Sunday, April 19, 2015

CrossFit: 5 1/2 Months Complete

Where do I start...it's been 4 weeks since I last wrote about CrossFit and haven't written a word here in two weeks so as you know, I could write, write, write for awhile. Let's stick to the subject at hand, shall we?

My last update was at Week 20 and you can read that here. You can read them all since Day 1 here. Tomorrow wraps up Week 24. I'm still going strong and loving it. If you're waiting for the injury to happen or for me to quit, I have to spoil this post right now...neither has happened. If you're waiting for me to say "I hate running and I've quit" then you'll be disappointed there as well. But, let's get that running "thing" out of the way first. I am still running, but it's only 2-3 days per week. I had been registered for the Bull Run Run 50 Miler in Virginia last weekend and I withdrew from that. Why? For no other reason than losing the desire/passion to do it. Given my background in ultra-running, I absolutely know that my head must be in it and especially at distances past 50K (31.2 miles). Instead of running that race last Saturday, I headed to my CrossFit box and did my 6th workout of the week...in my head, it was sort of a way to salvage the withdrawal from the race. Quid pro quo...sorta. :) This time next Saturday, I will have run my 29th marathon at the Pro Football Hall of Fame Marathon in Canton, OH. Since running the Frozen Sasquatch 50K a few days after New Year's Day this year, I haven't even come close to running 26.2 miles. A few days ago on my 42nd birthday, I ran 14 miles home after my morning CrossFit workout and while only 14 miles, I "felt it" more than I really should. The truth is, I am fitter than ever but my long distance running endurance is fading. Can I go the distance? Sure I can. Can I do as "well?"... most likely not. Next Sunday will be interesting and I'm sure I'll write up a post-race report about the experience. I'm really looking forward to the race. It'll also be my 61st race of a marathon or longer. Bottom Line: I'm ok with where I'm at and letting running take a back seat. I am happy and I spend more time with my family than ever. It's all good. :)

So as for CrossFit, I continue to make gains, get stronger, do the movements better, and reach new plateaus. I also recover faster now and have less soreness that bothers me. I think the reason is twofold: 1) I am well aware of bad form and what can hurt me. I have a great coach and I watch a fair amount of instructional videos. Getting hurt is NOT an option and I will shy away from more weight before I hurt myself. 2) My schedule. I never miss a weekday workout unless I'm on vacation and that's only been for one week in the past 5 1/2 months. I've even added a Saturday the past two weeks. Because my coaches program the workouts to vary so greatly, different muscle groups are still getting rest even though I'm not missing workouts. They are very cognizant of that and don't "punish" the same body part two days in a row. I could add a third, too: Nutrition. I recover/refuel strictly with Hammer Nutrition's Whey Protein and I eat pretty darn well. I still love my craft brew and the occasional basket of fresh cut fries and a burger but overall, I eat very well. I don't follow any specific plan, I just follow common sense. Sure, I may not be the chiseled person some seek to be but I'm happy with my progress. Speaking of which, I did a collage side-by-side photo last week after a run. If you follow me on Instagram (@RTRSBM), you may remember that photo from last summer sans shirt while out on a run. I thought it was a good comparison as it clearly shows the absence of any muscle tone whatsoever. Basically, it's just skin and flesh.
Back on April 3rd, a week after the CrossFit Open ended, we got a surprise workout on that Friday dubbed CrossFit Total. Basically, it's an hour to work towards a One Rep Max of three lifts: the Strict Press, the Back Squat and the Dead Lift. My first response was: "That's it? No workout?" Well, I ended up loving it. It was a chance to take our time, warm up to our previous best weight and see how heavy we could get up to. This is a very important number because so many of our strength workouts are based on "percentages of max effort" lifts. For example, we might be doing 5 rounds of 5 reps of push jerks at 80%. Well, if we don't know what our true push jerk max is, then it's hard to know I'm doing the 80% that I'm truly capable of. (Ironically, I really need a 1 rep max of the push jerk. We do them so often so that 1 rep max would be a huge help!) Anyway, the CrossFit Total was a blast and I hit new personal records for all three lifts with the biggest one being a 60lb PR for the dead lift. I hit 325 pounds but stopped there because my wife said my back was beginning to curve...a big no-no and early warning of pending injury if continued.

So what's going really well? Well, we don't climb rope much but on March 31st, we had a WOD with 3 rope climbs in it and I did it. Very happy about that. I'm also very close to getting T2B (Toes to Bar) done during a WOD. I can do it on the side but not fast during a WOD...so I'm still doing "knees to elbow" instead. My other strengths are definitely rowing, box jumps, and anytime they send us outside to run...no doubt. My biggest GRIN, though, came on Friday when after doing pull-ups in a WOD, I decided to practice them without the band. Up until now, I've been doing all pull-ups during workouts strict and with a band. Outside of workouts, I've been practicing plain 'ol strict pull-ups unassisted. Friday, I finally was able to connect kipping pull-ups that are commonplace in CrossFit. Outside of CrossFit, many people sneer at them and say they aren't pull-ups at all. True..they are kipping pull-ups! Anyway, they are a mainstay in so many WODs and a necessary skill. On Saturday, I went in for a workout and afterwards shot some video. I do this so I can critique myself, share with others from afar who will offer help/critique, and slow it down in slow motion to show my coaches who can offer help. Below is that video. I know I need to keep my legs straighter (not that 90 degree angle at the back) and keep my legs/feet more together.


There is another reason I am beyond thrilled to shed the band. Way before I began CrossFit back on November 4th, I knew about "Murph." Murph is a Hero WOD named after Lt. Michael P. Murphy, SEAL, who died in Afghanistan. In fact, when I was stationed there in 2011, I looked out over the Hindu Kush Mountains where he was killed. I take very seriously service to my country and love the part of CrossFit that has workouts named in honor of fallen heroes. Well, Murph is one of the grand-daddy Hero WODs and is done on Memorial Day. It is this: 1 mile run, then 100 pullups, 200 pushups, 300 air squats, and another 1 mile run. All along, I've had the goal of doing Murph without a band for the pullups and now I know I can. Granted, I won't do all 100 at a time, I'm most likely going to do 20 sets of: 5 pullups, 5 pushups, 15 squats, 5 pushups. In total, that'll hit the numbers...then go run a mile. I plan on carrying a full size American flag for that first and last mile, too. I promise...I will give every shred of effort I have to that WOD and nothing less than 100% will be acceptable. It's going to be very tough and grueling...but I can't wait! Just a few days before Murph on Saturday of Memorial Day Weekend, my wife and I are heading to our first CrossFit competition just outside of Pittsburgh called the MetCon Games. We are really looking forward to it!

As for what's still really a struggle for me: Well, anytime that barbell is going overhead, it's tough and my weight on that barbell is far from impressive...but that's OK! I'm still getting stronger and inching up the weight. My flexibility is also less than stellar. This makes things like front squats, overhead squats, and thrusters more of a balancing act rather than doing what's truly intended. I continue to stretch a lot and try new methods of stretching. I'm also still struggling at getting up in the handstand consistently. I need to eventually evolve into a handstand pushup from the handstand. Lastly...dips. If I'm ever to get on those rings and go for a muscle up, I have to be able to do dips on stationary bars. Plenty of things to work on! In CrossFit, it's never the intention to specialize in any one thing....just to be good in everything. That's why my trainer said on Week One: "It never gets easier." :)

Before I close out tonight's post, I have to say some thanks. In the photo below are some great people. My wife and I are on the left, Charlie is in the middle and he is one of the two coaches/owners of the gym and leads our class every morning, and Dave and Heidi are on the right. They are the ones responsible for inviting us back in November! We greatly value their friendships and the friendly competition they bring every day. We sweat together, laugh together, and push each other. It's one of the best parts of doing CrossFit...the friendships and community that surround the efforts everyday. Thank you to all 3 of you! (and to my wife...I'm so very proud of you! We continue to go together, cheer each other on, debrief each other on the way home, and celebrate every day's accomplishments. I couldn't ask for a better workout partner! I love you!)

