Sunday, February 15, 2009

C'mon, all the cool kids are doing it

Inspired by my friend Melissa Byers' excellent blog and the blogs of firebreathers like Jason "Rhabdo" Kaplan and Shana Alverson tracking their training for the Crossfit Games, I've decided to join the fun and put together a chronicle of my own training for the Northeast Regional Qualifiers. The difference with my blog is that I have no realistic expectation of qualifying for the CF Games. I signed up for the qualifiers, both to back-up my encouragement of some athletes from the CF message boards who I was encouraging to sign up themselves, and because Sean "Dammit" Manseau of Pioneer Valley Crossfit goaded me into not letting him be the only old guy at the Northeast qualifiers.

The fact of the matter is I'm a thoroughly average CFer. By the time the NE Qualifiers come around in late May, I'll have been at it with some pretty good consistency for two years. I took up CF to aid in conditioning for backcountry skiing and to ward off a midlife crisis associated with feeling old as I turned 40. Now, at 41, I'm pretty close to the best shape of my life, but by Crossfit standards, I'm nothing special. I have my strengths, but even those aren't exceptional:

CFT 795
200# C&J
Fran 4:46
Helen 9:16
FGB 281 (not really a strength, but it illustrates where I'm at)
Kelly 25:19
Murph 36:43

While those stats may be adequate to bring to the Qualifiers, I've got a host of weaknesses to address. Personal bests like

Grace 6:58
Diane 14:54
Angie 23:11 (although that was with ring pullups)

won't get the job done. I also have some pretty fundamental problems that need addressing. There are exercises where my technique is sorely lacking (e.g., snatch, muscle up), several more where I cannot consistently apply proper technique, (e.g., clean, push press, and push jerk), and some which defy my attempts to bring intensity to bear (e.g., deadlifts, handstand pushups). The Crossfit formula for development of exercise is to first master the technique, then develop consistency, and lastly to apply intensity. While the snatch probably won't appear at the Qualifiers and the muscle up and handstand pushup might not, the rest of my weaknesses almost certainly will appear. Thus, my preparation for the Qualifiers is going to be as much remedial physical education as hardcore training.

You may ask, "Then why the hell are you signed-up for the qualifiers?" I signed up for the same reason that I train. In the words of Jon Gilson, "I train to train." I have no illusions of becoming an outstanding athlete at this stage of life. I have no major worries about my body breaking down if I don't push harder in my training. I certainly don't expect to impress the assembly of discriminating eyes at the Qualifiers. However, by training for the Qualifiers, I am forcing myself to focus my training. I can't afford to chase PRs on workouts that I already do well; I can't afford to pace myself comfortably through metcons that last longer than 10 minutes (another major weakness of mine); I can't work muscular strength at the expense of muscular stamina, and I can't afford to push through workouts like Grace with substandard technique. In short, I have forced myself to program my workouts intelligently to address my weaknesses; I must push through my workouts with intensity; and I must invest myself fully in my nutrition and recovery.

There is no settling for strong enough, fast enough, enough stamina, etc. Once I look in the mirror and decide that I look good for a 40-year-old guy and let that be enough, I start to slip. The numbers don't lie. I'm not good enough. Improving my weaknesses won't be what makes me good enough. I may not get several muscle ups; I may not develop a super-strong deadlift; but I can train intelligently and diligently and leave everything I have on the ground at the Qualifiers, and that will be good enough. I may finish DFL, but that puts me miles ahead of DNS. Signing up for the Qualifiers is as much an investment in mental training as physical. It's time to see what I can do when put to the test.

Since this is a training log, I guess I should post a workout. Here's yesterday's effort:

Goblet squats
Hip mobility drills

Skill work
Handstand practice
managed three 0:05-second free-standing handstands
1:00 wall handstand hold
walk on hands 4, 9, 9, 10 & 6 feet

Heavy stuff
Back squat 45x5, 135x5, 185x3, 225x2, 245x1, 255x5, 260x5, 265x5
Good morning 45x8, 95x8, 135x5, 155x8, 160x8, 165x8

Core work
10 STCs (on rings)

5 rounds:
Row 250m
8 Hang C&Js, 40# DBs

That metcon was positively brutal on my grip. I desperately wanted to go to a lower weight on the dumbbells and simply hanging on to the rower in the last round was Hard. Pushing through that was definitely good for me and my willingness to endure discomfort.

The squats were solid, but were definitely hard work. My 5RM is 270, but I'm just getting back to a proper LBS from a hybrid LB position/HB torso squat that I'd been working on this past fall. The LBS is definitely the right tool to help me build strength through the posterior chain, but that's a topic for another post.

Thanks for reading.


Jay Ashman said...

well my man, I'll be there rooting you on in 2009. And in 2010 we'll be rooting each other on. :)

Jenn said...

I can't believe it took me this long to find your blog, Patrick. Obviously, I'm a really bad stalker. :p

You may train to train, but it helps to have a goal. If going for qualifiers helps motivate you to push through and train your weaknesses, then that's reason enough to pursue it. I'll be pulling for you.