Pull-ups and Thrusters and Squats

Tonight we had a workout that I found really fun. Twelve sets of five thrusters (65 pounds) and five pull-ups. Recently we’ve done a lot of dead-hang pull-ups (no kipping) and I’ve gotten stronger. I was so happy to find tonight that it felt like I could have done many more sets of five pull-ups than we did. My kip has gotten less wild and whip-like because of some increase in strength, so I’m more efficient.
The thrusters are harder. Dave wants me to string them together in a faster rhythm, which makes me nervous, but I tried to do it. In the final three sets, when I jumped/flung the weight up and tried to lock out my arms, my upper side muscles hurt. Not in a scary way, but as if they were really being challenged. I’ll probably be pretty sore.
I rested a bit and worked on handstands for a while. Someone showed me and Tom last Friday how he’s learned to use handstands to work up flexibility for a bridge or backbend. He does a handstand some distance from the wall and lets his legs fly way back to the wall, then walks them down, bending his back and practicing his balance and strength at the same time. I didn’t get to try this on Friday so I was excited to try it today. I couldn’t seem to find the right distance from the wall to effectively practice the backbend flexibility, but I discovered how hard it was to take my feet off the wall and get my body straight. When I do a handstand an inch from the wall, it’s easy. This is an intriguing new handstand drill and I’m going to keep practicing it a lot to see what I get from it.
When I had just about decided to leave, Rodger asked me if I wanted to do some squats. He and three other guys were sharing a barbell and taking turns doing back squats. Sure, why not? And I was so surprised–I worked up to a new max of 85 kg. This is 12 pounds heavier than my months-ago max squat of 175 pounds. Yay!

“Helen” on the Road

We went to Portland last weekend for the grand opening of CrossFit Portland. They’re sharing space with a beautiful Kung Fu academy in a nice neighborhood in southeast Portland. After everybody stood around talking, admiring the facility, and trying out nascent muscle-ups and parallel-bar swings on the equipment, coach Scott Hagnas sent us into a “Helen” workout: three rounds of 400-meter run (around the block), 21 kettlebell swings, and 12 pull-ups. I came in slower than last time, at 11:16. I attribute that difference to the longer transition between exercises–we weren’t able to set up the kettlebells right in front of the pull-up bar nor close to the door. But even if the set-up had been ideal I don’t think I would have finished in under 10 minutes as I’d like to.
It was nice to meet CrossFit founder and coach Greg Glassman, who came from Santa Cruz to be at the grand opening. Knowing he’s much admired by CrossFitters, I didn’t expect to have a chance to talk with him myself; I figured more outgoing people would get the face time. Besides, I didn’t have anything specific in mind to talk about. It turned out that he and everybody else were open and inclusive, and conversations were easy to participate in even for wallflowers like me and Tom. Greg Glassman was interesting to talk with not only about fitness and exercise, but about running a business. He says that when making a business decision, go with the choice that favors excellence even if it’s not the most economical choice. Offering exellence to customers pays off economically in the end, he says. He’s having a new HQ built by what sounds like an “angel investor,” and I bet it really will be excellent. I hope Tom and I get to go down there for one of the seminars after it opens.
Later that day VJ came to the gym to meet us, and after trying a few crazy back-of-the-hand push-ups (don’t ask), she and I and Tom went out for a cold drink and then to dinner at Cafe Castagna. So much fun to meet a blogger buddy in person! It’s like a blind date that goes well. You’re nervous… you hope the other person doesn’t think you’re weird… then you’re talking and laughing and having fun… then “whew! That went well!” Hope to see you in Seattle sometime, VJ.


Last night’s workout may have been timed, but I was slow and I never found out my time.
Three rounds:
5 kettlebell snatch, 5 clean and split jerk, 5 thrusters (one arm)
Same thing, other arm
10 L-pull-ups (which I can’t do, so I did the pull-ups by kipping up and letting myself down slower)
Afterward, Tom and I did some wall-ball to see if we could meet the goal of 25 wall-ball (20-pound ball) in one minute. Tom finished 25 in 50 seconds and I finished in 55. We recovered for a few minutes and then tried to make 37 shots in 90 seconds. We didn’t quite make that one. Tom made 37 shots in 97 seconds and I took 101 seconds. My form with the 20-pound wall ball degenerates fast. I start out badly and fumbling it until I get a rhythm going, then I quickly tire and start fumbling again. The 12-pound ball is a lot easier.

