Thursday, June 29, 2006

To my readers:

Two days ago, I published this article with pictures taken in Quincy Quarry by Mr. John Knight. I neglected to credit John, or mention the location of the photographs. I did not intend to mislead, and I apologize.

Again Faster will adhere to the highest ethical standards, regardless of the stakes.

Error by omission is not one of our standards. I will not make this mistake in the future.

Thanks to John for the amazing photographs from the last version of this article. I will re-publish these pictures in an appropriate piece, with proper attribution. The pictures in this article were taken at Hammond Pond by the author (and his girl) on June 27, 2006.

Learning the Ropes

In most athletic endevours, aggression is rewarded. In others, it's a cardinal sin.

On Tuesday night, Sam and I made the trip to Hammond Pond off of Route 9. Tucked away behind the Chestnut Hill Mall, ten rock climbers were scaling 30 vertical feet of puddingstone. In the urban jungle, it's the closest thing to a cliff.

I was coming off six straight days of Crossfit. I felt like sh*t, and a couple of items from the stress list were creeping up on me.

When we arrived, John and Marcia were finishing a climb.

He helped me tie in to the top rope, and I contemplated the fissure in front of me for a few seconds.

"Am I on belay?"

"You are."


"Climb away."

I jammed my right foot and left hand into the face, and made a move. The rock was soaked. I stood two feet off the ground. Grabbing another hold, I attempted to weight my left foot.

My body wasn't having it. Every second of stress I'd inflicted on my body in the last week came crashing down, and I fell off the rock.

I tried to get that second move two more times. With each attempt, I became angrier and more aggressive. I ended up at the bottom, my safety knot clenched into a tiny ball.

Disgusted, I took the rope off my harness, brusquesly told John, "It's not happening today."

I went to sulk on a nearby log. Thankfully, everyone ignored me.

I sat there, watching Sam climb the route I'd just written off, moving quickly and gracefully. The further up the rock she went, the more embarassed I got. I'd just allowed bodily fatigue and momentary failure to put me on the sideline. I was surrounded by good friends, and I was pissing it away.

Nick looked over from a setup further down the wall. "Hey, Gilson. Wanna try this one?"

John made eye contact with Nick, and shook his head. I didn't say a word. John has wisdom and patience, while I typically have rash impulses and anti-social tendencies. He knew what he was doing, and I had the good sense to keep my mouth shut.

After a few minutes, John gestured toward the wall, and asked me if I was ready to go again. I was. As I strapped on my rock shoes, Sam came over and asked if I was alright.

"No way I'm getting beat by a f*cking rock. Not today."

"Not ever," she said, and smiled. Sammy has unshakeable faith.

Once again I stood facing the wall, tied into the belay rope. John and I went through the climbing Q and A, and I put my hand on the rock.

"Don't let it frustrate you," he said quietly. "If it does, just let it go."

Instead of attacking the rock, I considered my hold carefully, and moved when it felt right. The tension that had caused me to shake was gone--my embarassment had drowned it.

I held the rock, letting it support my weight.

Each solid move brought more confidence. Foot, foot. Hand, hand. Foot, hand, foot. I found myself at the top, preparing to rappel.

I tackled a couple other routes that evening. None of them were hard. Not even close. The puddingstone at Hammond Pond is littered with deep holds and vertical fissures.

The trouble with my first climb wasn't the rock. It wasn't the route, and it wasn't the rain water. It was my head.

Rock climbing requires a combination of balance and calm. There's no place for stress and aggression, and I'd tried to impose both of those feelings on the rock. It rewarded me with a quick trip to the bottom.

I once read that success comes from experience, and experience comes from failure. Next time I get hit with failure, I'm going to take a page out of John's book.

I'll just let it go.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Pounding by the Pond

This Sunday, we'll be at Jamaica Pond with another installment of the Again Faster Workout Series.

Sammy and I field-tested the workout last weekend, and we had a blast doing it. According to Sam, "I didn't know hitting things with a sledgehammer could be this much fun..."

It is. That's why we're doing it. Again. Faster.

The workout—5 rounds for time:

20 sledge swings (10 lb. sledge guys/8 lb. sledge girls, 10 L, 10 R)
5 burpees
20 knee-to-elbows
5 burpees
20 pullups
5 burpees

Modification A
10 reps of swings, K-T-Es, pullups

Modification B
Same as Modification A, three rounds instead of 5

Come spend some time with friends, and we'll hit whatever ain't tied down!

Meet by the pullup bars at 8:00 a.m. See you there!

Jamaica Pond Map/Driving Directions

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Get What You Want

I've got a lot of goals. Most of them revolve around speed, strength, and power. The problem is, I don't know which goal I'm pursuing half the time.

I'm an athletic schizophrenic. Odds are, you are too. On some days, I want be lean and quick like Brad Pitt in Fight Club. On others, I want to bring the noise like that huge bastard from Green Mile.

Crossfit represents a compromise between the two extremes. We work sprinting and agility one day and maximal strength the next. Sometimes we work them in the same WOD. Crossfit develops athletes that are proficient in both pathways.

Our programming leans toward metabolic conditioning. On any given day, you're likely to encounter a workout that places a premium on speed. The emphasis on speed ensures that the athlete maintains the proper intensity levels to develop increased work capacity and promote lean mass development. This type of workout will turn you into a hell of an athlete, with a moderate amount of muscle mass.

There are ways to develop more muscle mass using the Crossfit prescription, if one is so inclined. To become a better athlete, you'll have to momentarily set aesthetics aside, and give up on your cover boy-inspired dreams of 6% body fat.

If you can forget vanity for a few months, it's possible to develop incredible strength and exceptional work capacity.

Most athletes want the Holy Grail. They want to develop muscle mass while maintaining the body fat levels of a Kenyan marathoner. It's not going to happen. You've got to pick one or the other, Dr. Jones.

This is the source of my problem. At 5'10", 170 pounds, I know I can hang quite a bit more muscle on my frame. I even know how to do it. Forsake the joys of the 5k run. Eat. A lot. All the time. Lift heavy weight. Sleep. Repeat.

I've started this process more than once. I end up seeing an extra pound of bodyfat about three weeks in, and I sprint to the track to do some additional sprinting.

I'm not going to quit this time. The rationale is simple. If I can do Diane in 7 minutes at a maximum deadlift of 425 pounds, I'll absolutely kill it at a max deadlift of 500 pounds. To get my deadlift that high, a few extra pounds of muscle won't hurt a bit.

Packing on the muscle and temporarily gaining a bit of fat will actually allow me to derive a larger metabolic benefit from my workouts in the long-run. The 225 pound deadlift goes from 53% of my 1-rep max to 45% of my 1-rep max. I'll be able to move the bar that much faster. By moving the bar faster, I'll get a greater metabolic effect from the workout.

In addition to the direct benefit of increased strength, the increase in muscle mass will up my overall metabolic rate at rest, promoting low bodyfat.

