I’ve been meaning to write up a new post for so long, not because I feel the need to express myself on the topic of low-carb, LCHF, Paleo, or fitness anymore, but because I just went to update this site and saw that my last posts were mainly negative in terms of progress, and I didn’t want to give readers the impression that I had given up or that this wacky diet of mine doesn’t work : )
As you may have seen over the past year or so, there has been more and more research supporting lowered carbohydrate intake for health and weight loss. It seems that the message is finally out. When I started this “journey” five years ago, and particularly when I started writing this blog, I made a couple of mistakes. One of which was the tone I used in the writing. One reader wrote me to tell me to “quit mansplaining!” When I saw that I was quite ashamed and embarrassed, as I did not intend to come off as a know-it-all. But I did, so forgive my tone in many of the early posts. But, in my defense, think back just a few years ago and we were still faced with the following myths being considered conventional wisdom:
Butter is bad for you
Salt is bad for you
You have to drink 8+ glasses of water per day
Low carb diets or too much protein cause liver problems
Since that time, saturated fat has been the topic of hot debate as to whether it is healthy or not, with the research being pretty clear that it is health, or at least not unhealthy. The vegans/vegetarians are slowly losing their grip on the diet and fitness policies (yes, even fitness – they have successfully boondoggled most of America into thinking that slowly jogging around a track for X minutes a day is the ideal fitness routine….why? Because it requires no protein.). Anyways, you know where I stand on it.
Over these five years I spent the first two or three arguing with people who would, as I felt at the time, “have the gall” to question my diet when I clearly was losing weight and getting into the best health and shape of my life. Couldn’t they see/feel what I did? Hence my tone in those posts. After the first few years I stopped debating with people about diet completely. Not worth the time or frustration. One thing I’ve learned over the years is that debating diet and fitness with currently obese and/or unfit individuals is like debating the importance of going clean to a drug addict. They’ll argue you tooth and nail over it. With regards to diet and fitness, I’ve specifically found that overweight men over the age of 30 will insist they know what they’re talking about when it comes to diet and fitness. They will argue until they run out of breath (and they often do) that their approach is the best. Of course, they’re not actually following “their” approach but they apparently think about it. Nowadays, I simply avoid the subject. If I am really annoyed and don’t care for the person, then I’ll just look them up and down slowly and then reply, “How’s that diet working out for you?” Enough said.
My Current Status
Simply, I’m doing really well. I struggled for a long time with fitness – trying to dial in the right fitness program for me has been a constant and evolving struggle and will continue to be tweaked, but over the past year or so I’ve found what works and what doesn’t for me. More importantly, my weight is just about perfect. I am at 189lbs, which sounds a bit high to a lanky jogger type but I was blessed with a muscular, athletic build (large thighs, v-shaped upper body). Hypertrophy training (i.e., “bodybuilding”) is now my primary “workout” though I do sports as well, such as squash a couple of times per week, some basketball, and soon some soccer. I’m in the best shape of my life. And guess what? I eat a lot of carbs these days. My typical routine is to eat < 100g of carbs during the weekdays. Often less than that. One night per week, although I don’t plan on it, if I feel I need more carbs to fuel a more intensive workout, then I’ll indulge in something sweet or starchy. The weekends? I eat very low-carb during the day and pretty much whatever I want at night. Keep in mind that I don’t ever want bread or pasta, though I would give it a go if I desired it. But I enjoy beer and fried foods often on weekends. I’m able to do this now because I feel my body is working properly, and the weightlifting and squash really allow for this.
I’ll be turning 44 in a week. I started this way of eating back when I was 39. I somehow have been able to not only keep the ~80lbs off but continue to get in better shape. Not sure how I’ve accomplished it but I have. And I have learned a number of things through continual self-experimentation. Some quick thoughts:
Hypertrophy training is best for me. The “lift heavy” thing didn’t result in worthwhile change to me. What does “worthwhile” mean to me? Not adding more plates to the bar. It’s like when I talked about my now disdain for crossfit in an earlier post – I didn’t join a CrossFit box to increase my “Fran” time. I did it to lose weight and get in better shape. Neither happened as a result. So while I certainly do not regret doing CrossFit for 6 months, or my 2 years doing a heavy lifting (i.e., Starting Strength and/or StrongLifts) type routine, the bottom line is that after doing those protocols for long enough they did not result in worthwhile, positive change for me. Going to a 8-12 rep, higher-volume weight routine, coupled with some HIIT (in the form of squash primarily) has been the key for me.
I no longer buy into the bullshit that carbs are completely unnecessary. This is simply not the case for me. When I was obese and needed to lose weight, cutting out all carbs from non-vegetable sources was absolutely the best way to go. But once I lost the bulk of the excess weight and turned my attention to fitness goals, I unfortunately found out the hard way that our bodies were simply not meant to lift heavy things or run around at fast paces for extended periods of time without the extra fuel that carbohydrates provide. THIS DOES NOT MEAN THAT LOW CARB IS BAD. What I am saying is that, for me, low carb is the ideal weight loss approach. It is not the ideal diet for an athlete. If you are overweight, then I suggest you ditch your athletic goals and go on a very low carb diet until you lose the excess weight, then scale up your carb intake to fuel your athletic goals. There I go mansplaining again : ( …. but really, that’s what’s worked for me. And I learned this stuff the hard way. Believe me, I spent a year trying to do heavy lifting on low carb. Didn’t work.
So that’s it for now and probably for a while. I just wanted to give a quick update on my status. I’m alive, well, and thriving. I wish you all the same.
A little background before I reveal my progress so far.
So from what I’ve gathered (I admittedly have NOT purchased or read the books), CarbNite is basically just picking one night per week and eating a boatload of high glycemic sugar bombs. And I’m not talking about simply indulging in a piece of pie or ice cream. I’m talking about eating until you’re FULL of the junk, and then waiting an hour and eating even more. I’m not kidding.
