Tuesday, January 5, 2010


I've put lots of thought into how I program for a winter of backcountry and downhill skiing, selecting exercises to develop my fitness in a prioritized fashion:
  1. mobility

  2. power endurance

  3. cardiorespiratory endurance

  4. strength

  5. agility

  6. muscular stamina

  7. and skiing-specific measures of coordination, balance, and accuracy.

but the fact of the matter is I haven't hit the gym at all. Well, maybe a couple times to squat light or kip a few pullups, but since the snow started falling, a typical week (as opposed to the slovenly holiday weeks) has looked like this:

  • Monday: climb trails at ski area and ski down once or twice, ride lift a couple times and ski

  • Tuesday: rest

  • Wednesday: go out to the garage to pretend at working out, maybe foam roll and stretch

  • Thursday: ski race - two 30-second runs plus a half-dozen lift rides for fun

  • Friday: one-hour backcountry tour before work

  • Saturday: ski with kids or play with kids in the snow, drink tea

  • Sunday: watch football, think athletic thoughts
  • That's not training. It's physical activity, and it happens to be lots of fun. It keeps me fit relative to where I might be as a desk jockey, but I'm not getting into better shape. At least, I don't think I am. My ski touring hasn't even been regular enough that I've timed my outings. I haven't climbed the same route twice, and I refuse to break out the stopwatch when I'm in the backcountry. I've toured in northern VT, southern NH, and central MA. No spectacular descents; no epic long days. There have been some relaxing 4-hour tours, and there was one 5+hour super-windy, subzero-temp tour that required a special sort of endurance of a kind I have no wish to develop.

    I have no regrets about avoiding the gym. I'm having way too much fun as it is, and I'm not really interested in paying good money to hunt for workout space amidst the six different bench press setups at the YMCA. It melted down Monday, so a little balance is likely to return. However, I'm in-season for my favorite sport. There's room for training, but it's not a priority right now. I'll be sure to post workouts and maybe even some thoughts on programming for workouts around in-season activities, but until then, here are a couple photos from Wednesday morning's Nottraining session. Didn't quite get to the top in time for sunrise, but it sure beat a second cup of coffee as an eye opener.

    The view on the way up.
    Morning Skiing 023

    The way down.
    Caked Trees 031

    Monday, December 14, 2009

    Establishing a baseline

    After a week on the road that saw a day of squats and a day of running, both of which felt more like rehab than training (such is the pain of starting over), I skipped the deep snow up north to visit with the family this weekend and settled for a quick visit to the local hill Monday morning.

    Skin up Conifer

    950 vertical feet, ~1 mile


    (First road cut, 10:45, second 16:30, transition to ski 4:48).

    Not bad for out-of-shape, as I used to consider a halfway decent time to be a half-hour. Only did a single lap and it was a balmy 30 degrees, so I didn't have my customary 10 pounds of water and extra gear on my back, although I do carry ~10 pounds of gear on each foot. The transition to ski time was pathetic. That needs practice before I do any rando racing.

    Was fogged in at home this morning, so I didn't bring the camera. Too bad, since the sun started to break through and I could see for over 30 miles. Got to the bottom just in time to board the lift for a thoroughly enjoyable victory lap. Funny how quickly skiing comes back into my legs these days. The first day used to be an adventure until I finally got a seasons pass a few years ago. Good thing, because I've got my first downhill clinic Thursday.

    Saturday, December 5, 2009

    Core Training

    Thursday, December 3rd workout - Remembering the diagnosis.


    Shoulder mobility - stretching, foam rolling, dislocates

    When I attended Kelly Starrett's excellent workshop at CF Boston in September, I was held up as an example of someone with bad shoulder mobility. He had me trying doing an overhead squat, and he kept telling me to stop cheating. I quite simply could not hold the bar overhead without arching my back. His prescription 5-10 minutes of shoulder mobility work before doing any overhead work. Sometimes even that is not enough lately. Hopefully, things will improve as I build a routine incorporating kipping pullups, mobility work, OHS, and the like.

