2013: The Year in Review

If 2013 has shown me anything it’s that I do not have the time and dedication to keep up with regularly posting to blogs! LOL Then again I have a full-time job and a significant portion of my weekends are taken up by post-graduate education of other clinicians that I do, so when I do have a moment at home I usually don’t occupy it with more writing/working! Sorry! But, here is a requisite year in review post, for any of you who are on the edges of your seats waiting for my words! 🙂

2013 has been a landmark year for me. For this first time in my almost 39 years I have discovered that I actually CAN stick with a regular exercise program, but it obviously has to meet some conditions. This is, literally (and I mean literally, not figuratively) the first time in my life I have exercised regularly. I even did a Christmas Eve WOD and a day-after-Christmas WOD this year and I’ll do the same next week for New Year’s. With few exceptions, I managed to do four workouts per week (three CrossFit and one kettlebell). That’s DAMN good for a fat, out-of-shape, de-trained exercise-hater like myself.

What I learned is that all the stuff people say about the “community of CrossFit,” getting into a routine, tracking and logging things, etc are all true. The scheduled “class” format of CrossFit has been instrumental in my consistency, first and foremost. Also biting off the WODs at 5:45 AM and not giving myself a chance to talk myself out of the work has been critical to my success. A side effect of this is that the 5:45 group is pretty dedicated, so you work your ass off with the same people every morning and you get a bit of a guilt trip from them if you don’t show up. It takes a lot of the “self-discipline” out of it.

I’ve made some good new friends through CrossFit and I’ve seen that it is a welcoming community of dedicated, friendly people, no doubt. It’s also super-competitive, so I learned that judges get fucked over at every competition no matter how good of a job they do. LOL If you no-rep an athlete they are SHOCKED that they are anything but perfect and you’ll catch Hell at the end of the event. If you DON’T no-rep someone then SOMEBODY ELSE will give you Hell for it. Damned if you do and damned if you don’t, but I found judging and doing hospitality and stuff at our big competition this year was a lot of fun, all the same.

Some other things I learned: first and foremost, CrossFit is NOT a weight-loss program. I haven’t weighed myself in months and judging by the way my clothes are fitting I know I’ve gained back most of the weight I lost earlier on (which was never more than 15 pounds, by the way). That being said, we haven’t stuck to a good diet in months, either, so there’s no one to blame but me on that one.

All that being said I have added a TON of strength and muscle to my body with the workouts this year. It’s just hidden under all my insulation! LOL So even though I haven’t technically lost any weight, I’ve changed my body composition quite a bit and people who haven’t seen me in a while comment on how much better I look. That works for me, for now. 😉

I set some goals at the beginning of the year: be able to do a great squat, be able to do 24″ box jumps during WOD’s, be able to do one pull-up. The first two are done, although squatting is something that is probably improved throughout your whole career. That pull-up is still eluding me, though. I can get about 80% of the way there, so it’s just that last little bit that I can’t dial in. I haven’t used my rings at home much to train my lats and back to do the pull-ups, though, so if I don’t hit it this year I am going to knock it out in the first quarter of 2014.

I surprised myself by hitting one of my 2014 goals already, though! LOL At our last Total I got a 1RM deadlift of 365 pounds and I told myself I would get that to/over 400 pounds in 2014. We had a workout a couple weeks ago that involved establishing a 1RM for the deadlift and I surprised myself by pulling 400! It used every single muscle fiber in my body but I did it with proper form and it was a VERY cool feeling to do something that powerful at this point in my life.

My goals for 2014 are as follows:

  1. Keep up the consistency. Now that I’ve made it a year’s habit, I think that keeping up the work is going to be pretty easy since we’re locked into the lifestyle now.
  2. Focus on nutrition and consistency of diet. This is the BIG one I want to work on this year and get sorted. 2013 was the first year in my life I consistently exercised. Can 2014 be the first year in my life that I eat well consistently? You can teach an old dog new tricks.
  3. Handstands – I can do most of a wall walk but that last 20% or so scares the shit out of me still. It’s just a matter of getting over the fear and getting used to being upside down a few times, then I’ll be able to invert all I want.
  4. That damn pull-up.
  5. I am going to start doing more ring work… push-ups, working on dips and that sort of stuff to really push my stability.
  6. Endurance. I still crap out pretty easily in kettlebells and WODs. I feel like my muscles fatigue pretty fast and I have pacing issues, like I can knock out Round 1 of a 5 RFT WOD fast, but then I’m grinding for the other 4. LOL Lung capacity and endurance need help in 2014, so I need to try to find the time to doing some longer, slower work once in  while.