I understand your fears. Achieving a high level of endurance and work capacity was difficult the first time. You fought hard for it, and you're not going to give it up, even for a minute.

Don't worry, Kimosabe. It will come much easier the second time around. You've established a base level of fitness, and it's not going to disappear in two or three months.

Screw vanity. We're going for power this time.

I've made forays into Coach Rutman's Black Box in the past. This time I'm going whole-hog. The plan is easy.

1.) Eat a ton of high-quality fats, protein, and vegetable matter. Around 4200 calories per day.

2.) Every second day, lift 5 x 5s and 3 x 3s of the O-lifts and their components.

Front Squats
Overhead Squats

3.) Sleep as much as possible.

4.) Lay off any metabolic work over 20 minutes long.

I'm going to try this for a few months and see what happens. Come September, I'll go back to the straight WOD schedule. Worse comes to worse, I sink during the Duxbury Triathlon.

I think I'll get over it if I'm deadlifting 500.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Rained Out

This weekend, Samantha and I were supposed to be in Martha's Vineyard learning to windsurf. We weren't there.

A low pressure system, carrying an obnoxiously large rain storm, stalled above New England, dumping water all over the place. So much for windsurfing.

Of course, I'd already called off the weekly Again Faster workout since I'd be out of town. You can't coach if you're not there.

We were stuck inside with nothing to do. Since Parcheesi isn't exactly our style, Sam and I gave the world a big collective "f*ck you" and headed to Topsfield.

Dave Picardy runs Crossfit Topsfield, along with his wife Tara and his two little girls. We'd promised Dave a visit, so off we went.

That's Dave. His facility is huge, and he's got everything you need to have a hell of a workout.

The WOD:
10 kettlebell swings
20 one arm overhead squats
30 one arm split jerks
40 walking lunges
30 one arm split jerks
20 one arm overhead squats
10 kettlebell swings

It's a nasty workout. One-arm overhead squats are nasty. Walking lunges are nasty. Doing the whole damn thing in 10 minutes with a 40 pound dumbell was nasty.

Dave started with a 30 pounder. About halfway through the workout, he looks over, and notices I've got a 40.


He walked over to the rack and got a 40. I didn't bother to tell him I was using a 30 for the overhead squats. After all, he runs the place.

We did some Tabata hollow rocks to end the day, and Sam and I headed back to Boston.

About halfway there, inspiration struck. Home Depot.

This place is my heaven. I love it there. They've got everything you'd ever need to outfit the world's baddest guerilla gym. I needed another sledgehammer and the makings of a portable pullup bar.

A portable pullup bar? Oh, hell yeah. I'm no engineer, but I'm not brand-new either. If you can hang rings, you can hang a bar.

An hour after we left Home Depot, we had a pullup bar that can be installed anywhere there's a horizontal span. Trees. Rafters. The garage. The porch.

I am utterly incapable of sitting still. I'm even less capable of having new toys and not using them. Despite the rain, Sammy and I headed to Jamaica Pond for some fun.

Nothing compares to the looks you get swinging a 10-pound sledgehammer at a totally defenseless tire. We came up with a little piece of programming that ensures funny looks. It also happens to bake the hell out of the arms and torso.

5 rounds for time:
20 sledge swings (10L, 10R)
20 knee-to-elbows
20 pullups

I managed this in 29:40, hanging over a massive puddle for most of my knee-to-elbows reps. It was some Indiana Jones sh*t. Holding onto a rain-slicked bar with 6 inches of water directly below you.

Okay, so I imagined it was a pit of snakes. Give me a break.

The portable pullup bar was awesome--rock solid. Sammy, show 'em...

We didn't go windsurfing, but who the hell needs sails and a bunch of vacationing bond traders to have a good time. We loved this workout so much, we're going to use it for the next Again Faster workout.

Sunday, July 2nd at 8:00 am. We'll be at Jamaica Pond, sledgehammers at the ready. If you want to learn to swing one, see the portable pullup bar in action, or just laugh at us while we sweat our asses off, stop by. We'd love to have you.

Go faster!

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Step Up

There's a problem in Crossfit-land. We've taken our benchmark workouts as prescribed, and we've imposed them on every workout we do.

Fran is done with a 95 pound bar for men and a 65 pound bar for women.

Fight Gone Bad is done with a 95 pound bar for men and a 65 pound bar for women.

So, the next time we incorporate thrusters, push presses, or sumo deadlift high pulls into a workout, we'll use 95 pounds for the men and 65 pounds for the women. It makes sense on the surface--we'll train for our benchmarks. To become proficient at 95 pound thrusters, you should do 95 pound thrusters.

There is a huge flaw in this mode of thinking. It's akin to training for the mile by doing the 40 yard dash. It will only get you so far.

Fran and FGB are benchmarks. They are two of the contests by which we measure progress. If we're going to treat them like contests, I believe we should train for them like contests. We should exceed their demands.

If I want to do 95 pound thrusters well, I could train 95 pound thrusters. Or, I could train 100 pound thrusters, 110 pound thrusters, and 135 pound thrusters. The second option is more effective.

At some point, you reach the limits of your capacity. You can do 21 95-pound thrusters only so fast. You'll see this when you watch the superstars of Crossfit. One rep right after the other, unbroken sets, no rest between exercises, using the prescribed weight.

This is a plateau.

It's a plateau we'd all like to reach, but it represents the end of progress. It's the pinnacle of power output at a specific weight. The athlete cannot move any faster. To increase power output and maintain progress, the athlete has to up the weight.

Let's say I do 21 95-pound thrusters in 1:20, every time I do them. This time represents 100% of my capacity at 95 pounds.

Instead of sticking with 95 pounds, I up the weight to 110. I repeatedly do 110-pound thrusters, getting my time to 1:30. This is 100% of my capacity at 110.

Now, I go back to 95 pounds. Will my thrusters be faster?

They should be. 110 pounds in 1:30 equates to 95 pounds in 1:18.

110/1.5 minutes = 95/x minutes

73.33 = 95/x

x = 95/73.33
x = 1.29 minutes
x = 1:17:73

By doing thrusters at 110, you're increasing your ability to produce power. That increased ability translates to a lower time with 95 pounds.

I've been warned against complex mathematical proofs, and you're probably sick of power output calculations. I just erased the one I was going to show you. Suffice to say that increasing your ability to produce power reduces the time you need to move a load. In shorthand, you're stronger.

Don't settle for a fast time, and quit measuring yourself against the other people in the room. At some point you have to look inward, and measure your progress against yourself.

If your times are consistent and quick, it's time to up the weight. Push for new levels of power output. You won't be the fastest one in the room, but you'll be making progress. In the long-term, this is much more important.

Train beyond the benchmarks. When you get back to them, you'll blow them away. When you hit the top of the scoreboard, start over. There's no honor in being the best if you can be better.

Go faster!

