Sunday, July 31, 2011

Goal Setting and Constant PRs

Today was a beautiful day for a partner metcon.

And a beautiful day to walk there.

One of the great things about starting something new is that you get a PR almost every time you work out. This week's crossfit skillwork:

- Tuesday: Overhead press, peak set of 2. I did 35-45-55-60-65-70. PR over last week's peak of 60 for three (with awful form). Metcon: 5 rounds, max reps of strict OH press (55lbs) followed by max reps of strict (i.e. dead hang, no kipping) pullups. Pull ups are getting a little better, but still not my best.

- Wednesday: Sumo deadlifts, easy peak of 1. I did 95-115-135-155-165. Having never done a sumo deadlift before, this was an automatic PR, and also 30 pounds over last week's peak of 135 for a standard deadlift. Metcon: 100m row, three attempts. My time improved from 26.8 seconds to 22.4 seconds over the three attempts. I SUCK AT ROWING.

- Friday: Back squats, peak set of 2. 45-65-85-95-105-115-125. PR over prior peak of 85 for 3 (with bad, but not awful, form). Metcon: tabata weighted planks. (Fuck that. 8 sets of 20 second planks, 10 seconds rest, with a 25lb plate on my back.)

- Sunday: team workout. Burpee sprints, tuck sits and rowing 10 minutes.

Sprinting is strong for me. Rowing is not.

Anyway. Every week so far I've been able to improve my peak set. This is due to two things: one, I don't know what I'm capable of, so I start low and run out of time before I can get really heavy. Two, I started with kind of lame form in most of the big lifts, so my strength is improving exponentially as my form improves.

Friday's back squats are a perfect example of this. Two weeks ago I did back squats for a peak (i.e., fast out of the bottom, not your max) of three. I started with the bar, but had to repeat weights a few times throughout the workout because I wasn't keeping my abs tight, or I wasn't going deep enough, so I didn't have time to get above 85lbs. Friday, with a somewhat smaller class and a much better sense of how the weight was going to feel, my form was much better and I had time to get in a ton of sets. I'm confident I could have done at least 135 or 145 without my speed suffering, but seven sets is a lot of sets, so Liz had me stop.

While it's lots of fun killing my prior weights every single time, it makes it a lot more difficult to set goals. I don't know what to focus on, what's reasonable or easy or arbitrary or foolish. I need to get some insight on this, because I'm really interested in what my potential is.

How do you set your first goals with something new?

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Wherein I Admit to Eating Paleo

It's been a decent week in my world.

Work has been manageable, my dogs have been well-behaved, and I've had...well, not VISUAL confirmation, but, say, pants-confirmation, that my cleaned-up diet and new crossfit addiction has been doing some good.

I haven't posted much in the way of meals lately, and I haven't really discussed my diet at all. Part of it is due to my general forgetfulness when it comes to taking pictures, but a great deal of it is due to my reluctance to publicly announce that I'm trying out something new in the nutrition world when I'm not sure I'm actually going to like it - or stick with it. I hate the idea of looking like a bandwagon-jumper, and I definitely hate the idea of having my failure to commit to something plastered all over teh internets.

But things have gone well, so here I am. Publicly admitting that I've been eating paleo.

As with Crossfit, I'm going to direct you to Fitbomb if you're interested in reading up on the what and - more importantly - why of Paleo. He has an excellent, excellent page which does a great job of boiling down the underlying science.

In short, I'm eating a lot of meat and veggies and probably more fruit than I should. I haven't eaten dairy for several weeks, and I've even cut out peanut butter. I do have one or two "cheat meals" each week where I eat whatever - that might mean a few chunks of bread or (god help me) some Oreos at my dad's house for Sunday dinner, or a huitlacoche quesadilla at El Rey on date night with PhillyGuy.

But typically? I buy a rotisserie chicken every weekend, wait for it to cool and then tear that sucker up. (I get far more meat off of it using my hands than a fork and knife - I'm classy like that, what can I say. And probably more historically accurate.) That chicken forms the basis for most of my lunches during the week. Breakfast is fruit (peaches, berries, whatever) and a big dollop of almond butter. I eat a lot of salads made with romaine, shredded chicken, tomatoes and guacamole. And I eat plenty of bacon and eggs on the weekends.

