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End of year, beginning of fear?

being an athleteI can confirm that in my case CrossFit doesn’t get any easier. I now have a strength programme. It requires me to train four times a week. That’s another training session more than I already do. It contains deadlift and press, back squat and bench, two lifts I’m happy with and two I hate. Plus another pull up programme – which has bicep curls in it!

1 – I’m not doing curls at CrossFit
2 – I’m scared all over again
3 – I need to get over my fear of failure.

So then somebody posted this article which just drove me bats. Doubly bats in fact because (a)  New Yorker? (okay it’s just a blog, but they’re supposed to be famous for fact checking) and (b) this partial view of the nature of CrossFit is informed by the nature of the observer more than by observation – in my opinion.

Numbering all over again:

1 – I have never heard a CrossFit box called a black box
2 – I have never stood in a circle with CrossFitters and shared personal information – let alone trivia like my breakfast preference
3 – comparing CrossFit to EST or AA completely fails to recognise the difference between a cult and a circle of excellence again, in my personal opinion. Google Kaizen if you want to know where I’m coming from.
4 – he trains once or twice a month in New York and more in New Orleans?  I think that’s what you call an interest, not a hobby and definitely not a fitness regime

So, I reflected on my own motivation. The reason I CrossFit is not so that I can play any competitive sport, outperform anybody of any gender or age, or feel like a better parent and I’m not sure that most people would recognise those motivations – at least, not when they are mid or post WOD, struggling to breathe and wondering exactly what large vehicle just ran them over and left them for dead!

I do CrossFit for specific health and fitness reasons. Just incidentally, and unintentionally, I find that CrossFit is a way of having my arse handed to me on a plate again, and again, and again. Now in my professional life I’m really good at rejection – damn few writers make a career unless they are able to handle copious amounts of ‘No thanks’ or just ‘No’ and get right back to work. CrossFit is the physical equivalent of that kind of rejection. I’m not good enough. Will never be good enough. Have been publicly shown to be not good enough.

So what?

Give up? Walk away? Hide?

As a writer, as a brain injury survivor and as somebody who has perhaps more experience with PTSD than is good for anyone, I know that failure lies not in being ‘not good enough’, it’s in internalising rejection as a judgement. Rejection just is.

I’ve seen work that was rejected three dozen times find a prestigious and lucrative home. I’ve seen my best work rejected again and again (and again, and is just about to be trunked, after talking to my agent and agreeing that there’s nowhere else to go with it, and I still think it’s my best work, to date).

We’re going to be sending out a novel soon. It might be another process of rejection, but that’s not failure, that’s just process.

I don’t have to prove anything at CrossFit to anybody except me. I try hard not to cheat, not to whine and not to fold, because that’s the person I wish to be. If I fall short of any of my chosen ideals that doesn’t make me a bad person, it just makes it a bad day, unless I take that less-than-desired behaviour and make it a part of me. I can mess up on any day, but on most days I don’t. I can write some crappy stuff, but most days I can make it better. Much better.

CrossFit is a strength, fitness and conditioning system that gives anybody the chance to define and move towards their chosen goals. Mr Beller’s goals are meaningless to me. His description of CrossFit as a cult seems wide of the mark to me and his description of his experience is like nothing I have ever seen or experienced in any box I’ve visited. Even so, the very fact that he has some goals and is willing to work towards them on some level makes him just like me and on that basis I applaud him.

I just wish his experience was a bit wider and deeper and less focused on challenges to his masculinity and desire to be young, strong and virile forever. I think his article sells CrossFit short and that makes me sad.

19 November – 100 day challenges and what they teach me

Well, herecommitment’s what I learned from the 100 Day Burpee Challenge, which coincidentally ran in synch with me reading David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest – basically a 100 Day literary challenge in itself!

1. There’s a narrow window within which constant practice improves performance before it becomes overtraining and delivers injury.
2. Mental toughness is not a problem for me, apparently.
3. Once you do reach the injury window and it opens wide, you’ve got two choices – flake or force it. I chose to force it, although I had to adapt my practice to classic straight arm burpees without a chest dip, as the injury I picked up was tennis elbow.
4. Burpees no longer frighten me, at all. I even did them in the Cotswold Shop to try out my new hiking boots!

So, what does that add up to?