    5 rounds:

      3 x 25# pullups
      3 MU row-transition
    3 sets each:

      10-second tuck L-sit on rings
      3 press to headstand
    Even when I'm not getting in a full workout, I've been trying to squeeze in a little gymnastics training. Perhaps it would have been better if I hadn't crammed it between my shoulder mobility work and overhead lifting.

    Heavy Stuff
    Press 5x3 85-95-105-115-115f

    As soon as I finished thee fourth set, I knew I'd commited the classic alignment fault, because I could suddenly feel tenderness in my L1-T12 disc. I know the feeling from injuring it by catching some jerks with a hinge at that L-T joint. (Kelly Starret expands on this here.) This was just enough tenderness that I knew I lost tightness in the core trying to compensate for my limited shoulder mobility.

    Half Cindy

    AMRAP 10:

      5 pullups
      10 pushups
      15 squats
    8 rounds -> 9 pullups; 10:20 for 10 rounds

    Pushups failed me, like usual, only quicker this time.

    Saturaday, December 5th workout - The Start of the Cure

    10 minutes carrying wood
    5 minutes jump rope - no more than 6 consecutive DUs
    Shoulder mobility work

    5 rounds:
      3 HSPU
      10-second frog stand
    I do the HSPUs with my belly to the wall, so I'm less likely to hinge my spine. If my back is to the wall, I'll arch to keep my center of gravity against the wall. This way I'm encouraged to hollow myself, although you can see that it's not a perfect system. By my fifth set, my form was starting to suffer:

    You can see the two problems working against each other here, limited shoulder mobility putting me at a less-than vertical body angle and a softening of the back to make my torso angle even less vertical. This is the classic upstream-downstream mobility issue that Kelly Starrett harped on in his Chasing Performance seminar - a mobility restriction in one part of the body leads to an even worse form issue elsewhere. (This is an amazingly useful analysis tool for a coach.) The solution is even more dedication to shoulder mobility (daily perhaps), and a corresponding effort to strengthen my core, not by situps and back extensions, rather by doing exercises that force me to work to hold my spine straight.

    Heavy Stuff
    Deadlift 3x5 - 225-275-310

    That was harder than I remember, but my form was halfway decent.

    Suitcase DL 3x3 each 95-115-135

    KB Complex, 12K

    One minute each:
      One-arm swing, right 31
      Figure 8 forward 20
      One-arm swing, left 33
      Figure 8 backwards, 12 (That was silly.)
      Clean and press, right 20
      Halo, cross chop, alternate sides 22
      Clean and press, left 17
    Total reps = 175

    Some folks like the pump they get after a day of bench press and curls (guess it looks good in the mirror), but I like the pump after a day of deadlifts. Walking around with a tight trunk just makes me feel strong. I won't be doing heavy deads every week, but I'll mix them in with snatch-grip DLs, unilateral DB/KB work, and the like. I've got hips that even after a few months off can move hundreds of pounds, but I spent those months slouched in front of a computer at work, so my spinal erectors got weak much faster. That's an imbalance I won't allow to get the best of me. The same goes for my mobility work. It's time to stretch.

    Monday, November 23, 2009

    Back to Basics

    As I hinted in my last post, I've had some thinking to do - about how I want to approach my workouts and why I want to torture myself workout in the first place. I had some pretty concrete goals at the beginning of the year. I was in full-on CrossFit-for-CrossFit's-sake mode, training for the Games and shooting for some nice round numbers on my lifts. I had 20 - count them - 20 individual performance goals for 2009 (plus an equal number of intermediate goals). Having taken 3 months more-or-less off, it's safe to say that those goals haven't felt threatened much. (I met exactly one - in March, when I was not only in some of the best shape of my life but was well rested on account of getting too busy at work.)

