Barbells

Today I did front squats up to 5 sets of 2 at 85% of a 1-rep max of 180, so 155 lbs. Then I did a bunch of clean and jerks, working up to 103 lbs. Feels good. On Tuesday we worked on pistols, then we had a WOD that was EMOTM 20 minutes of clean, front squat, push-jerk. I worked up to 90 lbs.

That night I went to karate. We did some complicated (for me) moving basics with more than one ingredient per step, for example: step in, down block, reverse punch, step in, outside block, reverse punch; then another one, for example, step in, down block, up block, reverse punch, step in, outside block, inside block, reverse punch. I felt like a toddler learning to keep track of all the limbs.

January and February

My ability to get quality sleep on the nights when I have to get up early — Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday nights — fluctuated a lot, and my degree of tiredness each day affected my workouts. It was a struggle just to warm up some days, but once I did, I would usually do some sort of a non-CrossFit workout. I’d do a medium-heavy barbell lift only, or a kettlebell and pull-up workout that I like, or just go to karate, or walk to the gym. I went to karate twice a week or three times a week every week and I completed the Whole30 in January without going off-plan. I felt discouraged about my fitness and strength, as if I were on the brink of losing it overnight.

I developed a routine of taking a 30-minute nap most afternoons in the middle of an hour spent reading a book in the bed. I think this down time and nap are really important to my staying healthy and letting me enjoy karate one or two evenings a week.

I told myself I was feeling the pull of the sedentary life of middle age, and that I might as well acknowledge that. I’d rather work on genealogy than gardening. I’d rather do office work for the gym than work out. I continued to believe that every active thing that I did — any kind of exercise — was part of the discipline that would lead me back to harder workouts when I was ready. Harder workouts meaning CrossFit or the kind of heavy lifting that tests my strength, heavier than 85% for instance. I trusted the discipline I’ve developed, while being aware that I was resting more than usual. I had not done a CrossFit “WOD” in a few weeks.

This bothered me a little, but I knew I had not lost interest in training. I used my shifted personal priorities to explore the ways I did want to train — strength and skill combination exercises like my get-up / windmill / pull-up workout  — and then I turned it into a class. This was a good thing. I also started doing CrossFit WODs again on the same day that I gave the first of my new strength-training class (about 10 days ago).

This week I’ve done at least two CrossFit workouts plus barbell lifts, practiced karate and went to class. Starting this past weekend I noticed myself feeling stronger and warmer (cheeks a bit flushed) and somehow feeling lean. I haven’t weighed myself — my weight has been up around 137 for the past three months or so. It’s more than I’d like, but, on the other hand somehow it doesn’t bother me much!

It does feel good to feel strong and energetic. Weighing five pounds too much doesn’t affect those things. Today we were supposed to shoulder press 6 sets of 3 reps at 75%. I estimated my 1 RM at 80 (because I’m sore/fatigued from renegade rows) and completed 6 x 3 at 60 lbs, decided it was too light, and completed another 6 x 3 at 70 lbs for a calculated 1RM of 93. That’s quite good. I can tell when pressing that the strict, hollow pull-ups I’ve been doing are letting me use my entire “front” (abs, etc) more than before in the strict press. That was a delightful surprise.

The workout I’ve been going back to over and over, and used twice in my strength class, is:

5 windmill per side (8 kg)
5 strict hollow pull-ups, neck to bar as best I can
3 TGU per side (8 kg)
5 strict hollow pull-ups
5 windmill per side (12 kg)
5 strict hollow pull-ups
3 TGU per side (12 kg)
5 strict hollow pull-ups
5 windmill per side (16 kg)
5 strict hollow pull-ups
3 TGU per side (16 kg) (repeat the 16 kg set if time)

I also hop up and do 5 hollow strict pull-ups whenever I think of it. I feel good and I’m still inspired by training my clients and I can keep plugging along indefinitely.

