Seriously, Double-Unders Are Hard!

So my last post was around a month ago… and I talked a little about the O-Course. I’ve almost forgotten how hard that was and that means I might be ready to try it again. There seems to be some interest at work to form a team that is willing to do the Warrior Dash, Spartan Race and Tough Mudder. I’m game for all three… but I’d be lying if I told you I’m super excited about running a race where the only thing that stands between you and the finish line (after a ton of running) are live electrical wires… don’t even ask me how you’d train for that. I was always taught NOT to stick your fingers in the electrical outlets.

So the last month I’ve been able to stick to my 4-5 day a week sessions at CrossFit. It’s turned into a solid habit where I now ponder doing a weekend class or attending some of their skills sessions on stuff like Weightlifting, Pull-Ups and Pistols… yesterday I missed my morning class because I was home sick. By 4:30pm I was feeling better and decided to go do a session rather than miss it. Really enjoyed it and felt like the right thing to do. Someone needs to tell me the difference between a habit and an addiction… not which one I’m experiencing.

Four weeks ago I hit my first double under after trying for a few weeks. A double under is when you are skipping and are able to rotate the rope around twice in one jump. This means you need to spin the rope quickly and jump a little higher than normal. After practicing daily during the warm-ups, I was able to string together a few more. Now I can do 5-10 where you do a double, skip normal, do a double…  I was stoked! I went home and told my wife and kids about how happy I was that I finally hit one. I even showed them, on the front walk, with a skip rope we had around. I went back inside and my 8 year old son, Cooper, grabs the skip rope. After practicing for 10-15 minutes, he managed to hit a double under. My wife laughed. Cooper asked me when he can start coming to CrossFit with me. Sigh! Guess I’m going to have to up the stakes and get those doubles going unbroken! That goes on a long list of stuff I want to be able to do like; hand-stand push-ups, pistols, muscle-ups and a 95lbs thruster. Sooooooo many things I suck at!

You might have noticed that I’ve stopped with the charts and graphs. Reason is that I’ve hit my target and now I’m really working on getting stronger. That means dropping body fat% and trading a pound of fat for a pound of muscle. Sounds easy… but it isn’t. This is slow, but then again, Rome wasn’t built in a day.

Next week I’m off to Paris with my wife (no kids… grandparents coming up to watch them). Found a CrossFit gym near our apartment. For what it’s worth… if you plan to go to Paris for more than a few days, get an apartment. We are using a company called Cobble Stay. They are great and have places all over the city. I’m saying right now that I will be eating baguettes, cheese and croissants. I will drink red wine. I will likely need to work it off when I get back… some things are worth the sacrifice! Least I’ll be able to walk a ton while I’m there! Looking forward to getting away for a week.

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Sitting at the Big Kids Table

Last Friday marked my last day of CrossFit Bootcamp (Monday marked the start of the Regular CrossFit class) … which means 12 weeks of 5-day-a-week BootCamp workouts is done. For clarity, I repeated the BootCamp three times (each is 4 weeks long).  A lot of people do the 4-week BootCamp once then move to the Regular CrossFit class, a few people do the Bootcamp twice, fewer still do it three times. I went three times because I know I needed to form a habit. After 3 months of getting up early every weekday, I’ve managed to establish something of a routine… I think it’ll be a routine that’s hard to break. I also felt I needed some time to try and get in better shape and keep up with the CrossFit regulars. The added benefit is that over the last 3 months, I’ve gotten to know 3 classes worth of people and a handful of them now are regulars and show up at the same 6am class I go to. The CrossFit BootCamp introduces you to a lot of the CrossFit terminology and a lot of the main non-weightlifting-type of workouts. We do a ton of lunges, GHD work, Kettle-bells, box jumps, running, pull-ups, sit-ups… you get the picture…makes it easy to hit the ground running with doing the Regular class.

Last Friday also marked my last BootCamp Fit Test. So what were the results? My time was 11 minutes and 55 seconds… down 55 seconds from 4 weeks prior.  Oddly enough only two of us were there that day. Kind of odd since it was like only two people showing up to graduate.

Now that I’m doing the regular CrossFit workouts (sticking with 5 days a week), what’s the difference you ask?  The focus on As Many Reps/Rounds as Possible (AMRAP) during a fixed time or a fixed number of rounds/reps in as short amount of time as possible is common across both. The warm up (around 15 minutes) is different and incorporates burpees, ring dips, pull-ups along with stretching. After that there is always a weightlifting component where we do 2-3 focused lifting routines. Lastly we have the option of Strength and Conditioning Stream or a more focused Weightlifting Stream… I tend to always go for the Strength and Conditioning Stream because there is a good mix of stuff. I’m guessing people get to choose because they might want to focus on different aspects of their fitness or maybe they are prepping for a competition.

