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.

Monday, July 30, 2012

40 Tons

I was squatting alone today; often I like that, and sometimes, like today, I don't.  I could have used a depth check, a walk-in, and a fly swatter.  Flies seem to know that I'm helpless under the bar, and all my screaming and threatening to throw the bar at them did nothing to dissuade them.

Some day this bar will go through the cinder blocks.  You'll find a flat-ass fly under it.
As compensation I had relative quiet; only Social Distortion, Monday squat music was playing, and I was able to concentrate.  The session developed so:

45 x 5
135 x 5
185 x 5
235 x 3
275 x 2
315 x 1
335 x 5 x 3
365 x 1

I had intended to hit 385 x 1, but I wasn't entirely sure the 365 was deep enough.  The golden rule of meet preparation is never to miss a single attempt.  I understand that because confidence is almost everything, but had I missed, I'd have lied convincingly to myself: I would have made that if I had purple shoe laces, I would have made that if I hadn't worn clean underwear, I would have made that without that fucking fly in my face, and so on.  In short I'd rather miss and rebuild my confidence than think a high attempt was good and so train myself to squat heavy singles high.

I made a deal with myself that I would squat squat 345 x 5 x 3, so I will, but directly after that - next week - I'll go down to triples.  The fives are heavy enough that my form is breaking down before the set ends, and I want to weed out every technical problem before meet day.  Triples should let me find where I break down technically without the interference of excessive fatigue.

I am sure that my back is relatively weak which doesn't surprise me after going two years or so without pulling a heavy conventional dead lift.  I put the conventional dead lift back in this cycle, and even though I'm now definitely a sumo-puller, I'll keep the conventional dead until my back is not the weak link.

After squatting I did some ab work then enjoyed a nice walk home uphill in the rain.

The hill is delightful after squatting.
When I got home, I decided to total my working volume of squats since surgery.  In two months, counting only my top sets of fives, I've done just over 40 tons.  If I included warm ups, it would be another 15 or 20 tons, and I've excluded all of the occasional insanity like squatting 275 x 20.

There's no telling exactly how the meet will go, but I'm putting in the work.  40 or more tons less than three months after surgery seems respectable.

Sure, some days I miss laying in bed re-reading the same paragraph six times on Vicodin and fielding calls from friends asking if I need them to come by and wipe my nose or such like I had it after surgery, but it feels ever so good to be intact and working.

Actually if I find myself missing the post-surgery days too much, I'm sure I'll need my thighs reduced soon.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Heat and Pain

"In the heat of the summer / better call out a plumber / turn on the steam pipe / cool me off" - Circle Jerks

It's July. And before July was June, and after July is August, and it's hot.

Usually I lift at 3 pm, but some days work interferes with me, so I interfere with work and lift at noon or 1 pm.  It's hard to warm up at 3 in June, July, and August, and it's tempting to cool down immediately after the warm up and leave out the lifting part.  45 x 15 leaves the bench sweaty and my shirt stuck to my body.

And there's pain.  There is the usual pain caused by walking up stairs or attempting to do an air squat.  There is the unusual pain.  I did squat my old opener for ten Friday, and I got a viscous headache.  I laid on the mats for several minutes afterwards.  Eventually I realized that I was not having an aneurysm because my senses were still on and they were telling me that my head hurt.

Now there is heat and there is pain.

I'm sure I won't remember either of them when I'm on the platform August 25th.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Progress: Comfort Inn is Down the Road

I've made some progress, and having done that I can say that it's nice to have made progress.  Making progress, however, is hard.

There is that point in the ever lengthening set of burpees when the body can do a burpee, but the mind balks.  Lately I've wondered if that happens because the mind is aware that if 28 burpees are done in one minute, twenty-four seconds, then 29 burpees must be done the following day.

I'm not sure.  I've become very attuned to how my mind tries to stop me during a 2,000 meter row, and in truth the reason I prefer 500 meters is that I have been very successful at shutting my brain off for 90 seconds or less.  But with burpees I haven't figured it out yet.  It sure seems to me like I'm not thinking about much of anything, but I suspect foreknowledge of the relentless linear progression is the culprit.

I really wasn't sure how to begin lifting after my surgery, but I decided to try a very basic linear progression.  Supposedly I'm too advanced to get much if anything from a basic progression, but I liked the idea of starting way too light and working up 5 pounds on the squat and deadlift every session, and two and half pounds on the bench and the press. Foremost I thought a linear progression would allow me to work up without pulling any titanium anchors out, but I also wondered if after a month lay off preceded by weeks of sporadic and relatively light lifting before the surgery I could perhaps squeeze some progress from a basic lifting template.

