Category Archives: crossfit

Of Wallballs and the sort…

wallballs

(pictured: me at CrossFit Champaign-Urbana. Photo cred: sweet pea photography)

Truth be told, I hate wallballs. Is hate too strong of a word? How about despise?

In CrossFit, there is this workout called Karen. It is simple. Do 150 wallballs as fast as you can for time. For Men, you toss a 20 pound medicine ball above a 10 foot line. Sounds simple eh? Not so simple.

That crazy wallball has a mind of its own. You have to position your feet perfectly to catch the bounce off the wall. And those leather concocted balls stitched in a geodescic design are not that evenly weighted. They hit funny and ricochet in weird directions. You squat down so hips are parallel to knees and, for short guys like me, you almost jump off your feet to get it high enough. It bounces off the wall and hopefully catches perfectly between your hands. The ball is pretty wide. So you end up squeezing it between your hands and against your chin. I’ve hit my chin pretty hard at times. My chest and shoulders are often sore after because of all the squeezing. But your legs and butt get the brunt of the work.

So, to recreate this misery, I went to an outdoor basketball court at the University. The backboard is perfect since the rim sits at 10 feet high. It takes some accuracy to get it to the side of the backboard every time. Yep, the pain was just as I remembered. I had a good rhythm to 20 reps and then my wheels came off. That didn’t take long at all! I was doing a 40-30-20-10, not even a full Karen. I planned to rest in between and do everything fast. Ha! Not fast at all. I rested in a lot of places besides the 1 min rests. And I really thought I was getting into good CrossFit shape.

I’ll only do 50 (25 + 25) as part of an upcoming competition. This has me thinking twice about how ready I am. I almost barfed 3 times driving to the grocery store afterward. It was 35 degrees Fahrenheit outside when I did this so I had trouble regulating my temperature in the car. Those hot flashes led to that bitter taste in the back of my throat. Ummm, not good.

If you’ve never tried these wallball things, maybe you’d like to experiment? Or maybe run the other way. I’d advise the latter.

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So it begins – Rocket Yoga training

larry schultz epk

I will be attending a 5-day Rocket Yoga training soon. A minor hiccup in the process is that (on a whim) I signed up for the CrossFit Games Open as well. So I’ll need to submit my video Friday morning after the announcement of the workout before I begin my travels. What’s life without a challenge? 🙂

So, being an older yogi…and despite being relatively fit….you can’t overlook one thing. This is gonna sting…possibly badly. I packed Epsom salts for nightly and morning baths. I have a Rumble Roller, massage stick, back buddy, and lacrosse ball packed for self-therapy. I tried to find a place for a massage, but most don’t have weekend hours. And I understand my training schedule may be fluid, so I couldn’t cancel if I needed to.

Regardless of the uphill climb I describe, I am very excited for this opportunity. I’ve been teaching Rocket Yoga classes for 1.5 years and attended Ashtanga and Rocket classes over several years. I have many limitations flexibility-wise. But I teach many who have similar or greater limitations. I emphasize doing what you can and having fun. So teacher do likewise. I keep my mind open and my body fresh.

Namaste!

Building Bodies

arnold-cable-row

So, my upper back, lats and such, have been sore for 3 days now. No worries because its a good soreness. One that comes from revelation.

I’ve been focusing more in the past 10 or so years on athletic performance and functional fitness. I’ll occasionally dabble into the dark side of narcissism and do some body work. But for the most part, my body work is an afterthought. If what I do makes me look good, then so be it.

Sometimes, if I am a little tired or I have a few minutes to spare, I’ll grab the cables on a machine or maybe I’ll do some isolation work with dumbbells. And sometimes, I do it even though I think its a waste of time. I mean, I know its not necessarily going to help me clean & jerk another 5 kilos or add to my squat. But I do it anyway.

Well, back to my soreness. I keep a fairly detailed log of my workouts. I mark down weights and PRs and how long it took to do a MetCon WOD. Three days ago, I found I was running out of time, so I thought I should do a few pulls on the cables since I was too tired to do pullups. I started with lat pulldowns while I was fresh. I usually do this with lighter weight and focus on form. But it was the close-grip pulley rows (picture of Arnold above) that got me. The weight was still light since it was the first set. I pulled back strictly until my elbows were fully back. Then, I only came forward half-way. So I did 3 half-way pulls to elbows back and then released all the way forward for a rep. Then pulled 3 half-way again and did that for a few sets. Lastly, I released all the way forward allowing my shoulder blades to pull far apart from each other getting a good stretch. Then I pulled back and pinched my shoulder blades together.

