Thursday, October 27, 2011

CrossFit "Karen"

What could be more simple than 150 Wall Balls? Just do them as fast as you can.

Well, I did a sprint workout on Monday. Tuesday, I did some lifts that I rarely do, and I was sore going into the workout yesterday. After our warm-up, I was a bit more loose, but still somewhat sore.

Oh yeah, then we did 6 sets of increasingly heavy strict presses, tiring out our arms somewhat. In theory, the Wall Ball is about the power coming out of the squat - the hip extension that propels the ball upwards. In theory. But, it doesn't always work that way.

I looked at the board before we started. The fastest times were in the low 7 minute range. Many of those were scaled - using a med ball that weighed less than 20# for a male or 14# for a female. I had visions of taking 15 minutes, given how I felt, so I scaled my workout to a 14# med ball.

And then, we were off. I did a set of 30 before a short rest. I thought maybe I could do the workout as 5 x 30. But, 20 reps into my second set, I was hurting. I took a short break. And then did 20 more. And 20 more. At 90, in my state of oxygen deprivation, I "realized" that I only needed two more sets of 20. (I have a math degree). Then I realized it was three more sets. Time seemed to slow down. I started to think about not throwing up. But, I kept going. And, I made it at 7:46. My buddy Ken did sub-7 with a 20# med ball. He's young and tough and strong. It was a great workout. Tanya, to my immediate left, finished about a minute later. Her time for the prescribed workout was very solid.

I don't know if anybody really enjoyed the workout, but it was a burner. After I finished, I staggered to a chair to sit down for a bit, and for a second, I thought I might get sick. But, I held it together.

Now today, I just need to see if I'm too sore to work out.

And next time we do Karen, I'm moving up to the 20# med ball, even if it takes me all day.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Nice and Simple

Last night was a "work your weakness" night. I got to the gym early and spent almost half an hour stretching.

Then, it was pretty straightforward:

10x4 front squats - every minute on the minute - at 115#

I can lift a lot more than that, but I'm working on using the standard grip and keeping my upper body upright. So, the lighter weights allow me to do that and still get in a good workout.

10x5 kettlebell swings - 53 pound KB - every minute on the minute

Then, 12 minutes, as many reps as possible:
10 Bulgarian Split Squats using 2x26# KBs, five on each leg
10 Burpees - focusing on form on every rep.

In total, I did 40 front squats, 50 KB swings, 60 BSSs and 52 Burpees. I can feel today that I worked hard yesterday. But, if I'm not tired or sore after a WYW day, I didn't really work my weakness.

CrossFit again tonight. The next two days are questionable because my snow tires aren't on yet and we are going to get some snow tomorrow evening and into Friday morning.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Eleven Days - No Posts

In the photo above, although my form is far from perfect, I was setting a new PR in a lift called the split jerk. The photo was taken a couple weeks ago.

In my last post, I said I needed some rest. I did take some rest days, a total of 7 rest days in 11 days. And, I feel a lot better.

Work has been really, really busy. We are working on a new product, seriously changing our existing products, and it's been stressful. For a while, between training, work, commuting, and sleep, sleep was losing badly. I was exhausted, and decided I couldn't keep going like that. I know I'm in trouble with my sleep if I find myself feeling sleepy on my drive home. That has happened more than once this month and it's simply not smart or safe.

I'd been working out 5-6 days most weeks recently. Two weeks ago, I did 4 days. Last week 3. And I've been sleeping. Yesterday, I went to bed before 8:00 p.m., and slept until almost 6:30 this morning. I feel pretty good today and I'm looking forward to getting back to CrossFit tonight. I've had a couple months this year where I went to CF 15-16 days out of the month. This month, it's been 6 days so far, although I've done some other workouts as well.

Last night, my wife and I did a 30 minute running interval workout. A short warm-up, go hard for a minute, easy for a minute ten times, and then a cooldown. Then, a quick dinner and an early bedtime.

Hopefully, I'll get back to training a bit more in these next couple weeks. By the first of December, I should be skiing on the weekends, so I have one more month to get myself in better shape for the winter.

Friday, October 14, 2011

I need a rest day!

Last night at CrossFit, I arrived sore and tired. Luckily, the warm-up plus some additional foam rolling was just what I needed, and by the time the main workout hit, I felt a lot better.

