Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Adventure Journalism

I’ve been reading a lot of “adventure journalism” lately. This is the type of real-life story where the protagonist engages in an activity where the most likely outcome is death or severe injury. The author goes to great pains to embellish the difficulty of whatever stunt is undertaken, and to describe how successful completion will establish the immortality of the participants for the next ten thousand years or so.

This stuff sticks in your head.

I’ll sit at my desk at work, really a glorified cubicle with gold-plated trim and painted-on wood grain, and wonder where I went wrong. Clearly I should be standing atop a mountain in some unpronounceable location rather than opening checking accounts for Boston’s upper crust. This pointless daydreaming combined with endless readings of rock climbing’s grand liars only leads in one direction—calculated stupidity.

To date I’ve engaged in the simplest, safest, and most popular variety of rock climbing—top-roping. This is the go-fish of climbing; two minutes of training, and anyone can do it. The simplicity of the affair is what got me in trouble.

You scramble to the top of some cliff, bypassing anything close to vertical, and set an anchor. The anchor consists of webbing, rope, and carabiners thrown together with just enough forethought to keep the climber from plummeting off the pitch. A climbing rope is passed through the anchor, and both ends are sent to the ground. The soon-to-be climber ties into one end, and the belayer takes the other end, passing it through a friction device and gathering the excess rope as the climber ascends.

None of this is complicated—the party doesn’t need much specialized equipment, and falls have the same drama as visiting your great-grandmother for milk and cookies. It’s easy to get complacent in this kind of scenario, assuming that anything that can go wrong begins and ends with the anchor.

After two days of Thanksgiving excess, things get kind of boring for the ADD set. My brother and I decided that we had to do something, and eating the rest of the apple pie wasn’t going to cut it.

Western New Hampshire isn’t exactly a hotbed of adventure activity—we’re far from the excitement of the White Mountains, and the whitewater of the Connecticut River runs like a cold shower. Lack of snow precluded any form of downhill schussing, and you can only shoot so many inanimate objects. Nonetheless, an enterprising team can always find some form of semi-legal entertainment.

We found ourselves tramping under the power lines just off of Interstate 89, trekking toward an abandoned gravel quarry we usually pass at eighty miles an hour.

This quarry is really a pit, three walls of overhung shale and talus and other forms of geologic refuse. Nearly every inch of rock is covered with flowing water and chunks of fragile ice, the seasonal byproduct of the sun never reaching the steep walls.

We found one section of more-or-less dry rock, and proceeded to set an anchor over it. The constant drip of water combined with the roar of the Interstate makes it impossible to hear anything save your own panting, and our attempts to establish the location of the route from above were absurdly comical.

Ten minutes of incoherent screaming put us at the top of a steep pitch of detritus. The ground atop the cliff was angled toward the chasm at thirty-five degrees, and I wasn’t about to go anywhere near the edge without protection.

As Sam watched from below, Tristan and I rigged up a haphazard belay system, wrapping our rope around a tree, tying one end to the back of my harness and running the other through my friction device. I rappel-slash-lowered to the edge, and scoped out the line.

There wasn’t much in the way of natural anchors, just young, malnourished trees suffering from a half-hour of daily sun exposure. I found two trees that looked slightly overfed, and put together an anchor using our static rope. This process was much like building the Taj Mahal out of Legos or robots from chopsticks, and it took the greater part of an hour.

Sixty minutes gone, Tristan tied in for the first attempt.

Five feet up, the stupidity of our venture became clear. The rock had the integrity of beach sand. Standing on the ground, belay rope in hand, I knew exactly how the fine folks in Dresden felt in February of 1945. Shale crashed all around me, hitting the ground with spectacular thwacks.

Rock climbing convention dictates that the climber yell, “Rock!” whenever something falls from the face, giving ground-dwellers some time to duck and cover. Tristan would’ve gone hoarse if he’d even bothered.

Samantha moved back from the pitch while I cowered behind the largest tree in sight, a six-inch oak tree that afforded the relative protection of a wet paper bag. Formerly a devout atheist, I found God behind that tree. My knuckles were snow-white against the orange belay rope, my crushing grip maintained through a combination of fear and new-found piety.

