We had a beautiful afternoon yesterday, with mild temps and puffy clouds, so the rowing machines were moved outside. The workout was four rounds: row 500 meters, then run around the building. I enjoyed rowing outside. I always resist looking at the panel on the rower as long as possible, hoping I’ll be almost to 500 meters when I finally look. So this time I looked at the sky all around and appreciated how the weather seemed to warm as I rowed. I did my first 500 meters as fast as I could without gasping for air and came in at 1:56. For my other three rows I didn’t pay attention to time but tried to maintain a pace around 34 strokes per minute.
I used the runs to recover. The intense pulls with the legs on the rower make it hard to jump up and run fast, so I jogged as quickly as was comfortable for the first half of each run. Then I’d start feeling just a little bit rested, so I finished each run faster than I started it. Someone called out my total time when I finished my last run, and I promptly forgot it—19 minutes and something, I think. Tom’s was 17 something. He’s a good runner and keeps all his 500-meter rows well under two minutes.
As always, we had a fabulous time in the gymnastics section. I enjoy that so much that I can’t imagine not doing it, or that I wasn’t doing it until last October. We practiced our kips for quite a while on one of the parallel bars. Everybody loves that because we are all pretty close to getting all the way up—yet most of us don’t quite get there. It always feels like, “I just need one more try!” Someday I’m going to pop up there all the way and surprise myself. Kip description, slide show, and pep talk: “At Gymnastics Revolution, we have found three pieces to the puzzle of coaching a gymnast to perform a kip. Those three pieces are: repeated motions with a spot, repeated motion without a spot, and consistent encouragement. In all but the rarest of cases, a Kip takes weeks or even months to learn.”
The gym has a really cool old leather pommel horse with wood handles, and we did some straddle-swing drills on that last night. Nancy asked me and Tom if we’d ever “seen the bucket.” We hadn’t. Lots of enthusiasm bubbled up—let’s try the bucket! Dave disconnected one set of rings from their wires and replaced one of them with a harness wrapped around the rim of a 5-gallon bucket. He put the pommel horse under the bucket. So you get up onto the horse and stick your feet in the hanging bucket, which holds up your feet. Trying to keep the hips high and the body more or less in a plank position, you swing around the horse, lifting each hand one at a time for your hips to pass under as you revolve. The bucket swings around too, in the complete circle, holding up your feet. Everybody else has to stay out of the way of the flying bucket.
On my second attempt, I did pretty well at rotating and lifting my hands while looking ahead instead of down at my hands. I grew confident and picked up a bit of speed, having a great time. Suddenly I was tired and my arms had had enough. My body sagged, my feet snapped out of the bucket, and I fell off the horse. Happy I landed more or less on my feet, I stood up. Wham! The bucket, rebounding from the snap of my feet, whacked me on the cheekbone. Ouch!
I put some ice on it and today it’s just a scratch with no black-and-blue. Thank goodness for that because I had a job interview this morning. It feels bruised, though, so I hope I don’t end up with that lovely green and yellow patchwork you can get from a bruise. I have at least one more interview coming up.
Last night’s workout was “Cindy”:
In 20 minutes, do as many rounds as you can of 5 pull-ups, 10 push-ups, and 15 air squats.
I managed 12 rounds. It sounds measley now, but I was happy with it because my pull-ups went so well. After last Friday’s workout, when the pull-ups assisted by the rubberband went so badly, I swore off of the rubberband. From now on it’s 100 percent kipping pull-ups unless I’m told to do otherwise. For this workout, with only 5 pull-ups at a time, kipping was gratifying because I never had to let go of the bar during the set. It was also a lot of fun because it allowed me to pull up past my chin for a change. I have to work on getting the rhythm and timing down and stop doing the extra little swing of my legs in between reps.
The reason I think my 12 rounds sounds so puny now is because I looked up people’s scores on the CrossFit site last time “Cindy” was posted there. Yikes! Highest scores I saw there are 28 rounds for a female, 32 for a male. I can’t imagine how to get that much faster, even if I could do all my push-ups and pull-ups without stopping.
Today I rode my bike downtown and back, meeting someone about a freelance writing job. I’ve now been biking in Seattle for almost eight years. It took me the first two years to be able to get across town (over the top of Capitol Hill) without resenting the un-fun-ness of it, even though it’s only three miles. Eventually I got accustomed to the hills, but now things have improved again and I hardly notice the hills on familiar routes. I think it’s from all those air squats and weighted squats. This is really good, because for that first two years I wasn’t sure bike riding was ever going to be fun here like it was in Chicago (where it’s totally flat).
