Thursday, April 30, 2009

Countdown to 30: 5 Days to Go

4/1: 157.0
4/2: 155.0
4/3: 155.2
4/4: 154.6
4/5: 154.8
4/6: 154.2
4/7: 153.2
4/8: 154.8
4/9: 152.6
4/10: 151.2
4/11: 153.2
4/12: 152.2
4/13: 152.2
4/14: 152.4
4/15: 153.2
4/16: 152.2
4/17: 152.0
4/18: 151.8
4/19: 152.0
4/20: 152.0
4/21: 152.0
4/22: 152.6
4/23: 151.4
4/24: 151.4
4/25: 151.6
4/26: 151.8
4/27: 151.6
4/28: 152.6
4/29: 153.6
4/30: 151.2

Wed was supposed to be a rest day, but I woke up to 153.6 on the scale, and just felt a bit derailed. Now, I know enough about trends, moving averages and the like to not freak out about a jump like this, but it was still a bit discouraging. So I did what any reasonable fitness freak would do: I called the only person I know more fitness focused than I am for a pep talk.

Hesper did not disappoint, and after a short chat with her I felt much better about my uptick. She also confirmed what I was thinking: for the psychology of it, and to help with hydration, little light cardio would do me good. So, even though it was my rest day, I dropped into a spin class at the gym.

Now on Monday, we had a sub, and that wasn't the best experience (she was nuts). My regular spin instructor was still out of town, so I was a bit hesitant about class Wednesday, but I knew we would have a different instructor, and I figured I could always just do my own thing on the bike if need be.

As it turned out, the Wednesday sub did a hell of a great job. He was motivating, had great music, and led us through a sprint and hill based workout that really wore my ass out. Took the rest of Wednesday off from training but definitely felt like I made the right decision about doing a little something. Thanks again for the advice, Hesper!

Today I was pleased to see I was back down to 151.2...that's a bit lower than my steady hold in the 151's from before my uptick, so I feel like I'm still on-track-ish, but I remain unconvinced that 150 is reachable in the next 5 days. We'll see.

This morning was super amazing spring weather: sunny, 60s, clear skys. Seattle had an uncharacteristically ugly, cold and protracted winter. So to finally see some sunshine is a really great thing. I did the only sensible thing and headed to Greenlake for a run. I figured I would do a fartlek work and just go at the speed and pace that felt good. That turned into some pretty focused Pose form work as I concentrated on pulling through and keeping my lower leg relaxed.

I definitely overused my calves -- they are so sore right now! -- but I am also really pleased with the feeling I was getting on my last two stretches of form work. I really could feel a pull from the hip flexor/core and it make a huge difference to the comfort and speed of the recovery portion of my stride. It always feels great when you get how something should feel, even if you aren't at the point where you can duplicate that accuracy over and over yet. There was also just a joy in running--I stayed off the hard surface path and ran through dirt, wood chips, grass, and a whole field that was practically white with mini daisies. Pretty hard not to smile when you are running through flowers.

This afternoon I had a WOD scheduled with Alison, who apparently is tired of waiting around for me to get her Crossfit on. She got together with another friend to do Micheal - 3 rounds for time of 800 meter sprints, 50 back extensions & 50 sit-ups - AN HOUR before she and I got together to do Elizabeth - 21, 15, 9: Cleans and Ring Dips. I heard this was her plan and texted her: "maybe you and I should just do a cardio WOD." She writes back: "Oh they use different muscles; I'll be fine." OMG, Alison has become a total firebreather. I am so happy!

So Elizabeth it was, and here's how it went down:

As rx:
21-15-9 reps of:
Clean 135 pounds
Ring dips

Modified (Erica):
21-15-9 reps of:
Clean 90 pounds (Started with 6 or so full cleans, then switched to hang power cleans when the going got really tough. Sort o feel like I wussed out in that way. I'll do some full clean skill work and hit it hard next time.)
Jumping bar dips
8:06ish

Modified (Alison):
21-15-9 reps of:
Clean 40 pounds (Hang Power Cleans)
Bench dips
6:58ish

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Countdown to 30: 7 Days to Go

4/1: 157.0
4/2: 155.0
4/3: 155.2
4/4: 154.6
4/5: 154.8
4/6: 154.2
4/7: 153.2
4/8: 154.8
4/9: 152.6
4/10: 151.2
4/11: 153.2
4/12: 152.2
4/13: 152.2
4/14: 152.4
4/15: 153.2
4/16: 152.2
4/17: 152.0
4/18: 151.8
4/19: 152.0
4/20: 152.0
4/21: 152.0
4/22: 152.6
4/23: 151.4
4/24: 151.4
4/25: 151.6
4/26: 151.8
4/27: 151.6
4/28: 152.6

One week to go. That jump this AM isn't helping my chances of hitting 150 by 30, but I continue to push forward with clean eating and hard intense workouts. I love how I mouthed off about my extra couple hundred calories in yesterday's post, only to see a one pound increase on the scale this morning. Typical. Rarely should one miss an opportunity to keep one's mouth shut.

Today: Crossfit WOD: One rep max, shoulder press 1 - 1 - 1 - 1- 1 - 1 - 1
My Shoulder Press from the CF Total was 90, so that was my goal, but it just wasn't in the cards today.

75 - 80 - 85 (F) - 85 (F) - 80 - 80 - 80 - 85 (F) - 85 (F) - 80 - 80

I tried and tried but couldn't stick an 85, so 80 is what it was today. Could be my shoulders are a bit fatigued from the 105 Sumo Deadlift High Pulls yesterday.

Then I did some super fun (in retrospect) skill work.

5 rounds of 50 double unders. Each round for time with full recovery between rounds. Set it up this way because I wanted the met con aspect, but I wanted the skill work part too. I knew that 5 Rounds for Time straight thru would have just smoked me, so there would have been no form work by half way thru.

So as it was, I was pretty happy with my times:
Round 1: 3:30
Round 2: 2:03
Round 3: 1:51
Round 4: 1:51
Round 5: 2:03

Since double unders are really hard for me, I'm very happy with these times. I'll keep this practice up and next time the Filthy 50 comes around I'm doing it as Rx the whole way...no single under subs for me! :)

PM: I hit up the C2 rower to work on form and get a little sweaty. Kevin gave me tons of feedback and instruction last Friday, and I was excited to put his pointers into practice.

I rowed 5000 meters for time in 22:36, averaging a 2:24/500 which is not horrible, but after a few sessions I'd like to see a sub 20 on that distance. Worked hard on PULL and wore my ass out. Felt good.

With one week to go, it's time to get back on track with food (not that I've been bad, just eating more maintenance level calories than fat cutting level calories). Had a massive bowl of clams in a cherry tomato & dijon broth that absolutely blew my socks off and I went back for seconds. Rounded that out with a big bowl of strawberries. I am now super full and happy, but think it's unlikely to see the scale drop tomorrow.


Monday, April 27, 2009

Countdown to 30: 8 Days to Go

4/1: 157.0
4/2: 155.0
4/3: 155.2
4/4: 154.6
4/5: 154.8
4/6: 154.2
4/7: 153.2
4/8: 154.8
4/9: 152.6
4/10: 151.2
4/11: 153.2
4/12: 152.2
4/13: 152.2
4/14: 152.4
4/15: 153.2
4/16: 152.2
4/17: 152.0
4/18: 151.8
4/19: 152.0
4/20: 152.0
4/21: 152.0
4/22: 152.6
4/23: 151.4
4/24: 151.4
4/25: 151.6
4/26: 151.8
4/27: 151.6

AM Workout - Spin class.  Regular awesome instructor was out today and a substitute who clearly rode in on the crazy bike led the class.  The sub instructor was extremely fit and motivated (which is to say that she actually kinda scared me...and that doesn't happen very often).  Unfortunately, what motivated her was apparently rage at her daughter who didn't clean the bathroom, her improperly dosed medication, complaints about her from previous classes, etc. etc., all of which was discussed at length and at random.  The class was like 60 minutes of sub instructor's therapy session (another topic she was more than happy to discuss while leading the class) inflicted upon us in between totally ineffective bootcamp-style shouting: "this isn't supposed to be fun!"  Net effect: even though sub instructor is supposedly much tougher than normal instructor, my workout was not nearly as strong because I was really unable to get into into the headspace which allows me to push myself.  Kinda sucked, actually.

PM Workout - After the AM Workout, I really needed to blow off some steam, and besides, I got to work out with Alison again this afternoon!  Yeah!  So we did the Crossfit WOD.  

WOD as rx: 
5 Rounds for Time
95 # Sumo Deadlift High Pull, 21 Reps
21 Ring Dips

Modified:
5 Rounds for Time
65# SDHP, 21 reps (65# is the Rx woman's weight.  Alison worked at 30#, but she might need to move up in weight next time)
21 Bench Dips (my feet were elevated, Alison kept hers on the floor.  I attempted my first round as band-assisted bar dips and totally hated every minute of them.  The bar didn't feel right, the band was awkward, my shoulders hurt in an ominous way, blah blah blah...so from round 2 on I moved to the bench dips.)

