20.1 was not fun…


…but it doesn’t have to be fun to be fun.

The 2020 CrossFit Games Open is under way! The deadline for submitting scores for 20.1 has come and gone. It seems the Open inspires me to blog – my most active periods are during this crazy test of fitness. For those new to it, the Open is a worldwide competition that anyone can participate in. Each week for 5 weeks, a new workout is released on Thursdays at 5pm Pacific Time and competitors have until 5pm the following Monday to submit their scores. You can track your position on the leaderboard and see how you compare to other athletes. For more information, check out the website.

The first workout, 20.1, was a tough one for me. The 95 lbs weight for the ground-to-overhead (G2OH) movement was manageable but not challenging for that many reps. The burpees were burpees – horrible but mainly just a grind. Just keep moving – no need for breaks during this portion of the workout.

I did this workout twice – first time on Friday and the next on Monday. I managed to improve my score from 7 rounds + 10 reps to 8 rounds + 1 rep. A 9 rep increase good for almost 1000 places on the leaderboard in my age group (45-49). What were the differences between Monday and Friday:

1. Friday: Didn’t work out how best to cycle the barbell. Just did a few reps before the start and then tried to cycle as efficiently as possible. Switched between snatches and clean-and-jerks at different points throughout without any real plan or reason other than an attempt to keep moving.
Monday: Spent the weekend watching videos of pro athletes completing the workout and noting their form and technique. Watched a number of instructional videos on barbell cycling. Practiced with an empty bar and at 95 lbs in my garage. Tried to put my learnings into action on the 2nd attempt. The main difference was that, instead of lowering the bar from overhead onto my hips, I pushed my hips back and lowered the bar directly to the ground.Overall this worked out well for me. On Friday I did bigger sets but took longer breaks between sets. Did snatches all the way through.

2. Friday: Used bouncy plates on the bar which meant having to stabilize it every time I dropped it during the G2OH. Since I didn’t manage to string together too many touch-and-go reps, the value of the bounce was not there for me.
Monday: Used the harder plates which didn’t bounce. This saved me time even though I dropped the bar more often. As soon as I dropped, I was able to reset, and pick up the bar immediately. Also, I could drop down for my first burpee in each round without first stabilizing the bar. Over the course of the 15 minutes, I think this saved me valuable seconds.

In general, I approached the workout with more confidence since I knew what to expect. It’s a suffer-fest and gives you Fran lung. I was breathing like a crazy cross between Darth Vader and a pug. This felt like a point 5 WOD, not a point 1 WOD. But it was a great start to the 2020 Open. I’m further down the leaderboard than I’d like to be but I’m excited about what’s in store for us in the coming weeks.

How did it go for you? Do you have any questions about the Open – let me know?

Partner WODs

Some people love them, some people hate them. In our box we have a good mix of both. There are people who can’t wait to attack it with their favorite partner and there are those who avoid training on that day. Personally, I used to be in the ‘hate’ camp. I hate them less than I used to but they still cause some level of anxiety in me. “Why anxiety?” you may ask. My initial assumption is that I’m going to be the weak link in the partnership. All perceptions flow from there. And it’s all got to do with perceptions. My perception of what my partner will expect of me during the WOD. My perception of my ability to complete my fair share of the reps. My perception of how competitive my partner is. My perception of how hard the WOD is. My perception of how much better my partner is at the movements. My perception that doing the workout as prescribed is going to destroy me.

If I think my partner is super competitive and I don’t know if I can keep up, then I’m anxious that during the workout she/he will get angry and frustrated and potentially even shout at me. And not words of encouragement but words of exasperation. I always go as fast as I can and execute the movements as well as I can, so if it’s not fast enough, there’s not too much I can do. I fear the sight of them standing over me or behind me with judging eyes willing me to move more quickly. I quake at the thought of them finishing their reps in short order and then yelling ‘GO!!’ in my direction way before I’m ready to go again. I move so slowly they get a long break. They move so fast I barely get a chance to catch my breath. And this will be repeated over and over during the course of the workout. And I’ll get more tired and move slower while they get more irritated.

Eventually they may offer to do some of the reps. This creates a real dilemma for me. Do I allow them to do so, to prevent us from falling too far behind or do I continue to do my half so they don’t have to ‘carry’ me? If you’re lucky, you’ll be better at one of the other movements so you can offer to do more reps there. I’ve done both. I’ve refused to let them do some of my reps – I also want to do the full workout and get as many reps of all the movements as I’m able. Why should I forsake some of my reps and my gains and my practice just because you want a faster finish? I have also ‘handed over’ some reps to the other person giving them the opportunity to make up some time and also to get them to stop judging me.

