Thursday, June 26, 2014

A couple rest days can help a lot

I took a rest day on Friday.  It was nice to have a planned rest day.  The weekend was packed full of activities that made it very difficult to get everything done.

Friday night, we had dinner with friends.  Saturday morning, my wife and I fished from very early until 11:00.  I got home, did a little cooking, took a shower, and we were off to southern Vermont for the day to celebrate my son's birthday - visiting record stores, book stores, playing mini golf, and then dinner out.

I got to bed late for the second day in a row, and when the alarm went off to go fishing again, I hit snooze a few times and then turned it off.  There was just too much to do.  I got up and did some cooking.  Mowed the lawn.  Went for a run.  Took care of some business in town.  Did some more cooking for a dish we were taking to a party.  And then, we went to the party.

I finally got to sit down and relax.  I enjoyed some Whistlepig Rye and an Arturo Fuente Hemingway "Signature" cigar.  We had some really good smoked ribs and smoked chicken for dinner with our friends.  It was a hectic weekend, but the end of it was quite relaxing.

Monday was back to the normal grind.  Squats at CrossFit, plus barbell box step-ups, followed by a descending ladder of running and power cleans.

Tuesday, I took off work.  My daughter and I took the dogs for an enjoyable walk and I then headed to western Vermont to fly fish for the day.  I'm posting a lot less about fly fishing here, because I'm posting about fishing in the fly fishing blog listed to the right.  I got in a great workout, working my way up through a tight gorge in pursuit of big brown trout.  I was really exhausted after nine hours in my waders.

Last night, we did bench presses to start CrossFit.  We are doing 4 rounds of a Wendler cycle right now, with 4 weeks per round, and this was week 1 of round 3.  I am not making much progress with my squat and deadlift, mostly due to the strength I lost after my surgery.  I'm simply playing catch-up with those two lifts.  But, I am making progress with my bench press, mostly because I've never been good at it, and I was able to work on that lift fairly soon after my surgery.  I'm sure that 7 weeks from now, I will finally hit that elusive 200+ pound bench press.  Yes, that's pathetic, but it's where I am.  I want to continue to bench press as much as possible this year, to see if I can get to 225 by the end of the year.  After the bench press work, we did some wall balls, ring rows, and rope jumping.  I felt pretty good with how the workout went, especially given how humid and clammy the gym was.

Tonight, it's "work your weakness" night, so I'll probably pick burpees and Turkish Get-ups.  Then, some rowing and kettlebell swings.  As the weekend approaches, my calendar is wide open, a relief after last weekend.  I'm hoping to do a little fishing with my wife, and maybe visit my in-laws at their camp in northern VT.

Friday, June 20, 2014

A good workout out of nowhere

Yesterday, I whined about how poorly things have been going in the gym recently.  And then last night, I had a great workout.

The first half of the workout is a segment we do every Thursday called "work your weakness".  You pick two things you hate or that you suck at, and alternate them, every minute on the minute, for 20 minutes.

Because today is a planned rest day, my first "weakness" wasn't truly a weakness, but something I knew I'd be missing by skipping tonight's workout.  I chose to do 3 deadlifts at 225 pounds.  For the alternating minutes, I did 100 meter sprints.  I did all of this in my running shoes, which worked great for the sprints, but not so well for the deadlifts.  I don't use a "zero lift" shoe for running workouts, so I was a little bit out of balance for the deadlifts, due to my heels being higher than normal.  The sprints felt good, with a focus on stride.

I chose to do this completely outdoors, which was fun.  Next, we had 12 minutes to do as many reps as possible of rowing 250 meters followed by a 50 meter farmer's walk.  Everyone did this one outdoors; we had a parking lot full of rowing machines.

I chose 53 pound kettlebells to carry during the farmer's walk.  I was hoping to get through 6 rounds, knowing that I could do all the rowing sessions in less than a minute.  But, I spent too much time transitioning from one exercise to another, and I was 200 meters into my sixth rowing round when I ran out of time.  Feeling good, I rowed the last 50 meters and did the next farmer's walk on my own.

It was interesting to see how the workout turned out for everyone.  The best athlete there last night is an employee at C2, the company that makes the rowing machines.  He was easily the fastest rower.  But, about the third round, someone else took the lead from him.  The other guy was faster with the farmer's walk (he was using lighter kettlebells) and faster on the transitions, and he eventually "won" the workout.

The two women rowing right beside me had similar results.  One of them was my wife.  It takes her a minimum of 80 seconds to row 250 meters, and she had some rounds closer to 85 seconds last night.  But, she was fast in the transition and fast with the kettlebells.  In the end, I finished only 15 rowing meters ahead of her.  The other woman beside me had similar results - slow rowing but faster everything else.