Know what? I almost didn’t count these in my training log. I ran out of time and only did one-set. But I’m glad I did because my back is jacked. I really need to rethink this and start doing more body work. I’m certain it will do wonders in building mass and hopefully that will translate into strength.

Live and learn!

Feb: Lunge Every Day

Before you think I’m crazy, hear me out.

I listened to Cory Gregory for about the 5th time this morning on The Barbell Life podcast. He espouses the Squat Every Day axiom along with several others. I think he went 600 days squatting every day, hard and heavy! Now, Travis Mash, an elite powerlifter, and others follow similar guidelines. The book by Matt Perryman “Squat Every Day” is an excellent reference for these ideas. But many are talking about it.

But before you think this is a fad, hear me out!

A story is told of Milo of Croton who, when he was young, saw a calf in the field and hoisted it onto his shoulders. Every day he would go out and lift the calf. Only over time, the calf grew larger and eventually was a full-grown bull. Regardless of the story’s truth, there are people who actually work hard every day. They swing a 10 pound sledge hammer every day in rain and cold and heat. Nobody says “you need a rest day”. Nobody says “you need to swing your sledge on alternate days”. Roofers roof; miners haul; mothers pick up toddlers; and some kids may walk a mile to school every day. Nobody will tell you to take a break from your duties. Weider and Atlas developed ideas for lifting since the 1950’s and we claim their ideas as fact. When they are not really based on science. But people still take rest days, which is fine, but they aren’t always necessary. Olympic weightlifters lift 6 days a week for hours twice a day. And they only see steady progress. We adapt. We survive.

Perryman, in his book, talks a lot about soreness, fatigue, overtraining, and all these other things that we’ve concocted in our minds to avoid doing the hard work. I hate to sound like some muscle-headed Neanderthal, but most of our excuses are fluff. There is a French speaking man (sorry to forget his name) who says “Burn the questions”. Don’t ask, should I do this today? Am I too sore to workout? Why do I have to do that? Just do it. My softer side will say, keep moving. It rushes synovial fluid to your joints, it lengthens muscles thereby releasing scar tissue, and it moves lymph to usher healing hormones and growth factors to speed the process of healing, recovery, and strength building.

Over the years, I have dedicated a month, usually in July and November, to Squat Every Day. I always gain so much from doing that, not only physically, but mentally as well. Cory not only talks about squats, but he also Lunges Every Day. He started doing lunges for a quarter of a mile. And sometimes, he’d work up to a mile of lunges. If you have ever done lunges, it doesn’t take too many to make your buns so sore that its hard to sit down or stand up. That’s how good they are. Cory and Travis also talk about if you have a hole in your fitness, if you want to get your heart beating without running, if you have back or sciatic pain, then lunges are for you. And if you want to build buns for Spring Break that are shapely and strong, there is nothing better.

So lunges it is. I have an Advanced Rocket Yoga training coming up in the end of February and a CrossFit competition in April. The timing is perfect for Lunge Every Day!

Rocket Training

Whew, this 50 hour Rocket Yoga certification is coming up at the end of February. Basically, I still do Olympic weightlifting every morning since that is what makes me happy. I play with my Concept 2 Rower and Ski Erg a lot too. In the afternoons, I have been doing more specific Rocket training.

I have paralletes where I’ll jump to handstand and slowly lower to a forward fold. Then I slowly jump back to chaturanga and vinyasa. I have higher parallel bars where I’ll practice jump throughs to L-sits and then back again to chaturanga. And I do a lot of work on the gymnastic rings since I think that shoulder engagement is useful for strength and flexibility.

With dumbbells, kettlebells, and plates, I do a lot of front raises. Frontal deltoids take quite a load in Ashtanga. I do pressdowns on a cable machine, but I do them more like  a bar muscle up. Imagine doing a pull-up and then transitioning into a press-down with arms extended. It works the whole body for stronger bakasana, lolasana, and other rounding postures. Back extensions & deadlifts, sit-ups & leg raises, and loads of pushups and bench presses.

So far, I’ve noticed the difference when I am demonstrating asanas in classes and when I take classes. I have more strength and endurance than before. And because of this, I have much more focus and awareness of what I’m doing. It is a great yoga experience.

Yoga Is Good Enough

For people who practice yoga, and for those who don’t, I’ll say “Yoga IS good enough.” If you want to get better at yoga, do yoga. There are no tricks or shortcuts. And for general health, there is something in yoga for everyone. Its not just stretching. It is strength, flexibility, cardio, balance, mindfulness, and spirituality, all wrapped up in one practice. BUT, with that being said…

I come from a multi-athlete, CrossFit kinda background. I am very into all things fitness and sports. A little variety is just the spice that some of us need. So if you want to add to your traditional classes, here are some options:

Yoga wheel – there are several wheels out on the market. My first intent with using a wheel was for greater back flexibility. But I’m finding so many ways to use it. You can do it in front of the TV, or I will even sequence it into a workout.

