Dreaming the possible dream

The kids and I left the house this morning with the intention of finding the 3M Half Marathon and cheering on the runners. I know quite a few people who planned to run the 2013 race, and I thought it would be fun for us to go out there, despite the cold.

We ended up leaving too late to find the race. After driving all the way downtown and finding out that we had missed it, we stopped at UT to visit the turtles instead.

6 months of training

Sally running in 3M
Photo by Beth Tanner

My friend Sally was one of the 3M finishers. She has been training for 6 months. I think she started out a little unsure that she would make it so far, but she’s grown to enjoy running. She laughed when one of her running buddies asked what race they would train for after the 3M, but she’s already signed up for Austin’s 10/20, so I think she’s hooked on the longer runs.

It takes a lot of dedication to set your sights on a run like that — especially if your goal is half a year or more away.

What do I want?

I’m supposed to set goals I want to achieve in the next 8 weeks. Two years ago, it was hard to narrow down my goals — I wanted so much. Right now, it’s hard to imagine what I want that I can actually measure.

There are two things I really want that will motivate me.

  1. I want to lean out to 20% body fat.
  2. I want to do 5 unassisted pullups

I could probably come up with a third, but it would be made up — not really one that motivates me. Not right now, at least.

How will I do it?

  • I will follow the Whole 30. But for longer. That means lean meats — with an emphasis on quality and sustainability — grass fed, pasture-raised, no additives; LOTS of vegetables, with a heavy emphasis on leafy greens; some fruit, preferably melon, berries, or in-season fruits; nuts and seeds; healthy fats, like olive oil, coconut oil…
  • I will do my mobility exercises for my shoulder and forearms to keep my muscles and joints healthy everyday. I will practice pullups whenever I can. I will break down my movement and figure out where my weak point is and work on it.

I will support these actions by setting a positive, healthy habits. That means I will

  • Strive to sleep 7 hours a night (8 would be ideal, but since 6 is hard enough to come by, I’m going for 7);
  • Walk my dogs most nights during the week;
  • Play with my kids on the floor as soon as I get home;
  • Choose to eat at home rather than out at restaurants;
  • Plan out menus with Andy and help prepare our meals.

Whew! That seems like a lot! Can I do it?

2013 I AM Crossfit Challenge begins with a bang

Goal setting and WOD mark challenge start

I was among more than 100 people this weekend who began Crossfit Central’s I AM Crossfit Challenge. It’s my third time to take on this 8 week challenge. The path is familiar, but even though I’m not new to it, it’s exciting and daunting all the same.

Start of something new

I feel kind of like how I always did at the beginning of the school year — oh those many years ago. Back then, I wondered what it would be like, what I would learn. My notebooks were all new and fresh and full of opportunity. I always loved that, despite how nervous if inevitably felt about meeting my classmates and teachers.

I’m trying hard to imagine what things will be like in 8 weeks when I look back. What do I want to look like? How do I want to feel? I can’t quite put it in words, so I’m having trouble coming up with my goals.

Deep down I want this physical challenge to bleed into the rest of my life. I want this energy to feed into my family and my career in a way I don’t know how to explain. Confidence? Determination? Inspiration?

I’ll have to work on those goals into something I can measure and just have faith those other things will happen naturally.


3 rounds
400m run
15 pullups
7 hang power cleans
12 min cutoff

Everything took place at Crossfit Central’s new downtown location, which is really nice. It’s a hike for me, so I’m not going to switch my class anytime soon, but it’s still really nice.

Somehow there was a glitch, and I wasn’t on the list when I signed in for the benchmark WOD on Saturday. I wasn’t alone, but the coaches were super awesome and worked us in. Lisa Thiel even went around asking if there were folks who would switch with us so we could get into a an earlier heat (since we had kids and needed to be home).

I quickly got into Heat 2 thanks to Michael, who agreed to wait an extra hour until Heat 6 (Thanks, Michael! You rock!!!) They took our “before photo”, some video of me doing a hang power clean for a future video, and then we warmed up with Zach.

Then the coaches came for us. David was my judge. He set up my bar, but there wasn’t a lot of time, and I had to tell him what band I needed as I was running to the start line.

Some highlights

I remembered the WOD being hard. But it’s hard to imagine how hard two years later. My friend and teammate Linda took photos while I was in the middle of it (Thanks Linda!!). Here are the highlights:

  1. Our run was on the sidewalk along the I-35 access road. At one point a big truck hauling a trailer on the interstate dragged the trailer along the guardrail and a bunch of wood came popping off down the concrete wall. It didn’t hit the access road, but it made me run a little faster.
  2. The humidity was high, and my grip strength was for-s**t because of Thursday’s workout of 250 kettlebell swings for time. I felt like I couldn’t hold on.
  3. It was totally motivating to hear people cheering for me — not just my judge and Linda, but also several of the other coaches as I was running back into the gym.

Time: 11:58 (Intermediate level – 65#, blue band)

I’ll be posting those goals soon. I may only have two. But that will just help me focus.

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This is where it begins – My body comp

Body comp, fat percentage
I had my body comp done today. It’s for the challenge, which starts on Saturday.
I wasn’t too surprised by the numbers which you can see on my sheet there.

The takeaway? The body fat is over 23 percent. I think I can bring that down in 8 weeks.

The Whole 30 program has been quite a change for me, and I haven’t even read the book yet. We’ve cut out butter, scaled back on meat and I haven’t had any bacon since we started. We only use coconut oil and olive oil to cook. We’re careful about the kind of nuts we eat and the amount.

Fruit has returned to my diet, but not in a huge way. I’ll eat one or two pieces a day — usually just the one — with a little fat and protein.

I think the biggest benefit is the Whole 30 forces me to take my lunch to work. I can’t eat junk when I pack it myself. It’s a lot easier to stay on track when you don’t go out to eat.

I’ve already noticed the bloating and inflammation is less. My jeans are fitting a little better. I’m not supposed to weigh myself, so I won’t be checking in the the scale until the end of the challenge. I’m not sure what my goals will be. But I have time to think about them.

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.