Carb BackLoading is similar but not as crazy. With Carb BackLoading, on the nights you lift heavy (assuming 3x per week), you wait an hour or two and then eat a high glycemic meal. When I posted originally I was thinking that approach would be what I would take, but after thinking about it more I was just not going to risk putting on bodyfat by eating sugar meals 3 nights per week, so I went with the once-per-week ‘CarbNite’ approach. Keep in mind, as I mentioned in my last post, I have some experience with this carb-cycling approach – I indirectly used it quite successfully to lose a lot of weight a few years ago. I didn’t call it ‘CarbNite’ or anything at the time, other than feeling bad that I over-indulged (i.e., the infamous “cheat meal”). It just so happened that it would happen every one or two weeks, typically on a Saturday night, with no ill effects regarding bodyfat.
With both of these approaches, the author, DH Keifer, also recommends a Leucene spiked specific post-workout protein shake. I have not followed his specific shake recommendations. Protein powders/supplements are damned expensive and I think suspect, so I just stick with the $20 a container stuff I get at my local supermarket. It’s ~10g of carbs per serving and tastes phenomenal.
How It’s Gone After One CarbNite
So I’ve been doing this since then, a little less than 2 weeks ago. I started at about 197.6lbs.
Keifer recommends going ultra-low carb for 10 days prior to your first carb backload/nite. I did 5 days, since I am fully keto-adapted (I typically never have more than 100g of carbs per day anyway). Last Saturday night was my first ‘CarbNite’ and I have to admit – I was not looking forward to it. Contrary to the members of Weight Watchers, a diet doesn’t have to be starvation and/or neglected cravings. I don’t crave carbs. If I did, I’d eat them. I don’t crave a plate of pasta or bread anymore. I don’t crave sandwiches, etc. I just use food as a tool/fuel nowadays, and have been for a couple of years now. So please don’t misinterpret this as a “I had a cheat day and I’m so glad!” type of post. I’m simply posting the limited results so far.
Back to the story….I told my wife a couple of days in advance my plan for that Saturday night. It happened to work out nicely because we had our niece and nephew over for a sleepover with my kids that night, so of course it has to be pizza night. Here’s how it went:
My First CarbNite (weighed in that morning at 196.6lbs)
4:30 – 6pm Typical weightlifting session; I went heavy, as I always do
(note – I planned to but did not have a PWO shake – I had to run to the grocery store and pick up the pizza right after the gym)
7pm – Ate 4 slices of pizza
8pm Ate a pint, yes a full pint, of Ben & Jerry’s Everything But The… ice cream
9pm Ate one more slice of pizza
I distinctly remember eating some other sugar bomb that night but I forget what it was.
By 8pm I was dead tired – Keifer warns of this. When I have a high GI food I either get a racing heart (i.e., sugar rush) or just tired. I was honestly waiting for my heart to jump out of my chest that night, but it never got too high. It was slightly faster but probably similar to when I ate a Standard American Diet meal (i.e., a sugar/wheat-laden high carb one). But I did get tired. I forced myself to stay up until later though.
Sunday: The next morning I felt sluggish, a little tired, and just not great. Not horrible though.
Monday: Felt bloated/fat. Noticed marked increase in belly fat but could have just been mental. Weighed myself: 197.6. So about a pound gained.
Tuesday: Felt back to normal, in terms of bodyfat. Of course, I’m going by “Feel” – no measuring. But I have a pretty good “feel” for my own bodyfat. At this point I was pretty convinced that this was going to be a “one week and done” experiment as I did not think it was going to work.
Wednesday: Started feeling like I was leaning out. Weighed in at 196.0.
Thursday: Definite feeling of increased “leaning out” over the prior day. Did not weigh myself.
Friday: Feel as lean as I’ve felt in a long time. Weighed in at 194.6. Haven’t been this low since before I started lifting weights/building mass a year ago.
So far I am pleasantly surprised with the results. I am going to continue doing this for at least a couple more weeks and see how it goes. Will try to blog next week with an update.
I guess I should start off by apologizing for not posting since October of last year, but my blog is no different than 99% of the other personal blogs out there: every post starts off with an apology for why they haven’t posted in forever, followed by a promise to post more often. : )
Regardless, let me update you on the important stuff.
First off, let me be clear that I am using the term “diet” in the literal sense: a description of my day-to-day food consumption. I do not mean it in terms of a “Paleo” or “Atkins” or “Vegetarian” or any other type of “diet.”
I still eat a low-carb, high-fat, moderate protein diet. But the reality is, I do not track the fat or protein intake. And I only vaguely keep a mental note of the daily carb intake. I have a ‘no limit’ approach to healthy fats and protein. The latter, protein, can get overweight people in trouble as any excess is converted to glucose in the body, so I do not suggest that approach if you are trying to lose weight. Eat the protein you need, and no more. As for me, I am still weightlifting and have added one or two HIIT sessions per week using kettlebells/bodyweight exercises, so there’s no real restrictions for me regarding protein intake. I even drink a ‘protein’ shake every couple of days for fun.
I have relaxed my diet quite a bit, especially over the holiday season. With my favorite sports team having a fabulous season and 3 prime time games in a row, I treated myself to hot wings, beer, and a dessert of some sort on those nights. It was fun, I don’t regret it. The days of ‘regret’, and ‘guilt’, etc. in relation to food have been long gone for me. Food is and has been both a tool (to fuel my day) and a pleasure for me, and will likely continue to be based on my goals at any given time.
For breakfast, I often skip it these days. When I was trying to lose weight, especially in the beginning, I was eating a very large breakfast (3 or 4 eggs + bacon or sausage). Nowadays I usually am not hungry in the morning, so I don’t eat breakfast.
For lunch, most days, I eat a Big Ass Salad that is packed with tons of vegetables, along with a can of tuna. I load it with olive oil and some balsamic vinegar as well. These salads are huge – I prepare them in a big mixing bowl and am pretty stuffed after eating them!
For dinner, I make a meat and usually pair it with a vegetable but not always. I grill a lot, so throwing a package of chicken wings/thighs or a grass-fed steak on the grill is usually what I try to do, but with the recent winter freeze that isn’t as often an option lately. Also, the past couple of weekends I’ve spent Sunday afternoons preparing a mostly homemade tomato sauce/cacciatore (sp?) concoction. It is loaded with vegetables and spices, and then I pair that with either grass-fed beef meatballs or even just plain old sausages, etc. (While I try to eat the better quality meats I am not a stickler for it).
