My first “sports injury” (maybe)

I woke up this morning with an annoying pain in my left bicep, but only when moving my arm to a certain position.  It felt like a trapped nerve or something, and it’s not something I’ve ever had before.  Therefore I blame Wednesday’s work-out for tweaking something or other in there.  Whatever it was, I became aware of how it would affect today’s WOD, as it contained power cleans and that meant moving my arm into the position of pain (elbows high and out as the bar comes up to your shoulders).

A nice easy one to end the week with. Awww.
A nice easy one to end the week with. Awww.

Familiar ground with the first two parts – front squat and push press, so I was determined to go up another few kilos on those today.  The Burgener warm-up was when I realised my left arm wasn’t going to enjoy the AMRAP later on, but the arm positions for the front squat and push press were fine, and there was no pain at all.

My previous best on the front squat was 35kg, but I started at 30kg today (just to make sure my arm could take it), and worked up to 37.5kg over the five sets.  I had a rack to myself, so I didn’t have to keep changing the weight for a partner.  My shoulder mobility must be improving, as my technique feels much better now.  The bar isn’t digging into my collar bone as much, and sits better on my shoulder rack.  I’ve also addressed the tendency to lean forward when going into the squat.  You don’t realise how important technique is until you’ve been doing this sort of thing for a few weeks, and there’s so much to remember for each type of lift.  Weightlifting requires careful attention to detail, which is why I never bang the reps out – I set myself properly, and do each rep carefully.

For the push press, I improved from 30kg to 35kg.  I’m not far off the magic 40kg I set myself as goal for front squat and push press a couple of weeks ago, so hopefully I’ll be able to do that next time we do this routine during the next cycle of these work-outs.  That will represent a 100% increase from when I first started.

As for the AMRAP, the power cleans were out because of my arm, and it also didn’t help when hanging from the bar and trying to do a knees-to-chest movement.  So instead I did six reps of 9kg medicine ball cleans, which is essentially mimicking the movement of doing it with a barbell, but with er, a big heavy ball.  Instead of the knees-to-chest I did six sit-ups – it all crunches those abs!  I can’t even get anywhere near doing a toes-to-bar yet, so I didn’t attempt that.  I need a stronger upper body and core to get myself into the ridiculous position required, but one day it will be mine.  I managed seven rounds of medicine ball cleans and sit-ups in the seven minutes allowed, which I didn’t think was too bad.  I was knackered enough at the end of it.  I noticed that some of the others were struggling with the toes-to-bar by the end.

Even the girls are better than me ...
Even the girls are better than me.  For now …

How the hell does Jess front squat 50kg?  She’s tiny.  I don’t mind though – it shows that I have a lot of potential, and a long way to go.


Making small gains, slowly …

Monday’s WOD was a bit brutal, having looked at it on our CrossFit’s Facebook group, so I was hoping yesterday would be a little easier on us by way of balance.  Well, we didn’t have thrusters or pull-ups, but what we did have was … more running!

What IS the 800m world record? I'll be on it soon ...
What IS the 800m world record? I’ll be on it soon at this rate …

Having managed to get 25kg up to my shoulders previously, I decided to start at that weight for the clean and jerk, and work up to 30kg by the last three sets of reps.  No problem at all with the power clean (bar from floor to shoulders without squatting below parallel), and with a quick push jerk it was above my head, with arms locked.  I could possibly have whacked another 2.5kg on just for good measure.  I’ll save that for next time.

As we had the resident Olympic weightlifting coach taking the session today, the warm ups involved lots of rolling our legs, hips, and backs around on foam rollers on the floor.  And wow, did it hurt when that thing pressed into the fronts of my thighs.  “If it hurts, you need to work on your leg muscles!” he shouted as we all rolled around in agony.  Nothing like a simple warm-up to expose your weaknesses …

I’ll have to ask him what exactly he would recommend in that department though, as he didn’t actually say at the time.  I daresay if I ever manage to lift the minimum weight required for the Olympic weightlifting classes I’ll find out, not that I intend to take up those classes.

