Happy Crossfit anniversary

It was exactly 3 years ago today that I wrote my first blog post for Red in the Face and 3 years ago this week that I started Crossfit.

Wow. I can’t believe how much has changed, and also, what’s not changed.

Zach is still my coach (yes, I’m a loyalist), I still can’t do a pull up on my own, and I still wear a bandana around my head for workouts.

But Kung Fu is long gone, I replaced my vegetarian diet with the Paleo diet, I’ve lost several inches, and I’m stronger all over.

I’m even participating in the Crossfit Open for the first time this year. This morning we did Open WOD 12.2 in class:

AMRAP 10 min (Proceed through the sequence and complete as many reps as possible)
30 snatch (M 75# / W 45#)
30 snatch (M 135# / W 75#)
30 snatch (M 165# / W 100#)
Max Rep snatch (M 210# / W 120#)

Completed: 30 reps RX / 1 rep @ 65#

It could be any kind of snatch (power, split, full), but the bar could not be cleaned or pressed.

I had to scale down from 75#, but 65# was a PR! I refused to drop the weight any further, because I was determined. I spent about 5 minutes working for that single rep, and I got it with just a few seconds to spare. Yes, I’m very proud of myself. And it helped me learn what Zach’s been telling me all these many months in Olympic lifting — it’s all technique. Consistently good form will yield consistently good results.

Unfortunately, none of the scores I submit for the games will help my ranking. I misunderstood and thought the gym would be entering our scores for us. Not the case. And by the time I found out, it was too late to submit my score for WOD 12.1. Here’s what I did:

7 min AMRAP
Burpees (Body all the way to floor & both hands touch bar/ring 6″ above reach)
Score: 75 burpees

I’m kicking myself. I was so disappointed.

But I’m even more determined to compete in the Open next year.  And dammit, I’m going to kick some ass.

The strength and power of decision

I read a blog post from one of the coaches at my gym a couple of weeks ago that really impacted me.

Crystal Nelson, who used to be my assistant coach in Zach’s class, wrote about how the simple act of deciding to do something can make the difference in whether you accomplish what you want or you don’t. Read her post here.

What she wrote about isn’t exactly new to me, but it set off a light bulb in my head — an epiphany I guess — about how to approach the really tough stuff in my life. If I think about it, everything I’ve ever accomplished has been because I decided firmly that I was going to do it. There was not waffling or wishy-washiness. I got double unders because I DECIDED I was going to practice and learn. I finished the Tough Mudder because I decided I was going to persevere and see it through to the end.

That’s not to say that the simple act of deciding to do something is some magical elixar. I don’t yet have the strength to do an unassisted strict pullup, so deciding I’m going to do a pullup isn’t going to make that happen. But what I can do is decide it’s important to me to develop that strength and from there things can really start happening.

I’ve been thinking a lot about decision and my mindset this week, particularly in Olympic Lifting. I am still deciding what to do beyond developing my strength. Do I want to be an Olympic Weightlifter? Is not making that decision holding me back in class? These are really good questions that I’m not sure how to answer right now.

I am loving my morning Oly class. I feel more in my element. I’m more relaxed — partly because I’m not rushing back and forth from work, but also because I’m also not interrupting work and my thoughts, so I’m not struggling to keep my head in the gym. I also feel stronger: I’m a morning person. It’s just my time of day.

Drop Snatch + OHS 2+3×4 → 45/55/55/60
Cleans off Block 2×3, 1×4 → 65/75/80, 85/90/100/100
Jerk Push Press 3×4 → 55/55/65/65
Front Squat 85% of max 3×5 → 110/110/110/110/110

Hip Power Snatch + Push Press (BTN) + OHS 3+3+3×4 → 50/55/55/65
Snatch off blocks 2×4, 1×4 → 50/55/55/55, 55/65/65/65
Snatch 1×4 → 65/70/70/70/70
Snatch pulls off bucket 3×4 → 70/70/70/70
Heavy Push Press 5×4 → 65/70/75/80 (4 reps only)

Video: Me training at RedBlack Gym!

OMG! Zach posted a video of me training last week during Wednesday morning Olympic Lifting! I can’t believe I didn’t watch it until today (But I saw it come out when I was at work, and they block YouTube.)