One probably bad habit of mine is nighttime snacking. I’d probably have a six-pack (abs!) if it weren’t for the nightly snack or some nuts, aged cheese, etc. Most nights I indulge in a glass of red wine as well.
My weight has held steady for, really, the last year and a half. I’ve been between 185 and 195lbs. I’m 5’10 so that sounds heavy, but my measurements are excellent, and I have naturally large/muscular thighs (think football running back). The weightlifting has really helped in that regard. Prior to the weightlifting, I was ~188lbs and soft in the middle – kind of ‘skinny fat’ like you see on a lot of runners, with little muscle definition. Now I have pretty good definition in my upper body, and I have a “V-Shape” upper body now, where my lats/upper back/chest are wider than my waist, which is cool. I’m at 195lbs now and I estimate that I’ve put on about 5 to 7lbs of muscle in the past 6 months.
If you’ve read over this blog then you’ll see that when it’s come to exercise, I have struggled. Not in doing it – I have no problem with motivation. The problem is in the prescription. Like diet, I’ve found there are lots of inefficient or bad ways to achieve my goal: leaning out while building strength. Review google hits or ask 10 different personal trainers (and I estimate I have about that many over the past couple of years) and everyone has a different opinion.
I think a big problem with diet and exercise is that everyone naturally falls back to what worked for them when they were 25 (or younger). But those prescriptions did not work for me in my 40’s. Getting on a treadmill and running daily might result in 10 or 15lbs of weight loss, but won’t result in any muscle growth, and it doesn’t seem to work for long-term/large amount of weight loss. Just ask all of the fat people running marathons. The emaciated are up at the front of the pack, followed by a bunch of overweight people. Odd scene.
This past month I consulted with an excellent personal trainer who is very strength focused. He evaluated my progress with regards to my mobility, squat, etc. He basically recommended that I back off of the barbell squats and focus on kettlebell squats. So I started doing a 2 or 3x per week HIIT session that looks like this:
Repeat 5x (no rest/stopping in-between movements):
15 two-handed kettlebell swings
10 single-arm kettlebell swings (total of 20)
10 kettlebell goblet squats
2 minutes rest
The first two sets are fine but the remaining ones are killer : )
Doing this routine has really helped with my weightlifting. I do weightlifting routine once or twice per week now. I’ll try to post more about my thoughts on why later. I also walk daily.
So that’s it. 2013 was a good year but a horrible year in terms of injuries. I battled an achilles injury twice (I have a separate blog about that). And I was diagnosed with hearing loss in my one ear at the 4khz range. I’m told it is permanent. And I am pretty certain that it is due to listening to headphones/loud music over the years, especially the last two while walking. I’ve been warned to discontinue the headphone use or the hearing loss will get worse. Sucks.
So I imagine the title of this post may cause some uproar from many in the Paleo/Primal community, but I don’t care.
If you look through the archives of this blog, you’ll see numerous posts from me regarding my attempts at following a 5×5 strength program, such as Starting Strength or Stronglifts. In the end, although I put on a positive attitude during them, they never really worked for me. Before I give the wrong impression, let me make it clear that I am certain these are great programs. I spent a number of months working these programs off and on over the past couple of years. If your goal is pure strength, as measured by the amount of weight you can lift, then by all means, these are probably the way to go.
But me? I’m apparently too vain for that. Or I have a unique body that just didn’t respond well to those programs.
Did I see success while following these programs? Yes and no. It depends on how you measure success. If you measure it Crossfit-style, where success equals increases in analytics (i.e., numbers on a whiteboard), then yes – I went from a 110lb back squat to a 215lb back squat in just a couple of months. But apparently I’m weird, as I don’t give a shit what a whiteboard says or how many plates I’m pulling or pushing. All I care about is how my workouts impact the following:
My overall health, as determined by how I feel (tired, energized, lazy, etc.)
My body – am I looking better or not?
I’m sorry to say that I’ve given up on pure strength routines. I made the stupid assumption, and bought into the hype, that increasing raw strength would magically equate to success as determined by my criteria above. But the reality is that I didn’t feel all that great while doing these programs, and aside from some *very* slight improvement in my physique that was barely noticeable after a few months of doing Starting Strength, I didn’t see any benefit.
Not sure if I’m using the terms correctly or not, but about 5 weeks ago I decided to try a more traditional bodybuilding routine. By “bodybuilding” I’m talking about adding in isolation exercises like bicep curls, tricep pressdowns, etc. These types of movements are universally bashed by the Paleo crowd. In addition, I lowered the weight and increased the reps. This is the key thing, I think. I’m still lifting heavy, but not killing myself by adding weight every single workout as prescribed by the 5×5 programs. The routine I’ve followed over the past 5 weeks, every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, looks like this:
Warm-up cardio for 7 or 8 minutes, typically on an elliptical machine
Mobility – a series of stretches on my hamstrings, calves, quads, followed by foam-rolling to further loosen my calves and then focus on thoracic extension
Goblet Squat 3×12 – using a heavy kettlebell; sometimes I’ll do barbell squats but I’m finding the goblet works better for me
Dumbbell Rows 3×12
Barbell Chest Press 3×10 – for the first 4 weeks I used dumbbells but just switched to barbell
I’ve found this routine is working way better than the 5×5 routines I was doing on the other programs. In the 5 weeks I’ve been doing the above routine, I have dropped a couple of inches off of my waist, and have seen very noticeable increases in my muscle definition around my lats, back, shoulders, chest, and arms. With the 5×5-like programs I didn’t see any definition except slight increase in quad definition. Not to mention my appetite increased substantially, I believe due to always shooting for a *very* heavy weight with each workout. But, again, I’m still lifting heavy. But I’m shooting for 80% of my max for the last set of 12 (usually falling short of reaching 12 on that last set), versus 90-100% max like before.
Perhaps most importantly – I’m actually enjoying this program. And I have no doubt that that is adding to my success with it. When I did the other routines, I hated them. Never enjoyed them. After each workout I felt spent and not energized. With this routine I’m feeling great. While I don’t think I’ll ever enjoy lifting weights or working out, I enjoy this program. And it’s nice to finally be able to see some muscle increase in my arms : )
So, the next time you’re on the marksdailyapple.com Fitness Forum or listening to a Paleo podcast and all you hear is snarky comments about the guys in the gym doing bicep curls, feel free to think of me. On paper, a 5×5-like program that focused exclusively on compound movements for very heavy weight should work to bring the smaller muscles along too. But for me they didn’t.
