Sunday, 7 April 2013

13.5 Jay's Back :)

I'm writing this post now (Sunday morning before my final attempt at 13.5). I thought it'd be fun to do this as a before and after style thing! I feel hungry, like a rabid dog on a leash desperate to devour this workout. I felt hungry the last time but feel like I only got a bite. NOW I WANT THE WHOLE THING AND I WANT IT BAD!

1st attempt score: 85

RD 1: 15 thrusters UB, 15 pull ups UB
RD 2: 16 thrusters (1 no rep), 13,2 pull ups
RD 3: 10,5 thrusters, 5,1,1,1,1,1

Where I went wrong: I think you rush because you want to make the time cap but actually as long as you're strict with your rest you can break (quite a lot actually based on the videos I've watched) and still make it. So the trick is to be aware of the time but not to panic and to break before you need to. My plan for this attempt is based off Julie Foucher's first attempt which worked for her.

2nd attempt score prediction: 150 (actual score 85)

RD 1: 15 thrusters UB, 8,7 pull ups (7 sec rest between pull ups)
RD 2: 15 thrusters UB, 8,7 pull ups (9 sec rest)
RD 3: 10,5 thrusters (8 sec rest) 8,7 pull ups (rest 7 secs between pull ups)

It's now 23.57 (over 12 hours later from when I started this post). Unfortunately things didn't go the way I'd hoped. I got the exact same score again despite changing my tactics. I didn't feel "gassed beyond belief" I was a little out of breath but able to keep pushing. The problem was the same. Got to the last set of pull ups and after 5 reps they went. When you can't string them out time just zips by and before I knew it the 4 minutes were gone. I was crestfallen, I was so sure (and still remain sure) that getting 90 reps in 4 minutes is within my capability. But why didn't it happen? Maybe a day between my 1st and 2nd attempt wasn't enough. Maybe the slightly interrupted sleep thinking about it all night played a factor. Maybe it was a combination of a few things. I do know that I did all the right things I could think of and that were within my power:

1) Nutrition: Eat well and regularly, took appropriate supplements at right intervals
2) Studied the workout: Watched videos of others, looked at blog posts, analyzed my last attempt
3) Mobility: Stretched and rolled out
4) Sleep: Went to bed at a reasonable time (it took me ages to get to sleep though and I kept waking up).
5) Visualized: I played the events in my head the way I wanted them to go over and over and whenever the thought of fear or failure appeared I replaced it with what I wanted to happen NOT what I didn't want to happen
6) Belief/motivation: I kept watching videos about motivation and how to succeed to inspire me.

I actually tried the workout a 3rd time about half an hour later. I got 71. I didn't expect to beat my score but I wanted to try at least. I didn't feel as disappointed after the 2nd try 85 as I did compared to the 1st. It was almost like I'd burnt out that emotion from having felt it so much. I knew I'd given it everything, I knew there wasn't a point in the workout I could say to myself "I COULD have kept going but I chose to rest." I simply reached the dreaded redzone again where my strength went and didn't return in time. The first thing I said was "At least I didn't get a worse score". I thought that was quite positive. I appreciated Dylan's comment about how Rich Froning had the similar scenario getting to the 12 minutes and although he pulled it off he looked mortal for a second in his fatigue. It made me think about perspectives and horizons. Should Khalipa have felt devastated for not having made it into the 12 minutes like Rich? Is his 12 minutes like my 8 minutes? He said at the end "I gave it my best and that's all I can do". That is absolutely true but despite the fact that afterwards I could say I'd given my best, the thought that my best had fallen short of my goal burns me up inside. It makes me feel so angry and disgusted. I deserved to get into those 8 minutes, I felt willing and able after the 4 like I had so much more in me if my dam pull ups had just lasted a bit longer!

I wanted to do it to prove to myself I could, I wanted to do it for the team, I wanted to do it to inspire others and I failed. It made me realise how threatening the fear of failure actually is. I don't think it should stop you from going after the things you want. You'll certainly never get them if you let it stop you. But if you do fail how do you deal with it when basically its a big fat slap in the face of "you tried and didn't succeed despite all your effort sucker! What you gona do now?!" I guess that is the million dollar question. And my only answer is this. If I couldn't achieve the above goals by getting that score, at least maybe in some way I could inspire by showing how my subsequent actions to the situation were those of a fighter and not a defeatist.