We started out with heavy singles of split jerks. This is a fairly complex Olympic lifting movement, and I don't get to practice it very often. Basically, it's a technique for finishing a Clean and Jerk, and a proper split jerk allows many lifters to jerk more weight than by any other jerk method. But, if you don't do it fast and really drop under the weight, it can be a frustrating movement. Before I picked the link above, I looked at a number of videos that showed pretty poor form. It's not that I'm better than the people in the videos, but there were clear form issues in many of the videos out there.

Anyway, my C&J PR is 165#, so I should be able to split jerk more than 165#, if my technique is correct. But, before last night, my best had been 125#, done more than 6 months ago. Part of the lack of progress had been my shoulder injury, but my shoulder feels pretty good these days, so I'm more willing to try heavy overhead lifts right now versus a few months ago.

After warming up, starting at 45 pounds, I easily got to 125, 135, 145 and even 155. I struggled at 165, just missing twice. The misses were all about form - I was not fast enough and didn't commit hard enough to dropping under the bar. But, I got a big PR and I know I can go even heavier.

After the split jerks, we had a 13 minute MetCon. Some of our workouts start with a task that is called a "buy-in". A buy-in is a task that needs to be completed to start the workout, but doesn't count towards your score for the workout. The goal is to complete the buy-in quickly, so you have plenty of time to accumulate whatever the "scoring" task is.

So, last night, we had a 1200 meter run as a buy-in, and for the rest of the 13 minutes, we did Turkish Get-Ups. Our score for the workout was the total number of TGUs completed. Our 400 m loop is long - by as much as 20% or so. We actually ran about 0.85 miles, and it took me 6:54 to complete that task - about an 8mpm pace. Then, in the 6+ minutes that remained, I managed to perform 15 TGUs with a 26 pound kettlebell.

Today is a rest day. I'm hoping I feel less sore and beat up tomorrow. I'm planning to do a 3 hour or so run tomorrow, given that I have a marathon in 3 weeks.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Another tough night at CrossFit

Back to back really tough nights have been rare at CF recently, or so it seems. Maybe it's because I missed a few classes the last couple weeks due to a lot of other things going on in my life.

I was tired and my quads were a little sore when I got to the gym last night. I warmed up on the rower, doing 4K to complete the 100K rowing challenge in 28 days. I definitely improved my rowing technique and got faster on the rower in the past four weeks. However, I can't say that I've become a fan of rowing, so I'm sure I'll drop my volume down somewhat.

Next, we did heavy deadlifts. I did the following:

2x225 - warm-up
2x275 - first working set
failed at 375, rested, failed again

This was easily the most reps over 300 pounds that I've done in one workout. It was obvious that I'd been working hard (the 3x355 was really tough) when I could barely budge the 375 bar.

So, after rowing 4K and doing hard deadlifts, it was now time for the main workout, and it was a tough one:

5 rounds, as quickly as possible:
40 double-unders (or 120 jump rope singles)
30 box jumps
20 kettlebell swings

Because I can't do double-unders consistently, I knew this would be a long workout.

In the first set of rope jumping, I made 113 reps unbroken. And then, I almost killed myself on my first box jump, missing the jump and narrowly avoiding a fall. I slowed down and got through the jumps, but after the first round, I switched to a lower box, fearing somewhat for my safety. Missing a box jump and landing on the edge of the box does unpleasant things to your legs. For the KB swings, I used a 35# KB, and the first round went smoothly.

In the second round, I did the 120 reps unbroken. That felt good. The lower box jumps and the KB swings went well. And then, I forgot how to jump rope. Before I'd gotten to 60 reps in the third set, I had at least 15 missed jumps. I don't know what was going on. So, I blamed it on the rope, threw it in a corner (somewhat angrily), went and got a new rope, and did the last 60 reps uninterrupted. In the fourth round of rope jumping, I went 120 straight. And in the last round, I basically stopped at about 50 to catch my breath, but didn't miss a rep. Clearly the rope was at fault in that middle round.

I was the last one in the gym to finish, in 23:59. And, I was whipped. After the workout, I saw the chiropractor that works at our gym, for some work on my neck and my shoulders. He noted that my shoulder were really showing the effects of the workout we'd just done - mostly the deadlifts, I imagine. He also commented on my form during the KB swings, and gave me some pointers to avoid injuries with these, especially at higher weights.

