James can be reached at TwinFreaks CrossFit, where he is an owner and trainer. James coaches barbell lifting classes and CrossFit classes. Contact him by email at james@twinfreakscrossfit.com or by phone at 720-204-2631.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Rest of the Yule Blogs

Friday, Christmas Eve Eve, I went to work briefly to eat the last of the year's sugar.  Screw it, I'm going to admit that I enjoyed over-eating, and I enjoyed eating not just non-paleo but outright junk food.  I am also happy to put the dietary offences behind me.

Saturday, Christmas Eve, was my heavy squat and press day.  There was quite a lot of volume overall, but the work sets on the press were 3 x 4 x 145, and the work sets on the squat were 3 x 4 x 310.  Since I started lifting in the USAPL, I've made it a point to take all my squats too deep, so this was enough work to induce some real soreness in both the back and legs.

Sunday, Christmas, I rowed a marathon, 42,195 meters, on the C2.  Yes I was sore, but my erging partner - who probably doesn't want any extra attention - ran about twelve miles Saturday and probably hurt as much or more than I did going in.

We had some delightful conversation and helped each other get to around 15,000 - 17,000 meters left when we went into our separate pain caves, and the solitary suffering began in earnest.  My only real goal was to finish in under four hours, and while at times I was limping badly, I made it with a few minutes to spare.

My erg-buddy finished in essentially the same time as I did, and said, "that was fun."  Then she explained that we'd have to do it earlier next year because she'll be gone for Christmas.

Holy Fuck.  What a woman.

A.S. asked me via Internet if I'm rowing at 6:30 am tomorrow.  No, A.S. I'm not, but that made me laugh harder than I have in months probably.

Whether you were with me physically or in spirit, that was awesome.  Thanks for a memorable Christmas.

Yeah, maybe we can do it again next year.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Yule Blog #8

For the nine weeks I currently have planned for myself, Thursday is bench and deadlift day.  Last Thursday my work sets on the bench were 6 x 3 x 210.  210 is not really heavy, not even for a triple, but it's heavy enough to demand respect.

I'm fortunate to have a consistent spotter who takes the job seriously, so I didn't complain when we had to change Thursdays' lifting time until it eventually was pushed all the way back to 5:30 pm.  Of course 5:30 became 5:40, and he had to leave at 6:15.

I was rushed, and that was good.  I re-learned that I screw off more than I think I do, and it's possible to do a complete work out quicker than I think it is.

Thanks spotter, and maybe these obstacles thrown at us actually help us dominate.

Yule Blog #7

If this seems wrong, it is really supposed to be Yule Blog #8.  I just like this one better than the one that should be 7, so I'll give it the prime number.

Yes I do like prime numbers, and yes, I spent a few hours today drinking coffee and studying the chess game, Mikhail Tal - Aleksander Koblents, Riga, 1957.  On the downside, I'm not so good with people.  I sometimes even forget who they are and why I am supposed to know them.

People are nice to me anyway, and that continues to amaze me.

Today a CrossFitter gave me a magnesium fire-starter for Christmas, and I realize she couldn't possible have gotten me anything better.  It's even better than the Nose-Tork I would have requested if anyone asked me what I wanted.

I can do what I damn well want with my blog, but as of yet I'll not preach my views on the zombie apocalypse.

Let me just say that if the shit should hit the fan, I'm not waiting for help.  I'm taking my knife collection and my new magnesium fire-starter, and I'll run west into the mountains.

It wouldn't surprise me if I die before the panic-stricken people who sit down and wait for the police, but I'll die facing my last enemy with a sharpened, fire-hardened wooden spear.

I hope that as the triumphs you string together after days, weeks, and months in the gym begin to seem ordinary, you're also gaining confidence to face the extraordinary.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Yule Blog #6

If I could explain why this is, I'd actually get paid to write, and sure, I'd still talk to those of you who were around in the early days.  Further, since I know this profound truth, I feel like I have to share it now while it still comes across as a mere assertion and without the explanation.

But here it is - there are ergs in Heaven.

Oh yeah, there are ergs in Hell too.

The difference, I think, is just in the recovery days.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Yule Blog #5

I was asked today if I feel rowing in my arms.

I liked that question enough to continue thinking about it for several minutes after I had answered in the negative.

Here is how it works, in so far as I can remember how rowing feels.  I try to do too much stuff, and because of that sometimes on the erg I'll be conscious of my legs or back failing.  That seems to be associated with heavy lifting days.

On a good day, when I haven't been too ambitious, I'm fully recovered from any previous work outs, and I'm motivated, I don't feel the body in parts, and in fact if I don't exactly feel my body.

On a good day I feel the animal running.  On some of the good days, the animal just runs.  On well over half of even the good days, to be painfully honest, the animal knows its run is inadequate and it lays down to die.

So no.  Only on a bad day can I feel a weak link fail.  On a good day if anything fails, it's a sudden and complete collapse of the very soul.

That hurts a lot worse than the rubber legs.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Yule Blog #4


It was supposed to be a rest day, but I thought I should row 6,000 meters to have any chance to finish the month with 100k.  I realized I had plenty of time, so I decided to row 10k.  I didn't push at all, and I finished in 43 minutes.