1) I did the workout again on the same day
2) Getting back in the gym and getting better
3) Writing this post
4) Helping others in whatever way I can

The one thing I did do that I set out to was secure my place in the regionals team for Black 5 (our gym). So I can't say that this wod was a complete failure. Maybe I did deserve more, maybe I did all the right things but sometimes things don't always go to plan. What's important is what you do in response to that. Do you give up? Or do you get back on your feet and keep moving forward? I know what Rocky would say ;) I thought about the "famous failures" and how Michael Jordan got cut from his high school basketball team and now is one of the most legendary players ever! Your present circumstances don't mean they're always going to remain the same. You CAN change provided you're willing to go through all the shit and that doesn't just mean pain in workouts, it mean dealing with disappointment as well sometimes if you want to obtain victory and achieve your goals. Take pride in the little achievements along the way though.

Friday, 29 March 2013

13.4 1st attempt lessons

1) Don't rush the T2B: The form on the first rep sets your rhythm. I ended up swinging too much and losing time correcting the error. Start right, finish right.

2) Remember your jerk options: I missed one jerk and push pressed one out of fatigue. It's not ideal but the split jerk is a powerful weapon in my arsenal when the load starts to get heavy. Can mean the difference between taking an extra second and missing a rep and taking 10 secs to get it back.

3) Be aware of where you are in the workout: As a first attempt I didn't have a specific number I wanted to reach and wasn't really aware of where I was mid-wod. The second attempt I'll need to know exactly where I am at all times to ensure I'm on track to meet my goal.

4) Relax: This might seem contradictory to working hard but it's more a state of mind rather than "going at a relaxed pace". I was so focused on going as quick as possible I made myself tense and I don't think it helped. When I watched Daz do the workout he looked relaxed the entire way through and got way 18 reps more than me.

5) Lifting shoes: They might not be great for toes to bar but I know they'd give me a lot more stability for the clean and jerk. A second attempt needs to be different I think. Do what you've always done, get what you've always got.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

13.3 Things Don't Always Go To Plan

When 13.2 came out I knew I could do well and instantly I had a score in my head that I knew I could achieve. Whether or not I could actually turn that fantasy into a reality was a different case but one of my maths teacher in school once told me...

"Aim for the trees, hit the floor, aim for the sky, hit the trees" 

In other words, dream big, aim high and even if you don't achieve quite what you were aiming for you're likely to end up with a lot better a result than if you started out with some measly mediocre ambition. 

I kept trying to train in preparation for 13.2 but I was ill and the symptoms were making it a nightmare to do anything. I was coughing constantly and doing any workout seemed to aggravate and leave me feeling 2 steps back from recovering. As a result I begrudgingly decided to rest from training in the hopes of actually recovering from my illness and be in a better state for the competition workout. 

Unfortunately other things got in the way, problems with my flat, a shoulder injury and I kept delaying my attempt but eventually I got the point where I was ready to give it my best shot despite my less than ideal condition. I wanted 10 rounds and I got 9 rounds and 3 STOs. It wasn't what I wanted but I was pleased with the result given the circumstances. It was a respectable score. But I'd assumed that would be the end of worrying about being ill during an open workout and unfortunately it didn't turn out to be the case.

13.3 quickly arrived and I didn't feel much better. Still coughing regularly and still unable to train without bouts of coughing fits. Even more reluctantly I was forced to remain off training with the hopes of recovering and having to delay the open workout for as long as possible. 

When the Sunday came (today) I felt 'ok' or at least I thought I did. The night before I'd gone out for dinner with friends and kept coughing but I woke up feeling better than average. I had everything planned out, I'd been visualizing what I wanted to achieve in every detail, I'd been reminding myself of past achievements, providing my mind with concrete evidence that I could do this, I could achieve what I was picturing in my mind and it was not just possible, it was completely feasible. 

I arrived at the gym, went through my pre-workout rituals, listened to the speeches on my ipod, warmed up properly and felt ok. I'd taken my lemsip and painkillers, vicks vapour rubbed all over my chest and throat. Good to go. 

