Getting Over the Initial CrossFit Hump, and Team WODs Suck (for me)

This past week was mostly great, with one exception – I have a nasty ass (literally) stomach bug of sorts. It started a few nights ago, and hasn’t gone away. I’m not rolling around in pain or anything – in fact, I did a WOD on Wednesday (which was a disaster, see below for more on that). And I just finished walking over 3 miles for a Friday night fun-fun time at the track (woohoo!), stopping to do 5×10 pushups and 5×10 air squats along the way. : )

I don’t know what I ate/caught but it’s just made my stomach get some pains once in a while, and cause me to have to go you know what. So, to say the least, it’s impeded my first week of 3x membership at CrossFit greatly. I’m very disappointed to report that I only went twice this week, but I have a legit excuse – last thing I needed to do was show up and shit my shorts mid-way through a WOD : )

Aside from this relatively inconvenient but not-too-bad stomach bug, I’ve felt great this week. My diet is dialed in perfectly – I finally came to the conclusion that heavy dairy, in the form of Greek yogurt nightly, was wreaking havoc on my digestive track. So I finished up what I had last week and have avoided buying any of that stuff and won’t anymore. I am looking forward to weighing myself tomorrow. I haven’t in a week but I feel much lighter than I did a week ago – but stronger. Weird but good. But most importantly perhaps – my recovery time after a WOD is now down to an hour max before I feel “back to normal” and can function and feel good. Just a few weeks ago I was sore for 3 days and lethargic after every WOD. Now I’m fine. I’m sure eventually I’ll hit one that kicks my ass, and soreness is to be expected, but feeling like shit/lethargic the day(s) after a WOD is just not something I want. Not worth it. And, fortunately, I think I’m past that – I’ve been feeling good.

So that’s the good…now for the not as good:

No More “Team” WODs For Me

I’ve done three team WODs now – first one was on July 4th and it was an ass-kicker but a lot of fun. I had the fortune of being on a team of other relatively laid-back folks who were there for a workout and nothing more. I had a lot of fun and heck, just being a part of the ‘event’ and atmosphere was very, very cool. And this video of it kicks ass:

So with that great experience behind me, I had another team WOD – an “Adventure WOD”. It wasn’t really much of an adventure, but it was kinda cool. It was a an outdoor WOD in the parking lot, teams of 4, rotating between stations of sandbag overhead squats, sandbag “ground to overhead’s”, “box” jumps (onto a concrete median thingy designed to impede cars), and running. It was pretty cool but, as usual, I was the slowest runner. One of my teammates stayed with me the entire team – partly because he wanted to encourage me, but I got the sense a lot of the reason was cus he didn’t want me slowing the rest of the team down. We wound up finishing in the middle of the pack.

After that experience, I looked forward to another team WOD that following Wednesday with a little concern.  And it didn’t go so well. It was complicated (as far as WODs go), and I just didn’t understand the way it was supposed to go. I figured I’d get the gist once we began, which was a big mistake. Trying to figure out a scoring system during a WOD that was absolutely killer, starting with a 90lb Prowler, along with lots of burpees, heavy wall balls, and 90lb tire pulls,  was a recipe for disaster.

So the way it was supposed to work, which I eventually figured out too late, was we would rotate stations after the Prowler person finished their Prowler push. So if you were on the burpees, you would tell the guy switching to take over the burpees how many you had and then they should remember that and add their total to it at the end of their burpee round and tell the next guy, who continue adding on, etc. etc. etc. Problem was, we had trouble communicating. And it wasn’t just me. And, quite frankly, I was breathing so heavy and fatigued from the Prowler and tire pulls, let alone the other stuff, that half the time I just forgot to keep count. I really need to bring a paper and pen to these things I guess.

At the end, when they went to tally up our final team score, my teammates were pretty pissed. They figured out, due to some simple math, that someone had screwed up the scores and yelled out the wrong numbers for both the burpees and the wall ball totals – a total number that was lower than the previous guy had achieved so they knew the lower total had to be wrong. I honestly don’t know if I was the culprit but I would be surprised if I wasn’t as I was so out of it. One of the team members was a bit overzealous about things and an argument ensued between a couple of the guys about the score. They asked me again and I basically just gave a “I really don’t know, and don’t give a shit about the score” response. I was beat and was not going to get into it, and went over to the floor and laid down for a few minutes to compose myself. They argued with each other for a few minutes and then went up to the whiteboard and made up a number. It was surprisingly competitive, even though my contributions to the burpee and wall ball numbers were so piss poor that I would be very surprised if our actual score was anywhere near what it was recorded as.

