Wednesday night was my second try at “Cindy” : do as many rounds as you can in 20 minutes of 5 pull-ups, 10 push-ups, and 15 air squats. This time I managed 14 rounds; last time I did 12. The push-ups are the really slow part. For about seven minutes, I was doing a round a minute, so I was hoping for 17 or 18 rounds by the end. All of a sudden time was up. How’d that happen so fast?
Thursday, for time:
800-meter run (twice around the building)
30 wall-ball (12 pounds)
30 kettlebell swings (24 kg)
30 two-count alternating crunches
30 sumo high-pull deadlifts
30 push-press (65 pounds)
My time: 21:47. The hardest part was the push-presses following the SHPDL’s. I thought I was never going to finish those. I probably wasted two minutes pausing and feeling sorry for myself during that drill alone.
Friday, last night, we did as many rounds as possible in 20 minutes of five barbell cleans (77 pounds for me) and 10 parallel-bar dips. I managed nine and a half rounds. It was great to practice cleans with a little more weight on the bar than I’ve normally used, and to do a lot of reps, which helps get the hang of it.
Wednesday night, we did a long version of the “Helen” workout: four rounds (Helen is normally only three rounds) of:
Run 400 meters
21 kettlebell swings (16 kg for me)
Doing “Helen,” you can win a T-shirt for if you finish in under 10 minutes. This time, the rules were the same–you got a T-shirt if you finished the first three rounds in under 10. My previous two attempts at Helen took me 11:16 and 10:54. For this one, the first three rounds took me 10:20. No T-shirt yet!
I did the 12 pull-ups in the first two rounds, and all the KB swings, in unbroken sets. I’m not sure I’d ever done two sets of 12 pull-ups unbroken before. But the runs were as hard as ever. The first one typically goes fine. During the second one, I get a cramp, which never quite goes away during the other drills. Then in the third run, I have such a cramp that I have to bend over and shuffle along as best I can, maintaining a painful jog. That slowness and pain are what is preventing me from getting the sub-10.
Given all that, the worst part of Thursday’s workout was the gratuitous fourth round. I walked for some of the run and I practically crawled in to start the kettlebell swings. It was partly psychological, knowing the Helen workout “really” has only three rounds. I was happy with shaving 34 seconds off my first three rounds and didn’t care about the fourth, because I was still suffering with the side cramps and hated to run around the building again.
Dave, our coach, said to Tom that he added an extra round because fatigue is a good way to process grief (over losing our other Dave this week). I know fatigue makes it harder to control emotions, but I’m not sure if that applies when it’s intense-workout fatigue. Working out is more of a distraction that brings me right into the moment regardless what’s on my mind when I arrive.
One of our friends at the gym, who I’ve mentioned as “Dave 2” or “Army Dave,” went to Iraq on a contract with a security company. He got killed this week. We had been looking forward to becoming better friends with him and his wife after his return—we knew them both. It is so hard to take in that this is real, and we won’t see him again.
Dave was the tough-guy type and had had, I believe, a career in some Special Forces military branch until pretty recently. But he was funny, warm, never dismissive or sexist like my military stereotype led me to expect. You could count on him to burst out laughing, especially at himself when trying some elegant gymnastic move (like a cartwheel) that he had no chance of succeeding at. Everybody has a chance to feel comical trying something completely new at CrossFit, even tough guys.
Dave loved the gym, gave his all, and expressed awe at the skills of people who were better athletes, even though he no doubt had survival and battle skills most people have never even attempted. But there aren’t enough skills in the world to save a bodyguard from a car bomb.
Here’s Dave working out in Iraq on the pull-up bar he put together.
Last night we did each exercise for two minutes, wrote down our number of reps, then went through it a second time. These are the exercises and my reps for both rounds:
Pull-ups (35, 30 with no assists)
Row for calories (33, 25)
Push-ups (35, 35)
Wall-ball (42, 46) (second round was higher because Dave was watching)
After that workout, we each rowed for another minute for calories, and I burned 20.