I knew I wouldn't miss grains and beans, but I thought it was going to be tough giving up dairy, for sure. I mean, I went through a costo-size container of Fage by myself every week, and I had acquired a taste for half n half in my coffee over the past year or so. And let's not get started on cheese. But - shockingly - this has been one of the easiest dietary changes I've ever made.

Take tonight's dinner for example.

I made stuffed peppers using ground turkey and beef (about 50/50 - 12 ounces of each), chopped onion, tomato paste, salt, pepper and some herbs (random mix of basil, parsley, marjoram, oregano, rosemary, and thyme).

I thought for sure this would be missing something without a pile of grated Locatelli on it. I even thought about putting some on there and calling it a "cheat meal," since we're skipping family dinner tomorrow night in favor of steaks at home. But I figured - nah, not going to be worth it - and went without. And I didn't miss all.

Here's what I've observed since adapting my diet:

- I am, for sure, losing fat. I don't know how much, because I haven't taken measurements and I don't weigh myself. I know I'm still not at my law school weight or anything like that, but I FEEL different. And my clothes fit better. And I'm definitely seeing more definition in my arms.

- I do NOT miss dairy at all. I really thought I would.

- What I miss the most is hummus. Yeah, I know. I get over it pretty quickly since guacamole is also delicious on a salad (and on chicken and on pretty much everything else in the world), but...yup.

- Berries and almond butter keep me far more satisfied than berries and yogurt.

- I feel really good and almost never get cravings. I also don't feel the need to eat as frequently, which is a miracle in and of itself since I'm a constant snacker. I rarely feel my usual "OMGNEEDTOEAT" at 3pm.

- If you drink a beet juice, you will think you're peeing blood. But you're not. It's because you drank beet juice.

(Okay, that last one doesn't have much to do with paleo. But it's true.)

All in all, I like this enough to publicly commit to it. And I will be really farking embarassed in three months if I've abandoned it.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Barefoot Metcon

Today was my first-ever team/partner metcon at CFCC. On the board:

In teams of 3, for time:

- 50 handstand pushups (if no HSPU, assisted HSPU or regular pushups)
- 100 deadlifts (225/135)
- 150 pullups
- 200 box jumps (24"/20")

Reps could be split up any way we wanted, but only one person could work at a time, and each exercise had to be completed before we moved on to the next task.

There was six teams. One went completely Rx'ed, four went "as Rx'ed as possible," and then my little beginner team went super-scaled. Regular pushups, 75lb deadlifts, and we used a band from the start to assist our pull ups.

I had started the day feeling awfully pleased with myself, because PhillyGuy and I managed to get up and out of the house with enough time to hit Costco, Target, Wegmans AND Starbucks and still have me at CFCC by 11:45. I felt slightly less self-congratulatory when I realized I forgot a headband.

I did the metcon barefoot, which actually wasn't that bad. I was a little wigged out at first doing barefoot box jumps, but I quickly got over it and got into a decent groove.

Since I'm strongest at deadlifting, I did 50 while my two teammates did 25 each. We started the pullups with the plan of doing splits of 10 each, but I quickly realized that was beyond my capabilities. Leila rocked the pullups, knocking out at least 10 at a time, while Tina and I kicked in 5-7 each for our turns. A little more than halfway through, we had to add a second resistance band, which made the last chunk of pull ups much easier.

All together, we did it in just over 23 minutes. Even with our crazy scaling, I was dripping with sweat by the end. My hair was soaked with sweat and probably spraying whoever was unfortunate enough to be nearby, since I had nothing to contain it. My forearms were seizing up. My shins are tender and will likely be bruised by the end of the day. And my feet - well, they're filthy.

But holy crap that was fun. I think I'll show up on Sundays more often.

When I got home, I wasn't starving, but I was very aware that it was almost 2pm and all I'd consumed all day was two iced coffees and a pecan pie larabar. I chugged a coconut water while making myself some bacon and eggs.

Three eggs, seasoned with Traders Joes 21 Seasoning Salute and scrambled, covered with salsa. Hard to see are the two slices of bacon I tore into pieces and tossed under the eggs. Not pictured is the last of my (very oxidized) guacamole that I mostly ate with a fork, but sort of topped my eggs with.