All in all, it was a fun night, training outside and feeling reasonably good.

Today is a rest day - dinner with some other couples from the gym.  The weekend is packed.  I'm planning to fish with my wife in the morning, take my son to Brattleboro (southern VT) to some record stores for his birthday, and maybe dinner out.  Sunday, I hope to fish in the morning, I have to mow the lawn, and then I have a party to go to with friends.  Somehow, in all of that, I need to find time for at least one run or bike ride.  I should also tie some flies, given how my nymph supply has been decimated by eager fish recently.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Struggling in the gym

I wrote a completely different post yesterday.  I sent it to my wife rather than posting it.  She said I was being too hard on myself, and that it wasn't really accurate.  But, the core of what I was thinking remains true.

So, here is a (hopefully) more even-handed approach to the issue.  I've been really struggling at CrossFit.  Part of the problem is the onset of summer.  I'm a big guy, and I struggle with anaerobic work in the heat.  Part of the problem is that I'm a big guy.  After 3.5+ years of CrossFit, my weight is exactly where it was when I started CF.  Yeah, my body-fat percentage might be a bit lower, but I'm overweight.  I've been overweight for most of my life and it's a never-ending battle.  I have been training in one way or another very consistently for almost 30 years.  I weigh about 50 pounds more now than when I started.  Who knows where I'd be without the training?  Three hundred pounds?  Four hundred?  Dead?

I'm sure I'm also still feeling some effects from my surgery in January.  Maybe I simply lost fitness then and it hasn't returned.  I'm probably also dealing with the effects of low testosterone.  I had been taking medication for that problem until my prostate cancer diagnosis.  It's now been 9 months with no medication, and I'm sure my testosterone is clinically low.  If my quarterly PSA test comes back with no sign of cancer next month, I will likely be allowed to return to that medication.

The problem is that I'm really dragging in every workout recently.  Again, part of the problem is my weight.  Because of what I weigh and also due to a nagging problem with my left shoulder, I simply can't do a lot of movements at CrossFit.  I can't do toes-to-bar:

I can't do handstand push-ups.  I can't do rope climbs, which takes me back to embarrassing gym classes in high school.  I'm avoiding snatches and overhead squats.  I am very limited in the number of unassisted pull-ups I can do.  The same is true of push-ups.

I'm also not recovering well and I seem to be struggling in the gym every day.  To be honest, it's not fun at all, and I find myself not wanting to be there.  I force myself to go, even though I just don't want to do the workout.  And even when I'm done, rather than being happy, I'm simply disappointed in my performance.

I need to lose weight to get better at CrossFit and to be healthier overall.  But, I feel like I need to train hard to help me lose weight.  Which comes first?  I feel like I'm at a dead end and I'm going backwards.  Every day, we have three levels of workout posted - a competition level, a sport level, and a fitness level.  I would prefer to do the work at the sport level, but recently I've done almost everything at the lowest (fitness) level.  Yesterday, I scaled downward from that level.

Maybe I need a break - mentally or physically or both.  I know I could certainly use a vacation from work, where I'm swamped all the time.  Maybe this is all a toll created by other outside stresses in my life, and the gym has become one more stressor rather than a place to escape the other stuff.  But, I'm feeling fat, old and out of shape.

After working my butt off for almost 30 years, that's depressing, to be honest.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Good training week

Sunday, I ran.  Monday, it was CrossFit, and I've already written in my previous post about the evil burpee lateral bar hops.  But, I survived it.

Tuesday was some seated box jumps, cleans and clean and jerks, followed by rope jumping, wall balls and pull-ups.

Wednesday was bench presses - heavy (well, heavy for me) and close-grip bench presses.  Then, sprints, sit-ups and dumbbell thrusters.

Thursday was burpees and strict presses to start, in alternating sets.  Then, 12 minutes to row 1000m and get as many kettlebell swings (53#) and box jumps (20") as possible in the rest of the time, doing them in sets of 15.

And now, it's Friday, and unlike a week ago, I'm not feeling physically wrecked.  So tonight, I'll be doing some heavy deadlifts, some hip bridges, and then some sled pulls, pull-ups and more deadlifts (much lighter).

The recent rain makes fly fishing less predictable for the weekend, although we are supposed to have a nice weekend.  My plan is to get in at least two of the following this weekend:

  • Road bike ride
  • Run
  • Hike

So, it's just more of the same.  I am feeling a lot better than a week ago, which is encouraging.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Not funny at all

On Friday, I went to the gym with my wife.  But, on Thursday, I had apparently tweaked something in my lower back.  My left hamstring was still bothering me from earlier in the week.  I was scheduled to do heavy deadlifts and a few other movements that would not be kind to my back or hamstring.  After doing the warm-up, I decided the smart thing to do was rest.  I watched the workout and that was it for the day.