Today, I'm sore from my last three days of workouts. I can't go to CF tomorrow, so I'll go tonight and scale the workout as needed to get through it safely.

I'll work from home tomorrow. My daughter has a soccer game. I'm done with the rowing challenge. I think I'll take tomorrow as a rest day.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

CrossFit - Chief

Just under a year ago, I walked into a local CrossFit gym for the first time. The date was 11/2/2010. I had been anxiously waiting for CrossFit to come to Vermont for a few years, and I don't know why, but the week before, I'd done a Google search and found out that there were suddenly 2 affiliates in Vermont. If I've heard the story correctly, Wyoming got its first affiliate just before Vermont, making us the last state with a CrossFit box.

I walked into class that night, mostly to observe. I watched the warm-up. I watched the strength work. And then Jade, the owner and coach, asked if I wanted to do the main workout. I had workout clothes with me and I jumped at the idea. The workout was called Chief. It goes like this:

5 rounds of the following:
3 minutes of as many reps as possible - 135# barbell cleans, 6 push-ups, 9 air squats
1 minute rest

After each rest period, you start where you left off. That night, I used 95 pounds for cleans rather than 135. I had never done a clean before in my life. After the first two rounds, I switched from real push-ups to knee push-ups. And, I completed 21 full rounds, plus 3 cleans.

Last night, when I arrived at CrossFit, I rowed for a while. Then, I did the official warm-up. Then, we spent 10 minutes practice double-unders with jump ropes. And then, we did Chief.

This time, I went to 115 pounds for the cleans and I probably should have done 135 pounds. But, my PR is only 165 pounds and we were told that our goal should be continuous motion in the set of 3 cleans. I knew I could do that at 115#, but I wasn't sure about 135#.

I was determined to do legit push-ups for every single round.

In the first three minutes, I completed 4 rounds. In each of the next four, I didn't make four rounds, but I completed more than 3. With 10 seconds left on the clock, I needed to do 9 air squats to complete 18 rounds. I missed by 1 rep.

So, I finished three fewer rounds than almost a year ago. With higher weights. With 108 legit push-ups. A year ago, I don't know if I could have done 108 legit push-ups in 19 minutes.

A year ago, I could barely walk the next day. Today, I'm a bit tired but not too bad. That's a good thing, because I saw on Facebook that tonight's workout is going to be tough. The main workout will come after some rowing and some heavy deadlifts. I need 4KM more to complete my 100KM rowing challenge. That will be finished tomorrow if tonight's workout doesn't completely trash me.

Just under a year later, I remain as challenged and intrigued by CrossFit as that first time I met the "Chief".

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Just some numbers - 3/4 of the way through the year

Last year, I did a total of 190 workouts during the year - probably the fewest days of exercise I've had in a year in the past 25 years or so. This even includes 2000, when I was injured and recovering from surgery for a lot of the year, and 1998, when the birth of my daughter and some work issues led to a below average year.

As of yesterday, I've done some sort of exercise at least 191 days this year. It breaks down something like this:

Running: 250 miles (pretty pathetic, but more than last year)
Cycling: 475 miles
Rowing: 93KM
Skiing: 32 days
CrossFit: 91 days
Other workouts: 17 (mostly strength work)

And, I've lost 25 pounds for the year. I still have more weight to lose, but it's been a good year so far. I'm really excited to start skiing in six weeks or so, and see how my lighter weight and improved fitness translate to the mountains.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Rowing 10K

A couple weeks ago at the gym, I heard some people talking about their best times on the rower for the 5K. One person commented that he'd just rowed a new 5K PR, and that when he started rowing, it was never his intent to go that hard. He simply started rowing, felt good, and ended up pushing hard through the distance.

That's exactly what happened to me yesterday. I was planning to row 10K, with no particular time goal. I took it easy for the first 2000, and it felt pretty good. And, I wasn't that far off from my 2K PR. So, I decided to push a little bit for the next 2K. That went pretty well as well. So, I kept pushing hard. My third 2000 went pretty well, but I struggled a bit on the 4th. As I started the last 2000, I was hurting, yet I knew I'd have a big PR if I didn't give up.

