The Portland Zoo

A super fun day. Woke up early here in Portland at my parents’ condo. Decent, but not great sleep (trains kept me up from 1:30 to 3:30 am). Had a 2 block bfast and then rode my Dad’s bike over to CrossFit Portland to join in their 6:30 am group session.

CrossFit Portland

The folks at CrossFit Portland were super nice (though they did make me pay a $20 drop in fee, so I guess I paid for the privilege). Trainer Katie Emery led the class. Katie, if you read this please don’t take this the wrong way, but let me say that Katie has an outstandingly powerful posterior chain along with flexibility and control. I was impressed. Thanks for hosting me, CrossFit Portland!


We did an outstanding and difficult warm-up sequence, of the kind that makes you want to say at the end: “whew! thanks for the workout, guys.”

2 rounds of: Bear Crawl, Inch Worm, Crab Walk, Spider Crawl (about 50′ each); 2 rounds of: max reps for 30 seconds each of: jumping jacks, burpees, mountain climbers; 3 rounds of: Bar Traverses and Rope Climb (it’s only a 12′ rope); 3 parkour “under bars.”

Of these warm-ups, I had never done the inch worm or spider crawl, and as a part of a CrossFit warm-up I had never done jumping jacks, mountain climbers, or bar traverses. It was an interesting and stimulating (in the neuromuscular sense of the word) warm-up.

WOD: “Strength Tuesday”

Front Squat: 3-3-3-3-3
sets alternating with
One arm DB Press: 3-3-3-3-3

Front Squats: 10×45#, 5×65#, 3×95#, 3×115#, 3×120#, 3×125#, 3×130#. One Arm DB Press: 3×30# (each arm of course), 3×40#, 3×45#, 3×40#, 3×45#.

Cool Down

Heel walking, “death stretch,” (a quad stretch), prone scorpion variations, heel walking, Cossack squat switches.

The Portland Zoo: Fun in PDX with Friends

Later, breakfast with Mo and Sean and Casey, the Oregon Zoo with young guest Simon Walsh (and later, his momma Deb and sister Sadie), lunch with Ben, Debbie, and Simon.

Packing Up. PUC New Rules.

It was a day of packing and getting ready for a travel day.

So, a “rest day.” I also even got a nap. I fed myself well. I did a couple of pull-ups, for fun.

I had good numbers on my weekly weigh-in (181.0 lbs, 13% body fat), even if my weekly calorie consumption was way up for the week (3042 per day on average over the past 7 days).

My next workout day will be Tuesday AM. I plan to visit CrossFit Portland (Portland, OR) for their 6:30 am class. That should be fun. Then next Wednesday is another travel day (although I may get a chance to go early that morning and row in a scull on the Willamette river with my old friend Ben.

I probably won’t post anything on Monday, but we’ll see.

Pull-Up Challenge, New Rules

I promised to say something about the new rules for the pull-up challenge. The new rules are simple, and are two: 1) you have to complete all the reps for a day on the same calendar day, or you can’t advance to the next day in the challenge; (2) you can take as many rest days as you want.

This change in rules keeps a measure of the integrity of the game, while relaxing its pace in order to accommodate my need for recovery and fun in life. The first of the new rules puts the focus on work capacity over time, while the second one legalizes what I’ve been doing for three weeks, namely, taking more days off than on.

One final note: I accidentally skipped day 33. So the last day will be counted as day 33, and I will do day 34 again. I don’t know if that will be Tuesday, probably not, or Wednesday, probably not, or next week some time. But it will be within a week from Tuesday.

Peace out!

“Anna.” PUC Day 34.

I binged hard on food last night, ending up the day with nearly 3700 calories! In retrospect, this eating behavior was totally unconscious, even though I recall “deciding” to eat more, and then more, and then some more. Such behaviors could prove dangerous to my well being (i.e body fat percentage, weight, waistline, and athletic performance) if they continue. Note to self: time to reboot.

I did get some decent sleep last night. 2 block or so breakfast. And this mornin I am off to CrossFit Asheville for the 9:00 am class.

This is my last CFA class for almost 7 weeks!

Warm Up

Agility; Stretching; squats (15); push-ups (20); knees to elbows (15); pull-ups (10 w/ 8 as band assisted).