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Controlled Burn

I get mad as hell. I crank the music, down a few cups of coffee, and attack. About 20 minutes later, I find myself at the bottom of a sweat puddle, thanking the Almighty that my aggressive tendencies led me to Crossfit and not to jail.

The “kill ‘em all” approach to the WOD has its merits. It’s cathartic, you look like a total badass, and everyone stays at least ten feet away from you.

On the downside, you burn out quickly.

A strategic approach to the WOD doesn’t reek of testosterone, but it may leave you better equipped to finish big sets and long workouts.

The other day, we did “Daniel”, a workout named for Army Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Crabtree, who died earlier this month in Al Kut, Iraq.

50 pullups
400 meter sprint
21 thrusters (95# bar)
800 meters
21 thrusters (95# bar)
400 meter sprint
50 pullups

This workout starts and ends with 50 pullups, so busting ass straight out of the gate isn’t a great idea. Instead of doing one set of 25, and then finishing with singles, you’ll want to take a more strategic approach.

Or you could finish dead last. Whatever.

50 pullups, broken down into manageable sets, looks like this:


You get half the pull-ups out of the way in the first three mini-sets, and pound out the remaining 25 in sets of five. The 5 to 10 second breaks between mini-sets are much more time-effective than two minutes of gasping following a single set of 25. You won’t feel like you’re pushing as hard, but you’ll get done a hell of a lot quicker.

On the first 400, your legs are absolutely fresh. You could probably run this in about a minute. If you do, those thrusters are going to hurt like a motherf*cker.

Quivering thighs don’t support 95# thrusters all that well. Sacrifice 10 seconds here, and you’ll have a little left in the tank for the fun yet to come.

You could probably pound out the first set of thrusters Fran-style, and be back running in a minute and a half. Control yourself, rage-boy.

Three sets of seven will have you done in two minutes. You’re about to run a half mile, and your legs have to hold up for it.

Run the 800 slightly under your mile pace. If you run an 8 minute mile, concentrate on running four 1:45 200s. 7 minute mile? Four 1:30 200s. You get the picture. You’ll still be fast using this technique--faster than your mile pace, anyway.

Now, ladies and gentlemen, it’s time to hit the switch. You’re back from the 800. Time to get amped up.

Blast out the remaining thrusters and sprint the 400 as fast as you can. Try not to be too amused as you blow by everyone else on the sprint.

You should return from the run with a plan for the pull-ups. Break them down just like the first set. If you find yourself struggling hard to complete an early rep, let it go. I see this all the time—somebody pulling with everything they’ve got to complete rep number three of a 50 rep set. Admirable in principal, but stupid in practice.

If you do this, you’re going to absolutely fry your muscles. Instead of the next set being five or ten reps, it’s going to be one or two—if you’re lucky.

If you paced yourself correctly, you should be calling “Time!” when your more excitable brethren start the last set of pull-ups.

Knowing when to get aggie and when to control your workout is a matter of experience, but here are some general guidelines:

If you’re working the same muscle group for two sets in a row—i.e. squats followed by sprinting—be smart about it and control yourself. In the end, small rests won’t add up to the deficit caused by a full-out effort and three minutes of puking.

If you’re doing a workout that lasts less than 10 minutes, or one that constantly alternates functional movement patterns, hammer down. Fran fits both these criteria—you’ll be done quickly, and you’re pushing on one movement and pulling on the other. There’s no time for fatigue to set in.

Cindy has you pulling, pushing, and squatting. Upper body, lower body. You’re switching movement patterns and muscle groups, with 10-15 seconds of rest before you repeat any exercise. Hammer down.

If you’re doing a chipper-style workout, estimate time to completion. If your estimate reaches half an hour, you’re going to need to take a measured approach. If the workout is well programmed, there will be significant interchange between movement patterns and muscle groups, allowing you to fly through. If not, plan your sets.

Controlling your pace doesn’t seem very Crossfit. Regardless, it will let you complete more work in less time, which is what we’re all about at Again Faster. More work in less time equals more power output.

I continue to believe that increasing power output creates top-flight fitness. By completing your exercises without reaching complete neural failure, you can do the next set, and you can get to it with less overall rest. More work in less time!

This is not an invitation to sit around, read a magazine, or check out somebody’s ass. Take five deep breaths, and get back to it. There’s a problem of inertia in Crossfit—the longer you rest, the longer you want to rest. Sometimes it’s better to do burpee number seven immediately after burpee number six, even if you want to puke.

Don’t be that guy standing around for two minutes in the middle of the workout, watching me do squats. You never know if I saved enough reserve power to hurl a dumbbell at your lazy head.

Know when you should go all out, and when you should take a few seconds in between sets. In the end, you’ll just go faster.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Like a Fish

In preparation for the Duxbury Triathlon, I threw myself into the Atlantic Ocean.

I can't recall the last time I swam, save for a few drunken forays into the waters off of Miami last year. My lack of skill was pretty obvious.

I kayaked out to a large rock, and swam the 600 meters back to the coast with Sam at my side. She thought she was there for moral support--I was keeping her around in case I took on too much water.

I bet drowning sucks.

I tried the crawl, since it's what most of the guys on TV seem to do. I swallowed about a gallon and a half of seawater, and reverted to the breaststroke. From there, it devolved into some kind of half-ass sidestroke/dog paddle. Michael Phelps, I am not.

No matter how hard I pulled, I couldn't go faster. In fact, the harder I pulled, the slower I seemed to go. I was doing that thing they tell you not to do when you get caught in quicksand--I was struggling.

It turns out that all the strength in the world doesn't mean a thing if your technique resembles a drug-induced seizure.

I made it back to shore, with some new respect for the hairless and the Speedo-clad.

When I got back to my laptop, I followed up on some advice given to me by veteran triathlete Eugene Allen. He told me to check out Total Immersion.

Since they're selling coaching services I can't afford, I logged onto the Crossfit message boards, hoping for some free counsel.

Guess who popped up? Eugene. He summarized the whole damn thing, and then followed with the suggestion that one pay for an actual coach.

Total Immersion (TI) is based on the idea that graceful and efficient swimming will lead to speed through the water. In a nutshell, TI teaches us to minimize drag by lining up the body, getting tall in the water, and spending as much time as possible on our side.

Keeping the body aligned involves pushing the chest into the water, and keeping your head submerged. When the head and chest come up, the feet naturally sink toward the bottom, creating drag.

Getting tall in the water is achieved by always keeping a hand out front. This means you don't paddle with the in-water hand until the recovering hand is almost back in the water. By keeping your body "long", you minimize drag and maintain speed.

Spending time on your side minimizes drag because the water offers comparatively less resistance when your shoulders are perpendicular to the surface. When your shoulders are parallel to the surface, you present the water with a more area to push against, slowing you down.

The theory is easy. I imagine the hard part of TI is actually doing it.

When I came up for air in the Atlantic, I swallowed water. Waves buffeted me sideways, turning the idea of gliding into a sick joke. Getting tall? I was just trying to stay alive.

