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.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Ninth OLAP: Squats, Bench, Snapping Spines, 12-5, and Bullshit

Today started perfectly.  It was light squat day.  I started at 6:30 am, and when A.B. left after the 5:30 class, she offered to get me something from Starbucks.  I asked for an espresso, and apparently her default understanding of an espresso is a quad shot.

She gets it.

Despite being fortified, I wasn't feeling great so I decided I would squat in the morning then return after work to bench.

Morning squats:
5 x 45 (high)
5 x 45
5 x 135
8 x 210
6 x 250
4 x 285
3 x 325
3 x 325

Everything here was solid, which is good enough.

Work was fine until late afternoon when a pathetic little imbecile came into the cube talking, to put it charitably, non-productive shit.  I kind of feel sorry for the guy.  As far as I can tell from his ceaseless chatter, he has a much larger income than me and a much better car.  Probably some day I will quit or be fired, and some day too, my F-150 will fall apart.  And then I will walk, and everything will be fine.  The pathetic little imbecile, on the other hand, would wither and die quickly without a car or a job.

So while I feel sorry for the guy, I wanted to snap his spine and see if that would shut him up.  Like a lot of guys with large incomes and new cars, he is close to helpless physically, and snapping his spine would have been a nice warm up for me.  Fortunately while I was weighing my pity against my anger, I had time to remember that law serves largely to protect weak imbeciles from well intentioned people like me who have a sincere desire to correct their ill manners.

But that's why we have barbells.

I was now happy that I left the bench session until after work.
The work sets were 6 x 5 x 205.
There was nothing really good or bad here.  It still bothers me that in December I was doing substantially more, and I left feeling more like I had slapped a middle-schooler than snapped an imbecile's spine, but it was better than nothing.

I decided to do CrossFit Open 12-5 today and be done with it.
CF Open 12-5:
Complete as many reps as possible in 7 minutes following the rep scheme below:
3 Barbell Thrusters
3 Chest to bar Pull-ups
6 Barbell Thrusters
6 Chest to bar Pull-ups
9 Barbell Thrusters
9 Chest to bar Pull-ups
12 Barbell Thrusters
12 Chest to bar Pull-ups
15 Barbell Thrusters
15 Chest to bar Pull-ups
18 Barbell Thrusters
18 Chest to bar Pull-ups
21 Barbell Thrusters
21 Chest to bar Pull-ups...
This is a timed workout. If you complete the round of 21, go on to 24. If you complete 24, go on to 27, etc.

This was also last year's 11-6, and it was my second best workout last year.  I got well into the 15 pull-ups, which was not far behind some truly good people last year.   I knew this year that if I wanted to be smart I'd have to stop at one pull-up.  I think it's understandable that this is disheartening for me, so I wanted to do 12-5 and forget it.

I was in such a hurry, though, that I loaded the standard 95 pounds on the bar instead of the prescribed 100.  I started the clock, knocked out three thrusters and did one painful but perfect chest to bar pull-up.  I was walking around simultaneously happy to be done and embarrassed at having had people watch me do one pull-up, when it was pointed out to me that I needed to use 100 pounds.


I had used about 90 seconds of my 7 minutes, so without resetting the clock, I put five more pounds on the bar, did three thrusters and one more painful but perfect chest to bar pull-up.

Score: 4 (twice, almost)

I got an e-mail today from a guy who wants me to give him $975 for his course on how to use the Internet to become famous and start making the millions I deserve from my fitness business.  It was all fascinating enough to read the whole e-mail along with the endorsements from those who have already become famous and made millions.

I don't think I need to pay anyone to learn hyperbole, actually I'm quite good with it already.

I've seen people I personally know publish outrageous claims about their abilities.

I don't care if they get people to give them lots of money or if they go broke.

I decided when I started that I would only deal in honesty.  If you want to look at some other blogs, you'll see that I'm not that fastest or the strongest or the best at making other people the fastest and strongest.  Even after I sift out the nearly infinite bullshit, there are legitimate guys who are faster and stronger and better trainers than me.

It is taking me longer than I wanted, but I am making myself the best I can be.  I can make you good enough that you need to go to someone better, and when that happens I will be proud to recommend you to a better no bullshit guy.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Eighth OLAP, Squats, Shoes & CF Open 12-4

Last Thursday was supposed to be bench pressing and deadlifting, but with angry hamstrings I skipped deadlifting entirely and benched:

6 x 4 x 205

Today I felt relatively good for being almost halfway through my cycle, and I undertook the scheduled heavy squat day.