That’s about it. Fat guys (and gals) CAN CrossFit without killing themselves and they CAN develop fitness. I’ve proven it. Now for the hard work! LOL

6 Months In… Now What?

Hello, my fluffy (and maybe not so fluffy, now!) readers! It has been forever and a day since my last post which makes me officially the world’s worst blogger, but hey, sorry! I’m right at my 6 month mark (WOW, time FLIES!) for doing CrossFit and kettlebell workouts and it’s time to check in.

I weighed in on work’s miserable excuse for a BMI machine and there is some info to be gleaned from that. Ignoring my BMI, which is a fairly stupid measure to begin with (for example, my instructor is 6 and a half feet tall, in his early 50’s and 11% bodyfat, you can see every vein in his body, and his BMI is “morbidly obese.” LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL), I have:

  • Lost about 15 pounds
  • Gained some lean muscle. I can see some veins popping up in my arms, and I can definitely feel new muscle where it wasn’t before.
  • Dropped 6.5% of my total body fat.

Now, for most people this is a pretty slow burn, but this is also sustainable for me. There’s a gal at our box who looks awesome and has dropped something like 20 pounds and 12% bodyfat or something ridiculous in 12 weeks. Everyone’s metabolism is a bit different!

I have also been more concerned with form, proper movement, learning the right way to do things, etc than blasting out heavy, bad reps, etc. With the exception of some aches and pains and the one missed box jump where I twisted my ankle 5.5 months ago, I am injury-free and making it to 4-5 WOD’s per week, so that is a stark contrast to some of the folks in my box who’ve been going balls to the wall and have been out for injuries or have injuries brewing because of form breaks they haven’t recognized. I’m OK with the slow burn.

Paleo is going well. Very easy for us.

Been hitting PR’s a lot. Did a 265# squat the other day, which I was happy with. Also did a half Murph on Memorial Day on Monday and finished it in 46 minutes and change with scaled pull-ups and everything else Rx. I thought I’d max out at around 60 push-ups and I got all 100! And we just did a kettlebell workout this morning with a swing/push-up ladder from 1-10-1 (which equals 100 swings and 100 pushups) and I was able to do those, too. I’ve literally done more PU’s in this week than in my whole adult life, if you factor out the CrossFit WOD’s. LOL

So, there are things I am realizing now:

  • To generate more power in certain lifts, I’m going to have to train those things more specifically.
  • To learn skills, you’ve got to work at them. In the near future I’ll be buying some stall mats from Tractor Supply to set up a little low-tech gym in the garage so I can work on some things… double-unders, maybe start doing handstands and working toward HSPU’s, some kettlebells to get workouts in on off days and work on strength, and probably an Abmat.
  • My goal of attaining at least one strict pull-up is going to be tough to get. I HAVE to start working on back strength SPECIFICALLY for this. So, I’ve got a set of gym rings and straps (great, lifetime warranty wooden ones with straps, no tax and free shipping on sale from Muscledriver.com right now, $52!) on the way to start doing ring rows and things.

Overall I am very happy with my progress. I’m getting new skills, I’m building muscle, my pants and shorts are starting to have trouble staying up (lost two belt sizes) so I will be needing to do some clothes shopping soon (which will probably depress me, but oh well), and I feel like I am making progress that is sustainable and creating a new lifestyle for myself.

Chime in on what progress you’ve been making! I’d love to hear about it!

Rx’ing Hero WOD’s… What’s Next, The Moon?

Today was a big day for me in term of my gains (or is that “gainz?” LOL) from doing CrossFit. Like my last post said, we’re in the grind… knocking out day after day of working out (4/week, 3 CrossFit WOD’s and one kettlebell workout, which is an ass-kicker every time) and sticking to Paleo/Whole 30 pretty religiously. Now that the Open workouts are done, we’re back to doing regular CrossFit WOD’s on Friday mornings and today’s was The Chief (check the video out below). It’s a 3 minute AMRAP of 3×155# power cleans, 6 pushups and 9 air squats. Then a rest for 1 minute and repeat for 5 cycles for a total.

I did 8 full rounds plus one more power clean at the end. What I am proud of today is that I rx’d the weight, didn’t go lighter and I also did all my rounds of pushups as real, unmodified pushups. When I started at the very end of December I couldn’t do more than 3-4 pushups at a time, certainly not 30 in a 15 minute workout, and I was able to do them all as rx’d. I know 30 PU’s is nothing for a lot of people, but a lot of people aren’t me! LOL

Feels GREAT to rx an entire workout, especially a tough one like The Chief, which honors all the Chief Petty Officers of the Navy who’ve put everything on the line for us to maintain our freedoms. God bless!

For A Good Time, Call Fran 21-15-9

It has been a while since I posted last, so let’s get caught up… we’re still up to the Paleo diet and that is going fine. I’m not sure how well a cheat day works in Paleo because the point of Paleo is getting the gluten out and blood sugar normalized, so saying “&^$@ You!” to the previous six days once a week may not be wise. We’ll have to reconsider what we do on our cheat days or if we’re even going to continue with them.

