17.4 is 16.4 – back for more!

The old saying warns, “be careful what you wish for.” In numerous Open WOD discussions and chats and predictions, I’ve been saying that it would be great to have a repeat of 16.4. As the announcement drew closer it seemed like a good guess given the movements which had not yet appeared in the Open. Deadlifts. Wall balls. Handstand push-ups. Of course thrusters and double under have yet to appear as well. But this week we had 16.4 again.

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Last year, 6 months into CrossFit, I didn’t have high expectations of this workout. I attempted it Rx despite having a 3 rep max deadlift of 255 lb. Dangerously close to the prescribed 225 lb this workout called for. As you might guess, I got stuck at the deadlifts. It took me forever to finish them. I wasn’t much better on the wall balls. I ended up getting onto the rower with precious little time left and managed 1 single calorie. I didn’t even worry about the fact that I could not perform handstand push-ups since I knew I wouldn’t make it that far.

Enter 2017.

I have a higher deadlift 3 rep max now (315 lb) and I’ve been known to string together a few wall ball shots unbroken. I can also do handstand push-ups now and my rowing speed is adequate. I made my first run on Friday morning. My hope was to beat last year’s score and at least get further on the rower.

I tried to pace myself on the deadlifts. I didn’t want to run out of steam too early on. I did 5 reps unbroken but then followed those up with 50 slow and steady singles. Off to the wall balls. These went well for me. I kept up quite a good pace and my coach kept my breaks short and consistent. I got on the rower with a little over 2.5 minutes to go. I strapped in. Closed my eyes. And just started pulling. As hard as I could. I finished 40 calories! A nice 39 cal improvement on last year.

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I was rather chuffed. Later that evening I returned to the box to watch the other athletes make their attempts at the workout. Man! Those guys were amazing. It was inspirational to see them go all out. Their pace on the deadlifts was incredible. They flew through the wall balls. Then pulled like Olympic rowers. One guy even made it as far as the handstand push-ups. The next morning two more athletes made their runs. Another two awesome performances. Wow! Watching them made me start to rethink my strategy. Could I push harder on the deadlifts – the only place I felt I could improve my time? I spent most of the weekend wondering about this and eventually decided I’d repeat the workout today.

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I was quite nervous. I wasn’t at all sure I could go at a faster pace and maintain it for 55 reps. I decided to just go for it. 3-2-1-Go! And I was off. I started off doing singles immediately. But this time, the pauses were a lot shorter. As soon as I dropped the barbell I picked it up again. I managed to keep up a pretty good pace for 15 reps and still felt good. Each deadlift gave me more confidence. At 30 reps, I was felt strong and kept going. I finished the reps 2 minutes faster than my Friday time. Wall ball time. Good pace again. Almost the same time as Friday. This meant I was still 2 minutes ahead of that pace. Yay.

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Next up, row, row, row your boat. Again, same tactic. Strap in. Close eyes. Pull. And pull. And pull. Repeat until 55 calories reached. I managed to finish! Just over a minute to get in as many handstand push-ups as possible. My whole body felt wobbly and unsteady. I took a few seconds break and then coach told me to just get up on the wall. I listened. First attempt. No rep! Dammit! Reset. Try again. 1 rep!! Woohoo. And then…5 more reps.

I was over the moon. As happy as when I managed my first muscle-up. 171 reps in total. 60 more than 2016. I’ve been smiling all day. What a great feeling. Coach Matt is the man. His programming, patience and persistence saw me to a big improvement over last year. Amazing what you can achieve with consistent training with a great coach. Incredible what you can push yourself to do when inspired by a great bunch of athletes.

One more to go. Thrusters and double unders are my prediction. 21-18-15-12-9-6-3 for time. Can’t believe the 5 weeks are drawing to a close. It’s been great so far. How has it gone for you?

Thanks for reading.

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17 point 3 and my CrossFit family

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That’s me in the center. Completing my final rep for 17.3 as the clock reached 8 minutes. This was another tough workout, as the Open workouts always are. We rarely, if ever, practice squat snatches in our gym. Usually it’s power snatches or hang power snatches. So going in I had no idea if I’d be able to complete the reps as prescribed for even the first round.

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My goal was to try and reach the 135 lb snatches and see if I could make even one. I broke up my chest-to-bar pull-ups from the start and had to do singles on the 95 lb snatches. My coach gave me tips all along to improve my form and technique. I was actually getting better with each rep. He’s amazing – he spots the errors and gives such great cues to fix them. Coach Matt is the man!

I reached the 1st 135 lb snatch with about 30 seconds left on the clock. My first attempt failed. 15 seconds to go. I gathered myself, took a deep breath and executed probably my best snatch EVER! I pulled myself under the bar and stood up strong. I was elated. 44 reps in total. But I think I may try this one again :-).