    I'm starting this cycle from a very different place. After a summer of playing with the kids, an autumn of Too Much Work, and recently a bout with the H1N1 flu, I'll be building from a conditioning base of not much better than zero. As such, it's too early to worry about how big I can get my squat this winter or how fast I can row 2,000m. First, I need to simply get in the habit of working out regularly and trying to regain lost capacities. It's not as much fun starting over as it is doing something new, when progress comes easily and each workout sparkles with the excitement of new accomplishments. Right now, however, it's time to swallow my pride and put up some sad-looking numbers and let the cold light of objectivity guide my training.

    Training for the Qualifiers burned me out on CrossFit for CrossFit sake. It would be one thing if I were training at an affiliate where I had people to push me through each workout, but not being a mainpager, running out to the garage each night and punishing myself to trim a couple seconds or add a couple pounds had lost it's appeal. Still, laying around on the couch at night wasn't exactly the best programming I've come up with either.

    In need of a goal, I decided I'd train for the ski season. Skiing is by far my favorite sport, and it was a day of ski touring in the White Mountains that convinced me to take up CrossFit in the first place. Therefore, it seems the perfect object for my current training. To make it more interesting for me, I'm entering a weekly race series (giant slalom) and will enter a couple of randoneering races (climbing and descending a mountain - usually multiple times). I've never ever raced gates before and my alpine ski touring has not been a timed venture, so I don't have a great benchmark for performance, but having quantitative measures of performance will raise the stakes on my training and force me to be objective about my strengths and weaknesses for my chosen sport. Programming objectively for a sport rather than to get better at working out will be a new challenge for me, and I'm looking forward to it.

    For downhill racing, squats are king. I became a better skier over the summer when I did Starting Strength, simply by virtue of being stronger in a deep squat. Obviously, then, squats will be a part of the new program, but what else do I include? Backcountry skiing is primarily an endurance sport - cardiorespiratory endurance and muscular stamina. When alpine touring, I have ~9 pounds strapped to each foot and 10-30 pounds on my back. That adds up over the course of day. There are programs out there that cater to backcountry skiers (e.g., Rob Shaull's mountain athlete site), but those are designed for the long, slow haul of mountaineering. I'm not about to load up on hour-long chippers every day to develop improved slogging ability. That would only rob me of explosiveness and pure strength I want for the downhill (and for the All-Important Stupid Human Tricks that make being fit fun).

    Still, I'll be doing more of the dreaded AMRAP 20 thing. When I'm in the gym, I vastly prefer programs like Greg Everett's Cathletics program that combine olympic lifting and short, sharp metcons. Those kind of workouts still have their place, because downhill skiing places tremendous demands on explosiveness, agility, and anaerobic work capacity. Long metcons are not my favorite for general fitness, but they fit my needs for now. They'll include power endurance workouts, workouts that simultaneously tax core strength and work capacity (think DLs and running), and sport-specific aerobic sufferfests (timed ascents at my local ski area).

    More immediately, however, I need to work the basics. I need to get comfortable lifting heavy weights again; I need to rebuild my gymnastics capacities, and I need to diligently improve my mobility, both to recover from recent and old injuries and to fight off the decline of old age. This weekend was dedicated primarily to the first of those. To accomplish the latter, I'm going to have to get creative and be diligent in using my time away from the gym.

    Saturday, November 21, 2009

    Coming off the flu and not wanting a Fran cough to cause a relapse, I started off with a pure strength workout. The weights weren't great, but I have to start somewhere.

    3 rounds swinging Cindy:

      5 Chinups
      10 Pushups
      15 squats
      20 KB swings, 12K

    RDL 45x5

    Heavy Stuff
    Deadlift 135x5, 185x3, 225x2, 275x3, 300xx, 310x3

    Max strict dips 8

    November 22, 2009

    I just said that I'm not a mainpager, but today's workout was just the ticket - a squat-centric workout with an aerobic component, but long enough and heavy enough that I could pace myself without taking my flu-abused lungs into the sort of deep respiratory distress that a shorter, lighter metcon would produce.

