Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Catching Up

Until someone decides to pay me, blog posts will continue to lose out to other things in my life when I don’t have time for both.

That is why I haven’t posted an update on my CrossFit experience the last couple weeks, not because I have given up.

So just a few quick hits on how things are going.

1 – My shoulder seems to be improving

I can’t recommend enough. I have made a couple of the shoulder impingement movements part of my daily routine, and I went through a shoulder heavy progression last night with little residual pain. Something that I couldn’t have done a few short weeks ago.
(Post workout Edit: Fuck, 100 Burpees killed that idea)

2 – My knee is a problem

I now have a new part of my CrossFit routine. After a workout I have to Ice my knee down. If I fail to do so, my next day is agony, and as a result I have missed some workouts. I took Friday, Saturday and Sunday off this past weekend, and while things were sore for last nights workout, some ice and elevation last night seem to have me ready for tonight. I am genuinely afraid I will have to see a doctor about this if it persists.

3 – Golf was great

In a past post I wrote about how CrossFit had me pushing aside my ego and letting myself look foolish. Well I am thankful that fear of looking foolish didn’t keep me from getting out on the Golf course for the 1st time in years. I was by no means the worst player in our foursome, hell we used 2 of my balls on the 1st hole (best ball format). Plus it got me out of the office for a day. There was no downside.

4 – I still have bad days at the box

But I also have some great ones. Last night wasn’t much fun, as there were plenty of sit-ups (I’m still fat, but it is improving) and lunges (that whole knee issue). But then there are days like last Thursday.

In honor of Veterans’ day we did a team workout with one rep for every soldier lost in Iraq and Afganistan (5700+).

We split the class into teams and each team took a portion of the reps. Fred and I had a little over 1400 reps to knock out, and we killed it, with over 10 minutes left out of 40 we were done. A few minutes of rest later, we were both feeling good enough to help out a group that was struggling with their rep count.

The class ended up 12 reps short of our goal, which was disappointing. But it is days like that that keep me pumped about getting back to the box.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Mr. Negative

This has not been a good week; either for work or for me at CrossFit. This has been one of those weeks at work where everything seems to go wrong, all while pulling me in 20 different directions. Then you throw in a couple frustrating days in the gym, and I was more than happy to say Fuck it all, eat a big plate of pasta and pass out on the couch last night.

I was thinking about detailing my struggles with Tuesday’s WOD. But looking at my last few posts; it seems like I do a lot of bitching. So instead, I figured maybe I should spend a little time on a couple of the small victories, the things that keep me coming back to the box.

One month down, and I am 10lbs lighter. This is with no appreciable change in diet. Well, on 2nd thought, maybe there has been a bit of a change.

My diet has always (well since college) been relatively healthy. The problem areas were:

1 – Portion Size, especially at dinner. Sure I was eating healthy food, but I was eating a lot of it.

2 – Ice Cream, I don’t have a weakness for many sweets. But I would have no problem downing a pint of Ben & Jerry’s every damn night given the chance. I may not have actually done this, but I sure did think about it.

3 – Fast Food on the Weekends, This has to be the one that bugged me the most. For about the 1st 5 years after college, I didn’t touch the stuff. But the past couple years in Pittsburgh, it seemed like just about every weekend I hit 1 or more fast food joints. This only got worse this past summer, with me splitting time between Pittsburgh and Raleigh.

So what changed (without any conscious effort).

1 – Portion size decreased. I have been doing the down a glass of water thing to curb your appetite for years. But now, when I finish a workout I am downing water like a camel. There just isn’t room in my stomach for a 2nd helping of dinner.

2 – I’ve had ice cream twice. Both times were nights when the wife and I went out to dinner and stopped for desert.

3 – Well, 2 out of 3 ain’t bad.

Throw in the conscious effort that I have made to eat more vegetables with my lunch, and snack on nuts rather than peanut butter crackers, and I’m doing alright.

I wasn’t last to finish, or have the worst time on a couple of WOD’s

This happened a couple of times last week. But the one that really sticks out in my mind was Friday’s workout.
Friday we did a team workout. We paired up in teams of 2 to go through a workout consisting of rope climb (pull up mod for a couple of us), push ups, medicine ball cleans and 100m ball run, as many rounds as possible in 20 minutes, alternating partners every round.

Looking at the teams, one stood out to me as the one to watch. Lori and Shaunie are two of the ladies at CrossFit coastal who seem to kick ass every day that I work out with them. I was teamed up with Tyson, another relative newcomer, who I only knew from the results of the Warrior dash, where he kicked some serious ass.

I figured that the two of us would come in a distant 2nd to the ladies. But when Tyson came running in on the 1st round with a 25m lead over Lori I was bound and determined not to let Shaunie pass me.

I have to admit that the mod on the rope climb probably gave me a sizable advantage over Shaunie. And carrying around an extra 20lbs when you are my size isn’t that big of a deal compared to someone who looks like they weigh 110lbs (disclaimer, I am horrible at guestimating weights of people).

All that said, I was feeling a real adrenalin rush when I maintained that initial lead through my 1st round. I had a slight hick-up in the 2nd as Will stopped me to correct my form in the medicine ball cleans, negating any gains that Tyson had accrued in his 2nd round, but not enough to give up the lead.

Round 3 was uneventful, by round 4 Tyson had stretched the lead to 50m, but I was fading. With my biggest problem being my push-ups as my shoulder was burning.

As Tyson hit the push-ups in round 5, I looked at the clock, and just under 4 minutes remained. I was completely gassed, and was hoping that he would stretch out the last few exercises to eat up the time. But being the endurance athlete he is, he wrapped things up with well over 2 minutes left.

Somehow I dug deep and found the energy to blast through 3 more rope pull ups. Then I hit the push-ups and 5 reps in my shoulder gave (remember I mentioned that I couldn’t sleep Friday and Saturday night thanks to my shoulder). I hit the mat, and almost gave. But with Tyson and will shouting encouragement, I muscled through some sissy push-ups to just keep moving.

I finished up the round with a little under 30 seconds left on the clock, and Tyson, being the freak that he is, flew through a rope climb and the push-ups as the rest of us gasped for air.