Catching up again

Thurs. Jan. 8
WOD:
5 minutes AMRAP:
5 burpee
7 toes to bar (I did knee raises in order to practice stringing them together)
9 thrusters (Rx was 65 lbs, I used 55)
Rest 2 minutes, repeat for 3 rounds
I got 9 rounds 4 reps
2-1/2 hours later: back squat up to 200 lbs x 5, 5, 3.
Weds. Jan. 7
Bench press to 95 for 4 x 5
Tues. Jan. 6
Front squat to 150 for one set of 5. REALLY heavy. Immediately after I racked it, I wondered if I had hurt my back, right in the middle on each side — but that soon felt normal again and i was (am) just really fatigued from it. I was going to bench press today, but decided I’d done enough, especially since it was Tuesday, my longest work day, and I would have had to bench after 1:00 (quitting time).
Went to karate that night.
Sunday and Monday — nothing much.
Saturday Jan. 3 — karate.
What I remember from before that…
Tuesday, Dec. 30 — Back squat, testing 3-rep max, 225 x 3 for one set. This works out to a theoretical 1-rep max of 249 — so 225 for 3 is a PR. My actual 1-rep max this fall was 240.
Friday Dec. 26: “Fran” Rx in 6:28, far off my record, but nice people kindly complimented me on that being a fast time.
Dec. 20 — Twelve Days of CrossFit — my time was 35:43. We changed it this year so it wasn’t exactly the same as the last three or four we’ve done.
My last blog post here was on Dec. 14 and I know I worked out between then and the 20th… but I didn’t write them down.

Deadlift 1-rep max 232

Friday Dec. 12: 1-rep max deadlift. I did this along with my Fitness Within Reach class. I calculated my 1RM should be 232, and it was. I failed at 240 though I had to try it because I had time.

The WOD was, for time:

  • 800m run
  • 50 DB Snatches
  • 400m run
  • 35 DB Snatches
  • 250m run
  • 20 DB Snatches

This took me over 17 minutes  and made me feel like I was going to lose bladder control, throw up, and have a heart attack. Guess I need to get back in shape! The time includes a bathroom break — I could not face the second run without it. This may be the first time I’ve ever taken a bathroom break during a workout. Also: I ran way too far on the first run. I thought I knew the turn-around point, but someone else had figured it out and told it to me, and I obviously had it wrong. Two very good-natured women ran it with me and didn’t complain too much! Whoops!

Saturday Dec. 13: 1-rep max front squat. I hit 170 and felt good about it. That’s 15 pounds off my all time record. Then we had a team workout. I was part of a trio. Together we did 150 sit-ups, doubleunders, lunge steps, push-ups, and squats. I can’t remember our time, but we had fun. Susie and I were “one person” and the other was Hannah the college student.

Our gym Christmas party was last night. As always, it was very fun and relaxing to hang out with everyone in Teresa’s beautiful house.

Today I stayed home and practiced the Pinan Nidan and the Matsukaze katas.

Press, squats, WODs

Yesterday, Tuesday Dec. 9: shoulder press. People were testing their 1-rep max, so I decided to do the same, even though only the day before the press did not go so well. Yesterday was better and I pressed 1 at 85 lbs. My right shoulder has something wrong with it.

The workout yesterday was 5 rounds of 2-minute intervals, with 1 minute rest in between: AMRAP 5 power snatch, 10 overhead lunges, 5 power snatch, 10 thrusters. I used 55 lbs and got three rounds plus three reps. The lunges were by far the hardest part. It felt good to work out after being sort of brittle and out of sorts the prior week. Then last night I went to karate class. I love classes where we do tons of kicks because it loosens up my hip muscles and my low back so much. Feels great.

Today I did the WOD first — 30 doubleunders + max effort pull-ups, rest same amount of time as the work took, 5 rounds. My first round, I got 16 pull-ups (kips) and the whole first round took me 54 seconds. I finished with a total of 45 pull-ups. Afterward I had a little time left for back squats and got up to 2 x 5 at 160.

Today’s lifting

Last Thursday was the last day I worked out last week. I did front squats, up to 3 sets of 5 at 145. I didn’t work out the next three days. I had felt so crummy and fragile all week and I don’t know why. My right shoulder isn’t right, my left elbow flares up and aches, my knees felt brittle, and everything felt incredibly hard to do. I was pleased with doing one lift a day Monday through Thursday though not pleased with skipping the next three days and not pleased with not doing any CrossFit workouts. Yet I refused to drive myself when I felt fragile even while neurotically worrying I would quit completely and turn into a blob. When does “don’t drive yourself too hard” become “you’re doing next to nothing”?