Alison: 11:03
Me: 11:13

All in all this workout was bad, but it wasn't, like, insanely bad.  Perhaps I should have been pushing the SDHPs faster.  I felt like I was at 10-minute workout type intensity.  I.e., hard but not all out 1 minute sprint-puke hard and not, wow, this is going to go on for 60 minutes...I better settle in for the suck and think efficient hard like yesterday's Terrible 10.  In other words, I think the intensity was about right.

On the other hand, since both Alison and I had energy for a Crossfit Endurance WOD after the Mainsite WOD, perhaps I am a big fat liar.

Run: 10:20 x 16
10 seconds on, 20 seconds out for 16 rounds. All out.

I set the treadmill at 8% incline and started at 8 MPH.  By round 3 I was up to 8.5; by round 5 or so it was 9.0...over the next several rounds I increased speed to 10 MPH, which is when it started to get hard, and is probably where I should have started.  Now I know.   Incline stayed at 8% the whole time.  I think Alison was around 8 or 9 MPH and maybe 6% grade, but not totally sure. Have to say, this too wasn't that bad, but here I know my intensity really should have been higher in the beginning.  

On the food front, can I just say that it is shockingly easy to eat 2-and-a-half POUNDS of strawberries, melon, pineapple and kiwi if it is all delicious and just sitting in a big bowl in front of you?  I've been easing up quite a bit on calories and have been consuming closer to 2200-2300 calories the past few days.  If I really want to hit 150, I'll need to trim some of those calories, but at the same time, I am seeing such great gains in my fitness, and I can tell I am down at least a percent or two in body fat, I'm working out hard and I'm eating really good stuff, and I feel so great, it's hard to feel guilty over 500 extra calories of cantaloupe & pineapple.  :)

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Countdown to 30: 9 Days to Go

4/1: 157.0
4/2: 155.0
4/3: 155.2
4/4: 154.6
4/5: 154.8
4/6: 154.2
4/7: 153.2
4/8: 154.8
4/9: 152.6
4/10: 151.2
4/11: 153.2
4/12: 152.2
4/13: 152.2
4/14: 152.4
4/15: 153.2
4/16: 152.2
4/17: 152.0
4/18: 151.8
4/19: 152.0
4/20: 152.0
4/21: 152.0
4/22: 152.6
4/23: 151.4
4/24: 151.4
4/25: 151.6
4/26: 151.8

Had another great breakfast today, and had to take a pic:


That's sweet potato and apple hash with ginger, curry & almonds. Also had some green beans, just cause I like green beans.

Rest day and lots of food yesterday did me good, and I feel really great today. Just got back from the gym, where I did a series of workouts that took the better part of two hours. I'm confident I will sleep well tonight.

Started with some snatch practice with an empty bar, then did a variation of the Crossfit Mainsite WOD:

Here's the rx workout:

21/15/9 reps for time of:
95# Snatch
Pull-ups

I'm not about to go doing 21 snatches in a row when I'm not really sure I know how to do them properly. So until more technique practice can be done, I did this:

21/15/9 reps for time of:
65# Overhead Squat
Pull-ups

Took 7:15, which was a good 15 seconds more than I would have liked. Intensity wasn't where it should have been, and I lost some time figuring out how to rack jerk the bar up on the OHS.

Then I did some bench work with Nick. I was really happy not to have lost strength in the bench since my strength building phase. I went for 5 x 5 at 95, 100, 105, 110, and 115. 115 is my previous bench PR but I'm not totally confident I got the full 5-reps in when I last pressed 115. So this might be a new 5-rep max. I've never done a 1-rep on bench, but I'd like to try one day.

Then Nick went for a long walk and I thought I might as well do something with the hour of childcare I had left, so I rested a bit and devised my own WOD, which I am calling the Terrible Ten.

Terrible Ten:
Ten rounds for time. Do 10 reps the first round, 9 reps the second, 8 reps the third and so on, decrementing 1 rep per round until 1 rep the 10th round.

135# Squat
18" Box Jump
45# Swing
Chin-ups
27.5# Alternating Renegade Row with Push-up
55# Weighted Lunge (a 27.5# DB per arm, held at sides)
Burpees
Ab-mat Sit-Ups
27.5# Alternating Single Arm Snatch (I originally tried with the 45# DB but almost dropped it on my head so I wimped out on weight)
100# Deadlift

No joke, this took me--are you ready?--50:12. To be fair I dicked around with my phone's timer for 10-20 seconds at the end, trying to stop the closk, so most likely I was actually sub-50, but just barely. It was just really hard. The squats on rounds 3 and 4, when I was doing 8 and 7 reps, were brutal. I really felt the OHS I had done earlier. Once I got down to the 4-rep range things were easier all around, but I was just so fatigued, there was only so fast I could move. I'll put it this way: this was sucky enough that Burpees felt like a break.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Day of Meals

This is how I eat. Mostly plant based/vegan meals supplemented with the very occasional bit of meat and the frequent hunk of seafood. Today I'm really enjoying my "break" day, so I'm indulging in a bit more grain-based and legume foods than I have been lately, but I'm not going crazy with portions.

Over the past several weeks, most of my calories have come from vegetables, fruit and fish. I plan on reintroducing more legumes and grain products as I wrap up the 5 pounds 5 week challenge, but as they are the most calorically dense of the vegetarian energy sources, I've cut back on them a bit during the challenge. I do also wonder if there's something to the "Paleo" thing and maybe one of the contributing factors to my feel-good-ness lately has been the relative lack of grain and legumes. I'll definitely be keeping an eye on that and how I feel as I reintroduce those foods.

I started my day as I always start my day: soy latte in bed. Thanks, Nick, for bringing me a latte in bed almost every morning for the past 5 years or more.

Then I had breakfast:


Bob's Red Mill 7 grain hot cereal with raisins, apples, cinnamon, pecans & soy milk. A tiny drizzle of maple syrup finished it off nicely for under 400 calories. Also ate a big bowl (300 gms) of pineapple and a small portion (50 gm) of sockeye salmon. Big, yummy breakfast.

A little later I snacked on some blanched green beans and split a banana with Bella.

Next was lunch:


I call this Antipasto Pasta because I take whatever jarred antipasto-type pantry staples I have on hand - sun dried tomatoes, beans, olives, artichokes, roasted peppers, etc. - and toss it all together with a bit of whole wheat pasta and a lot of vegetables for a lean and filling meal.

This version was thrown together with whole wheat spaghetti, kidney beans, marinated artichokes, pepperoncini + a splash of the pepperoncini vinegar, garlic-stuffed green olives and lots of baby spinach. I sauteed it all until the pasta was hot through and the spinach was wilted. It was seriously delicious and really filling for 330 calories. Also had an orange and another soy latte. (I really am enjoying my day off and indulging a bit!)

Dinner? No clue - still full from lunch! But it'll be easy, thrown together with whatever mise en place I have in the fridge.

Update: got hungry again after lunch and had a HUGE bowl of pineapple - killed off my prepared pineapple - probably 600 gms of pineapple.

Then, an hour or two after the pineapple binge, I put together dinner:

It was a vegetable-shrimp stir fry with asparagus, sweet potato, roasted mushrooms and a bit of brown rice. Everything got tossed together in the wok with a touch of oyster sauce and topped with Asian chili sauce.

If it seems like I eat all day long, I do! One of the "tricks" to keeping your metabolism fired up in general, and to weight loss specifically, is to eat small meals throughout the day. When I'm really on target I eat 5-6, meals daily, each around 300-500 calories. Usually 2 meals (lunch and dinner) are on the high end of this scale and the rest are towards the lower end. As my lunch meal today demonstrates, you can cram a lot of great food into 300ish calories if you try. When I'm not trying to actually cut body fat, I'll let all my meals drift up to the higher end of the range, and may even start eating more "normally" - ie, three large meals with minimal snacks. But I definitely feel best when I'm spreading smaller meals throughout the day.

Countdown to 30: 10 Days to Go

4/1: 157.0
4/2: 155.0
4/3: 155.2
4/4: 154.6
4/5: 154.8
4/6: 154.2
4/7: 153.2
4/8: 154.8
4/9: 152.6
4/10: 151.2
4/11: 153.2
4/12: 152.2
4/13: 152.2
4/14: 152.4
4/15: 153.2
4/16: 152.2
4/17: 152.0
4/18: 151.8
4/19: 152.0
4/20: 152.0
4/21: 152.0
4/22: 152.6
4/23: 151.4
4/24: 151.4
4/25: 151.6

10 days to go. Taking stock, I can look back on the past 25 days and honestly say I've given it all I could so far. My diet has been really clean and healthy, I've been accountable with my portion sizes (I've been ranging between 1700-2300 calories most days, with an average of probably 1900 or 1950, depending on how much I worked out.) My exercise has been intense and effective, and more days than not I've doubled up with an AM & PM workout.

I feel and see results, too. I am definitely in the best shape of my life. I have way more energy, a more stable mood, and my sleep is much improved. My strength has remained steady or continued to go up, and though it's hard to judge my metabolic conditioning without a stable benchmark workout, I definitely perceive an improvement in my interval and intense crossfit workout times. My skill base in pose running, kip pull-ups and (hopefully, as of Kevin's lesson yesterday) c2 rowing has improved too.

Physically, I notice the greatest change in my arm and abdominal definition. I have more distinct cuts in my upper arms. My shoulder, bicep and triceps are standing out more than they ever have, and my abdominals look pretty awesome, if I do say so myself. I see less noticeable change in my lower body (where I tend to carry my extra weight), but my pants fit a bit more comfortably. These things are great.

Losing a percent or two of body fat has led to some unexpected physical changes too. I'm getting a bit vein-y, and I'm not sure how I feel about that. I made peace with my forearm veinage when I started to increase my pull-up load a year ago, but now for the first time I am starting to see the veins in my biceps and lower abs. This is, I will admit, a bit creepy.

Of course, this brings up the question as to why I find the vein thing creepy....the circulatory system responds to the stress of increased physical activity like every other system: by getting stronger. Trained athletes develop a blood supply system that allows their muscles to work longer and harder under increased loads. The natural result of training, therefore, is increased veinage. At a lower body fat percentage one can't expect just the "pretty" parts of training--the muscles--to pop. The support system is going pop too.

So then, again, why are visible veins a bit creepy? I think the answer for me is two-part. First, I have always been terrified of shots & needles, and it's hard for me to see a big ol' vein without thinking of phlebotomy. Even typing this, I am squirming in my seat with discomfort at the idea of blood draws.

Secondly, a lot of visible veins represent strength, and are therefore masculine. And, as a girl, I want to look strong, lean and ripped, but I don't want to look masculine. So there's that: good old fashioned sexist social conditioning about what defines "feminine" and therefore attractiveness.

So what to do? Other than the veins, I'm thrilled with how I feel and look as a consequence of my increased training and super clean diet. I'm not going to stop training. After the 5 pound 5 week challenge is over I will increase caloric consumption to something in the maintenance range instead of the weight loss range, and with this my body may bounce back to it's happy place of 155. If not, well, I guess I'll just have to embrace my veins and the strength they represent.

But I'm still not going to dwell on the idea of blood draws.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Countdown to 30: 11 Days to Go

4/1: 157.0
4/2: 155.0
4/3: 155.2
4/4: 154.6
4/5: 154.8
4/6: 154.2
4/7: 153.2
4/8: 154.8
4/9: 152.6
4/10: 151.2
4/11: 153.2
4/12: 152.2
4/13: 152.2
4/14: 152.4
4/15: 153.2
4/16: 152.2
4/17: 152.0
4/18: 151.8
4/19: 152.0
4/20: 152.0
4/21: 152.0
4/22: 152.6
4/23: 151.4
4/24: 151.4

Doubled up on longer metcons today.

AM was a modification of Michael. Here's the WOD as rx:

Three rounds for time of:
Run 800 meters
50 Back Extensions
50 Sit-ups

I want to know who the hell pissed off coach with some comment about not getting enough back work...the past three days have included: maximal effort deadlifts, 50 back extensions + 50 swings + 50 wall ball, 150 back extensions. My low back is feeling it. Anyway, Michael was the WOD, but for various logistical and gym-layout reasons, combining running with back extensions sorta sucks at my gym. Either I'm fighting my way downstairs to get outside, or I'm fighting my way to the cardio room to run a lame 1/2 mile on a treadmill. Either way there's a few minutes of transit time, so I rearanged a few things in the upstairs weight room and did this instead:

Three rounds for time of:
Row 1000 meters
50 Back Extensions
50 GHD Sit-ups (cause, you know, why not?)

This took me 30:19. I figure really fresh and not all worn out I should be able to could cut 4 or 5 minutes out of it. All in all, it was a pretty disappointing time but I still gave all I had, given the state of my low back and general fatigue. By the end of the last set of GHDs sweat was dripping down my arms and my head felt like it was going to explode. I sat in a corner for several minutes just to let the pounding in my head go down before I could work my way home.

Have to give thanks to Monique, a new Crossfit Level 1 cert'd instructor who started at the gym a few months ago. At round two she threw some serious encouragement my way and got me through the back extensions and GHDs one 5-rep partition at a time. It was really nice to have her support because in some ways that second set was the worst....the pain was just as bad as it was on the final set, but without the knowledge that it would be over soon. Thanks Monique!

Then I went and did work-ish stuff that is in no way related to fitness for several hours (serving at a teacher and staff appreciation barbeque at Bella's school-pretty easy and fun!). After that was over, I brought Bella home, ate an enormous early dinner and took a quick 15 minute power nap to gear up for a PM Crossfit with Kevin Workout.

Kevin devised a really cool workout based on body weight. It's not like anything I've seen before, but it sure made me happy I have lost a few pounds. For purposes of the workout, I assumed I was 152 pounds.

One Round For Time:
Jump Rope: 2 x body weight reps (304 reps)
KB Swing 1 x body weight reps (152 reps)
Row 3 x body weight meters (456 meters)
Lunges 1/2 x body weight per leg (76 lunges per leg)

Total Time: 16:17

After wrapping this up, Kevin layed the fitness wisdom on me with regards to my row, which was apparently all jacked up. He showed me a WAY more effecient technique, and helped me correct some of the flaws in my row. I think with practice this should really cut down my rowing time... I just wish I had known what to do right this morning before I rowed 3000 meters wrong! Thanks Kevin! (Man, it's been the day of the gym trainers really helping me out, hasn't it!)

I've crammed 5 workouts in the past 3 days, and I'm done. Tomorrow it's gardening and reading and playing with my kiddo.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Countdown to 30: 12 Days to Go

4/1: 157.0
4/2: 155.0
4/3: 155.2
4/4: 154.6
4/5: 154.8
4/6: 154.2
4/7: 153.2
4/8: 154.8
4/9: 152.6
4/10: 151.2
4/11: 153.2
4/12: 152.2
4/13: 152.2
4/14: 152.4
4/15: 153.2
4/16: 152.2
4/17: 152.0
4/18: 151.8
4/19: 152.0
4/20: 152.0
4/21: 152.0
4/22: 152.6
4/23: 151.4

After a few days of felling less-than-awesome physically it was nice to feel really on my game yesterday. Sunday & Monday I was just a bit tired, which is unusual compared to how great I've been feeling lately--I attribute it to my monthly hormonal variations and Seattle weather, which has been flipping between gorgeous and crappy all week. Tuesday was a wonderful rest day, and it was really rewarding to come back hard on Wednesday with that PR deadlift.

Today I knew what was in store for me off the Crossfit Mainsite: The Filthy 50! This is one of the first WODs I ever did, and it remains one of my absolute favorites. I think the first time I did the Filthy my time was around 45 minutes. Alison and I went at this one pretty hard. I was hoping for a sub-30.

Here's the Rx Workout, with my subs and notes in parentheses.
50 Box jump, 24 inch box (18" box)
50 Jumping pull-ups
50 Kettlebell swings, 1 pood (35# gripper plate)
Walking Lunge, 50 steps
50 Knees to elbows (most ended up closer to knees-t0-armpit)
50 Push press, 45 pounds
50 Back extensions (straight back extension station was in use, so I did these on the angled back extension bench. I'm sure my back appreciated the break.)
50 Wall ball shots, 20 pound ball (12# ball, probably 9 foot target)
50 Burpees (broke these up into 10 sets of 5 and seriously powered through them...my best burpee experience yet.)
50 Double unders (I knew at this point that double unders were not possible without a bathroom break, so I subbed out 150 single unders instead. I'll spend some time on double under form in the next week or so until I can figure 'em out.)

Total Time: 25:40. WAY under 30:00! Yeah! Next Time: Sub 25! (Or let's say sub 27 if I'm doing real double unders).

Alison rocked it out with 35 of each activity. Here's her workout, modified because she's new to Crossfit, but still plenty challenging, thank you very much.

35 Box jump, 12" box
35 Jumping pull-ups
35 Kettlebell swings, 15 pound dumbbell
Walking Lunge, 35 steps
35 Ab-mat sit-ups (I think she did these un-anchored, but I'm not positive.)
35 Push press, 20 pounds
35 Back extensions (Straight back extension station.)
35 Wall ball shots, 10 pound ball for first half, then subbed to 8 pound ball, 9 foot target
35 Burpees (A suck-fest no matter how you look at it.)
105 Single unders (Alison geared up and got it done with a 3:1 sub, even though jumping rope is not her favorite. At all.)

Alison's Time To Beat: 26:47 Next time she'll move up in either weight or reps....a few more crossfit workouts and she'll be doing this one as rx. Alison has the right kind of dogged stubbornness that will make her a damn fine crossfitter, should she chose to keep it up. (Dogged stubbornness is a trait I recognize in others because I am so overly endowed with it myself.) She might be in massive amounts of pain and she might be hating life but you just know she's not going to give up. That's so cool. Great job, Alison!

Good workout!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Countdown to 30: 14 Days to Go

4/1: 157.0
4/2: 155.0
4/3: 155.2
4/4: 154.6
4/5: 154.8
4/6: 154.2
4/7: 153.2
4/8: 154.8
4/9: 152.6
4/10: 151.2
4/11: 153.2
4/12: 152.2
4/13: 152.2
4/14: 152.4
4/15: 153.2
4/16: 152.2
4/17: 152.0
4/18: 151.8
4/19: 152.0
4/20: 152.0
4/21: 152.0
4/22: 152.6

Up a hair today after yesterday's feast, but that was pretty easy to see coming, and frankly I'm surprised I didn't see more of a bump this AM. Generally restaurant meals, even super healthy, clean meals such as my husband and I enjoyed last night will cause a substantial upswing in scale weight the next day because of the enormous quantity of salt that's used to make those restaurant meals so delicious.