My first 5K was 20:48 and my second was 20:44, for a time of 41:31.6. My previous best for 2000 was 8:18, and I basically averaged that pace for 10000 meters yesterday.

After I was done, I basically laid on a mat in the gym, sweating and trying to recover. I was on the mat for a long time, with sweat just pouring off of me.

I am planning to get to CrossFit tonight and then do some rowing tomorrow morning. But, I also feel like I might be coming down with a cold, so we'll see how things go.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Sucked into a vortex, it seems

I don't know if I've been busy, or just not motivated recently. It's probably a little bit of each, but I seem to just be hanging on. And I'm not even sure what it is that I'm hanging onto.

Last week, I skipped CrossFit on Thursday and Friday to end the week. I didn't work out at all those two days. News at work earlier in the week certainly affected those decisions and my motivation.

On Saturday, I managed to get to the gym for a 6K row - not a very interesting or significant workout. Sunday, I worked, and when combined with the crappy weather, I didn't do much else.

Monday, I managed to row 10K and go to my daughter's soccer game after work.

Tuesday, I actually overslept and I was late for work. I can't remember the last time I did this, but I haven't been sleeping very well recently. I was exhausted after work and didn't do anything but watch TV.

We have been dealing with a broken-down car (the part is due in today), so I've been playing chauffeur a lot. This morning, I took my daughter to the orthodontist and I've been working ever since.

The great majority of my work today has been de-activating our most financially lucrative customer in our data system. I think that this issue has really been part of my sudden and recent malaise. The termination from the customer cost me a long-overdue raise and that's been an unpleasant turn of events. What's even more frustrating to me, at times, is that my company has a really good product that has a great return on investment for patient and providers. Basically we have a product that gets patients and doctors talking to each other, cooperatively managing Type 2 Diabetes, and our research shows that our product saves over 25 times what it costs in health care costs. Soon, we will have similar capabilities related to other chronic diseases. So, shouldn't people be beating down our door to get this product?

Unbelievably, the fact that our product can reduce healthcare costs is a dis-incentive for many potential customers. "So, let me get this straight. I am going to pay you money. My diabetic patients will be healthier in the long run. They won't need as much hands-on health care. So, I am going to pay you money so that I can bring in less revenue? Don't let the door hit you on the way out." So, our challenge is to sell to people who have some money on the line - some "skin in the game", so to speak. But, the people with money on the line tend to be far removed from the individual patients. We are talking about government and large insurance companies. They like the idea, but they seem convinced they can do it better. Without us. Yet, I know for sure that this isn't happening at places where we have worked in the past.

It scares me that the health care system can be that indifferent. A billable visit or even an amputation doesn't seem to be an issue. Yet, doing something proactive to help people be more healthy and reduce health care costs isn't worth the effort. I really love my job and I think it provides value to its users and society as a whole. And yet, we are having a hard time getting anywhere in the market. Chronic diseases consume a huge percentage of our health care costs - as high as 75% of all health care costs. That doesn't even begin to address things like lost productivity at work (one study in 2003 estimated that lost productivity was about 4x the health care costs associated with chronic disease), or lost/reduced quality of life.

I believe in what we do at work. A decade ago, I had a job in the genetics software field where I had a similar passion. Despite our belief in the value of our product, and despite getting the company public, I eventually lost my job as 75% of the company was laid off in one day. I was the most senior employee who lost a job that day, and a lot of the reason for that, in my opinion, was that I had a lot of options worth a lot of money in an acquisition, but worthless if I was laid off. I had given an excess of time and effort to that company but didn't receive the same consideration in return. I swore I'd never work that hard again or care about a job like that again. And yet, here I am.

Yesterday, I finally told management at work that I needed some time off. I'm taking a four day weekend this coming weekend to go to a college football game with my brother.

In early November, I'm going to take a long weekend to see Furthur, run a trail marathon and then visit some other friends. I need the break.

Now, if I can just find the motivation to row my 10K tonight, I should at least remain on target for my 100K rowing challenge. And, tomorrow, I hope to return to CrossFit after missing a whole week - something I haven't done in quite a while.

And while I'm not on vacation or at the gym, I'll probably continue to work too many hours. Because it seems to make sense to me.