This is the time of year that I start traveling a lot to teach postgraduate seminars for other doctors, so I was out this past weekend and I’ll be traveling the next two weekends, too. Paleo is not TOO tough to do on the road assuming you prepare and bring some jerky and nuts with you and then stick to salads when you can.

Today’s WOD was one of the classic benchmark CrossFit workouts, Fran. This is an old workout that CrossFit founder Greg Glassman developed in order to try to replicate the feeling of a two minute gymnastics rings or parallel bars routine. He said once that if a hurricane can be named Fran, why can’t a workout? Hence the name.

Fran is a timed WOD consisting of 21 thrusters, 21 pullups, 15 thrusters, 15 pullups, 9 thrusters and 9 pullups done as quickly as possible. Rx weights are 95 pounds for men and 65 for women.

This was my first Fran and I scaled to use women’s Rx weight and jump pullups. I finished in 9:30. The toughtest part for me was how my wrists feel in the rack position during the squat part of Fran. Of course, if I could do real pullups that would be a huge challenge, too! LOL We’ll see what happens when we repeat Fran in a couple months.

Here’s a video of Camille Leblanc-Bazinet doing Fran. Elite crossfitters can knock it out in under 3 minutes.


Walking the Fine Line

Take a load off

There is a very fine line you need to walk when you exercise, and that line is the border between pushing yourself and pushing yourself too hard. A common misconception held by a lot of people is that you get stronger in the gym, but it’s really what happens to your body when you’re resting that builds strength, endurance and power, all the things you want if you’re trying to get less fluffy.

If you sandbag (give less-than-maximum effort) your WOD’s, you aren’t getting anything out of it and there is something inherently self-destructive about KNOWING that you aren’t pushing yourself as hard as you could. I don’t want to make this sound over-dramatic, but you are fostering weakness in yourself and that’s antithetical to even bothering to do this stuff!

At the same time, if you go too nuts, you’re going to hurt yourself. Case in point, I had my first Kettlebell Extreme class on Thursday morning (graduated myself out of the basics class, which was a darn good workout in and of itself) and it was a killer. It was tons of snatches, and a million other things, working the KB for a solid hour with very little let up. That’s a grip killer, but I also kissed a couple of my hard-earned lifting and pull-up calluses goodbye. My hands were shredded!

Some weirdos in the CrossFit community think that losing skin is cool, and while I certainly felt like a bit of a badass, I felt a loss less like a badass when I got home and screamed like a little girl the second the water hit my raw skin as I went to wash my hands. Way to go, dummy!

So, I will be investing in some weightlifting gloves. As a chiropractor, my hands are my “moneymakers,” as my wife calls them, and she’s right. Even if I didn’t rely on my hands to make a living and help others, who the hell wants to walk around with ripped up hands all the time? LOL

The same principle applies to how often to workout. You DO need to take breaks. Listen to your body. The classic CrossFit regimen is 3 days on, one day off. You may find you’re an every-other-day person. You may like to knock out five in a row and have the weekend off. Etc. But listen to your body.

Remember, you NEED your hands, your spine, your knees and all the other body parts you were born with, so push hard, but not TOO hard.

As a bonus, here is master Jeff Martone coaching the KB snatch. Now imagine doing more than 150 of them in a one-hour workout, along with other things. Not only can you crc

Practice DOESN’T Make Perfect

One of the things that all of us newbies in the CrossFit world, especially the more deconditioned we are, experiences is the fact that our bodies don’t know how to move the right way. It sounds weird, but trust me, as a professional I spend a large portion of my day looking at how people move and it’s easy to understand that people just stop moving properly.

So, part of getting the body back in shape is not only getting tougher, developing muscle, losing weight and all that tangible stuff we can really see, but it’s also about neurologically re-learning (or in some cases learning for the first time) movements that are fundamental to other movements. The other really important aspect of this is that if you can’t do the full movement a certain way in CrossFit we SCALE the movement (lighter weight, an easier version of the movement, etc). The critical thing is that the scale has to use the same pattern of movement or it will create fundamental flaws in all the movements the basic one builds upon.

This video is a great illustration of this concept. Kelley Starrett of Mobilitywod is explaining something as “simple” as a pushup and what to look for when coaching and performing one, as well as why a common scale for the knee pushup (what most of us referred to as “girls’ pushups” because PE teachers always seemed to tell girls to do this, setting them up for subsequent failure) should NOT be done.

This is five minutes LOADED with great information and I know I have a lot of work to do on my pushups now (even more than I did before I watched this video)!

