Front Squat

Tonight we mostly worked on thrusters, but to get the hang of how to grip (and let go of) the bar for thrusters, we started with several sets of front squats. I ended up with a new 2-rep max of 75 kilos. Last time I tried for a front squat max was in April 2007.
We went on to do tons of thrusters and I’m so tired I can hardly stand up. First we had to see how many thrusters we could do without stopping. The amounts of weight we used were somewhere below half bodyweight. I used 25 kilos and got 26 reps. This was a great experience because now that my right shoulder is so much more functional (thanks to Steven Tolzmann of Pain-Free Solutions, West Seattle, and his Active Release Therapy–two sessions!), I’m not afraid to do thrusters and they only hurt me in the way they’re supposed to.
Following that we had a thrusters workout in pairs. One person did five, the other person did five, and so on for ten minutes. I used two 25-pound dumbbells and my partner used 20’s. She’s somewhat new to the gym but strong. We got 23 sets each, the same number as the pair of young men nearby. Of course their weights were heavier, but not by much. We worked hard and it felt really good to lie on the floor afterwards. My intention was to help Dave run the 6:00 class but the workouts are like a drug. If I work out, I’m too relaxed and mellow to think on my feet.

Single Kettlebell Complex 4: “Fran’s Fave”

Dave was away yesterday and today, so Sean and I led two CrossFit classes. It was fun! Last night we had only two people working out, and we re-used the workout Scott’s group had just done. After the workout, we helped them work on barbell cleans. I had helped teach the clean last Monday and taught it to my private client SJ on Thursday, so I was glad of the opportunity to teach it again and solidify it some more. I learned how to teach it from Mike Burgener so no surprise that people get it. Still it’s really gratifying. Sean and I stayed a while later to try out cleans on our own. We would add weight, back off again, try again. Eventually I got a full body-weight clean from the floor. I did two singles and was happy with that.
Last night before the gym I had been on my first visit to an active-release therapist, a kind of deep muscle massage, for my weak and achy right shoulder. I’m so glad it looks like this is going to help. He worked on me for five or ten minutes and then retested the strength in various directions, and it had already made a difference by freeing some adhered muscles in my back and others that attach to the scapula from the front. He worked on me some more and my shoulder feels better. I’m looking forward to going back on Tuesday, even though I got totally lost (on my scooter) on the way back from West Seattle and ended up scootering all the way to Tukwila. A guy in the gas station gave me directions and I found my way home eventually.
This morning Sean and I led the workout for 14 people. We had them practice the kettlebell one-arm swing and the kettlebell clean, then did my favorite workout:
10 kettlebell one-arm swing + clean + front squat (a complex)
10 air-squat-jumps
for 10 rounds.
Everybody focused and worked hard and took coaching tips well, so I couldn’t have had an easier time. It was really fun! Some of us worked on cleans for a little while after people caught their breath, and finally then Sean and I did the workout ourselves. This was my fastest time, 15:25. Previous times were 21:15, 17:02, and 17:05 (wearing a heart rate monitor that I had to adjust a few times during the workout). I’ve decided this workout needs a name–“Fran’s Fave.”

Max push-ups

Last Friday was my day to enter my max pull-ups into my Skill Levels records at the gym. I did them when I was fresh and got 30.
Then we did a workout that involved one kettlebell clean and jerk, one burpee, as many rounds as possible in 30 minutes. Nancy and I were partners, she doing one thing while I did the other, trading off, and we hit 107 rounds. Our kettlebells were only 8 kilos so we were able to move fast.

Front Squat

The other night we did some fairly heavy front squats before the workout. I finished the squats with two reps at 70 kilos–a weight I’d front-squatted at least once before for one rep. According to this NSCA training textbook I’ve been studying, a 2-rep max is 95 percent of the 1-rep max. If that’s true, then sometime soon I should try for 73 kilos
I don’t think I can get that precise with the plates. Let’s say maybe I could have lifted 70 kilos a third time, which would make it 93 percent of a 1RM of 75. Maybe next time I have a chance to try for a max, I’ll try 60, 70, and then 75 kilos.

