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.

Disciplined, not driven

My back felt fine today, but my left wrist hurt with pushing or with hanging from the bar. So I deadlifted, up to a set of 5 at 190 and another set of 5 at 175. These felt normal/good. Then my workout of the day was: 15 kettlebell swings 24 kg, 15 butterfly sit-ups, 6 fist (knuckle) push-ups (because these didn’t hurt the wrist), 4 rounds. This took me 6:48 and felt good.

I didn’t feel like working out today. I often can too easily spend too much time in the gym working at the computer or cleaning. Daily I tell myself that if I don’t work out, I’ll be sorry when it’s time to go home and I did not work out when I was between things and had the time. I tell myself that either I’m a lifter and a CrossFitter, or I’m not. You are what you do. “How long ago was your last workout?” is a fair question for a trainer. My expectation is to be able to say that either my last WOD or my last lifting session was within the past two days, unless I had a really compelling reason not to have worked out. Also, saying I worked out in the past two days doesn’t include karate or going for a run — it has to be lifting or CrossFit or both. Running is just a little supplement, and karate is in another category altogether.

I don’t always force myself to do whatever’s on the whiteboard that day or to lift with a certain volume or intensity. I always write out a plan for my workout, on a whiteboard, but on a day like today, with recent back weakness and with current wrist pain in at least two positions, I’ll plan something that doesn’t make me nervous about conditions like those. I can always come up with something challenging enough, and once I get started, I go hard and I never quit unless something hurts in a significant way. For example, I’ll stop doing pull-ups if I realize my palm is going to tear, or I’ll stop doing handstand push-ups if my wrist suddenly hurts.

Sometimes I feel that I’m not fit enough because I’m not as fit as I was five years ago. But it’s not just a hobby any more. That really changes things, even though it’s not an issue of having enough time. I do have time, so I insist on maintaining most of my chosen benchmarks most of the time, but I refuse to try to maintain a standard of some imaginary, impossible perfection.

I was at my fittest in late 2009. Six months after “going paleo,” my weight was down to 123 and I was muscular, skilled, and fast. I clean and jerked more than my body weight and I could do bar muscle-ups. I felt that I looked my best. Today my weight moves between 132 to 135 although I’d like it at 128 or 129 (but really, WHO CARES) and I can’t clean more than 120 or do a bar muscle-up (though I can get those things back if I choose to focus on them). I’m not very self-critical about those things. I have plenty of abilities, I’m a good teacher who helps others, and I maintain my own personal benchmarks so that I’m a good example.

What are my benchmarks? Deadlift and squat over 200 pounds (and deadlift heavier than squat); press 90+; plenty of pull-ups such as 8 dead-hang and able to do at least one weighted pull-up with 35 pounds; cartwheel and handstand, not perfect but confident and competent; brachiate/monkeybar ladder/swing one-handed from ring to ring; pistol on each leg with some sort of weight, though I do have to wear weightlifting shoes or otherwise slightly elevate my heel. I may think of other benchmarks after I’m done here. In general these are the benchmarks I feel are “strong enough.”

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Catching up

Today, Thursday, November 20: I taught kipping pull-ups and muscle-ups today. I did plenty of pull-ups and I almost got a muscle-up —  but no. Later I back squatted up to 5 x 3 at 175, being a little cautious and non-aggressive because of my back feeling fragile the past two days. I did a 53 lb barbell pistol on my left leg and almost, not quite, got it on the right.

Wednesday November 19: I did very little today, so tired. I worked on super narrow stance front squats emphasizing one leg at a time in order to try to progress on my weighted pistols. I didn’t even go to karate and feel bad about it.

Tuesday November 18: Anniversary of the “flood” disaster in the gym. Ugh. Glad that’s behind me. EMOTM 10 minutes, do 1 man maker first minute, then 3 second minute, 5, 7, etc. If you can’t finish, start over at 1 again the next minute. Record weights used and how high a number you completed. I used 20 lb dumbbells and reached 4 reps three times. My shoulders and triceps were hurting from Sunday, and supporting myself for the row on my right arm was so hard that it worried me a little. So I was very slow. Later that day I deadlifted but I only went up to 175 and only did three reps. My left lower back was hurting a little bit, the only part of my back that ever has pain, so I didn’t want to provoke it.