A half pound increase is really nothing. A really sodium and/or sugar laden meal eaten late in the day can translate to three or five pounds of retained water the next morning. When this happens, it's important to remember that you did not actually really gain 5 pounds (this is where tracking moving averages is reassuring). Drink plenty of water, get back to eating simple, clean food and the hydration thing will work itself out over a day or two.

So this morning I went in for spin class-at the moment the only bike training I'm really getting. 60 minutes, lots of hill work....a great class as usual. In the afternoon before work I went back to the gym for the Crossfit Mainsit WOD: Heavy Deadlifts, 1 - 1 - 1 - 1 - 1 - 1 - 1

I am super happy with how this workout went:
135 warm up
185 - 205 - 215 (fail, too big a jump, didn't budge) - 205 - 210 (belted from here on out) - 215 - 220 - 225

225 is 10 pounds heavier than my Crossfit Total Deadlift from a week or so ago, so that felt awesome. Also, after my off-day with heavy squats on Monday it just felt good to dial in, focus and PR. Yeah, deadlifts! Kevin says I'm pulling big boy weights now...and thinking about it, 225 is the bar plus 2, 45# plates per side. I was dinking around with 2.5# plates to maneuver up to my PR weight, but if I had arranged it right at the end I would have pulled 4 plates off the ground. That's pretty incredible considering how my deadlift has been my weakest lift, historically. I feel really great about the progress.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Countdown to 30: 15 Days to Go

4/1: 157.0
4/2: 155.0
4/3: 155.2
4/4: 154.6
4/5: 154.8
4/6: 154.2
4/7: 153.2
4/8: 154.8
4/9: 152.6
4/10: 151.2
4/11: 153.2
4/12: 152.2
4/13: 152.2
4/14: 152.4
4/15: 153.2
4/16: 152.2
4/17: 152.0
4/18: 151.8
4/19: 152.0
4/20: 152.0
4/21: 152.0

Today is my anniversary! My sweetie took the day off of work and we hung out, walked around, and ate delicious food all day long. It was a wonderful grown-up date day, with absolutely no working out, calorie counting or cardio!

Back on the program tomorrow, but for now super content after a belly full of amazing food at Oceanaire. We had oysters, ahi tartare on fried nori crisps (loved this!), simply broiled Idaho River Sturgeon and Dayboat Halibut - a great contrast in textures within the mild, whitefish category. Sides were with Grilled Asparagus with Parmesan, Sauteed Mushrooms and a Spring Succotash. If I were to split hairs, I would say that the asparagus and the succotash could have stayed on the heat for just a minute or so longer...I like my veggies crisp-tender, and these were just a bit more crisp than I would prefer. But they were still delicious and I ate them all up, so don't get the wrong idea. Enjoyed it all while sipping an enormous (probably 8 or 9 oz) pour of white wine and felt totally in heaven the whole time.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Countdown to 30: 16 Days to Go

4/1: 157.0
4/2: 155.0
4/3: 155.2
4/4: 154.6
4/5: 154.8
4/6: 154.2
4/7: 153.2
4/8: 154.8
4/9: 152.6
4/10: 151.2
4/11: 153.2
4/12: 152.2
4/13: 152.2
4/14: 152.4
4/15: 153.2
4/16: 152.2
4/17: 152.0
4/18: 151.8
4/19: 152.0
4/20: 152.0

Yup, holding steady. At this point I have to acknowledge that if my body just stays at 152, then I really can't argue with it. I'm eating well, eating an appropriate amount, training hard and am not willing to lose muscle just to hit a number on a scale. That said, I've still got two weeks to go, so I'm just going to stick to my rhythm here and see where it takes me.

AM Workout was a 60 minute spin class. I enjoy this class very much. The instructor is great. I was somewhat irritated my the chatty kathy's in the back row who talked all through a 15 minute progressive hill. Um, ladies? If you can talk that much, you are not working hard enough. I am usually able to tune out a lot of distraction when I'm working out but today I was a bit more distractable. Still, great class.

PM Workout just kind of didn't happen for me. It was 3 x 5 back squats, so looking at a heavy squat. I thought 185 was totally within reach. 195 was by 1-rep max on the CF Total, so 10 pounds down from that seemed reasonable for a 3-rep max. What can I say, I just didn't have it.

I worked up to 175 without too much problem, loaded up to 185 and failed on rep 2. Tried again, failed. Took the weight back to 175, did 2 more sets at 175. Moved up to 180 for my final set. Failed (loudly!) on rep 3. Kevin front squatted the weight back up for me and made it look like he was setting a baguette on the counter (he is totally, freakishly strong). Reset and failed again, this time on rep 2. Called it a day.

Looking back, 165 is my highest 5-rep thus far on squats, so I don't know why I'm so disappointed with 175 for 3. I just didn't feel strong today. It was like yesterday with the deadlifts: something was just off. The bar didn't feel exactly right, my set-up didn't feel easy. Kevin said I was too far over, that I need to stay more upright. I'm sure he's right...like I said, it just felt a touch off.

So, to do penance for my failed squat set, I took Bella to the track with every intention of running 4 .25-mile intervals: forward, backward, forward, backward. I did a warm up lap with Bella (who is, by the way, one hell of a good runner) then she played while I set off to do my workout.

As I came around the final straightaway and toward the bend that designated lap 2, I saw Bella grab my water bottle and take off down the track. I'm not sure she knew I was almost already back to the starting spot, because when I caught up to her and asked her what she was doing she said, "I was bringing you your water bottle." like she was going to race after me and catch me to hand me my bottle. Such as sweetheart!

I decided right then and there that I had done quite enough working out. I had no energy to finish my sets, I didn't want to be running anyway, and I just felt done. So I took my super cool kid home for dinner and bedtime. :)

Sorry cyberspace, this might be a bit delicate for you, but I'm thinking my monthly cycle might have something to do with my feeling a bit awkward on the heavy lifting the past two days and having really no motivation to push through the malaise today. I started my period today and though I am not normally too affected by my cycle I haven't really tracked how it might affect my athletic performance. Any girls out there notice that they have less motivation/pep/strength for their workouts when they start their periods?

In any event, it's probably a sign that an easy day is in order, which is convenient because tomorrow is my 8 year anniversary and I don't plan on logging a lot of gym time!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Countdown to 30: 17 Days to Go

4/1: 157.0
4/2: 155.0
4/3: 155.2
4/4: 154.6
4/5: 154.8
4/6: 154.2
4/7: 153.2
4/8: 154.8
4/9: 152.6
4/10: 151.2
4/11: 153.2
4/12: 152.2
4/13: 152.2
4/14: 152.4
4/15: 153.2
4/16: 152.2
4/17: 152.0
4/18: 151.8
4/19: 152.0

Well, 152 pounds is quite the comfortable spot for my body, eh?

Started with some bench work and deadlifts. Nick was kind enough to come into the gym with me on his day off (thank's sweetie!), so we did some heavy lifting together. Having him there made it a lot nicer to work on bench press, and I went to failure though I wasn't at my PR weight.

Warmed up, then went for a 5 x 5 at 105#. On the first set I did 6 reps instead of 5, so it bcame 5 x 6. I got my first 4 sets in, and got 4 of 6 reps on my 5th (last) set, but failed on those last two reps.

Nick worked at similar weight, working into my set and getting a feel for form. Nick's more a cardio guy, so throwing weights around is a bit foreign to him, and I don't think he's bench pressed since some sadist of a high school gym teacher made him back in the day, but he did an awesome job and made some really substantial form improvements even over the sets we did together.

Then it was on to deadlifting cause, well, I haven't pulled heavy since the Crossfit Total. I didn't feel 100% on with my deadlifts today. The back room with the lifting cage where I normally do my squats, deadlifts, etc. was occupied so we were in the front weight room (the dumbbell room, as opposed to the barbell room). We had a bar jacked up on 25# plates to get it up to the right height, and I just didn't feel like I had the focus I needed to really nail in my pull.

Nick and I warmed up, then settled in for a 5 x 5 at 145#. I did my first 3 sets at 145#, then moved to 165# for the fourth set and 175# for the fifth set. On the fifth set, I lifted clean 4 times, then had to regrip for the 5th pull. That's what I mean about focus. It just wasn't completely on keeping everything locked in with great form and a clean, efficient pull. Still, now that I think about it 175# for 5 is about where I was when I left of my strength building phase, so maybe that's not so bad after all.

After a brief rest, Nick took off to be the zen master of the slow twitch and went for a long, outside, uphill walk. I set up for a little action with Angie. Don't get all dirty, "Angie" is today's Crossfit Mainsite WOD. And she's kind of a bitch.

For time:
100 Pull-ups
100 Push-ups
100 Sit-ups
100 Squats

16:03, partitioned into 10 rounds of 10 for each activity. Now real badass types will tell you that partitioning totally destroys the point of this workout. As prescribed, you complete 100 reps of pull-ups before moving on to 100 push-ups, and so on and so forth. But you know what? Bella was in childcare so I could workout, and childcare was only open for another 45 minutes. I highly doubt I could have completed Angie as prescribed in less than 45 minutes, so I did what I had to do to get the work done.