This morning we did 20 minutes of repeated reps of a kettlebell complex: clean, squat, push-press, overhead squat. We used a single kettlebell so you had to switch hands. I used a 12-kg instead of a 16 because I feel like I’ve lifted enough heavy weight this week. Plus, the one-handed overhead squat is unbelievably hard–meaning, I can’t do it. Tom and I can’t figure out why a one-handed weight would make the OH squat so much harder than it is with two hands on a rigid barbell.
Then a few of us did a few sets of ring pull-ups, and one of our friends did his first muscle-up–then proceeded to do two more with only short rests in between. Fabulous!
Tonight was unusual. Everything I did was a personal best, not that that’s saying very much in most cases. The recent multiple rope climbs were freaking me out because I was so slow and got such rope-burns on my legs. (We had five rope climbs each on both Tuesday and yesterday.) I go slow to spare my legs from the rope-burn, and then I can’t do it more than once or twice at best. Today I wore my long and thick bike tights and determined to do a rope climb or two whether or not they were part of the workout. They weren’t.
The workout was:
Row 2000 meters (my time was 8:27–not very fast, but my fastest)
Eight sets of 3 deadlifts, heavier each time
Eight sets of 3 push-presses, heavier each time
I added a rope climb after the row and after the deadlifts. The long pants made all the difference. I could concentrate on going up and then let the rope slide through my legs on the way down, which was a lot faster.
On the deadlifts, I made it to a new max weight of 100 kg (220 pounds). That was really fun. The idea was to add weight after each set of three lifts, so it took a long time to build up to the max, and I may have ended up doing more than eight sets. I just loved getting a higher max than before. I secretly wanted to see if they had a camera because I’d love to have a picture of myself, when I’m really old, of me lifting that bar with all those thick-looking plates on it. Maybe some other time I’ll get one.
Then came the push-presses. They are challenging because you jump the weight overhead and lock the arms, then let the weight back down onto the top of the back. It’s scary once I add any weight at all to the bar, let alone trying to increase it for eight sets. Scott was the coach for the evening and he helped me a lot with how to do slightly heavier push-presses than I’m used to–just like on any other lift, draw a breath and press down hard, making the whole body as structurally solid as possible. It’s hard to remember to do that on the overhead lifts that involve a little jump of the legs. So my max on that one was 42.5 kg, or 93.5 pounds. That’s not very heavy by the standards of a lot of the guys, but it seems pretty heavy to me.
After that I did two more rope climbs, just to prove to myself that it isn’t that hard when I have long pants on. I want to be prepared for there to be multiple rope climbs in the CrossFit championship on October 1, and I don’t want to freak out if there are. Now I know I can do them even when I’m tired from other things.
Tonight’s workout–I almost didn’t survive it!
Five rounds for time:
15 clean and jerk, 65 pounds
Rope climb (or 10 rope pull-ups)
This took me 26:09. In the first two rounds, I climbed the rope about three-quarters of the way up. My grip–the insides of my forearms–was so tired and aching from the combination of the rope climb and the clean and jerks.
Afterward, I did a short “farmer walk” (carry a kettlebell in each hand) of about 240 meters. I carried a pair of 24-kg kettlebells and found myself counting breaths. I could carry the weights as long as it took to inhale-exhale 14 breaths, which seemed to be about 20 meters. (These measurements are based on Scott’s 40-yard sprint measure, however accurate those were.) My forearms then were in even worse shape.
Tonight I missed part of the workout because I got there late. But here’s what I did–two rounds of these, with my numbers for both rounds after:
One minute of push-presses, 65 lbs. (20, 23)
One minute of fully extended sit-ups on the apparatus (25, 29)
One minute of rowing for calories (20, 20)
One minute of squats with the unloaded bar, 45 lbs. (28, 35)
What I missed was Tabata kettlebell swings before the workout and an 800-meter run afterwards. No complaints!
