Sunday, November 24, 2013

What a Journey, My First Year of CrossFit-Constantly Varied and Continually Improving

Hello and welcome back my friends.

One year ago today, I succumbed to my urges, overcame my fear and apprehension and stepped into CrossFitPRx to do a workout that became the catalyst for a lifestyle change that has taken me farther in strength & conditioning than I ever imagined.  More of what led me to CrossFit can be read in my February post, (Time Off The Bike...).

In the last 12 months of being a novice CrossFit athlete, I have improved my technique on Olympic lifts, increased my skill in Double Unders, developed a love/hate relationship with Thrusters and Burpees and have a greater understanding of mobility that have improved how I walk, sit and stand that were once thought were pretty well mastered.  The list could go and on as I'm sure it would for anyone that has spent the same amount of time developing new skills and I am not going to go through each and every thing I have learned.  Reflecting on the CrossFit journey, I want to thank everyone that helped along the way to my current level of fitness.

Thank You DK and Wendi for encouragement to try CrossFit and being there as I did my first "fitness test".  Thanks to the CrossFit PRx family for welcoming me in and bringing a level of friendship, competition, and fellowship that is indescribable.  Thanks to the 5AM BeastMode class, back when there were a small handful of us crazy enough to be up at 5AM to workout.  DK, Coop, Dave, Big Dave, and JP are inspiring men that were always willing to help anyone out, push each other harder and made the workouts fun.  Each of you have a drive and focus that always made me want to push harder and look forward to the next day.  My hats off to you gentlemen!

I also want to thank the following people and organizations that I have not met directly, but have benefited greatly from their expertise.  The hilarious men of the Barbell Shrugged podcast and developers of Technique WOD.  Mike, Doug, Chris, and CTP have been my online coaches that have helped fine tune techniques and train with a clearer purpose.  Kelly Starrett and MobilityWOD for helping me to become the Supple Leopard I want to be and to the CrossFit community that share a passion for healthy living and physical fitness.  

I have learned so much and have so much to be thankful for.  Several years ago, I incurred a back injury and was diagnosed with Occulta spina bifida, a malformation of my L-4 vertebrae.  I had no idea of this issue throughout my childhood, but as an overweight young adult, poor posture made the problem worse as I grew older.  After the diagnosis, I was instructed that squatting and lifting were practically eliminated as this could cause more strain and damage to my spine.  Naturally scared of doing something that could re-injure my back or cause more pain, I was very apprehensive to lifting heavy weights.  Through the constantly varied training of CrossFit, learning proper form and understanding technique, I have strengthened my back muscles and have been doing some form of squatting and weight lifting on a consistent basis.  I continue to listen to my body and make sure to keep correct form when lifting weights, knowing that if not mindful of body position, I could easily injure myself.  I may never compete in The CrossFit Games, but through the constantly varied schema of CrossFit, I will continue to improve and be better than I was yesterday.  Here's to the next 12 months where anything is possible.

Until the next time, 
Keep your mind sharp, body fit, and pedal hard 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

DIY-Tire Drag/Sled to Build Strength

 Hello, my friends.  Thanks for checking in.    

Today, I decided to share an inexpensive project that will aid in developing strength for everyday cyclists, CrossFitters, athletes, or general fitness.  I built this tire drag/sled and spent less than $30 for all of it.  You heard me right, $30.

I called my local Discount Tire Co and asked if I could rummage through their old tires and they obliged allowing me to take whatever tire I desired at no cost.  These tires end up going to a scrap yard to be repurposed and the tire company usually has to pay a fee for the disposal.  I found this All-Terrain tire and selected it purely for its bulk.  You can choose any tire that suits your gym or need.  The remaining parts were purchased at my local hardware store.  The tow strap was the most expensive item ($20.00).  I used a rubber handled hitch pin, but I've seen drawer pulls, carabiners, large fish-eye bolts and several others used as the anchoring point for the tow strap.

I used a drill bit with the same diameter as the hitch pin to make the hole in the tire and made the hole close to the middle of the tire tread.  Make sure you keep a firm grip on the drill.  Drilling through the rubber is the easy part and it gets a bit more difficult when the bit makes contact with the steel belt.  Once you get through the steel, try to clean out the hole of any excess debris.

Insert the hitch pin as shown below.  This pin is a bit longer than desired, but I used it for the handle that will not bind up the tow strap, which you will see shortly.  To make sure the pin stays in place, I used two over sized washers before inserting the lynch pin.

Next, run the tow strap through the handle so you have the straps of equal length to use for dragging or pulling.  These straps come with sewn loops at the ends so you can also run the strap through the loop as shown on the right picture and now you have the ability to hand over hand pulls.  I've used the empty tire as a warm up and then added weight to increase the intensity.

There you have it, my friends an easy an inexpensive piece of strength building equipment for your home gym.  Now let's see how long it takes the neighbors to stop calling me the weird guy with tire strapped to him. Have fun making this for yourself and shoot me a comment or an email if you have any other questions.