I don't like rowing so slow, but I try to make every stroke perfect, and there is probably value in that.

On Sunday 12/18/11, I'm having trouble understanding critics.  I think I piss people off with my continued refusal to sit down, take pills, and pretend I'm old.

I think I'm going to keep doing that.

Yule Blog #3

Saturday's work sets on the press were 3 x 5 x 135, and the work sets on the squat were 3 x 5 x 295.

I thought I could use some extra work on the squat, so I decided to try a reverse band squat at 405 pounds.  I can't really explain how I allowed this to happen, but I set up green bands in the squat cage without bothering to check how much, if at all, the bar would deload at the bottom of the squat.

As I unracked 405 and started pushing my butt back I realized I wasn't getting any deload whatsoever.  I was not at all prepared mentally to be squatting 405, and I had no inclination to really hit the bar at the bottom and try to come back up, so like the Federal Reserve, I aimed for a soft landing.  I ended up doing a very slow negative, dumping the bar on the pins, and laying on the floor.

That was incredibly stupid, and incredibly fun.

I think my willingness to  do sometimes stupid but sometimes productive things is why I feel no inclination to hang colored lights all over fuck and pretend I'm happy one day a year.

In some form, I'm happy every day.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Yule Blog #2

In general terms, my training now looks like this:

Monday: row fast
Tuesday: squat moderate, press moderate
Wednesday: row fast
Thursday: deadlift, bench press
Friday: maybe row fast, maybe row slow, maybe rest (sorry about the unplanned rest today, prospective partner)
Saturday: squat heavy, press heavy, maybe row slow and long
Sunday: absolutely nothing

And this is my yearly attempt to ride two horses with one ass.  It's always a battle, but my lifting is improving.  I'm not so sure about the rowing, but at least it's not getting worse.

I'll be training like this until my next powerlifting meet in March, and I'll have to face the fact that until then my CrossFit will suck.  I won't be going to California to get free Reebok shit.  On the other hand, if I want free Reebok shit, and I won't, I could just take it from a CrossFitter.

So I'm specializing which makes me happy, but sometimes I get bummed or even feel like a complete failure.  I can't guarantee that I'll succeed even in the limited area I specialize in.

Even so I have these lucid days when I'm aware that life isn't so bad.

 A week or so ago I happened on some pictures on facebook of a guy who would be my ex-brother-in-law if I had ever been married to the woman I definitely should have divorced.  The guy has become a sphere.  I got into some trouble with the woman who should be my ex-mother-in-law for suggesting that this guy immediately get to his local CrossFit affiliate.

Yes, I'm aware of my impoliteness.  I am trying to help the guy because he is on the way to an early death.

In the end I'm a weak and wet, inconsistent Human like everyone else.  I do cause myself unnecessary suffering by worrying about whether or not I'll total over 1.200 pounds in 2012 or break the 7 minute 2,000 meter row.

I have some small, meaningless problems, and on some of those lucid days, I thank Generative Reason that one of my problems is not a spherical shape of increasing volume.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Yule Blog #1

So there I was trying to be perfect.  The last two nights I've been looking at the blank Blogger editor for ten minutes or so, then shutting it down without writing anything.

I'm doing some boring things that I find very interesting, and before I write about them I'm trying to make sure there is some great moral precept which will shine through and thoroughly repair the reader's life.  And that is not working.

Earlier this week I was showing a group how it takes me longer to set up a squat than to do one.  I was showing how my left hand has to grind into the bar before the right, and how I'm almost trying to draw blood from the knurling.  I was trying to transfer my bar voodoo, and it didn't immediately occur to me that most of them just need to squat 100 or 150 or 200 pounds to parallel without getting the "poopy dog" back.

I've decided just to write and let the reader be entertained or edified or pissed or whatever.  Take what you can or want and burn through the Yule Blogs.

Thursday 12/15/11

Bench Press work sets - 6 x 2 x 210
Deadlift work sets - 6 x 2 x 320

This was not a good day.  I almost dumped one of the benches on my stomach, and all of them felt too heavy.  The deadlifting was worse.  Absolutely everything felt like lead, and I was back to falling on my face today.  Falling on the ass is kind of cool in that it means the lifter is committed to the lift, but falling forward means there is something fundamentally wrong with the primate.

I had intended to do a fast but furious finisher today, but I left immediately after I racked my last bench.  (Actually I am responsible and I put all my weights away first.)

If there is a sweeping lesson here, this is probably it: today showed my preferred way to handle the sometimes unavoidable shitty day; do the minimum, get the Hell out, do not panic, do not cry.

What I don't prefer, but I have done more than once, is to do less than the minimum, get the Hell out, do not panic, do not cry.

I'm sure, though, that the worst thing to do in this situation is to attempt doing more than the minimum.

I'm at least a partially functional primate, and I'll be back tomorrow.