Monday November 17 in Kyle’s 4:30 PM class: Bench press up to 2 x 5 at 110. Then AMRAP 15 minutes 50 feet weighted walking lunges with emphasis on neutral back and “tucked tail” + 10 toes to bar. I got 7 rounds using 25 lb dumbbells.

Sunday November 16 in the gym by myself: I worked on sets of 3 cleans for 15 minutes, emphasis on full cleans, not power cleans. They went well. I tried to apply only as much power as I needed and drop under fast, and I felt that I actually was receiving them in a squat. I’ll make video next time. This was only up to 113 lbs. After that I recreated a workout I found in a workout log. Just now I found it here on FitNotes and it’s from Oct. 11, 2004, and it was my first CrossFit class. How many of each can I do in a minute, three rounds: pull-ups, push-press 65#, row for meters, and push-ups. Rest 30 seconds between each set. Looking at the notebook, Tom points out, “I don’t see anything about rest in the original.”

Saturday November 15 I went to karate. I have not run a mile in at least a week. It got sooo cold. Granted in the midday it was around 40 and sunny… I guess I lost interest. I’ll start up again. Every week feels differently tired and difficult with my three early mornings in a row. I get up at 4:45 Tuesdays and Thursdays and at 5:45 on Wednesdays. It is very hard for me to do other things after about 4 PM, even though I take a nap. Nonetheless, running a mile only takes less than 10 minutes, and I really did feel that it was good for me. I read recently in the new book “Higher Faster Stronger” that when we push the cardio a bit more than is comfortable, we grow more mitochondria. That appeals to me!

Monday, November 10 in class with Ellyn and Brian: For time,
10 DB alternating-sides snatch (1 dumbbell, 20 lbs)
10 burpee box-jump-overs 20″
20 DB alternating-sides snatch
20 burpee box-jump-overs
20 DB alternating-sides snatch
20 burpee box-jump-overs
10 DB alternating-sides snatch
10 burpee box-jump-overs
My time was 10:54, middle of the pack. (Why does it seem like every timed workout takes me 10:54??)

Below whiteboard photo is from Sunday’s recreation of the other (graph paper) photo’s workout from 2005.

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Today’s buffet

I said to Kyle, what lift should I do? He said snatch balance. Whoa. Ok. I worked on sets of three overhead squats and three snatch balances up to 52 pounds. I felt that bench pressing has helped my overhead squat. Something in my back felt stronger. Although that was a light weight.

Then I did yesterday’s WOD: every minute on the minute five thrusters, add weight after every third round. I got up to 85 pounds and was happy with that. That’s a workout I could stand to do more often.

After that I had just enough time for 15-12-9 deadlifts at 155.

In the morning I had gone for my mile run, on the slippery leaf-strewn sidewalk in the wind, and that jog took me 9:55. It was a lot easier than my 9:55 on my very first one on the same route.

Last Thursday I went to karate and was the only student. It was so great! I had a private lesson from Sensei Aleeta. She helped me with a lot of kata details.

Multi-WOD

Today: shoulder press up to 4 at 81 lbs (85% of 1-rep max) then a multi-part WOD.

Max kettlebell snatches (16 kg) in 5 minutes: 107; rest 1 minute
Max burpee box jumps 20″ in two minutes: 16; rest 1 minute
AMRAP 5 minutes: 5 thruster (55 lbs), 5 toes to bar: I got 5 rounds 7 reps

Later I ran a mile in 8:00 around the neighborhood.

I’m especially happy with the 107 snatches in 5 minutes. I was required to do 100 in five minutes for the RKC. At age 50 that requirement would be for a 12-kg kettlebell, but I can still do over 100 with the 16 kg. It was easier this time than when I did 100 of them with Tom earlier this year. I was less spent afterward.

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Triple unders

Today: back squats up to two sets of five at 185 and then one set at 165. The left side of my low back hurt a little is why I backed off. Earlier I ran one mile in 8:33. My record for that route is 8:20. It was nice out. Later I did our WOD for today.
10 triple under
15 hollow rock
20 lunges
AMRAP 10 minutes
Proud of myself for getting 3 round 28 reps at Rx. First time doing triples in a WOD.

Forgot to mention last Saturday Judy at karate showed me how to do one arm push ups, so the triples were my second stunt in a week!  Fun.

Push-jerks, etc

Saturday I took Tom’s class. We did push-jerks for sets of 3 and I finished at 103. I could have done more pretty easily but we were out of time.