Fifteen feet off the ground, Tristan ran into an insurmountable obstacle—more shale. All the punching, kicking, and pulling in the world wasn’t going to move him up the rock, the heretofore compliant stone refusing to budge an inch. After an enlightening bit of swearing, I lowered him to the ground.

Having conveniently left my rock shoes in Massachusetts, I continued my role as Head Belay Slave. Samantha tied in for the climb, glad to be moving after an hour of silently observing our collective incompetence. Like Tristan, she moved up to the insurmountable section, alternately casting stone on our heads and traversing across the face in search of a means of elevation. The rope ripped back and forth across a thin ledge as she moved, blanketing the ground with torrents of dirt.

I was contemplating the merits of planting a flower garden in a lightless void when Sam called down to be lowered.

My left hand was incredibly swollen from a wood-splitting mishap the day before, and it was feeling more claw-like with each passing minute. In a moment of intense focus, I’d slammed the handle of my maul into a log, sending earthquake-esque reverberations through my arm and blowing up my hand. Now at risk of dropping the next climber and severely compromising my social life, I dutifully passed on my belay duties.

Water cascaded off the overhanging face, dripping on Tristan’s head as he attempted a new path around the uncooperative section of rock. Rotten slate crumbled in his hand as he attacked the corner, hitting the ground in cacophonous concert with the icicles dropping from the surrounding cliff. I covered my head at the sound of every fall, more and more concerned for the integrity of my skull.

Sam held Tristan in place as the rock disintegrated around him, striking a balance between watching his attempt and subtly inching further away from the face. After fifteen minutes of flailing at the wall, Tristan called it quits, joining us on the ground for a game of dodge-the-debris.

He switched roles with Samantha, taking the belay while I hid in the nearby undergrowth. Sam scrambled up to the crux, clearing the previous high-point. Three meters further, she dropped a softball-sized rock into her lap, giggling at the novelty of a good rock pelting.

Unphased, she reached the summit with the intention of topping out, pulling the anchor, and reclaiming our gear from its roadside perch. I ran up the side of the cliff to untangle my arts-and-crafts style anchor, sure that Sam would be unable to decipher its ridiculous complexity.

Three-quarters of the way up the path, I heard a resounding crash. I yelled down to Sam, receiving garbled screams in reply. Unable to make out the message over the roar of the Interstate but realizing Sam was on the ground, I pulled the top-rope and began ripping down the anchor. Meter after meter of orange cord passed over my shoulders, a shock of white disrupting its otherwise uniform surface.

Twenty feet above the tie-in, the rope was nearly sheared through.

The implications hit me hard. One more fall, one more moment traversing the crux, one more climber, one more anything, and one of my dearest friends would’ve been dead. The blood instantly drained from my face, feelings of elation and terror competing for my attention. We were lucky. The rope hadn’t snapped, and sweet Samantha was on the ground.

Jesus Christ Almighty. The rope hadn’t snapped.

Pictures of the rope zipping back and forth across the thin slate clouded my vision. Why the hell hadn’t I done anything? I'd let Sam and Tristan flip that rope across a sharp ledge upwards of fifteen times, never thinking of the damage. Hell, I’d set up the climb.

At the bottom, Sam and Tristan greeted me with wide eyes. Tristan pointed at a boulder lodged against his belay station while Sam explained its provenance. A few minutes earlier she had reached above the cliff to top out, finding a handhold among the talus. As she pulled, she dislodged several huge rocks.

The crash I’d heard was the debris hitting the earth, sending Tristan diving for cover.

Miraculously, he’d managed to avoid the barrage while maintaining his hold on the belay rope. A single blow would’ve killed them both, Sam’s security dependent on Tristan’s unyielding grip. A foot to the right, and I would've been attending a funeral.

