In the thick of it

The CrossFit Open Games have started. To the CrossFit community that’s like the run up to Christmas. If you are lucky enough to know someone who does CrossFit (or unlucky, considering how we tend to not be able to shut up about our slightly strange obsession with painful workouts…) you might have heard of it already, in my opinion it’s one of the most exciting developments in modern sports along with Slopestyle and the Paralympics.

Every week for five weeks a new workout is released that everyone signed up for the Games try to complete in order to get a score. Scores are submitted to the central CrossFit website where a world wide ranking is presented. Last year almost 140,000 people competed in the Open.

That’s a very big number of people, participating in a truly inclusive global event.

When I started doing CrossFit in 2012 the Open had just come and gone. In 2013 I had just taken that fall and injured my left shoulder. And this year I am struggling with my right shoulder. So far, my involvement in the Open has been limited to enthusiastically cheering people on, and harshly no repping them when acting as a judge.

First workout for 2014, labelled 14.1, was announced on Friday two days ago. Like so many others I got up disgustingly early to fire up my web browser and check out the announcement show.

In my opinion CrossFit HQ came up with a really good first workout this year: AMRAP (As Many Rounds As Possible) for 10 minutes of 30 double unders followed by 15 ground to overhead with 35kg on the barbell for the guys, 25kg for the women.

Now, that may not sound like a lot, but the 4th, 5th, 6th round it will be painful… It will look a little something like what is shown in the clip below.

The clip is from Friday evening, when a big group from CrossFit London met up in our gym to whip the hell out of our skipping ropes. Some amazing performances delivered, but also a lot of frustrated shouts from those who have not yet mastered the elusive double under.

In my case, even though I am not signed up for the Open, I decided I would give this one a go to gently test my improving shoulder. It just looked like too much fun as I was watching the others!

This morning I went to the box and did 14.1 together with those who weren’t happy with their first performance. I scaled the weights right down though, and only had 22.5kg on the bar to save my shoulders.

Having checked several strategy blog posts for 14.1 beforehand (yes, even though a CrossFit WOD may look just like an all out race to the death, there is a lot of strategising to make sure you perform at the peak of what you can deliver) I decided to aim for 4 completed rounds and just keep going slow and steady throughout.

Since I haven’t done a WOD since well before December last year I was a little bit worried about lasting the distance. 10 minutes sounds like a short time, but it’s certainly enough to floor you.

I knew my double unders would be solid. The benefit of not being allowed to do anything involving weights over head is that I have had to focus on other things. Let’s just say I have done a lot of double unders the past six months…

One thing I have realised about double unders is that the more I slow them down, the more consistent I get. And paradoxically, that ends up making the double unders part of a workout really quick as the cost of stumbling and starting over is so much higher. Slow is smooth, smooth is fast. Can’t remember who said that.

In the end I did 217 reps: 4 complete rounds, 30 double unders, and 7 G2OH. Really proud of my double unders, I only stumbled twice.

Power snatched all the G2OH, and focused on a slow and steady pace and maintaining really strict form. Easy, with that light weight, and I really felt consistent and in control.

That’s not the best part though. Despite having been conscious of my shoulder all week (is it the cold?) I felt great before, during and after. Picked up some great warm up advice from one of our coaches, doing dislocates and presses behind the neck with a rubber band. Something I’ll keep doing as it really seems to help my shoulders loosen up.

After the workout I was completely over the moon. Being in the thick of it with a group of people pushing for those extra reps, finding the limit of their ability, cheered on by their friends around them… It’s the greatest feeling.

Still great 12 hours later, cooled down and adrenaline flushed out. I guess the real test comes tomorrow when I try to get out of bed, but I actually feel so good that I just booked up every Sunday for the coming month to do the Open Games WOD (scaled down for safety).

Feels fantastic. Can’t wait for next week.