I had a plan, I knew what I needed to get, I was aware that I might not achieve exactly what I wanted (a complete round and maybe 1 or 2 wall balls) but knew from the above quote that this is what I needed to be picturing. I set off and the wall balls felt ok. I got my 50 first reps unbroken but didn't quite manage to stick to my sets of no less than 20. In any case I came off the wall balls around 7 mins or just a bit less. This was part of the plan. But when I got to the double unders it was like oxygen had just left and not decided to come back. I did the best that I could but had to keep stopping in an effort to catch some kind of air. I knew this wasn't good but eventually I made it onto the muscle ups. This was supposedly my time to shine. Muscle ups are one of my favourite movements, I'm good at them and even better than I used to be. But when I jumped on the rings I had nothing. I struggled to pull out single reps and I knew immediately that I was not only not going to achieve my goal, I was going to fall short but a long shot. I stood below the rings watching them spin with sheer frustration and anger and my incompetence and delay in not being able to string out even doubles. 

But the time the buzzer went for the end of 12 minutes a huge wave of disappointment and disbelief washed over me. Part of me didn't understand what had just happened. I sat down and looked at the floor ashamed. This time it wasn't a score (in my mind) that I could even settle with some sense of satisfaction, it was a complete disaster, an embarrassment and humiliation. Now you might be reading this and thinking "over-exaggeration, drama queen" and maybe you're right. I don't mean to insult anyone who scored less than me but for me and my level and the time I've been doing CrossFit and the amount of training and work I've put in this was a failure entirely. 

Friends came over to me with words of condolence and encouragement and it didn't fall on deaf ears but it did feel like "these are the things you tell a loser to make him/her not feel so bad about their defeat". One person told me "you're still my hero" but I sure didn't feel like one in the slightest. I'd always hoped that at the very least I could inspire others with my performances but I don't think I even achieved that. 

My friend Alex gave me some useful advice that actually led me to write this post: 

"How would a future champion respond to this outcome? They would write down every positive they could take from their performance and write down every single thing they could learn from the last few weeks. They would take full responsibility for everything and blame nothing. Pick up...dust off...get back on" 

So these are the positives from my 13.3 attempt: 

1) I achieved 50 wall balls unbroken and stuck relatively well to my plan for that movement (usually around sets of 20 reps subsequently) 

2) I was afraid but I turned fear to fight and took my apprehension head on

3) I didn't give up, I kept going despite the fact I knew I wasn't going to achieve my goal at the end

4) I watched technique videos and efficiency tips before the day 

5) I stayed positive up until I finished the workout 

What I've learnt over the past few weeks: 

1) Chris Spealler says you need to separate your identity from your performance. I haven't been able to achieve this yet. If I had I wouldn't be feeling so bad now. 

2) Shit happens. Whether you want to call it God or the Universe, he, she or it giveth and taketh away. No possession you have be it material or immaterial is yours forever. It may come and go or disappear entirely. 

3) Rudyard Kipling has a poem that I love and one of the lines seems applicable here: (I'll paraphrase) 

"If you can watch the things you gave your life to, broken, and stoop and build them up again with worn out tools. If you can make one heap of all your winnings and risk it one turn of pitch and toss and lose, and start again at your beginnings..." 

4) This reminds me of a workout 2 years ago in the open. I didn't manage to beat my score on my second attempt and my hopes for making regionals took a big hit. I was distraught but I still made it. The CrossFit open is like golf, you might mess up on one hole but there's 18 of em and it ain't there all done. You can either let your poor performance on one carry over onto the rest or think of every one as a fresh start. 

