Tuesday, October 28, 2008

What a difference a couple weeks makes

I posted a week ago today about starting the one hundred push ups training program. I was already on Week 2 at the point of that post, which means that I'm on Week 3 of the training program.

Looking at my progress so far, I'm sticking with it to a tee even though I'm following the lowest (simplest??) of all three levels. I'm not completely sold on the idea of being able to do 100 push ups in 4 more weeks, but only time (and more push ups!) will tell.

I'm also on day 8 of the burpees challenge. I'm not sure if doing burpees every day has helped with my push ups, but I'm sure I'll feel or notice a difference around day 25+ .. or even sooner. The dog thinks I want to play with him when I do them in the living room at night, which adds an element of surprise to the movement. I'm doing it with my sister, so we're trying to make sure we do them every day even if we skip a day.

We have replaced "Must See TV" Thursdays in our house with "Try not to kick the dog in the head while wearing knee high boots while doing burpees" Tuesdays.

Be sure to set your DVR.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Doing more to suck less

I started the one hundred pushups challenge last week, and so far things are going well. I've followed the program as written... and still can't do 100 push ups. :( That's fine since I still have 4 more weeks to go after this one, but at least I'm up to a max of 8 reps. It's not much and I probably could've knocked out more, but I would've shortened my ROM (range of motion) and didn't want to short change myself. No cutting corners for me. Even if it is a little weird trying to sneak in the 5 sets in my office, I get them all in with full (chest to deck) ROM.

Yesterdays workout consisted of AMRAP in 30 minutes of:

20 traveling burpees
20 cable cleans
20 jumping lunges
20 cable full extensions
20 sit ups
200 single unders

I knew it was going to be a workout that would fry me from shoulders (CFE) to torso (CFE, burpess, cable cleans) to quads (lunges) to calves (single unders). It's a great, tough, full body workout...

..that I suck at.

No.. I do. Sure, I made some small gains last week, but I have a looong way to go to get.. well, good. So I guess the in between process is called 'getting better'. I'm working on getting better at push ups with the challenge, and will start another challenge of sorts with burpees. And, thus, we have The Burpee Challenge.

The Burpee Challenge is to do what I dislike the most! We all know that there is no better way to work your weaknesses then to just do it.


1. Use Burgener's burpee standards for form (see examples in the link).

2. You can complete each day's burpees all at once, or broken up and done at different times throughout the day.

3. If for some reason you miss a day, you have to make up all the missed burpees the following day.

4. If you don't start the challenge with us today, you can "buy-in" at any time by doing ALL the missed day's burpees on your first day.

5. Any burpees you complete during your regular workout can count towards that day's Challenge burpees, if you want them to.

6. Have fun doing burpees and getting stronger doing it!

So you basically do a burpee on day one and add one each day until you get to 100. Some do the challenge where they start off doing 100 burpees to see how long it takes them, then they time themselves again to chart the improvement. I'll venture to guess that it would take me a long time to do 100, so anything else after doing 99 days of burpees would be a vast improvement.

The middle of the week might seem like an odd time to start, but there's no better time to start than now. Waiting until Sunday or Monday or the first of November would put me back 5, 6, or even 11 days worth of burpees. And even though burpees aren't high on my "Love 'em!" meter, putting them off longer will make me dislike them more, and that's not the point of the challenge.

Of course, erging is okay, but erging 10k meters probably won't make me like it more. Don't tempt me to try it..

Friday, October 17, 2008

When a good fight goes bad, just put up a good fight

.. that's what I did during my first attempt at Fight Gone Bad on Wednesday.

Fight Gone Bad

Taken from the CrossFit website

In this workout you move from each of five stations after a minute. This is a five-minute round from which a one-minute break is allowed before repeating. We've used this in 3 and 5 round versions. The stations are:

Wall-ball: 20 pound ball, 10 ft target. (Reps)
Sumo deadlift high-pull: 75 pounds (Reps)
Box Jump: 20" box (Reps)
Push-press: 75 pounds (Reps)
Row: calories (Calories)

The clock does not reset or stop between exercises. On call of "rotate," the athlete/s must move to next station immediately for good score. One point is given for each rep, except on the rower where each calorie is one point.


Modifications I made were using a 14lb ball for the Wall-ball, SDHP of 55lbs, and push-press of 55lbs. The workout can be done in any order, but with 4 people and only 1 medicine ball each of 14# and 20# (there were guys there and the 'unused' ball was used as a 'guide' to make sure you were going low enough. Think 'balls to ball' if you will), one erg, and one bar each for the guys (75#) and gals (55), we didn't have a lot of variation to work with. We also did 3 rounds. This is the order I used..