All this makes for an uncomfortable and miserable experience. Hence my usual dislike of partner WODs. As you can tell, though, much of that is in my head. Knowing my fellow gym goers, I know that they are a supportive bunch who just want to enjoy the workout. They enjoy the camaraderie and the opportunity to have a collaborative workout. There may be some friendly competition and some playful insults exchanged but all in good spirits. In recent months I’ve been attempting to get out of my own head and find a way to enjoy these workouts. I’ve been lucky enough to partner with some solid gals and guys who are both encouraging and willing to work together at a pace that suits both of us. We still push each other but in a way that’s positive and non-judgmental. I’ve been enjoying the WODs a lot more than I expected to. I’ve even entered a partner competition in May! Eep!

Business Trips and Training


I just finished up a 2 week business trip. I spent a week in Manila, in the Philippines and a week in China (Shanghai and Beijing). When I’m traveling I usually struggle to maintain a regular training schedule. It can take some time to get over the jet lag so I don’t always wake up early enough to train before having to go to the office. In the evenings, after work, there’s usually a business dinner and I am back in the hotel too late to hit the gym. These are the excuses I use anyway.

When I do manage to get to the hotel gym, I am often uninspired and can’t come up with a decent workout. This time I decided to try and be a bit more proactive and more disciplined. The CrossFit Open has started and I didn’t want to lose fitness due to inactivity during this trip. I decided that the least I would do is 30 minutes on the stationary bike or the treadmill. I figured if I was at least moving, I’d be more inclined to continue afterwards and do some additional work. I also planned to go every other day rather than daily.

By-and-large this plan worked out for me. I was lucky that the hotels I stayed at had bikes and dumbbells. So I had some options. The last gym I was at even had a rower, an Olympic barbell and kettlebells. Below are some of the workouts I did after 30 min on the bike.

6 min EMOM:

  • 5 dumbbell clean and jerks (R) + 5 dumbbell clean and jerks (L)

6 min EMOM:

  • 20 push-ups
  • 45s plank


  • goblet squats
  • butterfly sit-ups


  • dumbbell thrusters
  • Russian twists


  • DB snatches
  • butterfly sit-ups

3×10 dumbbell bench press

300 air squats

50 American kettlebell swings

10 miles on a stationary bike

3 km on the rower

What are some of you go-to workouts when you’re traveling?

19.1 – the Thrilla in Manila


Chris Guinther with the Photoshop skills

The CrossFit Open 2019 is underway! It seemed a long way off and now all of a sudden it’s begun. The announcements were quite different from what we’ve become accustomed to over the last few years. There was no Dave Castro slowly revealing the torture he’d concocted for us. However, there were still some head-to-head battles of games athletes in England, France and Brazil.  Workout 19.1 is a crazy couplet:


Sam Briggs, the Engine from England, dominated the announcement face-off managing to complete 9 full rounds in the 15 minutes. She looked incredibly composed and strong throughout the workout. Based on that, and on the fact that I am not that quick on the rower, I figured that 5 rounds and change would be a good score for me.  I’ve been attending a conference at the Philippine International Convention Center in Manila this week. That meant that I had to find a local box for 19.1. Enter CrossFit Taft. What a great group of people. They were welcoming, friendly and super accommodating. I had contacted them ahead of time to ask if it would be possible for me to do the workout there but we hadn’t agreed on a time. I arrived between two classes, neither of which were doing 19.1. However, the coaches rallied around me and allowed me to complete it on my own. Coach Amery Venci even stepped up and judged it for me. I’d highly recommend you drop in at this box if you ever find yourself in Manila.


I survived! Thanks Coach Amery for judging my 19.1 performance

The workout was H-O-R-R-I-B-L-E. I started out doing the first round of wall balls unbroken but from round 2 on, I did 8-6-5. I took fairly short breaks between those sets and then tried to recover a bit on the rower. As mentioned before, I’m not that proficient on the rower, so I tried to just maintain a steady pace. I had the wall ball right next to the rower, so my transitions were pretty quick. However, as the clock approached the 10 minute mark, I was taking a bit longer to pick up the wall ball again. I managed to hit 5 rounds with enough time left to push to finish a 6th round. It was tough going though. My lungs were burning. I was breathing so heavy. I even took off my T-shirt – something that doesn’t happen all that often. People in the gym who were watching were shouting encouragement. They helped me keep my breaks short and to keep pushing. I managed to get through round 6 with 15 seconds left. I quickly picked up the wall ball and knocked out 5 more reps before collapsing. 233 reps total! I’m happy with that start. A full round more than I was expecting. Averaging about 2:30 per round. Let’s see how it stacks up on the 45-49 leaderboard.



Repping SchuBox Athletics in Manila

I’m looking forward to the next 4 weeks. If 19.1 is anything to go by, we have loads more pain to come. Good luck to all those competing.

Core blaster workout!