Last night we were tired enough to go to sleep at 10:00, so we decided to get up today and go back to the gym at 8:00. I always had more energy on Saturday mornings at the boxing gym than on weeknights, and that held true today. Today’s workout:
Row 1000 M
20 burpees with 16 kg kettlebells
5 clean and jerk (I used 65 pounds)
Row 750 M
18 burpees with kettlebells
5 clean and jerk
Row 500 M
15 burpees with kettlebells
5 clean and jerk
My rowing times (the third one is approximate): 4:12, 3:20, 2:10. I was happy with these. I’d never rowed 1000 before. I kept my 500-meter pace about the same on all three rows, and my rowing technique has improved with practice and coaching. I no longer feel like a little stumpy-legged kangaroo, zipping in and out to little effect. Now I lean in a bit at the front, lean back against my legs, and end with straight legs and a hard arm-pull on each stroke. This all gives me a longer stroke than I used to have and lets me return forward more slowly, for a tiny rest without losing too much efficiency. These aren’t especially fast times, but it’s nice to feel my technique and pacing have improved a bit.
“Burpee with kettlebell” means: Put two kettlebells by your feet. Squat (using good squat form) and grasp the handles. Shoot your feet out behind you to a plank position. Do a push-up. Shoot your feet back up front between the kettlebells and try to land in a good squat (back arched, butt pushed back). Jump into the air (not high) out of the squat, holding the kettlebells. Land without drooping the shoulders, set the kettlebells down using good squat form, and repeat. I loved these. I chugged away steadily, not at a blistering pace by any means, but I was able to keep good form. If I needed a rest, I gave myself two breaths before restarting. I rested twice during each set of burpees.
The clean and jerk made me nervous before we started, but it worked out great because Dave came over to work with me and Tom and others on the technique with the PVC as our warm-up. So I ended up enjoying the chance to practice this move on my own with weight for the 5 reps per round. In contrast to all the spotting and assistance I had on pull-ups yesterday, this was a fun example of being coached in advance and then working on my own.
Total workout time: 24:40.
Still trying to erase last night’s pull-up frustration, I did a lot of kipping pull-ups today after the workout. Although I was tired, I did one set of 10 unbroken. I didn’t count a running total, which I should have done because it would help me organize my goal of 21. But if I remember right, after the 10, I rested and did 8 and 5. Hey—that’s more than 21. I have to just work on putting 10, 8, and 3 together as quickly as possible. Anyway, I took a break and continued after a few minutes with sets of 8 and 3. Boy, are my arms tired. The shampoo was heavy… the hair dryer was heavy… the coffee cup was heavy… the computer mouse is heavy….
Last night’s workout was the one called “Fran”:
It sucked. I felt scattered and weak yesterday, mentally and physically. When asked if I could do the thrusters with 65 pounds or if I should use the empty bar, I had no idea. I tried doing a couple of thrusters with 65 pounds to see how heavy it would feel. Twenty-one reps would have been difficult (even in a broken set), but I felt I could have survived it. But the consensus among the other women was to remove the weight and just use the bar, and the men seemed to want to use 65 pounds instead of the default 95 pounds, so Dave reduced the weight for all of us.
For thrusters, you rack the weight on shoulders and open fingers, like in a front squat, and then jump it up overhead. I flew off the ground with my jump and the weight shot up high with little effort. Sixty-five pounds would have been a lot more challenging and I would have felt better about it. But part of the point of “Fran” is to work as fast as you can, so maybe it was better this way. If I hadn’t felt so scattered and unsure of myself yesterday, I would at least have tried to start heavier and go lighter if needed.
In any case, my pull-ups failed so fast that my speed was reduced dramatically despite the unbroken sets of thrusters. I used the lightest rubberband for pull-up assistance, but I ended up thinking I would have been better off without it. I might be wrong, but I think unassisted, kipping pull-ups would have been easier than the dead hang that the rubberband necessitates. The rubberband hooks under my feet, so I’d either snap out of it or drop it off my feet if I swung my body and bent my knees for the kip.
As it was, I kept having to stop and put my feet down, let go of the bar, jump up again, get back into the rubberband, do one or two reps, and do it all again. I really want to swear off the rubberbands and learn how to break up a set of 21, 15, and 9 kipping pull-ups as efficiently as I can to get through a workout like this. My total time was 9:54. Our very tough and fast pal Erika finished in something like 6:50. I think she was the first woman to finish.
Tom and I went out for burgers afterward and then went home and had ice cream. Terrible! I felt like I had this unsuccessful workout and then overate on top of it.