5) It's been a bitter winter and spring shows no signs of the weather letting up, I've been and continue to be sick, I've had injuries and things that have made me want to give up and break down but as Rocky says: 

"The world aint all sunshine and rainbows. It's a very mean and nasty place and no matter how tough you are it will beat your to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, nobody aint never gonna hit as hard as life, but it aint about hard you hit, it's about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward, how much you can take and keep moving forward. That's how winning is done. Now you know what you're worth then go out and get what you're worth, but you gotta be willing to take the hits and not pointing fingers" 

I think sometimes I put too much of myself into this CrossFit stuff or maybe expect too much of myself. But the reason I do, and it may be misguided, I hold myself to the highest standard because I believe with enough hardwork and determination and self-belief that it's attainable. It being your dreams. I don't think it's something reserved for a chosen few and if you don't happen to be chosen then I think kick the door down of that room where ever those people are getting picked and demand to be one of them. It takes no guts to be skeptical. To be "realistic". Some people will laugh at you when/if you tell them your ambitions or goals because they sound so ridiculously unreachable. Well fuck you. I'd honestly rather die in the pursuit of my goals than agree with you. 

I don't mind saying I'm afraid. Afraid that what if all the sacrificing never pays off, afraid that I'll fail. Courage was never born out of absolute certainty I say. But you'll never achieve anything worthwhile unless you face your fears and go for it and have some kind of belief that you can do it. 

I hope this inspires somebody and if you ever find yourself in the situation I'm in now what I ask you to say to the sky and whoever lives up there is: "what else you got?"

I'm not going to stop while I have a breath in my body. I will continue to lay my heart out there whatever that looks like. 


Friday, 15 February 2013

Separating identity from performance

In this video from the Lake Tahoe gathering with some of the CrossFit elite, Chris Spealler eloquently expresses how separating one's identity from performance really takes off the breaks when it comes to excelling at the sport. 

Spealler explains that doing this doesn't mean you don't have high expectations of yourself, you can still be disappointed with the result but if you've given everything you've got you shouldn't be disappointed with your performance. 

"It's a battle everyday, every time I go in the gym, every time I get ready to hit the clock, I have to decide that my time on that workout does not dictate who I am." 

He asks the group when they feel they perform their best and says that in his case it's not when he's paying attention to the other competitors or worrying about what people will think of him if he loses, it's when he's focusing on what he can do and doing it to the best of his ability. If you think about this it makes total sense. You can't control what your opponent or competitors are doing but you can control what you chose to focus on and whether that's something within or out of your control. 

He goes on later to remind everyone that not every workout is going to be perfect but the difference between  a perceived great day (PBs etc) and a day where nothing seems to come together is the meaning you put on it. You're going to miss reps but the second you become a victim of that you're defeated. It's just a rep! Forget it and carry on. 

"I will not stop picking up the bar, I don't care if I feel like crap, I will not stop this workout" 

You need to believe you can win regardless of who you're up against (even if that doesn't seem likely, even if it seems impossible). If you don't set out with the belief that it's possible for you to come out on top you almost certainly won't.

"I walked into the games thinking I'm here to win, I am going to win, I believe I can win and I let myself be vulnerable enough to allow myself to believe I was going to win, but if I didn't everything was still going to be ok because it doesn't identify me." 

I heard a phrase that really stuck with me "it takes no guts to be skeptical" and I bet you can think of plenty of people you know who ramble on about how unrealistic something is, all the reasons why you can't do something bla bla bla. In the Pursuit of Happiness Will Smith tells his son "if people can't do something they want to tell you that you can't do it" and that if you want something, go after it. To achieve great things I believe you need to put yourself on the line emotionally, it's the skepticism that people use to stop themselves from getting hurt because if you never believe it's going to happen and it doesn't you never said it was going to in the first place so it's no big deal. 

(5.10 onwards) 

Train hard, prepare as much as you can physically but condition your mind to believe that you are an athlete to be reckoned with. Regardless of the result you will always be you so don't be afraid to take that leap into believing that you can win. Stay focused on what you can control and doing this to the best of your ability :) 

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Every workout has a hidden gem - WOD 3 of the London Throwdown

The final workout of for the London Throwdown qualifiers put the power in the athlete's hands to decide how to break down provided all required reps were completed:

75 burpees 
75 pull-ups 
75 thursters @ 35kg 

My first decision was to break these down into 5 rounds or 15 reps a piece. Some of the previous workouts I'd been apprehensive about but I felt confident approaching this. Body weight exercises I tend to be ok at and the thrusters were very light. No worries right? ...WRONG! 