I get some grief for watching a lot of videos...yea, yea, yea...I know. Well, I watched a documentary earlier today about the life back in Finland of the 2009 CrossFit Games champion, Mikko Salo. A very common term in Finnish culture is Sisu. I love it and it's a perfect mantra for how to approach every workout and every obstacle in life no matter what it is.


Till next time!

Monday, April 6, 2015

M-Cubed for 4.6.2015

M-Cubed (Monday Morning Musings) for April Sixth, Two-Thousand Fifteen...a random smattering of thoughts that end up here on Monday morning.

- How was your Easter? We kicked the Easter bunny and his/her baskets to the curb this year and instead relied only on beautiful Easter dresses for our girls. We enjoyed a fantastic Easter breakfast (thanks to my wife) of ham (from her cousin's farm), her sinful cheesy potatoes and scrambled eggs. It's safe to say I didn't eat again until late afternoon! We took our traditional photo before church and headed off to the Easter service. I always love seeing the really little kids (under 5 years old) dressed up with their gorgeous dresses and suit/tie. Easter is certainly a huge "holiday" for me and how I believe. Without it, my faith is negated (in my opinion) and hollow/empty. Christmas is just the beginning...Easter provides the hope for me and everyone else.

- I had mentioned a book previously that I was reading called "A Case for Grace." After getting a whopping 10 hours of sleep on Saturday (compared to my daily 6), I laid around like a bum and was able to finish that book. Lee Strobel did a fantastic job with this book. He is a former agnostic who started out in journalism in Chicago years ago and is best known for his hugely popular investigative book "Case for Christ" where he uses science, personal accounts, history and facts to validate Christ. This book is a series of interviews he does with people who were either strung out on drugs (of the worst kind), given up to the streets as a kid in a foreign country, or an executioner in Cambodia...but all experienced true grace. One story actually flips the pattern on its head by beginning really good but plummets due to really bad choices...but then rebounds. It's a short 174 pages so if this guy can finish it, you can as well. I highly recommend it! After finishing it, I headed out for a sunny 6 miles in the country that gave me a few minutes to think about those stories and how I've experienced grace and/or how I can or should extend it to others. After my 6, I cooled down with this kettle bell. Often after a run, I can barely bend over...my flexibility goes away the longer I run. I did a quick kettle bell and squat cool-down workout that restored that flexibility. We were shown this 4 minute workout in our Friday CrossFit class for warm-up so I thought I would try it. Worked perfectly! (Aren't the blue Brooks Pure Flows sweet? I just put my initial miles on them after racking up 410 miles on the last pair...love them!)

- April 4th on Saturday marked our 5 month point doing CrossFit. It went FAST. It was another good week at the gym and Friday was a great "cherry on top" of the week and the 5 months. Instead of the typical "WOD," we spent the hour on something called "CrossFit Total." This was our chance to hit our "1 rep max" on three different lifts then total the number. Many of our lifts on any given day are prescribed as percentages. In other words, we may be told to do 5 rounds of 3 reps of back squats at 85%. That 85% is 85% of our maximum weight...something different for everyone. To get the opportunity for "1 rep max" on lifts along the way is a great benchmark and serves as a way to show progress and keep you moving forward daily. CrossFit Total is comprised of the back squat (one of my favorites), the strict overhead press (harder than it looks!) and the dead lift. I had a great morning and set personal records in all 3 with the biggest jump being in the dead lift. My previous record was 265 pounds but I beat that by 60 pounds and hit 325 pounds. Overall, my total was 680 pounds. To put that in comparison, the beast of a lifter in my class hit 1115 pounds! His dead lift was a crazy 565 pounds and he is currently the top dead lifter in our gym. We also have a bunch of strong ladies in our gym that did what I did or even more. For me, though, I have shown tons of progress and couldn't be happier with the progress. Even better, my back wasn't sore in the slightest bit come Saturday morning...evidence I was actually doing those dead lifts CORRECTLY...something that wasn't necessarily true previously. Here is the less than 10 second video of me lifting the 325 pounds. Here is my friend, Dave, lifting his 565 pounds. Incredible!

- Signed up! My wife and I signed up for our first local CrossFit competition over Memorial Day weekend just outside nearby Pittburgh. Dubbed the "MetCon Games," we'll do 3 different workouts that day and they even feed us....a bonus! Looking forward to it! (info here about CrossFit SteelTown's MetCon Games)

- I'm sure (or maybe not) you heard about the Indiana debate going on this past week. It all centered around a law that supposedly gave business owners the right to turn away customers based on their belief structure, namely things like sexual orientation. That created a firestorm in social media, much like recent times that involved Chick-Fil-A and their public opinion/stance/belief on marriage. I'm not here to judge or offer my opinion on all of that. However, I did have to share some thoughts last Thursday as a response to a slew of hate online that while not directly at me, was using far too broad a brush to paint hate across the Christian landscape. It was the epitome of intolerance being shown by people who preach tolerance. Instead of engaging in debate and true "keyboard warrior" antics, I decided to write down some thoughts as objectively and factually as possible. Of course, those thoughts ruffled some feathers and as expected, a few folks showed themselves the door. Below is my post (sans comments and likes)...unsanitized and as originally posted.

- Friday night, I had the real privilege of attending a free screening of a new documentary called "Collecting Sgt. Dan." Dan Patron was killed on August 6, 2011 in southern Afghanistan (when I was there, actually) by a roadside bomb he was attempting to defuse. He was an EOD tech (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) in the Marine Corps. From Canton, OH, his brother decided to create this documentary to honor his brother. It's called "Collecting Sgt. Dan" because to tell the story, his brother headed to the east coast to find his brother's fellow Marines and "collect" the stories in order that he may tell his story. It was very well done and I recommend finding it on Amazon or iTunes where you can currently stream it via rental. Here is the website and trailer.

- About 6 days ago, I jotted down some random questions and among them, was asking them of myself. As we all begin another week, they are a good way to ground myself/yourself and if a change needs to happen, perhaps choose today to do it.

What will you choose today?
  • Lift up or beat down and discourage?
  • Smile or frown?
  • Meet people where they are or see only your standard?
  • Let them merge or cut them off?
  • Laugh at people or laugh with them?
  • Celebrate a new accomplishment of someone or remain ignorant?
  • Grow up or remain a child in words and actions?
  • Open the door for someone or walk in front of them, letting the door close in their face?
  • Tell your significant other/kids you love them or leave home in silence?
  • Betray the one you swore allegiance to or maintain your covenant?
  • Forgive or live behind the veil of bitterness?
  • Smoke/drink another or end your addiction today?
  • Text and drive...or drive?
  • Live in yesterday or live in today and never look back?
  • Be authentically you or hide behind makeup, clothing, image and stuff?
- As I say goodbye today, I'd like to share a quote from John "The Penguin" Bingham. You can replace the "running/walking" with anything here and make it your own. Have a great week, everyone!

"There's no reason to do any of it – to run, walk, or race – unless it brings joy into your life. You can find satisfaction in the act of moving your body from the first tentative steps. There's no need to postpone the joy until you've reached a dreamt up point of experience or skill. As a beginner, the time to find and embrace the joy is now."
– John Bingham, No Need for Speed: A Beginner's Guide to the Joy of Running

Monday, March 30, 2015

M-Cubed for 3.30.2015

M-Cubed (Monday Morning Musings) for March Thirtieth, Two-Thousand Fifteen...a random smattering of thoughts that end up here on Monday morning.