1st of March. First day of spring. Looking out my 18th floor office window, it certainly looks it. Sun is shining, air is crisply clear, London looks good. The old geriatric certainly scrubs up well as soon as the sun comes out.
Today is also the first day of Swedish blog project Blogg100 2014, where more than 500 people have committed to writing a blog post every day for 100 days in a row. Me being one of them. Not sure what will come out of it, but that’s the charm I guess.
So. I’ll be writing about my still ongoing training, with the purpose of rehabilitating my still aching shoulder. This ongoing project, now going on almost exactly a year, is a source of great frustration in my life. Slowly, slowly my shoulder seems to get less achy and moany though.
A while back I promised my physio to not do anything involving hanging from a bar or lifting weights over my head. Which effectively cuts out most things that go on regularly in a CrossFit gym.
What I have done, rather than stop weight training completely, is starting a strength program which now is on it’s third month or so. All based around back squats and front squats, I mix it up with core training and loads of mobility for the shoulders.
As weights started getting heavier for my squats, I could feel my knees complaining a bit, so I decided to invest in a pair of knee sleeves. My power lifter friend Bex recommended the weight lifter knee sleeves from SBD (Squat Bench Deadlift - what a great name for a company) pictured above so I got a pair. They are awesome. Just the right support, nice and warm, designed by weight lifters for weight lifters. Immediate love affair.
Next week I hope to smash my PB for the front squat (which I set last week at 82.5kg…), getting to 85kg. After that I’ll give the strength program a rest for a week and do other things, and then I intend to drop the weight down to 75kg and resume the program again. Focusing more on good form and ingraining a solid movement pattern than pushing heavy weigths all the time.
The goal is then to get to a 100kg back squat and a 90kg front squat. That would be awesome.

1st of March. First day of spring. Looking out my 18th floor office window, it certainly looks it. Sun is shining, air is crisply clear, London looks good. The old geriatric certainly scrubs up well as soon as the sun comes out.

Today is also the first day of Swedish blog project Blogg100 2014, where more than 500 people have committed to writing a blog post every day for 100 days in a row. Me being one of them. Not sure what will come out of it, but that’s the charm I guess.

So. I’ll be writing about my still ongoing training, with the purpose of rehabilitating my still aching shoulder. This ongoing project, now going on almost exactly a year, is a source of great frustration in my life. Slowly, slowly my shoulder seems to get less achy and moany though.

A while back I promised my physio to not do anything involving hanging from a bar or lifting weights over my head. Which effectively cuts out most things that go on regularly in a CrossFit gym.

What I have done, rather than stop weight training completely, is starting a strength program which now is on it’s third month or so. All based around back squats and front squats, I mix it up with core training and loads of mobility for the shoulders.

As weights started getting heavier for my squats, I could feel my knees complaining a bit, so I decided to invest in a pair of knee sleeves. My power lifter friend Bex recommended the weight lifter knee sleeves from SBD (Squat Bench Deadlift - what a great name for a company) pictured above so I got a pair. They are awesome. Just the right support, nice and warm, designed by weight lifters for weight lifters. Immediate love affair.

Next week I hope to smash my PB for the front squat (which I set last week at 82.5kg…), getting to 85kg. After that I’ll give the strength program a rest for a week and do other things, and then I intend to drop the weight down to 75kg and resume the program again. Focusing more on good form and ingraining a solid movement pattern than pushing heavy weigths all the time.

The goal is then to get to a 100kg back squat and a 90kg front squat. That would be awesome.

Widowmakers… 2 attempts for max weight. Did 20@25kg easily. Stepped up to 30kg, felt good, then lost my balance at 12 reps. 
Right shoulder feels ok, although after the OHS feel quite sore in the late area (at the top, where the armpit/shoulder starts). Because I’m supporting the weight in a weird angle on the right side? Should get someone to film me.

Widowmakers… 2 attempts for max weight. Did 20@25kg easily. Stepped up to 30kg, felt good, then lost my balance at 12 reps.

Right shoulder feels ok, although after the OHS feel quite sore in the late area (at the top, where the armpit/shoulder starts). Because I’m supporting the weight in a weird angle on the right side? Should get someone to film me.

Level 2 practice and WOD. New PB on my power clean, 75kg. Need to build my front squat strength to improve my squat clean.
WOD was gruesome. Didn’t finish in the 15 min cap. 50kg on the bar and towards the end of the second round of cleans my legs were shot.
Right shoulder held up nicely, although it does feel stiff and lumpy. Also issues with my right wrist and numbness in my right little finger. Sharp pains when shaking someone’s hand. Wonder if related to shoulder?

Level 2 practice and WOD. New PB on my power clean, 75kg. Need to build my front squat strength to improve my squat clean.