    CFCC Mobility drills
    Hip mobility

    Strict CFWU

      10 DH pullups
      8 strict dips
      6 strict KTE

    10 mountain climbers
    3 burpees

    AMRAP 20:

      25 burpees
      15 Back squat, 173# (BW)
    3 rounds + 25 burpees

    Felt pretty bad about this performance as I slogged through it. I carefully worked my way through the squats, concentrating on holding a tight core after a sloppy first squat in round two. I sometimes dogged it on the burpees, but I still felt well spent afterwards. For a post flu metcon, simply lasting 20 minutes is a good enough performance for me, and the soreness I feel today seems about right for where I am in the workout cycle.

    Now the part that's been the hardest for me lately - keeping it up during the week.

    Thursday, September 10, 2009

    The Law of Conservation of Momentum

    A body in motion tends to stay in motion. A body at rest tends to...

    Maybe you all are a bunch of CrossFit freaks, who can take a week or two off for work or vacation and jump right back into the daily sufferfest, but I'm a creature of habit. I do best when I'm out there four to five days every week without fail - even if that means interrupting a vacation to cobble together a workout using a rock, a tree stump, and my running shoes one day and then doing some sort of inverted burpee creation in my hotel room the next. If I miss three days in a row, I'm still ready to get after it. Any more than that - missing a week or being inconsistent for a month, and I start gravitating toward the couch instead of the gym, because the truth is effective training hurts. Since my allergy to pain has been acting up, my couch has gotten more of a workout this summer than I have.

    I've turned into a weekend warrior, as I either work into the evenings during the week or take some down-time after working too much the previous day. Being a weekend warrior isn't too bad, if the activity you pursue is familiar. It's sort of the opposite of training. You do activities that keep you from losing all physicality, but you don't develop new capacities. At the same time, you don't hurt yourself. Of course, if you do CrossFit as a weekend warrior, where the activity is constantly varied, things don't work out quite so well.

    After a summer, where my workouts have more often been days at the beach and looked like this:

    3 rounds of 10-15 minutes:
    Carry 4-year-old daughter and lift over waves that break from chest to head high;
    Rest as needed between rounds.


    Bike 11.25 miles with 1,000 vertical feet of climbing


    rather than this:

    3 rounds Cindy+20 KB swings

    Heavy Shit
    Deadlift 135x5, 215x3, 265x2, 305x1, 320x3, 330x3, 305x3

    Quarter Gone Bad

    5 rounds (0:15 on, 0:45 off)

      135# Thruster 4-4-5-5-4
      58# Pullup 3-1-3-2-1
      Burpee 7-5-6-5-7

      = 63,

    I found myself nursing a couple of injuries - a groin injury that developed from squatting heavy, on a day I needed extra warmup and didn't take the time for it, and a wrist injury I picked-up trying to jump back into a PMenu cycle after 3 weeks off. The former is manageable. After six weeks, I'm pretty sure the latter will require medical intervention.

    I won't be olympic lifting anytime soon, but there's plenty that I can do to keep myself in motion. First, I need to figure out how to get myself in motion. Sure, there's the "Just-do-it" approach, but that doesn't do much for me. I need a program to follow. I've had good luck with my own (at least the sticking with it part, if not always the results), so I'm not shopping around for the latest fad, whether that's CF Football, MaxFit, or OPT. I need to figure out a program that works for my nutty schedule, but more importantly, I need to figure out what the hell I'm training for.

    The blog header reflects this ambiguity. I'll tackle this big question next. How about the three or four of you who read these ramblings? What are you training for? I'm sure you've seen this question dozens of times, and I've had good answers in the past. They just don't work for me at the moment.

    Monday, August 3, 2009

    Fitness and the summer party season

    It's funny. Summer has always been the season of activity for me. Before I became an avid skier or saw the inside of a gym on a regular basis, I used to waste away in winter and put on muscle and get fit during the summer, just by doing whatever fun activities came up - swimming, biking, running around with some sort of ball. Now that my daylight hours are filled with work and summer weekends usually involve driving-off somewhere for a birthday party, reunion, vacation, holiday get-together, etc., it's actually more of a challenge to fit fitness in. I'd like to be out biking, hiking, and generally playing around, but aside from bringing the kids to the beach a few times, there's been precious little of that sort of activity.