That makes me think: if I consider last night’s workout unsuccessful, what would have made it a success? I think I would have felt good if I’d been able to organize my broken sets of pull-ups more efficiently and do them more independently, without the help of spotters or someone to pull the rubberband down around my feet. Objectively, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with needing help. Privately, I want to do everything perfectly all by myself! This reminds me of my aunt telling me that when I was four years old, I refused to take swimming lessons, saying “I can’t take swimming lessons because I don’t know how to swim.”
Last night Dave worked with Tom and me on the clean. It is hard to pull the weight bar straight up without letting it fly outward; you want it to move vertically only, even though this means it flies right up under your chin. You don’t want it to curve away from the body and then curl it in. And then at the top—you’ve powered it up so fast that it floats for an instant—you drop under it, raise your elbows, and catch the bar against your shoulders on top of open fingers. This part is scary. I don’t want to dwell on the nervousness and make my technique even worse, but powering the bar up under my chin and dropping under it makes me feel like I’m going to knock out my teeth or whack myself in the throat with the bar.
Clean and jerk pictures. We only worked on the clean last night. I got as far as lifting 40 kg total—not very much, but it was challenging and exciting. I’m looking forward to getting better at it.
Feeling enthusiastic, we then worked for a few minutes on the technique of the snatch lift, where you continue the clean by getting under the weight with outstretched arms. You end up in an overhead squat. This is way too advanced for us to do with a weighted bar, but it was fun to practice the moves with a PVC pipe.
For gymnastics, we worked on parallette handstands and pass-throughs, cartwheels, parallel bar swings, hanging leg-raises on the rings, and pommel-horse push-ups. It was tons of fun as always.
The CrossFit North gym added a Sunday morning class at the humane time of 10:00. I had lunch plans with two friends today at 1:00 so I knew I’d feel good if I worked out first. Tom came along. There were three of us working out with a new (to us) coach, Allison, a strong young woman who beat almost everybody on the last Suffer on Saturday event. I’d never met her before that.
Today’s workout was three rounds for time of:
Row 500 meters
30 deadlifts (I used 42 pounds added to a 20-kg bar)
20 kettlebell swings (16 kg for me)
10 ring dips
It was brutal to work your way down to the lower number of reps, 10 ring dips, then start the next round at a higher number! Just psychological I guess.
Somehow I managed to finish a few seconds ahead of Tom and Thomas, to my surprise, in 26:39. I think that’s the first time I came in first at anything.
I stay conscious of minimizing rests during workouts these days and it pays off. Not that I didn’t take any breaks! But I allowed myself like two breaths as a break in most cases instead of waiting until I felt a noticeable sense of recovery to restart. The exception was when I did 10 reps of the deadlift as fast as I could, lowering the bar and instantly lifting it again (instead of dropping it and re-picking it up), and got a little lightheaded. I waited a while that time, though I had no sense of how long. Next time I feel that way I’ll watch the clock and see how many seconds it takes me to get started again.
After we finished, Allison did the workout herself and smoked us all in about 24 minutes. Awesome! And she used the 24-kg kettlebell that the guys had used. If I’d used that one it would have probably added 30 seconds to my time. With the 16-kg kettlebell I didn’t have to rest but completed the 20 reps each time nonstop. That probably wouldn’t have happened with the heavier weight.
While sticking around for Allison’s workout, Tom and I practiced some partial rope climbs. Our arms were shot and it’s hard to get a grip with the feet when you can’t concentrate. It just takes practice. I want to be decent at rope climbing, not just able to do it once in a while, so I’m going to try a lot of partials.
We worked out on Friday after I’d spent the day doing yard work (including hauling three 80-pound bags of gravel through the yard, tamping soil, sawing, and hammering stakes into the ground). That workout was a crazy one—often the case on Fridays!
Carry a kettlebell out the door, around the corner, and down to the end of the street and back. Mine was 16 kg.
Climb rope (20 feet).
Walking lunges out across the hangar and back (no idea how far—75 yards maybe?)
30 star-jumps (jump up from squat and fling limbs out like a starfish, back down into squat, repeat)
Row 800 meters
I was almost last to finish in 23:12.
Kind of fun to be out in a little group of nutcases carrying kettlebells down the street as cars drove by. What the heck are those people doing?
Last night’s workout was five rounds of:
10 military overhead press (empty 20-kg barbell for me)
10 hanging leg raises
10 one-leg deadlifts
I’m not sure whether this was supposed to be timed or not, but with the wall clock I timed myself at 23:00. I marked the whiteboard to keep track of my rounds. Anything over four rounds and I lose count. (I can usually manage to count reps.)