It seems that swimming a decent time in the Duxbury Triathlon is going to be a weighty task. GPP won't prepare me adequately for the swim portion of the triathlon, although it will carry me through the bike and the run.

Looks like swimming practice for me. All the pullups in the world aren't going to help with this one.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Speed on Saturday: The Seminar

We made it official. Again Faster hosted our first group workout, and we had a great time.

Me, Sam, Dave, Patrick, and Joe did a brutal takeoff on Murph, combining 200m sprints, Beck's Burpees, and more than a few pullups, pushups, and squats.

We were blessed with a ton of quality coaching from Neal Thompson and EC Synkowski of Crossfit Boston, and Manla Nkosi and Mathea Levine of Kettlebell Boston. Neal and EC are both Crossfit-certified instructors, and Manla is powered by Pavel, as an RKC-certified instructor and Combat Applications Specialist.

Thanks to Neal and EC for encouraging us through, and to Manla and Mathea for the great cool-down. All of these folks know exactly what they're doing, and continue to do wonderful things for the Crossfit Community in the Northeast.

Dave came out on his birthday, and even managed to do some projectile vomiting halfway through the workout. Then he just kept going. Puke and rally, baby!

The Jamaica Pond sun was absolutely blistering, with the temperature topping 82 degrees. We had a hell of a workout, and gave the public a little taste of Again Faster.

Thanks to everybody for coming out. (L to R): Brad Nelson of Advocare, EC Synkowski and Neal Thompson of Crossfit Boston, Me and Sammy, Patrick and Dave, Manla Nkosi and Mathea Levine of Kettlebell Boston, and Walter of YMAA Kung Fu.

We're going to be getting together all summer, to workout hard and to let the public know about Again Faster's mission of delivering top-flight fitness information to the world.

If you're in the area, come out for a workout. We'd love to have you.

Go faster!

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Jamaican Me Crazy

I went to Harvard Stadium today. It was locked. There were "No Trespassing" signs. Evidently, they don't want us to do "Hell in a Horseshoe" tomorrow.

Well, screw that.

We're moving the workout to Jamaica Pond. Again Faster will not be thwarted by closed Stadiums. We will not be stopped by the very construction we heralded as a miracle last week. The show will go on.

The workout:

10 beck's burpees
10 beck's burpees
10 beck's burpees

5 pullups
10 pushups
15 squats, 20 rounds

10 beck's burpees
10 beck's burpees
10 beck's burpees

If you're keeping track, that's 60 beck's burpees, 1 mile, 100 pullups, 200 pushups, and 300 squats. That's a lot of work.

We'll have free Advocare supplements on hand to get you through and keep you hydrated. Neal Thompson of Crossfit Boston will be there to coach us through, and Kettlebell Boston will be there to lead us through a cool down.

Noon at Jamaica Pond.

Go faster! Or, hold my roommate's hair back while he pukes on innocent tourists. Either way, it'll be a good time.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Versus the Specialist

Yesterday, I wrote about my new-found competitive streak. I'm pitting my athleticism and fitness against the single sport athletes of the world, in an attempt to see how the generalist (me) stacks up against the specialists (them).

Last night, the laboratory of life presented me with the perfect yardstick to carry out this comparison.

I ran the JP Morgan Corporate challenge. 13,000 people showed for this lovely event. The majority were not athletes, but I managed to find a competitor.

Tim Rowell is a co-worker and a marathon runner, and he happened to enter the race. We started the race together, about two hundred feet behind the blue and yellow starting line. We didn't end the race together.

I finished in 24:48. Tim managed 23:15. He's pretty damn fast.

It breaks down like this:

3.5 miles @ 24:48 = 7:05:40 per mile

3.5 miles @ 23:15 = 6:38:40 per mile

I'll let you draw your own conclusions. Tim isn't an elite runner, but he certainly isn't a weekend warrior either. His training consists of long distance runs, interval work, and light weight training. Mine consists of interval work, heavy weight training, and a ton of metabolic conditioning. Crossfit.

An accurate power output calculation for this one would be really complicated, I'd probably mess it up, and you wouldn't understand it anyway. Nonetheless, I'd venture to say that my power output was higher than Tim's, simply because of the differential in our weights.

Here's a back-of-the-envelope attempt at calculating power output. It will be way off base, because running involves pendulums, coefficients of friction, and varying periods of ground contact and air time. I know this calculation is wrong, so don't send me any geeky flame-mail, or I'll find you and crush your little head.

Tim weighs about 148 pounds (67.27 kg), while I fluctuate between 168 and 172 (76.36 kg). His total time was 1395 seconds. Mine was 1488 seconds. We went 3.5 miles (5630 meters).

If we keep the coefficient of friction constant at 0.3, and say that neither Tim or I left the ground (ever), we get a work calculation that looks like this:

Tim =(67.27 kg * 9.8 m/s/s * 0.3 coeff) * 5630 meters * Cos 0
= 197.78 N * 5630 meters * 1
= 1113511 J

Jon = (76.36 kg * 9.8 m/s/s * 0.3 coeff) * 5630 meters * Cos 0
= 224.5 N * 5630 meters * 1
= 1263926 J

The power outputs look like this:

Tim = 1113511 J/ 1395 seconds = 798.22 watts
Jon = 1263926 J/ 1488 seconds = 849.41 watts

Will Tagye should be happy to note that the lighter guy doesn't always have a higher power output, even when he wins the race. The rest of us should be happy that a Crossfitter holds up against a good marathoner at short distances.

The specialist won, but as Coach says, "We're good at what you do."

Go faster!

Thursday, June 15, 2006

The Show Comes To Town

On October 7th and 8th, the superstars of Crossfit will be at Crossfit Boston, holding the first-ever Boston Certification!

This is going to be epic. If you're a Crossfitter, this needs no introduction. Two days of non-stop WODs, Olympic lifting, endless coaching, and general skill development from the best in the business. I have no doubt we're going to take it to the next level.

Congratulations to Neal Thompson for bringing this event to Boston. This is the first certification in the Northeast, and a testament to the quality of Crossfit Boston.

If you haven't signed up, do it quick. The certifications fill up fast.

Get some!
Put Up or Shut Up

"Welcome to today's show! On this edition of "Truth or Consequences" we're going to see how well Jon stacks up!"

I've decided to put my training to the test. By extension, I'm also putting your training to the test. I believe my general physical preparation is pretty damn good, and if you train with me, I know yours is too. We can lift, sprint, jump, and pull with the best of them, and I'm going to prove it.

The yardstick? Competition. I can sit here all day long and wax poetic about the virtues of Crossfit-style training. It really doesn't mean sh*t.

In reality, the only way to back up my big mouth is to go out and pit myself against other athletes.

The Crossfit philosophy sets the bar high. To paraphrase Coach--we're great at what we do, good at what you do, and better than you at stuff neither of us does. So, here we go.