Deadlift Max Effort

Last week we did some deadlifting before a workout. Afterward, with the bars still sitting out, I decided to see if I could reproduce my max lift of 110 kilos from the first Max Effort Day last May. I lifted 100 and then 110, and was very happy because on the second max effort day, I was not able to lift 110, let alone show improvement. So now at least I can say I duplicated my PR.

How Far Was It Really?

Tom and I watched our friend Liz finish the Danskin Women’s Triathlon last Sunday. We stood against the fence that defined the corridor that took the runners the final 100 meters. They came around a curve that emerged from the trees and bushes in Genessee Park and charged over the sunny grass to the finish. I was so thrilled for all of them, and so inspired! As I watched the different running styles, different degrees of tiredness, different ages and facial expressions, I envied and admired them all. A daydream—a visualization, you might say—bubbled up in my head: I’ll finish my run with a cartwheel.
What? I can’t swim and I hate running. But I can’t get that image out of my head!
Today I spent some time researching how to train for a 5k run, which is what the Danskin finishes with. I learned that it is useful to estimate your 5k time and pace, and to use the pace in various ways as a basis for training workouts. Calculate the estimate by running 3 x 1600 with a one-minute rest between each. Take the average of the three times and multiply it by 3.125 for a 5k estimated time. It took me about an hour and several emails to Tom before I understood all of the details behind that—for one thing, you’re using a 400-meter track, which doesn’t go evenly into 5000; and ultimately you’re finding a pace in minutes per mile for a metric race and metric workouts. Wha?
Anyway, I thought tonight I’d run the 3 x 1600 and find my estimated 5k time. Our nearest high school track is torn up as the whole place is under construction; our next-nearest high school track, where I went on my scooter tonight, also turned out to be unfinished. I had gotten the nerve up to go work out in an unfamiliar place doing something I’m not accustomed to, which took a whole afternoon of self-persuading, so I didn’t want to go straight home.
I went to Seward Park, which has a beautiful paved 2.5-mile loop around the edge of a wooded peninsula on the lake. Lake views all the way around on my right, forest breezes from the left, peaceful lapping water on the shore. The problem: 2.5 miles was even less intuitive for calculating anything useful than was 5k divided into miles. I decided I’d just time myself running all the way around it from where I parked the scooter, and then continue on past for whatever felt like another half mile. At that time I was thinking the loop was 2.6 miles (as I’d read online), so adding a half mile would make it 5k. (Right?)
For my own future reference, detailed notes on where I stopped: going counterclockwise from the shore parking area east of the tennis courts, I continued until the trail bent noticeably to the left and there were three conspicuous, straight, narrow, parallel, white trees on the right between the trail and the water. There were lots of trees but three narrow straight white ones stood out. Okay. So to reach that point, my time was 27:40. This is right within the range I calculated based on timed mile runs I’ve recorded in the past year or so. Maybe it was 5k, maybe I didn’t go far enough.
The run felt fine and I had no trouble completing it. From time to time I focused on what Dave has described as feeling like shortened steps and a pedaling motion (as opposed to reaching out with the heel to lengthen the steps, or scuffing the front of the foot to shorten the steps). I concentrated most of the time on: breathing into the diaphragm to push my stomach out; relaxing my midsection so it wasn’t too stiff; and keeping my shoulders down and relaxed. I’m really happy with how this went, and the surroundings were beautiful. I treated myself to a barefoot wade in the lake when I finished running.
As I walked back, retracing the extra part of my route, I finally noticed that there was a mile marker along the trail. It said 2 on one side and one-half on the other side. D’oh! If I’d known those existed, I could have started in the right place and could have known when I hit three miles. The next question was where is the first marker, the one that marks the start?
I wandered around for a while and I think I found it by the main parking area and building where the clay studio is. I’m not 100 percent sure because although it’s the same style and same stone, its lettering doesn’t say “loop starts here” or anything clear like that—instead it says “the mile markers were donated by the Friends of Seward Park,” states that it is a 2.5-mile loop, and shows where you can usually see blue herons and so on. I guess I’ll start there next time, go all the way around, and continue to the half-mile marker so I’ll know I ran three miles. But 5K is 3.125 miles. I won’t be able to know when I’ve run that extra eighth.