- "In like a lion, out like a lamb..." That's how it's supposed to go, right? March came in like a lion...and thank goodness, all I see is rain for tomorrow and sunshine and 54F on April 1st. I just hope that's not an April Fool's joke! I'm encouraged to see the daffodil beginnings popping up in mulch beds everywhere. Come on, Spring!

- I read an article this past week titled "How Choosing Comfort Ultimately Leads to Pain" that was written by a 46 year old man, only a few years older than me, that talks about his reflection back on his life. He talks about not pursuing different passions early on and where he is today. It hit home on many angles and this one sentence really resonated: "If my younger self had met me today, I would have punched myself in the face." Ditto. Close friends can attest...I can't even recall much of my childhood and my early years serving in the military. It's a fog at best. So many had a dream of what they wanted to be when they grew up. My dream? I was approached by a Navy recruiter at the age of 17 and because I had no dream, no drive, no pursuit, I followed his lead and signed the many dotted lines. The rest, they say, is history. While I don't regret my journey, I do regret my lack of passion for someTHING. The seed that so many seem to have planted early on...to be a nurse, attorney, fire fighter, advocate, entrepreneur...I had none of those. What I did have was a pursuit of integrity and excellence in everything I did and do and that has paved much of my path and kept me out of trouble. Today, I know what is important to me. I know that whatever vocation I choose is more of a means to an end of loving my wife then children, providing for them, and loving/serving others. My vocation doesn't define me and isn't what I want to be remembered for. Husband, father, friend...an authentic man who stood tall for those entrusted to him, loved them and protected them. That's who...or what I am called to be. (You can read the article here.)

- This past Saturday wrapped up the CrossFit Games Open for 2015. This last workout was a couplet of rowing on the Concept 2 rower followed by the almighty thruster. There was no time limit...just a number of reps to complete. 27, 21, 15, 9...calories on the rower then number of thrusters...back and forth until complete. Since I completed that online rowing competition a few months ago, my rowing has become strong. The thrusters, on the other hand, are a struggle, mostly because of my limited flexibility. In the end, I still did really well and probably my best effort of the 5 weeks. I did enjoy the Open and especially getting to meet a lot of the other members of the gym on the Saturday workouts. Being in the same class everyday when there are 6 different classes each day prevents crossing paths with many. This was a way to cross paths with many and support them as well towards their goal of finishing the Open. Week 21 wraps up today and the 4th of April will mark 5 months complete. Still loving it.

- So I've been mentioning the "true test" coming up at the Bull Run Run 50 Miler on April 11th. Well, I pulled the plug on that race yesterday morning. I won't be going to northern Virginia to tackle the 50 miles and am at peace with that decision. I have been questioning the "why" of why I was doing it and quite honestly, I was struggling with that answer and that's not good going into a race that'll take me 10-12 hours to complete. So it's done. No BRR50 and no regrets. To celebrate, I suppose, I set out along the Cuyahoga River yesterday afternoon for a full sun 8 miler with a few friends. It was mid-40s, breezy, and beautiful. I broke out a brand new pair of Brooks Pure Flow 3s, too, and enjoyed running in shorts. I'm still a runner...I swear! :)

- Bristol and I have spent a lot of time together this past week, too, while my family has been on the move. I've got caught up on The Blacklist, I watched Denzel Washington's "The Equalizer" and dove into another NetFlix series "House of Cards." I even began reading a new book on grace from Lee Strobel called "A Case for Grace" that is a series of stories of grace. Very good so far. Bristol is often this close as she snuggles on the couch.

- I was thinking a lot yesterday about that Germanwings jetliner that went down in the Alps last week. If you have been truly disengaged from all news sources, it had just reached cruising altitude when the pilot excused himself from the cockpit and upon his return, the co-pilot, alone in the cockpit, would not let him back in. While leaving the plane in autopilot, he dialed down the target altitude to 100 feet, the lowest setting and it made a gradual decent until crashing into the side of a mountain, instantly killing all on board. Sounds from the cockpit voice recorder never hear his voice but hear the captain banging on the cockpit door, begging him to let him in. I cannot fathom the horror of that captain, the passengers in the plane knowing they were going to die, and now the families as they re-live this very horror in their minds of their loved ones dying in such an awful way. Regardless of what they find in the co-pilot's life, my heart aches for the families of the dead. It also serves as a reminder to make sure I'm square with God each and every day and that I kiss my wife and kids daily and tell them I love them...for we will not know the time nor place when He will return nor when our ticket is going to get punched.

- To wrap up today's relatively short M-Cubed post, I stumbled across this post yesterday on Gibson's Daily Running Quotes Facebook page and I really resonated with it. I have said that there are certain benefits of the run that can't be realized in the gym...any gym. This nails it. Have a great week, everyone!

"Running is NOT just for those who are fit and healthy and strong. Running is a life-breathe for those who struggle with physical and mental illness, self-doubt, loss, anger, regret and other unspeakable pains. Why? Because running has the power to heal, to bring perspective, to instill confidence, to restore sanity and to make us believers again. This is why I run."

– Susan Husband, www.solesearchingmamma.com

Monday, March 23, 2015

M-Cubed for 3.23.2015

M-Cubed (Monday Morning Musings) for March Twenty-Third, Two-Thousand Fifteen...a random smattering of thoughts that end up here on Monday morning.

- Snow is gone, potholes are either eating cars or getting filled one at a time by workers working as fast as possible, and Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Eggs are at the entry to every retail store on the planet...it must be Spring! In case you missed it, Spring officially arrived Friday night. Welcome!

- If you happen to have missed my latest musings on my CrossFit journey, I wrote a Week 20 post a few days back. You can catch up here. Today: Week 20 wraps up and 21 starts tomorrow. The word on the street is that our coach/trainer who is writing all of the workouts this month is celebrating his birthday this week and he has some fun in store for us. "Fun" can be defined in so many ways by a kaleidoscope of people.

- With Spring comes Easter and some tradition around our home. I'm sure the Easter eggs will get colored but first, the bare pear tree in our front yard gets decorated with plastic eggs on thread. My wife and girls did the honors last night.

- Speaking of my girls...they are sure growing up. On one side, my oldest applied for her first job this weekend and high school orientation was at the end of last week (gulp!). The other helped my dad make over 210 gallons of homemade ice cream on Saturday. (They own an ice cream shop.) Talk of Fall 2016 schedules in high school and how many hours to work in a week now fill conversation. They say they grow up fast. 'Tis true...'tis true!

- Bull Run Run 50 Miler looms. T-19 days and counting now and I have been running much more regularly lately. With my oldest daughter turning 14 last week, I ran a brisk 14 miler for her and while it's nowhere near 50 miles, it felt really good and easy. Within the next week or so, I plan on getting out to the trails for a long trail run to make sure I still have my "trail legs" and get my head screwed on straight to accomplish the mission at hand. The race is remote and takes place in northern Virginia. (As I typed that, I paused to pull up Google Maps for the drive time....hmmmmm, I don't think I quite thought about my end game. "That's 50 miles, not 50K. You're going to finish much later in the day and then you want to drive home from VA...and stay awake to do it? Alone?") Anyway, I am so ready to run with the bluebells. (pictured here) I love Virginia!

