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!

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