Video: My Clean & Jerk PR – 110 pounds

Just before the holiday break, my coach had us try for a new max on the snatch and the clean & jerk.

We had been working a steady progression of heavier and heavier weights, and it was time to see if we were stronger. The last time we went for a max, my body was toast. I had been working like crazy, living on little sleep, and the day before, my Crossfit class did the workout named “Cindy” (AMRAP 20 min: 5 pullups, 10 pushups, 15 squats). My arms were SOOOOO sore, I could barely lift the bar off the platform.

On December 19, things were different. I felt awesome. I finally made a snatch at 75#, and my clean & jerk went from 100 pounds to 110 pounds! My coach took video:

I ended up going for a clean PR as well — and I made 115 pounds.

So when I start back in class tomorrow, I’ll be working off of these numbers, which means my working weight will be a bit higher than it has been the past 6 months. Yikes!

My awkward return

Oh, hello. (Awkward glance). How have you been?

Returning to my blog, dormant for so long, feels awkward at best. Like former ex’s meeting on the street years after a nasty breakup, but time has softened them and they can’t remember why they broke up, only that it happened and they feel embarrassed.

It’s 2013, and the snapshot of my current status is this:

  1. My muscles ache from 2 weeks of not working out.
    I needed the rest. My work-life has been crazy busy, and my body needed to take a good long break. It’s been a good reminder WHY I make my workouts a priority. I return to regular programming on Monday morning – Olympic Lifting!!
  2. My weight is 10 pounds over what it was last year. My body fat is also up (according to the weird scale in my bathroom).
    But I’m not too, too worried. I’m more worried about the inches around my waist. I haven’t been paying attention, and sugar has crept back in. But cleaning it up with help the yucky stuff slough right off.
  3. My sleep averages 7 hours a night.
    This is REALLY good for me. I feel soooo much better than I did in the fall when I was averaging 5 hours of sleep/night.
  4. I just started a Whole 30.
    Andy decided to start a Whole 30, so I said I’d go along with him. We started on January 2, and it will likely turn into a Whole 60 for me. Here’s why:

I signed up for my gym’s I Am Crossfit Challenge. It starts next week. Zach is my coach, and he mentioned something about doing an Advocare 24 day challenge. I’m still deciding.

But I’m excited about kickstarting something. Not just my health, but my life. I’m not sure how I will fit the extra workouts and meetings in, but I will find a way.

When I emerge, I will be a stronger person. Not just physically, but also mentally. And I know the effects will spill over into other areas of my life.


Know your numbers

Open notebook with writing

Why should you know your numbers?

Have you ever been at the gym and the WOD is written on the board and you thought, “I wonder how much weight to put on the bar?”

I used to wonder that, too. If a WOD called for cleans or front squats, I always wondered how much to put on the bar. Not anymore.

Knowing your numbers just makes preparing for workouts so much easier. In Oly, most of our programming is based off percentages. When Zach writes this on the board:

Olympic LIfting board

Snatch 100% of max x 1, 85% x 1, 90% x 1, 95% x 1, 85% x1
Jerk BN (behind the neck) 100% 1 x 3
Front squat 100% of max x 1, 85% x 1, 90% x 1, 95% x 1, 85% x1

… I know exactly what I need to do — we’ve gone for our max in all three lifts, and I know them by heart. But if I forgot, they’re in my book, so I always have a reference.

We may not go for heavy single lifts a lot in Crossfit, but it’s incredibly useful to know your numbers in there, too. It helps me figure out what weight to choose if I’m scaling the workout, and it also helps me challenge myself.

I’ve definitely been challenging myself lately. In the workout above I snatched 70#, then did the rest of the wave from there. The jerk weight was 100#. The front squat weight was 135#, and then I did the wave.

How do you keep track of your numbers? Computer? Phone? Journal?


Focusing in the gym

photo credit: ericmcgregor via photo pin cc

Wednesdays are my favorite days.

While I love the excitement of a busy gym, especially when I need to wake up so early in the morning, there is a definite advantage to doing Olympic Lifting in a quiet, calm environment.

At least for me.

I feel like I can focus better. And on Wednesday mornings, my class practically gets the gym to ourselves. It’s so quiet. I love it.

That doesn’t mean focus comes naturally. I have a tendency to want to chit-chat more when the gym is quiet. Maybe it’s because Zach and Anna and Karen can actually hear me. Chit-chatting is OK in between exercises, but not between reps and sets. In fact, this morning I stepped up to the bar and was making a comment about something totally unrelated to what I was about to do when Zach yelled out, “FOCUS!”

I ended up missing the lift. D’oh. The next few sets were better. Lesson learned.

How to rock double unders

Still struggling with double unders?

I used to have trouble as well. When they came up in a WOD, I always took the option to scale by jumping singles. That meant I would have to do double or triple the amount of jumps, but I didn’t mind. I didn’t have any trouble with singles, and I was more concerned with finishing the WOD than improving my skills.

Then about a year ago I wasn’t given the option to scale.My assistant coach said there would be no scaling. Everyone had to try.

I struggled. I don’t think I finished the first round.

Embarrassed and frustrated, I left the gym a little miffed at Jeff and Zach, but I also left with determination.

I decided that would NEVER happen again.

I went home and practiced. I set aside time at least twice a week, often more, and I practiced. I set a goal. I started with trying to do two in a row. Then three. They started to come more easily. And then it happened — I finally was able to do a WOD with double unders.

It took months. It took practice. Maybe it will be faster for you, but if it doesn’t, I don’t believe you CAN’T do them. If I can learn, so can you.

How to practice

  1. Set aside time
    I set my stopwatch to 10 minutes at first, 2 or 3 times a week. If I couldn’t reach my goal in 10 minutes, then I was done. If I had time left, I went for more double unders.
  2. Set a goal
    It doesn’t matter what your goal is, but make it realistic. Starting out, you might set a goal of 30 total or maybe try to string two in a row several times. Over time, increase your goal to keep pushing yourself.
  3. High-five yourself
    When you reach your goal, celebrate! I used to run inside and tell my husband. He always gave me a big hug, because he knew it was important to me. But even if I didn’t reach my goal, I would look at what I was able to accomplish and celebrate that. The important thing to remember is not to get down on yourself.
  4. Test
    Don’t wimp out on a WOD. Once you’re able to string a few in a row, do double unders in the workout. It’s OK if you don’t finish. The clock will push you harder than practicing on your own.
  5. Don’t cheat
    There’s no need to count attempts. The whole point is to become proficient with double unders, and counting attempts isn’t really helping you there.

I’m still finding ways to improve every time I work double unders. I’m up to just over 20 in a row, and I know I can do better.

Cindy’s Tips

  1. Fix your gaze
    I’ve found that finding a fixed object really helps me focus, but watching other people moving around only distracts me and causes me to trip up. When I do double unders, it’s often dark, so I look for a star or a light to focus on.
  2. Jump!
    You can give yourself more time to swing the rope if you jump higher off the ground.
  3. It’s all in the wrists
    You’ll move the rope faster if you turn the rope at the wrists rather than the elbows. Don’t waste your energy, and try to just move your wrists.
  4. Find a good rope
    I’ve tried 4 or 5 different jump ropes over the past 10 years, and my favorite is the $5 jump rope I bought through Kung Fu. It’s not fancy.
    But you have to find the rope that works for you. You may want a lighter rope with a smoother turn. You may need to try a few out to find one that works for you. Just make sure you can cut it to the right height. There’s nothing worse than a rope that’s too short or too long.

Good luck! Tweet me photos or videos of you doing double unders. I’d love to see them!

Gasping for breath with CC Flyers

My workout nearly killed me this morning.

Or, at least, that’s what it felt like.

It was CC Flyers, a benchmark. It’s also my least favorite of my gym’s three regular benchmarks — not that I hate it — it’s just not my favorite.

CC Flyers
3 rounds
400m run
21 Box Jumps (20″)
12 Overhead squats (M 95# / W 65#)

Time: DNF –> 2 rounds + run + box jumps + 5 OHS RX (cutoff 15 min)

A year ago the fact that I didn’t finish would have really bothered me. Today, I see improvement. Three months ago I only finished the box jumps on the third round. Today I made it into the overhead squats. Plus, I ran my first 400 meters in 1:49.

Of course, that run also nearly killed me. I was gasping for breath after each run, and by round three I thought I wasn’t going to make it without hurling.

Seriously, I had to tell myself, “Keep going, keep going” on that last run. I think the only reason I started jumping on the box when I got back was because I heard Zach say, “Come on — let’s finish this.”

Well, obviously, I didn’t finish, but I’m OK with that. There will be a next time. And I won’t die.

It will just feel like it.

Back to balance?

This is me in the landing of the split jerk at 95# – a PR.

I love the look on my face in this photo. I make some of the weirdest faces when I throw weight above my head.

This photo was taken a few weeks ago during my Olympic Lifting class. I haven’t been writing about my workouts for the past few months, but I’ve been going strong. I think it’s kept me sane.

Work picked up pretty dramatically in April and May, and everything started to change. In order to find more time in the day, some of my daily routines — mobility, writing, sitting down on the couch for a few minutes just to talk with Andy — fell to the wayside. They were replaced with sitting at my computer to work.

It’s only been in the past few weeks that I’ve been able to find a better balance — one that allows me to take care of myself.

It’s pretty crazy how it sneaks up on you — how one day you suddenly realize that one part of your life has taken over. For me it was work. It was all-consuming. I’m still busy (don’t ask me if I’ve seen any TV shows, because I have no time to watch ANYTHING), but I’m not quite as exhausted as I was feeling when work was most stressful and time-consuming — so that has to mean something, right?

Fortunately, one part of my routine never changed. Workouts. In fact, about a month ago, I decided my pants were a little too tight, so I started paying better attention to what I was eating and I added weekend workouts at home back into my routine.

It’s helped. I’m not feeling nearly as anxious as I was before. It’s also helped to give my daily routine structure. I feel better working within a schedule. For some reason it helps me focus.

And that’s been my rule. I don’t check work email when I’m at my workout, whether it’s at the gym or on the back porch. When I start the warmup, I’m in the workout zone. Nothing else matters. Work can wait.

What do you do to focus? I’d love to hear your thoughts….

Olympic Lifting tip: Don’t drop the bar on your head

I started reading an online fitness journal recently, and I’m enjoying it because there’s a lot of Olympic Lifting articles mixed in.

Breaking Muscle is following Olympic weightlifter Holley Mangold’s journey to the Olympics, which is fascinating to me. And there have also been a few recent posts from various coaches. This week, one that hit home was all about accidents — like dropping the bar on your head — which just happens to be a fear of mine.

Fear holds me back — as Zach has told me many times — but I’m growing more comfortable. The more I practice, the less I worry about the bar hurting me.

Accidents are a concern in any sport, and I don’t think you’re ever going to eliminate them. However, you can reduce their likelihood a lot just by paying attention.

This week a girl at work sent me a YouTube video of a guy who looked like he was about to jerk the weight up when he just fell backward. The video doesn’t show what happened, but the caption said the dude was OK. I could find that video on YouTube, but just a search of “Olympic Weighting accidents” turns up a bunch of results. Some of them look really painful.

It’s a good thing I love it and feel like I have a good coach, otherwise, I’d probably shun the sport just from watching those videos.

Training this past week

Power snatch, build to 70% then 1×5 → 50×5
Snatch pulls 90% of max 3×5 → 65×5
Back squat 80 2×6 → 120×6
Shoulder press by feel 5×4 → 40/45/55/55

Front squat + Jerk, build to 70% then 2+1×5 → 65×4
Drop snatch + OHS by feel 3+3×3 → 45/50/55
Clean pulls 90% 3×5 → 100×5
Snatch grip BN press by feel 6×3 → 40/45/45

Read the Breaking Muscle article: No Dying! How To Avoid The Most Dangerous Accident In Olympic Weightlifting

Should have used a bigger bell….

Don’t you hate it when you start a workout and you realize your should have chosen a different weight? That’s what happened to me in Thursday’s workout. The clock started, and suddenly I realized my weight was wrong.

It was too light.

AMRAP 10min
10 pushups (Games standard)
15 KB swings (M 2 pood / W 1.5 pood)
20 squats

I had chosen a 1 pood kettlebell — that’s 16K or 35 pounds. It was sitting in front of me while two of the elite girls in my class conferred with each other that they had chosen the 1.5 pood KB, which is 24K or 53 pounds.

I watched them thinking, “Twenty-four K is a lot to put over my head. If they were Russian swings, no problem….” (We were supposed to do American swings.)

Well, I’m kicking myself for not trying. I’m getting stronger. I’ve noticed that I can use the 1 pood kettlebell in my Oly warmups now. I can push it over my head a lot more easily.

I wouldn’t have been as fast, but I think I could have done it.

Completed: 6 rounds @ 16K

I’m reminded of a tweet I saw earlier this week, and it made me think.

Does that ever happen to you? Does thinking of how you USED to be keep you from reaching your potential?