- Regarding running and how the passion can be lost: I have some friends who have dove head first into the CrossFit world, leaving a life of ultra running behind them. Now at nearly 5 months in to heading to CrossFit 5 days a week and dropping my mileage drastically, I can see how the "love affair" with running can dwindle and even cease to exist. If I never ran...as in no more than a few times a month for a few miles, it would be easy. My mind and soul would be getting filled by the challenge, rush, and adrenaline produced at the box and running would get shoved out. I have found, though, that occasionally running home from the box (11-13 miles, depending on the route), getting sunrise Sunday morning runs in, and throwing in some pre-dinner runs during the week keeps my mind centered and open to the benefits of both "worlds." There are certainly physical benefits to both worlds that the other can't replicate but do compliment each other. Then there is the mental side...and spiritual side. In a one hour class with others, throwing weight around, taking my heart rate through the roof, and pushing myself like never before...there isn't a lot of mental time for decompressing, praying, breathing in fresh air out in the country, watching a sunrise, or hearing the birds sing. Only the run provides that and I greatly treasure that and the ability to still do it. The aches and "pains" are different in both sports and are as different as the "benefits" received but both are valuable to me. I really do hope that this upcoming race is confirmation that I still "have it" and the two can co-exist as they do now. I value both but for very different reasons and the run can't ever be truly replaced. Pictured here is my late sunrise photo from yesterday's Sunday morning pre-church run. For mid-March, it was a chilly 22F (14F windchill) but amazingly beautiful out there.

- A few weeks back, my wife and I led a marriage retreat for 22 other couples. It was a great weekend! One point made that weekend was about treating our marriages like a mission...together. Whether it's raising our children, financial independence/security, or our faith, we should go at it on a mission in lock-step with each other. We need to foster open communication and model forgiveness and humility daily. Yesterday, I stumbled across a tweet from Dr. Tony Evans and thought it fitting from that weekend: "A good marriage shares a mission, not just an emotion." It's true. Emotions are fleeting and are all over the place. Ground yourself/yourselves on a mission and stay the course!

- I love a great inspirational video/life story to watch. I have a few to share this morning. The first is of Ernestine Shepherd. She is 77 years young and a bodybuilder! I have heard "I'm too old" too many times to count so after watching this, it's proof that age is largely a state of mind and not something to hang your hat on and "blame" for inactivity or whatever. Watch Ernestine's story here. The second story is about Austin. Austin is a young man with Down Syndrome whose brother owns a CrossFit gym where they have a CrossFit Kids program. Absolutely inspiring! I loved watching this. It also represents the kind of community I envision in the CrossFit community...one that I hope I can be a part of someday. So much intangible potential out there to impact others for good! Watch Austin's story here.

- Today as I close, I want to share a longer quote than normal and it centers around what I spoke of above with regards to running. Have a GREAT week, everyone!

"Once you start running, never stop. Keep after it. Keep going. If the enthusiasm drains out of you and you grow road-weary, go back to what attracted you to running in the first place. Rekindle that feeling, and your spirit will be restored.

Running is about being fit and keeping your heart pumping and staying healthy. But it's also about feeling that feeling, that anything-is-possible feeling of youth and adventure and challenge.

People who run do it because they love it. They're running for that feeling as much as for the physical benefits. Having the feeling helps them receive the physical benefits, which in turn makes the feeling even more pronounced. It's a lovely cycle to be caught up in. You can stop for a while. You don't have to run and run and run and run and do nothing else. It doesn't have to be an obsession.

In fact it's better if it isn't. Running is not a form of slavery. You choose to run. The fact that you choose to run increases the pleasure and the benefits derived from it. Think not about tomorrow or next month or next year. Just think about having a good run and a good time today. Do that, and you will never stop running."

– Kevin Nelson, The Runner's Book of Daily Inspiration: A Year of Motivation, Revelation, and Instruction


Saturday, March 21, 2015

CrossFit: Week 20 Almost Done

It's been nearly 3 weeks since I primarily wrote about this journey called "CrossFit." If you're new to the discussion, I've been a distance runner for over 17 years and an ultra runner for about 7 or 8 years. 60 marathon or ultra marathon finishes under my belt. Back on November 4, 2014, I jumped head first into the CrossFit world and have rarely missed a workout since.

Things are going well but there has certainly been some ups and downs. I do regret not taking photos of myself back on the 4th of November, just for comparison...not for any bragging rights or anything. I would just like to see the before/after. I did get a photo taken a few days ago by my wife when she began making comments about my back when I was getting ready for work in the morning. I'll share that photo later on. Regardless, I still haven't lost much weight at all (maybe 5-10 pounds..and that's generous) but the way my clothes fit are completely different. Waist is slimmer and slimming more and more and more muscle is taking up residence in my upper body. Ironically, my thighs have shrunk. Before, I was logging 200 or more miles a month and my thighs had become tree trunks. Due to the decreased mileage, I do believe I have lost muscle mass there, as indicated by nothing more than observation and how a pair of jeans fit.

After my first Toes to Bar
Every day, I walk in the box with the intention of giving everything I have and hopefully, doing something new or greater than before. It may be hitting a new personal record on an olympic lift or doing a movement for the first time or simply doing a movement RIGHT and PROPER for the first time. There are so many integral parts to this sport that no one will ever master them all...and they shouldn't. A big part of CrossFit is doing everything well but not specializing in one particular thing. Constant change, every day is a surprise, the body (and mind) just needs to adapt and overcome. Here are some of my personal victories in the past 3 weeks since I last wrote:
  • 34 unassisted pullups. I didn't use a band. I did them on my own strength. (Hero WOD "Danny")
  • Toes to Bar: I have LONG legs in comparison to my upper body so this has been tough but I finally did it on Thursday! A result? I tore my palm for the first time...but it was worth it. I got in about 4 reps.
  • Strict Pull-Ups: Prior to November 4th, I could not do a strict pull-up...ever. Strict meaning hanging from the bar and using no body motion/momentum to go vertical. Nothing but raw strength. I did my first a week or so ago then a few days ago, I did 15...doing at most 3 in a row. My goal is to string 20 together unbroken. (without rest)
  • Multiple PRs in my many olympic lifts
  • Cleans: in the power clean and hang power clean, I have been struggling to get the movement down, back proper, and land it correctly on my shoulders. Since my flexibility is crap (putting it nicely), this has been tough. Lately, though, it's coming together and anytime I see clean "anything" on the daily board for a workout, I smile. It's an opportunity to get better and improve.
The "community" at our box is still lacking. We just don't see each other too often outside of classes. No overlap so no real sense of being a "family" like I see at many other CrossFit affiliates. I am still hopeful that someday we will come together, do more outside of class time and in the community. The one opportunity as of late has been the CrossFit Games Open. Today, we did week 4 (dubbed 15.4) at the box and lots of people were there, spread across 4 heats to complete the workout that was announced on Thursday night. Each Thursday night at 8pm, CrossFit Games Director, Dave Castro, has moved to a different city and announced the workout followed by two elite athletes facing off to do it. No one knows the workout prior to his announcement and once it's out, social media lights up with endless opinions/strategies about it. Today, it was a couplet workout for me doing push presses over my head and cleans that I just spoke of. 10 of each back and forth for 8min. Max intensity. I ended up with 78 reps and happy with that. That tear in my hand didn't slow me down but it did crack open during those 8min. Neosporin to the rescue! Overall, I'm "meh" about the Open. I was already driving myself hard prior to the Open and most workouts daily are harder than what I've seen so far...in the scaled division, that is. I'm not doing the prescribed CrossFit Games Open workouts...I can't. I'm doing the "stepped down" version called "scaled." Still, though, it's afforded me the opportunity to meet others, see the rest of the gym on Saturday and root others on. I don't regret it but I can't say I've benefited from it greatly, either. My little victories are coming during the daily classes and staying a few minutes after class to practice and/or finally get a movement conquered...e.g.: toes to bar. I'll leave the 2016 Open undecided for now. Who knows if I'll even be doing CrossFit let alone where I'll be physically. The photo here is from today's workout. That's the push press locked out overhead...the legit end to that movement.