Adventure journalism is the stuff you read in the comfort of your own home, living vicariously through the exploits of some bearded hero-type. It involves daring escapes, life-or-death situations, and skin-of-the-teeth shots at greatness. It doesn’t cover day-long top-roping trips with mundane payoffs. Those are too safe, too simple, and too damn boring to see print.

Western New Hampshire has a new rock climbing route. It’s called “Tempting Fate”. I don’t think we’ll be going back anytime soon, and the guidebook isn’t in line for publication.

Next time I’m sitting at my desk, dreaming of adventure, I’m going to take a minute or two to reflect on our luck. Maybe the top of the mountain isn’t so great after all.

Picture courtesy of interstate-guide.com.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Tabata FUBAR

This Sunday, most folks will be sitting on their over-stuffed asses, watching grown men pummel each other for gridiron glory.

While I'm all for the NFL, the games don't start until 1 o'clock. This is way too late for those of us craving an early-morning masochistic fix. Toward that end, Again Faster is putting an evil twist on the classic Tabata workout. We'll take care of your calorie burn for the entire day in 24 short minutes.

Welcome to Tabata FUBAR. Five rounds of Tabatas, using the most metabolically demanding compound movements in our considerable exercise arsenal.

20 seconds of work followed by 10 seconds of rest, repeated eight times for each exercise:

Plyo Push-ups
Squat Jumps
Clapping Pull-ups
Tuck Jumps

Forget the cold turkey. Satisfy your cravings with Again Faster. We'll be at Jamaica Pond at 8 a.m., ready to bring the noise.

Go faster!

Picture of Rodney Harrison cleaning out a Dolphins receiver courtesy of palmbeachpost.com.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

On Point

The Hero workout was killing me. Movement after movement, my right shoulder felt like it was going to explode.

The pain was a dull ache turned up to ten, a thousand vice grips squeezing in concert. I sucked air through my teeth, doing my damndest to hide my agony, grunts and squeaks betraying my stoic front.

Five days earlier, I’d made a point of playing through the pain. Push presses came up on the calendar and ego overrode good sense, driving me to boost a cumulative load of 1800 pounds over my head. I was so pumped by the effort that I returned later that day, squatting my way through eight sets of Gayle Hatch-prescribed madness.

The next day, I swallowed half a bottle of ibuprofen and went to the Facility. I could’ve stayed in bed, but the siren song of a record attempt got me up at 4:30. 51 push-ups and 31 pull-ups later, I basked in the glow of a second personal record in as many days.

Through three more workouts and a bout of mid-November rock climbing, my shoulder never forgave me.

Monday brought “J.T.”, a Hero workout named for Petty Officer 1st Class Jeff Taylor. J.T. was one of eleven Navy SEALs killed in action during a 2005 engagement in Afghanistan, forever memorialized with an eponymous Crossfit workout.

Twenty-one ring dips, twenty-one push-ups, and twenty-one handstand push-ups, repeated for rounds of fifteen and nine. Pushing, pushing, and more pushing. Every repetition was a salvo at my will to live.

Handstand push-ups turned into barely controlled negatives turned into piked push-ups. I rolled to the floor after the last rep, my cheek smashing into the rubber flooring.

That evening, I attempted self-diagnosis. A PVC pipe in hand, I pressed overhead, waiting for the pain. It came when I shrugged my shoulders into the proper lockout position. Neal, now familiar with my problem due to days of incessant bitching, was across the room.

“Neal! I found the problem. It’s my trap.”

Neal looked at me like I was clearly the dumbest guy on earth and wandered over. Placing his thumb on my right trapezius, he pushed down hard.

“Yeah. That’s it. That fucking hurts.”

The understatement of the year. He might as well have soaked a screwdriver in hydrochloric acid and plunged it into my neck.

I had a classic trigger point—a permanent muscle contraction that manifests itself as pain in a remote site. The knots in my trap were putting tension on my shoulder, leading to a dull ache through my rear deltoid. I silently thanked my stars that the problem wasn’t structural, and conned my girlfriend into massaging the ever-living hell out of my neck.

