Tuesday, January 31, 2012


Late last week, we had some really nasty weather - a mix of rain and snow and wind and warm temperatures that seemed certain to derail any quality skiing for the weekend. So, rather than taking it easy at CrossFit on Friday night, like I typically would, I worked out hard.

And then, I got to the mountain on Saturday morning and discovered a couple inches of new snow on top of a base that had been softened by rain and the warmer temperatures. I spent all of Saturday on natural snow trails with my students - steep runs, tree runs, bump runs - non-stop. What a great day it turned out to be. As the temperatures dropped during the day, things got a bit firmer, but it wasn't a big deal.

Sunday, we had at most 1/2" of new snow. The base was firm. Nonetheless, we found all kinds of fun places to ski. We warmed up on an intermediate bump run on natural snow, and every run for the rest of the day was on expert terrain - either on or off trail. By the time Sunday afternoon rolled around, I was exhausted. I believe my students were exhausted as well.

After three straight days of CrossFit, I had not expected to ski so hard over the weekend. Sunday night, I dragged myself home, cooked dinner, ate, and fell asleep on the couch fairly early. I woke up briefly and went straight to bed.

Yesterday morning, I was still dragging, and a rest day was clearly needed. Right now, I think the ideal schedule for me during ski season would be to rest on Monday, do CrossFit the next three days, rest on Friday, and then ski on the weekends. Perhaps I could squeeze in some rowing or easy running on an occasional Monday or Friday. But, five consecutive days seems like too much at the moment.

Today, I'm feeling much better and I'll be at CF tonight. And, most likely, the next two nights. We've had some snow since Sunday, but it's supposed to be warm and rainy tomorrow and then dry for a few days. So, next weekend's skiing could be a bit on the firm side. But, that's the life of a New England skier.

Sugarbush should be kind of crazy this coming weekend. The two most popular football teams in the northeast will be playing in the Super Bowl. So, many skiers will be skiing in their jerseys, and yelling at each other over beers in the bar. I think I'll just stay away from that mayhem. By lunchtime or so, most of the out of state skiers will be leaving to head home to watch the game, and the mountain will be fairly deserted. I love skiing on New Year's Day (no crowds due to hangovers) and Super Bowl Sunday.

If anyone in the New York or New England area wants a decent deal on a lift ticket, Sugarbush is charging $46 on Sunday (Super Bowl XLVI?). It tends to be a low crowd day on the mountain and that's almost half off the normal ticket price.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

A couple PRs in the gym

I took both Monday and Tuesday as rest days and I felt ready to go last night in the gym. After our warm-up, we worked on back squats using a 5-5-3-3-1-max rep scheme, starting at about 65% of one rep max. This is not an ideal scheme to hit a new PR, but I felt pretty good as I progressed through the workout. I started at 225, then 240, 255, 275 and 295. Even at 295, I felt pretty good. So, I decided to try for 320, which is five pounds heavier than my PR. I first hit 315 in May of last year, and then repeated that weight twice more last year.

I was very happy with my single rep at 320 - decent depth, I stayed upright, and it was never in doubt. I'm sure that with a proper warm-up, I can go 5-15 pounds higher than I did last night.

After the squats, the main workout was rowing 2K as fast as possible. In some ways, I'd rather row 5K, because the intensity at 2K is brutal. I knew when I sat down that I wanted to go sub-8, which I'd never done before. Despite being warned about not going out too hard, I managed to do it anyway, although not too badly. I hit the first 500 in about 1:55, the second in 1:57, and the last two were each just over 2 minutes. The last 250 meters was really tough, but I hung on for a 7:57.

My total "working" time in the gym was less than 12 minutes last night, lifting and rowing combined. In that time, I got two PRs and a great workout. I'm ready for more at CrossFit tonight.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Tough four days

On Thursday and Friday, after a few rest days while feeling under the weather, I returned to CrossFit. I worked hard both nights, and by Saturday morning, I was feeling sore. The squats from Thursday night really affected me, and it was difficult to bend over and pick up my skis all weekend.

We had some new snow over the weekend - about 7" over a two day period, but a lot of the trails were firm and fast. During instructor training on Sunday morning, we witnessed an amazing collision between two guests. We were shocked that the one person walked (well, skied) away from the collision.

For the first time this ski season, we started to explore off-piste terrain, and we decided that it's just not ready yet. We skied two moderate tree runs on Saturday and they were passable, but not a lot of fun. On Sunday, we tried two different very difficult tree runs high on the mountain and found them to be less than fun.