I'm going to compete with the specialists. The runners, the triathletes, the lifters. In their own world. Road races, triathlons, and meets. I'm going to prove you don't have to be a specialist to beat a specialist.

I'll swim, bike, and run. I'll snatch and clean & jerk. I'll have to do these things more than I do now. But I'll do them our way. Hard and fast.

Who says you can't swim Tabatas? I bet retrieving bricks from the bottom of the Bay will make me drown-proof pretty damn quick. I know sprinting will take care of any aerobic capacity issues. Can I learn to bike far and fast by doing short track work? I bet I can. The beautiful thing about Crossfit is the creativity it engenders. I'll find new ways to train old tricks.

I'm not limiting this to endurance events. This summer, I'm going to enter every contest of athletic prowess I can find. It starts today, with a paltry 3.5 mile road race. Compared to FGB, this should be a joke.

If you know about a contest, let me know. If you'd like to join me, Team Again Faster is taking applications.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got to go sign up for the Duxbury Triathlon. It's time to put up or shut up!

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Calling Shenanigans

I’ve heard a lot of criticisms of the Crossfit method. Most of them revolve around two issues: our attention to form and our lack of sensible progressions.

These criticisms are the stand-by for the ill-informed fitness commentator. The underlying assumption in both of these statements is that we’ll sacrifice anything and everything to go faster.

The myth goes something like this:

Our need for speed means we don’t give a flying f*ck if our backs are rounded and our shoulders are hunched. Deadlifting? Who cares how, just get it off the ground. Push-ups? Just touch whatever's closest to the floor.

Yeah, right. This myth is propagated by a bunch of dumb f*ck journalists and pundits who’ve never taken a Crossfit class under a qualified trainer. They called three juiced-up personal trainers at Bally's and asked for the scoop.

I can’t go two minutes without having a fellow Crossfitter put me in check.

Back rounded?

“Chest up!”

Not engaging the posterior chain?


Not extending the thrusters?

“Head through!”

Form is incredibly important to us. If a Crossfitter’s form endangers his or her health in any way, they’re stopped dead in their tracks.

This doesn’t require a whole lot of elaborate dialogue. To the uninitiated, our form looks horrible when we hit high reps. Sure, it gets worse as time goes on, but we’re trying our damndest to keep it under control.

Fatigue leads to a breakdown in form. It’s a fact. Still, I’d rather be fatigued and kicking ass than lying on the mat, whining about how I can’t seem to get any stronger. Form isn't always perfect, but it's not neglected either.

We’re often criticized for lack of progressions. We don't do the same workout for months at a time. Our workouts are random. How the hell are we supposed to get any better?

Ironically, this criticism comes from the same people who preach the benefits of density training as loudly as possible. Density training is simply doing more work in the same amount of time or the same amount of work in less time. The bodybuilding bandwagon is all over density training as a great way to pack on muscle mass by promoting an anabolic environment.

We’re constantly doing density training. We don’t call it that, but when you’re trying to beat your Fran time, you’re trying to do the same amount of work in less time. When you bang out Cindy like a jackhammer on meth, you’re trying to do more work in the same amount of time. Density training.

It’s not in a bodybuilding context. We’re not doing isolation curls and quarter-squats. But, muscle-boy, I’m doing the same thing you are. I’m just doing it with functional movements.

Your body doesn’t care how you move weight. At least, it doesn’t care as much as we’d like to think. Your body will adapt if you do more work in less time. Period. It doesn’t care if you’re doing a thruster or a push jerk or a squat or a pull-up. It thrives off of power output.

When I say power, I don’t mean it subjectively. Not like, “Gee, that Dick Cheney sure has a lot of power.” I talking about the pure, Newtonian Physics definition of power. Watts. If you haven’t heard it yet, hear it now. Work equals force times displacement times the cosine of the angle of displacement. Divide by time, and you get power. Power is measured in watts.

More power equals more adaptation, equals one monster of an athlete. Power output manifests itself in better body composition, increased strength, top-shelf endurance, and blistering speed.

On a daily basis, a Crossfitter puts out more power than the next three gym trainees combined.

Next time you see some nonsense about what we do and don’t do at Crossfit, ask yourself two questions.

1. Do I concentrate on my form, even when I’m tired?

2. Is there a good way to measure progress without doing the same thing twice?

If you can answer yes to both of these questions, I believe you can tell the critics to f*ck off, and feel perfectly justified in doing so.

Or, you could just sign them up for a free week of Crossfit. We'll straighten them out.

Go faster!

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Again Faster Goes Public

This Saturday, Again Faster presents our first official seminar. This is a free event, and it's open to everyone who thinks they've got what it takes.

We're going to be at Harvard Stadium at noon. The workout is a spin-off of Murph, the ridiculously difficult Crossfit WOD that involves two miles and six hundred reps of bodyweight exercises.

I call it "Hell in a Horseshoe":

150m sprint
stadium run (down, up)
150m sprint
stadium run
150m sprint
stadium run
150m sprint

5 pullups
10 pushups
15 squats, 20 rounds

150m sprint
stadium run
150m sprint
stadium run
150m sprint
stadium run
150m sprint

This should be a ball-busting good time, and a great introduction to the malestrom of Crossfit. If you're inclined to come, but intimidated by the workout, suck it up!

Just kidding--we'll be scaling the workout by athletic ability. I'll bring three versions of "Hell in a Horseshoe" on Saturday.

If you've been lurking on the website, and you want to come try us out, this is the perfect opportunity. We welcome new folks with open arms--especially if you bring food.

If you're a regular, I'm going to beat you at this. Promise.

The first place finisher will receive a brand-new Again Faster T-shirt, just as soon as I get them from the printer. Apparel is coming soon!

Advocare, a high-quality supplement distributor, will be on hand with water and post-workout recovery drinks for participants. We're going to be going hard, and you'll need every advantage you can get!

RSVP in the comments, or send me an email to save a spot. You can always reach Again Faster by clicking on "Contact Again Faster" in the right-hand sidebar.

Go faster!

Monday, June 12, 2006

The Tao of Stress

"Your body doesn't distinguish between training stress and life stress."

Will told me this as we drove through a monsoon on Saturday morning. We had both come up short in a workout about a half-hour prior.

I spent my weekend thoroughly trashing my body and my mind. Cutty Sark is not a supplement, and spending your Saturday and Sunday at the office does not qualify as rest and relaxation.

It showed in my workouts, and I didn't see it coming. On Thursday morning, I kicked ass. Dumbbell swings, box jumps, and clapping pullups--I couldn't be stopped.

On Friday afternoon, I dragged ass. Ring dips, handstand pushups, and pushups combined their collective powers like Voltron, smacking me around until I was junk.

The real test came on Saturday morning. I'd spent the night before in some bar where it was obvious that the girls liked girls more than they liked guys. No, really. They were holding hands.

This revelation led to copious drinking, despite the little voice in my head yelling "HYDRATION!"