The first session was agonizing. I was reduced to gritting my teeth and kicking the bed while Sam put all her weight on my trap. She apologized repeatedly for helping me while I loudly cursed her existence, stifling the urge to cry. The treatment brought immediate relief to my shoulder, primarily due to the throbbing pain in my neck.

The next day my symptoms were nearly gone.

Trigger points are non-intuitive. No one thinks, “Hey, my knee hurts. Must be a knot in my quadriceps.” I originally read about trigger points in the September 2005 Crossfit Journal. The idea that pain can be distal from its source meshes with the now-popular conception that all muscles are linked through fascia. Fascia is a network of connective tissue that surrounds muscles, giving support above and beyond that provided by bones and cartilage.

Given that all muscles are connected to one another via fascia, it makes sense that permanent contractions in one area could lead to pain in another. When this is taken as fact, the value of self-myofascial release becomes blindingly obvious.

Although I know very little about treating trigger points, there are a few sources out there that have garnered an enthusiastic following. Thomas Meyers’ Anatomy Trains is an extremely well-received work on the fascial system, recommended to me by Eric Cressey of Excel Sport and Fitness. Cressey knows a few things about shoulders and pain relief, and I have no doubt he’s right on with this recommendation.

Clair Daives’ Trigger Point Therapy Workbook is written for those of us who didn’t attend medical school, providing simplified maps of common trigger points and guides for self-treatment. If you’d rather not part with fifteen dollars, Mr. Davies also maintains a website full of useful information, complete with an index of common trigger points.

I’ll be picking up these books as soon as the next AF Bar order hits my inbox. Davies’ book is less than my co-pay for an office visit, and I won’t have to endure any enthusiastic probing from a misdirected thermometer. Man, I hate the doctor.

Go faster!

Picture courtesy of human-anatomy.net.

Friday, November 17, 2006

The Thunderer

I got an anonymous email on Thursday morning. It read:

“@#$#%^&! punish us this Sunday AM.....I'll be in the frame of mind for something brutal, especially for things I suck at (and the range of those options is quite broad). Just don't tell anyone this request originated with me!”

You got it, Thor. I won’t tell a soul.

Per this anonymous request, I came up with this neat little piece of pain:

100 Chin-up Burpees
200m Sprint
100 Plyo Push-ups
200m Sprint
100 Squat Jumps

Just another day at Again Faster. See you at the Pond, 8 a.m. sharp.

Picture courtesy of moonraker.com.au.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Pursuing Power

“Speed, Strength, Power, Progress”. It’s a simple motto that represents a complex mission. We want to develop three global physical qualities in an effort to become better athletes, using any and all means at our disposal.

I’ve shown the relevance of power of several occasions. Power is the very core of fitness, a suitable proxy for nearly any objective measure of athletic prowess. As a rule, the fittest athletes are those that generate the most power. Power is equal to force multiplied by displacement divided by time:

Power = (force * displacement)/time

Power takes into account the first two qualities mentioned in our motto—strength and speed. Strength is the ability to generate force, while speed is the total distance covered in a given amount of time:

Strength = force

Speed = displacement/time

Given these definitions, we can reduce power to two components—speed multiplied by strength:

Power = speed * strength

The critical factor in developing power and improving your fitness level is strength. This quality is prerequisite to both power and speed.

Without the ability to generate a significant amount of force, the power equation approaches zero. Similarly, a lack of force severely limits displacement, pushing the speed portion of the equation toward zero.

Given this reality, the beginning athlete must develop a strength base prior to reaching any appreciable level of fitness. This necessity is shown through empirical observation—athletes who come to Crossfit from strength backgrounds—gymnastics, football, wrestling, bodybuilding, etcetera—progress much faster than those who come from endurance backgrounds. They produce relatively greater force and therefore greater power, the end result being greater fitness.

That said, the vast majority of Crossfitters arrive with extensive endurance training and comparatively limited strength training. Their first task, beyond learning our stable of movements, is strength development.

Under the watchful eye of a trainer, this is easy. Show up everyday and do what you’re told.