As the inimitable David Foster Wallace points out, once you become a ‘phenom’, or even aspire to be one, your life becomes totally dedicated to the process of phenomenalisation – making yourself into as much of a prodigy as you can be. This includes things (for DFW’s character Hal) like squeezing a tennis ball all day, every day to develop the arm muscles (I’m considering adding this to my day, as I still don’t have a strict pull up). Hal also takes a nicely balanced cocktail of recreational drugs, which I’m not considering adding to my repertoire, instead I’ve taken out all non-natural sugars, tea, milk and potatoes

In other words, challenges become a way of life, if they continue long enough, and we invest in them fully enough and the habituation to difficulty spreads through other areas of life, so that a step change happens … a step change towards excellence.

I took a week off after the burpee challenge, now I’m doing 100-1 squats and sit ups. It’ll run until February 2014. It amazes me that I’ve embraced all this, and paleo, without any real intent to change my life. I came to Crossfit because I couldn’t run through injury, and 18 months on, I have changed my shape, my size, my diet, my goals, my training programme (entirely) my vocabulary and my view of the world. Most women look a bit skinny to me now, I live in hoodies, have been known to do burpees in shops and on other people’s living room floors and squats in trains, in other words, I am obsessed with seeking the excellence I desire and I don’t let convention get in the way.

WOD – 15 minute A18 nov 13MRAP

400 metre run
5 power cleans
5 push press

I felt like rubbish when I got to the box, and didn’t fancy this WOD at all. In the end I got 4 rounds and 5 power cleans, which was considerably more than I thought I would, given that I had a stitch after the first round and was blowing snot the whole way through. Think I might have a bit of a virus …

Also got 5×3 at 80% of my one rep max in back squats – pleased with that.

• Bruises – back squat
• Wishlist – still the pull up, and to get consistent in more than one double under
• PB – nope.

Birthday WOD

birthday wod 13There’s something peculiar about birthday WODs – one the one hand they’re a privilege and on the other hand … they’re horrible.

My birthday was 6th September but I couldn’t WOD until today,9th. OH kindly volunteered to join in the ‘fun’.

And what did this fun consist of?

51 air squats

• 5 burpees
• 1 deadlift
• 5 V-sits
• 1 deadlift
• 5 pull ups
• 1 deadlift

51 calorie row

With the middle section (the bit I’ve bulleted) repeating 5 times.

So … on the good side, with the 18 burpees we did in the warm up, this made up all our burpees for today (today is day 40 of the 100 day burpee challenge).

On the not-good side, a 51 calorie row at the end of a WOD is an atrocious way to celebrate a birthday!

Times as on the board, but while I lifted 65 kilos (I weigh 52k), OH lifted 80 kilos and he weighs 75, which may contribute to some of the difference in our times.

And actually, it was fun. Thanks Coach David for the programming!

Angie third time around

baby burpeeYesterday the WOD was Angie:

• 100 pull ups
• 100 push ups
• 100 sit ups
• 100 squats

For time.

It was a full class and I’d brought somebody along for a taster session who clearly couldn’t start with Angie, so he got to do an alternate WOD outside the box. Fortunately it was a gorgeous morning.

There were too many of us to all get pull up bars at once, so Kat, Oni, Rob and I started out with push ups and finished with pull ups. That was, I have to say, utterly foul. The one good thing about Angie is that you get squats last – except this time we got pull ups last!

angie 29 aug 13I took the Silver option, normal rounds but with a band for the pull ups (two bands, actually, one red, one purple, I’m not daft!) and finished in 21:51, a whole 4 minutes and 17 seconds faster than my previous time, and the previous time I was using a green band AND doing girl push ups from my knees!

I’m very chuffed with my new pb. The 100 push up programme really had worked its magic, although I only got to 50 before I had to stop the programme because of (unrelated) injury. I did the push ups in tens and didn’t have to stop for more than a single breath and a quick shake of the arms throughout the hundred, and didn’t stop at all in my sit ups. One little break in my squats, to reset my position and then working in tens for the pull ups – as a result, I got a time I feel really good about.

The lift was single leg deadlifts – very tough.

I forgot to post Tuesday’s WOD, mainly because I was so exhausted after it. It was:

400m run
20 kettlebell swings
20 box jumps
20 hang power cleans
400m run
20 kettlebell swings
20 box jumps
20 hang power cleans
400m run.

The only notable thing for me about the WOD was that I decided to try jumps again, using two stacked 15k plates. It was horrendously difficult and I struggled to keep going because I was constantly having to override what my synapses were telling me so that I could continue the movement. But I did it. It didn’t feel at all good, but maybe if I keep trying, I’ll get to the point where it becomes easier again.

• Bruises – nope
• Wishlist – stringing together some double unders
• PB – oh yes!

Burpee challenge day 29. Still going.