    I decided I need to get back to what got me into CrossFit in the first place, the simplicity of squeezing in a short, brutal workout into an otherwise busy schedule. I'll go for the long ride or hike when I get the chance, but this past week I got smart about setting expectations, and as a result, my follow-through was much better. I'm still itching to run up Mt. Monadnock (and might this week), but for now, these sorts of efforts will do quite nicely to get my groove back.


    Two days at CF Rochester:

    Saturday, 7/25/2009

    Fight Gone Bad - 237

    One point worse than last summer's effort. I went out strong, gassed and crashed, but that was the plan - shock the system, see what it could do, and fight to hold on. Did my post-workout flop after two rounds, stood-up and staggered through a pathetic third round. Wish I had the numbers to illustrate the severity of the drop-off. Can't wait to do this again, when I've got the conditioning back. Too bad it won't be at CFR, where I've done this twice and wouldn't mind getting a little redemption.

    Monday, 7/27/2009

    3 rounds:
    Row 250m
    25 DUs (just enough to start to get it again, but no more than 11 consecutive)

    Heavy stuff
    OHS 45x5, 75x5, 95x5, 125x5x2, 135x5x2

    I ran out of time for the last set and wanted more weight, but I kept redoing weight, because my stability was off. I easily got a new max on these a week prior, but I'd rather pile up some reps at a higher percentage of that than increase my max (on the OHS at least).

    Death by Burpee Pullup

    One half-second shy of 9 rounds

    I've gone soft. I was only too happy to quit.

    Tuesday, July 25, 2008

    Just the heavy stuff
    Clean and jerk 150x1x4
    Clean pull 215x3x3
    Clean DL 235x3x3
    Back squat (high bar) 245x3, 235x3x4

    Got a little wobbly at the end of the first set and dropped weight. Wobbly on the last rep, too. Still, it's good to see the base strength holding-up pretty well through extended periods of inactivity.

    Wednesday, July 26, 2009

    45 minutes of ultimate frisbee - Yay, something fun.

    Saturday, August 1, 2009

    The big test of my commitment. After a family gathering which included a slice of pizza, a beer, and some blueberry pie with ice cream, I shook off the carb lazies and put in a decent effort on something I've been meaning to try (posterior-chain-dominant weightlifting and biking). Can't wait to try a version of this at home with a barbell, my own bike, and a 2-mile loop that includes a steep 200-foot wall. The question, can I crank up the hill, after doing heavy deads?

    3 rounds:
    1 mile bike
    50 KB swings, 1.5-pood


    Sunday, August 2, 2009

    3 rounds:
    Run 400m
    8 Curtis Ps, 40# DBs
    (Hang squat clean, alternating lunges, push press)
    8 Fingertip pullups


    Redid this one, because I'd done it at my parent's house in May 2008 and wanted a direct comparison. As I gassed during the 2nd set of Curtis Ps, I thought I might not do much better than match my old time, but the runs went better and I pushed through the last set pretty determinedly. I was doing a metcon-free Starting Strength cycle last time around, so it was good to finish well before the old 16:55 mark.

    Got off to the beach for a little body surfing and a whole lot of playing with the kids in the surf.


    Time for a day off, then some heavy lifting, and if I can keep it up through the week (perhaps get in that run up Monadnock), I'll call myself back in the game. Either way, I'll post pics next time. I promise.

    Monday, July 20, 2009


    Extremism in the defense of gluttony is no vice. - Fred Goldwater (Barry's fat brother)

    I have to face it - I'm an extremist, but I do it in phases. I go to college and party like a mad man, barely graduating on time. I clean up my act, take up biking and log 100s of miles a week for years. I take up serious chess, studying for hours each night, enter tournaments and don't do half-bad. I get back into martial arts in grad school and hardly miss a class in two years. I start a career and go a year before I take two days in a row off. I buy a house and occupy my weekends and evenings fixing it up a little at a time. I take up a healthy paleoish diet and don't eat sugar or grains for two months. I get on a roll with my CrossFit training and get myself into shape for the Games Qualifiers.