What this workout highlighted for me again was the CrossFit family and sense of community. I workout with the #530crew at 5:30am Monday to Friday. We have a great spirit – we laugh, we joke, we tease, we taunt but we also encourage each other and cheer each other on. We celebrate everyone’s achievements together. I love working out with these guys. A large part of why I do CrossFit is the fun I have with them. You can clearly see this in the photo above. The whole #530crew watching me and cheering me to my final rep. Love it! Absolutely love it! Thanks you guys – you’re awesome.

Living your dreams

I subscribe to a number of different blogs covering a variety of topics, including CrossFit. This morning I opened one of those – The Morning Chalk Up – and read the following quote from motivational speaker, Les Brown:

“Imagine being on your death bed — and standing around your bed — the ghosts of the ideas, the dreams, the abilities, the talents given to you by life. And that you for whatever reason, you never acted on those ideas, you never pursued that dream, you never used those talents, we never saw your leadership, you never used your voice, you never wrote that book.

And there they were standing around your bed looking at you with large angry eyes saying ‘WE CAME TO YOU, and only you could have given us life.’ Now we must die with you forever.

The question is — if you die today what ideas, what dreams, what abilities, what talents, what gifts would die with you?”

This is powerful stuff. At various times of my life I’ve had any number of goals. The quote made me think about those I’ve neglected recently. The goals I’ve put on the back burner because life happens. Because I’ve not prioritized them. Because there aren’t enough hours in the day. You know the ones I’m talking about. The things you always wanted to do. The book you’re going to write. The course you’re going to take. The fitness program you’re going to start. The trip you’re going to book. The skill you’re going to master.

It also made me think about the goals I have achieved. Those I did something about and either reached or, in some cases, surpassed. What was the difference? Why did I manage to make these happen and not the rest? In my case, the difference was mainly in my approach – when I prioritized them, scheduled them, worked on them daily or weekly, that’s when I made real progress towards achieving them. I had a plan and I stuck to it. This year, other than my work-related goals, I’ve set a number of CrossFit-related goals.

Our coach asked us to share them and write them on the whiteboard in January. Mine are below:

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It’s now March – I’ve managed to tick 2 off the list so far. I’ve done 2 strict ring muscle ups and I managed a 6:39 Fran.

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Still a long way to go and some of those goals are rather ambitious. However, I’m working on them during regular classes and when I have time I stay after class for more work. The one that’s received the most attention is the double under goal. I’m going to apply my previous success principles to achieving the other goals. The system works when I work the system. I want to pursue my CrossFit ideas, dreams, abilities, talents or gifts to their full potential – whatever that may be.

What are some of the goals you’ve set for yourself this year (CrossFit or otherwise)? Have you reached any of them already?

Taking the (p)lunge

Week 2 of the 2017 edition of the CrossFit Open is well underway. Dave Castro announced the workout last night at the Rogue Headquarters. He’s making sure that all the boxes that invested in new 35 and 50 lbs dumbbells are getting maximum use out of them. Like 17.1, this week’s workout included some dumbbell work.

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After watching the live announcement and the live head-to-head of Kari Pearce vs Kristi Eramo followed by Ro vs Boz, my nervous energy shot up 100%. Last year I managed to do my first bar muscle up, so I know I can do them and I wasn’t too worried about those. What worried me was reaching the 3rd round at all. The weighted lunge was with two 50 lbs dumbbells. That was going to be heavy for me. I wasn’t sure I could even get them onto my shoulders, let alone do walking lunges for 50 ft.

I did my run at the 5:30 am class today – it was completely brutal. After Coach Matt counted down and said, “Go” I had a number of failed attempts at raising the dumbbells onto my shoulders. When I did get them there, they weren’t comfortable or stable. I then realized that the clock was ticking and that I was squandering precious reps. I just stepped up to the line and took the (p)lunge. One foot in front of the other. The dumbbells felt ridiculously heavy and completely unsteady. I reached the 25 ft mark and turned around. When I finished the 50 ft I dropped the dumbbells from shoulder height. Coach was not impressed but I didn’t have a choice. I couldn’t hold them anymore. Next came toes-to-bar.