And another PB (this one’s for all the clumsy kids out there)

free to changeAfter bench pressing with the son of a friend of mine (this blog is called Old Enough To Be Your Crossfit Mother for good reason!) I took nine seconds off my baseline fitness time today, down from 6 minutes 18 seconds to 6 minutes 9.

Not huge, but pleasing, especially as it went up to 6:18 after the first time I took it. Mind you, it’s partly because I haven’t actually performed the same WOD twice. The first time I definitely wouldn’t have been doing strict press-ups and used a green band for pull ups. The second time was strict press-ups but a purple band, and this time I used jumping pull ups – difficult to compare like with like.

Also a Tabata checkout – hollow body rocks. I got 78. Happy with that.

I’d also had a little discussion with Coach Barney during the focus (Bench – how I hate it!) about my negative thinking.

True, I have negative thinking. I need it.

For decades I berated myself so that nobody else would. One of my clearest memories is of a primary school teacher saying to me, ‘How can a clever little girl be so stupid?’ because I’d failed in some simple task again, and again, and again and … again. And probably again the next day and the whole week, month and year too.

I didn’t know how I could be so stupid, and I didn’t know why and knowing why now doesn’t really help. Neurological impairment is weird – it’s not consistent. It’s not like being Forrest Gump who throws off his leg braces and runs like the wind. It’s more like going from wheelchair to leg brace to running and back to leg brace on a random basis.

Today, for example, I managed three single double unders. Woo hoo! Those are the first double unders for a month. Everybody tells me they come and go but I know that mine might just go. Box jumps have gone. For ten months now.

So it’s still important for me to knock myself before anybody else does. Maybe that will change one day but not yet. I’m used to disappointing myself, and that means I don’t have to disappoint others. Simples.

Oh yes. 100 Day Burpee Challenge. Today is day 22. It’s horrible.

8 August WOD

8 aug 13 2Still no more double unders. Everybody I speak to tells me that it’s like this: you get a couple of double unders one day and then no more for a while. I’m unconvinced – I think I fluked it once and may never get another (pessimist, moi?)

The focus today was pull ups and ring dips – both strict. I had to use a red band for the ring dips and a purple one for the pull ups which was a disappointment to me as I am on a red band for non-strict pull ups, but with a hint of tendonitis and a desire for perfect form I pushed my ego down and did the focus as stated – for form.

Today’s WOD was deceptively simple:

• 1 kilometre row
• 1 kilometre run
• 100 double unders

Gold plus
Weight vest

50 double unders

• 500 metre row
• 400 metre run
• 200 skips

Without double unders and with a calf strain I’m still nursing (is there any part of me that isn’t injured?) I was clearly a candidate for bronze and that’s what I did. Barney cracked a joke about me being able to do that level twice and I laughed.

Time = 5 minutes 51 seconds.

Then Sol decided he was going again – he did gold the first time around. Dan kept him company and there was a rower free, so with Coach Barney’s encouragement I jumped on and did the WOD again.

Time = 6 minutes 30 seconds.

I was chuffed with my performance. The extra time in the second round was definitely down to the skipping, my ankles were fried after several hundred skips and quite a few attempts at double unders before we started the WOD, but I was happy to have the mental toughness to tackle the workout twice, even if my times dropped massively.

SolSol, being superhuman repeated the gold WOD even faster than the first time, then launched into a burpee penalty (my bad, I dropped him in it by mentioning it, I really was brain dead at that point) and swapping the burpees halfway through for an insanely fiendish press up game that Coach Barney challenged him to. Like I say, superhuman.

The really big news is that our box is about to double! Not in size so much as in location – Unit 9, where we currently train, is about to be half of Crossfit Connect Hove – the other half will be in Unit 6 (which is not contiguous but you can’t have everything, can you?) and yes, everybody has remarked on the interesting way those numbers stack up. We’re going to have ropes to climb and everything!

The little news is that my new brand new Shock Absorber crop top held up magnificently to the double WOD – I wasn’t confident that it would take the strain but it really was what they claim ‘dry and cool comfort’ – excellent stuff. I might even have to buy another!

Bruises – nope
Wishlist – more of those crop tops!
PB – only in terms of developing a functional fitness mentality.

Still waiting to hear how Jon and Abi are getting on … hoping for good news from them soon!

Re-mojo WOD!

25 july 2013I couldn’t have guessed it would be GI Jane With Balls that renewed my confidence, but it was.