Nonetheless, we had a fun weekend. We skied some steep trails, some nice bump runs on natural and man-made snow, and there was lots of laughter all weekend long. Saturday morning, one of my students had problems with her poles getting off the chairlift, and she didn't make it off the chair. She hit the bar that stops the chair and the lift attendant helped her off the chair. This always reflects badly on the instructor, so I needed a way to get even.

At lunchtime, I ate half of a sandwich and while the offending lift-rider was in the bathroom, I stored the other half of the sandwich in her jacket. I didn't really want to eat it later, but I thought it would be funny for her to carry it around all afternoon. When she found the sandwich, I thought she was going to kill me. I was laughing so hard that she almost succeeded.

We spent Sunday at Lincoln Peak, a part of the Sugarbush resort where we don't ski very often. We were just about done at that side of the mountain, and we took a short break before we rode the Slide Brook Express chair back to the main mountain. The Slide Brook chair is a two mile ride that lasts 11 minutes, and it's important that the kids aren't freezing when we get on the chair. As we left the lodge where we'd warmed up, to ski to the chair, I got a question from my daughter. Here, I'm going to borrow her Facebook post about how the conversation went:

Me: "I'm tired can we go down the easiest trail"
Dad: "ok. Which way"
Me: "the easiest"
Dad: "which way"
Me: "the easiest"
Dad: "which way"
Me: "the easiest"
Dad: "Sarah the name of the trail is which way"
Me: "oh"

This had all of the girls in the group laughing hysterically. It was just too easy to do this to her at the time. It turned out that Which Way had lots of features from recent snow-making, and it might have been our most fun run of the weekend.

All in all, I had another great weekend with the students I teach. When I have a good weekend, it's hard to believe I actually get paid to go skiing with them. Yes, I have a lot of responsibility for their safety and I do teach them things, but it's just plain fun.

Today, I am amazingly sore and tired, and I'm taking a rest day.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Back to the gym

After three rest days due to a minor cold, I felt ready to do a workout yesterday, although I planned to do an easier-than-normal workout.

I arrived at the gym early and spent some time stretching. Then, the first part of our warm-up was 5x10 back squats. Normally, I'd do my work sets at 22#-245# for this rep scheme, but yesterday, I did one set at 185, one at 225, and three at 205.

Next was the main workout:

5 rounds, as quickly as possible:
7 power cleans
11 chest-to-bar pull-ups
15 Dumbbell push presses

The Rx'd level was ridiculously hard, and even level 1 was more than I wanted to do yesterday. But, level 2 was too easy, so I decided to work between the two levels. Regretfully, the gym was really full, and we needed to partner up on the barbells, and everyone seemed to be doing one of the weights on the board. That meant I had to choose between 115# and 75#. I opted for the lighter weight, but it turned out to be too easy. I used bands, especially trying to go chest-to-bar, for the pull-ups. And, I used a pair of 20# dumbbells.

The workout went just fine, but I think my partner and I only did four rounds. Even at the easy level I chose for the workout, it was hard for me to believe that I'd been the fastest person out of 22 in the gym. So, I'm guessing I did four rounds in just under 10 minutes.

Overnight, I was really sore and I didn't sleep too well. Part of our warm-up had included rope jumping, which I hadn't done since breaking my rib, so I wonder if that was the problem. Plus, power cleans can bother my shoulder at times.

I feel OK now, although a bit sore from the squats, but I'll go to CF again tonight after work. Once again, I'll take it easy, trying to not cause my illness to return, and saving something for skiing this weekend.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


In my last post, I said I felt like I'd been on a roll, but I also felt like I needed a rest day. And on Friday, I took a rest day.

On the weekend, I skied hard with my small herd of students and we had a great time, spending most of the weekend on single black and double black trails, most of them covered with sweet, soft moguls. By Sunday night, I was feeling really drained. I came straight home from the mountain after work, rather than skiing a few extra runs, and took a nap before dinner. I went to bed early knowing that I was getting sick.

By the end of the work day yesterday, my whole body ached. I was working a bit late, and sometime after it got dark, I basically fell asleep beside my laptop. (I worked from home yesterday and I was working on my bed when I fell asleep.)

This morning, I still feel pretty wrecked, so I'm working from home again. I certainly don't want to infect anyone in the office. I took an Alleve a little while ago, and I hope it helps me to feel better.

So, no workout yesterday and certainly none today. I'll be back as soon as my body says it's ready.

I was sick in mid-November. I was sick in early April last year. I was sick in mid-October of 2010. I was sick in early March of 2010. I was sick in January of 2010. That means I've been sick six times in 25 months right now.

As I look through my training logs, I see words like "sore" or "exhausted" or "beat up" way too often. I see periods of time where I take time off because I'm sick or feeling burnt out and beat up.