So what's my favorite part of CrossFit? Great question. It definitely has it's addictive side but why? I absolutely love to be challenged and pushed to the point of wanting to quit. I guess that's why I love ultra running as well. CrossFit does that but in a very short period of time! The "high intensity" of CrossFit is very real and I LOVE walking away from my 1hr per day knowing I gave everything I had and held nothing back. Also, it's not exactly a bad side effect to see the physical changes. For nearly 42 years, I have been either sedentary or a long distance runner. I have never been a gym "rat," lifted weights, or anything else. Running...or nothing. So prior to November 4th, I had a smooth back and nice love handles...no matter how far I ran. Today? Well, my wife snapped this photo a few days ago. I'm still a little bit stunned when I look at it...like I can't believe it's MY back! The funny thing is that I had to Google the different muscle names when a friend started pointing them out. I had no idea!
So if I need motivation to keep moving, this will certainly fill the bill. I feel great, my running is still strong, and I love the surprise everyday of "what's next?" when I walk in the gym's door. Constantly varied, always challenging, and even some fun doing it every day. I will also add that I love the few friends I've made so far and how much fun it is to work hard every morning together...or almost every morning. (schedules are crazy!) The unspoken accountability to each other is something that also drives me and keeps it fun.

Moving forward, a true test lingers on the horizon. I am registered for a 50 miler on the second week on April down in the remote northern mountains of Virginia. I am certainly undertrained by ultra running standards (whatever those are) but whenever I run, I feel strong. I have not gone "long" since my last 50K in the first week of January so this should/could be interesting. I am eager (and a little bit scared) to know how I will fare over 50 miles and 10-12 hours of running in the mountains. How will doing CrossFit five days a week benefit me in that arena? Only time will tell. I'm sure I'll have a story to tell after that one.

Before I wrap today, I had some fun on St. Patrick's Day. The workout played on the 17th of March theme and became the WOD of 17s. 3 rounds of 17 box jumps, 17 kettle bell swings, and 17 pushups. I set up my iPhone and caught the whole thing on video. (awesome way to critique yourself, by the way) Below is a 15 second video of the workout....wearing green, of course. Off to Week 21...

Monday, March 16, 2015

M-Cubed for 3.16.2015

M-Cubed (Monday Morning Musings) for March Sixteenth, Two-Thousand Fifteen...a random smattering of thoughts that end up here on Monday morning.

- Forecast of 66F today. Let me say that again: FORECAST OF 66F TODAY!!! Welcome, Spring!

- It was a tough last week during my 1hr at the CrossFit box each morning, but I did make the very best of it. Back on Tuesday, we did a Hero WOD named "Danny." Hero workouts are named after fallen servicemembers, law enforcement or firemen. Daniel "Danny" Sakai was a SWAT officer who died in the line of duty in 2009. Believe it or not, in my 19 weeks of CrossFit, not one single Hero WOD had been programmed in. We'd done some of the benchmark workouts that have names but not actual Hero WODs. Also in those 19 weeks, I had not done a workout "Rx" which means doing it precisely as prescribed with the set weight and movements without scaling it down. For Danny, the workout consisted of: 20min with as many reps as possible of: 30 box jumps at 24" (I could do that), 20 push-presses at 115lbs and 30 pull-ups. Well, I could push press 115lbs, but could I do it that many times and over again in those 20min. 20 minutes is a long WOD, too. As for those pull-ups, I had never done a WOD with pull-ups without using a band to assist. I had been practicing, though. I looked at the board and inside thought: "If I'm ever going to do it Rx, today is the day for a Hero WOD. I walked outside to get a cell signal so I could read about "Danny" and his story because for me, I wanted to honor his memory...it's the whole point of the Hero WOD. When I came back in and it was time for the workout, I loaded my bar but did so where I could pull some weight off if need be and I staged a band for pull-ups in case I couldn't do them. Was I in over my head? Perhaps. I wanted to try, though, and take myself to that darker mental place and emerge victorious. As the workout counted down to start, no mention was made about "Danny" or his sacrifice but in my mind, I reminded myself who this was for...and for me. I began and after finishing the box jumps and beginning the push presses, I heard my coach say "that's pretty heavy" as he walked by. "Yea, I know" is what I thought but kept working. I finished all 20 and did break them up in order to not lose my form and get hurt. I moved on over to the pull-up bar and started 30...unassisted pull-ups. I never did more than 3 at a time but I DID THEM ALL UNASSISTED. Chin breaking the horizontal plane 30 times. 1 round down but it was taking me much longer than the others. I quickly got back to my box and began round 2 and got through 30 more box jumps without a problem but I knew after those pull-ups and first 20 presses, that second round of push-presses was going to be not-so-pretty. I got working and got through another set of 20. However, I mixed up the "how" of how I got it locked out overhead, split-jerking it a few times to do it...totally authorized. With the 20min ticking down fast, I moved to the pull-up bar and got 4 more in before time was called. I finished with a score of 1 round plus 54 reps (1+54). Most in the class scored 3 or 4 rounds complete so of course, I was last...but I DID it Rx and did my first ever WOD with unassisted pull-ups!!! YEA! I headed on over to tell my coach and in went the proverbial needle into the balloon when instead of "good job on Rx, pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, and unassisted pull-ups!" I got "It's not about going Rx. Look how much work you missed out on." The best thing I could do was walk away because no good would come out of what was stewing in my mind. "I just busted my butt over there and didn't give up. I broke through a barrier! I did something I had never done! I did "Danny" honorably!" Anyway, so began a day and night full of frustration, anger, and talking to others about the workout. Looking back 6 days later as I close out Week 19 today, I regret nothing and would change nothing. To have scaled "Danny" while comparing myself to the rest of the class would've been the wrong and cowardly move. I didn't do it to compare myself. I did it for ME and to honor the Hero...just how I'm going to do the ultimate Hero WOD "Murph" on Memorial Day. "Murph" is a 1mi run then 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups, 300 squats, and then ends with a 1mi run. LT Michael Murphy was a Navy SEAL who sacrificed his life for his fellow SEALs and for my country. He WILL be honored this Memorial Day. For last Tuesday, though, it was for Danny and I regret nothing.

- Are you winded yet? Sorry...but that last bullet has been brewing for days now and was intended for a "CrossFit-only" post but never happened. The rest of the week was pretty good and I set a new sumo deadlift PR on Friday at 265 pounds then ran home 12 miles after the chipper workout that I LOVED. It was a cool-crisp morning but I was blessed with running east the whole way and watching the sun rise from First Light through sunrise. Here is the photo I captured along the way...can't get that in the box, now can I?! It felt awesome to put some distance on my legs again and I felt great, even after the workout.

- We watched another episode yesterday in the "Wounded" series on NetFlix, episode #4 and called "Jason." Jason served for only a year in the Army and is now 100% disabled. He was immediately sent to Iraq back in 2006 and was hit by an IED. At the time of his injury and stay at Walter Reed Medical Center, he was the most severely injured/disabled in the state of Maryland and his parents could've left him with the VA...forever. Instead, they brought him and are his caregivers. Two years into his recovery, the VA cut him off from physical therapy and his recovery. He lost his left leg, severely injured his right leg and both arms, suffered TBI and our country has abandoned him. It just stuns me when I see a real-life current story like this. By the end of the short 20-25min episode, they ended up on Capitol Hill with a congressman telling the story and advocating for change, while he shells out his and his parent's money for therapy and other services. What exactly does "Never Forget" mean to people in our country and who make our laws/policies?

- Thanks to my long writing up above, I am running short of time now so this will be coming to an abrupt end here. Looking forward, I'm 26 days days from needing to hop in the car and head to Virginia for a 50 miler. Do I have recent long LONG runs in for this? No. Will I be relying heavily on muscle memory and my new-found fitness in CrossFit? Heck, yes. In the meantime, I'm going to get some more runs in and hopefully at least one 4-5 hour trail run in our national park. After Friday's 12, I got in another 9.1 yesterday that began as a goal for 5 or 6. It was a run more mentally needed than anything else. While I run less these days, there are non-physical benefits to running that CrossFit can't and won't ever provide and for those benefits, I hope to never stop running. Before I leave you today, I'd like to share just this one quote from one of our great former presidents. It fits me perfectly and how I live my life.

Have a great week, everyone! For me, it's time to do the CrossFit Games Open 15.3 workout this morning...pray for me! :)


Monday, March 9, 2015

M-Cubed for 3.9.2015

M-Cubed (Monday Morning Musings) for March Ninth, Two-Thousand Fifteen...a random smattering of thoughts that end up here on Monday morning.

- March! Time change yesterday, sunset AFTER 7pm, I just love this time of year. No matter what the day brings, we are all moving towards Spring, the snow melt, warmer temperatures, shorts weather and a driveway free of 3" of ice...well, that's my house if not yours. Just awesome. We will still get some snow, I'm sure, but the big picture is bright. Enjoy it!

- Week 2 of the CrossFit Games Open is complete! 3 more weeks to go. Last Thursday night, we huddled yet again on the couch to watch the Open announcement, this week from Austin, TX, and it turned out to be a repeat of last year's 14.2 workout...overhead squats and chest-to-bars. Well, if you were to be a fly on the wall and watching me for the past 19 weeks, you'd know I have garbage flexibility and the overhead squat is my #1 lifting weakness. Many will say that this movement is a true test of overall strength, skill and flexibility. The move starts with the bar on the ground and you must get it high overhead where you begin downward travel. Your quads must break parallel before you come back up. At the top, arms must be locked out and hips forward. That's one. Last Tuesday, my coach actually forbid me from putting weight on my 45lb bar. He told me that I hadn't even broke parallel with ONLY the bar so there wasn't any way I was loading the bar until that happened. (sucker punch!...but the right answer...form/function first then weight second) Then, the Open announcement two days later announcing that very movement. I am doing the scaled version of the Open and for this, the weight required was 65 pounds so two 10lb bumper plates on my 45lb bar. After a high rep dead lift workout Friday morning, I practiced the lift without weight and then with it. I did it...and I looked forward to Saturday morning 15.2 heat with the rest of my gym's family. The second part of the workout was doing chest-to-bars that was scaled down to chin over bar pull-ups. I have been using a band for pull-ups but a week ago was able to finally do a strict pull up with no band. What I DIDN'T practice was literally pushing my chin OVER the bar. Instead, I practiced just going high enough to break the horizontal plane. What a difference to push my chin over! I was only able to squeak out 2 chin-over-bars. So when some took several minutes to do many, many reps of 15.2, my day ended in 3 minutes with 6 overhead squat reps and 2 legit chin-over-bar unassisted pull-ups. No regrets! It's all I had and a week prior, I couldn't break parallel in the overhead squat. The Open isn't about competing with others...it's about exposing one's weaknesses and giving it everything I have..and learning/growing from it. As they say, CrossFit isn't about specializing in any one thing, it's about getting strong across the board in everything. Next year when these squats and chest-to-bars show up, I'll be able to do them and more of them.

- A brand new 12-part series was recently premiered on NetFlix from the Wounded Warrior Project called "Wounded: the Battle Back Home" and "is an exclusive documentary series that brings to life this generation’s injured service member experiences as they battle both the visible and invisible wounds of war. Watch these inspiring individuals navigate their post-war lives in a society that struggles to understand them and a system that is failing to support them." We watched the first 3 over the weekend and I highly recommend this series. Each episode is far short of 30min long so it won't be a big hog of your time. It's safe for the family, too. Each episode is named after the veteran's story being told during that episode. Here is the trailer for the series. Please watch!

- I didn't write M-Cubed last Monday so I never did share about last weekend. My wife and I had the privilege yet again to host a marriage retreat. This time, it was in Amish Country and we hosted 22 couples. We began Friday night and wrapped up before dinner on Saturday. It was a really good time from all reports and all of the surveys that have come in so far. In fact, 100% of respondents said that they'd come back for another one! That's awesome to hear! The photo here is a collage of the weekend: a frozen tundra outside, "RefineUs" seminar material to guide us through, and our accommodations at the Carlisle Inn: Sugarcreek where the retreat took place. GREAT time!

- It was a pretty good week last week during my work days. I had the privilege of swearing three different people back in the Navy. While I normally work with those who aspire to be Naval Officers, I also help out the enlisted side of recruiting by swearing people in. In this case, three different sailors who had previously served decided to return...just as I did back in September 2007. Each with a different story and reason but all back in uniform. The first one was the coolest as he brought his grandfather with him who is a World War II Navy veteran. Of course, he had his signature hat designating such, hearing aids in both ears and a cane to help him along. Before he left, I gave him an American flag/Navy flag lapel pin and he thought I was only showing it to him and not giving it to him. It made his day...well, not exactly. Watching his grandson take the oath made his day but the pin was the icing on top, I guess. It was an honor to meet him, thank him, and shake his hand.

- Last Thursday, I dug through my "running folder" in the archives of my basement. There are some things in my past that I do my best to navigate around, other things I have no recollection of, and others I remember fondly. Back then, I saved all of my bib numbers and in those days, races published big booklets of finisher results and mailed them out. I have a lot of those. Here is one that I found and even the medal has some green verdigris on it. The medal is 16 years old now and wow, so much life has happened since then! The travesty unseen here is what I was wearing. SHORT shorts in bright purple! I found a handful of photos from this race and rolled my eyes at each one. I was only 26 years old back then, it was marathon #4, but I still ran a respectable 3:49:50. As I look at this one last time this morning, I really did hold on to that "pear shape" of a body forever...until now. So much has changed since this photo...physically and in life. I don't know him!

- Any chance you caught Mr. Moon this past week? For two nights, he was full and if you caught him rising from the east, he was bigger than ever, especially on that second night. Just brilliant! We had two nights of clear skies, too, so we got to sleep with the backyard illuminated and light pushing around the curtains all night long. I LOVE those nights and look forward to days soon where we can leave the windows open yet again.

- Yesterday, I had a most fantastic morning run. I slept in (code for 6:30am) and timed my morning run to coincide with the sunrise at 7:47am. It was "Spring Ahead Sunday" and by the looks of it, it would be a gorgeous morning and day. I hit the road right around sunrise and ran east, hoping for a front row seat. I got it! It sure was beautiful. I took the route through my local park and ended up, not on purpose (sort of), in 1 foot plus deep snow...sharp snow, if that makes sense. With the sun then freeze over the last few days, running through it in shorts made my shins bleed as I pulled them up for each step. It was quite a workout and once I got out of that park, I re-designed my return route home and dodged pot-holes and black ice vs. bleeding more. All in all, it was great to run which I have been slacking in lately. I felt strong and confident but stopped at the 10K mark. I hope to get more runs in mid-week as the temperatures warm at that 50 miler looms...in ONE month. (gulp!) Here's that sunrise...


- Have you seen the movie "Gone Girl"? It was at the library and had heard about it, it got a few Golden Globe nominations and one Oscar nomination so I thought "Why not?" Plus, it was one of two movies that Reese Witherspoon produced in 2014 so I wanted to see it for that reason, too. Well, if I were to rate it on a 5-star scale, I'd give it a solid 3 but definitely not an Oscar nod. It is most certainly NOT for the young-ins and is most certainly twisted. Often, my wife can predict the end to a thriller but not this time. As the end approached (and at 2 1/2 hours long...it seemed like it was never going to get there!), we asked each other "how in the world is this movie going to end?!" and in the end, my arms went in the air..."that's how it ends?!"...argh!!!! Anyway, it's a good movie if you like twists and turns, Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike, and a movie about a total psychopath. (Some of you just reserved it on Redbox, didn't you?!)