I just might spend the next 45 minutes or so joining Sophie in my bed.

...but before I do, quick recap of this week's workouts:

- Monday - front squats at CFCC. Peak set was 85lbs for three. Metcon: five sets, for time, of 5 front squats at 50% of weight from skillwork, followed by 100ft sprints. Time: 6:23, squatting 45lb bar.

- Tuesday - kettlebell swings and strict presses. 60lbs for three - nasty form. Skipped the metcon because I tweaked something in my left hip flexor between Sunday's hot yoga, Monday's squats and Tuesday's KB swings, so I took a lacrosse ball to it while I watched everyone else do three rounds of single-armed KB presses, american KB swings and double-unders.

- Wednesday - deadlifts and "neural recharge." Easy sets of 1 - I worked up to 135. I aspire to pull at LEAST 200lbs for my max by the end of the summer...let's see if I can get there in a month. Metcon - 6 sets of single-armed medball throws. 30 seconds weak arm, 30 seconds strong arm, 30 seconds rest. I used a 15-lb ball.

- Saturday - hot yoga. Tough and frustrating but still felt good afterwards.

- Sunday - partner workout at CFCC. 23:something, super-scaled, and we earned every second of it.

I'm really liking this whole CrossFit business. I picked up a jumprope for $5 at Target this morning to practice (read: attempt) double-unders.

Sunday, July 17, 2011


i am SORE.

Friday was back squats - I didn't go over 85lbs, but, well, my form kind of sucked and since I had a light weight (i.e., just the bar) for the metcon, I did a bajillion of them. Over 60 during the metcon and probably 5-6 rounds of five during the class.

As a side effect, the back of my neck is bruised from the several sets I did with improper bar placement. AND the FRONT of my neck is sore - the muscles in my freaking neck are sore - which PhillyGuy speculates is an extension of my form. He's probably right.

Handstands yesterday went well. Forward rolls less so, sort of, since I got stuck at the bottom of nearly all of them during the metcon. So I have a bruised lower back from that.

And - I'm just freakin' sore. During yoga today, we had what felt like the longest warrior sequence imaginable. Warrior one to two to reverse warrior back to two, and then some extended side angle, and I think maybe some twists in there, though that might have been another sequence. While it probably took less than 120 seconds per side, holding my lunge felt impossible.

Tomorrow's skillwork is front squats. Metcon is going to involve sprints and squats. The idea of doing more work with my tender legs is beyond me...

...but I could learn to clean.


Should I be patient - since I will clearly have many more opportunities to learn to clean - and not push my sore legs?

Or should I just suck it up, foam roll like a good girl, and figure that by the time 6:30 rolls around tomorrow, I'll have all of the strength I need to get this done?

(Patience is not my best virtue. And I'm never sure when I'm making an excuse [which, believe me, I make PLENTY of] or when I'm being appropriately cautious.)

in the meantime...ouch.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Steak Night

Friday night in my house is frequently steak night.

And not just steak - it's the best night ever, because I get to sit on my couch in sweatpants, eat steak AND watch Ghost Adventures on the travel network.

(Side note: does anyone else watch that show? What is the DEAL with Zack Bagans? He looks like the skinny nerd from high school who read a book on how to be awesome, but can't quite get the execution right. He's kind of jacked, but he carries it awkwardly, and OMG OMG THOSE SHIRTS I CANNOT LIVE.)

I had a couple of sweet potatoes to use up, so I made some "fries." I sliced them up lazy-style, into rounds:

And gave them a bath in olive oil, chili powder, cinnamon, paprika, cayenne pepper and kosher salt.

I baked/roasted them for about 20 minutes at 425, along with some broccoli, while PhillyGuy manned the grill.


As a second bonus, PhillyGuy spent some time in Gettysburg yesterday, so he was able to replenish our (pathetic little) fruit supply. This week's treats included a buttload of cherries...

...some super-fat blackberries...

and a bunch of peaches.

All of which I dumped into a bowl for breakfast this morning along with a giant dollop of almond butter.

CrossFit Update:

So, I finished my six On-Ramp classes, and last night was my first "big girl" CrossFit session. Here's a recap of the skills I picked up in On-Ramp:

- Overhead squats (no weight yet) - metcon involved one-armed overhead squats and burpees
- Russian kettlebell swings - metcon involved KB swings and goblet squats
- One-armed KB press, double-unders (disclaimer: I have not actually 'picked up" this skill yet, and have yet to really do a double-under) - metcon involved presses and single-unders
- Pullups (WOMP WOMP WOMP) - metcon involved tabata pullups, pushups and air squats
- DEADLIFTS - metcon involved short runs and deadlifts
- more deadlifts (no weight) and broad jumps - metcon involved broad jumps and medball slams

Last night's session focused on the back squat. Since it was my first time squatting with anything besides, well, nothing or a broomstick, the focus was mainly on form. I did probably five or six sets of 5 squats, building up to 85 pounds. I could have gone heavier if I wasn't so sloppy...yet another reason to work on my abs.

Metcon was three sets of AMRAP in 60 seconds of back squats, pushups and knees to elbows. Squats were definitely my strength in this - I got to use only the bar, and was able to do close to 30 squats in the first round and still managed to do more than 20 squats each of in the second and third. Pushups were OK, but it should come as no surprise that my weak point was knees to elbows. MY GRIP STRENGTH BLOWS.

I'm probably going to hit up this morning's on ramp class - I'm not limited to onramps anymore, but they're working on handstand and handstand pushups, both of which I'm eager to learn. In the meantime, I've been googling "how to build grip strength" and let me tell you, I've found some fascinating contraptions out there.

Happy Saturday!

Sunday, July 10, 2011


thank god.

I was up early(ish) yesterday, and had plenty of time before crossfit to make breakfast. Of course, I didn't have much in the way of, you know, breakfast food. I knew I wanted eggs.

Delicious, over-easy eggs.

I improvised while the eggs were frying and ended up heating up the last of a rotisserie chicken I had pulled apart over the last week, dumping the eggs on top, pouring on a bunch of corn and black bean salsa, and mixing everything together.

At the last minute, I threw a handful of grape tomatoes on the side and called it good.

So, my fifth On Ramp class was at 11am yesterday. I was feeling a little disheartened after Thursday's pullup disaster, so I was happy to see that the WOD focused on a couple of (what I thought were) my strengths: short runs and deadlifts. My legs are definitely stronger than my upper body.

And halfway through the skillwork, I got to hear the eight most beautiful words in the english language:

"You're gonna be really good at this lift."

Skillwork was to build up to an easy set of three deadlifts, and then take it down by half for the WOD. We started to run out of time, but based on how my last three at 95lbs felt, I think I'd have been easily able to do 135lbs for the easy set of three. My form was good and I felt strong - which was so, SO refreshing after hanging there helplessly like a fish on the pullup bar the other day.

WOD was fabulous. Three rounds for time of "the short run" - a loop around the block that I estimate to be about .17~ish miles (not sure - definitely more than a tenth but less than a quarter mile) followed by 10 deadlifts. I lifted 95lbs for the WOD. Looking back, I could probably have pushed myself more on the runs - my hamstrings were burning on the last two - but I finished sweating and feeling good in 6:07.

Post-crossfit refreshment:

I felt completely redeemed in that class and I can't wait to go back. Yay crossfit.

Like the other night, I came home starving and craving something cool and refreshing. I threw together a quick salad with the last of what I had in the fridge - cucumber, tomatoes, olives and peppers, with some feta cheese.

Topped with my last two salmon burgers. Time to go back to Costco.

How's your weekend?

Friday, July 8, 2011


Let me tell you what I liked and hated most about Thursday's class at CFCC.

Ho.Lee.Shit. It was humbling.

See, I decided to check out crossfit because it seemed fun. Lots of emphasis on functional movements, heavy weights and short, intense spurts of hard freakin' work. And I felt like, hey, I'll be good at this! Maybe not number one immediately, but I'll be good at this - I'm naturally kinda strong and I'm in decent shape.

On Tuesday, our focus was on double-unders (which I knew I was not going to be good at - coordination, she is not my strong suit), and one-armed shoulder presses (which I know I am OK at). I felt strong through the shoulder presses in the WOD, and - blessedly - was able to jump rope - at least the single-unders - without looking like a complete moron. I was happy.

And then I saw that pull-ups were on the schedule for Thursday. And I'm like, PSHHH. I can't do a bodyweight pull-up (yet), but I've worked up to one or two in a row with only 20 or 30lbs counterweight on the assisted pullup machine in our gym, and I regularly do anywhere from 6-8 sets of 8-12 pullups each with a 50 or 60lb counterweight at least once a week. So I figured I'd be solid through this class, and I was excited.

And then it was time for class. And I couldn't even hang from the bar with my palms facing in - my grip strength sucks, and my wrists were killing me. So I had to "hang" with one foot on the box.

And then I did some pullups. And I had to use a resistance band to assist me, which was OK. I came pretty close to getting a solid pullup with a "mini" band, which made me pretty happy. And then it was time for the WOD.

We did tabata work. For the uninitiated (like me), that is interval work: twenty seconds of balls-to-the-wall work, followed by ten seconds of rest. We repeated eight times each for a total of three rounds of different moves. So, eight times twenty seconds of all of the pushups you can do. Eight times twenty seconds of all of the pullups you can do. And then eight times twenty seconds of all of the (unweighted) squats you can do.

For my first pullup interval, I was like - this is cake. I did, I don't know, maybe seven or eight pullups that round. And then my grip started to fail - REAL bad. I could barely eke out three pullups each round after that - not because my back couldn't handle it, but because my wrists and forearms were killing me. I failed halfway up for what feels like a thousand pullups each round.

And here's the thing - most of the other people in my class don't suck at pullups. And I didn't think I sucked at pullups. I expected to be right up in there with the rest of them. And I wasn't. I don't suck, but the way that I've been training so far has really hidden the extent of my weaknesses.

Thankfully, the next on-ramp class has us scheduled to work on deadlifts. I am hoping and praying that my legs are as strong as I think they are, and that I'm able to redeem myself a little bit.

All this to say - holy shit. Crossfit is awesome. I do like it and I'm glad I joined - both because it's straight up fun, and because it's bringing me down to earth in terms of what my actual abilities are.

That, and I can't wait to get a real pullup.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Kettlebells 1, Chrissey 0

One of the reasons I love my job is that, once in a while, when I've been busting my butt or have had a particularly brutal stretch, my boss insists that I take a day off.

So, here I am, sitting on my couch at 10am in my sweats with my dogs. I'm getting ready to get out and get my hair cut, nails done, and maybe pick up some stuff at the Fourth of July sales. This is totally worth the nuttiness of this month.

I got to make eggs this morning, since I didn't have anywhere to be:

Scrambled eggs with red/orange/yellow peppers, portobello mushrooms, grape tomatoes, turkey lunch meat, salsa and plain greek yogurt.

Last night's skill work at crossfit was Russian kettlebell swings. They're supposed to look like this:

When I got there, I was assigned a 12kg kettlebell. That's the smallest, lightest weight they have. All of the girls in the class got 12kg bells; the guys got 16kgs. I looked at that little thing on the ground and I was like "PSHHHH, that's going to be way too light. This is going to be easy."

False. I'm super uncoordinated, so it took most of the skillwork period and half the metcon to figure out exactly how to put together the swing and the hip thrust. I'm still not really sure what my legs are supposed to be doing in the bottom of the swing. And because my abs are pretty weak, I arch my back a TON at the top of the swing. Which means my lower back freakin' HURTS this morning.

Metcon was five rounds of as many reps as possible ("AMRAP") in 1 minute each of kettlebell swings, goblet squats, and then rest...blissful rest. So, swing like a mofo for 60 seconds, squat like a mofo for 60 seconds, and rest for 60 seconds...and then do it four more times.

My rep count was good (218 reps total, including both swings and squats, for all five rounds), but my form for the swings BLEW until the last couple of rounds. Which is probably why I was able to do so many. Squats were my stronger move - my legs are pretty diesel. But my grip strength SUCKS, and by the second or third round I had to put the kettlebell down a few times to shake out my wrists and hands.

Once again, 14 minutes of "real work," and I was pouring sweat and ready to collapse. This crossfit thing is no joke. I definitely need to work on my abs - my back strength is OK, but my abs are much, much weaker. Looks like I know what I'll be doing on my non-class days.

Time to get out and enjoy my day of freedom! Happy holiday weekend!