After the cool-down and stretching, I went up to each of my WOD teammates individually and apologized, saying I’m not sure if I screwed up the score but may have. They each assured me that they didn’t care about the score and it was no big deal, but I could tell the score did mean something to them. I was pretty embarrassed and, quite honestly, not too enthusiastic about the WOD.

So I’ll be avoiding the team WODs for a while. I have a hard enough time worrying about myself let alone trying to keep others’ scores, etc. Call me a puss but I just don’t want that pressure!

It would be different if I was fatter. I think people expect more out of me, because I don’t look too out of shape. But with my lack of flexibility, strength, and relatively poor cardiovascular conditioning (in relation to the demands of the WODs), it almost guarantees a poor score/time.

Please don’t interpret my whining in this post as a knock against CrossFit. It’s not meant to be. It’s just a whine that is brutally honest: I’m now two months into this and I really don’t feel like I’ve made great strides. I’m still doing piss poor, lifting lighter weights than everyone else, etc. The coaches encourage me and tell me it’s cus I’m new but then I see other newbies show up and they are lifting lots more weight and running circles around me.

So tonight, in lieu of going to do a formal WOD at the box (because I didn’t want to risk this stomach bug striking me mid-WOD), I did my own little low-intensity WOD at the track, after first doing some serious stretching via this Mobility WOD video, to open up my hips:

It did help some, but not as much as I’d hoped. I’ll keep at it though. It’s the only way I’ll improve my squat depth/comfort, as I am not improving at it by just doing the WODs.

With the stretching done, I went to the track and walked a little over 3 miles (about an hour) and for the first 5 laps, stopped at one end of the track and did 10 air squats to as deep a depth as I could, but with good form, and then at the other end of the track I would stop and do 10 pushups. I learned that the quicker I do the pushups the easier they are. So, 3+ miles walking fast, plus 50 pushups, plus 50 air squats. Not bad for a rest day.

Oh well, enough whining.

Crossfit Nutrition/Weight Loss

Beginner Two Months In – My Lessons Learned After Two Months of CrossFit

So next week will mark the two month point of my CrossFit experience. Really, it’s not been a legit two months though, because the first couple of weeks was Intro and Fundamentals, and then during the first month of actual WODs I took quite a bit of time between workout days to recover. So keep that in mind as you read my thoughts on the experience so far.

Starting Stats

When I started CrossFit, I weighed 191lbs. At the time I expected that my ideal body weight would probably be somewhere in the low to mid 180’s. Still some belly fat but not a “gut” by any means. My man boobs were “A cup” size. (I’m exaggerating for the purposes of humor).

Recap of the Experience

I’ve written some posts during the process, especially in the beginning, describing in excruciating detail how the Intro and Fundamentals sessions went. Refer to those posts for the gory details. In a nutshell: the Intro was a horror, the Fundamentals was really challenging and exposed my serious physical weaknesses, but was encouraging and fun.

The first proper WOD I did, which I forget now what it was, was really, really hard. Then the next WOD was an absolute breeze. What do I mean by “a breeze”? Well, it was harder than any workout you might get at a typical gym’s Pilates or Spin class or some shit like that. But it wasn’t a situation where mid-way through the WOD I was gasping for air and wondering if my heart rate was so high that I might die.

Then, there were a series of WODs that were mostly like the first one – very freakin difficult. But, like everyone says, there’s something addicting about CrossFit. So I kept going back for my twice a week sessions.

My Lessons Learned (and Suggestions for Other Out of Shape, Forty-Somethings Looking to Try CrossFit)

  1. There is no “looking to try CrossFit”.

    I think you’ll find that, after the intro baseline, you’re either all in (mentally, at least) or will parrot what a lot of “personal trainers” and non-CrossFit gym rats parrot and say stuff like, “It’s too much.” or “Kipping pullups? What a joke!”, etc.

  2. Seriously consider your recovery time between WODs.

    Twice per week was the way to go for me. I just now switched to 3 times per week and am not sure I’m totally ready, but I’m gonna give it a go as my recovery time is greatly improved now. I can actually function the day after an intense WOD now, whereas a month ago it took 2 or 3 days of lethargy and soreness before I felt good again. I was seriously worried that I couldn’t continue, it was so bad.

  3. Don’t forget to bring a bottle (or two) of cold water.

    Trust me. You’re going to need it. But I guess that’s obvious.

  4. Introduce yourself to everyone, and make friends.

    I seriously think that one of the benefits of being the slowest and weakest guy in the session is that everyone is happy to see you walk through the door – because they know they won’t be the slowest or weakest that day! : )


    Not only the weights, movements, etc. but most importantly, your intensity. I know this goes counter to the CrossFit mantra but if you’re like me then believe me, just making it through a WOD at the wimpiest (is that a word?) of intensities is going to leave you gasping for air and sore. I know they do me.