- Before I close today, I want to share not some stranger's quote but something I penned just a few days ago..just random thoughts from my head and then a few photos I took from Saturday's CrossFit Games Open 15.2 at my gym. We have some great athletes and I was able to capture many moments for a lot of them. Have a GREAT week, everyone!

School, relationships, work, the run, the box, parenting...showing up to give less than 100% mutes what could be and robs you of the joy, accomplishment, and fulfillment that waits. ~ Me

- Here are the photos and here is the entire 61-photo album.






Lisa Shiu, CrossFit Games athlete, co-owner/coach of All Heart CrossFit and 2015 hopeful to move on to Regionals. "GO, LISA!!!" (being judged here by my other coach and gym owner, Charlie Dunifer)


Tuesday, March 3, 2015

CrossFit: "Hello, Week 18."

It's been a little bit since I've written on the personal side of this new journey so I just want to take a few minutes today to flesh out my progress and let you know: I haven't quit.

2015 CrossFit Open 15.1 and 15.1A
This Thursday, the 2nd of 5 workouts will be announced by CrossFit HQ as part of the 2015 CrossFit Games Open. Last Thursday night, my whole family gathered around the TV and watched 15.1 announced live from Boston, MA and the two top male athletes from 2014 go head to head. You might say we were passing the jug of "CrossFit Kool-Aid" to our kids after chugging a lot on our own. Friday morning, I did 15.1 and 15.1A because my weekend was full with a marriage retreat my wife and I were leading. The 15.1 portion of the workout was a triplet of knee raises, dead lifts, and snatches...for 9min. Then, they added a 15.1A portion that was pure strength. We had an additional 6min to get our max weight up in a Clean & Jerk. To be totally honest, I had never done that lift prior to the workout...ever. I had some baseline data from recent lifts to know where to go with it but I didn't actually have a log of a C&J. I ended up getting 135lbs over my head that was great for me. I actually failed at 130 then came back at got 135 with about 10sec to spare. Photo here is of all 4 movements. The bottom right is my final lift in the Clean and Jerk. See me on my toes? BAD! I have got to focus on driving from my heels and stay there. There are times where being on my toes is ok (lifting in the first part of a clean, for example) but when driving overhead, I need to get on my heels. All in all, I'm happy with 15.1 and continue to struggle with comparing myself to others. As a whole, this is NOT heavy. For me, though, and my garbage flexibility and weaker upper body, it's all I could muster. This Thursday night at 8pm, we'll find out with 15.2 is and I'll be doing it this Saturday with the rest of my fellow athletes at the box.

Back at 6 weeks.
For the past month, my progress has been solid. On most days, I do something new for the first time or I set a new personal record on something. One lift that stands out is from Monday, Feb. 16. I finally back squatted more than my body weight at 215 pounds. That was a 20lb personal record that day. But some days, I don't do either but still have a great workout. Often, though, my weight has been going up on a variety of lifts and I continue to work on pull-ups, rope climbs, and hand stands...all weaknesses of mine but getting better. Back 18 weeks ago, I could not do a pull-up. Not one. Not even close. Since then, I've been doing them but they have been band-assisted. This photo here is from week 6 and I struggled to do them WITH a band! Today, we started by doing pull-up holds. We pull our chins up over the bar and hold it until told to release. Prior to starting and hooking up my band, I grabbed the bar and pulled myself up, clearly over the bar with no assistance! I hadn't even tried to do that since I began. I came down and just stood there stunned. Kinda funny to surprise myself like that! The workout began and I didn't do anymore but I will be revisiting that to see how many strict ones I can do. (no kipping, that is)

One thing that has been on the not-so-good area is community. I work out at a box that has several classes during the day and those people, for the most part, don't cross paths. This keeps us all segregated, essentially, and isn't very "community-building." I am hopeful that as the air warms outside, that other events/opportunities will arise that will maybe bring together the athletes. This sense of "community" is one thing that was a draw some 18 weeks ago and while I have made some great new friends, I know there is a lot more potential. To do my part, I continue to volunteer to do things around the gym to be more involved and take more "ownership" and pride in it, but I still haven't been taken up on that. I'm hopeful that things will turn more heavy towards community and pride in our box soon. The training, however, is spot on and I'm truly appreciative of it.

I started to do a new side-by-side photo of myself a few days back. I posted a "before and after" blog back 6 weeks ago. (read it here) I thought better of it and put the camera down. While I could see more change, it seemed a bit narcissistic so I didn't. Physically, though, I can tell you that those size 32 jeans in that photo are a little more loose these days and a whole lot more definition is present in my upper body in every area above my waistline. On the pain and soreness front, I have no pain. Obviously, I have soreness after tough workouts and definitely feel my shoulders today, thanks to two days of heavy shoulder work. But, that's expected with high intensity work. I refuel/rebuild now with Hammer Nutrition's whey powder after these workouts so I'm giving my body what it needs to rebuild and be ready for the next day. On the scale, I don't own an operational scale but I do have one at my office. Fully clothed in uniform, I haven't really lost more than 5 or so pounds but I really don't care what the scale says. What I care about is how I feel about myself and my clothes and how they fit give me all the feedback I need...whether I like it or not! I will say that I donated a huge box of sweatshirts, sweaters, and shirts to AMVETS yesterday that simply have no place in my closet! No looking back!

Nutritionally speaking, I still tend to eat pretty well but don't follow any particular "plan." I do not consume high fructose corn syrup at all. That's easy to avoid. I have oatmeal with walnuts and honey often for breakfast or farm fresh eggs that my wife prepares. Check out this omelet she made from last week. Incredible. Farm fresh eggs from friends of ours, mushrooms, spinach, and avocado. Oh so good and perfect after a hard workout. Outside of breakfast, I do love the sweet and salty bars from Nature Valley, I drink a lot of water, and our dinner time meals often consist of beef, pork, or chicken with some kind of vegetable and/or sweet potatoes. The occasional visit to a restaurant for a cheat meal definitely happens but all in all, I eat pretty good. I love good food and it's important to me to enjoy it and not eat it because some plan tells me to. I may not be as "chiseled" or lean as I could be but I'm happy just as I am via hard work and smart decisions for what I eat. That's good enough for me.

Before I leave you today, I want to share this photo that is my current Facebook Timeline photo. I got this Reebok CrossFit shirt late last week, thanks to a 40% off coupon code and I love it. Most tees out there are cotton and as a runner, I can't stand them. I prefer a tech tee every time. Anyway, I wore this yesterday and the workout took me to a place where I felt closer to throwing up than ever before. It was a mixture of thrusters and kettle bell swings. It was 5-10-15-10-5 thrusters and 10-20-30-20-10 kettle bell swings for time. HARD workout. Afterwards, the song "let the bodies hit the floor!" rang in my brain as I immediately took the mat at my feet as a bed for a few moments...just to catch my breath and get my heart back in my chest. When I got up, I had "branded" the mat with my sweat...picture perfect, eh?! I think that tells the story just perfectly. Oh yea, I loved it. :)



Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The 2015 CrossFit Games Open. It's Time.

I often tell people that I'm passionate...truly passionate about few things. For those things that I am, I get behind 110% (plus or minus a few percentage points). Things that come to mind is my role as a father of my kids, husband to my wife, and supporter/protector of my family. I also would consider my over 17 years of distance running and ultra running as a serious passion that I've given my all to. That passion is decreasing in recent months yet still lingers a bit. I would also consider my insistence on integrity a passion in its own right. When I tell someone I will do something or that I'll be there for them...I will. I have a passion for hurting marriages, too, and stand at the ready to come alongside anyone that calls on me to help. I feel that my walk...my path...has equipped me to do just that. As they say..."been there, done that, got the t-shirt"...or in my case, "been there, done that, still married and thriving as good as ever." I also have a deep passion for my country and serving it. So much so that 6 years of completely separated service happened between 2001 and 2007 but I returned to wear the uniform again for no other reason than a deep-rooted desire to serve. It will be a truly bittersweet day when I hang that uniform up for good.

