Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Finding My Deadlift One Rep Max

Hello hello!

Above is a snapshot of a typical start to my day.  I have baby spinach with olive oil, fruit, and nuts, along with tea and the occasional piece of extra dark (88%) chocolate.  I read my Bible and follow my salad up with two eggs.  And sometimes I even plan my workouts!

I decided about a week or two ago that I wanted to go to regionals this spring...and realized that I couldn't expect to stay at my current schedule of 3 classes per week and magically achieve the next level of fitness.

My plan was to add a "girl" day and a strength day.

Friday was "Girl" day.  I took the bus over to the gym after work on Friday and took a four page printout of the Girls with me to decide which one to attempt.

Holy smokes there are a lot.  And pretty much zero that I can currently RX.  Well, gotta start somewhere, right?

I knew I wanted something I could do in the gym fairly easily since I wouldn't be in the box.  Didn't want to be in people's way too much and wanted to be able to set-up at the beginning and not have to waste anytime during the WOD.

I ended up going with Helen, since I've been really working my pullups and thought I had a shot at a snail's pace RX.

Oh how I wish I had a photo of me doing this WOD.  (Or a shortly-after photo.)  The (treadmill) run was fine, and I LOVE kettlebell swings, so I cranked them out unbroken everytime.  But after linking the first 5 or so pullups, I started going downhill pretty fast.  Eventually I was doing one rep at a time, and sometimes couldn't even get one rep in and had to take a break and try again!!!  Finally I decided that 2 rounds RX was gonna have to cut it since I didn't have an hour left to spare.

It was probably the slowest two rounds of Helen known to man...BUT I DIDN'T USE A BAND FOR MY PULLUPS.  First time ever in a WOD!!!  I felt so whupped but so proud of myself.  I know it's only gonna get easier as I keep working at it!

Saturday was Week 0 for my strength training.  At the suggestion of Coach Allison, I'm gonna try a variation on Wendler's approach.

Since I only have one designated strength day per week, I'm gonna focus on one particular lift each month.  For August, I picked the deadlift.  However, I had no clue what my one-rep max was and so I needed to start by figuring that out!

It was weird to be in the gym with all the meathead high school kids two days in a row...although they were very nice and shared equipment and such.  I did my PT exercises, core work, shoulder stability, and about 15 minutes of warming up and mobility work before getting down to business.

The machine was a little unnerving, but thankfully no one else needed it and I didn't have to work in sets.  I got kinda a let down partway through when I found out the bar was a #40 instead of #45, so I wasn't lifting quite as much as I thought.

It took me close to an hour to find my one rep max of #160.  I went for #165 and couldn't get the bar off the ground!  Apparently it should not take that much time to work up to a one rep max...but honestly I am really just learning about some of this strength work stuff. 

At least I had my lulu gear to motivate
me - I was so tired Saturday morning!
Women should be able to deadlift at least 1.5 times their body weight.  I didn't get there, but now I have a good goal.

Afterwards, I spent another ten minutes on mobility.  Jared is obsessed right now with Mobility WOD and I think it's starting to rub off on me!

Sunday: Rest Day

I took Sunday as much needed day off from my first full week of serious training.  What's weird is that I expected to be really sore...but instead I've just been REALLY tired.  CrossFit is kinda exhausting!  The cool thing is that one week of this training and eating mostly Paleo caused me to drop two pounds and keep my body fat percentage right where I want it.  Win!

I had intended to do some mobility, but after church and grocery shopping (Trader Joe's rocks), I pretty much read a book and lazed around the house all day.

Jared made us a chicken/sweet-potato/eggplant curry for dinner.  It was almost totally Paleo with just a splash of half-and-half.

Well, have a good day, friends!  I will keep you updated on this week's workouts - you do the same for me!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Why Are Double-Unders So Hard?

Last night turned into Girls' Night Out at Mercer Island CrossFit.