A few weeks ago I got the green light from my physical therapist and sports medicine doctor to resume full physical activity. If you’ve been following my posts, you’re aware of my 5 month fight with insertional achilles tendonosis. Basically, I had (may still have) a very small ‘hole’ in my achilles tendon, right at the insertion point. This happened the first week in January and for close to a month I could barely walk without a lot of pain. After x-ray, failed physical therapy (most PT’s (and especially runners) think all achilles issues are the same and must be treated the same – with heavy duty stretching and eccentric heel raises….they’re correct to a point, but for insertional you must not go below parallel with the ‘dip’ part of the heel raises until it’s mostly healed!), and plain old rest, I finally found a great sports doctor and he referred me to an awesome physical therapist who got me going. I’m now happy to report that I am pain free and have been for a while now.
Regardless, from January through May I tried to be active as I could but the one thing I stopped doing was the Starting Strength routine that I was doing leading up to the injury. A couple of weeks ago I started back on a different program, and so far the results have been great and I am progressing well:
5 minute warm-up (usually either on an elliptical, or lately skipping altogether because the foam rolling and stretching warms me up)
Stretching – primarily hamstring/gastroc stretch and some others
Foam Rolling – I started doing this last week and, as painful as it is at first, it is *awesome* and has made my squats much better
Same old barbell squats but I don’t count sets – I basically keep track of my max (the amount of weight I can squat for 3 reps) and work up to it. I typically start with a bar + 20 pounds on it, do 5 reps, then jump to 50 pounds for 5, then 75, etc. My current max is 190 lbs. All in all, I probably do between 6 and 8 sets, each for either 3 reps (if it’s heavy) or the goal of 5 reps. I am certain I could lift quite a bit more for a 1RM but my flexibility is still an issue in my shoulders, and so ‘bailing out’ is something I am not comfortable doing and my gym is not exactly the type of place where I can practice that without raising eyebrows. But that’s something I’m going to work on next.
Dumbbell Chest Press
I had surgery in my hand when I was in my late teens – a metal pin was inserted into the back of my hand, at a hospital in Hong Kong by a Harvard trained surgeon (long story as to how I wound up in that position…). Because of that, barbell chest presses never quite felt right. The angle of the bar in relation to my wrist has always been an issue – one wrist felt weaker. So I switched to dumbbells for it and am *loving* them. I start out at 35lb bells and then move up 5 pounds each set. My current max is 50, but yesterday I’m doing 7 or 8 reps with those pretty easily so it’s time to jump up again. So glad I switched to dumbbells. I struggled with the bar and was always held back by my wrist.
I would rather do chin-ups but there is only one true chin-up bar at my gym – the rest are pull-up bars attached to weight machines (so they’re not ‘bars’ but just grips to jump up and grab onto with each hand). I can do 3 or 4 unassisted pull-ups max (and then have to rest for quite a bit), but have been doing 3 sets of 5 assisted pull-ups.
Once per week I also have added the deadlift. But it’s only if the opportunity arises, because there usually isn’t a proper or socially acceptable space to do them at my gym’s weight room. When I do do them I start at about 100 lbs for 3 reps, then jump up to 160 or so, etc., to my max. Currently it’s 225 but I should be able to get back to my SS max, which was around 260, pretty quickly, particularly if I stop dicking around and treat this as a prime lift. I treat this as a ‘nice but not necessary’ lift right now, as by the time I get to it I’m pretty spent from all the squats that have had time to sore up my legs, but I know the deadlift is just as important and soon I hope to focus on it more.
I know what you’re likely thinking. I did too. This isn’t a compound movement and, as a dreaded ‘isolation’ exercise, it is inefficient. I think it probably is, but at the same time the LeanGains.com guy recommended it and it does seem to finish off the full body routine nicely.
I am going to keep with this routine for a couple of more weeks and then, if I continue to progress and am up to it, then I want to start mixing in and focusing on a single oly lift at the end for fun, with a focus on form – power cleans, push presses, snatch, etc.
I mentioned earlier that foam rolling is awesome. I urge you to try it if you have flexibility issues. Caution: it is painful. It can be really painful the first few times you do it. For me, my quadriceps are really tender. The first two times I tried it I used the standard black/gray high-density 36″ foam roller that is common. I could tolerate it fine everywhere but my quads and my lats. So I returned it after two tries and ordered what I thought was a slightly softer version (shown in the image below – note, I bought the green textured one), but I immediately regretted it.
The thing is, the first couple of times I foam rolled it was really hurting, but then my body got the ‘kinks worked out’ I guess everywhere but my quads. So for my quads, this new green roller is great. But everywhere else it is too soft. I’ll likely go back to buying one of the true high density ones.
Been a while since I posted. I’ve got good news and bad news to report.
The Bad News
Back in the Fall I received a curious email from a post on Sportsvite. Sportsvite is a place where you can find sport teams to join, and teams can look for players. Most of the teams are former or current college athletes who are looking for athletes of similar skill level, be it soccer, basketball, baseball, etc. I signed up a year or two ago and forgot about it. Every few months I’d get an email from someone begging me to be on their hockey team or softball team, and when I’d respond with “I’m in my 40’s and have never played that sport competitively, but I’m in decent shape given my age and will hustle”, I’d always get the same response back, “No thanks. We’re looking for experienced athletes.” Amazing how their original tone of desperation changes so quickly.
Eventually I got an email asking me if I’d be interested in playing soccer. The first time I ignored it. A few months later I got a similar email from the same person. This time I responded stating that I’d never played but would love to. To my surprise, I was told to show up at a regional soccer training center and be ready to play. No experience necessary. I show up and the place is fabulous, and next thing I know I’m on a high-quality turf field with a bunch of 25 year olds. My team sucked and we never won. The other teams were filled with former college soccer players. Regardless, I loved it. So much so that when the season ended I made an inquiry with the center asking them if they have a league for older players. Sure enough, they have a “Men’s Over 35” league. Perfect! So I sign up for the ‘house team’. We suck, but it’s a good group of guys. Problem is, I was only able to play twice before having to temporarily retire…(more on that in a moment).
