Why Cross Fit (for me)?

I was fit for the first two-thirds of my life (0-28)… and I’m assuming I was a fit baby/toddler/infant. I turn 42 this year so it’s really been the last third of my existence that I’ve let myself go. I played soccer most of my life and would spend weekends with “the guys” playing football on Sundays at a nearby field. It’s really when my job became a career that I started to cut corners on taking care of myself. Snacking rather than cooking, driving rather than running and sitting rather walking. Now I find myself working to undo the damage I’ve done over the last 14 years.

Today marks my 11th week of doing Cross Fit at 5 days a week. Not looking/fishing for kudos… rather, I realized that I managed to commit to this longer (much longer) than any of the other things that I tried… longer than running and longer than regular gym workouts… and I’m not sick of it. I actually kind of love it.

In those 11 weeks… I’ve noticed my endurance go up as well as noticing increases in my strength and agility. Clothes fit differently (the downside is the cost to get new clothes), my back doesn’t hurt and I seem to be more focused at work… err… well maybe less so on Mondays.

The benefits of going are great… I’m back down to a weight I haven’t seen in 14 years. So I wonder why I like this stuff so much. I thought about it and figured I’d list a few thoughts here… guessing some will be consistent with what a lot of Cross-Fitters say… and guessing some of it more my spin. Here goes:

It’s hard

Often stupidly, I’m drawn to assignments or things that are difficult, like cooking difficult dishes, putting Ikea furniture together and trying to fix my dad’s computer over the phone. If Cross Fit were easy, then I’d likely not be drawn to it. I like it when people thing I can’t do something and I prove them wrong. I like the struggle and pushing through it. I check the board every day ahead of the workout to determine what crazy WOD they cooked up for us and then say to myself “Seriously! This is gonna suck” and then I say “#&$@ it… going to own this one”. If it’s not hard, it isn’t worth doing.

It’s intense

So I show up every day at around 6am… class/session starts at 6:30am. The warm up lasts 15 minutes or so and then its 30-45 minutes of High Intensity Interval Training. No stops, no texting, no chit chatting. Just all-out effort until you have nothing left in the tank. Mark down your reps and your time and check if you beat your last scores (PRs anyone?). When you are done, you leave (feeling good about what you just did) and the next crew starts.


Golf is one of those games where I tend to try and beat my best score (by the way… I suck at golf). When I’m out with my buddies, I’m very focused on trying to beat my best score… but I’m also trying not to end up on the bottom for the day (cause I’d have to buy the beers at the club house). I’ll check the scorecard and make sure I’m keeping pace or try and determine what I need to do to stay ahead. I always tend to play with people who are better than me and I think that makes me “up my game”. Cross Fit is like that as well. As much I as am trying to beat my last time or shoot for a PR… I also work towards staying in the top third of the times or reps. It’s the competition that helps me drive to better results. Constantly with “if X can do it, then I can too”. Although my wife doesn’t Cross Fit, she does workout at arguably one of the toughest boot camps in Toronto (Fit Factory Fitness). I once went with her (pre-Cross Fit) and nearly hurled in the car on the way home. I’m a little competitive with her when it comes to this stuff. She keeps me honest. I think we push each other. She pushes me without being annoying… not sure if I can say the same.

The People

I recall my first day at the Box I go to. I was doing the warm-up for the Cross Fit Bootcamp… and was struggling on the Ring Dips (I was struggling at all the stations)… one of the regulars turned to me and cheered me on while she was between reps. I was struck by how a complete stranger would stop focusing on themselves and give me a little motivation to get through my reps. This seems typical, if not expected and I’ve tried to pay it forward. You end up forging a respect and bond with people the same way you do if you play team sports. The trainers are great and always present to help you fine tune a lift or posture over a routine. They push you because they get to know you and your goals. It’s like having a multi-tiered support system ensuring success.

The Gym (The Box)

Not sure if all Cross Fit gyms are like this but the one I go to is elegantly spartan. It’s literally a warehouse… complete with loading dock and 2 huge garage-like doors. No fluff. No fancy machines. I also love that it’s very close to where I live. It’s around 5kms (3.3miles)… 11 minutes in the car. I’ve seen pictures of a few other Cross Fit gyms and they seem to stay within the same minimalist theme… little waste of space, no unnecessary bells and whistles… very Apple-like.

The Results

11 weeks ago I was a whole lot rounder. I’m starting to get cuts where my abs are. My shoulders and arms are starting to pop. I can run further and faster than before. I can lift heavier than I ever have. Nuff said!