Coach Alison was back from vacation, and the class ended up entirely female.  It was so fun!  I love the guys at our box - don't get me wrong.  They are all super encouraging, and three of them have even helped me with flat tires!  But there's a different vibe when it's just the girls...or maybe we just chat more?  Anyhow, it was a TON of fun and a TON of work.

Our skill involved kettlebell swings (which I love) and box jumps (which are fun).

Oh, yeah.  And double-unders.  Which I hate.

Ever since I was a kid, I've liked doing things that come easily...and avoiding things that don't.  CrossFit has done a lot to get me out of this mentality, but honestly I got really discouraged and frustrated last night.  I feel like I've been doing CrossFit for almost nine months now...I should be able to link at least a few double-unders!!!

Coach Alison had me just focus on the "rhythm" of two single skips followed by a double under...without actually DOING the double-under.  (Jump low, low, high, low, low, high.)  It was really good for me because then I didn't have to focus on being annoyed with myself for tripping over the rope!

I went with the #44 on the kettlebell swings...boy do I have fun with that weight!  Heavier weight on the kettlebells tends to help me get better form, because you can't just cheat and use your upper body!  If you don't really drive your hips, you won't be able to get the bell up.  I used the 20" box and focused on landing quietly.  I'm a huge auditory person, and I love anytime I can listen to how my workout is supposed to sound to gauge if I'm doing it right!

Finally it was time for the WOD. 

I originally had high hopes of RXing, but my left wrist voted against it, so we agreed together to scale the weight down to #35.  I even had to have my wrist taped!  Which made me feel super cool since I've never done that in a workout (or outside a workout) before.

I felt good about my time, and was really impressed with my mom!  She did so well at 50 reps that Coach Allison made her do 25 more!  (Lol...CrossFit reward system: you did so great on that workout - we'll let you workout some more!!!)

It was a little humbling to scale this one when I felt like I should be able to do it, but I reminded myself that getting injured now will not help me consistently RX by my birthday.

My mom gave me a ride home...where Jared had a chicken and broccolini stir fry waiting.  Holy smokes - spicy and amazing!

I got a big case of Vita Coco at Costco last week and have been enjoying a glass with dinner.  It's SO refreshing, and great after a hard workout.  And I mooched some of Jared's wine.  Probably not as great after a hard workout...but it tasted pretty darn good anyhow!

Well, happy Friday everyone!  I am trying to plan my afternoon workout as well as tomorrow am.  Thinking of a WOD today and just focusing on skills and strength tomorrow.  Plus, I'm going indoor rock climbing with some friends tomorrow afternoon!  (I hate heights...so here goes fear fighting!)

Have a great weekend!

You tell me: Do you have double-unders down yet?  Have you had to tape your wrist for workouts?  What are your plans for the weekend?

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Upping My Game

How often should I CrossFit?

That's the question I'd been asking myself lately.  I made a commitment at the beginning of July to go three times each week, and by the end of the third week, I'd lost 1% body fat.  I was pumped!  Then I started thinking about what new goals I wanted to set this year...and what I would need to do in order to achieve them.

This spring, I participated in the CrossFit Open for the first time. I honestly surprised myself with how I did...but at the same time was a little sad that I hadn't been CrossFitting long enough to RX many of the workouts.

Me doing WOD 12.1: 7 minutes of burpees!
When I started CrossFit in November of last year, my goal was really to continue getting in better shape, and to be able to finally nail my first "real" unassisted, dead-hang pullup (which I finally did on 6/12/12).  But now I feel like I want something a little more challenging. 
I decided I want to actually make a good showing representing our box at the next Open in 2013.  Which means I would need to be able to RX...everything.

I know enough to realize that my current regimen of coming three times a week and refusing to try Paleo will not get me to a competitive level in seven months.  I will need to make some changes.

I went to (where else?) The Google and searched the great wise web for an answer to my question.  The first result was a total winner: How Often Should I CrossFit, from the CrossFit Impulse site.