FAQ’s About CrossFit

CrossFit began largely as an online community of people who wanted to pursue fitness that goes beyond what you can do at Globo Gym and they remain true to that original spirit by maintaining an incredibly informative website. Their rather large FAQ can be found here, but I wanted to pick out some of the links that I think are particularly important for newbies and my large-scale brothers and sisters, so here you go!

Also, it’s important to note that a quick Google or YouTube search will 99% of the time give you plenty of links to official CrossFit articles and/or videos on exercises or very high quality stuff that others have made. Of course, ANYONE can put ANYTHING out there that they want, so once you recognize whose information you trust, bookmark them and visit often. YouTube is particularly helpful for scaling exercises, especially this ABSOLUTE MASTERPIECE on how to scale and learn the skill set needed for handstand push-ups:

Additional FAQ goodness from the CrossFit website:

Now that I trashed my ankle in yesterday’s Fight Gone Bad WOD, I will definitely be taking advantage of alternatives to running for warm-ups, can’t do any jump rope, any plyometrics, etc. Luckily the kettlebell workouts I’ve done over the past few weeks have shown me that you can get a DAMN good cardio workout without your feet having to move, so there is plenty of work to do even with a bum leg.

Workout Scaling – You MUST Read This

Don’t worry, my round friend, scaling may not be what you think it is. It doesn’t have anything to do with standing on a scale in front of the rest of your CrossFit class and weighing in. No way.

Scaling is ESSENTIAL to CrossFit and it’s something über-important that you need to have an understanding of.

Every CrossFit WOD (Workout of the Day) is expressed as an “Rx” or “prescribed workout.” It gives jump heights, weights to be used, etc. Think of the WOD Rx as an “ideal” workout, like, “This is what we WANT you to be able to do, but we know you all can’t actually do this.”

Enter scaling.

Scaling works in two directions. Most of us think of scaling down WOD’s, but if you’re a beast you can also scale them up. Get this through your skull right away: IT IS NECESSARY AND “OK” TO SCALE. Scaling is pretty easy to do in some instances and a little tougher to do in others. There are some differing opinions of theory about scaling, and I’ve included some articles that are good further reading. Your coaches should know how to scale everything and should be able to help you with this, but some are more hands-on while others leave it up to you a lot more.


Remember, CrossFit is based on three principles in this order: form, repeatability, intensity. If you can’t squat with proper form, then why ramp the intensity up with a lot of reps and weight? That would be training a bad pattern of movement and that is just stupid.

The two basic theories on scaling are sort of divided along the same lines. One school of thought says to go for the Rx’d reps (repetitions) of the exercise but scaled to what you can handle. An example is if you’re supposed to do 10 squats at a certain weight, you do 10 with the weight you can that doesn’t break your form or injure you. On the other side of the coin is the idea that you generate more power with more weight, and so this group would rather have you do fewer reps but use more weight while still maintaining your form.

This gets into pretty advanced theory, and quite honestly if you’re reading this you aren’t there yet.

The most important things about scaling, in my opinion, that you should be aware of early on and work with your coach on are:

  1. Whatever the scaling, it needs to work for you. It WILL be tough. It will ALWAYS be tough (that’s the point), but it doesn’t pay to lay you up with an injury.
  2. You and your coach need to be tracking your scaling and always looking to push it toward the Rx. So, yeah, you aren’t going to be swinging a 24kg kettlebell in your first kettlebell class, but two months in if you’re still on the 16kg one, you’re not being pushed hard enough. You will never become a comrade that way. If you EVER walk away from a CrossFit exercise or workout thinking, “That wasn’t too bad” or “I could’ve worked harder” then you made a mistake with your scaling, ciccio.
  3. The scale should mimic what the unscaled exercise will look like as much as possible. CrossFit isn’t just about power, it’s about mobility. Some things are really easy to scale, like the Olympic lifting, kettlebell work, etc. Just do the same thing but with no weight to get your form, then progressively heavier weight as you improve while keeping good form. Other things are tougher, like handstand pushups. If you can’t stand do a handstand, you can’t do handstand pushups, can you? I substitute regular (and I even scale those right now) pushups, but the range of motion and muscles worked in handstand pushups is completely different, so is that a good scale? I’m not too sure about it.

Here is a GREAT video of how to scale a handstand pushup, working through a progression of getting you able to do a handstand, first, then the pushups in that position second. As an added bonus, the athlete demonstrating the work is not tough on the eyes, but don’t lose sight of the point of the video, people! Anyway, this is scaling brought up to an art form, in my opinion, so do some additional homework and reading and MAKE YOUR COACH DO THEIR HOMEWORK, TOO. If they act like they don’t know how to scale things, then hold them to the fire, because as CrossFit affiliates they are supposed to know this stuff. If they are UNWILLING, then get a new coach or switch boxes, period.