Today I went in by myself in the afternoon — it’s my day off — and warmed up for about 20 minutes, doing lots of kettlebell stuff and pull-ups. I took some pictures of myself (with the tripod and camera) because MindBody is doing a case study on the gym and asked me for some pics. When I was done with that stuff, I deadlifted up to 5 at 195 then backed off for another set of 5 at 185. These felt good. Then I did shoulder presses. My “pushing” ability is what’s been especially weak the past ten days or so. Is it just a shoulder problem or is my core completely falling apart?? I could only press up to 75 lbs.

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This week and Thanksgiving weekend

Tom and I went to Lake Crescent on Friday through Sunday. It snowed! We walked around a lot in very cold sunshine. We went to Freshwater Bay, Crescent Bay, and the Lyre River where people were fishing and almost landed a fish thiiiiis big. We walked along the Spruce Railroad trail to Devils Punchbowl as the moon came up over the mountain to the south and the sun set. It was so beautiful!

Monday I worked on cleans during open gym. I got up to 7 singles at 122 lbs. My core isn’t as strong as it would need to be to jerk that, not that I was doing jerks that day. I suppose it’s usual to be able to clean more than you can jerk. This was my third Monday in a row working on cleans and trying to do true cleans, ie, receive it in a squat position. Probably some of the time I’m not as low as I think I am. I have not felt particularly strong this week, and my right shoulder hurts a little and feels a little fragile.

Tuesday the classes had skin the cats as a strength/skill practice, so I had to teach that starting at 5:30 AM. This was not easy but it went well. My hands ended up feeling a little bit beat up, and my shoulders were tired. I was conservative on my demonstrations and on my own reps because I hadn’t worked on those in a while. That is something I need to remember to work on in order to maintain it “forever.” That’s another stunt I’d hate to lose, like the handstand, pistol, etc.

Later that day I bench pressed up to 100 for three sets of five. That was difficult though not close to my 5-rep record of 120. And I went to karate despite having slept little and badly. It was a great class although we had to stick around to clean the place afterward, which feels like a waste of time because I can only get there twice a week and when I’m there in the evening, I’m running on fumes as it is.

Today I worked on push-presses. Again not feeling all that strong, especially in my right shoulder, but really all over! I did several sets of three at 75 lbs, which is not even close to my 5-rep max shoulder (strict) press. I don’t know why I’m not very strong this week.

All about today.

Today I arrived at the gym at 5:20 AM, in the dark, looking around carefully for any lurkers as I crossed the parking lot and came down the stairs. In the gym I quickly planned how I’d warm up my classes for the front squat. I made some coffee and had a coconut-date snack and turned on the music. People arrived.

I taught three CrossFit classes, eating a bit of jerky and/or a date snack as discreetly as I could during each hour’s WOD. At 8:30 when the third class was over, I planned my 9:30 AM Fitness Within Reach class and my 10:30 AM personal training session with Amy.

I ate some more jerky and had my second mug of coffee. I often intend to work out at that time, and sometimes I do it, but as an introvert I’m tired after teaching three hours in a row and having more coming right up. So, often I snack and do office work ot surf the internet instead. The 9:30 class went smoothly. I love the Fitness Within Reach class because the trainees find their newfound strength so rewarding. The personal training session was good too — my client was deadlifting today and she has less anxiety about that than about squats. I appreciate her because she supports what I do, and she always thanks me and says the class was fun.

She left just before 11:30, so I had just over half an hour to warm up and work out. The CrossFit classes were doing front squats today. I did cleans yesterday and had limited time so I skipped lifting — I usually don’t skip it — and did the WOD only: 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 each of pushpresses (65 lbs) and toes to bar. I did this “Rx” in … 8:48? I can’t believe I can’t remember my time.

Then the noon class arrived, two guys. We were all chatty and it was a fun class. They squatted heavy and well, worked hard in the WOD, and left happy. One of the two will be in for my Thanksgiving Day workouts and one will not.

I listened to voicemail, fixed a concern with someone’s account, cleaned up my dishes, vacuumed, and left for the grocery store to get ready for Thanksgiving.