Saturday was a really busy day, but I never did an actual workout of any kind.  I fished in the morning and made a late trip to the farmers market.  We spent a lot of the day in Burlington, celebrating my wife's birthday.

Sunday, I got out for a run - an easy 5 miler.  It was warm and a little bit humid, but not terrible.

Now, on to my subject line - not funny at all.

Today's CrossFit session starts with heavy back squats.  Then, some split squats.  Hopefully, my hamstring is OK with those.

But, the second half of the workout includes burpee lateral bar hops.  Just like last Monday, there are 45 reps of the burpee lateral bar hops, although today they will be done in a 21-15-9 rep pattern, instead of the 15-12-9-6-3 pattern of last week.  I will alternate the burpees with cleans.  But, the memory of finishing last and then puking in the parking lot last Monday is still very fresh in my memory.  Tonight, I will avoid a repeat of the puking, but I can pretty much guarantee I'll be last again.  I'm not happy at all to see these in the workout again.

Repeating the 45 burpee later bar hops a week later is just not funny at all.  I did 50 burpees on my own on Thursday, but it wasn't timed.  This one is going to be a challenge.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Over the line

Monday night was not a good night for me at CrossFit.  I was a bit tired from the weekend.  Saturday, I'd gotten dehydrated while fishing all day - wearing waders for close to 12 hours.  Sunday, I went for a run and I was busy the entire day with other activities.  Monday, I felt a bit dehydrated.  And, it was warm and humid.

CrossFit started with squats.  I did 3 set of squats after warming up - 2 x 225, 3 x 255, and 4 x 305.  Next was barbell lunges.  I kept the weight light (95#), but I still managed to strain my left hamstring a bit.  I partially tore a hamstring tendon in my left leg in 2009, and it remains vulnerable to strains, especially if I'm dehydrated at all.  We were supposed to do 3 x 8/side on the lunges, but I quit after 2 sets.

Next, we got to the metabolic part of the workout.  It went as follows:

As quickly as possible
10 shoulder-to-overhead (any method allowed), 15 burpees with a lateral hop over the barbell
8, 12
6, 9
4, 6
2, 3

I used 105# for my shoulder to over head work.  I can do higher weights, but I still try to take it easy on my shoulder at times.  It's not 100% and maybe it never will be.  There are days when I can go hard on shoulder work (snatches and overhead squats excepted), but 105# was a compromise weight for me.  I knew it would be hard, but I also knew if I felt 100%, I could go a little heavier.

My biggest concern was burpees in the heat.  Being a big guy, burpees are tough for me.  Trying to do them fast is tougher.  Trying to do them fast in the heat is really not fun.

Times on the board from earlier classes were mostly in the 6-8 minute range.  I told my wife I would be over 10 minutes and likely finish last.

On the first round, I had to drop the bar and break the shoulder-to-overheads into sets of 6 and 4.  The burpees were slow, but went OK.  On the second set, I managed the first part unbroken.  But, my burpees started to break down.  On the third set, I did the barbell work as 3 and 3.  Then, the burpees.  At the end of the burpees, I was afraid I was going to throw up.  I was right on the edge.  Before I started the 4th round, I rested about 30 seconds.  My wife finished the workout during this rest period for me.  Actually, over half of the people were done by now.  By the time I did my 4 shoulder to overheads (2 and 2), I was the only one still going.  Everyone else was done.

This is always my worst nightmare.  I think it's cool that the concept of CrossFit as a community is not a myth.  It's a very real thing.  The person who finishes first in the workout is certainly recognized and respected.  But, the person who finishes last gets more attention.  People are cheering for you.  Trying to help you get through.  The music isn't turned down until the last person finishes.  We really are all in it together.

I pushed hard on my 6 burpees.  More cheering.  Two quick reps with the barbell and I was almost there.  Three more burpee lateral bar hops and I was done.  The cheering was over.  Everyone was congratulating me for pushing hard to the finish.  I saw my time of 10:40 on the clock.  And suddenly, I realized I was going to throw up.  I got outside as fast as I could.  And for the next 5-10 minutes (it seemed like half an hour), I went through a series of puking/dry heaves that hurt badly and probably sounded like I was dying.  I'm sure it wasn't a pretty sight at all.

This isn't usual.  In my first few months at CF, I got sick a few times during or after the workout.  I thought I was in better shape than I really was and I crossed the line.  Three times.  Twice it was before the workout was over and I returned to finish the workout, albeit slowly.  But, despite the "Pukey the Clown" character invented years ago by someone associated with CF (along with his sidekick Uncle Rhabdo), CrossFit is not about going so hard that you throw up.  I don't know that I've seen anyone else throw up ever at our gym.  It's just me - an old fat guy who pushes beyond his abilities at times, especially when I'm last and being encouraged by everyone else.  I hadn't made that mistake in 3+ years, and I certainly remember why now.  It's really unpleasant.

After I was done being sick, I grabbed some water to clean up the mess I'd made.  I had to change shirts as well, having hit my shirt when I first got sick.

My notes in my logbook after the workout were really negative.  I was embarrassed - by my lack of fitness, by the fact that I'm fat and the heat and burpees (slamming your stomach onto the ground 45 times is not kind to your stomach) and my overzealous effort had ended badly, and just by the fact that I was last (again).  I know it's not really competitive in some ways, but the founder of CrossFit has been quoted as saying "Men will die for points."  His point is that knowing we are going to write our scores on a board for everyone else to see, people will push as far as possible to do as well as possible.

Another quote by the founder is "First, second, third, dead f***ing last."  I seem to be DFL way too often recently.  My fitness has improved since I returned to the gym after surgery in January.  But, my weight is too high.  I'm not very mobile.  My cardio engine isn't in good shape.  Yeah, I'm strong - for a guy my age.  But that's about it.  I need to decide what I really want out of CrossFit.  DFL isn't it.  Neither is Pukey the Clown.

Tuesday, I returned for more pain.  I knew Wednesday would be a rest day because my daughter had a high school lacrosse playoff game.  So, I did Wednesday's scheduled bench presses rather than Olympic lifting.  I was happy with the bench press work - showing an improvement over the same workout 4 weeks earlier.  The second part of the workout was maximum pull-ups in 8 minutes, but there was a buy-in.  You couldn't start pull-ups until after you'd run 800 meters.  My best ever 800m was in a track meet when I was about 30 years old - 2:21.  My time on Tuesday was 2 minutes slower at 4:21.  As a former road runner, that time is also embarrassing.  I once did 10 x 800 meters at an average of 2:51 per repeat.  I managed 34 band assisted pull-ups in my remaining time.  I wasn't last that night, but I was close.

Wednesday was a much needed rest day.  My tweaked hamstring was still bothering me.  I was sore all over.  I was tired.  It turned out to be a tough day as my daughter's lacrosse team took an 8-2 lead on the road, and then got outscored 13-1 the rest of the way.  Many of the seniors were in tears at the end of the game - a tough-to-swallow collapse to end their high school athletic careers.  I felt bad for every single one of them.

So, yesterday, it was back to the gym.  I was still sore.  My hamstring was still a bit tender.  The first part of the workout was called "work your weakness".  We picked two different activities - something we hate or suck at - and we alternated sets of the two, every minute on the minute, for 20 minutes.  I alternated 2 x 145# power cleans with 5 burpees.  Those 20 minutes made me realize that I still wasn't properly recovered from earlier in the week.  I was soaked with sweat and we still had the rest of the workout to go - as many reps as possible in 10 minutes, of the following:

10 ball slams (pick it up to overhead and slam it to the ground)
10 box jumps
10 dumbbell shoulder-to-overheads.

I struggled.  Most people did 5 rounds.  A few did 6.  I fell 6 reps short of completing 4.  Worst score on the board.  Not just for my class, but all day.

Tonight, we are scheduled for heavy deadlifts, followed by pull-ups, push-ups and power cleans (I had no idea we'd be doing power cleans today when I chose them yesterday).  Of course, I'll be there.  I might finish last.  I'm sure it will be hard.

The odd thing is that if I was the fittest person in the class, it wouldn't be any easier.  I'd just go heavier or faster or both.  That's one of the great things about CF.  It's hard for everybody.  But, after over 3.5 years, I feel like I've somehow failed to make the progress that I should have made.  It's disheartening at times, yet I always go back.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

More of the same

Murph last Monday.  More CrossFit on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

I worked at home and took a rest day on Friday.  It was nice to see my daughter's lacrosse game that afternoon.

Saturday, I fished in a fly fishing tournament, finishing about mid-pack in a group of 55 or so fishermen.

Sunday, I ran, mowed the lawn, cooked a lot and fished a little.

It's a new week, so I'm back at CrossFit.

Tomorrow, my daughter's lacrosse team has their first game in the state playoffs.  They will be an underdog, but I'm planning to leave work early to go to the game.  Somehow, I need to find a way to squeeze in a workout tomorrow.

That's it.  I said in a post a few weeks ago that I wanted life to to by a bit more simply, with no big events.  For right now, that's what's happening and I couldn't be happier.