Here was the main point that really stuck out to me: "Train 4 or 5 days per week. Generally, don’t train more than 3 days consecutively or less than 2 days consecutively. Above all, listen to your body, but be aware that you must work through soreness and fatigue. However, never work through pain, especially acute pain." (Emphasis mine.)

Currently I have one day on, followed by one or two days off.  My new plan? One of the following:

Option 1:
Monday - CF
Tuesday - CF
Wednedsay - Rest (possibly active rest with mobility work and/or yoga)
Thursday - CF
Friday - CF
Saturday - CF
Sunday - Rest (see Wednesday)

Option 2:
Monday - CF
Tuesday - CF
Wednedsay - CF
Thursday - Rest (possibly active rest with mobility work and/or yoga)
Friday - CF
Saturday - CF
Sunday - Rest (see Thursday)

And...I am taking the Paleo plunge.  This, as you may remember, did not go so well for me when I tried it the first time in January.  But I now eat substantially more vegetables and less grains in general, so making swaps is a lot easier and less of a shock to my system.  Plus, it's amazing how non-freaked out I can be if I don't psych myself up about how horrible something will be (go figure).

Paleo-ish snacks: carrots and hummus,
Raw Revolution bar,
banana w/peanut butter & chopped almonds

I did a trial run on Sunday (if you're hard core, I ate hummus which I know does not officially count).  I had no dairy and no grains...and I lived.  And I didn't even cry in any grocery stores.  So this week I am Paleo-ish, with a cheat meal of tacos (I LOVE tortilla chips) on Tuesday night. 

Here's my workouts so far this week:

Monday: Tabata Something Else with my new CrossFit buddy

My mom liked her first week of CrossFit (even after a 45 minute Saturday team WOD!) and was back on Monday night to start her second week!

I STINK at wall balls.  This may be in part due to the fact that I hate them and I kinda (sorry, Coach!) have been skipping WODs that involve wall balls.  I was glad to see them as the skill and put some work into them!

The kettlebell swings are usually a strong point for me.  We were supposed to pick a weight for this skill that was heavier than what we'd generally use in a WOD.  I usually have the #35, so I took a deep breath and went for the #44, which I'd never swung before.

I got 20 unbroken reps both rounds!  The wall balls were another story...I started with the #16 and eventually had to move down to the #10.  I don't know if I even linked 10 reps with the #10.  Boy do I need work on those!

Our WOD was all body-weight.  It sounds so easy until you get going...I started out with the red band for pullups and had to switch to blue later.

Our Monday scores:

Our quads were still sore from Saturday, so my mom and I spent some time stretching post-WOD.  Here's a great one...the couch stretch!

Tuesday: Meet Three of "The Girls"

For strength, we worked front squats. 

I got through the last three reps at #95, which I think is a PR?  Love using WODHub now - wish I'd started earlier!

Then, on to the WOD, which included three CrossFit benchmark workouts rolled into one:

For Fran, I scaled to #45 with the red band.  I was able to link the first 20 pullups!  I scaled Grace to #65 and was gonna do Isabel that way, too...but ended up having to scale to #55.

Wednesday: Active Rest

I read a magazine on the elliptical (haven't done that in AGES) and did some mobility work and yoga. 

Extra cool?  I was IN the magazine.

I'm reading away at breakfast, and I thought, "aw, this girl sounds like me. WAIT THIS GIRL IS ME." And then I squealed and had to explain myself to Jared.

Follow me on Twitter @meghamixer since clearly I'm famous now.

Tonight: WOD time at Mercer Island CrossFit

Have a great Thursday everyone!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Save Your Hands!!!

Happy Friday!!!

I want to introduce you to one of my best friends: Burt's Bees Miracle Salve:

This stuff is awesome!  Even if you wear lifting gloves (which I do), your hands can take a beating at CrossFit!  Mine always seem to get a little ripped up and dried out - this stuff works wonders.  It's unscented and super easy to throw in your gym bag or purse.  It's also great for softening dry elbow/knees, removing mascara, and fixing frizzy/flyaway hair. 