So enter my most recent passion of CrossFit. As they say, I drank the Kool-Aid and chug it daily. Heck, I think I have an IV of CrossFit "fluid" on a 24hr drip into my veins. I'm in Week 17 now and continue to see gains and new accomplishments almost daily. It hasn't been without setbacks, bad days, and a lot of humbling along the way. I have had to learn how to get out of the way of myself, gain a new level of humility, and decide each day to give it all that I have, no matter what that looks like. The next test of this begins tomorrow in what CrossFit calls the "CrossFit Games Open."

I like to refer to the CrossFit Games the "Olympics" of CrossFit or the playoffs that culminate in California where the fittest of the fit square off for the ultimate crown of "Fittest on Earth." It is truly a global competition where CrossFit affiliates the world over begin the "Open" tomorrow night. There are 3 main parts to the Games. First, the Open. Each Thursday night at 8pm EST, a new workout will be announced for 5 straight weeks. Those workouts will be called 15.1, 15.2, 15.3, 15.4 and finally, 15.5. Athletes will have until Monday night following the week's announcement to complete it and post it. Literally, hundreds of thousands will compete in the Open and only a handful...an extremely small handful will move on. For the 99%+ of us, the Open is about challenging us, exposing our weaknesses, trying new things, giving it our all, and building community and camaraderie within our local box/affiliate/gym. We know we're not advancing on...but we'll show up, give it all, root each other on, and fist bump/high five each other as we knock each workout out! The very best move to the Regionals that happen...well, regionally! Then, just a few per region advance to the Games. But the beginning starts tomorrow in small and large towns the globe over in local gyms. Everyone starts the same and only one man and one woman will be crowned the "Fittest on Earth."

CrossFit HQ does it up big time, as well. There is all kinds of criticism for the juggernaut that CrossFit, Inc. has become along with Reebok that has seen a huge resurgence almost solely because of the CrossFit universe. They and Rogue Fitness essentially "own" the market when it comes to equipment and apparel. From a business mind like mine, it's brilliant marketing and fun to watch. So tomorrow night and each Thursday night, CrossFit Games director, Dave Castro, will move from state to state and put on a LIVE streaming show at games.crossfit.com where he'll announce the workout and two "superstars" from the CrossFit world will face off and do it. They'll have no clue as to the workout prior to the announcement, either, which plays well into CrossFit's mantra of "constantly varied" workouts. Tomorrow night, it all goes down in Boston where last year's champion, Rich Froning, will face off against the 2014 runner-up, Mathew Fraser. Then, they'll move to Texas, then to Chicago, then to Oregon and finally to Vegas for 15.5. Different athletes will face off each week. It's exciting, no doubt, once you find yourself immersed in this universe. I have watched all of the 2014 announcements and without a doubt, the best one is 14.5 from last year. A whole battery of top athletes squared off against each other in a crazy tough workout of nothing but thrusters and burpees. If you've not seen it, I've done you a favor and included it below. :) (it's an hour long so you'll want to drag it to the workout portion if you're a bit short on time)

So here we go...the 2015 Open! I am going to find it tricky how to squeeze in a few of the workouts due to my schedule but I have no intention of backing out now. I'll get it done...somehow. And for the folks in the crowd who might have had their fill of "CrossFit talk," I leave you with this funny meme. It is funny, you must admit. :)


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Get Out of the Way...

...of yourself...or myself.

We are most certainly born selfish people, wouldn't you agree? If you don't, you may want to stop here. You were. We were. I was. We're simply wired to look out for ourselves before looking out for others. SelfLESSness is a choice. We have to choose it then choose it again and again and again. Every morning I wake up next to my wife, I have to decide: Will I put her needs in front of my own today or am I going to take front and center? You can apply this to parenting, friendships, work relationships, etc. Think about whom you work for at work. Are they selfish or selfLESS? You shouldn't have any doubt because you feel it, see it, and hear it in everything they do.

My own self-application: I already mentioned the very first choice when I sit up in bed...before the espresso is even brewed. I am one that believes that I am to serve my wife and lead her. If I do it right, "selfish" really isn't an option. I have to decide, regardless. Here are some other thoughts and maybe you'll relate with a few:
  • Driving down the interstate as a car begins to merge from the right on-ramp. Do you let them in?
  • Leaving the pile of dishes in the sink. Wash them or load the dishwasher...or leave them?
  • Voicing your opinion and expecting others to listen but intolerant of others' opinion(s).
  • Finishing the workout and instead of helping others clean up, you bolt...or you help out.
  • Expect accolades from others and pout if you don't get them...yet you never give them...or do you?
  • Let the person cross the road in front of you...or speed up to cut them off. Let them pass with a smile or hit the accelerator? 
  • Getting a fresh towel for your significant other instead of leaving the wet one you used hanging on the shower door. Wet or dry for her/him?
  • It's movie night. You want to watch a new release you've been waiting for. In my case, it's probably a Liam Neeson flick. I can insist on watching my choice or consider the others who are home...ya know, my family. What do you do?
  • You or I have had a rotten day at work. We've been cut off on the road, spoken down to, got cussed at, and got a bad annual review. Do we bring that through the door at home and let our family feel what we're feeling (it's only fair, right?!) or do we choose to love them and leave that junk behind us?
  • Do we work 4 jobs to get the bills paid or do we point the finger across the table and expect others to carry the load? (If you're the man of the house, go get a 5th job and take care of your family!)
  • Do you run long every Saturday and orphan your family just so you can get your miles in...or do you adjust your schedule to minimize impact on them? Which is it?
  • Do you buy that car with a high payment because you "deserve it" even though you know that groceries are going to suffer? Or, do you compromise, save and pay cash...or finance much less of a car to ensure your family stays a priority?
  • Do you see a post on Facebook and think "Not again...I'm sick and tired of hearing about CrossFit...or running...or whatever" ... then act by rolling your eyes and hiding/deleting them? Or, do you recognize what they're doing, think good of it, and scroll on? Yes, this applies. One is selfish and one is not.
  • Do you hold the door open for people? Your kids? Your significant other? Strangers? EVER?
  • Ever shovel the neighbors driveway?
  • It's cold...I mean, really cold. Like so cold they have to cancel school. :) Do you start the car for your mate so it'll be warm and toasty or is "too cold" to do such an act of kindness?
  • Do you wait for everyone to be served at dinner before eating or do you dive in because you just can't wait another moment?
  • How about taking the time to help a co-worker understand something, how to do something, etc. that would help them be more efficient and/or accomplish their task? You know how to make that thing work in Excel and they have no clue...do you assist? Or, are you so busy that you'll won't spare a moment.
  • You dump coffee grinds in the trash but just graze the outside of the trash can so some grinds fall on the floor. Do you pick them up or leave them for someone else to pick up after you?
I am so overwhelmingly tired of the almighty finger being pointed at peoples' own selves vs. those around them in an effort to help, love, serve, and lift up. If we would just have a more servant-like attitude and seek to improve the welfare of those around us and put a smile on their faces. When I walk in my CrossFit box early morning, I make a point to say good morning to folks, even if it's just a wave across the room. Yea, you're tired. Yea, you're grumpy. But get this...expressing kindness and a smile to others will make you smile and feel good as well. Funny how that works, eh? It's reciprocal. I am guilty for wearing my emotion on my sleeve so for me, often more than anyone else around me, I have to be very intentional about this. If you think that "Well, it's going to be awful here no matter what I do so what's the point?!" ... consider that the change can begin with YOU.