For those without the good fortune of professional instruction, the process is more difficult. Enterprising athletes will search the Internet for information, typically finding a few million programs, each prescribing a proprietary method of developing strength. Understandably, they walk away confused, paralyzed by millions of choices presented millions of ways.

The industry benefits from the confusion, selling software, books, logs, and articles with the promise that a few hundred dollars is all that separates the novice from the world’s best strength system.

It’s total bullshit. For the beginner, the reverse pyramid double wave periodized triple drop set holds no more benefit than three sets of ten twice a week. The only thing the rank beginner needs to do for the first few months is lift. After this magical “anything works” period, a basic understanding of strength development comes in handy.

Strength is the result of two interrelated factors—neurological development and muscular cross-section.

As the athlete lifts more often, the body recruits more muscle fibers to assist with the movement—it learns to use your existing muscle mass more efficiently. Additional neurological connections develop, and your body reaches its maximum capacity to generate force in its current state.

Muscle size also increases—its cross-section becomes larger. This is known as hypertrophy. Every time the athlete lifts, the employed muscles are traumatized, creating small tears. As these tears heal, additional muscle mass is created. This mass comes in two forms—new muscle fibers and the enlargement of existing muscle fibers.

The nervous system acts on the new muscle as well as the old muscle, producing relatively greater force with each contraction. Strength is the result.

Given our knowledge of strength development, we know it requires two behaviors—lifting frequently enough to create micro-trauma and lifting heavy enough to facilitate neurological development. Even more simply, we have to lift a lot of weight as often as possible.

The limiting factor is healing—we cannot lift maximal loads every day. Our bodies would turn to mush exceedingly quickly. Due to this fact, athletes must periodize their strength training. This is a fancy way of saying they have to take it easy every once in a while—they have to decrease training volume to allow for healing once every few weeks.

The community gives a lot of attention to rep schemes in an effort to find the training “sweet spot”. High repetitions with low weights tend to produce increased muscle mass, while low repetitions with high weights tend to facilitate neurological development. Obviously, trainees want both, and everyone wants the magic bullet--a program that takes care of both qualities simultaneously.

The Crossfit Community has latched onto the 5 by 5 as the solution—five sets of five repetitions using a load of 80-85% of the athlete’s one-repetition maximum. This represents a well-reasoned compromise between hypertrophy and neurological development—the middle ground of strength training.

For the beginning athlete, this is a great place to start. Strength gains come quickly using this method. Nonetheless, don’t get hung up on the 5 by 5 as the only solution to your strength needs.

Working above 90% of your one-repetition maximum is critical to continued neurological improvement, and working below 80% is critical to hypertrophy. Both qualities are required for high absolute strength levels.

I’ve used several strength programs to good effect. The Mass Gain Program, contained in Issue 17 of the Performance Menu gave me great results, although I compromised the hypertrophy portion of the program through excessive metabolic activity.

More recently, I’ve begun the Hatch Squat Program, a hell-worthy combination of back squats and front squats performed twice a week for twelve weeks. My thanks to Mike's Gym for making the program available to the masses.

Looking at these two programs, you’ll see my preference for full-body, compound movements. They are the quickest way to total body strength, and the only way a Crossfit athlete should train.

Remember, we’re pursuing power. Develop your strength base, and you’ll reap the rewards—increased speed, reduced workout times, and monumental power output.

Go faster!

Picture courtesy of weights.eusu.ed.ac.uk. The deadlift stands as the most functional pure strength movement on earth.

Sunday, November 12, 2006


I suck at rock climbing.

I’m not sandbagging. I’ve learned a few things, executed a few cool moves, and climbed some stuff that would’ve given me fits last spring. Still, nobody carries my rope bag to the crag or my shoes on a golden pillow. 5.8 routes still leave me hanging off the end of the rope long before the anchor shows up.

I know I’m no good, but I’m not taking up residence in Suck City. I’m on the first outbound train, just as soon as I have the skills to pay for the ticket. It won’t be incredibly hard—dedicated bouldering and some isometric strength work should make me a certified rock jock.