  6. Ignore #5 above and ATTACK the WOD.

    I’ve never gone into a WOD not looking to kick its ass. I know it will kick mine. What I really meant by #5 above was to pace yourself. I didn’t pace myself the first few weeks and as a result I was dead 1/3rd of a way through each WOD. I try not to do that anymore but it’s hard when my version of “seriously intense” in terms of weight and speed is nowhere near most of the other folks in the box doing the same WOD. But it is what it is.

  7. Pick a schedule/time and try to stick to it.

    I have a very flexible work schedule. With young kids involved in all sorts of activities and a spouse that works weekends/evenings sometimes, I was in a routine for a while of just showing up to CrossFit at different times. Since it’s the same WOD no matter when you show up, I figured it didn’t matter. But after a month of that it hit me that everyone seemed to know each other and the reason for that was that most people show up to the same time slot. I also found that certain time slots had all the “in shape” people and I prefer working out with the slow/weak people like myself : ) I’ve found a time that has a good mix of slow and super fit people and will stick to that for a while. Believe me, these WODs are so tough that the camaraderie of getting through them around the same group of folks is a real team-building thing and worth it.

  8. REST!

    I made a great decision a few weeks ago and bought an iPod Nano to use during my evening walks at the local track. Love the Nike+ Fitness app. Problem is, I literally walked over 35 miles this past month!!! I could show you my Nike+ page to prove it. That was WAY too much and, looking back, I think it did more harm than good. While “active recovery” is great, walking 4 miles at a time at high speed is not a good idea for my body when I’m still recovering from the prior day’s WOD. Your mileage may vary, but for me, a rest day needs to be a rest day. Walking long distances is not rest for me…maybe in a few months it will be.

  9. Don’t worry about what everyone else thinks.

    The best tip I got was from a fellow CrossFitter who had been doing it about 2.5 years. After introducing myself and chatting a bit, mostly with me whining about how weak and slow I am, he told me he still couldn’t do an unassisted pull-up, but could deadlift 400lbs.  He emphasized that everyone was good at some things and bad at others. To just keep at it. That really encouraged me a lot. But what really helped was the next point he made – to not give a shit (my interpretation, not his actual words). Or, at least, don’t beat yourself to a pulp. He then pointed out a guy who sometimes will stop, mid-WOD, and go take a shit! LOL. Then he comes out of the can and resumes his workout. He doesn’t care about his time. He doesn’t worry what everyone else will think. The fellow then looked me dead in the eye and said something to the effect of, “You don’t strike me as a guy who gives a shit what his PR on the clean and jerk is – am I right?” I replied, “I don’t care about that. I just want to be fit.” He agreed that that’s what it’s all about for older guys like us, who have weight problems, etc. He said to take it easy and just push enough to not kill yourself but to get a good workout.

  10. Work on your Mental Toughness

    This is the thing that you may not expect when starting CrossFit. I think I and every other newbie expects their strength and overall fitness level to increase. And if you’re the type that worries about your PRs on lifts, etc., then maybe that needs to be your focus. But for me, the hardest thing has been my mental toughness – pushing through a WOD even though I have nothing left to give, my heart is pounding through my chest, the constant sweat is burning my eyes (bald guys like me don’t have nature’s mop on our heads to help impede the sweat…and no, I’ll not wear a 70’s style headband). A couple of weeks ago, after doing all the prior WODs with a constant “Can I make it? This hurts! Oh fuck, I can’t do another round!” etc etc etc running through my mind during each WOD, it hit me that that was holding me back some. My mental toughness was what I really needed to focus on. And sure enough, it has helped me greatly to focus on NOT focusing on this shit during a WOD. Yesterday’s WOD was a grueling one where I had to scale almost everything and even then it was a bitch. And even though I was hurting and wanted to quit, I had learned over the past couple of months that quitting just isn’t an option – so why even entertain the thought? So I just keep saying to myself, “Just keep going and before you know it it will be over.” Over, and over, and over. Try it.

Ending Stats

I’m sorry to report that my weight has gone up as a result of CrossFit. I’ve been holding steady at 197lbs for the past month. But I assure you it is not fat gain – I don’t measure but if I did I’m certain that my body fat percentage has gone down at least a couple of percentage points since starting CrossFit. My body is much tighter, leaner, with some actual muscle definition starting to show through. Especially in my shoulders. In fact, I snapped some pics of myself just prior to starting CrossFit, and will post a before/after in a couple of more months to show the tangible gain. I am *really* hoping that my weight will start going down again, but if it stays at 197 and I keep getting truly leaner while more muscle defines itself then I will be content.