SchuBox Athletics WOD for 15 Feb

I often share our WODs with a friend in London who trains at CrossFit Surbiton. His usual response is variations of “your coach hates you” or “your coach is trying to kill you.” Today was no different. We’re slowly getting back into doing snatches after a cycle without them, so the strength portion was a power snatch at 85% of our 1RM. The overhead squat (OHS) thrown in for good measure was fun too. I did this at 125 pounds.

The metcon portion of the workout was where our coach was definitely aiming to inflict some harm. But in a good way. As always, the mix of movements and the time for each round was spot on. I decided to do the Rx+ version (see picture above) which included 135# OHS and ring muscle ups instead of front squats and pull-ups. I haven’t done that many reps of OHS at that weight before. It was a challenge to stabilize both at the bottom and top of the lift. In each round, the last 3 reps were more about not dropping the bar than actually feeling comfortable with finishing the set. It got heavy, fast! After blasting my core into oblivion, it was on to ring muscle ups where engaging your core is crucial to maintaining good form. Yay, coach! I decided from the start that I would do 2 reps at a time. For good measure, the muscle ups destroyed my core even further (I feel the pain right now as I type this post). After those, I hobbled over to the air bike, AKA the devil’s bicycle. I managed to finish all 12 calories in each round but in round 6, I was over the 4 minute cap. Total time was 20:20.

All-in-all, a fantastic way to end the week. Three of my favorite movements – snatch, OHS and ring muscle ups – in one day. He may be trying to kill us, but he’s definitely making us stronger and more adept at the skill work. I wouldn’t have it any other way. With the CrossFit Open only a week away, the programming has been excellent for preparing us to meet the demands of Dave Castro’s workouts. I’m excited to see what sort of progress I’ve made. More on the Open in upcoming posts. Have an excellent weekend, readers!

Up-down-up-down: the delights of the thruster


Meeting Jason Khalipa at the 2018 California Regional in Del Mar, San Diego

Jason Khalipa – CrossFit Games champion in 2008, runner up in 2013 and 3rd in 2014. Business owner. Coach. Podcaster. Author. Martial Artist (Brazilian jiu jitsu). And all-round nice guy. There are many reasons to admire him. But today I’ve been thinking about my nemesis, the thruster! Jason is a master at this movement – he makes them look easy.

It involves performing a front squat followed by a shoulder press. Starting with a barbell in front rack position, you squat down and then explode from the bottom position and use your momentum to continue pushing the bar overhead and locking out your arms on top. From there, you lower the bar back to the front rack and go into another squat for the next rep. I’ve struggled with this movement since I first encountered it – my excuse is that I’m not good with shoulder-to-overhead movements and that’s where I get stuck on thrusters. The more likely reason is that I just don’t practice it enough. Thrusters always show up in one of the CrossFit Games Open workouts. It’s usually one of my worst workouts for the 5 weeks. I’m hoping this year will be better but I went searching for some advice on how to approach them with more confidence.

This article in Boxlife Magazine was pretty insightful offering information about the benefits of the thruster as well as some tips on performing them better. The key take-aways are:

  1. Drive the barbell up and down in a straight path by pushing through your heels without rocking forwards and backwards.
  2. Knees out as you squat in order to engage your hips. This generates power to move the weight up.
  3. Keep your elbows up to prevent the weight from falling forward and pulling you down.
  4. Don’t pause in the middle of the movement – the rep should be performed in one fluid motion.
  5. Maintain a relaxed grip in the front rack position so you don’t fatigue your forearms.
  6. Breathe – this is something I know I need to work on. Inhale down; exhale up.
  7. Stay efficient by resting as necessary but not for too long.

Good luck! Hopefully those tips from Boxlife Mag are useful.

Testing Time


Date night with a difference

Last night was testing at our Kuk Sool Won dojang. Master Saidi of Kuk Sool Won of Dublin put us through our paces. First it was the various strikes – punching, kicking, combinations. All performed at a fast pace without much rest in between. This was a manageable enough start that warmed us up nicely and elevated our heart rates.

Next up, we had to demonstrate our knowledge of our forms (six in all). When we do our forms during testing, one of the things I find most challenging is maintaining my focus. All around me are other martial artists moving at a different pace, interpreting the sequence slightly differently and, sometimes, making mistakes. If you choose to follow someone else and they’re faster or slower or just as uncertain as you are, then you’re likely to find yourself lost. It’s not unusual for me to end up rooted to the spot, maybe in front stance, completely unable to remember which move comes next . Last night wasn’t too bad. I know that my forms were not perfect and I missed a few movements in a couple of them. But I made it through and hopefully the judges were lenient.