Today’s WOD (Workout of the Day) had us doing the following (can also see it here:

High hang clean 3×3 @ 50%-65% 1RM
Bench press 3×5 reps @ 73% 1RM

Rest 5 minutes

Complete the following for time:

  • Run 800m
  • 40 Push-ups
  • 20 Box jumps
  • Run 100m
  • Rest 1 minute
  • Run 100m
  • 20 Burpees
  • 40 Pull-ups
  • Run 800m

I tend to have the most problems with the weightlifting. Not due to the weight. Weight can always be scaled or adjusted… but more around the terminology and the coordination of the lift. Bench press is easy… pretty straight forward. The High Hang Clean is a different story and requires a little hop, deep squat, elbows out, loosen hand grip and then driving upwards to a standing position. It sounds easy but it’s not yet second nature… but it’ll come with time. Thinking of getting one of those narrow PVC pipes and practicing. It’s like trying to do Double-Unders… at some point it’s just gotta click (hope its soon!).

Glad it’s the weekend! Tomorrow I might be hitting the yoga session at CrossFit but not before I go to the market with one or both of my sons. One is an early bird and one isn’t. They both love the Peameal Bacon Sandwich they have there. See below… that’s the spot… Carousel Bakery. I also need to load up on some veggies and fruit and maybe something to grill!

$5.25 buys you a piece of deliciousness.

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.

Competition

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 Round 2

Gah… I was wrong about my time… the time I had to beat was 13:08 and I came in at 12:50… which was great. Now I need to shave off more time… my last Fit Test is 2.5 weeks away and I will be trying hard to get less than 12 minutes. A couple of guys in the earlier class (pretty fit) killed the test and came in around 10 minutes. It’s the walking lunges that kill me… 20 in the first round isn’t bad… by the time I hit 12 on the second… the legs stop cooperating. Burpees and box jumps are fine… though after the walking lunges… I need a second before I can jump. A couple of people clipped their ankles on the boxes and went over them in an earlier class.

So the workouts are going smoothly and are part of my weekday routine. Now I need to focus on stretching and food. I had been stretching 5 times a week to keep the lower back loose but then backed off as I wasn’t getting any pain… now it’s starting to tighten up ever so slightly so I need to go back to the regular stretching routine, especially after days with a lot of sitting or meetings.

I saw my chiropractor last Thursday and he was amazed by the changes in my morphology. I pretended to know what he meant and then went home to look up what it means. In essence, he was surprised by the changes in my “shape”. I was clearly taking up a lot more room on his table 4-6 months ago and now I’m not. Since the “change in shape”, I’ve also had less need to go see him for adjustments to my lower back and now go see him only once a month.

Food -wise… I have been looking over several sites with Paleo recipes and links to books or other material. I would characterize my eating habits as 90/10 Eat Clean. I drink water and green tea more than anything else…. way more. All the foods are non-processed with lots of lean meats and vegetables. Not much, if any fruit, after 4PM.

Paleo is close but differs in a number of ways. But they don’t allow legumes (beans), grains, dairy and a few other things. There is a great guide on this that can be read here. It’s not for everyone… like anything it takes a little time to get used to it. I can try anything for 30 days. I think the thing to keep in mind is the 80/20 rule… give yourself some space to enjoy a dinner out or grab some Five Guys with the kids. Just maybe sub in water for the Coke.

Some of my favorites are as follows (this list will likely change or grow as I get more into it):

Paleomg.com

This site is run by avid Cross-Fitter Juli Bauer. Tons of great stories and recipes. She has a solid following based on the comments and feedback I’ve read on the site. One of the sites I regularly visit for all things Paleo and Cross Fit.

NomNomPaleo.com

Came across this one just a few weeks ago. Great recipes AND a fantastic App for the iPad. I downloaded it and it has great stuff like shopping lists and recipes. I’m using my iPad more and more to store recipes and cookbook material so it’s all in one handy place.

I don’t yet have any Paleo cookbooks… but I intend to get this one:

Food Bible

It’s supposed to come out early August and I’m pre-ordering it from Amazon. I can be accused of judging a book by its cover, because that’s how I selected it… I’m a sucker for good branding and packaging and the cover sets the tone for some intriguing content… like meal plans and lots of recipes. This book will soon be my go-to for recipes.

Stats coming by end of week… not much has changed… except for Body Fat %… that’s a good thing.

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You say Tabata… I say Tabata

Friday is Fit Test Round #2. My time to beat is 12:27… I’m gunning for sub 11 minutes if I can. This marks week 8 of 5-day-a-week CrossFit BootCamp… and I’ve signed up for another 30 days. I expect that at the end of this 90 day run, I’ll be as fit as I’ve been in 15 years… and have something to build on.