And then it was time for the running.  Five 800m runs, and as many press-ups as you could fit in on your return, with each set time-limited to four minutes and thirty seconds.  The last time we did this sort of thing I didn’t even make it back in time to do any burpees (what a shame), but this time I was back with 30 seconds to spare on the first run, so got seven press-ups in.  Yeah, yeah – upper-body strength is lacking, I know, but I’m working on it.  I managed another seven after the next two runs, and then I started flagging.  I only got five in on the fourth round, and two on the last.  The guys with the upper-body strength knocked out anything between 90 and 150 of the bloody things, and they only finished their runs about 30 to 40 seconds ahead of me.  I should say we had a two-minute rest between rounds, in case you’re wondering how I managed to do all that in one go!

It was only on the way home that I started thinking about the weight I was lifting.  It’s easy to think “30 kilos is rubbish”, but convert it to Imperial, and it’s four stone, 10 pounds!  That’s 37% of my current body weight.  Therefore, my next goal is 50% of my body weight, or 40kg.

Mastering the washing line (well, partly)

Metabolic Conditioning.  Whenever you see that phrase in a WOD you know you’re going to be worked hard.  This is usually the kind of thing we get on a Friday, not on a Monday morning!

Happy sweat-fest Monday!
Happy sweat-fest Monday!

The first part was simply working on our snatch technique every other minute, with some overhead squats thrown in for good measure.  I’m getting there with the power snatch now (from floor to overhead in one movement, but without squatting down afterwards).  I can just manage 25kg now.  I’m not sure I could do a full snatch with that weight though, as I can barely overhead squat 20kg at the moment, and I’d probably have gone crashing backwards as I squatted down.

I think most people’s minds were on part B – the dreaded MetCon.  Having said that, I was kind of looking forward to it in a sadistic way, as I know I have to improve my cardio fitness, and you don’t do that by just lifting weights.  So a nice 800m run, and then straight into 50 wall balls and 50 double-unders when you get back.  I had no idea what a double-under was before CrossFit.  Once I realised it was skipping with what is essentially a length of nylon washing line I thought, “Well, that can’t be too hard, can it?”

Then I realised I can’t even skip with a washing line normally, let alone get the damned thing under my feet twice in one jump (hence “double-under”).  With that in mind (and having looked at the WOD on Facebook yesterday), I went in early today and practised skipping before we started.  After ten minutes I could do 40 singles in a row, no problem.  I then tried a double-under, and managed to whip myself in the back of the head.  OK, forget that for today, Neil – don’t try to run before you can skip.

If you couldn’t do double-unders in the MetCon, you had to do 100 singles instead, and I was happy with that, as I was up to 60 in a row once I got a rhythm going.  It knackers you out faster than you think!  Another 800m run, and then you get to do 50 dead lifts (at 40kg, because I’m a level 1 gimp).  Then do the whole list all over again.  They know how to keep us sweating.

On the second round I called it quits at 27 dead lifts, as I could feel my back starting to hurt.  I didn’t mind quitting, as I’d rather not spend the next three days laid out on the floor, unable to move.  Technique over speed, remember?  To make up for it, I did 50 or 60 more singles with the washing line, as a kind of self-punishment.

The clock showed 36 minutes when I stopped, and as the whole thing was capped at 40 minutes, that was the time I was given.  I’m not bothered at all that someone did it all in 29 minutes earlier in the day.  Even the “Captain” of previous posts was slower than me on the runs (much slower, in fact), proving that you may be able to snatch 100kg, but it means nothing in the context of overall fitness.  That’s why I’m happy to do this MetCon stuff.

But maybe not on Wednesday though, eh?

My best WOD so far

The trainer who is currently devising all of the work-outs at our box is doing it in cycles.  So over the next few weeks and months we’ll be repeating certain things, and attempting to increase weight as we go, in an effort to beat personal bests.

With that in mind, today’s WOD involved stuff I’ve already done a couple of times, so what better opportunity to put some more weight on the bar? I didn’t want to waste the session just lifting my previous best.

It's easy to think this would be a stroll in the park.
It’s easy to think this would be a stroll in the park.

I was in a group of three, and I told them I was on 25kg for my front squat.  One guy set the bar up on the rack and said to me, “So 30 kilos, yeah?” with a slight smile.  My first instinct was to say no, but then I thought, “You’ll never get anywhere if you stay at 25.”  So I agreed, and did it no problem.  By the fifth set of three reps I had 35kg on the bar, and it was fine.  I reckon I can go to 40 next time.  If only my shoulder mobility would allow my elbows to come up slightly higher.