I made sure I warmed up properly, I mentally prepared and then went for it but as I worked through the first few thrusters I noticed something didn't feel right. When you've been doing CrossFit for a while you develop an accurate awareness of your body's work capacity, your lactic tolerance, your strengths and weaknesses etc and as I moved through the burpees on the 1st round it felt like the 5th. I felt gassed as hell at a point in the workout I knew I shouldn't be. Mentally I started questioning myself as to what might be causing this: the weight and the pressure of not being able to come up with a solid answer started to make what was physically already demanding even harder. Every burpee I dropped down for I desperately felt like staying there...DESPERATELY! I knew I wasn't going to get a good time at this rate, I wasn't going to qualify and when you feel depressed like this it sucks your motivation away like a Dyson. 

But then I make a conscious decision. No, maybe this wouldn't be a remarkable time, but there is an opportunity right now to develop that mental fortitude that is so essential in CrossFit. The harder and more horrendous the more guts and mental strength it requires to push through and all I started thinking about was this: "do your best and your best will always get better" If I could persevere and make it through the other side I knew I'd be a stronger athlete for it. 

I made it through (eventually lol) and I've never felt so physically fucked after a workout ever. But I was proud that I hadn't just called it quits because it would have been easier. In summary though, my advice for you is this: your mind can only focus on one thing, thought, image etc at any one time. If you replace a negative thought "this is horrendous", "what's the point?" with a different thought (not necessarily positive, I like to think of it as productive) e.g. "if I complete this workout, regardless of time, I will be a better athlete" and keep repeating this to yourself I can promise you that you won't have as hard a time. I don't want to delude you into thinking it's going to be easy once you do this, it won't. But it will feel more like you're being pulled to the finish than having to drag yourself there. The only essential ingredient for this to work though is that being a better athlete needs to be important to you. If it's not important it won't create enough of a drive to propel you through. So if you're more of a recreational CrossFitter just fill the gap with whatever inspires you e.g. "if I give my all and get through this workout, the stresses at work will feel like a walk in the park", "if I give my all and get through this workout, I'll be a better role model for my kids". 

I hope you found this helpful, I think it's something where the principles can be applied to any area of your life so if you you find yourself in a similar situation why not give it a go! 


Friday, 16 November 2012

Move forward, not backwards

You learn life lessons from many different things: the experiences you have, your friends, family but one constant source of applicable life philosophy for me comes from The Simpsons (see clip above). This leads me on nicely to the purpose of this blog and an explanation of the title.

Kaizen is a Japanese term referring to a philosophy of changing for the better. We all have areas of life we'd like to excel at and if you're serious about making improvements I'm guessing you actively seek out resources in various forms to help you achieve your goals. The internet, books, videos etc there's definitely an abundance of useful sources of information and inspiration out there to help you, but how often have you taken the time to REALLY analyse your own experiences? 

We've all at one time or another criticized ourselves for messing something up but what we need to do on a regular basis is focus on ways to improve from these events so we're better prepared the next time round. For the past 4 years I've been involved in a sport called CrossFit. "Constantly varied functional movements executed a high intensity across broad time and modal domains" but to the general passer-by who shows vague interest "lifting weights and stuff." 

CrossFit is something I'm very passionate about and began as just a new way to challenge myself physically. I'd played basketball to a high level prior to starting this and didn't expect to find it particularly taxing but after my first workout I was pouring with sweat and gasping for every breath of air flat on my back. The weird thing was that during time of uncharted physical pain the first thought that popped into my head was "I can't wait to do that again!" I still can't explain exactly why CrossFit has this addictive effect but if I had to hazard a guess I'd say it's the challenge. People that do CrossFit (or at least stick with it) are people who enjoy a challenge, but what will always remain invisible to a spectator is that third dimension where a physical activity reaches an intensity that creates mental and emotional distress. This is something that among CrossFitters is an unspoken understanding. We all have our own ways of dealing with this and I'd like to share with you mine through this blog. This will be in the form of tactics I've come up with, people that have inspired me and/or learnt from. 

Whether your a recreational athlete or competitive, I'm hoping my reflections will help you get more out of your workouts, do better in competition and edge closer towards realizing your full potential. 

Until next time,