Hamstrung by handstands

I have a confession to make.

I hate handstands.

I have tried to like them. I have tried to work on them. And I still suck at them. Therefore I hate them.

How did this come up? I dropped into Friday morning’s Crossfit class to make up for July 4, and handstand holds were in the WOD. Tabata handstand holds.

I considered not showing up to class.

On round one, I half-heartedly attempted a handstand hold against the wall. I was not prepared. Coach Carey ended up showing me a scaled version on a box. I felt like such a loser. Here I am, letting my fear overtake me, yet again.

I had told her I hate being upside down. But that’s only partly true. It’s the process of GETTING upside down that I hate. I have successfully ended with my feet up in the air and my arms locked out with help, but the kick up is nerve-racking. Handstand walks? Ugh. Wall walks? Double ugh.

You get the idea.

I know that one day I need to attack this fear. I’m not sure when I want to do that. I’ve found I’m more successful when I go after only a couple of physical goals. Right now it’s pullups, getting my shoulder and neck mobility back up to par, and beating sugar (again).

Should I really take on another goal? Should I really worry about mastering handstands now?

Photo credit: andreasnilsson1976 via photopin cc

Reflecting on the I AM Crossfit Challenge

2013 challenge measurementsIt’s been over a week since the 2013 I AM Crossfit Challenge ended, and I think it was probably my most successful challenge, even though I only hit one of my goals.

This was the first challenge where I wasn’t pregnant or nursing, and I tried to follow the nutrition very closely. I did not Zone my food, but I did follow the Whole 30 guidelines really closely and watched portion sizes.

I also did every extra workout I was supposed to do. It was a lot — I added in two extra met-cons a week plus an endurance WOD. By the time we hit week 8, I was ready for it to be done and tired of having to fit it all in. But now, I kind of miss it.

I had set a pullups goal and a body fat goal. I did not get my pullups. I just never worked on them outside the gym. But I did get my body fat under 20%, so yay me!

But there were definite benefits that I achieved outside of my goals. I am a stronger and faster runner. I broke my gum habit ( I was chewing a pack a week!). I also broke my sugar tooth. I still haven’t indulged in dessert, and to be honest, I don’t really want it. Fruit is sweet enough.

I may have undone some of my efforts at SXSW this year. But not like last year. Last year I went crazy with the food. This year, aside from a few meals with rice or tortilla chips, I was relatively restrained.

Yes — it was a good challenge. Just the benchmark alone is a good indication of how much I improved. I barely finished the first time — with a time of 11:58. On March 9, I crushed my old time — finishing in just over 10 sec.

Here’s a clip from the WOD:

3 rounds
400m run
15 pullups
7 hang power cleans (65#)

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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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?


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.

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?

On being appreciative of your accomplishments

I realized yesterday that I focus so much on what I need to work on, or on what I can’t do yet, that I forget about the things I can do, and as a result, I’m not as appreciative of what I’ve accomplished.

Double unders are the perfect example. I remember not even being able do single jump rope swings right after Luke was born. It took months of practice in Kung Fu conditioning class and later at Crossfit to feel like jump rope was easy.

Double unders eluded me for a long time, though. It wasn’t until last summer that I finally got fed up and started practicing most days a week. It took a while, but gradually I began to string them together. Now, I’ve GOT them. It took work, but I did it. And when they come up in WODs, like they did on Tuesday, I can zoom through them quickly without scaling.

5 rounds
3 deadlift (M 305# / W 205#)
10 burpees
20 double unders

Time: 12:55 @ 155#

This was one of our mid-month benchmarks — it will show up again in 6 weeks. I debated over the weight to choose. I needed to go heavy, but how heavy? On Saturday my max was 165#, but maybe that was just that day? Zach gave us time to warmup with the bar, so I loaded 125# on the bar and worked my way up. When I got to 155#, it felt really challenging, so I knew I had found my weight.

When I was done and was cleaning up, Zach told me I did well on the double unders. That made me stop and think. They’ve become “just another thing I can do,” but not without effort. I really worked hard to “get” double unders, and as with all accomplishments, I should be appreciative.

Spartan Challenge: My first 300 workout

I’m sore all over and very happy the 2012 Spartan Challenge is behind me, because that workout was one of the most brutal I’ve ever done.