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These were alright. I can string a few reps together and was able to complete the first round of them in two sets of 8. Dumbbell cleans came next – 8 of those. Matt and a number of people online recommended doing 6, taking a short break, then doing two more and heading directly into the lunges. This saves you having to perform a 9th clean if you rest after the required 8. This time around, I got the dumbbells settled on my shoulders a bit quicker and off I went on my second round of lunges. These didn’t feel any better than the first round but I managed to maintain a steady pace. I put the weights down after 25 feet though. Took a short(ish) break and headed back down the track for another 25 ft. At the end, I was able to lower the weights more gently and not drop them like before. The second round of toes-to-bar were not as smooth. I managed a set of 8 but then had to break them up into 1s and 2s for the second half. Successfully completed, I moved onto the cleans and followed the same process as in round 1. I was tiring rapidly now but I was determined to reach the muscle ups – even if I was unable to finish all 16. I finished round 2 at 6:44 with the dumbbells on my shoulders. Next set of lunges…

I was getting used to having this unstable and unsteady weight on my shoulders now but my legs were starting to give in. After the workout, one of the other athletes told me that he was standing behind me on this set and he saw my legs wobbling quite a bit. I had to take a break at the end of 25 ft and then finished the next 25 feet with about 2:30 left on the clock. I hoped this would be enough time to finish at least half of the 16 muscle ups. I stood under the bar just looking at it. Matt told me to just get one and that would start the momentum. I jumped up and did just one. Yay! Only 15 more to go. I was exhausted. Breathing heavily, throat dry, muscles aching. Matt and the other athletes started shouting encouragement and clapping. This made a massive difference. I was buoyed by their cheers and kept pushing. Thanks Daniel, Eric, Shannon, Warren and Matt – you guys are awesome! One rep at a time. At 40 seconds to go, I had 4 reps remaining. 30 seconds – 3 reps. 20 seconds – 2 reps. 10 seconds and I completed the last rep! Man!! I jumped down from the bar as the last five seconds were counted down. Fell to my hands and knees and then rolled over onto my back. I was utterly spent but also ecstatic. My goal had been to reach the muscle ups in round 3 and complete and many of them as I could. To actually finish all 16 in that round felt amazing. 94 reps total.

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17.2 was a doozy. My shoulders are bruised. My hamstrings and glutes are worn out. But my spirits are soaring. This time it’s definitely one and done. I don’t want to repeat that workout anytime soon.

Good luck to everyone else doing their run later this weekend. Let me know what your strategies are and let me know how you fared.

PS. Not the best quality pics, I know. They’re screen grabs from the Livestream video of the workout.

 

17 point one and done?

On Friday morning I did the first CrossFit Open workout of the 2017 season. It was one tough workout from which I am still recovering.

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After watching the live announcement from Dave Castro on Thursday night and then watching the Games athletes face-off against each other, not to mention Ro vs Boz, I was a bundle of nerves and excitement. I was nervous about doing 150 dumbbell snatches at 50 pounds. Nervous about 75 burpee box jump-overs. Nervous about finishing under the time cap – even Rory McKernan didn’t finish. But excited to be starting the Open.

I arrived at the I Will CrossFit box a lot earlier than usual to find fellow athlete, Daniel, already there and getting in the zone. Coach Matt had put out some donuts and coffee for afterwards and the equipment was set out and ready for the first two athletes to start. I spent some time stretching and warming up. Nothing too fancy, but making sure the muscles and joints would be as ready as possible for the test ahead. All too soon we were called to the whiteboard where Matt went through the movement standards to ensure we and straddling the line when going down into the burpee. He gave us a couple more minutes to get settled and then, before I knew it, it was 3-2-1-GO!

Ten snatches – not too bad. Fifteen burpee box jump-overs. Not too bad either. Next 20 and 15 still going ok. My split time for this was 5:21, so an okay pace. My strategy going in was to keep moving. I didn’t want to take any breaks if possible but that meant keeping a steady pace and making sure I didn’t start out too fast. So far so good. In the round of 30 snatches, the weight started feeling a bit heavier. When I hit the round of 40 snatches at 9:37, I had to focus even more to ensure I got the dumbbell up above my head and locked out properly. I was still going at a good pace but was definitely tiring. I started the last round at 14:26. Five and a half minutes to finish 50 snatches and a final 15 burpee box jump-overs. Matt was judging my attempt and was counting each rep – this helped a lot but it seemed like the 50 would never end. When I completed my last rep, I had about 90 seconds before the time cap. That’s when I got my one and only no-rep. Instead of jumping up onto the box, I did a step-up. Fool!!! That cost me at least one extra rep.

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In the end, I finish with 10 burpee box jump-overs. Just 5 reps short of completing the workout within the allotted time and 220 reps in total. I was completely spent. I had nothing left in the tank. My lower back had already started hurting. My lungs were gasping for air. My legs were jelly. WOW! What a fantastic start to the Open!! Throughout the day, I watched online and in person as other people had their go at 17.1. Loads of people finished. Loads of people were time capped. Everyone was a mess of sweat and muscle agony afterwards. The other three guys who did the workout in the early class immediately decided that they would be repeating on Monday morning (all four of us were time capped). When seeing other box members successfully finish, this only added to their resolve. I remained stubborn – I insisted that I would not repeat. I told them it was one and done. However, you may have noticed the question mark in the title of this post…

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As I did last year, I’ve spent the last 48 hours analyzing my performance. What could I have done differently? Where could I find 26.5 seconds for the last 5 reps? Would my back return to normal in time for Monday morning? In the end, peer pressure and a desire to at least try to make up those final 5 reps have won out. I plan to repeat tomorrow. I’ll be trying to squat earlier in the snatches, I’ll also try and drop down into the burpee faster and I’ll try to not stand up as much in the box jump. If I can maintain a similar pace with those improvements, I think I may be able to find the extra seconds I need.