WOD was gruesome. Didn’t finish in the 15 min cap. 50kg on the bar and towards the end of the second round of cleans my legs were shot.

Right shoulder held up nicely, although it does feel stiff and lumpy. Also issues with my right wrist and numbness in my right little finger. Sharp pains when shaking someone’s hand. Wonder if related to shoulder?

Results of my first CrossFit competition. Scaled, which I am glad for as three gruelling WODs later I was completely ground down. The bronze medal now illuminates my kitchen.

Results of my first CrossFit competition. Scaled, which I am glad for as three gruelling WODs later I was completely ground down. The bronze medal now illuminates my kitchen.

WOD and skills class today.
Before the WOD we did back squats and double under practice. Clearly I have lost a lot of squat strength the past months, 75kg for 5 reps felt quite heavy.
The WOD was a bit of a slog. Went about it quite slowly to spare my shoulders, and did the Plate Ground To Overhead with just a 15kg plate. Came in at 15:02 which I am not particularly happy with, but safety first. I have to keep reminding myself that.
Skills class saw more double under practice, and we did a group exercise that was very useful. All 8 of us standing in a ring, skipping singles, and then one person did a DU, the next one, the third person and so on around the circle; the first person did 2 DU, the next one…; finally a round of 3 DUs. It amounted to a lot of singles!
After a while I could feel my calves starting to cramp, and I realised during this that I am skipping way too much up on my toes. If I make sure to bring my heels closer to the ground, and skip more on the balls of my feet, my calves love me. Can go on for a very long time in that way.
Then we did HSPU practice, and surprisingly (having not done any hand stands since the fall in March) I feel really confident now! Did one of my longest handstand holds ever, and did a single HSPU down to two ab mats and back up again. Nice.
Ended with kipping practice, pull ups and toes to bar, but by now my shoulders were so tired I basically held back for the remaining ten minutes. Tired.
Think I’ll flip these classes around next week and do the skills first so as not to be completely gassed from the start. That said, it is pretty interesting doing skills after a WOD as it does put you in more of a competition state… Sure, you can kip your toes to bar when you are fresh, but can you do it after a hundred DUs and a bunch of thrusters?

WOD and skills class today.

Before the WOD we did back squats and double under practice. Clearly I have lost a lot of squat strength the past months, 75kg for 5 reps felt quite heavy.

The WOD was a bit of a slog. Went about it quite slowly to spare my shoulders, and did the Plate Ground To Overhead with just a 15kg plate. Came in at 15:02 which I am not particularly happy with, but safety first. I have to keep reminding myself that.

Skills class saw more double under practice, and we did a group exercise that was very useful. All 8 of us standing in a ring, skipping singles, and then one person did a DU, the next one, the third person and so on around the circle; the first person did 2 DU, the next one…; finally a round of 3 DUs. It amounted to a lot of singles!

After a while I could feel my calves starting to cramp, and I realised during this that I am skipping way too much up on my toes. If I make sure to bring my heels closer to the ground, and skip more on the balls of my feet, my calves love me. Can go on for a very long time in that way.

Then we did HSPU practice, and surprisingly (having not done any hand stands since the fall in March) I feel really confident now! Did one of my longest handstand holds ever, and did a single HSPU down to two ab mats and back up again. Nice.

Ended with kipping practice, pull ups and toes to bar, but by now my shoulders were so tired I basically held back for the remaining ten minutes. Tired.

Think I’ll flip these classes around next week and do the skills first so as not to be completely gassed from the start. That said, it is pretty interesting doing skills after a WOD as it does put you in more of a competition state… Sure, you can kip your toes to bar when you are fresh, but can you do it after a hundred DUs and a bunch of thrusters?

New PB on the strict press, 52.5kg, thanks to Chris pushing me a bit. For 3 reps.

Did 5x3: 35kg, 35kg, 45kg, 50kg, 52.5kg

Funnily enough the 52.5kg set felt better and more solid than the previous. Really tried to think about not arching my back, keeping my abs and butt tight.

Still suffer from that tendency to arch my back as it gets heavy though. Not sure now if it is because my lacking shoulder flexibility or because I try to cheat by activatingy chest.

The hero WOD we did was gruelling. Decided to do it RX and only got just over half way by the time we reached the 20 minute cut off point. The very thought of 3 more rounds makes me want to barf.