It’s everything we did that day! Here’s the video, and here’s the link to Zach’s blog about it.

Why was I nervous? (Olympic Lifting seminar recap)

Group of 11 people posing at gym
Ursula Garza, middle of the front row, next to me.

I was so nervous ahead of Satuday’s Olympic Lifting seminar. Zach told me to sign up, and, of course, I did, and for the past two weeks I’ve had this gnawing feeling in the pit of my stomach every time I thought about it.

I worried and worried. I know that the seminar was intended to help beginners like me improve their form, but I worried about how I would look in front of a woman who coaches Olympic athletes. Ursula Garza is a darn good coach. She’s also Zach’s coach, and part of me didn’t want to look bad because I didn’t want my coach to look bad in front of his coach.

I’m so glad I went, though. It was an awesome seminar. Andy asked me if Ursula was a better coach than Zach and the answer was (and still is) no – just different. Her cues were different. Everything she said I’ve heard from Zach, but she said it slightly differently. There were no major revelations, but I definitely benefited from her instruction.

We did snatch progressions, jerk progressions and then clean and jerk progressions in the 2 hours we had with her, and it was so great! By the end of the snatch part, I felt the bar contacting my hip just at the right spot EVERY TIME. It was so great, because that’s what I’ve been working for for so long. I just hope I can repeat it on Monday morning in class.

And it felt so good to hear Ursula say “That was good!” when I clean and jerked the weight near the end of the seminar, Admittedly, there wasn’t a lot of weight on the bar, but my partner and I were more concerned about form than weight. I felt like it was more important to get it right than go heavy.

This has been a week of great lifting. This week I tried out the morning class because of scheduling, and it turns out I really like it! I’ve decided to make it my regular class. I feel stronger and I like not interrupting my day.

Hip Clean 3×4 → 55/65/75/80
Power Clean & Power Jerk 2×3, 2+1×3 → 80/80/80, 85/85/90
Drop Snatch 3×4 → 55/65/75/85
Back Squat 75% 4×4 → 110/110/110/110

Drop Snatch 3×5 → 55/55/55/55/55
Power Snatch + Hang Power Snatch 1+2×4, 1+1×4, 1×3 (Power snatch only) → 50/50/55/60, 60/60/60/60, 65/65/65
Flat Foot Snatch Pull 5×3 → 65/65/65
Front Squats: Find Max for day → 120/125/130
85%x3, 90%x2, 95%x1, 100%x1, 85%x5 → 105/110/120/125/105

Don’t call it a diet

scale on stove
It's called a "diet" scale

It’s January 2, and that means I’m starting on my new goals — one of which is to Zone my food and hopefully slough off some more fat and hit my goal.

Andy ran out and got me a new scale because our kitchen scale broke over Christmas — with a little help. (It happens when curious hands drop it on the floor). I used the scale mainly for baking, and I expected him to just replace it with another all-purposed kitchen scale. I was a little surprised when Andy turned up with the scale you see above.

The package said “Diet Scale.” Gees, I can’t stand that word. But it works pretty well for what I’m doing. I weighed and measured everything at dinner — the chicken, cauliflower, collards and carrots. I actually don’t think I ate enough, since I’m supposed to eat 4 blocks of Protein, Fat and Carbs. But I don’t feel hungry, so I guess I’m just fine.

Today was also the first day back to my Olympic Lifting classes. We spent the time getting acquainted with the lifts — or I did, at least.

Hip Power Snatch + Push Press + OHS 3+3+3×3 → 35/45/55
Snatch + Hang Snatch 1+1×5 → 55/55/55/60/55
Clean + Front Squat 1+3×3 → 65/65/65
Back squat 65% 4×4 → 95

SIGH. Zach keeps telling me I change everything when the weight goes up. (See how he had me drop the weight on the snatch-hang snatch combo?)

I feel like I’m causing him great exasperation. I wish it would all just CLICK. How can I make it just click?

Surround yourself with strength

How do you improve your skills and grow as a (insert your career, sport, hobby, personal ambition)?

One thing people recommend is to hang around people who have the skills you want. I know, I know: It’s easier said than done.