Even broken up into sets of 10, this was brutal, and the push-ups were by far the worst. Coming after bench-to-failure, my push-ups were pretty weak. No full depth. Not even close. I even kicked my feet about a 18" apart towards the end to get some relief. It was wimp central. But, for what it was, I got it done, and in just a hair over 16 minutes.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Weight Loss 101, Goal Setting, Excuse Busting

Up until about three years ago, I had spent most of my non-childhood somewhere between mildly and significantly overweight. In the years after I left college until I began my year-long process of losing weight, I weighed in between 180-210 pounds. I remember the day when I could no longer zip up my size 14 jeans - I was 19. I wore a size 16 wedding dress, and went into the hospital to give birth to my daughter at 260 pounds.

At age 22, approximately 200 pounds:

Almost 30, and about 50 pounds lighter:

Losing that weight and gradually increasing my fitness opened up a whole new world to me, and as my weight stabilized at 160 pounds around two years ago, I turned my focus more and more to training. I shifted my focus to fitness gains instead of pounds lost. In the process I lost another 5 pounds, and I have been within about 2-3 pounds of 155 for the past 2 years.

But the past few weeks I've revisited weight loss, this time for pure vanity. At 155 pounds I am well within a healthy weight range for my height and look good; losing 5 is purely a fine-tuning exercise to start my 30s feeling like I'm in the best shape of my life. And so far, I have to say it's working great - I really have never felt better. Perhaps it's the extra sleep; perhaps it's the not drinking - whatever it is, I really do feel great.

So I thought, since I'm back in weight-loss mode for the first time in 3 years or so, I might take a moment to lay out my weight loss philosophy/theory/game plan for anyone who might be interested, or who might themselves wonder how to effectively loose weight.

First, I will assume that the weight-loss-desirous reader is not a total idiot. This is not the normal starting point for weight loss advice. Witness: almost 500,000 Google hits for the phrase "weight loss for idiots."



The reason most weight loss programs try to tell you you are stupid is because they want weight loss to seem really complicated so you'll give them money for their "trick" or "miracle."

Well, guess what, weight loss is not complicated and has never been complicated. What it is, is hard. But I suspect "LOSE WEIGHT THROUGH HARD AND OFTEN BORING PERSISTENCE" just doesn't have the same marketing appeal as: "THE TRICK TO LOSE 10 POUNDS in 5 DAYS."

Which is probably why weight loss marketers continue to be handsomely rewarded for lying without delivering any results. Conversely, the most honest and straightforward diet book available, The Hacker's Diet, was written by a formerly fat and independently wealthy geek and is totally free.

So how not complicated is weight loss? Forgot everything you know about carbs, fat, protein, Mediterranean, Zone, Atkins, South Beach, pH balance, blah blah blah.

This is what you need to know: maintaining a moderate caloric deficit over time is the basis of every successful weight loss program. Nothing is more important, though many things will influence how comfortable or uncomfortable that moderate caloric deficit is (but that's another blog entry).

So, here's the terms: a calorie is a way of measuring energy. It's not evil, it's just a way of measuring something, like tablespoons or cups or miles. The food and beverages you consume contain energy, which is measured in calories. Your body uses energy - again, measured in calories - in order to do everything from breathe to digest to run 10 miles to sleep (some activities, obviously, take a lot more energy than others).

If you want to lose weight, you must USE more energy than you TAKE IN. That is how you create a caloric deficit. Specifically, for every pound of fat you want to lose, your body must expend 3500 more calories (the amount of energy in 1 pound of fat) than you consume.

That's it. That's as complicated as it gets. Maintain a moderate caloric deficit over time. That's not hard to understand. The math is so easy a third grader can handle it. The hard part is keeping your focus consistent in the face of the million small decisions each and every one of us makes about food and fitness every single day. So how do you do this?

The first and most important is to define and prioritize your healthy-eating/weight-loss goal. As with anything in life, it is not enough to say, "I want to get lean, feel great, and look hot." We all want a lot of things, and we don't get most of them. As my dad used to say to us kids when we said we wanted something: "So? How does it feel to want?"

Wanting is not enough. Wishing, hoping and dreaming are also not going to cut it. You have to define your goal and your terms in concrete ways. When defining your goal the word "want" is totally off limits. Good goals have concrete, measurable targets and end-dates. Without these things you will not be able to hold yourself accountable, measure your successes or minimize your slip-ups.

"I want to look hot for my wedding," is not a goal. This is: "I will lose 10 pounds by my final dress fitting on June 10th and keep my weight constant from then until my wedding on July 11."

"I need to eat healthier," is not a goal. This is: "By my 40th birthday I will have lowered my cholesterol by 10 points by eating a low-fat diet and walking 30 minutes a day on my lunch hour."

As Henry V said, "All things be ready, if our minds be so." So, write down your goal, really commit to it and you are half way there.

Now that you've defined where you are going you have to figure out how to get there. With weight loss this is pretty much about determining what your caloric deficit over time should be. The math is easy.

Using our wedding example from earlier, Blushing Bride determines that she has 8 weeks to lose 10 pounds. 10/8 = 1.25, so she's looking at weight loss goal of 1.25 pounds a week.

This is a reasonable goal, assuming our bride has 10 pounds of fat to lose in the first place (if she doesn't, all bets are off, as the body will protect it's last fat reserves pretty stubbornly. It's that pesky survival mechanism kicking in). Generally speaking, 1-2 pounds of fat is the most you can lose in a week. Don't try to starve yourself into a faster pace than that. You'll just lose muscle and if you think losing muscle is cool, get the hell off my blog and don't come back until you can snatch your bodyweight, biatch.

Anyway, Blushing Bride has 1.25 pounds a week to lose for the next 8 weeks. What daily caloric deficit does she need to maintain to achieve this?

3500 (calories per pound of fat) x 1.25 (pounds of fat to lose per week) = 4375 (total caloric deficit per week)
4375 (caloric deficit per week) / 7 (days in the week) = 625 (caloric deficit per day)

So, to achieve her goal she will need to create a moderate caloric deficit of 625 calories per day for 8 weeks. That is the specific roadmap that will get Blushing Bride to her specific goal. See, easy.

So Blushing Bride knows she needs to eat 625 calories less per day than she burns. She is armed with almost all the information she needs to begin the slow, boring process of successful, no-bullshit weight loss. There's just one more thing: Blushing Bride still needs to know how many calories she burns every day, so she can figure out how many she gets to eat.

How many calories you burn in a day is called your metabolic rate. The extremely stripped down version is called your basal metabolic rate, and is how many calories you would burn if you laid in bed all day doing nothing harder than keeping your vital organs alive. Figuring out your basal metabolic rate is easy: there are all kinds of calculators on the web developed to give you a pretty decent approximation. Here's a good one: Basal Metabolic Rate.

But since Blushing Bride has all kinds of things to do: job, errands, wedding planning, we will assume she does get out of bed and move around, so for our purposes, here's a good calculator for Metabolic Rate with Activity Level factored in.

Let's assume Blushing Bride is 5'7", 160 pounds, 28 years old and lightly active. The calculator linked to above indicates she needs 1965 calories to maintain her current weight.

1965 (calories to maintain) - 625 (caloric deficit) = 1340 calories she should consume per day to meet her goal, assuming her activity level remains unchanged.

Now, 1340 calories really isn't a lot of food for a 5'7" person, so Blushing Bride is going to be a lot more comfortable for the next 8 weeks if she increases her activity level. If she burns 250 calories every day at the gym, she gets to eat 1590 calories, which is a lot more do-able. If she burns 500 calories at the gym, she gets to eat 1840 calories and still lose weight.

So in the end the roadmap to your goal is simply a numbers game. When you understand the numbers you understand how your decisions take you closer to or further from your goal. There are other parts to it, of course, mostly involving being honest with yourself about your behavior, keeping yourself accountable, and cutting out the bull-shit you've been telling yourself that has been keeping you from reaching your weight goal. You know what I mean, things like:

"I eat pretty healthy so I don't understand why I can't lose weight." Sometimes this is true. But usually most people who "eat pretty healthy most of the time" have no idea what they are actually eating because they are not maintaining a log or a journal, they are not properly weighing or estimating portions of food, or they are just forgetting all the mindless munching that is so easy to do. A few pieces of candy from the dish at work, a beer with dinner, 8 oz. of steak instead of 6 oz., 4 tablespoons of mayo on a turkey sandwich....when you are trying to lose weight these details count, and usually people who do eat pretty healthy but can't lose weight are in that position because they aren't paying attention to the details.

"My whole family is overweight. It's just genetics and there isn't anything I can do about it." Yeah, I get this. My family is heavy. I used to be overweight. Apparently Jessica Alba's whole family is overweight too. Generally speaking, nature has selected for fat storage as a positive trait. Yes, some people are naturally thin and will be no matter what they do, but most people have to work pretty hard for their lean bodies. So what? If you need glasses, you don't whine about how unfair it is that some people have 20/20 vision and you don't and that's just genetics and you're stuck with it, right? No, you get a proper prescription, get glasses or contacts and get on with your life. Well, your caloric deficit roadmap is like your weight prescription. Get it, follow it, get lean and get on with your life.