I know it’s possible because I’ve done it in other contexts. Crossfit, for one. Started shitty, worked hard, got better. Karate—same deal. I even learned to do Calculus on the second try. Somewhere along the line, struggling turns into plodding turns into firebreathing ass-kicking. You just have to keep pushing.

There’s a name for this stuff: potential. If you can’t do it now, but you could conceivably do it in the future, you’ve got potential. There are sign-posts for potential—solid work ethic, flashes of brilliance, consistency, and steely-eyed determination are the marks of an up-and-coming champion.

Somewhere along the line, the world has called for the addition of humility to this mix. If you’re not good now, but you know you will be soon, just keep your head down and keep professing super-suckdom.

Fuck that.

False humility pisses me off. It makes me feel like Dennis Leary on methamphetamine holding a cocked shotgun.

Ever compliment someone on a job well done and get the Forrest Gump-aw-shucks-gee-golly it was nothing? You know they’re full of shit and they just want to hear you say it again.

If you’re going to be good and you know it, yell it loud. Stand up on the table in the middle of your performance review, and tell your boss you’re going to be the best damn vacuum cleaner salesman in the world. Or whatever. Investment banker, cashier, cop, artillery gunner, it doesn’t matter.

You’re going to be the best, and you know it.

Humanity hates ego. It also hates self-pity, incompetence, and any form of laziness. Either end of the spectrum, and you’re not getting the time of day. This middle of the road, head down attitude produces mildly self-respecting, moderately competent lumps. You’ll have an ergonomic office chair, a solid pension, a bloated 401k, and absolutely no shot at greatness.

Sounds fabulous.

I’m here to burn humility at the stake. Douse it in kerosene and throw on a match. Men and women who achieve the impossible first have to believe that the feat is not, in fact, impossible. You’ve got to have the cajones to say “Yeah, nobody else could pull it off, but hell, you guys suck”, and walk straight into the battle, ignoring the cries of the doom-sayers.

You’ve got to have ego. With a capital fucking “E”. Ego.

Blasting your designs of greatness over the town loudspeakers has a polarizing effect. Some folks are going to hate you for being so damn full of yourself. Others are going to love you for lobbing hand grenades at convention. Either way, there’s going to be a shitstorm.

If you believe you have the potential to be great, you need to scream it from the rooftops. Nothing creates commitment in the human mind like verbalization. Say it over and over, as loud as you can. Tell your friends. You’ll be hard-pressed to back away from your assertions, and you’ll create a virtuous cycle that ends at the top of the leaderboard.

Don’t cling to the idea that you have to please everyone all the time—you’ll turn into a placating pile of “sure, I’ll wash your dog.”

The potential to be great is counteracted by the potential to crash and burn. These things come in the same container, and you don’t get one without the other. If you’ve got the pluck to declare war on the world, you’re going to take your lumps.

But at least you won’t suck.

Go faster!

Photo of Muhammad Ali towering over Sonny Liston courtesy of en.wikipedia.org.

Wednesday, November 8, 2006

In Memory

Saturday, November 11th is Veterans' Day. Thanks to the sacrifice of our Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, and Airmen, America remains a free nation, answering only to itself.

I am eternally grateful for this fact.

This week's Again Faster Workout honors our fallen warriors. In tribute, we'll conduct the Marine Corps PFT at Jamaica Pond on Sunday morning.

The test is simple:

Dead-hang Pull-ups for Repetitions/Flexed-arm Hang for Time
As Many Crunches as Possible (2 minutes)
3-Mile Run for Time

Scores range from zero to three hundred. A perfect score meets the following criteria:

Male (3-mile run): 18:00
Female (3-mile run): 21:00
Flexed-arm hang: 70 seconds or Dead-hang pull-ups: 20 reps
Crunches (2 minutes): 100

Please join us for this effort. We'll meet at 8:00 a.m. under the pull-up bars.

Go faster!

Picture of Lt. Gen. Lewis "Chesty" Puller courtesy of www.usmcvta.org. Lt. General Puller is the most decorated Marine in USMC history.

