Warp speed. Thoughts on speed and strength.

Warp Speed

A selfie on the move – Mr Sulu would be proud

I had a good run to work this morning. The weather cleared up overnight but the temperature was still rather low. The sun was just coming up. A cold and crisp Spring morning. Perfect for running if you have enough layers and a pair of gloves. I had a couple of random thoughts during the commute.

I decided to try my 5K route. I haven’t run that one in a while and I need to start upping my mileage ahead of the Pony Express Half Marathon coming up in May. My initial thoughts were mainly on how slow I felt. This is a constant thing for me when I run. I feel slow. I feel like I’m making no progress in the speed department. It didn’t help that I had the traffic lights conspiring against me as well. It seemed like I had to stop at almost every one of them, making my average pace drop. Interesting then, that the selfie I took on the run makes it look like I’m flying along :-).

My thoughts also veered in the direction of the Crossfit Games Open. We’re 4 weeks in with one more workout to go. What an experience this has been for me. Up to now, I’ve only competed in events like half marathons and triathlons. A couple of cycle races. I’d never considered taking on anything which tests your fitness in the manner that the Open does. From the Crossfit Games website, it is described as follows:

The CrossFit Games events are made up of a broad range of functional movements. Functional movements move large loads, long distances, quickly. These movements also form the basis of our exercise program. Make no mistake—the CrossFit Games are designed to test, not train, fitness. The goal is to find the fittest athletes, not to produce an easily replicable workout program.

Is ‘replicable’ a word?

The Open is the first installment in the Games. Competitors from across the globe log onto the Games website every Thursday at 5PM PST to find out what the workout of the week will be. They then have until the following Monday at 5PM PST to submit their scores for that workout. The top athletes move on to the regionals where they compete for a place in the big event, the Crossfit Games.

I’ve never considered myself strong (still don’t) and have tended to focus on my cardio training rather than strength training. I’ve been doing crossfit since the beginning of September 2015 so I didn’t think I was ready to enter the Open. After a bit of convincing by the coach, however, I signed up along with 17 other box members from the I Will Crossfit affiliate here in Dublin, California. I’m so glad I did. The workouts have all been tough but I’ve enjoyed all of them. I’ve learned some new skills along the way (double unders and muscle ups) and identified loads of things I need to work on (general strength and hand stand push-ups to name two). I’m excited to find out what the final workout will be. I now have a benchmark for next year – yes, I’m already planning to enter the 2017 event.

So how do these two random thoughts link? Well, I started crossfit in the hopes that gaining extra strength would translate into gaining extra speed and endurance. In the California International Marathon in December last year, I felt that my endurance had definitely improved. My finish time was a new PR so I guess the speed was there too. However, I’m not sure I’ve maintained that speed. This is all part of my nervousness as an event approaches. I’m looking forward to the half marathon in May. I haven’t run one in a while. I can’t wait to test myself. I’ll let you know how it goes.

What are your tips and tricks for increasing speed? Fartleks or Yasso 800s? Do you do any strength training?

 

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16.3: Snatches and Muscle Ups

First ever bar muscle up

My first ever bar muscle up

Last night, Dave Castro announced the 3rd workout (16.3) of the Crossfit Games Open. I knew that at some point muscle ups were going to feature in the games. I’ve been looking forward to it because our coach keeps telling us that a lot of people get their first one during the games.

I first heard about muscle up from a friend last year. He was working on pull-ups so he could eventually do a muscle up. He showed me some videos of people doing them and it was so cool I immediately decided that I also wanted to get strong enough to do one. Every few weeks, our coach puts some progression work into our WOD so that we can practice the required movements to finish a muscle up. Some of us stay after class sometimes and practice some more. Each session, we’ve been improving. But never quite getting there. A couple of weeks ago, we had another session and I was sooooo close. Then last night the announcement came about 16.3. A 7 minute AMRAP (as many reps as possible):

  • 10x 75 pound power snatch
  • 3x bar muscle ups

I was completely amped. I was texting the other guys in the gym. Texting the coach. I spent most of the evening looking at videos of people doing it. I spent a fair amount of time visualizing myself doing it as well. I was totally excited but super nervous.

When I arrived at the gym, there were two other guys who were planning to go for the Rx version and try to get their first muscle up. We finished the warm up and then our coach briefed us on the workout. He gave us some time to practice and also demonstrated the movement. He always makes it look so easy. I practiced a few snatches. The weight felt manageable. Then we stepped up to the bar to practice the muscle ups. One of the other guys nailed it. The look on his face when he closed out the move at the top of the bar was priceless – joy and disbelief in equal measure. I went for it. First one failed. Second one failed. But I nailed the third one! I was over the moon. Yay! On to the actual workout.

It was tough going. I tried to maintain a steady pace. The snatches were ok. But the muscle ups remained tough. Each rep was an effort. I finished 3 full rounds and I managed to complete 2 muscle ups in round 4 for a total of 51 reps. I was ecstatic. I’m still ecstatic. I’ve been on a high all day long. What a feeling. What. A. Feeling!

It took me 6 months but I did it. The key for me was making sure I maintained enough momentum on the kip to get above the bar. And then keeping my arms as straight as possible on the upswing.

How has 16.3 gone for you? Anyone else make their first muscle up today? What were your keys?

 

16.2: Can I try that one more time?

 

16.2 the first time around

 

16.2 has come and gone now. The deadline to submit your score was a 5PM PT last night. I’ve been reading various blog posts about the workout and I noticed similar themes in almost all of them. There were a number of crossfitters who were excited about it after the announcement on Thursday and there  were a fair number who felt that it was going to be a manageable one. Once they tried it, the other common theme that emerged was that there were a good few people who were surprised at how tough it was to get past round 1 and just as many who felt they could improve on their first attempt and were planning a second try.