"I don't have time to get to the gym / I don't have time to cook." Do you have time to watch American Idol? America's Next Top Model? House? Heroes? Lost? Then guess what, you have time to cook some real food and stick it in the fridge, and you have time to do a 15 minute at-home workout. Almost everyone does have time if they make their weight loss and health a real priority.

"I don't want to exercise because I want to have some way to break a [future] weight-loss plateau." I actually heard this once, from a friend who had a 100 different excuses for the 100 extra pounds she was carrying on her body. She had it backwards: calorie restriction without weight-bearing exercise is an excellent way to lose lean muscle mass, decrease metabolic rate, and create a weight loss plateau. More about weight loss plateaus and breaking though them in a future blog.

"But I have to buy (insert crap food here: cookies, chips, soda, etc.) for the kids." I get really upset about this kind of attitude. Parents, offering up your kid's health for the dubious honor of being a tool to the marketing agenda's of multi-billion dollar food processors is stupid. Don't kid yourself. Every time you put those high-fructose corn syrup fruit shaped snacks in your kid's lunch, the only one really getting a treat is the General Mills corporation. Do your kids a favor: don't straddle them with the burden of childhood obesity. Teach yourself the value of proper nutrition, then teach them. Giving your kids an unending supply of crap to pacify them instead of standing up for your families health doesn't make you a good parent. At the end of the day, if it's not real food, you shouldn't eat it and neither should they.

"My husband eats a lot. I was never fat until I married him. He's a bad influence."
Yeah, generally speaking guys have a higher metabolic rate than women. This is a function of height and muscle mass in addition to gender. If you want to level the playing field a little bit, build up your own lean muscle mass with consistent weight training. Trust me, the most lean, ripped girls you know eat a lot of food. They have to to maintain that muscle. In the meantime, he's not spoon feeding you in a high-chair, so take control of your own fork.

"I haven't been able to lose the baby weight."
Having a kid changes your body. Some things will never go back exactly the way they were. That's reality. But I know moms to three kids who look amazing, because they work for it. If your youngest child is older than 3, this excuse no longer cuts it, ok?

"It's just so hard for me to lose weight." It's hard for everyone. Weight loss is hard. It involves delayed gratification, behavior changes and sometimes some pretty uncomfortable self-reflection. So it's hard - what's your point? Have you really never done anything hard before? If you truly believe you can't do something because it's hard, you are probably right. On the other hand, if you truly believe you can do something despite the fact that it's hard, you are also probably right.

Next time I'm feeling rant-y: ways to make the journey easier, stay accountable, change your habits and maintain once you've reached your goal.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Countdown to 30: 19 Days to Go

4/1: 157.0
4/2: 155.0
4/3: 155.2
4/4: 154.6
4/5: 154.8
4/6: 154.2
4/7: 153.2
4/8: 154.8
4/9: 152.6
4/10: 151.2
4/11: 153.2
4/12: 152.2
4/13: 152.2
4/14: 152.4
4/15: 153.2
4/16: 152.2
4/17: 152.0

My weight loss progress is slowing, but there is still progress. Slow and steady, and since I'm feeling so damn good recently, there additional motivation beyond the "goal" to keep me focused.

This morning, I did some skill work on hang power cleans after I got some form advice from Awesome Beard and Burpees for Breakfast. Kevin (crossfit coach/badass) walked in to the weight room while I was practicing, so I got his opinion and as usual his advice was invaluable. Basically, it's not a squat clean, so unless I really want to make it harder, 1/4 squat catch position is as deep as it needs to be. Pull needs to be BAM! with elbows coming up to ears and a wide elbow. Then, I need fast elbows around and under the bar. It's a moderate skill--not as easy as a squat but not a snatch either--and I'm thrilled to have the right coaching to help me learn it right.

After skill work (mostly sets of five, worked up to 95#) I took a break for other life stuff, then did the Crossfit Endurance 1 minute ladder WOD:

1 min on, 1 min off, 1 min on, 50 sec off, 1 min on, 40 sec off, 1 min on, 30 sec off, 1 min on 20 sec off, 1 min on, 10 sec off, then go back up the ladder until you finish with 1 min on, 50 sec off, 1 min on.

I started off at 7.3 and finished the last minute strong at 8.0. 1% grade the whole time, felt great.

PM Workout was Crossfit with Kevin...he had up do a Tabata workout with 4 stations....20 seconds on: 10 seconds off for 8 rounds. The stations were Rowing machine (count meters), Double Under Jump Rope (count complete double unders), Sumo Deadlift High Pull @ 65# (count reps) and single leg squats (count reps).

My score looked like this:
Single Leg Squat: 16 (L), 11 (R), 12 (L), 10 (R), 13 (L), 11 (R), 13 (L), 13 (R)
Row: 121, 209, 311, 401, 560, 592, 686, 782
Double Unders: 8, 1, 0 (did 25 single-unders while trying to find a rhythm), 3, 3, 3, 3, 5
Sumo Deadlift High Pull: (Why did I end on these?!) 11, 8, 5, 7, 6, 6, 6, 8

Total Score (if I did my math right) of 964. Smoked me like a hand-rolled cuban, yo.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Countdown to 30: 20 Days to Go

4/1: 157.0
4/2: 155.0
4/3: 155.2
4/4: 154.6
4/5: 154.8
4/6: 154.2
4/7: 153.2
4/8: 154.8
4/9: 152.6
4/10: 151.2
4/11: 153.2
4/12: 152.2
4/13: 152.2
4/14: 152.4
4/15: 153.2
4/16: 152.2

Moving average
on weight has been dead flat for several days. At this point I can only continue to eat clean, train hard and see what happens. Honestly, I'm not willing to drop my caloric intake below about 1800 with the way I'm training (I'm not giving up muscle if I can possibly help it), so I'll just have to see what consistency does for me over the next 20 days.

Spent the AM with K-Lo, but we didn't work out at all! We barely even talked about fitness, actually. Shocking! It was nice to hang out and see her.

So, did an afternoon Hero WOD, "Danny" named after a California SWAT team member who was killed in the line of duty. The guy Officer Danny and was going in to get when he was killed was (allegedly) a scumbag who has already been imprisioned for assault with a deadly weapon, jumped parole, killed another few cops earlier that day, and was wanted for the rape of a 12 year old. So as one would expect, the workout in Officer Danny's honor was a brutal ass-kicker.

Complete as many rounds in 20 minutes as you can of:
24 inch Box Jump, 30 reps
115 pound Push Press, 20 reps
30 Pull-ups

Alison did this one with me and we both scaled like nobodies buisness (because 20, 115-pound push-jerks might be possible for me over the course of a day, but push-presses? Not yet!)

Alison got 4 rounds + 13 box jumps. She scaled to 12" on the box jumps, 30# on the push presses for her 1st round and 20# thereafter, and subbed 55# and 45# lat pull-downs for pull-ups. Nice work!

I was 3 rounds + 30 box jumps, 20 presses and 6 pull-ups. 24 pull-ups shy of four rounds. I scaled to an 18" box, and still managed to bash the shit out of my shin when I jumped into instead of onto the box on round one, rep 6 of box jumps. Completeing the rest of the jumps was a bit tingly and awkward after that. Used 60# for the presses, and broke the pull-ups into 10 sets of 3 for each round, but did them all unassisited.

My blood blister from the 120 pull-ups/120 dips workout had popped the night before and I used nail glue to tack the skin back together. Saddly, the nail glue did not hold out against the rotational stress of the push-press and pull-ups and long about round 2 the tender baby skin under the blister was being dealt the full force of the motions. Between the bashed up shin and the ripped off blister, this workout was painful in a non-muscular or cardiovascular way.

I'm not trying to winger: it's a fu@king Hero WOD, so I tried to toughen up and push through. Did what I could. RIP, Officer Danny.

After that, Alison and I talked about going straight into the Crossfit Endurance cardio WOD (1 minute ladder) and opted to go get ice cream instead. Yeah, that's right, ice cream! So we both had a child's scoop of the dairy free, fat free strawberry sorbet (140 calories for 4 oz) and it was both delicious and non-diet-breaking. Bella, who had also sustained injury that day (scraped knee and nose - recess can be brutal) was the motivation behind our medicinal ice cream break. She opted for mint chocolate chip in a sugar cone.

Clean Eating with Mise en Place

How does one eat clean, healthy food almost all of the time? Is it massive will power? Do clean eaters deny themselves every craving, sticking to a routine of boiled chicken breasts and bean sprouts until they are skinny? Universally, no. Even the most dedicated health nut, low on blood sugar and half-faint from hunger is going to be tempted by the short-term energy promise of the pastry case.

The way you eat quality, clean food almost all the time is to make the eating of that food unbelievably easy. And the way you do that is planning and preparation. How easy would it be to eat clean delicious food if this kind of thing was in your fridge all the time?


As a professional chef I learned the importance of what's called mise en place, which basically means having all your food prepared and ready to go when your restaurant service starts. In a restaurant kitchen that might mean having the garlic and onions pre-chopped, having the butter at room temperature, pre-blanching or roasting the vegetables as appropriate, making the stock reductions and bases for sauces, having the chicken and fish and meat cut into the right filets or steaks for service, etc. Mise en place is the reason why a restaurant kitchen can deliver a meal to you in 12 minutes that would take anyone, start to finish, 2 hours. Everything is ready to go when the cook needs it.

You can practically guarantee clean eating success for yourself if you take the concept of mise en place and embrace it for your home kitchen. Yes, this means you need to take an hour once or twice a week and get your prep work done.

When you get home with cart loads full of clean-eating fruits, veggies, meat (if you eat it), etc. take the time to turn your ingredients into your mise en place. Cut a pineapple into chunks, throw it in a tupperware and get it in the fridge. Make a batch of brown rice. Blanch or roast veggies. Put together a large salad. Make some hummus. In an hour you can turn several bags of groceries into components that will in turn become clean eating meals or snacks in a matter of minutes (sometimes seconds). And when you are hungry, the minutes you don't have to spend making food are the times you won't give in to the pastry case or drive-thru temptation.

Here's how you do it:
Preheat your oven to 450. Get a big pot of water boiling. If you have a rice cooker, break it out. Put brown rice or quinoa in the rice cooker. While the oven and water are heating, wash and chop veggies. Do a lot. As long as you are cutting up 1 head of broccoli, cut up 3.

Toss the "hard" veggies - broccoli, cauliflower, fennel, carrots, sweet potato, etc - with a little bit of olive oil and some salt and/or spices. Curry is great on roasted cauliflower, smoked paprika is dynamite on sweet potato. Place them on parchment or foil-lined sheet pans (keep the different veggies seperate because they'll all cook in different times).

When the oven is ready, stick the hard veggies in the oven and roast until tender and golden brown. Broccoli usually takes 12-15 minutes, sweet potato can take 40 depending on how big your pieces are. If you run out of sheet pans or oven space, just set the remainder aside. You can cycle a lot of veggies through an oven in an hour. Set a timer or several so you don't forget them in there.

For the "soft" veggies, I like to blanch, or cook then for just a minute or so in boiling water. Rinse and trim up your green beans, snap peas, asparagus (asparagus is equally delish roasted), etc. When your water is really boiling, add in your veggies. Do this one veggie at a time because, again, they cook at different rates. The soft veggies should take 90 seconds-2 minutes, max. Don't overcook! Pull them out with a big strainer and transfer them to another sheet pan to cool. Don't pour them out into a strainer in the sink, because then you have to refill your pot with water and bring it up to the boil again for the next veggie. Takes too much time and wastes energy. Just keep the water boiling and cycle through your veggies.

By the time you've finished cooking all your soft veggies your first batch of hard veggies will proabably be ready to come out of the oven. Just set the tray aside and let the veggies cool. If you need the sheet pan for another batch of roasted veggies, pull the veggies on their foil or parchment liner off the pan and let that cool on the counter. Re-line your pan, add more prepped veggies and you're ready to go!

Your water is still boiling but your soft veggies are all blanched. Throw some whole wheat pasta (if you don't eat wheat, an alterna-grain pasta is fine, or just skip this step) in the boiling water. Set a timer! You've got a lot of things working at this point...timers will help keep your pasta al dente. Err on the side of undercooking - the pasta will get reheated anyway. When it's done, drain well in a collander, toss with the lightest coat of olive oil, transfer to a container or big plastic bag and cool in the fridge.

Pasta, prawns and veggies cooling off after a batch of mise en place cooking:


Now it's time to move onto fruit. Wash your hands, knife, cutting board and fruit. Start chopping it into pieces that work for you. Bigger hunks are easier, and less surface area means the fruit will last longer, so that's what I go for. Chop up a pineapple or two, wash and dry (very well) some strawberries, then cut the tops off. Peel and cube a melon: watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew...whatever floats your boat. Wash grapes, dry (again, very well) and cut into small clusters. Grapes keep better with the stem attached, so unless I'm eating them right away I don't pull the stem off. As you finish with the fruit, transfer it to clean containers and stick in the fridge.


So now your fruit is in the fridge. Your pasta has been strained. Tons of roasted and blanched veggies are cooled and ready to go in the fridge. Rice or quinoa is coming out of the rice cooker. Your refrigerator is starting to look like the deli section of a super healthy gourmet market.


And later on when you really need a good quick meal, these components can be turned into an easy lunch or dinner in about 3 minutes. Like this:



Or this:


And your preparation will be worth it. An hour of your time will be payed back, in pounds you don't gain, guilt you don't feel, and money you don't spend on convenience food you shouldn't eat.

Feeling Good vs. Looking Good

So the last two weeks have been - let's be frank - a vanity exercise with a nice training bonus attached. Basically, I have embarked to lose five pounds before my 30th birthday just because I want to know if I can start my 30s in the best shape of my life. With most things fitness related my overdeveloped stubbornness (horoscope: taurus) gets me to my goal. I'm pretty good at delayed gratification and all that.

So I was expecting a cleaner, stricter diet and more training to be doable to get me to a goal, but not actually...well...fun (no wine? less coffee? really, am I sure about this?). And yet I have been struck by an undeniable feeling of, well, feeling good for the past week or so. I wasn't expecting this, but I really think the clean consistent diet, the short, intense workouts and the adequate sleep have just put me in a good mood. I'm less stressed, more calm, more patient, generally just happier.

Now I'm not normally a Polyanna type. More like Polyanna's asurbic older sister who wears a lot of black and makes sarcastic comments and drinks 6 cups of coffee a day. But focusing on the diet-exercise-sleep trifecta has me waking up without the alarm, at hours that are normally unthinkably early for me, getting out of bed cheerfully (or staying in bed to blog until Bella wakes up) and answering the question, "how's it going?" with a genuine: "really great, thanks!"

So while I took this 5 pounds, 5 week Challenge on as a short term goal and anticipated a payoff of looking good (or maybe more accurately, feeling good about how I look) I am finding the day to day feeling good bonus is too compelling to ignore. Even after by birthday I think the clean living program may have to continue. I will modify a bit, of course: I will probably stop monitoring caloric intake, do slightly less training, indulge in the occational glass of wine. But for now, this feels like a pretty great way to feel. All the time.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Countdown to 30: 21 Days to Go

4/1: 157.0
4/2: 155.0
4/3: 155.2
4/4: 154.6
4/5: 154.8
4/6: 154.2
4/7: 153.2
4/8: 154.8
4/9: 152.6
4/10: 151.2
4/11: 153.2
4/12: 152.2
4/13: 152.2
4/14: 152.4
4/15: 153.2

Yesterday was a rest day. Played with the Bella in the park and cleaned the car, but that was about as physical as it got. I've been on a very slight uptick the past two days and while I'm not deeply worried about it, I am aware that I have only three weeks left and there isn't a lot of margin for error.

Today I am heading off to the gym for some crossfittin' as soon as I post this picture of my delish lunch: quinoa pilaf with cherry tomato, kalamata olives, red onion and shrimp. It was fantastic, super easy & a big ol' bowl full of food for only 320 calories.

Update
Afternoon Workout: At the gym I combined the Crossfit Football WOD of 3/13 with today's Main Site WOD, "Helen," and got this:
Front Squat 5 x 5 - 3 sets @ 105; 2 sets @ 115
Push Press 5 x 5 @ 75, 80, 85, 90, 95

Then:
3 Rounds for Time
400 Meter Run (treadmill, 1% grade, 8.0 mph on the first round, 7.0 mph on rounds 2 & 3)
35# Swings, 21 Reps
12 Push-ups (Pull-ups were Rx, and I would have preferred them, but I really don't want to pop the mother of all blood blisters.)
11:17

PM Workout
Blasted out a second mad workout with Alison, who is turning into a total badass. People at the gym were staring at us. Go Alison! We did a weight modified Crossfit Hero workout....tough shiznit.

"DT" Five rounds for time of:
155 pound Deadlift, 12 reps
155 pound Hang power clean, 9 reps
155 pound Push jerk, 6 reps

I did a 70# option, which I have to say was plenty by the end, and Alison (since she is just learning the moves) did 30# and did an awesome job of it.

After I went on and on and on to Alison about the importance of jumping the weight up in the hang power cleans, I got (very kindly) schooled by a fellow crossfitter at the gym with an awesome beard for reverse curling the weight in the hang clean. Damn it! Rip told me every time I did that, Jesus kills a little baby! Awesome Beard gave me some great pointers about keeping my chest open in the jump to get an explosive pull...I'm sure I was hunching over which killed the upward momentum of the weight as I jumped, so this is a great visual for me and I am super excited to practice my hang power cleans now.

Also, Awesome Beard and his crossfitting buddy who eats burpees for breakfast both told me I really needed to get deeper in the catch...and they are totally right. There's something about that motion: it's just a bit scary. I think working on my front squats will give me a lot more confidence in that front catch position. Yippee, I love these tips! That's just another great thing about the crossfit community...the sense of community, and a lot of knowledge to tap into. We really do all want each other to get faster, stronger, more proficient. Anyway, thank you Awesome Beard and Burpee for Breakfast Guy. Get some, go again!