5 x 45
5 x 135
8 x 170
6 x 210
5 x 250
4 x 285
3 x 325
3 x 345
3 x 345
5 x 305
6 x 235

This was not exactly fun, but I was happy with the session.  I took the first 345 triple with no belt which seemed fine, but having proved to myself I could do that I put the belt on for the second triple.

My last cycle I felt like I had entirely forgotten how to squat, and I eventually solved the problem by using Olympic lifting shoes.  I suspect strongly, however, that lifting shoes are not the real answer for back squatting, and I've been splitting time this cycle between the O-shoes and the Converse Chucks.  I did everything in Converse today, and it felt like it used to before I forgot how to squat.

New Chucks, I assure you, are a joy to squat and pull in; they're hard, stable, flat, and low to the ground.  As far as I can remember, mine are not new.  I think they date back to the July USAPL state meet.  They're low to the ground, and they're hard,, but they're neither stable nor flat.  I don't think Converse would claim them anymore.  They've become something else entirely.

Perhaps Fuckboks.

By mid-April I'll have to replace my Fuckboks with new Converse to squat in my competition 1rm range.

I've saved some but not all of my old Fuckboks since I started lifting seriously, because when I squat 200 kilos, I want to take a photo of all the Fuckboks I trained in next to the new Converse I squatted in.

And what I believe as I near what I hope to be the end of a multi-year journey is that the important part is making new shoes old.

I think it's delusional to believe that new Fuckboks are more important than wearing out multiple pairs of Converse in the quest for Awesome.

And that's fine because I don't sell shoes.

Immediately after squatting I tried CrossFit Open WoD 12-4:
150 Wall Ball Shots
90 Double Unders
30 Muscle Ups

I was not thrilled about this because my best time ever for 150 wall balls is just under ten minutes, and not only was I better conditioned then, I was pain free.  Nonetheless, I thought it would be weak not to complete the wall balls, so I told my accountability partner I would do one double under for her.

I thought pacing was key here, so I started with what felt like a moderate pace to me and quickly down-shifted to low.

I finished the wall balls - I think because I try not to obsess over the clock on these work outs - in just over 11 minutes.  I did the double under for AP, and fourteen more followed.

Total reps: 165

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Tuesday: Squat, Erg & Ice (7th OLAP)

Today was light squat day, and I was thankful that it was light because I'm starting to hurt.  The hamstrings are still complaining, and the right knee has been painful since heavy day.  I really don't want to back down before the Masters Nationals, so I rolled out the hamstrings on lacrosse balls and coated both legs from butt to patella with Blue Heat.

Blue Heat and balls powerlifting porn.  Actually if you imagine this several times smaller
and with the balls also blue, that's pretty much what my genitals
 looked like after today's ice bath,

After getting all my parts mostly working, I did squats:
5 x 75 (75 was on the floor after the 5:30 class, and if it's going to be that easy to be lazy, well...These were also the most painful squats of the day, but now everything was really working.)
5 x 135
8 x 170
6 x 210
5 x 250
4 x 265
3 x 285
3 x 305
3 x 305

I'm sure I need to remember metabolic conditioning work, so I looked into the Max Effort Black Box and found:

40 Squats at bodyweight
1,000 meter row

With 185 pounds on the bar, I finished in 7:58.  I was disappointed that I had to break up the squats since I've done 33 at 185 before.  I will remember to try this again on fresh legs; it was fun, and I can probably break 6:00.  I also think it would be fun to do this weekly over a month and wave the squat intensity up to 75 or 80 percent while trying to hold the row constant.  185 is less than 50% of 1rm for me, and while it's no joke for forty repetitions, I'd like to see how far I can push this.

If you're counting, today's squat volume was16,065 pounds, just over 8 tons.  All of this was under 80% of my competition 1rm, but it felt heavy to me, so I thought I should be proactive and take an ice bath.

I tried this last summer after doing a squat cluster, and it seemed to work.  The ice bath on a March morning seems worse than on a July afternoon, but I did ten minutes with twenty pounds of ice.  Bad though it might be, it's better than forgetting to wash your hands before going to the bathroom after applying Blue Heat.

Hopefully tomorrow I'll find that it was effective.

All I could tell this morning was that it gave me cold feelings.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Sixth OLAP

As usual, Sunday is heavy squat day.  Losing an hour of sleep last night made me decide to start lifting at noon, and since it was tempting to stay in bed today, I got out all the wraps just in case I had an off day.