Find 3 rep max for Turkish Get Up.

3×20# kettlebell (each arm)
3×25# kettlebell (each arm)
3×30# dumbbell (e.a.)
3×35# kettlebell (e.a.)
2×40# olympic bar (35# plus 2.5# weights), only on left side, before time was called.

WOD: “Anna”

Apparently today’s CFA workout is named after one of our Level I certified members, Anna, in celebration of her birthday! I didn’t know it was her birthday during the WOD. Happy birthday Anna.

600m run
10 TGUs (5 per arm)
400m run
8 TGUs
200m run
6 TGUs
400m run
4 TGUs
600m run
2 TGUs
For time.
Use approximately 70% of your 3RM for the Turkish Get-up.

I used a 25# kettlebell.

Later, Alligator!

See you all in August, CrossFit Asheville!

Pull-Up Challenge Day 34

I’ve decided to continue on with my Pull-Up Challenge, and tonight I did 34 pull-ups. Results: 12 sets: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, 2, 3, 4. Alternating grips of course.

There will be new rules governing the challenge but I will discuss these in a later post.

“No Limits”

Played poker last night with my whiskey-swilling, cigarette-smoking, pizza-scarfing comrades in vice, and I managed to escape with minimal damage (certainly no cigarettes, only two shots of whiskey, and only one slice of Papa John’s Meat Lover’s Pizza — call it a mini-cheat; it did not appreciably throw off the day’s totals). Went to bed by about 1:00 am, but could not fall asleep until 3:00 am. Reset the alarm… got up at 6:15, 1 block b’fast, 7:00 am CFA workout. Yeah that’s right, I got 3 hours of sleep. I’m gonna need coffee… and then a nap.

Warm Up

Agility drills (karaokes footwork of various types, standing broad jumps, one legged broad jumps, bear crawls, crab walks, etc.); dislocates, sampsons, hips, hams, calves, push-ups (15), squats (15), knees to elbows (15), pull-ups (12).

I gotta get back on the Pull-Up tip. I can feel my Lats wilting.

We finished warming up with Burgener clean progression.

The WOD: “No Limits”

Today’s CrossFit Asheville WOD:
20 minute AMRAP:
5 Thrusters
7 Hang Power Clean
10 Sumo Deadlift High-pull
Rx’d Men: 95#; Women: 65#.

No desire to kill myself; I am satisfied with doing more than the Rx’d women’s weight. I used a 20kg bar and 15# per side, or 74.1 pounds.

Results: 8 rounds exactly.

This is a great workout. Think about it: 8 rounds is 40 thrusters, 56 HPCs, and 80 SDHPs. All in 20 minutes. 176 reps is a lot of work. Gotta love CrossFit.

Anticipation and Retrospection

Years ago, when running and Globo-gym style weightlifting were my fitness mainstays, I used to tell my running partner Alex that all our hard work wasn’t for this week, but for next week, and the week after that. You don’t go out for your Thursday morning run hoping that all your stubborn belly flab will be gone on Friday night. You go out knowing that, in spite of all the factors that you can’t change or control, your whole body and even your very mode of being in the world is just a cumulative product of the many small choices you are making every day.

Work hard, and anticipate that your efforts will be rewarded. But they will not be rewarded immediately. It’s not pie in the sky, it’s delayed gratification. It’s a process. It takes time.

A good rest day allows you to relax and reflect on your progress, and it lets you build and restore your body. Our physical (and mental? and spiritual?) gains do not come in the midst of the work, but after. And they are not sealed, and not assimilated, unless we rest.

Evaluating My Progress

About one month ago, on Sunday, May 31st, I weighed in at 181.5 and registered 14% body fat. That Sunday represented the culmination of a five month period of steady weight loss (see my Weight Chart). In that period I had registered a drop in my weight almost every week. Sometimes my weight loss was as low as 1 pound, sometimes as much as 3.5 pounds. I had also seen a steady trend downward in my body fat percentage. On average, I observed a drop of one percent every one to three weeks.

I was ecstatic to have reached that point. I was within 1.5 pounds of my target weight (180.0 lbs), and, with a body fat % lower than 15%, I had, for the first time in my adult life, achieved a medically healthy ratio of lean and fat mass.

But to be honest I was also a bit worried. I didn’t want to overshoot my target and keep losing weight. I’ve used my obsessive qualities to lose weight but the goal isn’t weight loss for it’s own sake. The goal is health and vitality and strength and athletic performance. Basically, I had reached a solid point and I knew that I wanted to hang on to my lean mass (156.1 pounds) from here on out.

The question was, how to do that? Well, one theory is to stop losing weight by eating a bit more. So that’s what I did. In particular I added more fat to my diet every day. I also let myself eat a bit more protein, and just a bit more carbohydrates.

How did this go? Well, three weekends ago, on Sunday, June 7th, I weighed in at 184.0 and again registered 14% body fat. Was this a 2.5 pound gain, 86% of which was lean mass? Unlikely. One doesn’t gain lean mass so quickly. More than likely, this difference of 2.5 pounds was due to hydration and digestive system contents. But it could also have been fat. It’s hard to be sure. I do have some additional data to consider, however. I am pretty sure (based on my food journal) that my average calorie intake for that week was about 2700 calories per day. By themselves, these numbers don’t add up to much. But over time, comparing my weight and recorded body fat percentage with the average weekly calories could be a guide to how much I should eat if I want to maintain weight, while losing fat, and building muscle.

Two weekends ago, on June 13th, I weighed in at 181.5 again, and again registered 14% body fat. And again my average daily calorie intake for the week was about 2700 calories per day. What does this mean? Well, it means that over a two week period of taking in about 2700 calories a day, my weight had remained essentially flat. This was a pretty strong indicator that I can maintain my current weight at 2700 calories per day. But whether I lose fat and gain muscle doing that is harder to say. The evidence pointed to neither. And yet, I had continued to work out… hard… and I suspected that I was still building muscle mass.

This past weekend, on June 20th, I weighed in at 179.5 and registered, for the first time, 13% body fat. This data corresponded to a 2 pound overall weight loss and 2.1 pound loss of fat, i.e. a .1 pound gain in muscle over a 2 week period (at that rate we’re talking about gaining only 1 pound of muscle every 20 weeks). Now, during this particular week I had averaged, it seems, more like 2600 calories per day.

What does this teach me? Before this week I had spent a full month registering at 14% body fat. Now I had hit 13%. Should I eat between 2600 and 2700 calories per day? Would that get me what I wanted?

The answers to these questions won’t become clear for some time. So far this week, I’m averaging more like 2800 calories. We’ll see where this takes me, when I weigh in on Sunday.

In future posts, I will just put these figures together into a little table and try to project forward (to anticipate) what my calorie needs are week to week. I am going to focus on the goal of maintaining weight while holding my body fat % steady (since I am unlikely to see it move downwards more often than once per month).


About 6 hours sleep. 1 block breakfast. 6:00 am CFA workout.

Warm Up

Agility drills; shoulder dislocates; Sampsons; hip-mobility; calf and hamstring stretching; push-ups (15); squats (15); knees-to-elbows (15); pull-ups (medium band assisted, 15).

WOD: Alex

The CFA WOD is “Alex”, in honor of one of our members who is leaving, after today, for the Marines.

3 rounds of:
400m run for time
Max ring dips in 400m run time
Power Cleans using ring dip reps for time (M-115lbs/W-75lbs)
3 minutes rest b/w rounds
Post slowest run time, total ring dips, slowest power clean time.

I used two small rubber bands to assist on the ring dips and a 40 kg set-up on the cleans.

Round One: 1:17, 21, 4:41 finish (i.e. cleans in 2:07)
Round Two: 1:25, 16, 4:45 finish (i.e. cleans in 1:55)
Round Three: 1:28, 10, 3:30 finish (clean time unknown; the dips interval was cut short by accident)

A fun, kinda sweaty workout. My power cleans felt good. Naturally, I could have gone heavier, but I want to keep babying my back. Which is actually feeling fine today, a week later. Whew!

Two more workouts with CrossFit Asheville before we depart for the summer. I’m going to miss everybody.

"The Flash"

Slept in a bit, cause I could… Lena didn’t wake until after 7:00. Even with her two wakings between 12 and 1 I managed to get at least 6 hours of sleep. Cleaning around the house, breakfast was lots of coffee and “1.5” block of food (but actually 1.5p/5f/1.5c). Note to self: that much extra fat wasn’t a great idea even a full hour before the am workout. Made it to the 9:00 am CFA workout.

Agility Warm Up

Then the standards (ADs, SD, SS, HM, stretching). Push-Up (15), Squats (10), Knees to Elbows (K2Es) (12), Pull-Ups, medium band (10).


Worked on 5 rep max for Shoulder Press.

Results: 10×45#, 5×75#, 5×95#, 5×105# (PR), 5×95#, 5×95#, 5×95#

WOD: The Flash

The CrossFit Asheville WOD was:
Complete max rounds in 15 minutes of the following:
100 single jump ropes or 25 double unders
100 feet suicide drill with turn points every 20 feet
5 handstand push-ups
10 heavy kettlebell swings
12 front squats holding medicine ball

Used 44 lb Kettlebell; did band-assisted HSPUs; 12 lb medicine ball.

Results: 3 rounds & 1 suicide set.

In the heat and humidity, I got a good sweat going.

Strength Gains

I have three data points on this blog for shoulder work.

  1. Today
  2. June 6th
  3. April 30th

On April 30th and June 6th I established a 1 rep max SP of 120#. I don’t have any data on a 3 rep or 5 rep max for shoulder press. So I am glad I decided to do the 5 rep max today. By the end, doing three work sets at 95 lbs, I felt strong. In fact, when these work sets of 5 reps of shoulder press are compared with the work I did on the Push Press and the Push Jerk on 6/6, I am a little embarrassed! Obviously I am even stronger than I thought. I think that these work sets and my 105# five rep PR points the way to increasing the 120# PR in the 1 rep.

Injury Check in; Yoga/Stretching

Back is feeling on the mend. I could feel the twinges during the WOD but no big deal. I noticed that on June 6th I was complaining of left shoulder pain. Nothing remains of that, which, in retrospect, seems not to have even been an injury.

I did a fair amount of Yoga stretching last night. In fact I even got my internal heat going a little bit. It felt good and I plan to do some more tonight. I am going to focus on combining about 5 cycles of a warrior and standing pose sequence with some seated and twisting poses.

"Mini Fran." PUC Postponed.

Lousy sleep, only from 1:00 am to 6:30 am. I went to bed before 11:00 pm, but couldn’t fall asleep. Thinking about so many things. But I felt ok in the morning and I jetted off to the 7:00 am workout at CFA. No coffee. No breakfast. Only about 8 oz. of water. So I knew I was asking for trouble. But it was alright.

When I got there I saw that the workout was “Fran.” Ouch. And bad timing for me. My first experience with “Fran” was when I was a CrossFit Newbie (see Feb. 16, 2009), and today, as luck would have it, I encountered her again when I was recovering from an acute back injury.

Never mind, I decided to do a mini-Fran, and let’s just say this: “it is what it is.”

Warm Up

Agility drills (footwork, arms, crawling, etc.), Shoulder Dislocates, Sampson, Hip Mobility, Hamstrings and Calf stretches, Squats (10), Push-Ups (15), Knees to Elbows (12), Pull-Ups (medium band assist, 10).

I was happy and surprised at how easily I knocked out the K2Es. I did 12 in a row with just a tiny little kip to get me up. Knees touched the elbows every time.

Strength and Skill

Rx’d was work on Kipping Pull-Ups or Muscle Ups. I worked a bit on the Kipping Pull Up. Nothing major. I just took it easy.

WOD: “Mini-Fran”

For me, Mini-Fran today was:
15, 12, 9 of Thrusters (65 lbs), and Pull-Ups (medium band assist)
for time.

Results: 6:54.

This felt ok. I felt a little wimpy for not going all-out, especially knowing that both Tom and Rustan had pushed themselves as hard as they could go during the 6:00 am workout, using no resistance bands, and prescribed weights.

My back is recovering and I did not aggravate it further with the thrusters or the pull-ups. That was the goal. I also got the metabolic rush which told me at least that I was not sandbagging it through my Mini-Fran, even if she was light on the weight, easy on the pull-ups, and smaller on the reps.

It’s hard to compare this case of “Fran” with the previous one in February. I did 9 fewer reps, and I did 10 fewer pounds, but I used less resistance on the pull-ups. And I personally weigh a lot less; I weighed in at 179.5 yesterday, and I weighed in at 211 on Feb 15th. But the fact is that I did this one almost 9 minutes faster than the last one. I am clearly stronger, faster, and more capable of putting out the power now. But the results are not comparable, strictly speaking.

Pull-Up Challenge Postponed

It’s my challenge, so I make the rules. I know I have been poking through the end of this first third of the challenge, having stretched one week’s worth out into about 3 weeks worth of time so far. But until I am sure that my back is going to recover without getting further tweaked, I am going to hold off on the extra pull-up training.

Day of Fathers

Today Yael let me sleep in (I slept until almost 8:00 am!). Then she brought me coffee and the Sunday NYT in bed. According to me, this is the holy trinity.

Later, brunch at Jesse and V’s with their baby Annalise. Beautiful. We all went on a walk, and I had a good time walking around with Lena.

Then: Lena took a good nap. I talked with my dad, then managed finally to rebuild and restore my old blog, which I had crashed pretty badly two days ago. Then I took the dogs out for a good long 2 mile walk in the neighborhood. I wore my Vibram Five Fingers. It was a light rest day walkabout, really fun. I met some guy named James riding his longboard. The whole walk got me thinking about skateboarding. I haven’t gone in months.

In a few minutes: a 3 year old’s birthday party and father’s day gathering at Mike’s. Later: relaxation and some yoga stretching, getting ready for the return of the WOD tomorrow.

Happy Father’s Day everyone!

Yoga to the Rescue. Swimming at the YMCA.

Crossfit is great. I love it, and, barring actual physical disability, at this point in my life I plan always to do it, or apply its principles to what I do.

Did you sense the “however” approaching? Yes, it’s here. “However,” I see this morning that there are times when CrossFit will not be enough. In particular, CrossFit seems ill equipped for relief and recuperation from pain associated with acute injury. For that you need something else.

Two days ago, I sprained the muscles of my lower ribs (both sides) on my back during the CrossFit Asheville WOD “In the Fight.” I regard this as my own fault. Four problems contributed to the injury. (1) rushing the movement; (2) Straining with my face and body beyond the force required to complete the motion; (3) a lapse in form caused by fatigue; (4) itself exacerbated by training on what should have been a rest day. More simply put, on Thursday am I was already stiff and sore in my lower back from the previous day’s workout, and I should have stayed home; instead I worked out and pushed myself too hard and hurt myself.

You can’t deadlift yourself out of back pain… I think. (Actually, I’ll ask Corey, Shanna, and Randy what they think about that.) But in any case, I knew yesterday morning immediately, as I cringed just getting out of bed, that a CrossFit WOD was probably not the correct prescription for my aching back. After all, the WOD was a “back squat” and then a grueling partner WOD involving two men lifting 7000 pounds from ground to overhead (in somewhere between 52-156 reps). Even if the reps are shared, I needed rest, first and foremost.

I also needed some kind of movement to get blood flowing in my back, to keep range of motion going, and to relieve acute pain. YOGA to the rescue. It’s days like yesterday, and today, where I am grateful that I have several years of Yoga practice under my belt.

Saturday AM Yoga Practice

Today, I began the day with posterior-chain focused Yoga stretching. Cat Cow, Child’s Pose, Warrior 1, forward bend, pigeon, cobbler, hurdler’s stretch, etc. Basically, trying to get full range of motion into a mid-back that feels fused and frozen.

Swimming at the Y

Yesterday, I spent some time in the pool with my family. That was fun, and in the pool all my back pains went straight away. It’s amazing what some zero-gravity play can do.

So today, I went to the YMCA during Lena’s nap. I swam maybe 10 to 12 laps, with various strokes, in the lap pool, and then did some stretching and pool calisthenics in the warmer family swim pool, using some pool noodles as flotation aids.

Then some time in the steam room.

Yoga Stretching in the Evening

I did some rolling and stretching and sitting again in the evening. It was good for me. By the end of the day it began to be clear that the pain I have been suffering is muscular rather than skeletal (thank god) and will inevitably subside if I care for it properly.