What really killed me was the cleans, didn’t expect that. But the 24kg KB swings and then straight into power cleaning 42.5kg made my back shout at me to show mercy and lie down.

New PB on the strict press, 52.5kg, thanks to Chris pushing me a bit. For 3 reps.

Did 5x3: 35kg, 35kg, 45kg, 50kg, 52.5kg

Funnily enough the 52.5kg set felt better and more solid than the previous. Really tried to think about not arching my back, keeping my abs and butt tight.

Still suffer from that tendency to arch my back as it gets heavy though. Not sure now if it is because my lacking shoulder flexibility or because I try to cheat by activatingy chest.

The hero WOD we did was gruelling. Decided to do it RX and only got just over half way by the time we reached the 20 minute cut off point. The very thought of 3 more rounds makes me want to barf.

What really killed me was the cleans, didn’t expect that. But the 24kg KB swings and then straight into power cleaning 42.5kg made my back shout at me to show mercy and lie down.

Today’s workout was fierce. And after my recent binge week in Sweden where I after my 10k race (54:58, under my goal of 55 minutes, albeit just…) hardly did anything but sleeping and feeding it hit me quite hard.

Was getting dizzy just from my warm up DUs for crissakes!

Strength

5x5 strict press: 30kg, 32.5kg, 35kg, 40kg, 40kg

Form felt good throughout, and 40kg is just what I can use for a set of 5.

Skill

5 minutes of double unders.

Best unbroken: 47. Total: 156.

WOD

Thrusters 12-9-6-3 and 200m farmer’s walk with 2x10kg plates after each set. Decided to go for 42.5kg (rx level 2), and was at first really worried it would take me ages.

Turned out that the thrusters went fine, it was the farmer’s walks that slaughtered me.

Did the thrusters 6+6, 5+4, 6, 3. Actually felt really good. Heavy and tiring, but solid.

On the second round of the farmer’s walk, about 50 meters in, I couldn’t do it anymore and instead of grabbing the plate rim I put my hands through the holes. As I got to the turning point I got really angry with myself as I realised that the only reason I did that, rather than just breaking the walk up and stop for a few seconds and then continue, was because I was falling behind the others. So I kicked myself in my visualised behind and told myself to stop fucking cheating just to get a good time. Did the rest of the walks properly, although with frequent stops to shake out my screaming arms and hands.

Total time: 15 minutes 43 seconds.

Great WOD.

Mother of a WOD today. 20 minutes EMOM alternating K2E and cleans (I skipped the jerk to spare my shoulders, didn’t help).

Wore my gymnastics grips for the WOD, to spare the healing blisters in the palms of my hands. Good thing, or I would have bled all over the shiny new Sleven equipment as my calluses ripped clean off under them.

I find it interesting that my calluses have kept growing despite not really doing anything involving bars or barbells for months. Didn’t even realise until today when I saw the thickness of the skin that ripped off. 

Anyway, no more CrossFit for a while as I go to Sweden on Friday for the Prinsens Minne 10k race and a week of Ängelholm.

Good thing too as my right shoulder is feeling really sore in the scapula area. Really need to get that looked at.

Mother of a WOD today. 20 minutes EMOM alternating K2E and cleans (I skipped the jerk to spare my shoulders, didn’t help).

Wore my gymnastics grips for the WOD, to spare the healing blisters in the palms of my hands. Good thing, or I would have bled all over the shiny new Sleven equipment as my calluses ripped clean off under them.

I find it interesting that my calluses have kept growing despite not really doing anything involving bars or barbells for months. Didn’t even realise until today when I saw the thickness of the skin that ripped off.

Anyway, no more CrossFit for a while as I go to Sweden on Friday for the Prinsens Minne 10k race and a week of Ängelholm.

Good thing too as my right shoulder is feeling really sore in the scapula area. Really need to get that looked at.

Assessment of thoracic mobility after completing the 30 Day Thoracic Mobility Challenge.

In the photos where my hands are really close to the floor you can see my ribcage point a bit upwards, clearly I am straining too much.

The last photo I took I tried to concentrate on keeping my core tight, and while my hands are nowhere near the floor I do think it’s better than when I started!

Starting position, for comparison: