20 Jul

An Unexpected Competition

This past week at class, while I was in the middle of a 30-second passive hang on the pull-up bar as part of the warm-up, my coach Danny starts telling me that I should sign up for the Twin City Throwdown, which was going to be held at CrossFit Kingfield just a few days later. With my feet dangling, I was non-committal. He continued to encourage me to think about it and put in a final reminder before I left.

Secretly I was itching to compete again. I am planning on doing the Granite Games, but I was ready to be back in the arena. I had seen pictures of the Sisu Summer Throwdown on Facebook and was cursing myself that I hadn’t signed up.  As awful as it feels, I wanted that nervous stomach, constant sense of having to pee, anxious feeling that only comes through competition. By the next day, right as registration was closing, I signed up for the Men’s Scaled division.

The Twin City Throwdown was a great way to get my feet wet again as it only involved two events and there were only 32 competitors in total. It was efficiently run and a great crowd came out to watch. Plus, it started at 10am and was over by Noon. However, that didn’t make it feel any less important in terms of giving it my all and going for the win.

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EVENT 1

AMRAP / 10 minutes of 2k Row buy-in then max single unders.

I can honestly say I never rowed a 2k that hard in my life. My strategy was to keep my splits below 2 minutes. I started by hovering around 1:45 and it slowly inched it ways up the further I got. It hit the 2:00 mark once or twice, but overall I kept it pretty consistent between 1:45 and 1:57 and resulted in a time of 7:33, which was a personal PR.

Getting off the rower to go into the single-unders, my legs were as shaky as you imagine. Plus, I was having a hard time focusing as I was breathing hard and tired already. I got my act together after some misfires and actually did the final 30 seconds mostly unbroken for a total of 201.

For scoring purposes, the time on the row was one score and the amount of double unders was a second scored event. There were 8 men total in my division. I took 3rd place in the row and 3rd place in the single-unders. There were also 5 men in the Rx division who did the same 2k row. So out of the 13 total men, I came in 5th in the 2k row.

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EVENT 2
4 Rounds for time of 3 Squat Cleans + 4 Front Squats + 5 shoulder to overhead at 95#

The morning moved quickly and we basically right into the next event. The heats weren’t taking up the full 10 minute time cap and there was little to do in terms of switching out weights so my heat went earlier than expected. So I downed a bottle of water and devoured a Quest bar as I was felt so hungry after finishing event 1. I also had a little costume change into a fresh shirt as it was extremely warm in the gym and, like everyone else, I was sweating a ton.

I warmed up a bit and the weight felt heavy and my “squatter” felt tight. Another quick pee and it was time to go. Surprisingly, when the clock started, the weight felt lighter than I thought it was going to. The trick of the complex was to just string it all together each round. I’m not sure if it was round 3 or round 4 but I had a mental block and dropped the bar after the 3 squat cleans rather than just going right into the front squats. The extra cleans definitely slowed things today but I was moving at a decent enough pace. I also had one no rep on a shoulder to overhead as my feet weren’t completely under the bar.

I finished in 4:01, which meant I took 5th place in the event. Those little mistakes added up as I was 30 seconds off from the cluster of where 2nd, 3rd and 4th place finished.

As I was in the last heat, the score were tallied and minutes later they announced the winners. Points in each events were given based on what place you took. The person with the least amount of points won. I had 11 total and ended up coming in 4th. The 3rd place finisher had a score of 10. A one point difference!

My mistakes in the strength complex were to blame. But maybe if I had better control after I got off the rower I could have gotten more single-under and caught 2nd place.  Lessons learned for next time about maintaining focus throughout and controlling energy levels.

Regardless of not making the podium, it felt great to be out there. In my head and heart, I am a very competitive person. I’ve spoken about how in the past fear held me back from even showing up. In the end, I don’t need the trophies or the prizes. I just need to know that I am putting myself out there and striving to do my best. I was sitting on the bench these last few months and it is time to get back in the game.