Max Effort, Min Result

Last Saturday we had the second Maximum Effort Day, to follow up on our max effort in May and see how much we’d improved. The two max effort exercises were the deadlift (max weight) and dips (max number of reps). In May, I lifted 110 kilos and did 14 dips. I was hoping last weekend, after a little bit of extra deadlift training (but much more general-fitness stuff that we always do) to be able to lift 120.
The problem was that I was at the gym the night before and the workout was extremely strenuous and leg-intensive, with high reps of a kettlebell complex (sort of a unique form of clean-and-squat) and running. So on Max Effort day the next morning, I could not even lift my previous max and only lifted 100 kilos. I was disappointed. I should have stayed home on Friday night. But in the past every time I’ve tried for a new max I’ve gotten it, so I foolishly took that for granted.
I managed 16 dips this time instead of 14. I don’t recall any special emphasis on dips training since the May max effort day. The dilemma of CrossFit is that it’s designed to develop general fitness and is pointedly not designed to specialize. So if all of a sudden we want to focus on improving our deadlift, it’s hard to do when the whole orientation is to generalize.

Back Squat

Last night we did eight rounds of 3 back squats. I did a bonus ninth set of 1 rep with 80 kilos. At 176 pounds this is a new max. I should have tried one more at 85 kilos. I felt like I still had something left, and I just found out my old max was 175 pounds back in December 2004 at another gym. If I had known that last night, I would have tried again for sure.

Retroactive post

Approximate 800-meter run (twice around the building) when tired from a workout: 4:18. Desired benchmark time for various reasons: 4:20. Whew. I wonder what my time was for exactly 800 meters; twice around the building is probably more like 808 meters.
Vertical jump: 17.125 inches. Desired benchmark: 7 inches (I think). No problem. This was measured against a wall: first how high you can reach (marked with chalk on the fingertips), then how high you can touch the wall when you jump.
400-meter run after three slow ones: 1:30. Desired benchmarks for same various reasons: 2:04. No problem. But can I get that down to 1:09? Not without a lot more concerted effort than I’ve been making.
The “various reasons” for the benchmark times are that these drills are part of a long list of benchmarks Dave has developed in order to gauge people’s fitness in detail. I’m almost done with meeting all the Level 1 benchmarks. I just have to run a mile in under 9 minutes and I’ll get a Level 1 T-shirt.
The hardest thing on the Level 1 list is the 10-second L-sit with straight legs. Nancy and I tried this one day when we were not tired and we succeeded.

Deadlift Max Follow-up

A couple of weeks ago on Max Effort day at the gym, I deadlifted 110 kilos but failed on 120. Someone asked about quarter-deadlifts as a way of increasing your lift. Dave told us you can do that by putting the weight on a low rack. That way you can lift it off the rack and get accustomed to the heavier load, even if you can’t yet pick it up off the ground. I guess the legs are stronger at that point of extension.
So last night Nancy and I tried that, and I lifted 120 kilos (twice my body weight) off of the rack three times. The first time, I tried to set it right back down into the hooks after I stood up with it, and I missed on one end, which crashed to the ground. We picked them up. On my second lift, I stepped back and dropped the weight intentionally. It was hard to step back while holding the weight. On my third lift, I set the weight back down into the hooks.
We did this after the main workout, which was an unusually mild strength workout that included L-sits, front squats, military press, and two or three max sets of chin-ups (palms in). On the front squats, I worked up to 60 kilos, not a new max but kind of heavy. On the military press, I only managed 35 kilos. Max sets of chin-ups were 7 and 5. Out of all that, what I feel today is the distinct memory of the 120-kilo deadlift in my legs and rear.
I hope I can remember to do those partial deadlifts every so often until I can lift it off of the floor. Nick told us to create pressure in the abs when starting a deadlift, as hard as we can, and focus on that exclusively. Dave says to focus on crushing the bar in your grip.