Aerial yoga – Talk about reversing gravity. It almost places yoga in an opposing force. Think of doing a suspended backbend. It is a totally chest opening experience. Hammocks, slings, silks, trapeze bars, rings, oh my! Lots of options.

Hot yoga – You can do your own hot yoga. If it is hot outside, spend some times in the sun on the beach or at a park with yoga. Find your muscles lengthening with this wonderful assist. Be careful though because you can find yourself in much deeper positions than normal putting your connective tissues in a predicament. You can practice forward folds in a hot bath. I’ve even gone into a hot attic in the Summer (if safe for you) and did entire flows.

Hand weights – Kettlebells, dumbbells, wrist & ankle weights – these can add resistance and more balance in any posture. You can do sun salutations, warriors, side planks, almost anything with weights in hands. It can be mentally stimulating too. If I’ve done a side plank while holding 54 pounds, I feel invincible when I do it in class without weight. For people with wrist issues, dumbbells may be a good way to get away from some of your issues. See how it feels for you.

Office yoga – I get creative. I put my lower leg up on a desk and do a wide variety of pigeon poses, twists, and folds. In an arm chair, I’ll press into tolasana, lolasana, or an L-sit. You can hold books for chair pose or warriors.

Weight vest – Put on a weight vest for sun salutations and standing poses. Seated balances like boat pose can be a neat challenge. Planks and arm balances will really get cranked up.

Self-massage – I’m a huge advocate of massage. Going to a professional for deep tissue or Ashiatsu is invaluable in opening fascia and removing scar tissue. Search “Mobility WOD” and find Kelly Starrett. He is the CrossFit guru who take physical therapy to a whole new and personal level. Foam rollers, therapy balls (lacrosse ball is my fav), roller sticks, thera-canes, and many other possibilities. You can have these tools alongside your mat at home. Try rolling your hamstrings and glutes prior to doing a seated forward fold. Or rolling a stick on your hip flexors and inner thighs while seated in lotus. It will open you up in new and different ways.

Don’t be afraid to get creative with your home practice. It won’t substitute your regular practice at the studio or home. But it may add the spice that makes your practice creative and enjoyable.

Yoga Strong

In fitness, they talk about adaptation and specificity. Our bodies are remarkable in that they respond to stimulus in order to survive. If we walk or run longer, lift or stretch more, we begin to adapt to those body movements. And this adaptation takes place in very specific ways. If we change the stimulus, even slightly, then our bodies must then again respond to that change. If we always do 5 sets of 5 reps of a bench press, and we switch to 3 sets of 20, our bodies will likely be sore and will eventually adapt to that new rep scheme.

“Outlift a runner; Outrun a lifter”

That is what my t-shirt says that I bought while working at a CrossFit Games Regional event. It follows the CrossFit definition of fitness “Constantly varied, high intensity, functional movements performed at broad time and modal domains”. It means that maybe we’ll not be the Master’s of any sport or fitness activity, but we can adapt pretty well to anything that pops up. If you say run 10 miles and then lift a 200 pound generator into the back of a truck, we could probably do that at the drop of a hat. We are generalists who can do almost anything.

I’m attending Rocket Yoga training at the end of February. So the goal I have is to be Yoga Strong! Using the specificity model, I could focus only on yoga and get there without doing anything else. But then I sacrifice other areas of my life. There are yogis out there who do amazing things. Their strength-to-weight ratio is remarkable. But that is only one kind of strength. Their specificity is yoga. If you asked them to run 2 miles for time or lift a refrigerator, their specific strength may not lend to those activities. They are Yoga Strong. And that’s what I need to be too. But I am a different kind of athlete. I need the quality of life that allows me to do other things as well.

So I am on a program. I love Olympic weightlifting and I think that lends to so many areas of life. I am doing a lot of rowing and skiing on my new Ski Erg by Concept 2. So strength and cardio are there. I am using gymnastics tools like paralletes, rings, and high bar. And I am certainly doing plenty of yoga. This is not a lot different from what I normally do, but my mind is focused on Rocket Yoga. I am also running. I think my waistline impedes my ability to do twists and folds comfortably and, for me, running is the fastest way to reducing body fat. But at the top of the list are bandhas, which I will describe more later. The fitness world would call it “core”, but Ashtangis would refrain from saying that. It plays a huge role in yoga strength.

I wish you well in your goals and pursuits for 2016. Remember, it is good to have specific goals, but your primary goal should be quality of life. Enhance your well-being, both body and soul.