Box jumps

I started off well and just about had the same totals in the first two rounds when I got off the erg. I had a lot of confidence in the box jumps after Monday's workout and used that to increase the rep total. Since the clock doesn't stop between sets, I didn't mess with trying to get my feet under the foot straps on the erg. You shouldn't be using your feet to pull you back up the slide anyway, as you should let the boat 'run' under you, but it's easier done in a shell than on an erg. No matter, I had the same calorie count each round. It was the push-press and wall ball that killed me. I haven't done much bar work or wall ball and really struggled with both to find a good rhythm while trying to maintain good form. I was gasses at that point, too.

Round totals - 79, 72, and 68
Total - 219

I'm not exactly turning cartwheels or anything, but it's nice to have my first FGB under my belt. I'm sure being more strategic in the order I do each set might make a difference. I have a lot of work to do, form and strength-wise, before my next attempt, and hope to bump up that total to at least 250+.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

A good day, and a good way, to start the week

There are days when things finally come together, and that day was Monday. As I mentioned in my last post, I had Columbus Day off for the first time ever, and took advantage of the time by getting my hair cut. I also moved my Pilates workout to the morning (which was a good thing cuz my legs were sore and I needed as much recovery time as possible!), but kept CrossFit at the usual PM time. I knew the workout ahead of time and knew it was similar to one we had done about a month ago, so I was ready to go.

In 30 minutes, to AMRAP of

10 box jumps to burpees
20 sit ups

You start off with a box jump then step back for a burpee before repeating. After 10, flip over for 20 sit ups. A pretty 'easy to follow' workout, but tiring in its own right.

The timer watch was set to beep at the end of two 15 minute increments. It would've been nice if it was over after the first beep, but we had more to do. I felt good on the burpees even if I wasn't going completely chest to deck, but I stayed off my knees every round, and I was proud of that. I kept good form (no belly or hip sag) and didn't cheat by 'nodding', as some people try to do. I also have a tendency to 'short jump' the return after the pushup, but only felt like I struggled in the later rounds.

I think I managed 9.75 rounds. I was over half done with the sit ups during my 10th round when the beeper went off. I felt like I was moving quickly throughout each workout and each set. If I needed to rest, I just took a few breaths before continuing as I didn't want to slow down any momentum, and it seemed to work. It'll be interesting to see how I do the next time we do this workout.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A weekend of 'firsts'

A review of sorts...

1. Saturday - attended my first home opener of the Washington Capitals. Fortunately, they defeated the Chicago Blackhawks 4-2. It was an exciting match even if I missed the first 1.5 periods and spent the remainder of the game yawning and sitting on the end of my seat. That exciting of a game, eh? Yes and no, but I leaned forward mostly because of the kids behind me that constantly kicked the back of my seat. As I said to my sister, "only 21 more games of this!" I'm sure I'll have more to say on this as the season wears on. I'm not one for confrontation, but I might have to put the kicking 10 yr old in his place.

Also, today, I wore a pair of jeans for the first time in nearly 5 months. It doesn't sound like a big deal, but it is a bit surprising that it has been so long since I've had the soft feel of denim against my skin. I was a regular jean wearer at my old job where it was a very casual place (re: football jerseys on 'Spirit Friday' before Redskins games), but jeans aren't allowed at the new job. It's fine by me even though I'm not the snazziest dresser, but I've adjusted to it and accepted it. I don't go out much, either, nor is summertime in DC a time to be wearing jeans (I applaud and question those who choose to wear jeans in the humidity), so they've stayed in the drawer until now.

2. Sunday - Went to the Woolly Mammoth Theater Company and saw the finally showing of MacHomer. I have not been to enough shows in DC even after living here almost 6 years, so it was nice to finally get out and go to a new theater. Afterwards my group descended upon Rosa Mexicana for some food post matinee. I've walked by this restaurant almost every day after work for the past 5 months and this was my first time eating that. I can't say I'll go back anytime soon, either, but it served its purpose of filling our bellies.

3. Monday - It was the first time I can remember that I've ever had Columbus Day off. I took advantage of the nice day to sit in stylists chair for 2.5 hrs getting my hair foiled, washed, and cut. Note, that this is also the first time in about 10 years that I've had someone else cut my hair. I always plan my trips back to Michigan around when my hair needs a touch up, and it just didn't work this year. I was waaaay overdue and have been wearing my hair up in a pony tail for the last 2 months. Two inches shorter, I can barely wrap it up in the 'tail like I normally do, but I'm not complaining since I'm hoping to get fewer comments about my 'grey hair' :(

4. Push ups - I'm not sure what day it was, but after weeks of doing push ups and burpees on my knees, I was finally able to do 2 'real' push ups (chest to deck). I tried a 3rd, but went down and struggled to get up. With that, I'm officially starting the One Hundred Pushups training program that I posted about earlier. I started the program today and did the Week 1, Day 1 workout in my office, which took all of 5 minutes.