The prescribed workout was as follows:

16.2 WOD

While the scaled one was:

Scaled WOD 16.2

On Friday morning I arrived at the I Will Crossfit box determined to do the Rx version and make it to the squat cleans in round 2. My one rep max up until that point was 155# so I would have to improve on that by 30# to even make one rep. But I figured I could give it a try. I felt that my toes-to-bar was in good shape and as you might’ve  seen in an earlier post, I had just managed to get double unders. I figured I would make it to round 2 within the 4 minutes and then give that my best go. Well, the best laid plans of mice and men…

The toes-to-bar went a lot slower than I anticipated. My technique is good but my speed not so much. Then the double unders which I thought I had worked out. I couldn’t string together more than 2-3 unbroken. It took me way longer than I expected to finish the 50 reps. I had only about a minute and a half to finish 15 squat cleans at 90% of my one rep max. I completed 3 successfully before the time ran out. Wow. What a humbling experience. 4 minutes of workout and I was done. Another guy in the gym had been equally frustrated. We decided to take a break and then try again. He was going to go Rx but I thought I’d switch to scaled and see if that was better.

Hanging knee raises and single unders were easier but the squat cleans were still tough despite the lower starting weight. I managed to complete round 1 with some time left on the clock. This meant I had more than 4 minutes to finish round 2. Going into the knee raises I was already feeling  winded. I don’t know if I went out too quickly in round 2 or if the Rx attempt had taken more out of me than I realized or maybe the workout was just tougher than anticipated. When I reached the squat cleans at 115# I knew I could manage the weight but I wasn’t sure I could manage 13 reps. I couldn’t – the clock ran down at rep 10. Aargh!!! A big improvement in total reps over the Rx attempt but I had been hoping to reach round 3 at least. How difficult 16.2 was turning out to be.

At the team WOD on Saturday there were a few other people who’d had similarly frustrating experiences with 16.2. And they were all planning to give the workout another try on Monday. The seed was planted. In fact, the seed sprouted a fully fledged tree within minutes. I decided to join these crazy people who couldn’t get enough of the challenge. I was further inspired when I heard that one of the guys had finished the scaled version of the workout. All 430 reps!! In the allotted time. Impressive. I just wanted to get to round 3 and post a good score for the week. Third time lucky? I hoped so.

I was awake super early yesterday morning. I was nervous and excited about my final attempt at this workout. There were two other guys also giving it a last go at 5:30am. All of us were doing the scaled version. After our normal warm-up, we set up the bars and found our jump ropes and spots for the knee raises. All too soon, Coach Matt was saying 3-2-1-GO! I took off like a bat out of hell. I was so determined to get to round 3 I let all my plans for pacing go out the window. I managed the squat cleans a lot more comfortably this time. When I started the knee raises for round 2 I tried to keep a steady pace but sped up again on the single unders. I decided to try and do the 13 squat cleans in sets of 3. This worked out well. I finished round 2 with time to spare. Yay! On to round 3. Knee raises and single unders went well. The 135# squat cleans slowed me down. This was at 90% of my  rep max, remember? I used the same game plan – 3 reps at a time. To my amazement and excitement, I finished. On to round 4. This was unplanned territory. Throughout the workout the other two guys and I kept shouting encouragement to each other. We were side-by-side and I know that made a massive difference. The other people in the gym were equally enthusiastic with shouts of support while they were getting through the normal WOD. We have a great atmosphere of camaraderie.

Round 4. My knee raises and single unders were slowing down but I finished them with a few extra minutes left over. I had about 7 minutes to finish 9 reps at #155. My one rep max! I would have to go one at a time. It took everything I had but I cranked out 6 reps before I ran out of time.

I was elated. Three attempts later I had reached a total of 345 reps. Almost double my Friday score. I’v decided to embrace scaling. For my first Crossfit Games Open, the scaled division will give me a nice benchmark for future workouts and for next year. And it is damn challenging. As with 16.1  and 16.2, I eagerly and nervously await the announcement of 16.3 on Thursday.

How did 16.2 go for you? Any new PRs? What are your predictions for 16.3? Muscle ups maybe? Wall balls? Whatever Dave Castro has in store, it’s going to be a challenge.

Double under agony and ecstasy 

du rope 3

During our warm up this morning we caught a sneak peek at the WOD. The first set was going to be double unders and burpees. I’ve been working on my double unders and they’ve been improving. However, just last week I couldn’t get any kind of rhythm going and couldn’t string more than 2 reps together. I am pretty sure that the Open is going have a workout that includes double unders, so I was keen to give them another go.

First was the agony:

whipped arm

I covered my arm in whip marks in the first two rounds. I was doing one rep then hitting my arms. Then another then hitting my arms. I couldn’t even get the single under followed by double under rhythm going. All this agony also meant that the total time it took me to finish 30 reps was ridiculous. I was determined to do the workout as prescribed though.

Round 3. Let’s make this happen. I started out a bit slower. Worked on 2 singles followed by a double. That was working nicely. Around 15 reps, I tried to string together more than one double under. I made 5 in a row. Yay! Progress. I managed to finish the last 5 reps of the round with sets of 5. 

Round 4. After the burpees were done from round 3 I started the next round wanting to nail the double unders. I managed 2!!! Damn it!! Then something clicked. I started using slower hand movements. My timing for the jump was better. I did 20 unbroken! And unwhipped. 

Round 5 wasn’t as good but I strung together 7-8 reps at a time. But I was so excited. Finally. Double unders. I was ecstatic. 

So my keys were slower rotation and higher jumps. What are your keys and tips to double unders? What doesn’t work?