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.