It's also helped me in a weird health plight - the skin around my eyes, nose, and mouth can get a little raw due to sweating and wiping my face repeatedly in hot yoga.  Then when I go to put sunscreen on...it stings like heck!  Now I dab on the Miracle Salve pre-sunscreen, and it does the trick perfectly!

Sold, right?  You can pick up a pack of four at Amazon.com.

Here's a look at this week's workouts:

Monday - PT exercises/planks/shoulder stability; CrossFit with my momma; Hot Yoga (hatha) with a girlfriend after work
Tuesday - Racquetball with my dad and some friends
Wednesday - CrossFit
Thursday - Hot Yoga (hatha again - I'm told I have "enough power in [my] life already")
Friday - More racquetball tonight after work; I intend to get my PT exercises, planks, and shoulder stability in as well
Saturday - CrossFit (Team Wod!!!); Yin Yoga
Sunday - REST

Wednesday was pretty killer - we got to do a "strength" I'd never done before: weighted pushups!

We started out doing 5-10 non-weighted pushups to get our form down. I tend to wing my elbows way out when coming back up - so I'm working on keeping them in the same plane of movement.  Even if I'm not doing hand-release pushups, I make sure to get my chest all the way to the ground on every rep, even in the warm-up.  To me, that's the only way to get stronger and better.

I did the first set of 8 with the #5 plate, then the #10, and went with the #15 for my third set of 8.  My first five reps with 15 lbs were great...but the last three were pretty shabby on form.  I went down for the next two sets and actually couldn't push back up for the fourth rep of the fifth set (with 5 lbs).

The WOD was just killer.  It sounded so easy: "Oh, I only have to do that for a minute," but boy were those the longest minutes!

I was able to RX this time, which made me happy.  I feel that my strongest point in the workout was definitely nailing those 1 minute rests.  The hardest part was the push press.  I got some good pointers on how to link the reps cleanly...and then didn't really use them when we got going in the WOD.  I always get tired and end up slamming the bar back down into my shoulders.  I think next time we have push press in a WOD, I will try to link more reps even if it means I have to set the bar down more frequently...rather than resting with the bar still up or on my shoulders.

My total score for the workout was 201, and I really killed myself on the final row, so overall, I felt pretty good!

You tell me: What are your plans for the weekend?  Do you use gloves at CrossFit?  How many rest days do you schedule each week?

Thursday, July 19, 2012

My New CrossFit Buddy/Nasty Girls WOD

People think we look alike.  Go figure.
I'm a pretty lucky girl - I work (in a different department) at the same company as my mom.  And we thankfully have the kind of relationship where we enjoy being coworkers.  We have a lot of the same inside jokes and whine to each other about the poor grammar so often used in inter-office communications. 

As you may know, I had a huge family fitness victory last year when my dad joined the Stroum Jewish Community Center and started working out for the first time in years.  My mom, on the other hand, has been doing Jazzercise regularly for the last five or six years, mixed with running, hiking, and of course, downhill skiing.

I have felt for a long time that CrossFit would be a great workout for her, especially in attaining that next level of fitness.  And this Monday, she bravely showed up to take the 7am class with me!

I admit I was nervous.  CrossFit can be so intimidating if you've never tried it, and while I was confident that my mom would do well in her first WOD...I was also afraid she might hate it.  Our box posts the WOD usually the night before, and Monday's WOD would be a benchmark workout - extra hard, for those of you non-CrossFitters out there.  I just prayed she would have a good time and took comfort in knowing that our box has all new folks scale the workouts, and that the Mercer Island crew is an encouraging bunch.

We started out with the warmup, which included a 400 meter run and 1 minute plank holds (on which my mom kinda kicked my butt). 

The strength for the day was front squats.

Coach Jared had everyone start with a PVC pipe as we reviewed (or learned) proper form.

I got up to #75, and decided to stick with that, rather than going higher.  We weren't looking for a one-rep max, and so I wanted to focus strictly on good form.  My knees tend to bend in and I also tend to collapse my chest forward a little.  (Incidentally, chair pose in hot yoga has been a huge help to improving my front squat form.)