In the Over 35 league I was one of the faster players. Skill-wise I was average, on my team (again, since this was the ‘house’ team we’re not talking all stars here – anyone who is good eventually gets scooped up by an established team). Anyone who knows me or has read my posts regarding Crossfit, knows I have too much ambition and competitiveness for my own good. So I decide one day that, in addition to the Starting Strength program I was doing, I would kick up the cardio big-time to help my soccer game. So, after doing that day’s Starting Strength routine (heavy barbell back squats, some presses, and power cleans), I jump on a treadmill and ramp up the incline. That day I forgot my normal ‘running shoes’ (a pair of minimalist but still pretty well padded sneakers). A couple of minutes into the jog I feel a slight pain building in the back of my right ankle/heel. Like an idiot I keep jogging. About 8 minutes in I know it’s getting worse and worse and is not normal, so I stop. That night it got worse. And for the next 2 weeks it didn’t get any better at all. I start looking around on the internet to figure out what it could be. Basically, my achilles was sore as hell. Especially in the morning but pretty much all day. The only time, during that 2 weeks, where it didn’t hurt was when I played a soccer match (bad idea), because I stretched the living shit out of my legs/ankles before playing. Looking on the internet the prognosis was sketchy. Basically, stretch and stretch and hope to hell it goes away. Eccentric stretches/strengthening, etc. I decide this is too important to screw around with and I go see a sports foot/ankle specialist. He x-rays it on the spot and then tells me I have insertional achilles tendinosis, and says it’ll probably be fine in a few weeks but if not call him and we’ll try physical therapy.
A week later and it’s no better. I am concerned and call and tell him let’s not wait – let’s get the ball rolling on the physical therapy. He agrees and so I started that a week ago today, going twice per week. Every day since then I’ve been doing a serious mobility routine, which I’ll share in a separate post. Honestly – after a week of it I’m thrilled in that my squat depth and mobility overall have improved immensely. But my achilles is still sore when I first wake up in the morning, or after sitting for a little while and then standing. It’s not pain – it’s a soreness, and it goes away after a few minutes.
So What’s the Good News?
The good news is that the physical therapist did quite a bit of diagnostics on me and told me what I have been told by numerous specialists/coaches already: I just may be the most inflexible dude on the planet, and it’s holding me back physically. I told him I’d been doing a lot of barbell squats, etc., and after struggling for close to a year now in trying to get my squat depth below parallel (or even parallel comfortably) he is now working with me to fix it. And a week later my squat depth is drastically improved. Last summer, when starting Crossfit, I did 50+ squats per day (usually more) for 60 days just to try to get it right. I saw some improvement at first but then nothing. A week of these wacky stretches he’s got me doing and I am not way better than ever and am optimistic.
During today’s PT session I made it clear to him that I’m getting very worried that this achilles problem is not going away or getting better. I *love* the stretches and am back to working out hard (no running, which is fine with me) so it’s no longer holding me back from anything aside from soccer. He assures me that it will go away but will take time – likely a few months. That sucks. I was originally told that this was a “couple of weeks” injury. He didn’t make me feel any better when he said I’m one of the lucky ones and that my injury isn’t anywhere near as severe as most who have it. I guess I should be happy about that.
That’s all for today. I have a few post ideas and will write more this week. Been a while.
Some miscellaneous stuff
Had some emails asking me about my weight. Honestly, I think they’re from angry vegans who hate this low carb/pro dietary fat approach and want to “expose it” as some kind of fraud. I’m happy to report that I’m holding steady at 189lbs. It fluctuates of course, but always within 5lbs. I took about 5 weeks off from any exercising due to the achilles problem and my weight didn’t budge, but I lost a lot of muscle tone. And I just felt like garbage. That’s the main reason I work out – to feel better. It certainly doesn’t do anything positive for me in terms of my diet and, in fact, makes my eating tricky. I have to make sure I have the fuel needed without overdoing it. And when you exercise hard you get hungrier – your body wants to compensate. I’m working to get that back now.
How is Starting Strength Going?
Let me say this: Starting Strength is great. And if I can get my mobility/squat depth right, I’ll be doing those lifts again. But I now have to spend roughly 40 minutes on just the physical therapy stretches/movements daily (I’m supposed to do them 3x per day!) that I’ve decided to take a break from SS for now. Twice a week, starting today, I’m going to do a full-body kettlebell routine. For once, I’m going to pick something for which my body type is seemingly perfect for – swinging kettlebells.
My PRs on SS are presently at:
Back Squat: 205lbs x 3 (I could go heavier but I have no spotter,and when you can’t get to parallel in your squat it’s downright not good to have that much weight on your back)
Deadlift: 255lbs. I am certain I could get to 300 quickly but, believe it or not, there just aren’t enough weights at my gym! At least not all in one place. But, no excuses, I need to man up and setup in the main weight room area. It’s full of machines and so people will get annoyed with me for taking up a big space by deadlifting, but oh well.
Power Clean: 135lbs – but my form was off. I’ve since reset my form (after watching more video tutorials about it) and have been going at around 100lbs with perfect form.
Like I said, I’m going to take a break from a strict SS program for a while.
How’s Your Cholesterol/Lipid Test Results Nowadays?
I’ve had some emails from readers who came to this site by way of one of its more popular posts – my lipid test results from a while back. Everyone wants to know: how are your lipid test results after doing low-carb long-term?
I haven’t had them tested since late last year, but they were similar from the original post except one thing: my HDL went up, which is fabulous. I’m now in the 70s. I meant to post the complete results at the time but forgot. Definitely will next time.
So this is week 4 of my attempt at the Starting Strength program, and I can report one big positive and one big negative.
The good news first: I’ve increased my strength dramatically, pretty quickly. Yesterday I easily deadlifted 225. Easily. Probably could have thrown another 25lbs on there but some anorexic looking chick decided she was going to use the Smith machine that I was setup right next to. Talk about awkward.