I'm guessing that none of this is a coincidence.

I'd like to say that getting old sucks, but from looking at my logs, it's more likely that training excessively is just plain stupid.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Time for a rest day

Here is how the first 12 days of the year have gone so far:


I feel like I'm on a roll and I've been happy with my CF workouts this week. But, I'm also a bit tired. Last night, we started with 5x5 of power cleans. This lift, at heavier weights, aggravated my rib and shoulder. In the last set, I managed to pull 3 cleans (of my 5 attempts) at my current PR of 165#. So, I should easily be able to clean 175# or more with the correct warm-up.

Then, our main workout was as follows:

1000 meter row
50 deadlifts (135#)
50 wall balls (14#)
50 kettlebell swings (35#)

It took me just over 14 minutes to get through this workout and I was pretty happy with the workout. But I didn't sleep well last night, mostly due to my ribs and shoulder being unhappy.

So, while I feel like I'm on a roll of some sorts, it's time for a rest day. Plus, we've gotten a decent amount of snow at the mountain this week and some new advanced terrain is open. If the girls in my group can handle the cold weather, we'll be skiing some really nice advanced terrain all weekend.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Strict Press PR

In December of 2010, I did a strict press of 125 pounds. Coming from a running and skiing and hiking background, ever since I started lifting for real, my leg-dominant lifts have been much better than arm-dominant lifts. I still haven't cracked 200 pounds for the bench press and my strict (or military) press has been slow to improve.

Late in last year's ski season, I also hurt my rotator cuff, which set me back a bit in shoulder strength. In mid-September of last year, I managed to set a new PR at 127.5 pounds. And last night, I got to 130 pounds. That's an improvement of about 4% over 13 months. Yes, I'm old and I'm still setting PRs in the gym, so I should be happy about that. And, I think I am ready to lift more on this lift - I did too many warm-ups lifts at higher weights yesterday.

So, I've got a PR and I'm happy.

It's snowing, so I'm even more happy.

It's supposed to keep snowing in the mountains right through tomorrow. I'm practically ecstatic.

I'm feeling remarkably good right now. My rib is mostly healed, although certain workouts can irritate it a bit. In the first 11 days of the current year, I skied 3 times, rowed 2, and went to CF 5 times, with only one rest day. And, surprisingly, I don't feel beat up at the moment.

I'll go to CF tonight, but with lots of snow for the weekend, I may take a rest day tomorrow so I'm fresh for skiing hard this weekend.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

New "Rest Day" workout

One of the things I like best about approaching my fitness and diet from a Primal/Paleo perspective is the amount of time I save in exercise.

Recently, when I don't have a lot of time, I've found that I can jump on a Concept2 rower, and row 5K in just over 20 minutes. This is a challenging workout for me, yet it's over quickly and doesn't leave me sore the next day.

That's what I did last night, instead of doing a tougher workout that might have left me sore or more beat up after skiing all weekend.

If I do this often enough, it would be nice to get my times down under 20 minutes.

And, as soon as my rib is completely healed, I will get back to doing some interval running workouts.

Tonight is CrossFit.

Monday, January 9, 2012

How much training is enough? Or, too much?

Two years ago, I did some sort of workout or race on 200 distinct days. Overall, I feel that I lost fitness that year and I definitely gained weight - fat to be more specific.

Last year, I trained 227 distinct days, with a major emphasis on CrossFit. I lost ten pounds of body mass, and perhaps 15 pounds of fat. So, this was enough for me to improve, although the change in training emphasis was also a factor.

All last year, after a poor start to the year, my goal was to work out at least 2/3 of the days in the year. I didn't make it but I still improved my fitness.

So, having turned 50 years old last week, I'm trying to figure out an optimal way to structure my workouts. I enjoy the training I'm doing these days. After so many years of simply running year round and skiing on the weekends in winter, I've really diversified my training. I would say that CrossFit is the focus, but it's not all I do. I like to ride my bike. I still run, but mostly shorter, faster runs than in years past. I like to do heavy lifting sessions on my own, outside of the CrossFit environment. And, I like to ski at a high level on difficult terrain. My students this year are old enough and skilled enough that we are doing exactly that. After skiing on Saturday, I arrived at the mountain tired yesterday. And, we skied hard again.

In past years, I didn't ski as hard on the weekends. So, I could often do 4 or 5 workouts during the work week. These days, that seems excessive.

If I'm trying to balance optimal fitness with minimal injury risk, there must be some "sweet spot" that I can find. But, I don't know where it is right now.