I'm not giving any numbers here.  Those who know what I used to lift would be unimpressed, and those who don't know what I used to lift would be impressed.  Both of those miss the point: I have taken my best guess at what I should be doing, and I'm working it like a maniac.  I will say that over eight weeks my work sets of five in the squat have increased 75 pounds.  Exactly how that translates to a 1rm will be seen August 25th when I lift again.

Yes, I remember I wasn't going to lift until November, but I didn't plan on feeling so fantastic.

Of course feeling fantastic enough to make progress on a linear progression feels pretty terrible.  It's painful to climb stairs again. for example.  And yet the progression is relentless.  On Friday morning I was demonstrating the step-up, and I was having trouble executing with a pvc simulated barbell.  All the same I knew that in a few hours I'd be back in gym squatting a weight I would have opened with not so long ago for a solid set of ten.

I made it because to me it feels better to have made progress than it hurts to make progress.

And if my mind can fuck with me, I can fuck back.  I've convinced myself that surgery itself had nothing to do with my swollen, purple groin.  No, that must have happened because the surgeon left a liter of testosterone in my scrotum by mistake.

Insane yes, but I never question working placebos.

Friday, July 13, 2012


Lately I've been screwed.  Until today I had been getting up at 4 am and getting to sleep at 10 pm or later.  I realized that: 1) I should really do the "What to do When You're Screwed" blog, and 2) I should really do any blog before I lose relevance and along with it the possibility of gaining sponsorship from supplement hawkers and overpriced shoe walkers.

I thought about this and decided to just tell the story.  Feel free to insert and extract your own profound morals.

Tuesday some cookies, actually a whole lot of cookies, appeared in the break room at work.  Among them were oatmeal raisin cookies which I haven't had in quite a long time, and which I remember I used to like quite a lot.  Yes, I'm sure hydrogenated palm oil kills you, but it takes a long time, and it tastes great in oatmeal raisin cookies.

As I said it was Tuesday which means I had trained hard the previous day, and barring death or dismemberment I would train hard the next day.  But it was Tuesday which means I only did some burpees.  Still I figured that on average I'm a very hard training guy, and while by my own standards I'm slightly fat now, I'm at the level of slightly fat that I consider acceptable and even necessary when I am really trying to push my lifts up.

So you know, fuck it, I'm going to eat some cookies.

So there I am, a guy who doesn't eat cookies who is now definitely going to eat cookies, and around the cookies I see the people who are more than slightly fat and who are not currently pushing their lifts, and while they're the kind of people who definitely eat cookies, they're pretending that they don't eat cookies.

So here's what I do.  I walk up to the cookies, I say apologetically, "I got to quit fucking around; I;m getting visible abs again," I lift my shirt, and then I take as many cookies as I can fit between my thumb and middle finger and walk out.

"Mostly paleo all the time"

Monday, July 2, 2012

Pain Quantified and Progress

And this morning, Monday July 2, I really thought some Advil would be nice.

I didn't take any because I didn't have any, and between 5 and 5:30 am when I conceivably could have gotten some, I'm generally more interested in getting my second coffee and venting my first.

But I really wanted some.

Yesterday, a rest day, and the first day of July, I decided to count how many burpees I had done in June: 1,534.  I might be off by ten or so since some days I lose count like the day I became aware of the rowing-like nature of burpees and then became obsessed trying to figure out if it's correct to breathe twice per burpee.  Usually when I lose count I adhere to the CrossFit ethic of counting from the last one I remember, but this is going to be a lengthy project, and I admit some days I have said to myself, "fuck that."

So I did about 1,534 burpees in June, and there is some cumulative pain.  It's not all from the burpees.  Yesterday for instance I was rolling relatively hard at Dark Horse Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and I got caught in a bicep cutter.

Ah, the old bicep cutter

If we exclude the incidental stuff, then, 1,534 burpees left me wanting to eat Advil. 

I know now that on average, one burpee hurts enough to take 130 micrograms of Ibuprofen.  Of course my math is suspect, and nobody eats just one Advil, so it's really either 26, 260, or 2,600 micrograms per burpee - in any case a much smaller amount than one lowly milligram.

I've seen lately that some people are doing a 1,000 burpee challenge.  They're sometimes taking over two hours to do this, and they're sometimes going to the hospital with cramping although none of them have gotten rhabdo yet.

I don't know exactly my cumulative time for 1,534 burpees; it's about 90-100 minutes, and that includes 30 or so minutes of rest.  My volume is down, and my intensity is up.

Also in June I did both 100 burpees for time and the 7 minute burpee test.  I did 100 burpees a little bit faster than the last time I tried, and I did a few more burpees in 7 minutes than I did the last time I tried.

Small improvements, but when I express them as a percentage, they come out as whole numbers greater than one.

I'm going to keep my volume down, my intensity up, and my Ibuprofen under three-tenths of a mg per burpee and see what happens in another half year or so.

Of course, I'm a weirdo.