Unfortunately I took week 3 off for two reasons:
Major neck pains. I can’t recall if I blogged about this already but a few weeks ago I broke down and went to my doctor in hopes he would send me for an MRI. I tried it before and chickened out (I’m claustrophobic). That was 4 years or so ago and at the time the idiot neurologist that sent me for the MRI said it wasn’t really necessary because he was certain I had a pinched nerve and no matter what the results of the MRI there wasn’t anything he was going to do about it. So of course when I went into the tube, which apparently was NOT an open MRI as I was told it was by the hospital when I made the appointment, I panicked and chickened out. It was easier knowing I didn’t *have to* get the results. I’m confident I’d stick it out this time around, but to my surprise my doc said he thinks the problem is some mild arthritis in my neck and he sent me for an x-ray, which confirmed it. That was the beginning of week two of the Starting Strength program, so I pushed forward and kept adding more weight with each workout, as prescribed. The last workout that week, I was really struggling with the squat weight. The next day my neck was hurting on the left-side versus the usual right-side, so I took it easy for a few days, and it remained annoyingly painful for a full week+. I still feel it some, but not nearly as bad.
Flexibility. Yup, it’s still a huge issue and is stopping me from making more progress quickly. But it’s forcing me to realize that stretching before the lifts is just not only an option but a necessity. So yesterday, my first workout back from the week off, I modified Starting Strength to something I can do:
Warm-up by walking on treadmill for 10 mins
Deep squat stretching
Deep arm/shoulder stretching
Workout, but aside from a couple of quick warm-up sets (one very little weight, one medium weight), I have abandoned the way too many warm-up sets that SS prescribes, because it was taking close to 2 hours to finish a workout when you consider the stretching I needed to do.
The trouble is finding the stretches that really work for me. I’m going to continue to refine and hope to report back more progress and specifically a routine for stretching, as I’m certain I can’t be the ONLY person struggling with this! Hard to believe that I’ve been working on this since May and I’m still so inflexible.
Actually I quit yesterday, but wanted to wait a day to blog about it, as I wanted to give it a day to think about it before writing.
I’ve been doing CrossFit for a little over four months now. Subscribers to this blog have likely read my over-the-top descriptions of my first CrossFit workout and other tales of woe : )
I’ve had a love/hate relationship with CrossFit ever since the moment I started. Actually, even BEFORE I started. I’ll explain why a bit later. I stuck it out for these four months because there is so much I like about it that the parts I don’t appreciate so much were overshadowed. But there is one thing I couldn’t ignore any longer: I just did not feel as well these past four months as I did the months prior when doing an unstructured fitness program of my own. Was I in as good a shape back then? No, in terms of measurable performance. In terms of appearance, the difference was positive but not much. Put it this way – with a shirt on I didn’t look any different except a little ‘puffier’ in the chest. Regardless of the slight bump in upper-body muscle, as I always say to friends/family that ask my opinion about diet and exercise, the best evaluation for whether something truly works for you or not is this great litmus test: “How do you feel?” If your goals are to excel at CrossFit (and make no mistake about it – CrossFit is a sport first, with the fitness regimen being a side-effect), then that’s different from the goals of most people who start a fitness program. They don’t do it to compete. They don’t do it for fun. They do it to feel better and to look good naked. That’s it. Normal people don’t care how much they can clean & jerk.
Looking back, the past four months can best be summed up in this way:
CrossFit is awesome. At least the box I joined is. But injuries sustained from my own stupidity/ego/body have just ruined this experience for me. And some aspects of it are not aligned with my goals, which are just to feel great and look good. It’s just not fun for me.
I know what you’re thinking/about to leave a comment saying. I’ve heard/read it many times regarding CrossFit. It goes something like this:
“If you’re getting injured then you need to find a new box/coaches!!!” Yes, that is true in some cases, but not in mine. A couple of the coaches at the box I was a member of were pretty useless. They did nothing but hang out and yell a “Keep it up guys!” once in a while. They didn’t teach a thing. But most are really good. I learned pretty quickly who to avoid, so that wasn’t the problem. The problem is me. My ego, and my damned pinched nerve, and my goals just didn’t agree with CrossFit. I wasn’t there to be an athlete. I was there to get in shape and feel the best I can be. The former was hampered by constant nagging injuries, and the latter degraded the more/longer I did CrossFit.
I’ve had injuries or soreness since the day I started CrossFit. And when you start doing workouts of that level of intensity, and duration, it wreaks havoc on one’s diet. It’d be easy if I were shoving sugar/carbs down my throat for the majority of my calories. The answer would be to just add more to burn more. But I don’t eat that way, for obvious reasons.
Before I start bashing CrossFit, which is what the following will come off as even if not intended:
I QUIT BECAUSE I WAS CONSTANTLY BATTLING LITTLE NAGGING INJURIES. I would have stuck with it, even if it wasn’t ideal for me. Why stick with something you don’t love? Cus that’s me. I have been very down the last week or so, knowing that I was coming to this decision. I don’t like to quit anything and I’m still conflicted (obviously!) about this decision.
What I Liked About CrossFit
The Social Aspect
People often complain about the monthly cost for a CrossFit membership. I paid, with a 10% veteran’s discount, $135 per month. That was for 3 sessions per week. That is way high compared to the regular gyms. But when you walk into the regular gyms you don’t get free personal training. You don’t have any camaraderie or even friendly people saying hello to you. You don’t get nutrition advice, or an instant social network. Even though I’m in my 40’s, married, bald, and have the personality of a mosquito, as soon as I joined my local CrossFit box I was instantly inundated with happy hour invites, Facebook friend requests, and plain old ‘Hi, my name is XXXXXX!’ introductions whenever I’d see someone new at a WOD.
The social aspect is what makes CrossFit successful, long-term. For some people, like me, this is not all great. During the WOD I didn’t really like the constant “Go! Keep it up! One more Rep! You can do it!” Rah-rah-rah. I specifically stopped going to Team WODs because of it – nothing more annoying than an overzealous dude yelling in your ear to give it more when you’re already giving it all you’ve got. But that’s just me.