I hadn’t done hanging leg raises in a while and they went a lot better than they used to. As much as I could, I pulled my legs up without bending them until my feet touched the bar by my hands. As I got tired, after about 5 reps into the third round, I lifted them up any way I could. I like that we aren’t obliged to do this kind of exercise (similar to pull-ups) from a dead hang, but can use momentum and whip the body or legs up any old way. People say this helps develop strength for the dead-hang versions as well.
I did a lot of my dips without using the rubberband for assistance, though I used it for five out of 10 reps in rounds 3 through 5. The military presses went well too. I did them as fast as I could. I rested with the bar at shoulder level a couple of times but I didn’t put it down at all.
I was happy with this workout. We were all tired when it was time for gymnastics, but we had a great time trying some tumbling moves anyway. We practiced cartwheels, handstand hops, and backward rolls where we tried to press into a handstand halfway through the roll. This was comical even when we started making some progress, because when you’re doing this, you can’t see yourself or get any sense of whether your legs are going up in the air or parallel to the ground. That didn’t last too long because everyone’s shoulders were shot from all the dips and presses earlier, but it was fun while it lasted.
Right before we left, I discovered I can now kick up into a handstand on the parallettes without a spotter, without being terrified of falling over backwards. Maybe all the goofy falls out of the backward roll extensions took away my trepidation.
Last night’s workout: four sprints to the end of the street and back, with sit-ups on the grass in between. It should have been fun to work out outside on such a beautiful evening, but long sprints like those make me feel like I’m running under water. I’m pretty sure the distance was longer than the 400 yards around the building because my time on my first run was 15 or 20 seconds slower than a run around the building when I’m fresh. We were supposed to “sprint,” but more than 400 yards is not a sprint in my opinion! But what do I know.
I ran with Dave, Tom, Nancy, and a younger guy, Josh, who is a runner. Carrie timed us. She called out to me to keep up with the guys, so I really tried to do that. I stayed with Dave and Tom all four times on the way out (Josh smoked us all pretty quick), but when we all turned around, I was instantly out of gas. Each time, I returned at a sad little jogging pace, frowning and panting and way behind the others.
I’ve noticed two things about running styles (and I don’t know anything about running except for my own limited experience). One is that I have two ways of running: flat-out running, with long strides, rotating my hips and reaching out with each foot; and the stiff-hipped exhausted jog, shrugging myself along. They are as completely different from each other as are running and walking.
The second thing I noticed last night is also about stride length. As I stayed with Tom and Dave, I noticed that Dave runs with more steps (moving his feet quicker) than I do. I have a longer stride even though I’m shorter. I think I took fewer steps than he did to get to the end of the block. Maybe that’s why I was able to sprint fairly fast for that distance. I have no idea if that’s good or bad or what the implications are for my running. But later, my achilles tendon on both legs were tired and stiff, and I walked around the house flat-footed. (Today they’re fine.) This stiffness made me wonder if reaching out with the hips and heels for a longer stride is bad for the achilles, or if I just should have warmed up more before sprinting. We did warm up, but then we stood around a while.
I wonder if, if I had been a runner on a track team, if I would have been a short-distance sprinter. I love to fly along, but when I run out of gas, it’s like night and day. I have no sense (so far) of settling into a longer groove and finding the ability to go a distance at a consistent pace.
I can’t remember what my times were on the four runs. I think my second and third ones were 2:21 and 2:35 or something like that.
I was so happy to be back at the gym on Friday! And I was so happy to be feeling normal, after my fast, that I ran around all weekend and did everything I like to do besides blog.
Friday’s workout was three rounds of 5 drills, doing each drill for a minute and counting reps. We got a 1-minute break between rounds (not between individual exercises). The five drills and my scores for each round were:
Row 1 minute for calories: 13, 12, 11
Sumo high-pull deadlift 55 (?) pounds: 22, 16, 18
Thrusters with 45-pound barbell: 22, 22, 19
Body-weight row (lean back against low rings and pull yourself up, plank-like): 25, 17, 17
Wall-ball: 22, 20, 20
Those body-weight rows are SO hard after about the first 15 that I break down to doing two or three at a time.
Before the workout we warmed up with some overhead squats. I used a PVC pipe, then the Aluma-Light barbell (15 pounds), then the empty 45-pound barbell, which felt heavy. That’s a nerve-wracking squat. I’d never tried it with anything heavier than a sand-filled PVC pipe. Friday’s lifts went well, though. I started to feel how to “pull the bar apart,” as they say, holding that very tight shoulder and back position all the way down into the squat. That was gratifying. I wouldn’t say I’ve really got it down by any means, though.