We may have tied for most rounds completed in our class, but in my mind we were the winners. It was a great feeling after being the guy to lower the curve for the whole class for the previous month.

It was just a small victory, but god damn, if typing this up hasn’t gotten me pumped up for tonight’s class. Maybe I should be concentrating on the small victories more, than the failures (even if the stories aren’t as funny).

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Knowing is half the battle

“Today’s classes will be going over the Bear Complex, Wendler Strength Progressions, & Push Press/Run. Bring your weightlifting and running shoes.”

And with that, Zeke signed off of CrossFit Coastal’s daily blog post for Monday.
My last post detailed some of the mental anguish I put myself through, psyching myself out on the way home prior to hitting the box. As of Monday, Zeke added a new element to that internal dialog.

I wouldn’t have been overly pumped going in Monday as it was. Friday and Saturday night were torture, as every time I moved in the bed, my shoulder woke me up. Sunday night was better, but I still would have been fighting my internal battle of:
I hope there is no shoulder work today; I hate my shoulder.

However, now I had a whole new demon to face. I knew what awaited me, so it wasn’t just the drive home, but the drive to and from the jobsite, lunch, and any free minute that I found during the day. What is a bear complex? Shoulder press and run; I hate both of those things. My inner voice is a whiny little bitch.

So of course I Googled bear complex; Hoping that it wouldn’t lead me to some kind of gay porn site that I would get questioned about by our IT department. Instead I found out that it was a compound movement combining (in order) power clean, front squat, shoulder press, back squat and another shoulder press. I think I would have been happier to find gay porn on the screen.

So for the rest of my day, when I wasn’t stressing about job related activities, I bugged out regarding what I was about to do to my body that evening.

I joked with Zeke when I got in that he had almost scared me away by posting the workout on the blog ahead of time. He responded that he had stopped doing that for awhile because people were showing up stressed out about the workout before even breaking a sweat.

I held in my reply of “No shit, asshole, why do you think I brought it up”, instead just saying that I think that I like to be surprise when I come in better than knowing ahead of time.

I got through the workout, and ran/jogged a mile and a quarter without stopping (since Will threatened us with Burpees should anyone walk, and the rest of the class seemed just fine with running, not letting the team down is still a great motivator for me). My shoulder felt like it was about to fall off following the workout. So I stuck around for extra stretching, then went home and hit:

This is a great resource for finding ways to twist yourself into a pretzel in order to alleviate some sort of pain or gain some flexibility. A shoulder impingement stretch and a 10-minute squat (I have no Idea why I thought I should try this) later and my shoulder almost felt normal, although now my knees and shins felt like shit.

Which brings us to today; Apparently Zeke is a sick and twisted individual (I should really stop writing bad things about him, just incase he ever finds this blog) because he noted that some people don’t like knowing what is in store for them ahead of time in today’s blog, before posting this:

Back Squat – 3 Sets of 8 Reps at tempo. High Bar vs Low Bar.
Workout of the Day
3 Rounds/Time
15 Back Squats – 255m/175f
25 CrossFit Games Pushups
35 Kettlebell Swings 1.5/1.0
45 Situps
55 Double-Unders (3:1 sub singles to doubles)

I missed the 3 rounds the 1st time I glanced at this, or maybe I just had a nice case of selective reading, but the result is the same as yesterday. I am checking to make sure that my affairs are in order, should I not survive, and have had little else on my mind in the moments where I find myself thinking of something other than work.

At least there are no shoulder presses today, I guess I have that going for me.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Failing can be fun

My apologies to those of you who used to come here for my Raiders posts, But the thing is, I only have time for one or two posts a week. Nothing seems to have changed with the Raiders (Offense is only as good as the line, which sucks; Defense is too undisciplined to be consistent). Sure getting the win vs. San Diego was huge, and I even started a post on it Monday. But it wasn’t up to my low standards, so it sits on my desktop unfinished.

So the majority of my writing is focusing on what is getting the majority of my free time focus. And that happens to be my struggle to get myself back in shape, and what I am learning about myself.

The great thing about CrossFit, is that I am already applying lessons from my workouts into my daily life.

One thing about me, I hate looking foolish. I joke about it when something does happen to me that makes me the butt of a joke. But god damn, it burns me inside. If I were to play armature psychologist, I’d say it comes from being a “Husky” kid. Who was teased constantly about his weight throughout my formative years, and learned to cope through a self depreciating sense of humor.

So how does this relate to CrossFit? Well if you have read any of the posts, you will find the constant refrain of me being put into situations where I know I will fail, know I will look foolish and being forced to push through despite my insecurities.

A month ago, when I started this journey, I used my anger at how far gone I was as my motivation to get into the gym. I knew I wasn’t ready, but I didn’t care. But, truth be told, there was still an internal battle every day on the way to the gym.

Everyone there runs better than me, I hope we aren’t running
Everyone there can do unassisted pull ups, I hope we aren’t doing those
Everyone there has better endurance; I hope it is a short workout
I’m going to look dumb because my form on (insert exercise here) sucks

By the time I had finished my 45 minute drive home, I had almost talked myself out of going. I was going to go make a fool out of myself, and these people were quickly becoming “non-strangers”, and if they know me and I look like an idiot, that is even worse. But that driving anger at myself pushed me to get off my couch and to the box.

That’s not to say that my inner fear of embarrassment hasn’t gotten the better of me at times.

Fight Gone Bad was the Saturday after my 1st workout. It also happened to be my wife’s birthday. I would have had to significantly mod the workout to get through it, and hence look foolish. So I was more than happy to use the excuse of my wife’s birthday to wimp out.

Tuesday’s handstands against the wall may very well have gone better, had I not had the underlying fear of looking uncoordinated as I collapsed to the ground following a failed attempt, or even worse, had put a portion of my body through the wall (have I mentioned I am fat).

But I am finding more and more that I am no longer letting this drive me.

Since I can’t do a handstand push-up yet, I found myself with my knees on a box, ass in the air, hands on the ground working those lacking muscles last night. The thought of how foolish I must look the furthest thing from my mind (pain and exhaustion were there instead, which is fine by me).