After two hours of fitful sleep, I dragged myself to Crossfit Boston. Neal decided squat cleans, couched in some medieval version of Double Dare, would be the most productive use of our time:

20 Cleans (65# bar)
15 Good mornings (65# bar)
10 pullups

It was four rounds of hell, and I'm pretty sure I finished dead last. I couldn't overcome the thrashing I'd subjected myself to the night before.

You can be under-recovered from exercise, or you can be under-recovered from life. Your body doesn't know the difference. Next time you're dragging ass, take a look around. Stress takes many forms--they aren't all as obvious as 6 ounces of whiskey and five beers.

According to some study (which I'll blantantly fail to cite), the most stressful life events are moving, marriage, and a new job. We tend to associate these things with happiness--two of them, anyway--and we forget that they're powerful stressors.

Go ahead and add yours up. If you find that your life is full of stressors, positive or negative, do your best to minimize them when you're training hard.

If you try to train six times a week while you're planning a wedding, running a small business, and working with Bono to end hunger in West Africa, you're going to turn into a big puddle of useless.

On the other hand, if my weekend sounded like a whole lot of fun, you'll need the following ingredients to replicate:

150 dumbell swings
1 Glass of Cutty Sark
100 box jumps
5 Samuel Adams
75 clapping pushups
1 Very Ambiguous Bar
45 ring dips, handstand pushups, and regular pushups
1 Overdue Marketing Plan
80 cleans
An American bulldog
60 good mornings
2 hours of sleep
40 pullups

I'm currently accepting naming suggestions for this one. And no, "Jon" is not a valid option.

Thursday, June 8, 2006

Clean Your Plate

In "Fear and Control", I wrote about my reluctance to pull myself under the bar during the clean and jerk.

Neal Thompson came up with a great solution to my problem. Actually, he came up with two. I haven't tried the second one as of yet, mostly because it looks like it would put me out of commission for a few days.

The first solution: Clean a 35 pound bumper plate.

"What? How the hell do you clean a bumper plate?"

"You have to let go of it, drop under it, and catch it."


The genius of this solution lies in the fact that you have to give up total control of the object you're cleaning.

There is simply no way to cheat. You can't muscle the weight to your chest using a reverse curl--you'll smack yourself in the head with the plate. The exercise demands proper form.

Here's how it works:

Grab the top of the plate, and lower yourself into the standard clean starting position. Head up, chest up, maintaining lordosis of the spine. You know the drill.

Make sure your arms are engaged, but not bent. As Coach Burgener says, "When the arms bend, the power ends."

Now push through the heels and extend the hips violently. Note that this is a vertical motion, not a hip thrust. You're putting momentum and elevation on the plate, in the same manner you would impart momentum and elevation on a barbell.

Now, the fun part. Let go.

The plate should "hover" in front of you, momentarily weightless. This is the same thing the bar should do during your barbell cleans.

Pull yourself down under the plate, activating the posterior chain. Get down into a squat as fast as you can. Grab the plate, meeting it while it is still weightless. Then stand up.

Like the barbell clean, the faster you get under the plate, the better. Go faster!

These are a ton of fun. Once you get over the initial fear of letting go of the plate, you'll have a blast. I even tried to see how high I could "throw" the plate using the clean technique. If you do this, do it with your own equipment, and get out of the way quick. The potential for mayhem is staggering.

Psychologically, this exercise will help you overcome your fear of dropping under the bar during the clean and jerk.

Last time I addressed dropping under the bar, I talked about fear during the push jerk. Neal gave me a prescription to kill the feeling. It's brutal and simple.

While working on the landing and getting under the bar quickly, do:
100 push jerks (barbell only)
100 push jerks (75 pound bar)
100 push jerks (95 pound bar)

300 reps should be enough to burn anything into muscle memory. I'm going to tackle this b*tch tomorrow. If I'm still concious on Saturday, you'll be the first to hear about it.

Wednesday, June 7, 2006


Strength in the shoulder girdle is essential for good performance in the Olympic lifts and their components. The deadlift, overhead squat, and overhead presses hold the key to developing good shoulder girdle strength.

The Olympic lifts are the Snatch and the Clean and Jerk. Why are you laughing? It’s not funny. It's not. What are you, twelve? Try and stay with me.

Both lifts involve getting a ton of weight over your head very quickly. The snatch is a single movement, bringing a barbell from the floor to a deep overhead squat to standing.

The clean and jerk is a two-part movement. The athlete cleans the barbell to their chest, resets grip, and explodes the weight overhead.

Both of these lifts are technically difficult, the snatch more so. The movement is unnatural without extensive practice. For this reason, we don’t send beginners up to the bar with the instruction “Okay, snatch it.” First, the athlete learns the components of the lifts. These are:

Bodyweight squat
Push Press
Push Jerk
Front squat
Overhead squat

The snatch could be described as a wide-grip deadlift to an overhead squat, while the C&J is a deadlift to a front squat to a push jerk.

Learning the components of the O-lifts gives the athlete all of the tools he/she needs for successful performance. You should be familiar with proper squat and deadlift form by now, even if you haven’t mastered these movements.

The deadlift movement ends when the athlete is at extension, with the shoulder girdle entirely retracted and the chest held high. Moving significant weight requires strength throughout the back and shoulders to achieve this retraction.

Similarly, the overhead squat requires a ton of shoulder and back strength, as the athlete fights to keep the weight directly overhead with shoulders shrugged.

Developing shoulder strength through the press, push press, and push jerk leaves the athlete with the strength to deadlift and overhead squat. The presses also provide technical skills that transfer easily to the Olympic movements.

Note that each press should require less absolute strength than the next. The press is harder than the push press; the push press is harder than the push jerk. For this reason, the presses are often performed in sequence. As the athlete becomes more and more fatigued, he/she is presented with a press that requires a little less strength.

The press is the hardest of the presses because the athlete must put the weight overhead using only his/her torso, back, and shoulder strength. The legs are not used to impart momentum on the bar. The athlete racks the weight to the shoulders, with the elbows facing straight down and the forearms parallel to the body. Then he puts the weight up to full extension overhead.

The push press allows the athlete to use his legs to create momentum and elevation on the bar. He goes into a quarter-squat with the bar in the same rack position described above.

By pushing through the heels and exhibiting powerful hip extension, the athlete puts momentum on the bar, creating momentary weightlessness as he pushes up violently. The leg/hip extension moves the weight through the most difficult portion of the pressing movement—the first few inches—putting the athlete in a more advantageous position to complete the lift with his back, shoulders, and arms.

The push jerk is very similar to the push press, but instead of trying to push the weight to extension with the feet firmly planted, the athlete drops under the bar after creating initial momentum.

He lands in a semi-squat, arms fully extended at the same moment his feet meet the ground. Then, the athlete simply stands up, completing the push jerk. The push jerk is the same movement that ends the clean and jerk, albeit with the feet side-by-side instead of split.