15 Jul

Why I Still Believe in CrossFit

Four years ago I went to my first CrossFit class. The workout that day was Fran, one of the most brutal benchmarks WODs. It involves 21 – 15 – 9 thrusters and pull-ups for time. I’ve kept a training journal since the beginning and my notes indicate that it took me 11 minutes and 40 seconds that warm summer day using a 35 pound bar and a blue assistance band. Many questioned my sanity on why I would ever return to the gym after such a harsh introduction, but I did week after week and year after year. And here I am today, still going to class and always a bit anxious and excited that they will say the workout that day is Fran.

Finding CrossFit was a turning point in my life. I had been living in Minneapolis for almost a year and pretty much hated it. I had a dismal social life that involved superficial friendships with my neighbors, which mostly resulted in drunken nights wondering what I was doing. I was also spinning my wheels trying to get “fit” by running 5Ks and giving little thought to my nutrition. But that all changed when I entered the box.

I had met the owner and he told me the story of his own transformation through CrossFit. An overweight depressed cubicle nerd who went from staring at screens to becoming a total beast who was transmitting what he learned to others everyday. The gym had weights and pull-ups bars and jump ropes and rowers and I thought this has to be better than anything I am doing on my own. I signed up that same day.

Since then, I have completed two 1/2 marathons and three Tough Mudders, visited boxes in Fargo, Las Vegas and Bangkok, competed in individual and team challenges, trained with Games athletes in Tennessee and done beach workouts in Nicaragua. I have had plenty of ups and downs and PRs and everything in between. I still can’t do a muscle-up, but I can string multiple pull-ups and do double-unders. I’ve taken up boxing and stand-up paddle boarding and have taken Muay-Thai lessons in Chiang Mai and gone  white-water rafting in Costa Rica.

CrossFit is performing “functional movements that are constantly varied at high intensity.” It is preparation for a life that is active, not passive. Everything is scalable and emphasizes that we are all on the same path but just at different points. One person might be able to carry a 50 pound kettlebell across the room, while another struggles with a 10 pound one. Both individuals support one another because they recognize a shared mindset. They put in the work and similarly commit themselves to self-improvement.

CrossFit bleeds over into daily life so easily. Once you have done that first strict pull-up in class, you are anxious to do a second. That can-do attitude is hard not to take with you into the workplace and into your relationships. If I can lift more weight and move faster and constantly improve in the gym, why can’t I do that in other aspects of life? You soon find the answer is that you can and so you do. You start to make changes to what you eat and the activities you partake in with friends and family, you start to push yourself on the job to accomplish more and not restrict your goals to just the bumper plates.

“Eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch and no sugar. Keep intake to levels that will support exercise but not body fat. Practice and train major lifts: Deadlift, clean, squat, presses, C&J, and snatch. Similarly, master the basics of gymnastics: pull-ups, dips, rope climb, push-ups, sit-ups, presses to handstand, pirouettes, flips, splits, and holds. Bike, run, swim, row, etc, hard and fast. Five or six days per week mix these elements in as many combinations and patterns as creativity will allow. Routine is the enemy. Keep workouts short and intense. Regularly learn and play new sports.”  ~Greg Glassman

Cut to four years later and I am in the best shape of my life. I have an amazing group of friends that I initially got to know while we sweated and grunted together during workouts. I’ve also met a wide array of kind, generous  and inspiring people. I have come into my own. I truly believe it is all because I lifted a barbell that first day and said I want to be better and stronger than I am today. And I’ve said that everyday since. This is what I learned at CrossFit and this is why I still believe in CrossFit.

 

07 Jul

Hitting my Macros

Last month, I started attending classes at CrossFit Kingfield.  After five months of doing my own thing and not being consistent with any of my training, outside of attending a weekly yoga and boxing class, it was like I hit a giant reset button.  I had to be humble and take a step back in regards to all my lifts and recognize that my form and technique needed work. In addition, my numbers had gone down.  I was doing many of the WODs scaled rather than Rx.  The phrase “Use it or lose it” seems to apply.

But I was okay with this. I feel like the new gym has given me the opportunity to reexamine all my lifts and fix issues right away so that I don’t continue down a path of little progress and failed attempts. Coach Chris has met with me for the past two weeks one-on-one to drill the Oly lifts and all the coaches have noted progress just over the past month. But there is still a lot to learn and lot more improvement needed.