When I see a workout with multiple runs in it, I no longer swear under my breath. I look forward to seeing how much further I can go, before my stumbling jog turns into a gasping walk.

I may still joke with Will to go get a cot, since we will be here all night waiting for me to finish. But it isn’t so much a self defense to hide my shame, because I feel no shame in pushing myself to get better.

And that is the thing I am finding about CrossFit, there doesn’t seem to be anyone who doesn’t look foolish, or if they don’t they didn’t push themselves hard enough that day.

Just last night I noticed that I wasn’t the only one struggling through the WOD. A couple of the people who seem to make everything look easy to me, were getting their asses kicked, and the one who didn’t get her ass kicked sheepishly admitted that she should have scaled the workout up some.

Following the WOD, while I was doing some stretching and work on my shoulder, those same people who make everything look easy. They were working on an advanced movement, and struggling and maybe looking a little foolish.

As Danielle told me just three workouts in, this isn’t just hard for me; it is hard for everyone. We all look foolish, we all fail. That is part of pushing yourself. And, well to be honest, failing can be fun.

Anyway, this is getting long and I should wrap this up, and point out how this is changing things for me outside the gym. Today I was invited to take part in a golf tournament. I think I have played once in the last two years, and I wasn’t very good to begin with. There will be plenty of people I know there many of them who hold positions well above me.

Instead of declining so as to avoid embarrassment, I let the inviter know that I’m not very good, so if he is looking to field a competitive team, he might want to look elsewhere, but otherwise I’m in. Hell, I always liked getting out to golf, so if they don’t care if I suck, why should I. I’m going to fail, and I’m going to have fun doing it.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Hands on the ground, hands on the ground

Newsflash: I cannot do a handstand

Its not that I thought that I could, and I’m pretty sure that no one would take one look at me and say “now there is a guy capable of standing on his hands”, some may
say “there is a guy who spends most of his day with his head up his ass” but that is a different matter.

But a handstand was on the menu last night at CrossFit, well at least something approximating me putting my hands on the ground, and my feet in the air. Needless to say, this did not go well.

Well, maybe I should backtrack a little. Handstands were not on the menu when I got there, no mention of a handstand was on the board when I got there. There was a warm-up, and a WOD (Helena, 20 minutes of 400m runs and pull ups to failure). Then Zeke called the 6:30 class to order, and started adding items to the board.

3 sets of

30 second handstand
30 second frog stance

Followed by

3 sets of

3 reps handstand pushups

I’m pretty sure when Zeke turned around he quickly noted the glazed over look on 3 of our faces and knew that some remedial education was in order. Sure 2 of us were Crossfit vets, but the rest of us “didn’t have” (Crossfit’s polite way of saying you can’t do something yet) our Handstand.

So we started off with tripods. A movement that looks simple enough. To start you put your head down on an ab-mat. Then you attempt to walk you feet up until you place your knees on your elbows and either hold the pose, or go advanced and lift your legs up into the air.

Like I said, looks simple enough, but having just ran a half-mile, and done other assorted warm-up activities, I was already dripping with sweat. My knees kept slipping off of my elbows, causing my legs to crash to the ground.

After I bumbled through this movement for a couple minutes, Zeke introduced us to the Frog stance. This one didn’t look simple, and made me look even more foolish. Start in a squatting position, like you are stretching your groin. Proceed to move your weight forward onto your hands, and rest your knees on your elbows again, or in the air if you are actually in shape.

One again, an embarrassing display on my part. The mats were a sweaty mess from a combination of the moisture dripping off my head, and where various body parts crashed to the ground.

I spent the next few minutes going through the motions of trying to get our 30 second sets in each pose, but my bad shoulder was starting to act up, and I can’t say that my heart was in it.

We then went over to do some handstand push-ups. Full range of motion was stressed, and ways to advance the movement, or use the bands to help were discussed. Then those of us who “didn’t have our handstand” were taken over to a wall and instructed on how to “get our handstand”.

This pretty much meant flipping yourself ass over head and using the wall to help with balance. Or at least this is what you were supposed to do.

I quickly found that it takes a lot of momentum to get my substantial mid section over my head. After a couple of failed attempts, I manage to get them up there. Only to crash head 1st into the wall once I got suitable momentum. At this point my shoulder went from balking to screaming, and I excused myself to do some range of motion work on my shoulder as I waited for the workout of the day to start.

Things went better for me in the WOD. I ran further than I thought I could before breaking from a jog to a walk only for portions of the last three 400’s. The pull-ups weren’t impressive, as I was using an elastic band for assistance, and gasping for air from the runs. But I got more rounds in than I thought I would and did not allow myself to quit, despite my shoulder airing its grievances throughout the run, and a minor cramp in my side about half-way through.

About a month in, and I am already seeing some results from this workout regimen. I am running further than I have in years. My strength is slowly coming back. (Monday we maxed out in shoulder press, front squat and dead lift, and while I didn’t set all time bests for myself, I did substantially better than I could have a month ago). My mindset is improved, as I am pushing through physical discomfort in the workouts and not quitting on myself.

Other than the return of my aching shoulder, things are looking up.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Standing up to the Bully

Pro-Tip: do not do dead lifts, followed by a “chipper” workout featuring walking lunges, back extensions and about 10 other exercises that tax your core the night prior to a 10 hour drive.

I learned this the hard way last Thursday. As I walked into Crossfit my standard 15 minutes early to start stretching, I noticed that the 5:30 class was dropping like flies as they wrapped up the marathon workout that was on the board.

The warm-up had me gasping for air, a feeling I am growing all to accustom to. Unfortunately, it was just a quick 5 reps of each of the movements that we would be expected to do that night, with plenty of rest in between. There would be no rest during the workout that Will termed a “Chipper” workout, as in just keep chipping away at it.

Then I made my big mistake, since I wouldn’t be around Friday or Saturday, I asked if I should work one of the strength movements prior to the workout, thinking that this would result in a scaled down workout to compensate.