First you have to find those people, and then, you have to feel comfortable with being a newbie and asking questions. On the one hand,you have to be confident enough to put yourself out there. But on the other hand, you have to be willing to keep your ears and eyes open to actually learn something. There’s no room for arrogance.

So in my case, I want to improve as an athlete — both in Olympic Lifting and Crossfit. So the best scenario is to 1) get into classes with people who can kick my ass and 2) not be an ass.


I haven’t met many people at my gym who are asses. For the most part, everyone is really nice and willing to help you out. I tend to be a little reserved with the new folks, but not because I think I’m any better or anything. I just don’t know them, and it’s not my style to get all warm and friendly right off the bat. But I’m more than willing to answer questions and help out.

In Olympic Lifting, I’m the newbie. And the folks in my class are coaches for the most part. They are incredibly knowledgeable and nice, so it’s a joy to be working alongside them, even though I’m stumbling my way through the lifts and fussed at most of the time. Oly class is one of those places where you just have to be humble and open your eyes and ears. Check that arrogance at the door, son, because it ain’t gonna help you.

But when coach says you did something right, it’s OK to do the happy-happy-joy-joy dance (well, inside, at least). I mean, praise is earned, so it’s perfectly OK to be proud of yourself. That’s how I felt on Wednesday when I landed a 55# snatch JUST RIGHT. It felt awesome. It was just one — but it was progress.

Back squats w/ 5 sec pause 65% 5X4 → 95
Hip Power Snatch + OHS 3+3×3 → 55/55/55
Snatch off blocks:
Power 3×1, 2×1 → 55/55
Snatch 2×2, 2×1 → 55/65/65
Power clean off blocks 3×3 → 65/65/65

Front Squat w/ 5 sec pause: 65% 5×4 → 85/85/85/85
Snatch Balance 5×2, 4×2, 3×2 (w/ heave) → 35/45/55
Hang Snatch w/ pause below the knee 2×4 → 35/45/55/55
Clean 3×2, 2×3 → 75/85

I wrote another little something about how the class has improved my squats and Zach posted it on his blog. Check it out!


Workin that Oly technique

Cindy stands behind a barbell with back bent and hands in a wide grip.
Setting up for a snatch off the blocks. (Photo from ZUT FIT)

Sometimes showing up to Oly class can be intimidating. The girls and guys in my class are strong and talented, and they sort of leave me in awe. They’re also some of the nicest people I’ve ever met, so it makes class something I look forward to, even though it’s one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done.

My coach asked me to write about my experience with the class so far for his blog, which I was happy to do. You can read what I wrote about Olympic Lifting for ZUT FIT here.

On Wednesday we did:

Back squats 70% x 5, 75% x 4, 85% 4×4 → 95/100/115
Hip Power Snatch 3×3 → 35/45/50
Power Snatch + Snatch off blocks
1+3 x 2 → 50/50
1+2 x 2 → 50/55
2 x 3 → 55/60/65
Snatch Grip Push Press BTN 5×3 –>55/60/65

One thing that Zach noticed I’m doing is I’m moving my knees back then rebending them as I pull the bar off the block, which is a power drain. I can’t feel it happen, but Zach shot some video and you can see it. What I need to do is pull straight up, keeping my shoulders over the bar as long as possible, then bumping the crease of the hip with the bar as I jump up.

It’s one of those complicated moves that hasn’t yet clicked for me.

It was a long workout. Before I knew it, it was 1:15 and I was already late leaving. That’s OK. It was worth the extra time to drill that technique.

No Fear

What is your trigger? What is it that motivates you to work harder or overcome an obstacle when you’re doing an exercise?

Zach says a lot of stuff to his athletes to remind us of what we’re supposed to do: “Be aggressive,” “Patient fast,” Keep working.” On Monday he said something before my lift that really worked.

“You have nothing to fear.”

I’ve been afraid of the barbell. I have walked up to it thinking, “Oh my God. How am I going to get this weight above my head?”

I admitted to Zach I’ve been afraid of the weight. He pointed out that it’s no big deal to fail. I’m just going to ditch the weight forward or behind me. It’s not going to land on my head.