I'm guessing that it's somewhere between 5 and 6 workouts per week. And, no more than 3 of those should be CrossFit. One day should probably be more aerobic than the other days, which tend to be done at high intensity.

For now, I think I'm going to mostly go by feel. I did 6 days last week. This week, I'll do 5 or 6. But, I think it makes no sense to try to train 7 days per week. And when my body tells me it's tired, I think I need to listen.

It's kind of odd that after 27 years of consistent exercise/training, I'm still trying to figure out some optimal plan. Of course, that keeps things interesting as well.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

So close

After work yesterday, I headed to CrossFit. Our workout started with six sets of deadlifts, done in sets of 5-5-3-3-1-max. We were supposed to start at 65% of our current max and move up from there. I started higher than 65%, and the first five sets were 255, 275, 295, 315 and 335. I felt pretty good at this point. Knowing that I'd done three consecutive reps at 355 on Monday, I wanted a different challenge. So, I took at shot at 405, a weight that's been a goal for a while. I got the bar a couple inches off the ground, but stalled out and couldn't finish it.

However, I had probably done too many heavy DLs between Monday and yesterday to have my best chance. I think I'm close and I'm sure I'll get it by the end of the month, if I can stay healthy.

After the deads, we did a 12 minute, max rep workout, doing 20 wall balls followed by 10 sumo deadlift high pulls, repeat until time expires. I did level 1, using a 14# med ball and 65# for the high pulls. I did just under six rounds, and after pushing too hard in some recent workouts, I deliberately controlled the pace in this one. Overall, I was pretty happy with my pacing and effort. As I get a few more weeks of CF workouts under my belt, I'll be able to push harder through the main workouts.

My ribs were sore after the workout last night, and I think it was from the wall balls, although attempting a 400+ pound deadlift can't be discounted.

Tonight, I'll do a quick 5K row after work and then do CF tomorrow, before skiing all weekend.

Back to work...

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Back from a much-needed vacation

I spent the last 12 days on vacation from my day job. I will admit that I taught skiing for half of those 12 days, so I wasn't completely idle.

I took a few rest days around Christmas and enjoyed a nice Christmas holiday with family. Starting the day after Christmas, I was scheduled to teach skiing for 7 consecutive days. Given my recent rib fracture, I was a bit concerned about that much skiing, but it turned out to not be an issue.

Our ski season here is off to a terrible start. On Monday and Tuesday after Christmas, I got no work at all. I skied a little each day and then left the mountain early. On Tuesday, I did a good workout of heavy lifts - squats, strict presses, deadlifts, bench presses and walking (weighted) lunges. The following day dawned with terrible road conditions, and I stayed home most of the day. I tried to drive my son to work in the morning, before the road crews had worked on our road, which was solid slick ice. I have a Subaru with studded snow tires, and after a mile, I gave up and drove back home.

After the town put cinders on our road, things were much better, and I finally got out to the gym. I rowed hard for half an hour instead of my normal 5K row. The extra 8-9 minutes of rowing were torture and I barely made it to the end, or at least it felt that way.

The next day, we had a foot of snow at the mountain but still very few customers. Again, I got no work, skied a little bit, and then went home early. That afternoon, I did another heavy lifting workout, doing front squats, clean and jerks, power snatches and trap bar deadlifts.

On Friday, I finally got to teach for a few hours and then I skied with my wife for a while. It was a fun day and it was nice to ski with my wife - something I don't get to do often enough. The weekend was fairly warm and I taught my normal lessons on Saturday and Sunday. The snow pack was slowly disappearing, but the skiing was fun.

Monday was my 50th birthday. My wife and I planned a day together to celebrate my birthday. I did a CrossFit workout first thing in the morning, then we did some shopping, and we met some friends for a nice lunch. We spent the rest of the afternoon with our friends, and then went home to have dinner with our children. All in all, it was a fun and almost relaxing way to spend my birthday. I did have to cook my own dinner, but it wasn't that difficult.

Yesterday, I took one final day of vacation. I spent most of the day just relaxing and then in the evening, my wife and I went to see Bucknell, our alma mater, play at Dartmouth in basketball. Bucknell trailed by as many as ten points in the first half, but used a 22-4 run in the second half to put Dartmouth away. With classes not in session at Dartmouth, it was interesting to watch a game in a nearly empty gym. It was empty enough that I got a stern look from an official after making a sarcastic remark about one of his calls. But, the Bison prevailed, so it was a good evening.

Today, I'm back at work and I'll be going to CrossFit later today. My rib injury is much better, but I'm certainly not 100%. Hopefully, it won't limit my activities much at all as the healing process continues.