The three-press sequence gives the athlete several advantages. It allows the athlete to keep training the pressing movement with the same or higher weight as fatigue sets in. This builds significant strength in the back and shoulder girdle, giving the athlete the basic building blocks of a successful overhead squat.

In addition, the three press progression is great practice for the clean and jerk--both exercises end in the same movement.

The presses can be done with a barbell, kettlebells, or dumbells. Dumbbells and kettlebells give the athlete the option of performing one-armed presses, which confer additional benefits in the form of rotational stability and strength.

Give this a shot: 3 sets of 3 reps for each press (3 x 3)
Push Press
Push Jerk

I first did this rep scheme at Crossfit Boston under the tutelage of Neal Thompson.

Also, try your hand at some one-armed presses. The one-armed split jerk is sure to attract some attention at the gym, whether you want it or not. If you’d like to incorporate these movements into your metabolic workouts, lower the weight and up the reps.

Try this: 5 rounds for time
15 burpees
20 split jerks (10L, 10R) w/ 40# DB

Let me know how it goes. You can always reach me by clicking the “Contact Again Faster” link in the right-hand sidebar. I answer all of these emails personally. If you have a question or comment you’d rather not post, this is a great option for getting in touch.

Go faster!

Tuesday, June 6, 2006

Soldiers Field Miracle

Today, the Boston Globe reported that Harvard Stadium is getting lights and the field is being replaced with synthetic turf. That isn't even the best part.

In the winter, the Stadium will be covered by a giant dome, heated, and pressurized. I am so psyched! The Skydome has moved to Cambridge.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen--we'll be running stadiums in the middle of February.

Now I just have to find a way in...
First Aid

Crossfit is the most effective exercise protocol on the planet. It is constantly evolving to incorporate new training knowledge and refine existing programs.

It is effective because it is hard. Crossfit is quick, often heavy, and always brutal. These qualities make it attractive to the trainee with masochistic leanings. They also limit widespread adoption.

Your typical big box athlete doesn’t want to spend their post-workout time gasping for air in a puddle of sweat. If you’ve ever blasted through Fran, Cindy, or Helen, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Your heart rate momentarily hits hyper-drive, and you couldn’t suck enough air to blow up a party balloon.

For some of us, myself included, this is a moment of Zen. For others, the post-workout fugue is the 5th circle of Hell.

If you experience this Hell by yourself, you may never want to do it again. Subjecting yourself to lonely agony is not usually the pinnacle of existence, and repeating that experience is low on your priority list.

Suck it up.

Crossfit is going to get you exactly what you want. The speed. The power. The physique.

Your problem is not physical, despite the dry heaves. Your problem is mental. As a lone trainee, there’s no immediate payoff from your efforts. You busted your ass, but your back isn’t wider, your thighs aren’t stronger, and you still can’t crush a beer can between your pecs.

The lack of immediate gratification leaves you at home, watching reruns of 24 and eating Doritos.

It’s okay—we’ve got a solution. Quit doing Crossfit alone. Like most other people, you need an incentive to subject yourself to a daily beatdown.

Doing Crossfit in a group environment allows for all sorts of benefits. When 20 people are competing for the best time on a given workout, all 20 of them are working harder than they would alone. When we introduce competition into a workout, it ceases to be chore.

As Wade Rutland so eloquently put it in the most recent Crossfit Journal: “Crossfit… turns PT into sport.”

You’re not a masochist, but you’re intensely competitive. Okay, bub. Let’s see who’s better at this crazy sh*t. Ready, Go!

When I’m on the verge of collapse, and I see a fellow Crossfitter busting out 95 pound hang squat cleans like the bar is made of marshmallows, I step it up.

The group environment also benefits from shared suffering. When I’m a gasping puddle of man, and I see some firebreather gasping right next to me, I’m not going to quit. I not going to wave the white flag before you do, Custer.

If you’ve been doing more reading about Crossfit than actual Crossfit, it’s time to get off your ass. Find someone to do this stuff with—roommate, girlfriend, boyfriend, uncle, whoever. Better yet, find your nearest Crossfit affiliate. I guarantee there’s someone there who will beat you at just about everything and keep you coming back for more.

Make the post-workout puddle your moment of Zen. If you don't, at least you'll have someone to listen while you b*tch. Go faster!
Again Louder

This is what happens when I'm left alone with too many electronic devices.

this is an audio post - click to play

Monday, June 5, 2006

Speed Kills

Speed is a key differentiator among athletes. If two athletes are compared in nearly any sport, the faster athlete performs better. The faster running back accumulates more yards. The faster baseball player has a higher fielding percentage and more stolen bases. The faster sprinter wins the race.

Speed has many components: straight-line acceleration, lateral acceleration, deceleration, change of direction, and constant speed. The relative importance of these components varies among athletes.

The sprinter seeks straight-line acceleration and speed maintenance. The running back needs every component of speed to perform effectively. This combination of acceleration, deceleration, and straight-line speed is often referred to as agility. The baseball player needs agility in the field, and straight-line acceleration on the base paths.

The recreational runner may or may not value speed. Like the professional sprint athlete, a recreational sprinter needs straight-line acceleration and speed maintenance. The marathoner wants to keep a certain pace, and increase that pace if possible, but has little regard for acceleration.

In the Crossfit Community, we’ve talked time and time again about the superiority of sprinting over long, slow distance (LSD) training. Sprinting relies on power output. We want to cover the most distance in the least time. Sprinting calls on the ATP-PC pathway and anaerobic glycolysis rather than the aerobic metabolism—the duration of a sprint is typically less than one minute, eliminating the aerobic metabolism from activation.

The ATP-PC and anaerobic energy systems are associated with high power output. Their repeated use manifests itself in increased muscle mass.

The typical black-box observation: the physiques of distance runners and sprinters are very different—the latter are much more developed.

Which physique would you rather have?

Despite our knowledge of the benefits of sprinting, we don’t spend too much time optimizing our sprint performance. The instruction consists of “Go run fast.”

On Sunday, Samantha and I made a crude attempt at sprint analysis. Given our general physical fitness, it seems reasonable that we can learn to sprint faster.

We took video and still pictures of the 100m and the 40 yard dash in an attempt to identify mechanical weaknesses in our sprinting. By and large, we didn’t succeed, due to the quality of our images and our lack of knowledge regarding proper sprint mechanics. Nonetheless, our times bear witness to the need for coaching.

My best 100m time was 14.23 seconds. In comparison, Justin Gatlin, the world’s fastest man, recently ran the 100 in 9.77. This time equals the existing world record. Mine doesn’t even come close. I have no illusions about a 10 second 100, but I’d like a slightly more respectable time.

According to Jeff L. Hoskisson, the Assistant Track Coach at Western Michigan University, sprinting boils down to optimum stride length and maximum stride rate.

To paraphrase, stride length cannot be too long, or the runner will slow down. The foot landing too far in front of the center of mass results in a braking effect. The foot should land as close as possible to the center of mass.