    Then, I let work take over my life, and I all but stop working out. I could have spent evenings in the motel room getting in some training. I couldn't have continued balls-to-the-wall, but I could have done something. Instead, I was focused on work and I let my metcon and my diet slip. Even as my schedule has eased, I've had a tough time jumping back into a decent workout routine. I'll get in a good week with workouts and diet, and then it slips. Sure, I've had some good excuses to let things slip, a busy week in the office, vacation, minor injuries, but the pattern is clear. I'm not jumping back into the CrossFit routine, quite simply, because the workouts suck. I'm avoiding the pain.

    It's not all bad. I've been enjoying myself, and while my metcon suffers and I've lost a little ROM and CF-specific strength, my overall strength is still decent. I don't intend to jump with both feet into Serious Training or Strict Dieting. It's more important for me to learn to balance the competing interests of family, work, fitness, and fun, but, I offer this little what-have-you-done-for-me-lately post as a means of both catching up on things and restarting my blog in hopes of keeping myself honest in that pursuit of balance.

    The notion is to do a mix of oly lifting, gymnastics, and outdoor workouts, whether that be hiking and biking, or tire-flipping and sandbag carrying. I'm figuring a 2-on, 1-off approach would be ideal, as far as recovery and schedule go. We'll see.


    A few highlight since I last checked in a month ago.

      Figuring out double unders (conceptually at least) - PR of 22 consecutive
      Front squat PR 245# (but I had this one in the bag already)
      Oly lifting and sandbag & tire-flipping metcons with John Barney
    That was June. Not a complete washout, but more rest days than work days still. July has featured little in the way of workouts, given two weeks of too much work, bookending the vacation week I spent on the Cape. I brought my rings and dumbbells on vacation, but they never got unpacked. (That was lame. A single workout to get me started would have done me good.) I did get in a demanding 2-hour mountain bike ride and a short, high-speed road ride, but it was mostly about eating, drinking, and family. Lots of playing with the kids in the water and a day of body surfing at Marconi Beach - a fun, little workout that involved getting slammed repeatedly into the stone shoreline, while holding my breath. I repeated this workout yesterday (minus the body slamming) at Second Beach Newport with a solid 1.5 hours in the water, either throwing my kids around or riding the surf. Managed a couple halfway decent handstands and press handstands, too.

    Don't get me wrong. I've enjoyed myself and feel good about that. It's the balance I'm seeking. A trail run, some squat cleans, and some muscle-ups would have fit in well with my vacation, if I just got off my ass in the morning.

    A few photos:

    Marconi Beach

    Skaket Beach

    whale watching

    general vacationing


    My July CF workout (the only one thus far) - Saturday July 18, 8:30 a.m.

    5:00 Jump rope (double unders not quite there, but they'll be back)
    Shoulder mobility
    Hip mobility (adductor still not happy with me - even after 3 weeks off)

    Heavy stuff
    Overhead squat 45x5x2, 95x3, 125x2, 145, 155, 165, 175 (PR)
    Muscle snatch 75x3, 95x2, 115x2, 125, 135, 135f (matched PR)
    Power snatch 135 x1 x4

    I had more in me on the OHS, but I didn't want to risk wobbling about at the bottom and tweaking my slow-to-heal groin injury. Good to know that my solid winter training is still carrying over.

    3 rounds:

      100m run
      10 broad jumps
      20 pullups

    A bit too many pullups for the first day back in three weeks. Shoulder mobility is way down and I can't straighten my arms fully. Hopefully, the latter will mend itself by tomorow. I won't be doing pullups or going overhead, I suspect, but it would be good to not feel I need to marshall my recovery resources to tend to an injury.


    While on the topic of extremism, I stopped off at a Whole Foods on my way back from Rhode Island yesterday and picked up the a nice sampling of the four food groups: beef, lamb, pork, and chicken. The latter three spent the evening on my smoker. (Can't let the diet slip as much as the workouts, or I'll really suffer.