The Personal Training is Included
This is the part people don’t understand. I was so weak and inflexible when I first started that every single WOD was a personal training session. Over time, this became embarrassing to me, as sometimes I felt like I was depriving others from getting the help they might have needed. Not sure how to do a lift or want to refine your technique? Just ask the coach. Heck, I usually didn’t need to ask – they’d see how screwed up I was and would just come over and correct me. Not all of the coaches were pro-active in this way though. But most were, and a few were phenomenal, and once I figured out who those folks were I just always went to the sessions they coached.
I could easily, and just might, add this one to the negatives list. But there’s something to be said for the intensity. I don’t care who you are – if you’re in a warehouse full of people all pushing hard to get through the same WOD, you’re going to push harder because of the group dynamic. I will never understand how people could do CrossFit on their own using the CrossFit.com (otherwise known as the “main site”) prescribed WODs. I know I could never keep the intensity up doing it by myself.
What I Hated About CrossFit
I recently read this article and I think the guy absolutely nailed it in terms of the aspects of CrossFit that I didn’t like.
Before someone leaves a comment saying that it’s different at every box – really? No, it’s not. The social aspect is certainly different. The coaches are different. But let’s be honest – there are only so many prescribed movements/lifts. Wall balls at one box are the same at every other. Box jumps. Clean and Jerks. Deadlifts. Running. Etc. What is different from box to box is the people. The people at the box I was a member of are great (mostly). I’ll miss chatting with them. I doubt they’ll miss chatting with me, cus I mostly would just whine about how hard CrossFit was : )
CrossFit is Chronic Cardio
Even before I started CrossFit, one of the things that concerned me was that, no matter how you sliced it, it was chronic cardio. When you have your heart rate pumping to the max for close to an hour at a time*, it doesn’t matter if the formal WOD is just 10 minutes long. At my box, the warm-up was 10 minutes and very high intensity – much higher intensity than any ‘spinning’ or ‘pilates’ class during it’s highest level of intensity. And rarely was I ever able to finish a WOD within 10 minutes. Usually they were a minimum of 15 and often much longer. A number of them (especially the dreaded team-based WODs) were ~45 minutes. And that doesn’t count the warm-up. Since I only did it 3x per week (and often, due to injuries, only 2x per week), the ‘chronic’ effect was mitigated. How these guys do it every day or even the 3-on-1-off protocol that CrossFit recommends, is beyond me.
It’s Weightlifting But It’s Not
One regret I have is not trying the “Westside Barbell” sessions that my box offered. I don’t even know what that is, but I assume it is a more traditional weightlifting approach versus the metcons.
CrossFit teaches and prescribes lots of lifts, but mostly it was high-rep. The focus is on intensity. The problem with that is, in order for me to keep the intensity up, and not injure myself, I had to use very low weight. And you can’t build muscle if you aren’t lifting heavy. I realize heavy is a relative term, but I have no doubt that I would have built more lean muscle had I just done a traditional heavy weight to failure routine 2x per week instead of rounds of high-rep/low-weight AMRAPs. Think about that for a minute: if you have to rip up your muscles in order to initiate adaptation (i.e., build stronger muscle), you have to lift heavy. Every expert will tell you this, especially the ones who I trust like Mark Sisson to Robb Wolf to Mark Rippetoe (incidentally, the latter two are now no longer fans of CrossFit themselves).
The Dudes that Run CrossFit are Creepy
Okay. Does it really matter that Greg Glassman comes off as a creepy used car salesman? Not to mention the dude is fat and out of shape, which doesn’t exactly inspire me. Or that the guy that programs the CrossFit games seems like a douchebag? No, not really. But, I’m just throwing it out there. But you have to admit that the whole “Coach says” thing is borderline cultish. Don’t believe me, ask Robb Wolf. He’s obviously had first-hand experience with CrossFit HQ and got tired of it. .
The All Important Physical Results Aren’t Consistent
Aside from the all-important “How do you feel?” question I led this post off with, there are three other types of results to be concerned with when it comes to CrossFit or any fitness routine:
How do you look as a result of it?
How do you perform, outside of the actual activity, as a result of it?
How do you perform at the activity itself, as a result of it?
The only one that matters to me is the first one. Superficial I know. But honest. And real. I could care less how I perform at CrossFit itself. That is only of value in the box, as a social status thing. Who gives a shit? I joined CrossFit to ‘get (and therefore look) ripped’. I could care less how much I can deadlift. Or how many Muscle Ups I can do (no, I can’t do any and never will). Or what my Fran time is. They are just arbitrary numbers that are of value only within the box. So how I perform at CrossFit the sport (and it is a sport) is irrelevant to me. It is not irrelevant to many CrossFitters though. I saw countless fat guys who were devastated that they didn’t PR on a movement. Or didn’t finish with a better time/score. I honestly felt bad for these guys. Some were 40+ years old and obese. Why would they care what their Fran Time was or beat themselves up cus they weren’t a member of the “Muscle Up Club”? They should be concerned with their carb counts, and the spike in cortisol levels that they were causing by doing those long metcons, not their rep counts.
As for the ‘functional fitness’ aspect of it. It’s true – CrossFit does help you perform better at day to day stuff. And I can see how it can be super beneficial for military (for sure), police and firefighters, who have to be prepared for anything physical that their job throws at them. But, for me, a married 40-something white collar worker and Dad of two, it didn’t help me any more than a non-CrossFit fitness regimen would. And, in fact, due to the continual injuries, it was likely worse. I don’t need to be able to carry people on my back and run 400 meters, or flip a 2 ton tire. I have a AAA membership! : ) I leave those lofty accomplishments the real heroes. I just want to not embarrass my family when taking my shirt off at the beach.
Both of these guys are a fail, in my opinion, especially the guy on the right, unless his goal is to be doing WODs for the sake of WODs.