Until the next time, 
Keep your mind sharp, body fit, and pedal hard 

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Destination...Bonk City

Hello once again my friends and welcome back.  I hope you all have had a good week and are enjoying some well deserved R&R.  Thanks for checking out the blog and allowing me to share my journey to be a stronger, leaner, faster version of myself.

The best solution I have found to combat a stressful work week has been and continues to be solid, hard workouts.  Now I won't get into the science of the benefits of working out, but I think we can all agree that a person simply feels better and less stressed after exercise.
(See "You Done Been Shrunk Cortisol!! for a previous post regarding relieving stress)

Thursday evening Workout
This week definitely couldn't end fast enough so toward the end of the week, I really hit the weights hard.  Two workouts leading up to my Saturday morning ride may have to led my bonk close to the end of my ride.

Thursday's workout really taxed my shoulders and upper body while working on my lower body.  It's difficult to see in the picture, but it entailed:
A. Strict Press
B. 4 Sets of Snatch Balance
C. Clean and Jerk every minute on the minute (EMOM) for 10 minutes
D. 5 minutes As Many Rounds As Possible (AMRAP) with each round being 15 double under or 45 normal jump ropes and 3 Power Cleans
I increased my normal weight for these exercises which increased the challenge.

Friday's workout was also another challenge that worked both upper and lower body.

Here is a definition of the acronyms:
DU=Double Under Jump Rope
HRPU= Hand Release Push Ups
OH Lunges= Overhead Lunges
OHS=Overhead Squats

All these were done at 115 pounds which is an increase in weight for me.

Next came my Saturday morning ride, which you can view through my Strava link below.  I actually rode 22 miles, but Strava shows only 18. I am getting better at tackling the rollers and actually got a third place achievement for a Strava segment.  I'm pretty stoked about it since I was certain that wasn't going to happen this ride.  I pushed hard on nearly every climb and kicked in the high cadence pedaling on several sections.

My legs were cooking.  At mile 10,  legs were feeling like jello and a few times I started to get that throbbing in my head, by the peak of the climb at mile 16, I had to stop.  I was cooked.  My legs were done, I was pedaling squares and I feel like I was starting to get a little tunnel vision.  I got off the bike in a shady spot, began to eat and take on additional fluid.  Never had I recalled the feeling I was experiencing at that moment.  Spending 10-15 minutes off the bike trying to recover was not only needed for me to finish the ride, but a time to remember this mistake.  Eat and drink often, exhale fully to expel as much CO2 out for the body as effectively as possible and to listen to the body more closely. The last two miles back to my starting point were less filled with aggressiveness and fire and more about keeping enough energy in the tank to keep from going to the red line again.  The positive note to this experience was that I pushed my body slightly past its limit and survived.  I look forward to pushing this hard again with a better nutritional plan to see how far I can push my body to the next level.

I hope you find this helpful and somewhat entertaining.  Have a great week and get out and push beyond your limits.

Until the next time, Keep your mind sharp, body fit, and pedal hard MB&B

Friday, August 16, 2013

Back in the Saddle--Have my work cut out for me.

Hey my friends and welcome back!  There has been a lot going on at the MB&B home, with moving to a new state, getting settled in a new home and environment and it has thrown my entire workout schedule out the window.  Have you ever been in a spot where there is so much upheaval in your normal schedule that you no longer have a solid foundation or recollection of what that looks like?  That's where I am right now.

In the not so distant past I was going to bed early (early for me, anyway) and getting up to start the day off with a 5AM workout at my CrossFit box or getting on my bike trainer and putting in some miles to prep for the weekend for a Friday or Saturday morning ride with friends and family.  It wasn't a tight schedule, but a schedule nonetheless.

My home CrossFit Box
My internal clock has been completely out of whack and getting up early has been a challenge as I have been staying up later than usual to spend more time relaxing after the kids are put to bed.  The last several weeks, working out later in the evening has been the only way I have been able to fit in time at the home gym and riding my bike took a toss out the window until a few weeks ago.  It never fails that after watching some pro cycling, I get excited to get out on the road and explore.  Mind you, I am in no way close to the level of fitness of a semi-pro cyclist, but a person can dream...and work toward being a better version of themselves.

I must confess, for several months, I have been hesitant to get out on the road in this new town.  The roads are unfamiliar and rarely have a shoulder and I am unsure of the driving habits of the local motorists.  After working up the nerve and scouting out several roads, I decided that I would venture out and explore.  I did my usual bike safety check and made sure I had my emergency information handy (driver's license, insurance card, credit card, cash, Road ID) and informed my wife of the route I was taking and struck out on the open road.  I must say that once I got rolling, the exhilaration of being on the bike came flooding back and it was fun once again.

False flat heading into the climb
To read my last post about how I drove the fun out of my cycling, click here.