There you have it. Send a comment or post a question if you have any!

Current stats:

Height: 5’11”

Weight: 178 lbs (distance to target is 3 lbs), new target is 175lbs

BMI: 24.8

Fat %: 17.4 (target is 14%)


Fit Test Results and Another 30 Days

Fit Test Results + another 30 Days

So it’s been a while since I last posted… my bad! That’s more a function of how busy things have gotten.

So let’s do something of a chronological update. When I last left off, It was Day 16 of a 20 Day Bootcamp…

Day 20 of Bootcamp: Fit Test. I had an Old Time of 11:38 and my new time was 12:27… I swear I must have counted the first round incorrectly and either shorted a series… because I killed myself on the test. Good news is that I have another round of boot camp to do better.

Day 21 of Bootcamp (first day of Round 2): Big class! There are around 12 people in this class. Last class we started with 8 and dwindled to 5 by the end of week 2. There are some folks in this class that are pretty fit… a couple of guys look like seasoned weight lifters.

Day 34 of Bootcamp (yesterday):  Yesterday was a quick workout… called the “LumberJack 20″… 20 Deadlifts (@115lbs), Run 200m, 20 KB Swings (@20kg), Run 200m, 20 Walking Lunges, Run 200m, 20 Pull Ups, Run 200m, 20 Box Jumps, Run 200m… time was 12:48… first guy to finish… felt good about that.

Day 35 of Bootcamp (today): Tabata! I also like Tabatas… was 4 rounds of 4 minutes… 20 seconds of max reps followed by 10 seconds of rest (8 rounds x 4). We started with Pull Ups, and then went to Push Ups, then Sit Ups then Squats…50/64/70/92… not bad… should have done better on the squats.

Tomorrow is supposed to be terrible. I recall this workout from last time and I almost kept driving when I saw what they were doing… going to suck it up and own it tomorrow… but it’ll hurt. I think I almost puked the last time. One week and I get to do the Fit Test again! Looking forward to those results… now that I can count!

I missed last Friday as my wife and I decided to take a trip to Chicago… the kids were away visiting their Grandparents so a getaway was in order… was a blast… great food, no itinerary… didn’t go nuts on deep dish pizza while I was there. I did end up going to Xoco and it was great… fresh, fast food. It’s one of the 3 Rick Bayless spots and just next door to Frontera Grill. We went to fancier places but the food here was outstanding (and not pricey). We also went to the Publican for brunch… it’s located in the meatpacking district and the bacon there is something you MUST order… best bacon I’ve ever had. The other two spots we went to, based on recommendations were GT Fish and Oyster for great seafood and a great vibe… and we also went to Acadia. Acadia was the swankiest of all the spots and the cocktails there were pretty killer!

Oh yeah! I hit my target weight at the end of the last boot camp. WTG ME! I think I can still shave off a few pounds and am now aiming for 175 lbs. I also have a new target for Body Fat %… and it’s 16%. Those new targets should keep me in check!

Current stats:

Height: 5’11”

Weight: 180 lbs (distance to target is 5 lbs), new target is 175lbs

BMI: 25.1

Fat %: 19.5 (target is 16% 18%)

Hit my target! But now I have a new one.

CrossFit – Day One

Wikipedia Definition of CrossFit:

CrossFit describes its strength and conditioning program as “constantly varied, high intensity, functional movement,” with the stated goal of improving fitness (and therefore general physical preparedness), which it defines as “work capacity across broad time and modal domains.”Workouts are typically short—20 minutes or less—and intense, demanding all-out physical exertion. They combine movements such as sprinting, rowing, jumping rope, climbing rope, weightlifting, and carrying odd objects; they use barbells, dumbbells, gymnastics rings, pull-up bars, kettlebells, medicine balls, and many bodyweight exercises. These elements are mixed in numerous combinations to form prescribed “Workouts of the Day” or “WODs”. Hour-long classes at affiliated gyms, or “boxes,” typically include a warm-up, a skill development segment, the high-intensity WOD, and a period of individual or group stretching. Performance on each WOD is often scored and/or ranked to encourage competition and to track individual progress. Some affiliates offer additional classes, such as Olympic weightlifting, which are not centered on a WOD.

My Day One Definition:

A challenging 45 minutes of exertion leading to lightheadedness and really wobbly legs.