Will seemed to think this was a good idea (the strength work, not modding the WOD), and had me proceed to work on my dead lifts. Initially I was mortified at how little weight I was able to move, but a couple of form tips later, I was banging out some quality reps (well quality for me).

Then it was time to start the workout that the rest of the class was about half way through. “Just keep moving” was the only advice give, not the “cut back by 25%” I had been hoping for.

So I proceeded to begin the Bataan death march of a workout that was laid out before me. My back and hamstrings screamed for mercy. Sweat dripped into my eyes, blurring my vision at times. This was not fun.

With 3 exercises left, I found myself set up for a set of 25 back extensions. I have done these for years, and never before have I found myself jackknifed with my hands on the floor, wondering how I was going to get myself back to horizontal as my lower back and hamstrings burned the way your eyes burn if you take out your contacts after dicing jalapeños (pro-tip #2, wash your hands at least 30 times between these 2 activities).

I then stumbled over to wall-ball, and I can truthfully tell you that I have no idea how many reps I did. I’m pretty sure I didn’t get the prescribed amount, but with Hanna and Will rooting me on, I got myself together enough to string together 5 more reps, before doing 9 pitiful floor to standing pull ups.

I was laid out on the floor for what seemed like 5 minutes before composing myself enough to shakily get to my feet. Every fiber of my body hurt, but I had pushed myself farther than I thought I could. But still not as far as I probably should be able to.

The next morning I struggled to get through my shower, and to get into the truck to drive to Upstate NY. There was not one minute of that drive, or the 40 minute drive to or from the game the next day, or the 20 minutes in the car going to dinner, or the 12 hours back where I was comfortable. It wasn’t until Tuesday around noon that I stood up from a chair without needing 3-5 steps to straighten my back (which included another workout Monday night).

There is a positive end to all of this. After a lackluster workout on Monday, Tuesday’s workout was without a doubt my best so far at CrossFit.

Sure I was still gassed after warm-ups, but I felt good working on both my shoulder presses and front squats, pushing myself in both. Then I felt like I didn’t completely embarrass myself in the WOD. I may have only gotten my knees to chest (or more likely waist) instead of to my elbows for that part of the workout. But I was able to keep a respectable pace throughout.

Sure, for the 6:30 class, I came in a distant 3rd out of 3 participants in the WOD, but I have to remember that I am not competing with the others in the class. I am competing against myself, and my preconceived notions of what I can accomplish.

Not completely embarrassing myself, and keeping a respectable pace, may not sound like a huge accomplishment. But for me there was a world of difference between the way that I have felt walking out of Crossfit last night compared to end of the previous workouts. The bully still had still kicked my ass, but he left with a bloody lip to show for it.

My legs may fell rubbery today, and I am damn glad that tonight I will be having a date night with my wife rather than hitting the gym. But I feel like I may be clearing the 1st hurdle. I still need a lot of work on my endurance, flexibility and mindset, but the way I felt leaving the box last night was awesome. And I can’t wait to hit it hard tomorrow... after resting tonight.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Meeting Murph

“Are you new here?” She said as she overtook me in the warm-up run.

“Yeah, this is my 3rd workout.”

“Well don’t worry, it doesn’t get any easier, we are all dead by the end of the workout.”

And with those words of encouragement, Danielle blew by me and went on with her run.

I am quickly finding that the words “check your ego at the door” are a requirement of my trips to the CrossFit box.

Be it a 5 foot nothing, 100 and nothing pound girl, or a 6’7” guy, I have found that most anyone can run circles around me or just make me look foolish in any endeavor.

But, here we are, a week and a half into it, and I am finding that I look forward to getting to the box everyday after work. Last night I cursed myself as I was driving home, since I had agreed to take my wife out to a movie, and I hadn’t gotten out of work in time to get a work out in 1st.

And while we are on the subject of discoveries. I have found that Crossfit has a funny way of paying tribute to our fallen soldiers.

Tuesday was my 1st “Hero” workout. These are torture devices named for a brave member of our armed Services who has lost his or her life defending our country.

My introduction to the Hero workout was “Murph” named after a Navy Seal who lost his life in Afghanistan. Later I found out that the mission that he lost his life on has a book written about it call “Sole Survivor”, it has been added to my reading list.

But back to Murph, I’m not sure how they go about picking the workout that is dedicated to the individual, but If it was a favorite workout of the individual for whom it is named, than Murph was a sick fuck. Start with a mile run, then 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups and 300 squats, oh and tack on another mile run just for fun.

Fortunately they let you break up the pull-ups, push-ups and squats however you want. Unfortunately I only made it through about a 1/3 of the prescribed workout before the trainer came over to me and let me know I should start stumbling through my 2nd mile if we ever wanted to get home that night.

So while it may not have been CrossFit’s intention, the result was me cursing the name of a fallen soldier as I jogged around the parking lot in the rain Tuesday night. Actually, it was more me cursing myself for thinking that any workout involving 2-miles of running was a good idea, seeing as it had probably been 10 years since I had run 2-miles in a day, let alone in a workout.

That said, I will be back at the box tonight, hopefully for an indoor workout, since I have been soaked to the bone everyday so far this week, and am quite sick of it. I thought I was moving to Wilmington for the beach and sun, not 20+ inches of rain in 4 days.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

I have met the enemy

The battle to win back my health will not be easy, it will not be fun and it will not be pretty.

Day 2 at CrossFit started off relatively easy. It was a personal workout day, to make sure I knew the basics necessary to join the group workouts. And I started off strong.

A 400m warm-up run/jog to start, and there was no mistaking me for a hero today. I jogged it out, working up a nice base sweat but not gassing myself. Then it was on to a progression of body weight squats (standard, front and overhead) presses (standing, push and jerk) kettle ball swings, sit-ups and back extensions.

I was genuinely surprised when my squat form was corrected. I wasn’t surprised that I needed correction, but was surprised at the correction made. I have never been good at going deep enough, but that wasn’t the issue. It was my foot placement. All my years of training for football, you set up to squat with a football related base, so that you worked the muscles the way you would when firing out of your stance.