Heavy Day Props

Heavy Day:
5 x 45
5 x 135
8 x 170
6 x 210
5 x 250
4 x 285
4 x 305
4 x 325
4 x 325
4 x 325
1 x 405 reverse green bands
5 x 305
6 x 275

My total volume without the reverse band squat was 11,945 pounds, nearly 6 tons.  Only two tons, however, was above 80% of my working 1rm.

I played around for too long trying to figure out the reverse bands.  With the green bands I got a complete deload at the bottom, and what I'm trying to do is have 405 at the top and 350 or so at the bottom.  I think being comfortable walking out 450 or so would help me with heavy singles at meet time.  I'm going to keep doing this until I get the deload I want.

It's good that I'm working towards a goal, because otherwise I might succumb to temptations like this:
The breakroom: your co-workers never exist to help you

I'm doing a lot more pvc rolling than I have previously because it will be important to stay ahead of the pain here.  If I can figure out how to get enough sleep, it should be a good meet in May.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Fifth OLAP, 12-3 & Thoughts on the Open

Thursday is deadlift and bench day.  I wanted to do CrossFit Open workout 12-3 at 5:30 am as a warm up before lifting at 6:30, but there was an even number of people at 5:30, and I didn't want to ruin the flow.

At 6:30 I commenced lifting.  My works sets were:
Bench 6 x 3 x 205
Deadlift 6 x 3 x 320

Benching was uneventful.  I did my work on the bands and had no trouble.
Deadlifting, however, was horrible.  I was tired, and with lingering pain in my hamstrings, it seemed to take seconds to lock out each pull.  I had much more time under tension than usual, and I almost passed out a couple times.

I'm not worried about this yet.  It could just be a bad day, but if trouble persists I'll have to adjust training.  If I'm forced to I'll switch to either speed pulls, or deficit pulls off a couple mats.  Either one of these would allow me to train effectively with a hundred pounds less on the bar.  I know too that if a proficient squat is going up, the sumo deadlift can't be getting worse, so I'll make adjustments to keep squatting and back off on the pulling if I have to, and even a little technique work should give me a decent pull at the meet in May.

I came back Thursday night to try 12-3, AMRAP 18 15 box jumps 24", 12 push presses 115#, 9 toes-to-bar.  My idea was to do the jumps and presses, try one toes-to-bar and see how I felt.  As it was, the toes-to-bar didn't cause me any immediate pain, so I finished the round.  I didn't think I should do more pressing and risk the shoulder, and knowing that it was hard to do more box jumps.  I finished with 1 round and 1 box jump for a score of 37.

After the second Open workout, I was right in the middle of the field.  It's tempting for me to do 12-3 again and see what I can really do.  I thought about if for 15 minutes and decided not to be stupid.  Attempting to stay in the top half is not worth more down time if the shoulder does blow up.

What is the World's Fittest Man anyway if not a marketing gimmick?

The only reason I am not the word's fittest man, at least in my age group, is that I didn't copyright the phrase.  If I had, I would start determining who is the fittest by a 500 meter row.  Since there are a few people worldwide who can beat me there, I'd have to precede the row with 20 squats at  - let's see, 245 pounds.

James Open Workout 1 (the only one)
Squat 245 x 20
500 meter row

That should make me the worlds fittest man in my group, and if I had a bad day and finished second or third, that's still good enough for the Reebok shit, and I'd really like to meet and train with that other guy or two.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Fourth OLAP & Accusatory Bands

Yesterday, Tuesday, was light squat day.  I got started at 6:40 am and did:

5 x 45 (high)
5 x 45
5 x 135
8 x 170
6 x 210
6 x 250
5 x 265
5 x 285
5 x 285

I decided to again follow my own rule of squatting the bar x 5 until I can get five good reps, and it took two tries.  I did all the squats in Chucks.  Lately I've used O-lifting shoes for squatting, and I wanted to feel the Converse again on a light day.  I'm not sure what I'll use at the meet.  While I like the lifting shoes, I feel they force a wider stance to recruit the hamstrings.  In the Chucks I had no problem feeling everything engage like I want; the problem is that today I still feel the hamstring insertion in a painful way.

I finished about 7:15, and in some sense I should have done metabolic conditioning afterwards, but I knew it was a day to exert the minimal effort and go home since I was feeling neither good nor energetic.   What I like about my event based training is that I always know what my competition goals are.  Essentially I'm trying to PR both the squat and the deadlift in May while holding the bench as close to my former maximum as possible.  I could tell that doing conditioning was going to fry me, and it's not what's driving my desired adaptation, so I had no qualms about calling it a day.