Wish me luck. I’m going to need it. I’ll update you tomorrow. For now, I’ll be foam rolling.

How did your 17.1 go? Any tips? Are you going to try one more time or are you happy with your performance already?

UPDATE: I repeated this morning and didn’t manage to better my score. I went from 220 reps to 181. My burpee box jumps were waaaay better but I struggled more on the snatches. Bring on 17.2!

 

#InTheOpen

The 2017 Crossfit Open is about to start. On Thursday at 5pm PST, Dave Castro will announce the first workout – 17.1. I’ll be glued to my computer screen waiting anxiously to see what he has in store for us.

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For the uninitiated, the Games website describes the Open as follows:

Where grassroots meets greatness: Compete with hundreds of thousands of athletes in five workouts over five weeks. Do it for fun, your affiliate family, fitness or to reach regionals and fight for a chance to make it to the CrossFit Games.

Every Thursday for 5 weeks, starting on 23 Feb 2017, a new workout is announced. Athletes have until the following Monday evening (5pm PST) to complete the workout and submit their scores for that week. Every competitor is then ranked – regionally and globally. Eventually, at the end of the 5 week period, the best-of-the-best in every region secures a spot in the Crossfit Regionals. Their next test on the way to the main event, The Crossfit Games. In 2016 there were 324,307 participants – 58% male/42% female – from 175 countries.

In 2016, I had been doing Crossfit for about 6 months and the other athletes at my box, I Will Crossfit in Dublin, California, convinced me to sign up as well. I was quite reluctant because I had little experience and I felt I would not be able to complete many of the workouts. In the end, I was so happy I did sign up. The Open cemented my love of Crossfit. Before the Open, I considered myself a runner (hence the name of this blog) and a triathlete who had started Crossfit to add some strength work to his routines. After the Open, I eventually stopped running and triathlon training to focus on Crossfit and increasing my skills and abilities and fitness in that sport. I have not regretted that decision for a second.

The Open gives you an opportunity to test yourself against others in your box, in your region, in your age category, in the world. Somehow, due to the atmosphere and intensity that seem to prevail throughout, you find yourself trying new movements and skills for the first time. If you’re fired up enough, that’s often when you achieve one of those moves. Last year, 9 people in our box got their first muscle up (me included). And that feat was repeated all around the globe. It was an amazing feeling. I scaled some of the workouts and others I did as prescribed. This year, I plan to do them all prescribed.

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So, if you’re uncertain about whether to sign up for the Open, my advice to you is ‘GO FOR IT!!’ You won’t regret it. You’ll love it. Stop back here every week for updates on how I’ve done. If I do the workout on Friday or Saturday I’ll let you know how my strategy went for that week – did my rep scheme work, how much time did I take between reps, and that sort of thing. If I find any useful tips online I’ll post links to those as well.

Good luck. I’ll see you #InTheOpen.

PS. I know there is a ton of jargon in that post. Let me know if you need me to elaborate on anything.

Conditioning Day: Embrace the Pain


This was a tough but good WOD.  After our coach said 3-2-1-GO, most of the athletes took off at quite a quick pace. My comment was ‘it’s a marathon not a sprint!’ When I saw the workout posted I decided that I was going to aim for a steady rather than quick pace. 

I’ve recently managed to figure out how to do kipping toes-to-bar so I felt ok about those. I just had to keep moving. I broke them up into sets of 5 with a 5-10 second break between each. This worked well throughout because I was able to maintain a steady pace. 

The double unders were sooooo frustrating. Every time I think I’ve learned how to do them properly it gets programmed into the WOD and I realize I haven’t. The most I managed unbroken was 6! So I lost a lot of time doing these and I have the whip marks on my legs to show the struggle. I need more practice!

Wall balls! At the end of each round. This is where the suck really set in. Again I broke these up into sets of 5 or 10 with a 10 second break between each set. Slow and steady. Despite this I was so tired at the end of each round that the run in the next round was more like a shuffle. 

In the end I didn’t finish before the time cap was reached. I managed to get through the 30 double unders of round three. I did continue and completed all 150 reps of all  4 exercises. I was so finished at the end I could barely form coherent sentences.

If you’re looking for a great conditioning workout give this one a try. Scale where necessary – knees to chest/single unders/manageable wall ball weight. Let me know how it goes.