Fear. It’s a nasty mental state. It can hold you hostage. Overcoming it is easier said than done, but I’m starting to leave it behind. Monday’s lifts felt much better, and Zach’s comments lead me to believe that my form is improving.

My lift partner Andrea took this video of me doing one of our progressions:

Front squats 70% x 5, 75% x 4, 85% 4×4 → 80/85/100
Hip Power Snatch 3×3 → 35/45/50
Hang Power Snatch + Hang Snatch (below the knee)
1+2 x 2 → 50/50
1+1 x 2 → 50/50
1 x 3 → 55/55/60

After class I pulled out my sharpie and wrote on my Oly shoes two words so that I will see them every time I step up to the bar:


The devil is in the details

“You’re changing it. Nothing changes.”

In my Olympic Lifting class, Zach watches us very closely. He can see what I can’t. And on Wednesday, he could see how I changed my lift when I added 10 pounds to the bar during snatch drills.

I worked alone Wednesday. My usual lift partner, Andrea, wasn’t there. I prefer having a partner. It makes judging your breaks between sets easier. Plus, Andrea’s really cool and encouraging. It’s nice having a cheerleader.

I have a lot of details about snatch form bouncing around in my head. I know where to put my body before the lift. Finally. Off the blocks, the bar sits right at the knee. My feet are flat on the floor, the weight is in my heels. There’s a slight stretch in my hamstrings. Shoulders are over the bar. My back is tight, with the lumbar curve activated. My chest is up.

I haven’t quite developed a consistent mental checklist. It seems like every lift has something very slightly different about it, so sometimes I get confused.

What always stays the same is:

  • Do not JERK the bar off the floor
  • Pull straight up with the chest
  • Be aggressive getting under the bar
  • Stick the landing
  • Even if you screw up, finish the lift.

And to be honest, there’s more to that list.

Often times, multiple things need to happen at the very same time. And that’s what makes it tricky.

For example, during a split second in the pull, your hips open, your wrists and elbows turn in, the bar makes contact with your hips and you jump under the bar.

Sometimes it happens for me. Sorta.

I have trouble at the heavier weights. I struggle to be explosive and get under the bar. Zach says it’s all in my head.

Isn’t that like most things that hold us back? The trick is breaking that mental barrier.

Obstacles cannot crush me. Every obstacle yields to stern resolve. He who is fixed to a star does not change his mind.

— Leonardo da Vinci.

Back squats: 70%x5, 75%x4, 85% 4×4 → 95/100/115
Power snatch off blocks + OHS: 3×3, 2×2 → 35/45/55, 55/55
Snatch off blocks: 2×2, 1×3 → 55/55, 55/55/55
Snatch grip push press BTN (behind the neck) → 55/55/60/65

Walking dead

We had an exciting night at the Brummer Casa Tuesday into Wednesday morning.

Poor Luke was sick. Really sick. (Poor kid… it’s agony not being able to fix it when your child hurts so much).

Andy and I did not get much sleep as a result. I got off easy. My job was to get Mads back to sleep. We ended up moving everybody around into different beds. Poor Andy was up practically all night with Luke. He missed his Crossfit class in the morning. He had barely slept when it was time to leave.

I was able to function a little better, but I was still REALLY tired. I wasn’t sure how I would do in Olympic Lifting class, but I decided I would try. I was so worried about showing up late that I got there early. We ended up starting our warmup early, which makes me wonder if I really was late on Monday.

Back Squat: 70%x5, 75%x4, 85% 4×4 → 95/100/115
Snatch Pull + Power Snatch + Hang Snatch : 1+1+1×2 60%, 1+1+1×2 70%, 1+1×1 80% → 45/45/55
Technique work: Jump, Jump, Power snatch w/ 35# bar

I am still struggling with the snatch. It’s such a technical move — and it’s ALL in the details. I wasn’t the only one who struggled. In fact, Zach got so fed up he threw out the rest of his planned program for the day and we JUST worked technique with the bar. I found that extremely valuable.

I feel bad, because I want to “GET” the moves but it’s coming slowly.  I think we’ll be doing a lot more drills because of that.

SIGH. I’m gonna learn this stuff. I’m determined.