Monday, November 6, 2006


Your body will betray you. Neurons will stop firing, muscles won’t contract, and you’ll end up flat on your back. Panting and staring into space, you’ll stagger to your feet, wondering why the hell you started in the first place.

You’ll spit guttural noises with each repetition, but you’ll push on. Amid the pain of a full-body mutiny, you’ll find your zen puddle, a place where nothing hurts.

I’ve been looking for my puddle for two days.

At 8:50 yesterday morning, we were grinding through the last seconds of Painstorm XIX. A nasty little creation, the Painstorm turned my shoulders to mush. Despite the help of my legs, my push presses were stalling out beside my head.

The grass in front of me was ripped and torn, a sad monument to sixty pounds of dropped dumbbell. The thud came every five repetitions toward the end, my right shoulder refusing to bear any burden.

The alarm was sweet relief. All of a sudden, the morning sun made the 30-degree air feel like a Hawaiian heat wave. Euphoric hallucinations crossed my eyeballs, induced by the sudden change in altitude as I crashed to the ground. We’d made it through twenty-plus rounds of Hell, and this was the reward.

Midway through today’s WOD, my legs quit. I was dragging lead down Terrace Street, my stride length reminiscent of a punch-drunk power-walker. I wanted to stop after Round Two.

Twenty-some-odd minutes later, I was lying on a canted rubber mat, mumbling incoherently and sweating profusely.

Crossfit is based on the physical. Metabolic conditioning, endurance, and limit strength are built through escalating intensity of effort. We're quick to credit the physical for the success of the Program. Ask the average Crossfitter how he attained his capacity, and you’ll hear workouts and rep schemes and recovery methods.

You won’t hear a word about his mind.

In truth, your body isn’t what keeps you floating through five-round death-fests. Unless you’re blasting though every set unbroken, Crossfit workouts are beyond your immediate bodily capacity. Mental fortitude makes up for your shortcomings.

Mental state is the only variable worth considering during truly difficult WODs. The degree to which you can force your recalcitrant body to behave will determine your success or lack thereof.

An athlete in the throes of an epic blaster will regain composure awfully quickly when confronted with a breakdown in form—rep 452 looks exactly like rep 1 after a gentle "DOESN'T COUNT!!!"

This phenomenon is not a product of a sudden change in physiology. The athlete doesn’t magically produce more ATP on command. They focus. They narrow their eyes to thin slits and make their bodies do it right. The lower lumbar arch returns, the knees track the toes, and the wall ball hits its target.

When my shoulders staged a coup during Round Eighteen on Sunday morning, they got a General Patton pep talk. When my legs refused to run this morning, I gave them a bullwhip to the back. Mental power is real, and it’s more important than any rep scheme on Earth.

When your body says no, your form gets sloppy, your knees buckle, and you want to quit, override your slanderous flesh. Find your zen puddle, and reset your expectations as to what pain feels like.

The Crossfit Battle resides in the mind. Embrace this fact, and the Grinders get a whole lot easier.

Go faster!

Photo courtesy of tonyrogers.com. "The test of success is not what you do when you're on top. Success is how high you bounce when you hit bottom." --General George S. Patton

Thursday, November 2, 2006


Sometimes, workouts transcend the physical. They involve such fortitude and inner-will that the effort becomes entirely mental, an exercise in courage.

Quitting is easy. All you have to do is stop and go home. Fortunately, there are a few souls out there who have no desire to go home.

I’m hoping you’re one of them.

Our friends at Brand X and Crossfit Central Scotland have issued a challenge. It’s a bone-crushing test of toughness, dubbed Painstorm XIX:

As Many Rounds As Possible in 40 Minutes:

5 Deadlifts
5 Hang Power Cleans
5 Front Squats
5 Push Presses
5 Back Squats

The prescribed loading is a 70-pound bar—we’ll be using dumbbells for the sake of portability.

Again Faster meets at 8:00 a.m. every Sunday on the shores of Jamaica Pond. This weekend, we’re earning our keep.

Go faster!