Late this afternoon I was at the gym alone, and as I came out of the rest room I saw this:

To a powerlifter, a cage with bands is a beautiful thing, erglike in fact to me, and on seeing the blue band I thought I really should do some heavy reverse banded squats on heavy day.

But I kept looking and I saw the red band and the purple band.

And the red band spoke.

"Aren't you supposed to be doing banded pull aparts?"

And the purple band spoke.

"Aren't you supposed to be working the rotator cuff?"

And I knew they spoke truly.  So I did minimal rehab work; half a pie is better than none.  I've had no dietary sins for five days now.

I left work early today for a long lunch so that I could train jiu-jitsu at Dark Horse BJJ.  It was cold when I left work, but after training and some very light rolling I had to drive back to work with the windows down.  I remember some winter days driving back from Easton BJJ Boulder with the windows down and snow on the ground, and that's only one simple thing I've dearly missed about Brazilian jiu-jitsu.

Look for my new BJJ blog coming soon.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Barbells: Artists & Killers

Right now I'm more interested in writing than reading, so I won't dig through my bookshelves and piles of books to see if perhaps it really was Miyamoto Musashi who said, "to know one thing is to know one thousand," or similar words.

The thing is I put a lot of time into becoming good at chess, and over years I made it into the top ten percent of tournament players, which is about 9.9 percent away from making any money.  But I did learn much about chess, and more importantly I learned how to learn.

I read somewhere else again a novel approach to classifying chessplayers.  The only two classifications I remember are artists and killers, and they are the only two I needed in chess and now that I've transitioned to the barbell.

The archetypal artist was perhaps former World Champion Vasily Smyslov who said, "no fantasy, however rich, no technique, however masterly...can make a chess game a work of art if these qualities do not lead to the main goal - the search for truth."  This contrasts starkly with the archetypal killer, former World Champion Bobby Fischer, who said he loved to watch his opponents squirm.

I tried and tried to be an artist, and in fifteen years I played three beautiful games which really is not bad; many amateurs will go a lifetime without producing any good games.  I also won a few tournaments, notably the 2004 US Amateur G/60 Championship.

Yes, I won a national championship, and that was only because I could shift into killer mode.  When my efforts to create a great game failed, I still had a flair for throwing the last hard sucker punch, and I was okay with that because winners don't get questioned.

With the barbell I try to be an artist.  Possibly I put more effort into lifting 45 pounds than I do lifting 300.  I believe that when I can consistently lift 45 the way I will have to lift 400, I'll lift 400.

But I play this game, powerlifting, and if I good morning up 440 pounds with blood running out my nose, I'll feel every bit as good as if the lift had been given all 10's by gymnastic judges.

I am consistent.

As a coach, I love my killers, and I love my artists.  Yes, I am prejudiced.  My favorites are the starving would-be artists who shift into killers when the situation demands.  That after all is what I am.

But above all, don't make an axe murder of a stiletto job.

I've been a killer longer than you, and you can consider it both a compliment and small remnant of sanity when I take your barbell away.

Afterthought: is it possible to be a killer artist?

Third OLAP

Sunday is always heavy squat day, and today it went thusly:

5 x 45
5 x 135
8 x 170
6 x 210
5 x 250
5 x 285
5 x 305
5 x 305
5 x 305
5 x 285
6 x 250
8 x 210

I did all the work I was supposed to, but I wasn't happy with my technique at all.  I'm not pushing back far enough, and the weight is shifting forward on the ascent. 

I will work the technique hard on the next light squat day, and while I try to approach perfection on heavy day, the emphasis is on getting through the work out.  I have both under-slept and under-eaten this weekend due mainly to hosting the UCanRow2 C2 certification, and I thought it might be a battle to get through my work load.

It turned out to be easier than I expected.  Lately I vastly prefer to do my squatting alone, but the only time I could fit it in today was when several TwinFreaks CrossFit athletes were warming up and then performing Open Workout 12-2.  While I really like my solitary work, I was able to feed off the energy the CrossFitters generated, and it worked perfectly today.

It's not unusual that I face heavy day feeling less than stellar alone and without any energy to feed off of.  I've been successful handling those days by getting out all of my stuff, belt and wraps, and spreading it out on the floor around me.  The only equipment I consistently train with is my pair of wrist wraps.  I leave the belt off until it feels downright dangerous not to use it, and depending on which federation I'm competing in next I'll either leave the knee wraps off entirely or use them only on psycho-heavy singles.  By spreading my equipment around and looking at it, I can put myself into the mindset that I am doing the prescribed work no matter what.  If I find myself falling forward or my back is just unhappy, I'll put on the belt, and if my knees aren't tracking correctly or the weights just feel heavier than they should, I'll put on light wraps.  Only very rarely do I find it actually necessary to use anything, and it all stays on the floor.  It seems that just knowing I have equipment if I need it makes me understand I'm completing heavy day, and so far that has gotten me over any heavy day humps.