Strength, or lack thereof, has always been an issue for me. In addition to consistent and focused training, the most difficult piece of the puzzle for me has been nutrition. I’ve lost weight in the last six months as I am constantly underfed. My Paleo adventures in the kitchen have led to some amazing recipes and meals and definitely a lot more vegetables in my diet, but it has failed to provide enough calories and carbs.

With all that said, Coach Danny and I met to discuss my short-term and long-term goals. At the top of my list is getting competition ready for the Granite Games in September. We mapped out a training schedule, but it would all be wasted effort if I don’t fix my food intake. Knowing I need to eat more, Danny recommended I hit a daily goal of 200 grams of protein, 70 grams of fat and 260 grams of carbohydrates.

macros

These three are macronutrients, or macros, which provide calories or energy.  Interestingly, carbohydrate provides 4 calories per gram, protein provides 4 calories per gram and Fat provides 9 calories per gram. The McKinley Health Center does a better job than I can of explaining macros in this article.

So how do I hit these numbers everyday? That’s a good question and one that I am trying to figure out. I bought some staples to have on hand in my freezer and pantry, like white rice, chicken breasts, eggs and bacon. I am also relying on two protein shakes per day to help hit that 200g goal.  With any new diet, it takes some trial and error to get it right.

Here’s a glimpse at my breakfast and dinner yesterday:

Protein Fat Carbs
Eggs (2) 12 10 0
Bacon (2 slices) 5 7 0
Eggo Waffles (2) 4 7 24
Jasmine Rice (1 serving) 3 0 40
Cooked Shrimp (1 cup) 18 0 1

I have a mix of some food higher in protein and some food higher in carbs. Even after these two meals, I am still shy of my goal. It definitely takes a lot of experimenting and some research to figure out the best food combos. Plus, a lot of planning out meals ahead of time. In terms of resources, I have found a few that have been helpful so far:

  • FoodMacros.com – a simple website that allows you to easily search and save meals that fit into your macros.
  • MyFitnessPal – the app and website allows you to keep a daily diary of your food intake. It utilizes crowdsourcing to help you easily find everything from brand name items to generic meats and vegetables to enter into your diary and see the nutritional content.
  • OnTheRegimen.com – While the website will try to sell you on online coaching, the blog has some good tips about measuring food and counting calories.

In addition to these websites and apps, I’ve been on the look out for articles to get smart on tracking my macros. Here’s a good article from Breaking Muscle that explains the IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros) approach.

Overall, the main takeaway is that I need to eat more or I am just going to be spinning my wheels at the gym wondering why I’m not getting any bigger or stronger.

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24 Jun

The Road to St. Cloud

I have been feeling really good lately. Summer is here. Things have been going well at work. I got a new pair of kicks. And most importantly, I started going to a CrossFit gym again.

Since June 1st, I have been hitting up classes at CrossFit Kingfield four times per week. The return to a more consistent training schedule has improved my overall mood and well-being.

Riding strong on this high, I find myself itching to compete again. I feel like I hit a giant reset button when I stepped into my new box, but it’s not like starting from scratch. There are definitely improvements to be made in my lifting form and technique and I can always get stronger. But I have now almost 4 years under my belt and have proven to myself that I am resilient and that I am capable of achieving success. It’s time to get back at it. I want to keep up this pace with my training schedule, lock in my nutrition and make this summer dedicated to my continued improvement.

With that said, the Granite Games are now on my horizon. It is a three-day competition taking place in September up in St. Cloud, Minnesota. These are the same games that originally made me want to compete. There is a four-week qualifier that just started. It is required if you want to compete at the individual level. I have my sights set on entering the Open Team scaled division and so the qualifier isn’t necessary, but I want the challenge (and the access to early registration).

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So this past Sunday morning after some poor planning of going to the 11am class at CrossFit Kingfield where we did “Fran”, I drove over to Solcana CrossFit at 12:30pm to do the qualifier with my buddy Ryan. He and I met through our previous gym and we have competed against each other at Freeze Fest and the Dakota Games in 2014. Ryan has made so much progress over the last year that I am still chasing him, but he now has an amazing head start.