Then we had a kettlebell version of the workout called “DT.” It was 12 deadlift, 9 cleans per side, 9 push-jerks per side, 5 rounds for time. My time was 8:50 with a 16-kg kettlebell.

Sunday I had two of my karate friends in the gym to deadlift and bench press. That was all we did except for a few pull-up progressions in our warm-up.

Each day I’ve been running 1 mile. Today (Tuesday) I ran mile 37 in 8:20 from the restaurant front to Spectrum and back. I tried every so often to speed up for a while, and it paid off, though I equalled but did not improve on my record time for that route.

Today (Tuesday): Bench press. I was working by myself so I didn’t want to go heavy. I benched 100 lbs for sets of 10, 8, 6, and 5 without failing. Then I ran the mile, then did the workout of the day: ascending ladder for 10 minutes of burpee pull-ups and dumbbell squats. I used 25-lb dumbbells, varied between strict-ish pull-ups in which I jumped off the ground and kipping pull-ups in which I also jumped off the ground, and got up to a complete round of 8 of each plus one additional burpee pull-up. (That is, doing a burpee and when jumping, grab the pull-up bar and pull up.) We ended with two minutes max doubleunders, and I got 110 with a rope that was somewhat heavy and didn’t spin well at all. Hard!

CrossFit, deadlift

On Tuesday I did one of the paleo challenge workouts, an ascending 15-minute ladder of 85-lb cleans and pull-ups. I did 9+9+3, or 93 reps. It was fun.
I’ve been good about doing my mile run. My record here at home on the around-the-block course is 7:48, and at the gym the out-and-back run to Spectrum is around 8:20. Today 8:37.
Later I deadlifted up to 15-12-9 at 156 which is 65% of my 240 1-rep max for this year. The fifteen were hard, the twelve and nine not nearly as challenging.

Daily 1 mile run + WOD

Very fun WOD from Kyle’s programming today in the gym. “Bulgarian split squats” (a/k/a “bleacher lunges”) with dumbbells, 5 x 5 per leg. I did my final set with the 25 lb dumbbells. This wasn’t hard. It seemed like people earlier in the morning found it harder. Maybe I was misreading their reaction, as it was also new to them, and they were also working to find the right foot positions and depth.

WOD part 1: AMRAP 10 minutes of 3 wall walk, 10 box jump. I got 8 rounds plus 1 wall walk. My wall walks were pretty good, but not the ultimate ones with hands 1 inch from wall.

WOD part 2: with the jumprope, 75 single skips on 1 foot; stand one-footed on that foot 1 minute; 2 rounds per side. I did this without shoes and it tired out my legs, lower legs, and feet in an awesome way. I really want to do that some more. I started on my right. On my first round, right side, I broke up the skipping into about 3 sets, and I broke up the 1 minute of standing also into 3 sets if I recall correctly, though I did accumulate the full minute. On the left, first round, I did all 75 skips with no stops. I can’t remember if I broke up the minute. I think my total time was 7:58.

An hour later with my Fitness Within Reach class we did not jump rope on one leg, but we did try standing on one foot for a minute, and we all succeeded no problem. One new person this month is a yoga enthusiast and teacher. It has been fun to work with her, and she told me today that she thought she would have aches and pains from all this new stuff such as barbell lifting and “CrossFit,” but she feels great. She has a little skepticism in that she hasn’t seen for herself how fit we get in CrossFit in a way that is meaningful to her. So when she saw that I and the other two or three people in the room could all stand on one leg for a full minute, she was really impressed. Standing on one leg is one of those things that either seems, or is, diagnostic of someone’s health trajectory, similar to “how fast can you walk” or “how many times can you get up off your chair with no hands in 30 seconds” or “can you run for five minutes.”

Tomorrow I’m going to ask this group to see “how many different ways can you get up off the floor without using your hands,” and I hope the yoga teacher is there!!

Today is day 9 of the 100 miles in 100 days. I ran the local loop in 8:33. I was really surprised at that faster time because I didn’t feel like I was going any faster than yesterday’s Spectrum run in 10:01. One possible explanation is that today I warmed up with kata practice, which has lots of moderate to quick leg movement. I also warmed up with kata practice on my other fastest day. I’ve been practicing two katas a lot at home the past few days because belt testing is next Tuesday. I will test with Pinan Sandan and Kensei Dai.