Zeke, the owner/head trainer, had me widen my base, and point my toes out. Years of muscle memory screamed in protest, but I was immediately going deeper, but still not below parallel. This will take some getting used to.

From there it was on to my private session; A brief introduction to the Olympic movements. Cleans and Jerks are nothing new to me. These along with squats and bench presses formed the basis of the explosive training that I went through years ago, so I was feeling pretty confident. The snatch would be something new for me, but the start of the movement was familiar, so I guessed I’d be able to figure it out.

I have to say, my trainer, Chris, was excellent. There was quite a bit of rust to be knocked off to begin with, but he broke down the movements in a way that had never been done for me before. The coaches I have worked with in the past would be well served to spend a day with him, and learn how to teach the movements. I am confident that had I ever been instructed in this manner, I would have been putting up a hell of a lot more weight. I’m looking forward to getting my strength back and putting up personal bests 10 years past my playing days.

And while I quickly picked up on the corrections being made to my rusty form, I was shocked at how I was already tiring just moving a wooden dowel and a 45lb bar. I knew coming in that getting my wind back would be one of the hardest parts of the process, but this was nuts.

Then things went wrong. While I put the dowels back, and grabbed some water, Chris consulted with Zeke on what workout I would be doing today. Apparently Zeke hates me already, because his answer was “Fight Gone Bad”.

Yeah, this was the workout that had originally peaked my interest in CrossFit, but my mind screamed “I’m not ready”. Chris reassured me that it would only be 2 rounds, not the prescribed 5. But the damage was done. I tried to put on a good face, and aggressively attack the workout, but it had already defeated me mentally.

Wall Ball was 1st, and I did fairly well, but I was pushing too much with my arms, wasn’t using proper squat form (still need to get that base wider) and I think I was set up too far from the wall (based on watching a video of FGB online to explain to my wife why I was swimming in sweat when I got home).

That was the only positive of the 12 minute workout. Sumo high-pulls were just a sad excuse of going through the motions. My confidence and wind were shot by the time I addressed the box jumps, and only managed some half hearted step-ups. Push press would have been adequate, had it been the 5th round of FGB, not the 1st. And rowing was yet another example of me going through the motions as I gasped for air.

Round 2 made round 1 look inspired. This would have be bad enough, but then came the last 30 seconds of the workout when I went back on the attack on the rows. I put more heart and effort into that last 30 seconds than I had the previous 11 ½ minutes. Prompting Chris to exclaim “where did that come from?”

I was too winded to reply, but deep down I knew. It came from me getting pissed off at myself. Not because I had failed to do the workout, but because I had failed to give it everything I had. There had been plenty of times during the workout that I felt that I could puke, but rather than pushing through that feeling, or puking and rallying (a gift of mine according to my old drinking buddies) I had caved.

If there is one thing that I can take from day 2, it is that I completely overlooked one area that needed serious work. I knew that when it came to endurance and flexibility I was woefully unprepared. I knew that my strength had waned, but had faith in muscle memory helping me through. I had no idea the depths that my mind had slipped.

Looking back at the years of excuses, and the way I quickly faltered in workout #1, I can’t believe I missed this. I have been losing the mental game for years. Pushing through has been getting it’s ass handed to it by rolling over.

I have met the enemy, and it is me.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Fat Drunk and Stupid is no way to go through life, So I'm trying to lose weight

I am fat and out of shape. I know this, anyone who knows me knows this. It was only Seven short years ago that I was a gym rat and working my body fat down towards 10%. I was in the gym up to 6 days a week, and loved every minute of it.

I moved, I got married, my gym partner relocated to Texas and I started finding excuses not to hit the gym, rather than finding excuses to get there.

It has gotten bad. My brother has expressed to me his concern about my health. My wife noted how I physically looked like my Father, almost 30 years my senior, in a recent photo. At least once a month my mother asks if I had started to work out again…yet.

So here it goes. I am going to document my attempts to get back into some sort of shape.

I am 6’2”, 250 lbs, the majority of which resides around my midsection. If I had to guess I would peg my bodyfat at close to 28% (I will find a way to get this measured to make this more accurate).

About a year ago I first heard of CrossFit. I saw a post about their yearly fundraiser called Fight Gone Bad and was intrigued. Where most people I know looked at the combination of box jumps, rowing, wall ball, sumo high pulls and push press and want to vomit, I looked at them and said, Damn, those are the things I used to love to do, because they make me want to vomit.

Of course I quickly fell into my excuse making habits. I wasn’t in good enough shape to do that program, so I did start going to the gym for a little while. Until I found my next excuse, the nearest Crossfit gym would require me to double my daily commute. And so I slowly stopped going to the gym.

Well last week I finally had enough. I had told myself that I would start running, doing push-ups and sit-ups and using the chin-up bar in the garage once I moved to Wilmington to get ready to go to the CrossFit gym that is less than a mile from my house. And after a month, none of that had happened.

So, pissed at myself, I made the call to CrossFit Coastal and signed up for their Saturday open gym. And I got my ass kicked.

Sure I was pleasantly surprised that I could put together 2 pull-ups in a row. Too bad the warm-up called for 3 sets of 5. Forget the sit-ups, my gut just gets in the way. Run 200 yards once, OK, three times. I am a pathetic excuse for a man.

Then there was the actual workout. I felt pretty good about my chances with the push press, some modified pull-ups might get me through that, then a 200 yard run/jog. Well there was a rest period while my teammate went through the same progression. I can do this.

No I couldn’t, the press was fine, the pull ups, not so great, then I set out at a run and completely gassed myself within the 1st 100 yards. There was no coming back for me. I dropped the weight on the press and did my best not to puke for the next 15 minutes.

I knew I was in bad shape, but I had no idea how bad. Everything from the stretching to the breaking down of the weights at the end was torture. But a funny thing happened.

Others doing the workout, who had never met me before encouraged me as they ran past my stumbling mass. My workout partner cheered me through each transition (sorry about truncating your workout Gabs.) And once I finally caught my breath I felt good about myself.

Not in a, yeah you are in shape way, but in a you finally are addressing the problem way. My entire body was trashed, I felt like I had just gone through the 1st padded practice of 2-a-days. And I found that I had missed that feeling.

