Catching up again

Some of the workouts in the past 10 days:

Today: back squats up to 5 x 5 at 175 pounds. Several sets of 3 rings pull-ups with a hold at the top. Practiced the beginning stage of a back roll, trying to learn to possibly do a back roll someday without hurting my neck. Not sure I’m getting anywhere. I also did a few handstands and handstand push-ups off of one abmat. And prior to that we’d had a women’s self-defense class in the gym for three hours. (It was fascinating.) Then I rode my bike home via southbound to McClellan and up 31st Ave. S.

Two days ago: some pistols and single leg deadlifts and then “Helen.” 10:16 Rx

Monday, June 10, Tabata knees to elbows, kettlebell swing (16 kg), box jump, push-press, goblet squat 12 kg, total 303 reps.

Thursday, June 8: 30 seconds each for 10 rounds (took 15 minutes), 2 dumbbell push-press, 2 dumbbell cleans, rest. I used 25 lb dumbbells and got 164 reps. This was really hard for me. I did it with a few other women in Kyle’s noon class.


I’ve done so little running lately! Ever since I had that hamstring-attachment pain last summer and fall, I have discounted running as something that aggravates it, “and besides, I’m not interested in running and don’t care.” What a terrible attitude! The fact is, I’ve learned that if I stretch my hams in certain ways before running, I can do it without pain during or afterward. So there goes that excuse. And granted CrossFit has a huge menu; I don’t expect to be good at everything at the same time. But come on — running is so basic. And I used to like sprinting. Have I completely lost it? Running in a WOD now makes me feel like puking! Now I’m not resolving to change anything at this moment. I’m just “observing my thoughts as they appear and pass away,” as the meditators say. But maybe next “Helen,” I will run faster. On Thursday I did this WOD rx’d in 10:33. Not that that’s particularly fast, but the only reason I was that fast was because of the butterfly pull-ups. On my final run, all I was requiring of myself was not to walk. Terrible low expectations!

Later I front squatted according to the 5-3-1 for that week, which was up to 85% for five plus, which was 160 x 6 reps. Difficult with relatively tired legs. Of course, everyone else in my group did the FS before the “Helen,” so their speed in the WOD was more impressive.

This was at least my tenth “Helen.” During the others, going back to 2005, I also complained about being bad at running. One thing that’s changed about that is that I no longer ever get any kind of cramps when running. (Paleo diet?) I used to get either the calf cramps or more often the side/breathing cramp.

I distinctly remember doing one other Helen that apparently I never blogged. It was around the same time that I set my 255 deadlift PR at CrossFit Seattle. We did Helen around that time and I used the 24 kg kettlebell (heavier than prescribed) and finished in 10:13, and was pretty proud of that.

“Helen” again

Run 400 meters around the building
21 kettlebell swings, 16 kilos for women
12 pull-ups
Three rounds
My time: 11:00
This was the first time I did all three sets of pull-ups unbroken. I decided to try a more efficient kip with less swing to save energy, and it worked.
What slowed me down the most tonight was the first run, when I had calf cramps in both legs and had to switch to a flat-footed waddle-jog to finish the 400 meters! Luckily in the second and third runs I had no cramps–not that I was especially fast. I hope next time I can combine the fast pull-ups with faster runs and reduce my time a lot.


Last night we did a bunch of dumbbell/kettlebell overhead presses in order to get some traditional strength work in. I started with 12 kilos, pressed it on the left with no problem, and was stunned to find I couldn’t press it at all on the right. The weight sat at shoulder level as stubbornly as if I’d never pressed anything in my life. Sheesh! And I’m right handed. I switched to 8 kilos to warm up that side and did a lot of unweighted shoulder circles, then pressed the 8 kilos some more. Eventually I was able to press 12 kilos, and then 30 pounds, on both left and right. The fact that my right side is weaker when pressing tells me I really need to do more pressing.
Then for our main workout we did “Helen,” one of a few workouts where you win a Sub-10 t-shirt if you take less than ten minutes to finish.
Run 400 meters
21 kettlebell swings (16 kilos, for women)
12 pull-ups
…for three rounds. I finished in 11:10 and was happy with that. My first two runs were stronger than on previous Helens, although my last run was slow and painful. It’s been impossible for me not to focus on the cramp and on the desire to stop running on that third round. I suppose my slowness on the final run might be a large part of why I haven’t come close to ten minutes. To be sure I would need to be timed on each round.

Hell with “Helen”

Last night we did the “Helen” workout again: three rounds of run the 400+ meters around the building; 21 kettlebell swings; and 12 pull-ups. Last time we did four rounds, and I completed the first three in 10:20. I thought next time we did Helen that I’d get sub-10 minutes, but no! I am such a terrible runner. Last night’s total time was 11:44.
Afterward, Nancy and I practiced a bunch of cartwheels and handstands. She’s getting better at hand-walking and can go a few steps. She did her first one-hand cartwheel. I did my first (awkward) one-hand cartwheel on the right, my bad side. One-hand cartwheels on the left are painless and fun, because I give myself enough lift-off with my legs that I don’t tire out my left wrist. Doing even two-hand cartwheels on the right, I don’t feel as coordinated and don’t get as much lift-off, probably because I’m hesitating a little, so I land harder on the left (dominant) hand and it would hurt the wrist if I did it too many times.
We tried doing front limbers, coming down out of a handstand into a backbend and standing up. Neither of us can really do it. I can sometimes come down and hold the backbend, which I’m happy with. Dave watched us and said our feet and hands are both too far apart on landing, and we won’t be able to stand up until the arch is tighter and the hips are over the feet a lot more. I made up my mind next time to bring my feet down as close as I could, and it worked–I flailingly stood up out of the backbend upon landing. This is not an elegant move when I do it, but I’m happy to be doing it at all.
I really want to go to a real gymnastics facility or seminar sometime and try some skills on the thick mats and whatever other equipment makes it safer. It makes me feel so good to be able to do even a few tumbling moves, and so pleasantly stretched and tired afterward.

Helen Plus

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)
12 pull-ups
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.

“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.