Before the WOD we had tech practice on handstands, handstand push-ups or walking handstands. This didn’t strike me as a likely scenario, but after some one-on-one coaching from Barney, I found I could actually kick up into a headstand against the wall, using abmats as a support for my head, and once up there I could stay balanced for a good long time without any support. That was a surprise! Although, on reflection, it shouldn’t really be much more difficult for me to balance on my hands than on my feet, as the level of proprioception is about the same. The swollen blood vessels in my eyes are a surprise though – I didn’t think I’d been inverted anywhere near long enough for that to happen.

The WOD – nicely named GI Jane With Balls is100 ball-slam burpee pull-ups for time. Nasty!

Gold was 9/7 kilo medicine balls. Not possible for those who don’t have a strict pull-up of course. Silver scale was the same medicine balls but jumping pull-ups from a box. Bronze was as silver but no pull-ups at all.

I decided to try silver, although I had no great hope of it, so I took a 3 kilo ball and put it beside my box so I could scale part way through if I had to. It was a hot and horrible exercise in grit and willpower – and also a test of basic maths under pressure.

Somewhere between 60 and 50 reps I forgot to rub off the whiteboard mark to show I’d completed a round of ten, so I decided to go for twenty reps and then erase two marks. When I’d finished I thought about it and now I think I miscounted and only did 19. So I’m pretty sure my time is for 99 reps, not 100.

Somewhere around 77 I decided it would be nice to scale, but I couldn’t find my 3k ball in my peripheral vision. Then I remembered Barney striding over to yell at me to keep my spine straight in the ball slams and of course he’d taken my baby ball away to stop me wimping out. So I finished the WOD with my original scale in 20:33 minutes. Not fast and not pretty, but done.

Just to repeat myself:

• 100 ball slams
• 100 burpees
• 100 jumping pull-ups.

Never in my wildest dreams did I believe I’d be able to do that – and in 20 and a half minutes too!

Bruises – no, but nice eyeball congestion
Wishlist – today I’m happy with what I got!
PB – well, even one headstand would have been a personal best so to get to balance for as long as I did, four or five times in a row, was rather exciting.

Today I love Crossfit – scarlet eyeballs and all.

Meet My Goat

benny the goatWelcome to an occasional new series called Meet My Goat – it might be quite a regular event – I have a lot of goats.

Let’s get started.

This is a goat. This screaming, slot-eyed, belligerent son of Satan is called Benny. Benny is my bench press.

Last night at barbell club I equalled my one rep max. Hurrah, you say. Not so, say I. I was aiming for two reps and couldn’t get them. We were working a ladder of 10-8-6-4-2-4-6-8-10 with progressively higher weights for the lower reps to peak with a heavy two. I believe the board reveals that 99% of those benching last night started higher than I finished.

Say it again. Most people started with a ten higher than my failed two.  That’s what you call a goat! As for explosive power … glacial moraine gets deposited quicker than some of my bench presses, believe me. 27.5 kilos. It’s a disgrace.

So I need a plan for Benny. It starts with the fact that I have appalling upper body strength. Now, while that’s still true, it’s not as true as it once was. In a year I’ve got a lot more powerful – and bigger (ladies, I went from a 32b to a 34c – how’s that for a result!) and had to throw away every sleeved top I owned as my nascent biceps didn’t fit into them.

Nascent because I clearly still lack a lot of strength, and almost certainly technique. I’m also a hard gainer, the most I’ve ever weight was 57 kilos and to get there I had to eat five times a day and have protein bars in between. I reckon I’m probably back down to 53 or maybe 54 kilos now, although it could be lower – I really struggle to keep weight on. 

So my plan is twofold – talk to my coaches, get a programme for upper body strength (to go alongside my other two goat training regimes for pull ups and toes to bar) and get back into a higher protein diet, being more disciplined about eating regularly.

Hmmm. Benny – I’m watching you!

ponyThis is not a goat – it’s a mountain pony. It’s not quite a leopard, supple or otherwise (crossfit in-joke, so bite me!) but it’s not a goat either. This is my deadlift.

I can deadlift 70 kilos. That was my one rep max when I walked into the box last night. When I walked out, it was also my two rep max. Huzzah!

I rounded out my shoulders too much and I can feel my lower back is achy this morning but my deadlift, pushing off strong legs and a reasonable core, is good – I just need to keep working on my shoulder lock and my grip – I am happy with my deadlift.

Falling in love again …

Posted on

13 may 13What am I to do?

Double your money, double your fun, today, two WODs being posted in a row, as I’ve trained but not blogged – life’s been too exciting.