Stride rate is simply the number of strides taken per unit time. The runner seeks to maximize this metric. If stride length is constant and optimal, more strides result in faster sprinting. Mr. Hoskisson cites a 1990 Mann study which found that elite 100 meter athletes are moving at nearly 19 miles per hour!

Hoskisson notes that the amount of time the sprinter is in contact with the ground has an inverse relationship to speed. Nearly all sprinters spend the same amount of time in the air, but ground time varies. Less ground time, faster sprinting.

He also describes optimal mechanics for each phase of the sprint cycle, from takeoff to touchdown. You can read the details in his article, Sprint Mechanics Revisited.

Speed kills, and maximizing sprint speed will have a great effect on your overall athleticism and body composition. As I learn more about sprinting, I will share the knowledge.

Maybe I’ll wait until after we race.

Do not think of speed as an innate quality—I believe it can be taught. Like the O-lifts, optimizing technique should have a profound effect on exercise quality.

Saturday, June 3, 2006

Big Box Beatdown

Neal Thompson of Crossfit Boston put together a workout for Mike's send-off. Neal's wicked creative, so he named it...

The Regan

3 rounds for time:
15 Bear Complexes (95# bar)
15 pullups
15 weighted burpees (30# DBs)
15 knee-to-elbows
15 one-armed overhead squats (30# DB, 15L, 15R)
800m run

This workout was originally posted on the Crossfit Boston website on Wednesday. I first saw it on the chalkboard at the Facility on Wednesday night, as Neal and I were moving the World's Heaviest Treadmill.

Of course, I opened my mouth.

"That doesn't look that hard."

"No one finished it this afternoon," Neal said.

"I could finish it..." It sounded tenative coming out of my mouth, so I said it again with a little more conviction.

"I could finish it!"

"Of course you could, Jon. Tell me how you really feel."

Yeah. I didn't finish it. On Saturday morning, I dragged myself to Gold's. I tried to ignore the quarter-squatters and the cardiobots as I loaded 25s onto the bar. The joyful sounds off Kiley Minogue filled my ears.

I f*cking hate that place.

I grabbed a pair of 30s, walked to the rack, and hit the start button on my cronograph. 15 bear complexes.

It turns out that 95 pounds is quite a few pounds to clean, thrust, squat, and press.

21 minutes later, I was incompetently trying to start a treadmill. 10 seconds after that, I was on the C2, rowing out 1000 meters.

Back to the bear complexes. I did them in sets of two, with a whole lot of noise. At Gold's, I'm not allowed to scream like a jackass when I need a little motivation. I did anyway.

Broken pullups. Broken burpees. Broken knee-to-elbows. Really broken one-armed overhead squats. Broken me.

800 meters later, I was wondering whether I could hack another set. I walked back to the rack, contemplated the bar for a few seconds, and called it. 45 minutes in, I was a beaten shell of a man.

I still feel like a pansy.

In terms of difficulty, this workout ranks right up there. If you try it, post to comments. The first person to finish Rx'd in under an hour goes on the list for a free Again Faster t-shirt.

Friday, June 2, 2006

Man on a Mission

A good friend has gone and shipped himself off to the Marine Corps.

Mike Regan is headed to Officer Candidate School down in Quantico, Virginia. Mike gave up his job at a Boston law firm in order to serve his country. He's gone from air conditioning and capuccinos to one of the most unforgiving and hostile environments this side of the Atlantic Ocean.

After OCS and The Basic School, Mike will be commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant. He'll serve as a member of the Judge Advocate General Corps and a United States Marine.

Mike always exhibited a ton of heart and near-perfect form in everything he did at Crossfit Boston. I'm sure he'll bring his never-say-die mentality to OCS and beyond.

Give the PFT hell, Mikey. We'll see you in August.
Know Squat

The squat is extremely functional. You know this. You're enlightened.

You do all kinds of squats--bodyweight, front, back, and overhead. You have superior posterior chain development, and you owe it all to the squat.

You scoff at trainers who claim you should only squat to parallel. Ass-to-grass, baby. When your buddies ask you how to get huge lats and a ripped upper body, you enigmatically tell them to squat. They look at you funny, and you love it.

You clearly know the full-body benefits of the squat--speed, strength, and power. You've derived these benefits yourself, and you're happy to tell anyone who asks all about them.

Hold up, Squat-boy. I have a feeling you don't squat correctly.

A point I've beaten to death: we have a tendency to sacrifice form for speed. When I do bodyweight squats as part of a timed WOD, I feel my heels coming up and my chest going down. I'm trying to speed through an exercise that requires good form, and it shows.

By now, you probably know how a good squat feels. You're chest is up, your lower lumbar curve is pronounced, and your pelvis is anteriorly tilted. You've got your weight on your heels. In the bottom position, you can feel tension throughout your body, and your torso is as vertical as possible. In the top position, that tension remains, and you're fully extended.

If you don't know what the hell I'm talking about, try this. Stand up. Put your feet slightly outside shoulder-width. Now make like a superhero. Push your chest out, and tilt your pelvis forward by arching your back and pulling your butt rearward. Maintaining this position, place the index and middle fingers of each hand on your pelvis, in the spot where your hips bend.

Now squat, and try and crush your fingers in your hips. Keep your chest up, and your back arched. If you feel yourself pitching forward, stop. You've reached the limits of your current flexibility. Going any deeper is just going to hurt your form in the long run.

Quit reading, and try it, you goddamn desk jockey...

I bet that felt a lot different than your current squat. This is a difficult movement, and we have a tendency to presume competence and move on, in search of more exciting exercises.

According to Greg Glassman, the founder of Crossfit, a mature squat takes 3-5 years to develop. Since we've got some time, I thought I'd share a few training tips.

Will Tagye gave me this one. You'll need a training partner to pull it off.

Put a piece of paper under one of your heels. Your partner should kneel beside you, and put tension on the paper, like they're trying to pull it out from under your shoe. If you don't keep your weight on your heels throughout the squat, this will instantly diagnose the problem--you partner will be standing next to you, waving the paper you were supposed to keep under you.

If you're the holder, give your trainee a paper cut everytime they screw up. There's a little extra motivation.

Maintaining the arch in the lower back is difficult. Keeping the chest up helps with this problem. The other day, I was doing bodyweight squats, 450 in total. As I noticed my form slipping, I put my arms in the rack position with my forearms held parallel to the ground.

This is the same position your arms are in during the front squat: hands on your clavicle, with your palms facing upward, your elbows extended in front, forearms parallel to the ground. This forces you to keep your chest up and your back arched. If you fail, your arms will fall below parallel, instantly betraying your sh*tty form. As a bonus, this skill set easily transfers to the front squat.

The overhead, front, and back squats each have subtle nuances. Despite the smaller details, a solid base, strong arch, and an upright torso will help with every squat you do.

Take the time to do them right. You may have a good squat come 2009.