Emboldened by my new-found status as an Olympic-standard weightlifter, I decided to try to increase the weight on the push press too (previous best: 25kg, just).  I started at 25 for the first set, and stuck an extra 2.5kg on for the second.  “That flew up!” exclaimed one of my team-mates.  So I put another 2.5kg on, and that went skywards too, but with a little more effort as I was tiring now.  I was told I have good technique, which makes up for my front squat form.

The third part of the WOD was a “named” work-out – one that some sadistic coach thought up, and that is used by many CrossFit boxes.  “Isabel” is 30 snatches in as fast a time as you can manage.  That’s bar from the floor, straight up, and up over your head.  You could do full or power snatches – whichever you were comfortable with.  I found a few videos of people doing this work-out on YouTube beforehand, and it’s easy to see how it would knacker you out very quickly.  The recommended level 1 weight was 40kg for men, but I knew I’d never do 30 of those so I settled for 20kg to set an initial time for this (we’ll be doing this again in a few weeks).  We were in pairs – one person counts and encourages you while you work your arse off, and then you swap.

I went first, and did all 30 in two minutes and three seconds.  Really?!  I thought I’d be there for five minutes at least.  I clearly don’t know my own strength.  My partner took 3:14 to do his at 50kg.  Impressive.  He told me that my form was good except on a couple of reps when I muscled the bar overhead instead of getting under it, but I’m still new to this so I’ll take that.

And just to further enhance my reputation as a fitness machine, I managed five press-ups and ten sit-ups in a row without cheating during the warm-up.  Where do I sign up for the Olympics?

Progress is being made. I'm coming for you, Captain!
Progress is being made. I’m coming for you, Captain!


This is the first time I’ve been to CrossFit two days in a row, and I was a little stiff in the thighs as I wandered in to find this on the board:

Something new - floor presses. The running's not new ...
Something new – floor presses. The running’s not new …

The warm-ups were quite involved, but then we had the resident Olympic weightlifting coach training us today, so we learned some new stuff that I hadn’t been told about before.  Lots of rolling around on the floor and stretching shoulders and hips with elastic bands, but it really opened me up, as I was still stiff from yesterday.

We got into pairs, and then it was a case of twenty minutes of alternating 15 reps of kettle-bell swings and ten of floor presses (lying on the floor and pressing the bar over your chest).  My partner had 25kg on the bar, and my body was happy to go with that.  I managed three lots of ten reps before I scaled back to five reps later on.  We both used the 20kg kettle-bell for the swings.

All throughout this, the rain was pouring onto the roof, getting heavier and heavier.  Just right for some running then.  One minute to run 200m, followed by as many squats as you could manage in the time remaining.  And do it all ten times, with a minute’s rest between runs.

The rain was torrential.  My T-shirt was soaked after each run, and I was last one in every time except once.  Naturally, I managed a grand total of zero squats, but I think the idea was to improve our running, as we’re all quite rubbish at it, and we all complain about it every time.

And now the bastard sun’s come out, just to taunt me.

Week Three

So, the start of week three, and seven work-outs in.  Do I feel as if I’m getting anywhere?  Well, not really.  It’s still too early for any serious muscle strength to have manifested itself, but I don’t hurt anywhere near as much as I do after work-outs now as I did after the first couple (and especially after the induction course).  I’m claiming that as an improvement.

I would have gone in yesterday, but the car was being fixed in the morning, and I was working in the afternoon.  So today was my first Tuesday WOD, and when I arrived the only other people there were the trainer and a girl I’ve seen a few times at CF now.  She was practising the Burgener warm-up, and I joined her for a couple of goes.

K practices the Burgener warm-up
K practises the Burgener warm-up in an empty CrossFit box

Two more girls walked in, and that was it – four of us.  But that’s good, as it’s more fun with fewer people, and you get more one-on-one coaching.