So today was Day One of a 20 day CrossFit Bootcamp. It’s sort of an initiation before they get you ready for the WODs that come later. You get used to the equipment, terms and pacing of the workout. I’d like to say that I didn’t have bad dreams about it last night… it clearly was on my subconscious mind. We did a warm-up that focused on stretching arms and legs and some squats to get the muscles a little loosened up. Then we hit the routine. It was actually not bad for Day One. 15 reps of sit ups and back raises on the GHB machine (something elevated to lock in your legs and allow you to bend). Then we did 15 reps of Ring Lifts (where you try to lift your body weight using rings on ropes… note easy). Then we did the dreaded pull-ups on pull-up bars… again another 15. Keep in mind that for the last two exercises, I did 12 (not 15) and by that I mean 3 followed by a few minutes of rest, repeated 4 times. Lastly we finished with 3 rounds of push-ups (max you can crank out for 1 min), followed by a modified sit-up (max you can do for 1 minute) followed by squats (again… max you can do for one minute). All told a 45 minute investment of time.

The drive home sucked a bit… lots of lactic acid build-up from the body squats and a little lightheadedness. But that wore off and by the time I was driving in to work, I felt fine. It’s back to it tomorrow at 6:30am. I picked the early morning class so it wouldn’t interfere with the kid’s soccer schedules or my wife’s Bootcamp. That just means we have to get a little more organized the night before and get lunches (mostly) ready for the kids. We will end up doing a Fit Test every Friday to assess progress… where you check the number of reps you were able to do and the time it took you to do them. Can’t wait for the first one… the benchmark… should be terrible… the good thing is that it’ll represent me at my worst and it only gets better after that.

Side-note: Don’t bring your forehead down on the rough rubber surface. I have what looks like a rash (likely uber mild friction burn) and had to explain how I got it 3 times before 11am. It looks ridiculous… the only thing more ridiculous is how I got it.

One down and 19 more to go. I wonder how much of a difference it’ll make to my body fat percentage. I’ll likely update the charts a little more frequently to see if it makes a difference or not. We got a book to track progress and I’ll likely end up sharing my benchmark on a future post… along with any progress.

For what it’s worth… the place CrossFitTO  is exactly what I was looking for in a place to go work out. It was spartan and not fancy. People are there to work, people seem very supportive; the people there are all shapes and sizes. During the actual CrossFit class session that was going on, one lady was finishing up some Push Press routine… she was able to crank out one on her last round and the instructor mentioned she had a few more in her… she cranked out to more and was struggling with the third… everyone stopped, began to holler some encouragement and she got the last one up. Then they clapped. Pretty interesting.

By the way… shooting for 180lbs now… not 185.

Current stats:

Height: 5’11”

Weight: 187 lbs (distance to target is 7 lbs)

BMI: 26.1

Fat %: 22.6 (target is 18%)

Status as of May 22

Mid Term Report Card

— Start Scene—

My Wife: Alex, I’ll take When Hell Freezes Over for $1000

Alex Trebek: What is “I’m going upstairs to do 45 minutes of Yoga”

My Wife: Alex I’ll go with “Things I never thought I’d hear my husband say”

Alex Trebek: Correct! Pick again!

— End Scene—

Went to the usual Sunday Yoga class… was a tough one. I’m sure people think its all easy poses and stretching… they tend to forget the repetitive plank position and stuff that makes your thighs feel like their engulfed by some invisible fire. Yet somehow, I enjoy it and it gets better each time I go. Maybe it’s like a challenge or the need to move from Prep to Level 1.

Yeah I did some at home yesterday… around 40 minutes or so. Helps with the flexibility and I feel like I’m making deposits into the bank of health… which is a good thing since I’m also charging a lot to the “poor –posture-and-I-sit-too-much” credit line.

My youngest is learning Yoga at Kindergarten… man that kid is flexible. I think he likes showing up daddy… but that’s fine… we’ll reverse that soon (and by soon I mean 36-48 months or so… it’s a marathon not a sprint).

The eating well thing is going fine. What sucked is that my wife and I went to a restaurant on Saturday (impromptu date night). Looked it up and it got great reviews from some well-known publications like Toronto Life. The actual location/room was stunning… but the food was ho-hum… and for the price I expected more. With this whole caloric deficit thing going on, I feel like someone with allowance at the end of the week I can spend and I hate using it up on something less than awesome. Should have gone somewhere for half the cost and twice the flavor… like a great Indian place (Indian Rice Factory) or BBQ (like Barque).