Being Tied to A Schedule
I was a member of one of the biggest boxes around, in terms of members. They had lots of sessions scheduled. Most CrossFit boxes are small and only offer an early morning and evening session or two. Problem is, it is a major time commitment to do a CrossFit session. For me, it was 2 hours, minimum. Say my session was 12pm. I’d have to leave at 11:30 to get there by 11:45, then warm-up on my own so I don’t get pummeled by the formal warm-up, then the session was always a minimum of one hour and often slightly longer, then tack on another 15 mins to cool down (trust me, if you give it your all, you don’t just wipe your brow with a towel and go), followed by a shower, etc. This business about “I get in and get out” is bullshit. The 10 minute workout is a fable. It COULD be true, but not if you include the warm-up, the instruction, and then the post-WOD stretching. Having to pre-schedule myself for a session is a pain in the ass. I have flexible work hours, so it wasn’t the times that were the issue, but the total time commitment. Being able to just go to a globo-gym or to the local park and knock out my workout quickly is a better fit for me.
The Stress, and Effect on Diet and Weight
Those of you who have read much of my blog, or keep up with the latest credible research on diet and fitness, should know that working out often causes you to eat more. In my case, I struggled to keep my weight consistent. I started CrossFit at a svelte 191lbs. Within 3 weeks I was up to 199lbs and shitting bricks that I would break 200lbs. Yes, it might have been mostly muscle (though 8lbs of muscle in 3 weeks is not possible). But it was me subconsciously eating more – I, in effect, “worked up an appetite” from the working out. Four months of CrossFit has resulted in a much more defined chest/shoulders, but a softer middle. I’m down to 193lbs as of today, only because I had to completely cut out sugar for a month. And, unlike before CrossFit where I could eat a fair amount of carbs via an occasional dessert/treat with my kids, once I started CrossFit I really had to struggle to keep my weight down. And don’t give me that bullshit about how the scale lies. A 5’10” man shouldn’t be weighing over 200lbs. Period. My waistline didn’t go down any further during CrossFit either (it’s still at 34″). It didn’t get worse, but didn’t get smaller. I attribute this to the stress (likely in the form of cortisol spikes due to the chronic cardio). The stress from the WODs themselves, to the stress that the nagging soreness/injuries as a result of the WODs.
In The End
CrossFit is great and it sucks all in one. I sincerely hope that I don’t sway anyone away from trying CrossFit – I urge EVERYONE to try it. Especially if your goals are aligned with it, but even if not. It IS fun to survive a hard WOD and then reflect on it. It’s kind of like boot camp. I am a veteran and look back at boot camp fondly. Do I want to be in it perpetually for the rest of my life, as a fitness endeavor? Hell no. But I’m glad I did it. I am really proud that, even though I didn’t like CrossFit all that much from the start, I stuck with it for four months and gave it a fair shot. I loved the idea/theory of CrossFit. I loved telling people how I was pushing myself to the limit and surviving, loved thinking about the goofy shit like tire flips and muscle ups and the like. But in the end, it just wasn’t for me.
First off, I apologize for not posting in a while. This blog now gets an average of 130 unique visitors per day, and based on some of the emails I’ve gotten recently asking me if I’m still alive, I wanted to get the word out about how things are going.
I’m Alive and Thriving! : )
I actually had a post outlined and half-written about a recent business trip to attend a conference. Mainly the post is about the types of food offered during the included breakfast/lunches and then dinner while on the road. I’ll get it posted soon. In the meantime, an update:
Today I broke a milestone that I was beginning to think I would never hit and really wasn’t bothering if I didn’t, but it sure is great to have achieved it: I got on the scale this morning and weighed in at 189.8 pounds. I got under the 190 mark! That is the first I’ve seen that on the scale since I was 18 and in the Navy. I’m 5’10” and have big thighs, so while I haven’t been ‘fat’ in many months (aside from being able to pinch a half an inch of visceral belly fat), being in the 180’s is probably ideal for my body type. A month ago I was weighing in around 197. Earlier posts reflect that I was hanging out in the 191 to 192 range for months and then, as soon as I started CrossFit (see below), I quickly tacked on about 7 pounds and stayed there. I attribute the weight gain to muscle increase but possibly also because I was eating more to compensate for the increased workload, even though I likely didn’t need to.
Then, at the start of this month, my CrossFit box started a September “Zone Challenge” – basically a large number of folks, including myself, got weighed and then calipered by the coach, and then given a body fat percentage. I was utterly dismayed to receive a 24% body fat number. While it’s better than the ~40% I was at less than 2 years ago, it’s still disappointing. I attended a seminar at the box about The Zone diet. I’d of course heard about Zone before – it’s one of the few diets that has maintained a loyal following for a long time. Based on my knowledge of nutrition in relation to weight loss, it looks like a fairly effective plan, but I had two concerns that steered me clear of it:
1. I lost and have maintained 70 pounds on a low-carb Paleo approach. No way will I change things up and wind up jeopardizing that.
2. The Zone appears to me to be a big pain in the ass. Everything gets measured. Everything.
I’m sure Zone is great, but I decided to stick with what my low-carb Paleo approach but do a Whole30. As with the last time I tried a Whole30, I failed. But, I did get to about 2 weeks before failing : ) How did I fail? Alcohol (while out of town at a work conference), and dairy. I find it impossible to avoid dairy completely. BUT…I’ve successfully avoided the blatant sugar bomb ‘treats’ that I was indulging in 2 to 3 times per week: an ice cream, or a banana-laden smoothie, etc. I cut that out for this month.
But I wasn’t losing any weight at all the first week and then, the past 2 weeks, I suddenly started dropping weight again. Why? I attribute it to one thing: I’ve purposefully de-stressed.
Cutting Back the CrossFit for Now
I’ve been *very* stressed from work the past 4 or 5 months. I can’t go into the reasons why here obviously. Regardless, things have chilled a bit. I know this sounds like whiny bullshit and goes counter to conventional wisdom, but I honestly think that 3x per week CrossFit was also not doing me good. I was physically just not able to do CrossFit 3 times per week *properly*, so I switched back to twice per week. Now, when I go those two times per week, I’m truly performing at my best and at the right intensity, whereas before I was killing myself both physically and mentally and still not giving it my all. More on that in another post, but let’s just say that a few weeks ago I was seriously considering quitting CrossFit but now I’m starting to really see and feel the benefits and have broken through the ‘mental wall’ that I had built up for myself in regards to pride/competition.
I still maintain a 3x per week membership, but I’ll only go that third time if I am feeling great and motivated. Otherwise, my goal is to keep building muscle and aerobic capacity and, eventually, start incorporating in that third WOD per week.
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.