Tuesday WOD - nice and easy
Tuesday WOD – nice and easy

So in pairs we took the first bit nice and easy, chatting between reps of back squats and strict presses (pushing the bar over your head without dipping at the knees first).  I got a stark reminder of how much strength I need to build in my upper body; the girl I was paired with (in the picture above) can press 35kg over her head, and I was struggling with just the 20kg bar by my fifth set.  She’s just a bit shorter than me, and her arms are the same size as mine.  It’s not fair. 🙂

After that, we had a quick eight-minute MetCon, with all of us going for level 1.  Handstand push-ups? Really?  No thanks.  Not yet, anyway.  I need more muscle up top for those.  I didn’t do the 40kg power cleans during this – I scaled back to 25kg, as we’d be doing ten of them a few times, and I was conscious that I’d made my back hurt a bit by doing 60kg dead-lifts during Friday’s MetCon.  I managed four rounds of ring rows, press-ups, and power cleans in the eight minutes.  I’m happy with that, especially as I managed three press-ups in a row.  You may laugh, but I was on one-in-a-row last week.

Oh, as a footnote, I was talking to one of the girls about running, and how shit I am at it.  She told me that she is worse, and in one of the WODs last week I was ahead of her, and she was using me as something to aim at, to help her keep up.  And I’m rubbish at running!  I was secretly flattered, but don’t you think I’m going to be running marathons any time soon.

The end of week two

Tonight was my first work-out that didn’t contain ANY running, but it killed me in other ways.  Having looked at the work-out on Facebook beforehand (they post them up the day before), the warm-up comprised a 200m run, but that was changed at the last minute to as many lots of five burpees, 10 squats, and 15 sit-ups as you could do in two minutes.  That’s fine by me.

Weight a minute - no running!
Weight a minute – no running!

Then it was into groups of three, each person doing five lots of three reps of front squat, followed by the same of push press.  You know what these things are now; I don’t need to explain, do I?

One of the two guys I was with was the projectile vomiter of the last work-out (see previous post), and the two of them were able to squat and press more than me.  But that’s fine, as it’s not a competition.  We were told that over the next few weeks, these work-outs will be repeated, with the emphasis on building weight each time.  You can only lift what you can lift, after all.

Still, I squatted and pressed 25kg, with some encouragement from one of the other guys.  That’s one of the main differences between CrossFit and a “normal” gym (as I alluded to in my very first post) – it’s a group thing, and you encourage each other.  I started out pressing 20kg in the first couple of sets, but he suggested I put an extra five on, so I did and up it went.

I still need to work on my shoulder mobility, as I can’t get my elbows high enough during the front squat, and the bar always digs into the right side of my collar bone, making it sore.  It annoys me that I can’t quite get the right posture.  I might speak to the resident Olympic weightlifting coach about what I can do to improve.

At the end, we did some metabolic conditioning, involving 21 reps each of dead-lifts and kettle bell swings, then 15 of each, then nine.  Of course, the first thing I thought of was scaling back the weights (I’m level 1, so 60kg dead-lift and 20kg kettle bell), but I told myself to just try it first, to see if I could do it.  And I could.  Just.  How I did a total of 45 of each is beyond me, but I did it all in five minutes and fifty-five seconds (fourth out of 12 people).  My plan was to do the first 21 as fast as possible, and it just about worked.  I was so temped to stop the dead-lifts a few short of the total.  NO CHEATING!

The sweat was dripping off me at the end, but every time I do this, my body is slowly getting more used to it.  I’m sitting here, feeling very little aching at all.  I must be doing something right.

Oh, I also need to stop wearing my wedding ring to CrossFit.  It’s getting scratched from rubbing against the bar.  As you were.

Call an ambulance!

But not for me.

Yesterday’s work-out appeared relatively “easy” when compared to more recent ones, but several of our number found it tough-going for a variety of reasons.

Work-out of death (for some, anyway)
Work-out of death (for some, anyway)

So we started out with the ankle mobility and Burgener warm-up (it’s a practice warm-up for the movements involved in lifting weights).  Then we did some lying around in uncomfortable positions followed by some burpees.  All present and correct so far.

Then we started the running …

Two minutes to run 400m (first 200m metres uphill of course), and fit in as many burpees as you could manage.  Rest for two minutes, and then do it all again four times.  The first run claimed the first victim –  a girl who had a breathing issue, and so she was sensibly stood down.  The third run featured one of the new guys performing several spectacular projectile vomit manoeuvres in the middle of the road.  To be fair, he carried on and finished the runs.  By the fourth run, another guy had bitten the dust with back issues.  He disappeared homewards too.

At the end of it a fourth person was down on the floor, looking a bit queasy.  I wonder how I didn’t end up crocked myself, given how unfit I am, running all over an industrial estate in the dark, in a thunderstorm.  Of course, I had the lowest number of burpees, as my runs were lasting just under two minutes, so I only had time for a couple when I got back.  This confirms what I already knew, and what I keep banging on about – I am shit at running.

