was a good workout. I stayed near my office in a hotel last night, and by 7:30, I was in my room, with dinner, wearing pajamas, watching the Red Sox game, and ready to go to sleep.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Monday CrossFit

With our snow slowly disappearing at lower elevations, I knew it wouldn't be long before we were putting running back into our CrossFit workouts. I got it last night.

When I first get to the gym, I immediately go to the board to look at the workout. I like to wear Vibram Five Fingers for workouts when it makes sense, but there are certain movements I don't like to do in them. First, unlike what seems to be half of the runners in the world these days, I don't run in them. I also don't like to do box jumps or burpees in the Vibrams and I have mixed feelings about push-ups and rope jumping. As my feet get stronger, I hope to expand the activities that I use them for, but for now, I use racing flats as my primary footwear at CF.

The boards that show our workouts are broken into segments. The first board is the warm-up, usually mobility, balance and perhaps some easy strength work. Then, we usually do some hard strength work, which is specified on the second board. The next four boards are the main workout, from the prescribed level down to Level 1. Last night, the strength board was blank. That usually means that the main workout is going to be long and difficult. This is what I saw last night:

4 rounds, as quickly as possible:
Row 500 meters
Run 400 meters
50 double-unders

A double-under is rope-jumping, where the rope passes under your feet twice in every jump. I'm not very good at double-unders yet, and the alternative is always three times as many single-unders. I could do the double-unders, but I miss so many times that it would take me forever to accumulate 50 even once, much less four times. So, I would end up doing 600 jump rope reps, more than I'd done in a day in many, many years, perhaps ever.

Most of our main workouts last anywhere from 8 to about 15 minutes. As I looked at this one, I was guessing that half an hour would be a decent time for me. I figured I'd average just over 2 minutes per 500 meters rowing, just under two minutes per run, and the rope jumping would take about 3 minutes. Plus, we had to travel back and forth between inside and outside and change equipment, etc.

I ended up finishing dead last in 30:33, but I was very happy with the workout. I paced myself well, and unlike someone in the class before us, I didn't get sick. I'm now doing the prescribed workout more often than not, and my fitness is definitely improving.

When I got to work this morning, the walk up four flights of stairs was a challenge.

I'm hoping tonight's workout focuses on strength and upper body muscles.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Running on back to back days

After the cortisone injection on Friday, I decided to let my shoulder rest for the weekend. No lifting. And, no skiing, even though the only risk there seemed to be a repeat impact.

I did some work both days this weekend, but I also ran 4 miles each day. The last time I ran on back to back days was last August.

In 2010, I had my lowest mileage for a year since I started running in 1985. Even that partial year in 1985 greatly exceeded my mileage for last year. My mileage in the year I tore my ACL was also a lot more than last year.

I am signed up for a 100 mile, six person relay race in August, so I need to do some running.

On Saturday, I ran an easy 4 on pavement by myself. On Sunday, I ran on a dirt road with my wife and our dogs. Both runs were at an easy effort and I feel pretty good today.

Due to a busy week at work, it looks like I'll do CrossFit the next three days, and then maybe run again on Thursday. It shouldn't take a whole lot of effort to exceed last year's total mileage. Basically, I didn't run much last year because I wasn't having fun with it. After a hamstring injury the previous year and some knee problems last year, running just wasn't fun. Right now, I feel like running again, so I'm hoping to actually get back to running more regularly.

Oh yeah, for the first time in a long time, some of my lawn started to peek through the snowpack yesterday. By the weekend, it looks like most of my lawn will be clear of snow, which should make the dogs very happy. But, ski season isn't over yet and it's snowing outside right now.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Shoulder Update

On Thursday, my wife and I took my daughter to see the podiatrist. She's been having some ankle issues for more than a year, and a hard kick to her ankle in soccer season last fall made things worse. She made it through basketball and skiing, but her ankle just hasn't been getting any better and lacrosse will have her in cleats in the next week or so.

We went through the results of an MRI and the podiatrist didn't think it's a big deal. She has a bone bruise that is healing slowly, and some other structural issues that can be helped by inserts. So, we were pretty optimistic about her prognosis.

The podiatrist is the dad of one of my daughter's best friends, and he and I know each other pretty well from our time in the gym. He is a real stud powerlifter, and I mentioned my shoulder issues as we were leaving. We talked about it, and he told me about a rotator cuff injury he'd had that took 8 months to heal, and he couldn't bench press the entire time. The doc I was seeing on Friday wanted him to get a cortisone shot for some continued inflammation, but he's held out so far. I asked the podiatrist if he'd be in the office on Friday, because I told him I suspected I would be getting a cortisone injection in my shoulder and they might need help holding me down.

The last two times the orthopedist has gotten close to me with a needle was for a Synvisc injection in my knee (very uncomfortable) and a PRP injection at the top of my hamstring (seriously painful). So, I expected no less for my Friday appointment.

The fact that this is the third injury I've seen the orthopedist for in 2 years should probably worry me about how old and fragile I'm becoming. But, I still like to play hard and he's keeping me out there.

When I first got there yesterday, before I'd even seen the doc, his assistant was worried about a fracture high in the humerus. So, I got some x-rays, but they showed no breaks. Next, I got to talk to the doc.

It didn't take long to confirm that the injury was in the rotator cuff, in the Supraspinatus muscle. He did some strength tests and I had a hard time pushing in certain directions without a lot of pain. So, he used an ultrasound machine to look at the muscle in more detail. He found one problem area right away, and his first suspicion was a partially torn tendon (I started thinking about another PRP injection immediately - costly and painful). But, as he looked at it more and re-considered how I'd hurt myself - a hard hit to the shoulder rather than something that stretched me beyond normal range of motion - he started to suspect that he was seeing a hematoma and inflammation.

He said there was a quick way to tell the difference and that was an injection of lidocaine. If after the injection of the painkiller, my strength was equal between the two arms, he could assume that there wasn't a tendon tear, and then he'd want to do a cortisone injection to help with the inflammation.

If my strength was not good, he said he'd still likely suggest cortisone and then possibly an MRI.

Since cortisone was likely in either case, he suggested a single injection of cortisone and lidocaine. I agreed to that. He used the ultrasound to guide the needle right to the trouble area. It seemed like the needle was in there for quite a while, but it didn't hurt too much. As soon as the injection was done, I could push against resistance in just about every direction without pain. So, my strength was good and he thinks the cortisone should have me back to normal in a few days. He told me no lifting until Monday and sent me on my way.

It's been less than 24 hours since the injection and my shoulder feels noticeably better already. I was able to put my arm in a jacket sleeve without pain this morning for the first time in a month. I'm working right now, but plan to get out for a run a little bit later this afternoon.

Hopefully, I'll be doing pain free push-ups in a few days.