Top of the one of the "hills".
For several years, I have been riding super flat terrain at or near sea level and now the elevation is slightly higher, which isn't a big deal, but the terrain is full of rollers and some are far steeper that I have ever had to ride.  One particular climb started as a false flat and gradually became a segment of several hundred feet of 5% to 8% grade incline, which as a flat lander could have been the base of the Rockies.  Thankfully, the lessons I learned from my Cyclo90 training workouts and the heavy emphasis of squats, walking lunges and explosive movements learned in CrossFit aided in keeping my head clear of my objective and gave me the leg strength to keep turning the pedals over, even though it still was a very rough climb and I know I wasn't in shape enough to climb the hills as efficiently as I would like.    I definitely exposed a weakness and have my work cut out for me.   Exposing a weakness, acknowledging its existence and making it your focus to overcome it will lead to far greater success and gains than ignoring it or rarely addressing it.  That's the trick folks, if you want to call it a trick.  It's self awareness and realizing that you're not perfect.  Becoming a better version of yourself is not just for improving in a sport or level of fitness, but can be used in every aspect of your life that will increase your wheelhouse of abilities.  I hope this was helpful and mostly entertaining.  Stay tuned for more cycling progress as I work toward rounding out my weaknesses.

Until the next time,
Keep your mind sharp,
 body fit, and pedal hard 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Time off the bike...reveals new passion

Well, where shall I begin...  I've been out of pocket for quite a long time and although most of you probably weren't sending out a search party to find me, I'm sure some may have been wondering where I've been and what's been going on in my neck of the woods.  My family and I have relocated to a new state for work, prepped a home for sale, located and moved into a new home all while trying to keep sane with so many things changing.

First and foremost, thanks for checking out the blog where I have made an effort to make things fun, educational (sort of), and entertaining.  Up until mid to late November, I had been spending lots and lots and lots of time focused on the bike.  I was engrossed in it, couldn't get enough of it and was always on it whenever I had a free moment right up until the excitement dropped off like going over a cliff.  

It was my own fault for putting in so much time on the trainer, focused solely on being faster, stronger, leaner on the bike that I rode the fun right out of it.  Have you been there? Become so short sighted on one thing that you lost or forgot the whole reason you were doing it in the first place?  That was me.  I wasn't sick of the bike, but I just didn't have the passion to saddle up and pedal with energy and excitement, so I stepped away from it altogether.

Some weeks passed by where I was looking and trying different things to ignite that spark that I found when I first got on my road bike.  I started running more, lifting weights, pilates, yoga, etc. in search for that magical sensation until I finally gave in to something that was taboo, unknown, and from the articles I read, potentially dangerous.  CROSSFIT.  

At the invitation of some friends that own and operate a crossfit gym affiliate, Crossfit PRx, I decided to give it a try and to my relief and amazement, it was not what I thought it was and at the same time it was more than I thought it was.  In my mind, I pictured arrogant meatheads lifting an insane amount of weight and judging those that couldn't match their strength, similar to my past experiences in a gym.  This was something completely different.  The group of men and women that suffered through daily workouts in this "box", as its called, were down to earth, friendly, supportive, and highly encouraging.  The first week was physically brutal.  I considered myself to be fairly fit, but quickly realized I was not as well rounded as I assumed. 

My body was sore everyday from the previous workout and just when the soreness was passing, another workout would make my muscles scream even more.  The workouts consisted of a warm up that prepares the targeted muscle group, followed by a routine that further fatigues that muscle group, and finished up by a WOD (Workout Of the Day) which is usually timed or set up as a high paced circuit that usually thrashes my body.  By definition, Crossfit optimizes fitness through constantly varied functional movements  performed at relatively high intensity and I definitely did not personify any portion of that!  As the weeks went by, I quickly realized the only person I need to compete with is myself.  Can I do better than I did a moment ago, a day ago, a week ago?  Can I push harder, do one more rep, make my mind tougher and think past the pain?  It was this mentality and the encouragement of my fellow athletes, which goes hand in hand with crossfit, that I was able to build more confidence in my abilities and see past my prior limitations.

Even though I was moving slowly due to muscle soreness and I could fall asleep in a matter of seconds the moment I stopped moving, I kept thinking about what challenges we were going to face the next day.  I could feel that burning sensation in my core...other than muscle soreness.  I started to feel that fire inside ignite and like a phoenix from the ashes, a new passion revealed itself because I was able to get out of my own way, try something new and truly allow myself to be humbled by what can be accomplished by stepping out of the comfort zone.

As for the bike, I haven't given up on it.  We will meet again soon and venture out on some new terrain.  It's still a passion I love and will continue to make time for, but my plans now are to incorporate my two fitness passions together that will not only make me a stronger cyclist, but a stronger overall athlete.  My specialty, will not be specialized.

This was my first Workout:

Be mindful that you do the following at your own risk and to listen to your body to reduce the chance for injury.

Warm up: 5 Sets
5 Barbell Squats (dumbbell or bands can be used)-push hips back, keep chest and chin up

Workout 1: 3 Sets
20 Wall Balls
10 Squat Cleans-(modify with a Catch Squat)
10 Dumbbell Snatches

Pistol Squat (one legged squat, left leg then right leg)-1 minute 
Rest-1 minute
Burpee-1 minute
Rest-1 minute
Jumprope-1 minute

Until the next time, 
Keep your mind sharp, body fit, and pedal hard