My mom looked great and even seemed to be having a good time with the strength portion.

Then...dun dun dun...we were on to the WOD: "Nasty Girls."

Although it's a killer, this WOD is actually a perfect introduction to CrossFit, since it combines so many key elements!  "It includes a gymnastics movement in the muscle-up, an Olympic lifting element in the Hang Power Clean, and a metabolic movement in the air squat." (From the Mercer Island CrossFit blog post.)

The newbie scaled version was 2 rounds of 30 air squats, 15 pushups/15 box dips, and 10 power cleans.  I scaled my three rounds to 20 pullups/20 box dips, and #65 for the hang power cleans.  Originally I had high hopes of using the red band for my pullups.  Coach Jared talked me out of it ("there's 60 pullups in this workout") and boy was I glad he did.  Blue band was PLENTY hard. 

I was able to power through the air squats and box dips unbroken on every round.  Pullups and the hang power cleans really killed me.  I went to take a water break after the second round...not because I was thirsty, but because I was mentally tired and felt I'd "earned" it.  Later I was kicking myself because I know that added at least 30 seconds to my time, if not more.  I finished in 16:06 and can't help wondering if I could have beat the 15 minute mark.

But the best news of the day?  My mom had a GREAT time, and was so impressed that she's gonna give CrossFit a trial run for three months!  Can't wait to join her tomorrow for her second WOD.

YOU TELL ME:  Have you brought a friend to CrossFit lately?  Did they enjoy it?  Do you take un-needed water breaks during your WODs?  Can you do muscle-ups?  I wanna know!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012


As fate would have it, the day before Annie Thorisdottir was crowned the first women's repeat champion in CrossFit Games history, we had the "Annie" WOD scheduled at our box.

Rich and Annie - source
Saturdays at Mercer Island CrossFit alternate between a team WOD one week, and an Olympic lift plus "a girl" the next. 

Coach Jared writing out the warmup

I had been working a little on my double unders last week, but when I arrived at the box on Saturday, Jared told me that since I was only up to linking 6 at once, it would be better to go with single skips for the WOD.

For those of us who weren't up to RXing with DUs, it was 3 single skips for every double under prescribed.  Below is the breakdown for you - this is an excellent travel workout, even for someone who doesn't typically do CrossFit.  All you need is a jump rope, which doesn't take up much space in a suitcase!

150 skips - 50 situps
120 skips - 40 situps
90 skips - 30 situps
60 skips - 20 situps
30 skips - 10 situps

Before we got started on Annie, though, we had our Olympic lift practice of the day.  This time, it was squat cleans:

I didn't know my one rep max on the squat cleans, which made it really hard to gauge what weight I should be using, especially for the EMOM section.  I ended up with #50, but by the 9th minute of the strength section, I really didn't feel tired.  I threw on a little more weight and did the 11th and 12th sets of 3 with #55 instead. 

Finally, we were on to the WOD.  Coach Jared told us that for this workout, we needed to touch the ground overhead and touch our toes for each rep to count:

I was super strict and no-repped myself if I didn't get the situps exactly right.

I finished the WOD in 11:30, and now I can't wait until I can get double unders and speed my time up!

Jared's been giving me some tips on double unders that might help you, too!

Keeping your chest up, hold your arms in a snatch position, and then just flip your palms to face forward. 

Good form...
A lot of people (including me) err on the side of hunching over and keeping their hands too close to their bodies.

...bad form
 If you want to REALLY see how it's done, check out the double banger footage from the Games this weekend.  Impressive stuff!

YOU TELL ME: How do you gauge a good weight for your workouts if you don't know your one rep max?  Do you tend to go too light or too heavy?  Who did you root for during the Games?  Can you double under?

Friday, July 13, 2012

CrossFit Games are Here!