This was the sixth year my gym has done the Spartan Challenge, which is traditionally the 300 workout. This year they threw in a twist — Crossfit Total.

I showed up feeling subdued and my voice still on the fritz from laryngitis. I entered the Scaled-Women division. I actually felt a little embarrassed that I was one of only two in my division. Was I really the only woman in my gym competing who needed to scale some of the movements?

I was also nervous about the Total. We were supposed to find out max weight in the Back Squat, Shoulder Press and Deadlift within a 10 minute window. It was our responsibility to warmup as needed before our heat. I was in one of the last heats, so I waited around a while until warming up. In fact, I took advantage of the massage therapist they brought in, and I had her work on my shoulders while I waited.

I didn’t talk to many people. I tend to keep my mouth shut and my eyes and ears open in unfamiliar situations or when I’m nervous. I overheard one girls saying that this would be the first your she was competing RX and she wasn’t sure how she was going to do. My nervousness intensified.

About 30 minutes before my heat, I started warming up. I ran, did some kettlebell swings and presses, and then I found a warm up rack and started putting weight on the bar. I didn’t want to wear myself out, but I wanted to be warm. I tried to strategize and decide what my opening weight would be.

My assistant coach Aaron was my judge, and I felt encouraged. Unfortunately, being sick all weak didn’t help my numbers. I came in well under what I expected in both the back squat and deadlift.

Back squat: 135
Shoulder Press: 65
Deadlift: 165

I had plenty of time between Total and my heat for the 300 workout, and I got to see some really amazing athletes take it on — and it pounded them. I overheard a lot of people talking about it after their heat.  The consensus: the 300 is brutal.

25 Pullups
50 Deadlift (M 135# / W 95# – Scaled M 95# / Scaled W 65#)
50 Pushups
50 Box jumps

Andy shot some video of me during my heat. I flew threw the pullups and deadlifts. The box jumps were a lot slower. The floor wipers murdered me.

I had to break the floor wipers into sets of 5 pretty early on. I remember looking up at my judge, Christine — who had her hand on the bar only to stabilize it and grab it if I dropped it — and saying in a pathetic and pleading voice, “This is the last set, right?”

“Yes, it’s the last set.”

The floor wipers took most of my time. I only had a minute or less by the time I finished. I picked up the kettlebell as fast as I could and did about 8 clean and press.


Andy was right behind me. I signed the competition sheet and literally fell into him, exhausted. My parents and cousins were on the side. I went to them and fell into my mom. I think if they hadn’t been there I would have collapsed on the ground. It took about 20 minutes to stop feeling like I needed to throw up.

Oh yeah. Good times.

But still. There’s something about Crossfit. It’s always dangling a challenge out in front of you — there’s always something to work on. I’d love to be able to do that workout RX. I’d love if next year I could be banging out pullups without a band. Or maybe the floor wipers won’t take so long.

There’s always a next time.

Wheezing my way through a WOD

I’m back to training this week, and I’m glad of it because I think a week off made me sick.

Sometime over the weekend I must have picked up Madeline’s cold, because my head’s been full and my voice completely disappeared for most of the past few days.

Zach cancelled Olympic Lifting on Monday morning because he wasn’t feeling well after the non-stop weekend down at regionals, so my first workout after the break was at Crossfit. It was the first of the month, so it was one of our benchmarks.

“CC Flyers”
3 rounds
400m run
21 box jumps (20″)
12 Overhead Squats (M 95# / W 65#)

Cutoff: 15 minutes

I debated whether I should go to class because of how I was feeling. What made me go was how my body felt after a week off — the aches and pains I felt was from immobility, not sickness. I knew that I would ultimately feel better in the long run.

I had a feeling I would not do well this time. I felt like I was struggling to breathe during the runs and I felt sluggish on the box jumps.

Completed: 2 rounds + run + 21 box jumps RX

I’m not sure if that’s any better than last time. In fact I think it was worse. The cutoff was only 12 minutes and I made it through 2 rounds + the run + 2 box jumps. Three minutes gave me time to do 18 more box jumps?

Being sick sucks… but it could be worse, I suppose. I think eating clean is helping me recover this virus faster and without needing any medications. Food power!