Monday, December 5, 2011

USAPL 12-04-11 Co. State Meet

Maybe if you walk through the front of TwinFreaks CrossFit you'll see a whiteboard with three wavy lines running asynchronously along a horizontal axis marked with the first initials of the twelve months of a single year.  That was my first, and maybe my last, attempt to explain how I attempt to periodize training as a three sport athlete.

While I think I know what I'm doing, it's hard to implement my training in practice, and sometimes an intelligent cycle will not fit in the available time before an attempt.  Following the Colorado Masters CrossFit Open and preceding the USAPL state meet, I was able to fit six weeks of a nine week peaking cycle.   I knew I would not be at my best, but this seemed like a good opportunity to get more meet experience and test my lifts before undertaking the next cycle leading up to the 03/04/12 NASA meet.

I decided that since it couldn't possibly be a perfect meet, I'd relax and not worry about anything - body weight, wraps, hitting big numbers - really I didn't think much about the meet at all until 6:30 am Sunday when I deduced that my inability to find my gym bag meant it must be at TFCF.  I had located my singlet, deadlift socks, and ammonia the night before, so worse case scenario was that I would go to TFCF, pick up the Purple Power Belt, and carry everything in a shopping bag.  Actually had I not in fact found the gym bag, I'd have achieved a nice thematic unity with a shopping bag as I was already wearing two t-shirts of questionable origin since it was so cold.

.D.B.1, D.B.2, and I arrived at the meet site in plenty of time to weigh in several pounds over 181, and to have all my t-shirts fail the equipment check.  I had to pay $15 for a Rocky Mountain Lifting Club t-shirt, and while the RMLC is a fine organization, I wasn't happy being compelled to support them.

My goals for the meet were so:
1) Test the raw squat and try to find something close to a 1rm
2) Try to PR the bench big
3) Feel out the sumo deadlift with some real weight, and if possible push above 400 pounds,
And it all went like this:

Squat:  we learned last July that the USAPL deserves its reputation for merciless judging in the squat, so I opened at 150 Kg, which I should be able to do naked at 4:57 am when I get up and without a warm up.

First attempt: 150 Kg good lift.

Second attempt: 160 Kg good lift.

Third attempt: 165 Kg good lift.  Honestly I blew this.  I had no idea what I could do without wraps since I usually start with loose wraps right around 150 Kg in training.  I left way too much on the platform in the squat.  I probably should have taken a second attempt around 170 Kg, and a third around 177-180 depending on what 170 felt like.

Bench: I opened at 107.5 Kg which is more aggressive than I"ve ever been, but I thought it was a reasonably sure thing.  Good Lift.

Second attempt:  115 Kg  I got sloppy on the descent, and the bar was headed for my stomach.  I was able to pull it back into a decent position and drive it to lock out for a good lift and a meet PR.

Third attempt:  I tried 122.5 Kg.  This felt much better than 115, but when I got the "press" command, it stalled about 4" off my chest.  As sometimes happens, the bar started a death arc towards my face, and the spotters did a fine job of jumping in before I lost any teeth.  No Lift.

As far as I know, all powerlifting federations allow the deadlift to be performed without a t-shirt.  I've always just kept on my t-shirt, and I even thought going shirtless showed a lack of class.  But hey, I had an opportunity to protest my forced acquisition, and I took it.

I opened at 160 Kg which was again more aggressive than I've been, but I needed something in this range if I was going to PR.  The bar got too far in front of me which is often the end of a sumo pull, but I was able to grind it to lockout.  In the sense that it got three white lights, it was a good lift, but it was a serious blow to my confidence since I thought an opener should be no problem to lock out.

Second attempt:  We knew I needed 175 Kg to total over a thousand pounds, so I thought I should give it a go.  Here I had no problems.

Third attempt:  It was a long day and the animal in me wasn't coming forth.  I was more affected by the horrible first lift than energized by the smooth second, and I tried 182.5 Kg - really the smallest unit that would get me over 400 pounds and break any mental barrier I had suffered there.  This went up fine, and I was left feeling that I really should have tried 190 Kg.

The all important third deadlift can be seen  here:

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The deadlift has been a struggle for me since blowing up my back over a year and a half ago, and while 402 pounds is really just enough to qualify me as a healthy adult male, it took a lot of hard work for me to get there.  I converted to the sumo deadlift some time ago, and in addition to having a fear of pulling, I had difficulty learning the sumo pull which is surprisingly technical for a slow lift.  Since I am in general weak off the floor, I have to angle my feet apart quite wide and attempt to externally rotate my hips hard.  This leads to a precariously balanced position, and I try to use the teeter-totter pull where the lifter attempts to pull back as much as up.  Too many times in training I fell on my ass or on my face trying to get this right, and it felt great to have the last one groove almost perfectly.

Like it was told to me, if you're not falling down you're not trying.  Lifting can be frustrating, but it eventually rewards patience.

Thanks to D.B.1, D.B.2, the huge guy who passed around the bottle of Nose-Tork, and those who show varying degrees of interest in what I try to do.  At this point I know that I'd be fine falling on my ass alone for five years, and so it's huge to get a simple, "how did it go?"

Yeah, you know who you are :)