Smart food choices are making an impact.

Current Stats:

Height: 5’11” (yay! I’m not getting shorter)

Weight: 196lbs (broke through the 200lbs barrier a few weeks ago…195 is next major milestone)

BMI: 27.3 (target continues to be around 26)

Fat %: 25.4 (I have a scale that measures it… interesting stat… wish I took the stat when I started this)

Based on the charts I’ve seen, I’m just barely outside the Average Range… and need to get down to 14-17%… If adjusted for age (tsk tsk) then it’s should be around 16-21 for ideal. Lean would be between 7% and 14%. I’m shooting for 18%… seems like a reasonable compromise.

Back Issue Reboot

So on March 14 (like a jinx) I messed up my back again. My son (5 years old) had a nightmare and my wife brought him into our room so he’d get to sleep. My wife took up 50% of the bed, my  year old starfishes and took up 45% of the bed and I managed to hang on to the edge… I held some really bad posture for hours and wrecked my back… missed work the next day and symptoms showed like either sciatica or piriformis syndrome… not sure which it is but leaning towards piriformis. Been doing the stretches for it daily, walking a lot to loosen it up and trying not to sit much as that causes pain over time.Good news is that its taken about 2 weeks to get to normal, last time it took a month, covered here.

This also means I’ve been away from the treadmill and yoga studio since the last post. But I go back tomorrow for the usual Tuesday Night Prep Yoga session… small class and lots of focus… looking forward to it.

In the meantime, the weight has been coming off nicely. Been eating responsibly… not feeling hungry… snacking on the right stuff throughout the day.

So current stats:

Height: 5’11″

Weight: 200lbs (down 5 from 2 weeks ago, target is 185 for now)

BMI: 27.9 (target is 25.8)

Yoga again tonight… looking forward to it

Not sure if I mentioned where I go in my last post.The place is called Downward Dog Yoga and they have 2 locations in Toronto. Naturally, I go to the one in The Beaches since its a 5 minute drive home. The link to it can be found here.

Taking this stuff somewhat seriously as I purchased a new yoga mat. I’ve added one lunch time run into my week… Wednesday’s I hit the workplace gym and I just started a Couch to 5K program… needless to say I’m way more couch than 5K… but you gotta start somewhere.

Groceries have been pretty healthy lately. But cripes it takes a long time to make good stuff from scratch. Pasta or Kraft Dinner takes 11-15 minutes tops… once the water is boiling. I made a Greek Salad with chicken last night and after all the cutting, washing, dicing and mixing… it took way longer. Least I had left overs I could roll into lunch for today. Just finished it a short spell ago and I’m not feeling the least bit sleepy or sluggish. Big surprise! Duh!

So current stats:

Height: 5’11”

Weight: 206lbs (down 1 from last week, target is 185 for now)

BMI: 28.7 (target is 25.8)

How we got to here…

Age 0-27 [The Age of Metabolic Arrogance]

Great years… high metabolism, tons of sports, ate whatever I wanted and could not crack 150lbs to save my life. Life was good and I was cocky. I worked in restaurants all throughout high school and university. Contrary to popular belief, working in kitchens actually works great as an appetite suppressant… weight 160. Could run for days.

Age 28-30 [The Age of Metabolic Reckoning]

1998:  started out great… first real job that would eventually lead to a career. Not a ton of great stuff to eat in the neighborhood, McDs, BK, Subway, Taco Bell, the 4 horsemen of the dietary apocalypse. Desk job coding like the wind and Quarter Pounders… seemed like a great combo at the time… weight 180. Could run for hours.

1999: Bro-In-Law staying with me and (my) eventual wife over the summer… start joking about impending metabolic decline and the motto “200 in 2000” was born… weight 190. Could run for minutes.

2000: Stopped playing soccer, started Super Sizing… in retrospect, the incorrect decision. Got married, the right decision… weight 235 [ish]. Can’t find my running shoes.

Age 31-39 [The Age of Metabolic Indecision]

Let’s see… gym membership, sessions with trainer, eating better, Atkins, couch to 5K… nothing really sticking. 2 Kids now enter the picture and maybe time to smarten up… weight 200. Bought new running shoes.

Age 40 [The Age of Metabolic Resurrection]

Hit 40 halfway around the world. Got schooled in the art of hole-digging. Kids find an old picture of Mommy and Daddy and ask  “who is the guy with mommy”… ouch… Groupon to the rescue!

Green is Good!