 

Cleans etc

Today I worked on cleans, and did sets of 3 up to 120 pounds. I did about 6 singles. Next time I do cleans, I’ll do 120 again and practice faster turnaround/elbows. I was really surprised when I caught one of them in my hands instead of receiving on the shoulder and fingertips. The rest were better and one felt really fast and fluid.

Then I did the workout that was on the board for today:
7 pull-ups
7 squats with 1 racked kettlebell
7 overhead KB swings
80m farmer walk with 2 kettlebells
5 rounds for time took me 13:something. I used 16 kg kettlebells.

What makes a program a lifelong commitment?

I liked CrossFit so much right away that I didn’t bother to sort out why it was more compelling than the fun boxing workout that Tom and I had done for the previous three years. But within a few months, I had let my boxing-gym membership lapse. There was just something about moving weights around that I found incredibly exhilarating, whether it was light dumbbells, cumbersome kettlebells, or heavy barbells. Even before that, I liked the seemingly endless variety in the CrossFit workouts.

I’ve had no trouble staying with CrossFit for 10 years and counting. I never stopped for any longer than it took to go on vacation. I don’t think I’ve ever even considered quitting. This is despite the fact that one can’t progress forever, becoming endlessly fitter and fitter. It has been a long-term commitment without feeling like one, because it is FUN. That’s something the other training philosophies overlook when they criticize CrossFit as creating a plateau in strength terms. I’ve also made it a long-term commitment because I’ve learned how important it is to maintain my pure strength and muscle mass as I get older.

What about skill? Is there an endless unfolding of new abilities? Well, no. If I focused on weightlifting only (ie, the clean and jerk and the snatch), then yes there could be a lifetime of skill acquisition–but then I’d be in a sport, not a fitness program. So for me, CrossFit is a really good compromise between valuable pure strength, fun basic movement skills, and conditioning that keeps me functional for just about anything else. Those are the values I hope everyone quickly finds compatible with their own goals when they start, so that they will stick with it.

My other organized physical activity is karate. I’ve been doing that for almost a year and a half. That is more highly skilled than CrossFit, by far. The black-belt practitioners don’t swagger around looking like they want you to know they could kick your ass. But they can move with such speed, power, and precision that it quickly became clear to me that this will be a lifetime of skill acquisition if I stick with it, and even if I do, I’m unlikely to get really good by starting at age 49. At this age, I’m probably losing my speed and plasticity. (The “probably” is because I’d like to be in denial!) So for now, I just stick with it one class at a time and try not to have high expectations. All I expect of myself is to pay attention, be serious, and do the best I can even if it’s not so good.

That’s why in my last post I said karate doesn’t count as a workout, and it’s in its own category. It’s a workout for my brain, and a skill practice session. It makes me feel physically not so much worked out as thoroughly limbered up and warmed up, especially in my hips and low back. It feels great. And I love memorizing the movements. I don’t love sparring and I don’t love the self-defense drills. Somebody got hurt during a self-defense drill recently.

Tracey told me last Saturday that she has wanted to quit karate many times. But she’s been at it for 22 years! Somehow despite getting discouraged she never quit. She says she saw it as a one-class-at-a-time thing, too, at least at first — try it and see how it goes. She said if she’d gone into karate thinking it was a 20-year commitment, it would have been too daunting.

I wonder if some people who quit CrossFit could be dissuaded if I could find out how they really feel about it from one class to the next. I think the most important part of “CrossFit” (which consists of so many things) is the barbell lifting for strength. If I had a client who was really serious about strength and just went through the motions on the WODs, that would be fine with me. Maybe some of our clients are that way — but I don’t see them like that at all. I think they all take the whole package quite seriously.

I guess what makes an activity a lifelong commitment is that you make progress, you see and appreciate it, and it spurs you on. Some of the parts of CrossFit by themselves could do that, such as barbell lifting or running, without turning into sports. But it seems like CrossFit as a whole, even if one doesn’t treat it like a sport, has enough sport-like “parts” (such as measurability and competition) that people keep going. Karate is a sport, but its skills alone are compelling enough for me even though I don’t plan to compete.