What did I do wrong this weekend Accountability Partner?  A little too much work on the erg, too little sleep, and too little food.  It's hard not to erg when UCanRow2 is around, and it's hard to eat and sleep when you're hosting a certification weekend.

It was all fun though.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Interim OLAP & Shaving

Friday TwinFreaks CrossFit served up the following workout:

5 Overhead Squats
5 Push Presses
1/2 bodyweight loading for both movements.

When my shoulder worked, I would have thought this was a perfect WoD for me, and now that my shoulder doesn't work, I thought this would be a perfect workout for me.  I had some reservations about using the prescribed 95 pounds, but when only one person showed up for Friday's 5:30 am, I was reminded of happier, though less successful, times when I forced myself to WoD alongside anyone who was brave enough to come in alone.  It triggered my fun, but dangerous, "why the fuck not?" reaction, and I decided to hit it.

I got 11 rounds and 5 overhead squats.  Somewhere around the eighth round I got the horrible loose humerus in shoulder socket feeling, and while I then slowed down considerably, I decided to finish the twelve minutes.  I have to admit I feel like I got away with one here.

Worse, though, is that Friday night I drank a beer.  Beer, liquid bread, is decidedly not paleo.

My accountability partner also has Germanic ancestry, and I trust she'll understand that I entirely missed the last Oktoberfest because of my 12 week transformation.

Besides, that was really good - dark - beer, and if punishment is forthcoming for that, well, I'll just take it.

I have this damned mustache, and the problem is that while it started annoying me months ago, I'm still learning its power.  Saturday has mercifully become a day when I can sleep well past 5 am, but I had to help UCanRow2 set up for the rowing certification today, so I was grumpily up before 5.  I went to a Starbucks I've been in once before, and the barista asked me if I would have my usual.

By the time I suppressed the urge to respond, "what in the fuck are you talking about," I realized what had happened and I instead said, "oh, you recognize the mustache."  She admitted as much, and while I waited for her to turn away from me so that I could get the free thermos of half-and-half (at a minimum it's half paleo, and I'm not conceded thereby that both halves aren't paleo) that comes with every double espresso, I had an idea.

I can just take a picture of my face and put it on a t-shirt.  I should then be able to shave, wear the t-shirt everyday, point to the picture and say, "I used to be this guy."

I should be able to get prompt, professional service and not have a quarter of that beautiful free thermos end up dripping onto my chest.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Second OLAP and 12-2

Thursday, Accountability Partner, is bench and deadlift day, and I did this:

15 x 45
5 x 135
6 x 2 x 205

I  should think this is enough to keep me out of trouble.  Sure, the warm up should have been quite a bit longer, but I did all my annoying shoulder rehab first, and 205 should allow me to at least keep my current 1rm strength without destroying my shoulder.

5 x 135
5 x 225
6 x 2 x 315

I did these all sumo.  I suspect these were all ugly as my lack of practice hasn't helped my deteriorating form.  I was happy, happy that I could hang 315 off the shoulder with zero pain here.  I think I'll be able to push the dead hard and maybe come up with 425 or so at the meet in May.

My pseudo-randomizer actually served up a 2k time trial here, but when I saw CrossFit Open 12-2 was a 10 minute amrap, I thought I might as well just do it instead.

30 snatches 75 pounds
30 snatches 135 pounds
30 snatches 165 pounds
30 snatches 210 pounds

Since my shoulder fell apart, I've snatched 95 pounds five or so times, so I had no idea what I could or should do here.  I told my judge, ACW, I was going to do 30 + 1 and stop to think.  I told her if she saw me do 32 to start pushing me because that meant I wanted 60.

At 31 I felt good, I had a lot of time left, no pain, and 135 felt surprisingly light.  I felt better than I have in months when I set 31 down, turned to ACW and said, "it's on."

I made it to 60 and with a couple minutes left I loaded 165.  I made a couple of attempts but failed to get it locked out overhead, so I ended up with a score of 60.

Still zero sins, but I haven't bothered to really weigh anything yet.  I think I'll take the middle road here and just make sure I only eat good food without worrying about quantity yet.  If I'm not under 190 in April, I'll start weighing.

Other stuff:
Last night I went to bed on time.  I really have to do that every night.

I'm just going to fuck off an hour or two playing one-minute chess now, and I swear I'll go to bed.