This is one of the few weekends when I wish my husband and I weren't cave dwellers and actually owned a TV (yes, we read a LOT, plus I'm a cheapskate).  It would be so fun to watch the 2012 CrossFit Games live!  Although come to think of it, between work and hot yoga today, CrossFit tomorrow morning, grocery shopping, a church barbeque...who knows how much Games coverage we'd actually be home for anyway!

I haven't been following the Games super closely, but I do have a fave athlete this year: Camille Leblanc-Bazinet.  She made an impressive showing in the Open and Regionals...and I just find her inspiring!

She puts a big dent in the stereotype that women who lift heavy weights will look like men.  She's been CrossFitting for a few years...and I don't know a woman who would be bummed look like Camille!!!

Last night I hit up Mercer Island CrossFit for the 6pm class.  Our box owners are out of town for - you guessed it - some little competition thing that Reebok is sponsoring in CA.  The event name must have slipped my mind.  So we had one of our newer coaches instead...who happens to be the cute guy I married.

Jared ran a great class.  He got us all started on the warmup of the week, which our box started doing a while back.  It's great, because it makes you warmup with more intention, and actually see some improvement in your skill just from working on them over the course of the week.

This week's WOW included double-unders, which was great, since our "Olympic Lift + Girl" this Saturday will be "Annie" (double-unders and situps).  I'd love to be able to actually do the workout prescribed, but previously I hadn't made much traction on DUs.

Wednesday night I was able to link 2 double-unders without doing the single skip in-between.  And last night, I linked half a dozen!  I know that's no where close to 50, but sometimes at CrossFit, you surprise yourself when things finally click.  I have high hopes for "Annie" tomorrow.

Last night we worked on front squats as our pre-WOD strength:

I went with 65lbs, and afterwards felt like I could have done more.  It's hard to gauge a good weight when you aren't sure of your one rep max for a movement.  I tried to guess based on what some of our morning folks had lifted, but obviously no two CrossFitters are exactly alike!

After the strength, we set up for the WOD!

I wasn't stoked about the row (sore from Wednesday), but took comfort in the fact that I'd only have to do that part once.  The rest of the workout looked like fun to me - the weight was lighter than usual and I tend to do well on pushups.

We loaded up our bars (I went RX) and some of us decided to take the post-row portion of the workout outside.  Jared counted us down for the row and we started!

I didn't have my lifting gloves with me that day since I'd originally planned to go to yoga instead of CrossFit.  Boy was it a hard WOD to do without them!  The rowing wasn't too bad, but the two lifts back to back really hurt my spoiled hands.

I stuck with the hook grip on all the lifts...although my hands are so little I can barely get it.  It helped a ton in saving my forearms!  I made it through all my first lifts unbroken, trying to focus on my form, and particularly on engaging my core for the power snatch.  The first round of pushups were hard, but I made it through all 15 at once.

Going into the power clean
This workout was a mental one for me; I usually like to take a lot of breaks and get water and rest if I'm tired, but I've realized that it's hard to improve if you let yourself be lazy.  Obviously there are times when a break is a good idea, but for me I end up taking a lot that I don't actually need.
Since the weight was fairly light, I really tried to keep pushing myself and not take more than a few seconds of rest.  I was surprised to find that the hardest part for me was the pushups!  The second round I got through both sets of lifts...and then had to break the pushups into 10 and 5.

Shirt - R.E.S.T., capris - Nike, shoes - New Balance
Third round ended with the pushups kicking my butt: 5-rest-5-rest-5.  My final time was okay, but I had been hoping to be under 10 minutes instead of under 11.  I'll just keep working on my pushups till I kick their butt instead of the other way around!

To finish up the evening, we had a very Paleo-friendly dinner, courtesy of Jared's exellent cooking:

If you hate broccoli...try broccolini!!!

Pork that "died a second death" - 
rare meat weirds me out a little

Honeydew for dessert!
YOU TELL ME: Do you have a favorite athlete at the Games this year?  Do you own a TV?  Do you take too many breaks during WODs?