My Solcananut friends Eric, Lara, Josh, Sampson and Mike all took time from their own lifting routine to watch and cheer us on. They counted reps and kept track of the clock and made sure we got back on the bar and kept pushing.  The burpees were fine and actually felt like rest, but those hang squat cleans, even scaled at 115#, were brutal. My form was not as good as it should be and I was making a long workout feel even longer. Nevertheless, I trudged through and got 5  full rounds. Ryan got 6 rounds and 9 reps. We had a good recovery meal right after of beer, burgers and sweet potato fries.

Week 1 is in the books. I now have the weekend of September 12th circled on my calendar as it is going to approach really quickly. I’ve got a team in place. It is a three-person team of the same gender and so I have Ryan on board and we’ll be joined by Nick Zen, who lives here in Minneapolis but was also on the Nicaragua trip and at Power Monkey Camp with me. All our group/partner workouts in Playa Madera emphasized how much fun being on a team can be. Nick brilliantly suggested we even call ourselves Team Diacachimba!

16 Jun

What I Did For Love

Kiss today goodbye, the sweetness and the sorrow…

Last week was interesting to say the least. It all started by saying, “Yes!” A local talk radio channel here in the Twin Cities – MyTalk 107.1 – was hosting a contest to win a “mystery date” with Tam, one of the co-hosts of the morning nine to noon show. They were looking for bachelors like myself to enter online and so I did.

I was one of eight whose picture and profile was then placed online and listeners could vote for their favorite and the top four guys would go on a group date with Tam – a boat ride on Lake Como. Her co-hosts would be along for the ride and at the end they were going to pick two guys who would each get a one-on-date with Tam.

With the feverish support of my sister and my more social-media prone friends, I was boosted to the final four and found myself speeding from a work event in Champlin across the metro to St. Paul to make sure I got on the love boat before it embarked on a three hour tour.

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With a few minutes to spare, I made the boat and actually had a really fun time with the group. (Check out their recap.) Tam’s radio co-hosts asked the expected questions – best concert, cats or dogs, tattoos – as we went around the lake with two college kids behind the wheel from the rental company, who laughed the whole time in between telling us about the dead people that were found in the lake.

To drag things out, they didn’t pick the final two that night. Instead, I found myself live on the air with the women (around the 11-minute mark) explaining some of my answers. Then, despite the chagrin of my mother and sister (who were now both fully invested), I was not selected.

So you might be asking yourself what does this have to do with health and fitness and competition? I’ll get to that.

As I am sure you noticed the similarities behind the mystery date contest and The Bachelor, it was no less than perfect timing that producers from the show were at the Mall of America hosting auditions this past weekend. I jokingly posted about how it was fate and how my rejection was on leading to this next chapter on “my journey”.  In the back of my head, I knew I wasn’t kidding about going. I was saying yes again.

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Thus my Saturday afternoon was spent sitting in the rotunda with random other men and women – whether or not it was ill founded – who all thought they had a shot at being picked to be on TV and fall in love. I questioned why I was there. But I kept coming back to the thought, “Why not?” And so I waited and eventually went and did a 5-minute interview with a producer for the show and answered some generic questions and then showed myself out when it was over.

I might sound facetious giving the goofy nature of this very true story, but applying for the radio date, being on that boat, going on air and auditioning for The Bachelor was important to me. It was all about me feeling confident enough to put myself out there. To abandon all fear that I was going to be embarrassed or fail, which mind I did for sure at winning the date with Tam (and I am pretty sure the casting directors aren’t knocking down my door anytime soon). But who cares? I’ve lost before. I’ll lose again.

The fact is that I had fun. I took a risk. I had an experience. And it is all ridiculous and silly and my friends will give me a hard time about it and it will be a favorite anecdote to tell at the bar, but I’d rather have a series of misfortunate events than life be a non-event at all. You try, you fail, you pick yourself up, dust yourself off and start all over again.

Won’t forget, can’t regret, what I did for love