So, despite the fact that I am still sore from what is called a light workout on Saturday, I am headed back tonight. And I am looking forward to getting my ass kicked again.

Week 2 Thoughts

I keep meaning to write posts for this damn blog. But life gets busy. I mean I started a series of posts on why the Raiders would go 16-0. And it would have had me looking like Nostradamus, had Vince Young imploded and been benched one week earlier. But the series remains on my flash drive, seen only by me.

So lets keep things short and simple. I want to write about 2 things, the Raiders and my attempts to get back into shape. So this post will concentrate on the former, and hopefully my next post will be on the later.

The win vs. St. Louis.

1 – Thank god for Jason Campbell

I know this goes squarely against the grain of the general consensus of Raider fans right now. But, had the Raiders not swung the trade for Campbell, I have to believe that JaMarcus would have been the Raiders starter going into week 2. (Remember Grads missed most of the offseason and the start of camp with a torn pec). Even if Grads had started against the Titans, I have trouble believing he would have made it out of that game healthy. Meaning that we would have been treated to the return of JaMarcus to Oakland yesterday. Thanks for the win Jason.

2 – Tom Cable is ahead of the curve on the Oline

Once again, this will be greeted with a collective WTF by the majority of Raider fans. But hear me out. There are two areas of an NFL team where the players have not become specialized. The quarterback (with the exception of teams running a Wildcat) and the offensive line. I believe that within the next 5 years, we will see specialist on the offensive line. Long yardage tackles, who specialize at pass blocking, but suck at run blocking. And their short yardage counterparts.

Lets face it, Mario Henderson is truly lacking when it comes to pass blocking, but has shown beastly flashes in the run game. If Veldheer can come into his own as a pass blocker, the platoon at LT could be a reality in Oakland.

Would it be better to have an Ogden or Jones at LT who can do it all, sure, but those guys are so rare, I think that the reality of the NFL will soon require platoons where possible on the line.

Veldehere is an intriguing prospect to start this movement with in Oakland. He represents a signifigant upgrade at center in run blocking, but has trouble with the blitz pick-up, especially in pass-pro. He is at least Henderson’s equal at pass blocking right now, at that is with three years less experience and a DII background.

Bruce Cambell is equally intriguing in this manner. He could be a great pulling guard, but his body says OT. Right now he is backing up at RG, but the day could soon come that he is a part of the right side rotation.

The key is getting both of these players up to par at multiple positions. Which is at least a season away. But looking forward to next season:

Base/Run downs:

Henderson, Gallery, Veldheer, Campbell, Walker

Pass Situations

Veldheer, Gallery, Satele, TBD, Campbell

Not a complete picture, but don’t be surprised when you start seeing specialists on the line. And don’t be surprised if the substitutions become more frequent in Oakland as the season progresses.

3 – Raiders Busting out all over

Some Raiders that have had the bust lable attached to them seem to be coming into their own.

Darren McFadden has looked like an NFL running back two weeks in a row. His vision is still questionable, and he takes too long to get up to top speed. But he is finally running hard and not falling at 1st contact. A huge improvement.

Darrius Hayward-Bey is catching balls, not the deep home-run ball we all hoped for. But he seems to be running better routs and getting open. And when the quarterback hits him in stride, the next hit isn’t the ball meeting the ground.

Stanford Routt only took five seasons, but he is playing well at the target corner across from Asomugha. Sure he isn’t perfect, but he looks like a player (and ignore those who claim he got burnt on that long Tennessee TD, that was a zone and he was the only one who recognized the coverage bust, that is why he was the only guy near the ball).

Michael Huff has looked like a decent safety so far this season. The preseason looked like more of the same, but I can’t fault a safety who is repeatedly the 1st guy to the running back after the front 7 falls flat on their face. Decent isn’t all-pro, but if the front 7 can continue to apply pressure, he could shed the Fluff label.

4 – Gradkowski just gets it done

But there is more to it than the team getting a spark from Grads. The playcalling was appreciably different with Grads, shorter routs, more timing, more taking what was there than trying to force things.

So what is the difference, I think it is the coaches putting too much stock into what they see in practice. I think Campbell is much more confident with that Red Jersey on, and who wouldn’t be behind Oakland’s O-line. That goes to shit once the real bullets start flying.

Gradkowski is equally limited in practice and in the game. Meaning that the gameplan based on what he shows in practice matches what he produces Sunday. It isn’t pretty, but it is effective.

5 – Get healthy soon

Gallery, Bush, Seymore and Schilens all should be major contributors to this team. And if the Raiders want to have any hope of 8-8 they need to be on the field. The Raiders stand a chance without them against a pathetic Arizona squad this week. But need at least Gallery and Seymore back to have a prayer against Houston.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Hall of Shame

You have got to be kidding me. The Pro Football Hall of Fame is becoming a bad joke.

Today it was announced that Chris Berman would be inducted as the recipient of the Pro Football Hall of Fame's Pete Rozelle Radio-Television Award.

This would not be that egregious of an issue if 1 – if the award weren’t given such a prominent place in the building, 2 – so many deserving players and coaches weren’t on the outside looking in 3 – if Berman had done anything of substance other than stupid nicknames for the past 20 years.

I was pretty much unaware of the award up until my visit to the Hall last season. And chances were would have missed the plaque entirely if it were anywhere else in the building with is overflowing with NFL history.

But there it is, right on the 1st floor as you enter the building, before you start to ascend the spiral ramp to the main museum area. Before you get to the greats of the game, you pay your respects to the media? How is that right. But there it is, with such luminaries as Peter King and Dr. Z listed before the Lombardis, Paytons and Montanas.

To me this is a problem. When a writer such as Peter King can proclaim that a player such as Ray Guy didn’t have enough of an impact on the game to deserve enshrinement, how can he in good conscience accept a prominent place in the hall? Is writing about Mary Beth’s softball exploits or Starbucks coffee more impactful that ensuring your defense great field position?