So after our little technique chat/recovery time Alison and I hit up the Crossfit Endurance 90 Second Ladder WOD from 4/14...
90 on / 60 off
90 on/ 45 off
90 on / 30 off
90 on / 15 off - this sucked pretty hard right here
90 on / 30 off
90 on / 45 off
90 on / DONE!

This workout was pretty tough. I think Alison would agree that those last few 90 second sprints felt like they lasted about 10 minutes each. Still, we both pushed through and put in a good showing. I ran most of the WOD at 7.0, bumping up to 7.5 & 8.0 durring the final minute and 30 seconds, respectively. I think next time I should really go for 7.5 the whole time.

I really am loving these intense sprint interval workouts on the treadmill. I feel like I can really feel my form improving and I'm not killing it for long enough for the pose running technique to fall apart on me. It's a good feeling, given my pretty much lifelong hatred of running.

Anyway, quick after workout snack and I'm off to bed! Thanks for the workout Alison!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Countdown to 30: 23 Days to Go

4/1: 157.0
4/2: 155.0
4/3: 155.2
4/4: 154.6
4/5: 154.8
4/6: 154.2
4/7: 153.2
4/8: 154.8
4/9: 152.6
4/10: 151.2
4/11: 153.2
4/12: 152.2
4/13: 152.2

AM Workout: Spin Class...focused on hills. Great class, as usual.

PM Workout: Kept it pretty mellow - I'm showing my friend Alison the Crossfit Ropes and she's just starting out so we did a "Filthy 50" style workout, but scaled in reps & actions. She did great!

18 Box Jumps
18 Push-ups
36 Walking Lunges (18 Left-Right pairs)
18 Sit-Ups
18 Supermans (some guy at the gym jumped onto the back extension station 14 seconds before we were going to talk it, so we modified on the fly)
18 Air Squats
18 Burpees

I came in around 6:30, not particularly pushing it, but still feeling that I'm at the end of a 4-day training cycle. Alison did great, pushing through the suck of those final burpees and came in at 7:16.

I also have to comment on the delish dinner I had tonight. I really wanted....you know...a big dinner. I wanted that sit-down-get-full feeling that you just don't get when eating small meals 6 times a day. But I'm not about to blow my training or goals on crap food, so I put together a fantastic but really clean meal that worked on all levels: clean, yummy, healthy, super easy, family friendly....and did I mention yummy?

We started with a mixed greens salad with strawberries, avocado and red onion and dressed it with a super light apple cider vinaigrette sweetened with dark agave. Nick skipped the avo and added Danish Blue to his salad, which would be excellent as well. Even Bella got in on the salad action, enjoying everything but the vegetables. She basically had a bowl of blue cheese, avocado and strawberries.


Then we had baked herbed Copper River Coho. The salmon was previously frozen and not rich and wonderfully fatty like a king or sockeye, but it was very moist and mild, with good texture and a great price point. I served that with salt-roasted green beans & brown rice and shoved myself away from the table wonderfully full and happy.

Moving Average and Weight Loss (Where Geekness and Fitness Come Together!)

I glanced back at my past several post and realized I mention the phrase "moving average" in almost all of them. So what the heck am I talking about? When you are monitoring your weight, there will be day to day fluctuations. Depending on your hydration levels, changes over the course of the month (ladies, I think we all know what I'm talking about here) sodium intake and the -ahem- progress of food through your system, it's easy to fluctuate 3, 5 or more pounds over the course of a day, or from day to day.

K-Lo, who is on the 5 Pound 5 Week Challenge with me, lost 5 pounds in 3 hours one morning. She had a particularly salty meal the previous night, woke up bloated and retaining water, and as her body rebalanced her hydration levels, normalized to a more accurate weight.

Obviously, eating clean and working out consistently and seeing a 3 pound weight gain on the scale can be really discouraging, which is why a lot of weight loss programs advocate only weighing yourself weekly.

But I think the ritual of the morning (or evening or whenever, as long as you are consistent) weigh-in helps to focus one's attention and set a tone of healthy weight management for that day. And, as someone who has been quite overweight, I prefer to catch upward trends sooner and nip them in the bud with small behavior changes, rather than waiting three or four weeks to see a trend emerge and then having to deal with 5 or 7 pounds to lose. (Think you can't gain 5 or 7 pounds in a month? Au contraire, mon fraire. Two words: Christmas Cookies.) In any event, my morning weigh-in is like brushing my teeth: just one of those things I do everyday.

So if you are going to weigh yourself daily, how do you avoid making yourself crazy when confronted with sudden gains and losses? You factor in the moving average of your weight, which shows the trend of weight loss and damps down the day-to-day fluctuations. Investors use moving averages (simple and more complex versions) to get a better idea of the trend of stock prices without getting caught up in day-to-day market fluctuations. It's a pretty neat and very simple tool for analysis of something over time.

A simple moving average is calculated by tracking your weight over a given number of days, adding up the total pounds from that time period, then dividing the sum by the number of days. To get a four-day simple moving average of your weight, you would add together your weight over the last four days, and then divide that number by four. Perhaps some charts would make this clearer:

This is the chart of my weight since 4/1/09, when I began the 5 Pounds, 5 Weeks Challenge. Note the big uptick on 4/8 and the big downtick on 4/10. Both of these were times that could have been cause for a lot more emotionality than they really deserved. It would have been easy to feel a bit despondent on 4/8, like all my hard work was ruined and I was back up to my 4/2 weight from a week earlier. But that would have been a false interpretation of the trend, as the moving average will soon demonstrate. Likewise, while it felt good emotionally to hit 151 pounds on 4/10, I knew immediately I was looking at a false low and I would see some rebounding the next day or two. If I hadn't realized that, the 2 pound weight gain the next day could have really taken the wind out of my weight loss sails.

So here's that same data, analyzed with a four-day simple moving average. The upticks and downticks are damped out, and a much more realistic picture of my weight loss progress becomes clear. Instead of a seemingly random collection of ups and downs, a slow, gradual decrease comes into view. This is a believable picture, showing about a 3 pound weight loss over 9 days, and is far more likely to represent actual fat loss, which is of course the goal, instead of changes in my hydration.


Now here's those two charts viewed together. Which line do you think gives you a clearer feedback picture? The Moving Average, natch. You don't have to actually create an Excel spreadsheet to figure all this out and calculate your own moving average (but it's really easy and if you do you get bonus geek points!) but if you are tracking your weight, it's a good idea to at least keep the moving average idea in the back of your head before you jump to conclusions about a "ruined diet" or "breaking through a plateau." Sometimes it's enough to glance back over the past several days of your weight log: are the past few days when taken together generally lower than those same days last week? Then you are probably on track.

There's quite a few tools to help with this concept online. There's the Google 15, an awesome little moving average calculator widget that you add to your Google Homepage. Old School .xls speadsheets are available with the (free! free! free!) Hacker's Diet, the most effective and honest (and did I mention free?) weight loss book around, assuming you can handle the geek-truth contained in it's pages. And if reading this has just made you tingly to know more about statistics, Wikipedia's Moving Average page goes into far more detail than I ever will.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Countdown to 30: 24 Days to Go

4/1: 157.0
4/2: 155.0
4/3: 155.2
4/4: 154.6
4/5: 154.8
4/6: 154.2
4/7: 153.2
4/8: 154.8
4/9: 152.6
4/10: 151.2
4/11: 153.2
4/12: 152.2

Moving average is on my side, and despite yesterday (chocolate and port night at my house - oh my!) and tonight (Easter dinner with AWESOME roasted potatoes and leftover mass chocolate dessert) I've been sticking to pretty clean food, in not insane portions. Also have made it to the gym, so I feel pretty good about the program, even if I haven't been doubling up many days like I was my first week back on.

Today I did the mainsite WOD: 30 Muscle Ups for Time. Since I can't do a MU, I had to sub 1:4 and go with 120 pull-ups/120 dips. I sent in a pic that demonstrated how the pull-ups turned out for me....massive blood blister. I went for 20 sets of 6 pull-ups/dips and the blister showed up on set 18 so I gingerly worked through the rest hanging by my findertips and managed not to pop it, so that's good.

I felt good about the kip: until I got pretty fatigued I was holding a better form and not overarching my back. I found it helped to deliberately try to make the reps faster and take the "rest" of the back swing out of it....tightened up my kip a lot. Until about set 16, then everything was hard.

Still, I thought a 12:30-ish finish was pretty good since I haven't done volume pull-ups since the shoulder injury--almost 3 months, I'd guess. And speaking of the shoulder, it held up great!

After the mainsite I rested a few minutes and did the XFit Endurence WOD. I know I'm supposed to break them up, but sometimes there's not time for two gym sessions in one day, yo! So I did the lactate shuffle workout:

5 min run / 2.5 min recover - 7 mph
6 min run / 3 min recover - 7.1 mph
7 min run / done! - 7.1 mph

I notice the XFE stuff is really helping me push my speed up. And much like the kip, on the second round something just happened with the pose and the first several minutes it was like I was a gazelle - I felt like one of those people who looks comfortable running. Thats a very new thing for me. Didn't last past about minute 4, but I held on as long as I could, and got it back for about the first 4 minutes of round 3 too! This was a great workout. Just the right amount of ass kicking....a little leg and a lot mental.