One of my favorite parts of testing is when we do self-defense techniques. Not because I’m any good at them, but because I get to work with my wife, Vanessa. This is one of the cool aspects of practicing martial arts together. Vanessa is incredibly proficient at executing her techniques – her joint locks are precise and painful and she has an uncanny knack for finding pressure points. The last few weeks outside the dojang have been quite busy and we haven’t been reviewing as much as we’d have liked. So both of us were not sure how we’d perform for this portion of the testing. Each set of techniques has 6-23 different movement sequences and we are up to 11 full sets. It’s tough enough when we have to do these in order but Master Saidi decided to call out random numbers for each set. As always, there were certain numbers he called where I just stood and looked at Vanessa, mind completely blank, with no clue as to which technique I was meant to execute. Again, I’m hoping the judges were lenient.

To finish off the night, we have to break wooden boards. This is always fun for everyone because it’s so cool to break a board. It’s a bit nerve wracking too because each student goes up one at a time while the rest of the school looks on. There are usually a number of parents clustered near the entrance taking videos and photos of their children at this point too. No pressure. We need to perform 4 breaks – jump front kick, jump spin kick, jump back side kick and running jump side kick. A precise strike at the center of the board is needed and steady hands on the part of the ‘holder’ since a flinch or movement away from the kick can mean that even the strongest kicks fail to result in a break. Yesterday we were also told that at our level, we are not meant to take any practice kicks. We’re supposed to set the board, set ourselves and then kick. I usually take one or two practice kicks to make sure I have the board at the right height and to make sure the kick feels good. Not this time. I missed the jump front but was able to break the other 3 boards. Yay! Another testing survived. We’ll find out our results in class in the coming week. Fingers crossed I passed!


Board, meet foot.

Advice from Josh Bridges


“Not every day is going to feel like you crushed it. That’s part of the process…I analyse these things so that I am better prepared for the next time I train that movement or sequence of exercises and I can see how I can improve it.” – Josh Bridges, CrossFit Games Athlete, talking about The Mentality of Success with Rehband.

Today’s workout: pick stuff up and put them down again


The birthday boy, Rob Topper, moving some serious weight

Partner WOD Wednesday was super fun and had the added element of being a birthday WOD. I had the honor of partnering the birthday boy, Rob Topper, for a 24 min AMRAP (as many rounds/reps as possible) of the following movements:

– 2 ring muscle up each
– 6 deadlifts each (315 lbs)
– 40 wall balls, shared (25 lbs to 10 feet)
Topper and I managed to complete 4 full rounds and 11 reps of round 5. We moved pretty slowly through those deadlifts. For me, 315lbs is 85% of my 1 rep max. That made for a struggle through that portion of each round. We did them in 3s. Despite finishing 30 reps in total, my form was far from ideal. Coach kept trying to correct me but I couldn’t properly put into action what he was telling me. The main thing was that I wasn’t moving my hips back but was kind of squatting down to pick up the bar. We’re going to work on that in the coming weeks. In the meantime, I went looking for insight into deadlift technique. Here are some keys, taken from a video on the CrossFit YouTube channel (with over 2 million views it seems I’m not the only one looking for tips):
  • Hip-width stance
  • Hands just outside of hips
  • Full grip on the bar
  • Shoulders slightly in front of the bar
  • Lumbar curve maintained
  • Hips and shoulders rise at the same rate
  • Bar moves over the middle of the foot
  • Heels down
  • Complete at full hip and knee extension
What I also found during my search was an article by Greg Glassman extolling the virtues of the deadlift. He starts off saying, “The deadlift is unrivaled in its simplicity and impact while unique in its capacity for increasing head to toe strength.”
Happy lifting.

Power snatches, FTW!


Dreaming of a snatch PR.

First time snatching in ages. That was super fun. Lots of laughter and giggling in the gym as always when the snatch innuendos start doing the rounds. Rich, our coach, crafted a great challenge:


That’s only 120 calories on the AB and 100 toes-to-bar. Stop complaining!

Starting with 12 calories on the airbike and 10 toes-to-bar meant that there was some fatigue going to the power snatch. I aimed to finish the 12 calories in under a minute without going hell-for-leather. Then I pushed myself to complete each round of toes-to-bar unbroken. For the power snatch, we started at a manageable weight and then slowly increased it over the ten rounds. I struggled with the form at the beginning – I wasn’t keeping the bar close to my body so was reaching for the weight and finding myself off-balance when I dropped under it at the top. Rich’s keen eye spotted that early and his cues to keep the bar closer helped me correct it. What he also picked up was that I wasn’t bracing my core enough. See my earlier post on Olympic lifting tips if you’re having similar challenges.

Once I braced my core and focused more on the bar path, my form improved quite a bit. I increased the weight steadily from 95 pounds. Hitting 115, 125, 135, 145, and 155 on the way to a final lift at 165 pounds. My current snatch PR is 175 pounds so I was extremely chuffed with that last lift.

All-in-all, an enjoyable morning finding our snatch form and laughing at snatch jokes.