The roster of deserving players and coaches who are on the outside looking in would field a team that would run roughshod over the league. Ken Stabler throwing to Tim Brown, Chris Carter and Sterling Sharpe in a Don Coryall offense. Dermonti Dawson, Steve Wisnewski, Howard Mudd, Jerry Kramer opening holes for Bo Jackson and Terrel Davis following Alan Ameche. Alex Karras, Jim Marshall, Richard Dent up front on defense. Steve Tasker flying down the field under Ray Guy punts and any kicker you may want (as there are none in the hall) kick offs. I could go on and on.

Instead Brett Favre’s official jock cleaner, Peter King, gets a place of prominence.

Now joining King is none other than Chris Berman, who’s act got tired 2 seasons after it started. A guy who’s most notable contribution to the game is bad nicknames and “HE..COULD..GO..ALL..THE..WAY”, pathetic. Would the NFL be any less popular now had we never been introduced to Natrone Means “Business”, rather than just plain of Natrone Means? Would the Bills failures been any less heartbreaking/hilarious had we never learned of their proficiency in circling the wagons?

I would argue that the league would be in better shape had Berman not done so much to dumb down the discussion of the game. His buffoonery overshadowed otherwise great play, turning the sportscaster into a celebrity, rather than a conduit for information.

If the Hall of Fame is going to display the names of men like Berman and King, it should be reserved for a wing where others of their ilk could reside. Others like the Raiderettes and Cowgirls. Those who appease the casual fan while waving pom-poms for their favorite quarterback the way King has for Favre and Berman for Kelly.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Soccer is now America's Game? Don't fool yourself

I know I’m a week late on this, but I’ve been looking for a new house and traveling for the 4th of July weekend. But lost in all the hoopla over Landon Donovan’s incredible goal to send the US to the knock out round of the world cup is one simple thing. Nothing has changed.

Before I get labeled as a Soccer hater, let me say that I enjoy watching an occasional game. When it comes right down to it, I follow football religiously, love hockey and will seek out games to watch and that’s just about it. No baseball on TV, I go to a game about once a year with friends or family, no basketball at all and will put a NASCAR race on to help me nap on a lazy Sunday afternoon. So you could almost say I like Soccer since I’ll watch the world cup and enjoy it.

Perhaps some of my reluctance to accept the proclamation that the US finally has it’s defining soccer moment that will change the way the sport is viewed in this country has to do with my experience with the sport. I went to High School in a soccer mad town. The Soccer team was regularly one of the best in the state, and up until my Sophomore year the football team was a joke.

Despite that, I felt that the Soccer jocks still harbored an inferiority complex. Actively seeking any chance to point out how they played the “worlds” sport, that real “football” players didn’t wear pads, how there was so much more skill involved in soccer. It was tiresome at best, and served to only reinforce the negative soccer stereotypes.

I still enjoyed going to the games to support my friends on the team, or to ogle the girls team (all the best looking girls at our school played). And having played youth soccer up until 7th grade, always had a favorable opinion of the game.

So all that said, I would actually like to think that the goal in extra time would actually increase America’s awareness and appreciation for the sport. That maybe it could move up the American sport’s pantheon to the level of basketball. But sadly, beating Algeria inextra time won’t change that.
See here are the problems with this line of thinking as I see them:

The generally accepted fact that American’s love an underdog is false under most circumstances. America loves winners and seeing those on high being knocked from their perch.

Look at the most popular teams in American sports; they all have longstanding winning traditions. The Yankees, Steelers and Cowboys all are at the top of their respective sports in terms of number of championships and have won constantly over the years and have the largest fan bases to show for it. When people root for the teams playing them, it is as much from a desire to see them lose, as to see them win.

America doesn’t want to be the underdog; they want to be the juggernaut. That is why when the world caught up to us in basketball we put together the dream team. It was no fun rooting for our college players as the underdog; it was fun to watch our best destroy all comers.

Plus, it is hard for America to accept the concept that we could be the underdog against a country we see as inferior to us. The lake placid hockey team could be seen as underdogs against the USSR. They were the boogieman from that huge red country across the ocean with their missiles pointed at us. In the minds of Americans, a third world nation the size of the state of Pennsylvania should not be favored over us in soccer, even if the Soccer loving world knows otherwise.

The Internet is doing as much harm as good.

Donovan’s goal became an internet sensation. YouTube tributes spread like wildfire. Bloggers spent days celebrating the goal with flowery prose. Surely more people were exposed to the goal through the internet than would have been in the days of the newpaper.

But soccer also suffered due to the internet and instant scores. When the US upset the USSR in hockey there weren’t tweets and live blogs covering the event so that everyone knew in real time. Sports fans were forced to tune in at night to watch the game on tape delay to learn the result, spoilers were hard to come by. Everyone tuned into that Hockey game got the full range of emotions that occur in a game of that magnitude. The growing hope that the underdog could come through and the exultation when they did was shared by all.

Unless you were one of those who took the day off (more on them later) to watch the game, chances are you knew the result without seeing the game. There was no tension, no overwhelming disappointment as it seemed that the game was slipping away only to be replace with joy as those American persevered to win in the end. The emotion that is so critical to sport was lost.

The hype leading up to the World Cup in America was false.

For the months leading up to the World Cup ESPN had their powerful hype machine on full blast. U2 was brought in to do a theme song. Soccer story after soccer story was pushed. The problem is, Sportcenter is no longer truly a sports highlight show. It is ESPN/ABC’s marketing arm.

One need only look at the way the coverage of the NBA vs. NHL has changed since ESPN dropped the NHL to pick up the NBA. No more NHL tonight, it is a slow day when all of the NHL games get highlight packages. The NBA gets primetime shows and prime coverage year round. The disparity in coverage far outweighs the disparity in popularity.

When ESPN/ABC showed the shots of the fans packed into bars showing the game they tried to sell it as American’s embracing the World Cup, but they were just preaching to the converted. It was the Americans who already loved soccer finding a way to watch the game, not those of us who just liked the game, or were ambivalent.

Nearly all of those who got to experience the emotion of the game already had a deep seeded appreciation of the game. I won’t say that the emotion was wasted on them, but the chance to share it with the rest of America was lost as ESPN relegated the replay in primetime to ESPNU, which many don’t get, or at midnight on the more widely seen ESPN2. Even ESPN didn’t see the value of using prime airtime on this supposedly sport changing game.