Still, at least we got the running out of the way at the start.  Those of us who were left standing proceeded to the weightlifting part of the work-out, and we spent 15 minutes ironing out our power clean and jerk technique.  Seventy-five reps in total, with the emphasis on technique and NOT weight.  I managed to fix a couple of issues, namely my starting posture and the tendency to arch my back as I bring the bar up to my shoulders.

I think the Burgener warm-up helps a lot with this, and the coach told us that we’ll be doing it at every session from now on, to get our muscles used to the movements required of them.

Just to round things off, one girl could have done with arching something out of the way, as she lifted the bar right up into her face and almost took her nose off.  NURSE!


Mind games

I’ve been going to CrossFit for a week now, and I appear to have developed an annoying problem.  I worry about what’s going to be in every work-out before I go in.  I worry that I’ll be left behind if there’s a part where you have to do things “for time”, such as running (which I hate).  I worry about the response I’ll get when I tell the coach that I have to scale something back.  Why don’t I just do it and fail at it?

Tonight’s work-out had more running in it.  I couldn’t face it, so I did rowing instead.  I also still can’t do three proper press-ups in a row, and sit-ups are a struggle too.  So to be given this to do was somewhat disheartening:

Enough with the running!
Enough with the running!

I did 600m, 300m, and 100m rows respectively in lieu of the running, and managed a total of 3k before 30 minutes was up.  I still did the press-ups (on my knees), and sit-ups, until I couldn’t physically do them any more, so I substituted squats instead.

As for the first part, the power clean/snatch is the one technique that I struggle with as a newbie to weightlifting.  I get ahead of myself, and end up muscling the bar up, instead of shrugging my shoulders and dropping under it.  I asked the coach to watch my reps, and by the fifth set I must have been doing something right, because he shouted, “Good reps, Neil!”.  I even had some weight on the bar, although tonight was more about technique.

It didn’t “feel” like I was doing it right, and I can’t watch myself side-on to check.  I’ll take his word for it.

Please, no running on Wednesday.

The dreaded “Friday workout”

Friday workouts at our box are meant to be a little more strenuous than the Monday to Thursday affairs.  For the first four days of the week the emphasis is on strength work via the weights.  Friday is more cardio-based, and today’s didn’t disappoint in that area.

I arrived to find this written on the board:

Wow, are you trying to kill me?
Wow, are you trying to kill me?

Five 800m runs?  Can I not just do arm rotations or something?  Sadly not.  The warm-up consisted of a group run up to the 400m point (go LEFT out of the car park, remember?), and then just for good measure we ran the 800m circular route, so we knew where to go.  Throw in a few jumping jacks, air squats, and burpees, and you’re ready to go.

I was in a group with two girls, one of whom I recognised from earlier in the week, and we agreed to take it easy on the runs.  The long and short of it is that I kept up with them on the first three runs, but was back about 30 seconds after them on the last two.  However, my kettle bell swings were fast, as were my pull-ups, which were of the “jumping” variety (stand on a box under the bar, bend your legs down, arms holding the bar, jump up, pull your chin over the bar, back down to bent legs, and straight back up again).  We had to share the reps between us, in rotation, which was just as well, as I was hurting a bit by the fourth round.

As we set out for the fifth run, I was determined to not stop, as I knew I’d never get started again.  And you know what made it worse?  A bloody trashy fast-food van parked right at the end of the run, wafting the sickly smell of grease up the road.  There was a woman sat at it (yes, SAT at it), and I ran past her twice in the time it took her to finish off the shit she was eating.

I did the final ten pull-ups for our team, and we posted a time of 44:49.  Not bad, at all.  To be fair though, we were using lighter kettle bells than the other teams, and the teams of men were also doing strict pull-ups.  As a result, they came in a couple of minutes behind us.  But I’m not going to concede anything on the running.  I did all 4k of it, and I’m sure it was longer than that (I must remember to measure it on the internet).

The second part of the work-out (the back squats) was optional, and most of us dipped out at this point.  My legs were gone from the running, so I think I’ll save them for Monday evening.  But that’s another huge sense of satisfaction at having done a work-out that had the potential to kill me.  See you next week!

(Am I mad?)