Wait—That’s Too Heavy

Last night’s workout was done in pairs for time, which made it a little more competitive than usual. Tom and I were paired together. We were the slowest of the four teams. Oh, well! The workout was:
21 two-kettlebell cleans and front squat
21 dips
21 sumo high-pull deadlifts
then 15 reps of the same three drills, then 9.
Doesn’t sound hard? I didn’t think so either, until Dave told us to use 16-kg kettlebells for the clean-and-squats. It was so hard. Both Tom and I had to rest repeatedly, breaking up the sets into three or four or even fewer reps. About three reps into my first round I was sorry I’d ever been born. I had three choices: switch for lighter weights, do fewer reps, or do it as prescribed and be slow and miserable.
I opted for slow and miserable, and found it a relief to see that Tom had trouble with this drill too. For me, the weight was very heavy (that’s something like 34 pounds each hand), and I was far from perfect in my cleans—meaning that at the top of the clean, I was muscling the weights into place with my arms. For Tom, I think the weight would not have seemed so heavy except that his back flexibility doesn’t quite allow him yet to sit way back on his heels for the squats.
The high-pull deadlifts were a lot easier than the kettlebell clean-and-squats. I was surprised and extremely relieved. Later I figured out that I was clean-and-squatting almost 71 pounds and high-pull deadlifting only 65. That explained part of the difference. Now if I can get the same good leverage next time I do KB cleans that I got doing the h-p deadlifts, I’ll have an easier time. My clean form is decent but needs improvement.
We got through all of it in about 25 minutes, while the guys who’d finished were lying around on the mats under the parallel bars being thankful they weren’t us. I bet that 12-year-old did not think I was so “beastly” right then as he said when I was doing regular barbell back squats.
When we had survived that workout, I felt unstoppable! Well, okay, after a few minutes of recovery time, saying hello to Nancy, and drinking some water. Then I tested out my kipping pull-ups to see how my shoulder would feel—as if I hadn’t tested it enough during the workout—and it felt fine. I want to start building up to higher numbers of pull-ups. I don’t even know what my max is now that I can kip. Maybe six instead of four? I can dream.
For the gymnastics segment, our former coach Ben was back. I hope he stays a while. We practiced parallette handstands, which Nancy is getting really good at. She can do them without a spotter and can hold the handstand for a short time and then come down under control. The parallettes are so scary at first that it takes a nerve of steel to commit to a handstand on them without a spotter. It feels so much like you’re going to go over backwards and break something. What we should do is spread out a big mat and practice falling out of a parallette handstand onto it. If we learned how to fall by twisting sideways, which Nancy says happens naturally, we might not be scared.
Tom was trying parallette handstands for the first time and was having trouble locking his arms out straight. So he required a lot of spotting. Nancy and I were trying to help him balance when he requested, “Give me a lift.” We struggled to pull him straight up by his legs. Dave and Ben rushed over to help. Dave got behind Tom and lifted, while Ben stepped into my place at the side and I stepped back. Everyone pulled and tugged at Tom, his legs towering and teetering over us, until his arms gave out. A guy standing next to me said, “Didn’t I see this in that famous picture of Iwo Jima?” So funny. Luckily Tom is a good sport and didn’t mind being the famous flagpole.
The fun part really started when we took turns doing spotted (and I mean heavily spotted) front and back planks on the rings, followed by a skin-the-cat dismount. First you jump to grab the rings and then swing up to an inverted, straight-up-and-down hang. (I’m proud to say I can easily do that part without flailing.) Then comes the two-spotter move: heels come down toward the floor, body straight, until horizontal. You’re trying to hold the body flat and horizontal with the chest muscles, as far as I could tell. The spotters had to support each person’s weight. Then with their help you rise back up, still straight, into the inverted hang and come down the opposite way. The spotters catch your weight again and help you pull back up into the hang yet again. Then you pull the knees to the chest, roll them back behind the shoulders toward the ground, let go, and land on your feet. Ta-da! Opportunity to lift your arms like a gymnast who stuck the landing. We did that one three times each. I was so happy because on my second and third try, I at least started to understand which muscles I was supposed to be using for the planks, even if they weren’t strong enough to hold me up. And my dismounts were very satisfyingly solid—the most fun part.
We also tried ring swings, which I think were easier than the previous move. Grasp the rings, swing five times trying to straighten the body to horizontal, and on the fifth swing, roll over and skin-the-cat dismount. I absolutely loved that one. I found I could push my hips forward in the air and up I’d go; it looked to me as if I was horizontal though I can’t be sure. I swung higher each time and then my dismounts had a lot of speed—or, again, that’s how it felt. The best part was that my formerly tweaked shoulder didn’t bother me at all.
And I felt so unstoppable that as we were about to leave, I climbed the rope again, for the second time. It was a little easier this time. Dave saw me start up and, in an endearingly paternal way, ran for the camera. Tom held the rope to try to revolve me around for a picture. It made me feel good. Now, if only I could go into a job interview where I’m temping now and talk about my favorite skills … “What can I do for your team? I can climb a 20-foot rope! And if the situation requires it, I’ll do a few kipping pull-ups on the rings and then skin-the-cat!”

1 thought on “Wait—That’s Too Heavy”

  1. I think there are some tangibles to your efforts. Fit people get treated better than unfit people. Study published last month in some journal (I forget the source). Success and confidence in your athletic actions breeds overall confidence, and that translates well during the interview.
    And, if you want to try out for pararescue, you’d pass the fitness test hand down.

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