So I downloaded a very cool app called Tabata Pro Timer for my iPad. Sometimes I like to do a quick workout at home and Tabatas are around 16 minutes so it’s perfect for a weekend pick-me-up… granted, its 16 minutes of hell… but it goes by quick. At the gym there is always someone timing us but when you’re alone and your kids would rather play on the Wii… you’re kind of left to your own devices. This thing lets you set up your own sets, times and also lets you pick a playlist to use while working out. I like that it counts down the last few seconds before you finish a set and then counts down the last few sets of the rest period. The rest period tends to go by quickly and at first I thought the app had a flaw… turns out that I hate the sets.

A good home Tabata workout would be something like; sit-ups, squats, push-ups and bur-pees. If I was at the gym, I’d swap out Bur-pees for Pull-Ups. I’ll get one in on the weekend, early as the boys are distracted with Lego Batman 2.

So my son is obsessed with American Ninja Warrior. I recall PVR-ing it for him last year when they had the finals in Japan. This year G4TV and NBC are airing it on Monday nights and I PVR it for him so he can watch it the next day. He just turned 6 and can’t get enough of it. He and his brother (8 years old) just came back from a 10 day visit to New Brunswick where they split time with their grandparents. His grandfather built him a salmon ladder and he practiced on it every day. He also ended up doing tons of work on the monkey bars at nearby playground. His hands came back with cracked skin from the blistering. I was quite proud of him tearing up his hands doing some pretty physical stuff. He’s turned the inside of our home into something of an obstacle course and I often find him dangling from the stairs or a high window sill as he works on his grip strength. Maybe one day he’ll become the first Canadian Ninja Warrior! I’ll sign up for Canadian Ninja Wannabe.

Not avoiding a stats update… just didn’t take them down today. Will have one for you this weekend when I post my Fit Test #2 results.

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 16

Last two days of CrossFit Bootcamp have been fun and challenging at the same time. Yesterday we had a partner workout consisting of Push-ups, Sit-Ups, Kettle Bells and Rowing… you definitely didn’t want to let up because your partner would have to do extra reps… today it was Squats, Kettles (or 200m run… which I opted for) and Pull-Ups. Friday is the Fit Test where we compare our weak week 1 results with our week 4.

I think I’ll be signing up for another 30 days of Bootcamp. I’m not nervous about starting the straight-up CrossFit class… but I like the Monday-Friday expectation of the Bootcamp and I could use another month to tweak my endurance, strength and cardio. I feel that I need to go 5 days per week since there is a 5-day-per-week expectation in the BootCamp… with CrossFit, I think I could end up talking myself out of sessions… one more round of the BootCamp and then I think I’ll ready for a 3-day-per week CrossFit commitment.

The weight has been coming off nicely… mostly due to a bout of nausea this past Friday and Saturday. I took Friday off to go on a day trip with my wife and I was miserable… by the time we got back, I was feverish. I spent the entirety of the next day in bed. Sunday I recovered and spent one hour, in 2 sessions, stretching since I tightened up a lot from Friday onwards.

I did cheat on the eating thing yesterday… was going nuts for a Club Sandwich (with fries and gravy) from a little place down the street… and I caved. I will say that after I was done, I was ho-hum about it. I did feel overly full. Cravings are gone. Guess my innards are adjusting to eating mostly healthy stuff. Tonight I have grilled chicken, quinoa and salad.

This CrossFit BootCamp has actually been a blast. I like the gym (no nonsense and no frills), the instructor means business without being a jerk and the crew that comes out is a supportive bunch. They work hard and are all good natured. There are twin sisters in the class, both runners and one of them is getting married in 2 weeks. Talk about commitment to getting in shape for the big day (and she’s already pretty fit). Virtually all of them are in better shape (stronger, faster or more endurance) than me… but I’m closing the gap. It feels good knowing that this Father’s Day I’ll be in better shape (and lighter) than I’ve been since before I had kids.

My two young sons notice mommy and daddy going to the gym for their work-out… I like that they see this as normal. One has soccer tonight and the other tomorrow night… I’d like them to think of me and my wife as role models for them when it comes to this stuff… focus on health, positive attitude and achieving a goal…. Speaking of goals… I’m now 4lbs away from my target of 180. I’m thinking that I should probably hit that number in 3 weeks (maybe 2). My immediate focus is killing that Fit Test on Friday… and leaving everything I have on the gym floor.

Current stats:

Height: 5’11”

Weight: 184 lbs (distance to target is 4 lbs)

BMI: 25.7

Fat %: 21.0 (target is 18%)

SOOOOOOO.... CLOSE