Keep me honest and track my progress. My userID is 'jen14'.

Also, tonight is my first attempt at Fight Gone Bad and I'm REALLY looking forward to it.

Friday, October 10, 2008

An 'a ha!' moment that lasts as long as it takes to say 'a ha'

All these push ups that I struggle to do and sit ups that I seem to rock endlessly back and forth on seem for naught. Even the squats that I can knock out pretty quickly and the burpees that have more 'urp' than substance to them have a purpose. But that is exactly can take some time to figure out.

At the start of rugby practice on Tuesdays, we've been including some CrossFit type workouts in our warm up. Last week was a Tabata - 20 seconds on, 10 seconds off - of squats, push ups, and sit up. This week, we did a Tabata of star jumps, Superman (lie on stomach and lift arms and legs at the same time), and holding the push up 'start' position. While in the push up position, though, you were supposed to alternate touching your right hand to left shoulder, and left hand to right shoulder. It might sound simple, but I had no problem with any of the exercises. I struggled slightly with the Superman because of a tight left shoulder (hard to hold my arms straight out in front of me), but had no problem with the plank. I was able to move my hands quickly from the ground to the opposite shoulder without much flux in my positioning. To me, that meant that my core was engaged, and I was doing the workout correctly and efficiently. It was my 'a ha' moment, and it didn't last long.

It lasted a whole 24 hours, until my next CrossFit session, when we did the following workout:

AMRAP in 30 minutes of -
20 Hindu push ups
20 Box Jumps
20 Hand stands - hold for 5 seconds

It has been awhile since doing Hindu push ups and it showed. My form wasn't all that terrible, but I was a little more cautious with each rep since my shoulders were sore from rugby practice. We did a few 'test' hand stands before starting the workout to make sure we were correctly kicking up against the wall, and then coming down with good and controlled form. However, holding them for 5 seconds was what 'got me'. It would take me at least 5-7 'kick ups' to finally be able to GET UP and hold the position, and then I would do the '12345!' quick count and call it good. I was slightly afraid of slamming my feet into the wall, of my arms crumbling beneath me, tumbling into the Reformer machines or the person next to me, and falling to the floor in a heap of failure.

What bothered me the most is that it took me forever to just do ONE! I could get up, but couldn't hold it for the allotted amount of time. It was a seemingly simple movement I would spend summer afternoons as a child doing that I couldn't even do anymore; I could barely muster one. I almost mentally 'checked out' of the workout, but continued, albeit, slowly.

Once done with my first round, I moved on to the box jumps that were no problem. After the Hindu push ups it was back to the handstands again. This round went a little quicker and I was able to kick up to the handstand and hold it without my feet against the wall for a good (not quick) five seconds. I was pretty happy with that, and the 'a ha' moment I had about using my core came and went with every attempt until I finally GOT IT! Then I had to start over.

It was a frustrating workout because it was so do able. I looked at it and saw the Hindu push ups and figured I could do 4-5 rounds in 30 minutes. After starting the handstands, that number quickly dropped to 2-3. I managed a pitiful 2 rounds and 12 more Hindu push ups.

You have to start somewhere, and I don't think I could get any lower. I know engaging my core will help me hold the handstand, as well as doing other movements, but there's that 'a ha' moment of knowing how to do it, doing it, and being able to do it every time.

I'm stuck. Luckily, not in a handstand.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Hard core to the core

I saw this power wheel challenge the other day when browsing the Monkey Bar Gym for workouts.

What’s the Power Wheel Challenge?
Do the Power Wheel crawl 100 yards on a football field without dropping! Pass the Challenge and Win over $300 in MBG Training DVDs and get listed on our Power Wheel 100 Yards Club! (*video proof required)

We do a lot of workouts that use your bodyweight - push ups, situps, squats - and from time to time use the power wheel (PW). Last Wednesday's workout (I'm a little behind) looked like this:

5 rounds AFAP of
10 PW pike ups
15 PW leg curls
20 PW crawls (10 forward, 10 back)

It's harder than it looks. The pike ups start off in a push up plank position then you use your core to draw your butt up in the air, which brings your feet (and the wheel) close in to you. You flip over onto your back for the leg curls, which, again are harder than they look. I have done leg curls with a stability ball before, but it's a tad easier because of the surface area of the ball. The crawls are a similar start as the pike ups, but you walk forwards, then backwards. It's good practice for the PW Challenge! I completed the workout in 11:55 and could feel it from my shoulders and chest through my torso, glutes, and calves. Another great full body workout.