So, Monday’s WOD was a monster:

Pull ups
Kettlebell swings

1 kilometre run

Pull ups
Kettlebell swings

•    Bronze – 15-12-9 12 kilos for men and 8 for women and an 800 metre run
•    Silver – 16 kilos for men and 12 for women
•    Gold – 24 for men, 16 for women

And, just to annoy Coach David, I messed up the scaling by doing 8 kilo kettlebell swings, a 400 metre run (scaled for the calf strain) but 21-15-9 and 9-15-21 on the burpees, pull ups (red and purple bands) and swings. My time was 24:45 and I was very happy to get it.Sometjing happened to the WOD after the morning class (I don’t know what) which is why the 06:30 class names are bracketed together – like I said, a monster!

I also did back squats for the Wendler lifts and got a max out of 15×30 kilos which is waaaay below where it should have been but still felt good given the calf strain and the fact that I haven’t squatted for …. oh, about two months.

The big deal though, isn’t that I got a time I was happy with or that I was finally able to run (jog) again after so long, but that I went into the box feeling utterly demoralised and pretty well ready to give up because I still haven’t, after nearly a year, managed to Rx anything and came out as somebody who can do 5 strict press ups. It might not sound big to more accomplished athletes but it’s a huge achievement for me. Next target: toes to bar!

Feeding the inner athlete: WODs, goals, and grim discoveries

103 psb 23 mar 13Took purple sprouting broccoli to the box this morning – I think it was all gone by 10am, as various Crossfitters took it home with them. I just can’t imagine dropping off a veg box at the average globo gym for people to pick up fresh veggies as they choose! Anyway, we’re eating psb four or five meals a week right now, and still have some to spare, so it was great to be able to give some away.

We’re back on Wendler. Woo hoo! I really like the Wendler cycle: I’ve been through it twice now and seen huge gains, but with the calf strain I think I’m going to be pretty limited this time around. I benched and equalled my previous one rep max so that was cool, but I don’t think I’m going to risk squatting for a couple of weeks, as I (probably) won’t get the pain message from the calf until too late if it does start to tear again and I don’t want another six weeks of rest. I might try a deadlift but that could also put strain on the healing muscle so I may just possibly be super-restrained and stick to bench and strict press. Can’t believe I’m typing that, to be honest!

Then the WOD. A fifteen minute time-capped ladder of:

•    Thrusters
•    Toes to Bar

One of each in f29 apr 13irst minute, two of each in second minute etc until you can’t get them done before the buzzer, rest a minute, start again at one of each until time cap.

Men 50 kilos
Women 25 kilos

Men 40 kilos
Women 25 kilos
Knee raises

Men 30 kilos
Women 15 or 20 kilos
Knee raises or sit ups

Bronze for me, at 16 kilos and knee raises. I was nervous about thrusters, as it’s really difficult to get a good thruster without using the calf fully, but I managed to get to nine of each in the minute  – although by the end I could feel the muscle starting to burn. Actually, that was amazing – a year ago I wouldn’t have felt that sensation at all, so Crossfit really is improving my neurological feedback.

Thing is, I watched Louise doing toes to bar and while it looked horrible, it also looked doable. So I asked Coach David afterwards and he suggested I might be ready for toes to bar, given my progression towards a strict pull up. So I booked in for an Open Gym to try it out.

Then I watched this video. I am sooooo screwed! When Carl Paoli says something is “Proprioception 101” I know I’m in trouble. I have little or no proprioception at the best of times, and when my feet are off the ground I often have no idea where the rest of my body is, which makes gymnastics work terrifying. I get feedback from both hands, my right foot and all down my right side, some intermittent feedback from my left foot, nothing from my left arm, hip, thigh or calf and only sporadic feedback from the left shoulder. On the plus side, this is a symmetric movement, so I can have reasonable confidence that if my right side does it, my left will follow (probably).

I really, really, really, really, really want to get one gymnastics type movement to RX by the end of my first year of Crossfit. I’m still working on the pull up but I don’t think I’m going to make it in time, so I had everything crossed that I could achieve toes to bar. Carl’s comments are a reality check – I’m going to try it in Open Gym but I expect to discover that I’m going to need a lot more drills than I’d thought to learn the sequencing which is disappointing, but I’ve got a clearer picture what the movement entails and I know what I’ve got to work on.

  • Bruises – only my dreams
  • PB – equalled bench at 27.5 kilos
  • Wishlist – Let me see: 100 push ups (on hold because of calf strain), a strict pull up (still working the pull up programme) toes to bar just got added … so the list gets longer and the moment when I might be able to tick something off seems no closer!
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