These thought were all running through my mind in the days following the game as I looked at the hyperbole being put forth about America embracing soccer through my cynical eyes. Then it was driven home the following Saturday when the US team played Ghana.

Watching the game, I got caught up in it. I held out hope that the US could pull off the upset. Watched them fall behind early only to fight their way back and to ultimately fail. Losing was not unexpected, but there was some emotion there.
hat night I went to a baseball game with about 30 of my coworkers. The same crew that had announced the scores of the previous games to everyone else as they came across their computer screens the previous weeks. The same crew that discusses whatever big game was on the night before. The majority of whom are 25-40 year old sports loving American males. The demographic that, according to all reports, had just fallen in love with soccer.

Not a word about the game was uttered the whole night as we ate our burgers and hotdogs and drank our beers. Lebron’s free agency was discussed, baseball talk flowed and talk of the upcoming football season was heard. All that sports talk and Soccer was already an afterthought. So quickly things had gone right back to normal. Nothing had changed.

Return of The King

What does it take to get brickinthebox posting again?
Is it a renewed sense of optimism surrounding the Raiders?
Is it the arrest of JaMarcus Russell for something that everyone knew was going on
for years? (What is the next shocking headline, Woody Harrelson arrested for pot?)
Is it just to see how many pointless questions I can lead a post with?
No, it is something much more sinister. A beloved American institution is under attack.
The story is all over the news, you can’t turn on the TV or surf the net without being
assaulted by the speculation, the analysis and the hyperbolae.
No we aren’t talking about the oil spill, or whatever Obama is doing. We are talking
about Lebron James’ vicious assault of Brett Favre.
That’s right loyal reader, your summer tradition of breathlessly awaiting word on Brett
decision on retirement has been ruthlessly abducted from the headlines. And perhaps
more disturbing, is the assault on Brett’s cherished title of being the pre-eminent attention
whore in sports.
The outright high jacking of the sporting landscape has obviously been well planned, and
rehearsed for optimal effect. And if you carefully examine the actions of the key players,
you will find the mastermind.
Player #1 – Brett Favre
It would not be surprising to find that Favre was ready to pass the torch to the next
in line, if he were truly contemplating retirement. But his actions show that he was
preparing for another Summer of dominating the headlines and sports talk radio.
Tearfully discuss how this could be the end after costing his team another playoff game –
Carefully timed surgery to keep name in headlines – check.
Meaningless wager with hometown team – check.
Vague quotes served up to long time media accomplices to further agenda – check.
The evidence is clear. Brett actions are those of one who relishes his standing, and wishes
to wear the crown as long as possible.
Verdict – Victim
Player #2 – LeBron James
The heir to Jordan’s throne, I won’t list his on court accomplishments, because I couldn’t
give a fuck about basketball and don’t know them. But with his name and face plastered
all over the media, he appears to have been working hard to replace Favre the past few
Show up wearing out of town gear to rile fans – check.
Avoid answering questions about preferred destination, while accepting any and all
invitations to be interviewed on that very subject – check.
Agree to a one hour special on the occasion of your decision – check.
It would seem to those eager to pass judgment that James and his marketing team are
the masterminds behind this coup attempt. There is only one problem. This is coming
too early in his career. And a true mastermind would recognize this, and the imminent
backlash. No, James’ ignorance of the potential consequences demonstrates that he and
his team are no potential masterminds.
Verdict – Willing Accomplice
This leaves just one potential mastermind. Those of you who are long time readers
will know his name. And if you tune in tonight, I am sure you will see his face.
Player #3 – Stuart Scott
That right, the man who holds an unexplainable hold over the Disney/ESPN empire.
Hiding behind his buffoonish façade, his lazy eye, his penchant for outdated pop culture
references, Stuart Scott has positioned himself to retake his spot as the premier ESPN
When you follow the breadcrumbs, it isn’t hard to pick up the trail.
Scott had it all. Free reign to impart his will over the worldwide leaders sports
programming. From forcing his way onto the Sunday/Monday night pregame show
to outright flaunting of his powers, such as his poetry jams. Scott could do whatever,
whenever he wanted.
But media power can be fleeting, and any sign of weakness can cost one his perch.
A mysterious Illness, coupled with others getting closer to reigning king of attention
whoring, Favre, than he could (Favre of course is a Southern white boy, read into this as
you will). And Scott new something had to be done.
First, media competition had to be eliminated. Some quick backdoor maneuvering was
all it took to discredit the likes of Steven A. Smith (let us not forget that White Males
from New England share many traits of their southern counterparts, and prefer a “safe”
alternate perspective).
Then a suitable heir to Favre’s throne had to be found. James was the obvious choice.
Willing to be thrust into the spotlight from a young age, desperate for the attention,
immature enough to embrace Scott and talented enough to garner the attention, he was
easy pickings for one as experience in manipulation as Scott.
Finally the hype machine had to be wound up. While Scott had seen his star fade due to
the ascension of those more physically gifted (Erin Andrews) or willing to flaunt their
limited physical gifts (Hanna Storm), or actually adept at their craft (Bob Ley), he still
had his claws deep enough into the worldwide leader to manipulate the weak minded.
And the weak were easily manipulated. Scott’s favorite tool was Bill Simmons. Feeding
on Simmon’s love for outdated pop culture, Simmons was a willing pawn in Scott’s
game. Possessing an internet following that is hard to explain, Simmons reached the
masses with Scotts message of “All that is James must be covered”.
With all the pieces in place, Scott could sit back and watch his master plan fall into
place. The ESPN machine will automatically gravitate towards properties it holds the
rights to (See world cup hype) so Scott, now in place as the man closest to James in the
organization had only to ride the wave.
Tonight a new King of the Attention Whores may be crowned, but while his predecessor
was a master media manipulator, this new King is merely a figurehead. Make no mistake
dear readers, tonight is the start of something far more sinister, The second reign of Stuart
Scott is at hand. The sporting world may never be the same.