We'll probably be using the power wheel for one workout each week as it's a good addition to the repertoire.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

How to save $500

Cancel your gym membership like I did yesterday.

You don't need it. Heck, you probably haven't been to the gym in over a year. So long, in fact, that they've overhauled the elevators and you can't figure out which button is the 'up' button. That's just a generalization and has probably never happened to me.. umm.. I mean you.

When I moved to DC in February 2003, one of the first things I did was find a gym. I didn't want anything too frilly, but wanted something that was metro accessible and had a swimming pool. Those were top on my list. I found my 'ideal gym' at the L'Enfant Plaza Hotel where there was a pool (albeit not the greatest, but swimable) and it was located right where I had to transfer trains home. Additionally, it was rarely crowded. I didn't use the cardio equipment or the machine weights much as I opted for the free weights in the separate room. When I got the grand tour when I first signed up, I wasn't shown the 'other room' until I asked about the free weights. I was only shown the 3lb-12lb dumbbells in the main room. Around the corner and down the hall (where I would do walking lunges from time to time) was the almost always empty free weights room. I put in the most work in during 2004 when I prepared for my 2nd attempt at the HAT Run 50k, 1st attempt at the Bull Run Run 50 miler, 2nd attempt at Ironman Wisconsin, and then the first ever Chesapeake Man Ultra Distance (Iron) Triathlon, which was 4 weeks after IM Wisconsin.

It has been downhill since then.

I went the the pool at Eastern Market more often and spent more time swimming, biking, and running than I did lifting weights. When I started up with rugby in 2006 I got back into the weight room, but couldn't find the consistency. After Ironman Lake Placid last year, I dropped just about everything.

In these times of economic woes, people are looking to cut costs and save money. I've been reading about simple grocery shopping tips such as, novel idea, actually grocery shopping and cooking at home instead of eating out, using coupons, and buying store brand instead of name brand products. I grew up eating rice from a black and white box (or yellow and black) box that was considered 'generic'. How generic? The box had "RICE" written on it, and that was about it. It wasn't called 'store brand', which is now en vogue, it was called what it was - a plain ol' box of rice.

Other people are looking to cut costs by changing cell phone plans, satellite or cable TV packages, and going to a library instead of buying new books. Simple things. Here's another tip to help save money - stop going to the gym. No, I'm not saying that you should stop working out, but that you could get as good a workout at home for a fraction of the cost of a globo gym. At minimum, here's what you could use:

Good pair of shoes
Jump rope
Dumbbells/kettlebells (1 pair of either - 35lbs m/20lb-25 f)

You could even nix the weights, but spending $3 on a jump rope is a good investment. You think running for 20-30 minutes is tough? Try jumping rope for the same amount of time and tell me how your calves feel afterwards. Think you look silly jumping rope? Do jumping jacks instead, but don't be lazy about it with bent elbows. Keep your arms straight and really 'flap your wings'. Your lats and shoulders should be nice and warmed up. And, yes, you look silly.

After warming up, do 10 body weight squats, then 10 sit ups, then 10 push ups. Easy? Do it as many times as possible in 30 minutes. You just completed a full body workout in 40 minutes and didn't have to leave your house. Too boring? Not hard enough? Do a countdown of reps from 10 to 1 alternating burpees and Hindu push-ups. Feeling it now? Feeling badass? Try "Murph", a CrossFit Hero workout - 1 mile run, 100 pull ups, 200 push ups, 300 squats, 1 mile run. That seated row is looking pretty cush now, isn't it?

An endless selection of machines and free weights to choose from is a nice luxury, but not a necessity. Heck, I have an array of workout equipment from bands to stability balls and dumbbells to a doorgym and bikes that don't get used as much as intended, so I might not be the best person to preach about minimalistic workouts outside a globo gym. What I do know is that $39/month (I've had the membership since Feb 03; new members now pay around $55) won't be automatically taken out of my checking account each month for something I don't use.

Why did I keep the membership for so long? In case I finally decided to workout there; it was cheap; and it was close by, to name a few. Cutting ties with a gym is like losing a friend. But with friends you can 'drop by' and see them on Facebook for free; whereas with a gym, you have to pay anywhere from $7-15 for a visit.

Even though the relationship.. er, membership is over after over 4.5 years, there is no bitterness. It's actually not officially gone until the end of this month, so I have another 28 days to not go. What a perk.