Secret Weapon Against Bears

Tonight’s workout was two rounds of:
Sprint to the stop sign and back
20 kettlebell swings, 24 kg
Bear-crawl (locomotion on hands and feet) to the end of the Astroturf, about 30 yards
Burpees with long-jumps back to starting point
20 4-count knee-to-chest jackknife crunches
I finished in 16:27, miraculously ahead of a guy who passed me on the burpees/long jumps in both rounds but then took longer than I did on the crunches.
Afterwards, one of our coaches, Scott, showed me how he does the bear-crawl really fast. He bends at the hip to put his hands on the floor, spreads his feet wide apart with his knees hardly bent at all, and then just takes off running. His far-apart feet kick up and outside, his rear is way up in the air, and he’s practically bouncing off of his hands one after the other. He looks like he’s four years old doing that. It looked hilarious until I noticed how fast he was going, when I immediately started trying to copy him. I increased my speed a lot. Next time the bear crawl is part of a workout, I’m going to have a secret weapon.

Ye Olde Healthe Faire

The giant building I work in put on a free Health Fair today, where you could get your cholesterol, blood pressure and sugar, body fat, posture, and bone density checked for free, plus get a free neck massage. I sat down at the cholesterol and blood-sugar table with my coworker, where we were each told to clean a middle finger and draw our own blood. The woman behind the table (technician? I have no idea who she was) used a lecturing tone to rush us through this process. “Look at the red letters on that poster. Look at this red plastic container. That is the color your blood should be. Look at your blood. What color is your blood?” she snapped.
“Um… I guess my blood looks a little dark?” I said, looking back and forth and trying to compare the colors of synthetic things with my own living fluid that I was pressing out of my own poor abused little fingertip.
“That’s right. Have you drank any water today? Have you had any coffee?” Supposedly my blood would have been a different color if I’d drank more water. And my total cholesterol was 200. “You’re too young for that!” she lectured. “Drink some water and that will go down within three hours!”
Yeah, right. “How about HDL and LDL?” I asked. No, she wasn’t able to break it down. And I know from my last doctor visit that my HDL is in the high 60s, which makes my 200 total count actually good and not borderline high, according to my doctor.
The next lecture was about exercise and nutrition: “Drink lots of water. You should drink half your body weight in ounces every day.” (Er, what? Sixty-five ounces? How will I know when I’ve drunk 65 ounces?) “Get plenty of fiber. Eat apples. Apples have absolutely NO food value–no vitamins, even–but the reason they are good for you is the FIBER.” Riiiight.
As I stepped away from her table, a woman standing nearby stopped me. “Excuse me–did I just hear her tell you apples have no nutritional value?” she asked.
“Yes,” I whispered. “But I think she’s wrong.”
“Well, I’m a dietician and I can tell you that apples are good for you. She doesn’t know I’m a dietician, but I am.” Okay, the apple part makes sense, but … an undercover dietician? I should have stuck around for the sting.
I gave the whole health fair little credibility for several reasons: the blood-analyzer/lecturer talked like an impatient know-it-all and had no visible credentials of any kind (plus we had to draw our own blood!); the whole “fair” was disorganized and staffed by people with no visible credentials and people who were selling health-club memberships and other things; and most of the credentialless and salesy people staffing the fair were more than a little overweight. I know that with the processed foods that are the most available in our world and with the long hours people work, odds are good that we will all end up overweight, but still, it seems like people working in the health business should set a better example. They’d boost their credibility. But I saw two people sign up to join the health club regardless of the beefiness of the health-club guys, so what do I know.
Next I had my body-fat percentage and blood pressure checked. My blood pressure was nice and low and my “resting” pulse (so-called by the health club guy, though really a resting pulse is not what you get when you’ve been up and about and standing in line for fifteen minutes while he watched someone sign up for his gym and then took his break) was “awesome,” he said, at 63. The next step was to check my supposed body fat percentage with some magic thing that I had to hold out in front of me with a good grip on the handles, like a tricorder. I asked what this method was called–as opposed to calipers or water displacement, which it obviously wasn’t. Neither of the health club guys knew the name. I think I just remembered that this magic method is called electrical impedance.
“It’s pretty accurate,” said the guy. “I check my body fat once a week with calipers and it matches pretty closely.” Once a week! Jeez. So anyway, my body fat was in the recommended range for my age and height. “Do you exercise?” he asked. I was thinking, oh please, don’t let him start touting his plastic gym to me. To his credit he didn’t.
I left without getting the free neck massage or the bone density check. Maybe I’ll go back down later.