I met up with three guys from the gym and two teenaged boys that one guy has been informally coaching. They work out once a week outside of the Seattle University athletic center, on a lawn secluded by landscaping. On the lawn are two far-apart poles and four pull-up bars.
Justin dreamed up a variation on Fight Gone Bad. We worked out in pairs, doing three rounds of five drills for one minute each and counting reps. I was the oldest person there and was paired with the youngest guy, who had rosy cheeks and braces–he was probably fifteen or sixteen. The order in which we did the drills of a minute each was:
Four-count alternating elbow-to-knee crunches
Sandbag carry (laps around the poles)
Then we had a minute of rest and did it all again two more times. Justin wrote down how many reps each team did in each minute and totaled them at the end. The young and strong team of Nic and Mohammad won by more than 150 reps if I’m not mistaken. The middle team of Rodger and Justin came in second and the young-old male-female team of Seth and myself came in last by eight. Seth was a good sport about working out with me and I felt like I was close enough to keeping up with him so that I wasn’t totally embarrassed.
The sandbag carry (laps around the poles) was the most unfamiliar drill. It was a green army knapsack full of sand and small dumbbell plates. On our first round, I lifted it to my shoulders with Seth’s help and carried it two laps; he took it and carried it a quarter lap before time was up. On our second round, Seth carried it two and a half laps. On the third round, we carried it together with one hand each, and he ran the whole time. I could hardly keep up and I started wheezing, but I couldn’t stop! At one point to get a rest I asked to switch hands, and then he took off again with me stumbling to keep up. “Sprint!” he panted at the end, and he actually sped up. Luckily, we made it to the end for three full laps and time was up. Whew!
As we were listening to Justin tell us what to do where, just before he started the clock, a tall and skinny Russian-looking guy rode into “our” lawn on his bike. He put his stuff down by the pull-up bars and started doing some graceful pull-ups with a slight kip. Then he swung out a few times as if he was going to start doing giant swings, and finally he did some hip pullovers and took a break. I went to stand by the next bar to start the workout, and the guy started up again, swinging up in another hip-over to the top and doing some deep dips. I complimented him and called out to the others to see what he was doing, so pretty soon I was telling him about CrossFit. He politely accepted my enthusiasm and asked a few questions about what we do.
Then we started our workout, and with each team going all out on a different drill at the same time, it must have looked like some weird circus. The bicycle guy watched until we’d rotated through a few drills before leaving, and as we took our break I wrote down the gym’s URL and location for him. He seemed more interested after seeing the nutty exercises we were doing. He asked, “Is it always like this?” We told him every day is different and you never know what you’ll be doing, but it’s always something hard!
Tom received his pair of gymnastics rings yesterday. We took them up to this well-equipped schoolyard to hang them over the pull-up bars and do ring push-ups, dips, pull-ups, inverted hangs, and whatever else we could think of.
The schoolyard has fantastic outdoor training equipment. It’s great that this private school lets the public use their field when school is not in session. Tom “walked” the whole length of these long, uphill-downhill parallel bars!
I managed a shorter length on one of the less steep parts, but I had the most fun on the monkey bars.
The field even has a running long-jump track and pit! I tried that too, running as fast as I could to the take-off board and leaping as far as I could. It was really fun but it would be even more fun to learn how to extend the leap by working the legs and folding the body in the air.
Finally, before we left I wanted to run around their track to see how nice the surface would be. I think it might be made of recycled rubber—it has a nice spring to it without being too soft. I’m not an accomplished runner at all. Dave at the gym has been giving us some running tips that I try to remember to use: lean forward slightly; don’t reach with your leading heel, but try to land on the whole foot and use the ball of the foot to spring up again as soon as the foot lands; keep the upper body loose; breathe with the diaphragm.
The school track looked huge to me, much bigger than the 440 yards around our gym hangar feels and much bigger than the track at our local high school looks. I guess I’m used to those. But it is a standard-size track. I was happy to be able to run it in 1:24. I thought my runs were almost always around two minutes, but I never know for sure because they are always part of a longer timed workout.