But, as in all cases, what matters most is not how one looks but how one feels. And I feel pretty darn great the last couple of weeks. It took a while to get my body acclimated to getting the shit kicked out of it during these WODs, but I feel like I’m over that hump now. And I feel great.

Miscellaneous Ramblings Nutrition/Weight Loss

Lap Band Requires a Post-Surgery Low Carb Diet?

Let me be clear up-front: I am a proponent of the idea of gastric bypass for morbidly obese people with hundreds of pounds of fat to lose. While I was able to lose my excess weight (and enjoy the process), there is a huge difference between losing 70 pounds and losing three or four times that.

That said, after reading “Father, Son lose 260 Pounds After Weight Loss Surgery”, which is basically just an ad about a father and son who had the “Lap Band” installed, it makes me wonder why they bothered. I take that back – I know why they did it. But it just seems so unnecessary. Because it is predicated on the simplistic and very flawed theory of calories-in/calories-out as a form of weight loss. The purpose of this Lap Band thingy is to “make you feel fuller sooner”.

I think they would have done just as well, but perhaps not as quickly, by just making the changes to their diet that they were forced to make to comply with the discomfort that the Lap Band requires, post-surgery.

The most interesting quote from one of them:

“Carbohydrates are pretty much off-limits as well, Matt says.”

It is not uncommon for people to lose hundreds of pounds on a proper diet (i.e., one that is low in carbohydrate). I would bet that they would have successfully lost the weight (though it looks, based on the pics, that they still have a ways to go) much easier and certainly more safely had they just eaten right to begin with. With the Lap Band screwing up what they can eat (they say fibrous vegetables are tough to eat now!), I think they may have had an easier time just avoiding the surgery completely and going on a low carb diet.

What do you think about these surgeries?

Inspiration Life Primal/Paleo

The Most Difficult Thing About Eating Paleo or Low Carb

I know what you’re thinking after reading the title of this post, but I assure you – it’s not not eating bread, or potato chips, etc. At least, not for me.

The biggest struggle I’ve had is that I’m doing this almost entirely alone. And that makes it one hundred times more difficult. I probably should go out to Google Images and grab a photo of a violin right now, to cue the whining. Writing this post has been on my mind for months, and every time I start I quickly delete it as it’s way too personal and, quite frankly, a bit painful. But it’s too important as I know others out there are dealing with similar situations.

Fitness Technology

iPod Nano and Nike+ An Excellent Tool for Low Carb Fitness

This week I logged a ridiculous number of miles just walking. Why? Well, even though exercise is overblown (no pun intended) for weight loss, there’s no doubt it’s great for you for other reasons. One of those reasons, for me, is it clears my mind and gives me an opportunity to listen to music and/or podcasts. And it beats sitting around wasting away life Facebooking or doing other stupid shit (like blogging!).

One of the other reasons I like to walk is it allows me time to listen to podcasts. I’m a podcast junkie. One of these days I’ll write up a list of the podcasts I listen to, which include some awesome low carb and paleo ones, but for this post I wanted to write up my opinion of the iPod Nano that I bought a couple of weeks ago and have been using quite a bit since. I have found it to be very useful and motivating. My understanding is that this version of the Nano has been around for quite a while now, so there are surely tons of reviews from tech sites and teenagers out there on the web for you to get the specs of this thing, but I bought it to use while walking (with the occasional sprint sessions), and listening to podcasts while cleaning, doing the dishes, etc. around the house.

iPod Nano Review

In a nutshell: it’s been a great purchase.

Fitness Miscellaneous Ramblings Suggested Sites

Article About the Lack of Evidence Correlating Exercise with Weight Loss

Just wanted to post a link to an article that discusses the lack of evidence to support exercise as a cause of weight loss. My own n=1 testing/experience confirmed this for me. That said, as I’ve repeatedly said, exercise is good for you and you should do it unless you are obese and trying to lose weight and it causes you to eat more, as it does many of us.

With my weight at a point where I’m happy with it, I exercise every day, or at least try to. I just know that it won’t help me lose more weight and, in terms of pure pounds, it actually increases weight for me as I gain muscle. An excerpt from the article:

Thin people exercise a lot compared to overweight people, and assume that they’re slim because of all the exercise. Meanwhile, overweight people tend exercise much less, and we all assume that explains their bigger waistlines.

The truth, very likely due to genetics, is that the body composition of both groups explains the exercise habits, not the other way around.