Mental Pitfalls for Open 2020 and 20.1

The second CrossFit Open of 2019 just started last week — the CrossFit Open 2020. Yeah, I know 2019 isn’t over yet, but the CrossFit Games will be held next summer, so this is considered the “2020” Open.

Some years I’ve had a lot of fun with this competition. This would be the 6th time I’ve done it since I started CrossFit in 2013. And I was looking forward to it for a bit, until something shifted in my brain. It’s taken me a few days, but I think I finally figured it out.

About a week before it kicked off, I started rethinking my participation. Usually I’m “all in” for the first few weeks at least. In the past it’s been a family thing or at least a couples thing where I was able to workout with my wife or kids. That’s not going to happen this time due to some travel she’s doing. And my daughters are both doing their own things, so they won’t be around either.

Then there was the list of athletes itself. I watched the pool of participants carefully and we just don’t have that many folks really jumping in this time. Friends I usually work out with or against are simply not going to be there. Not that there wouldn’t be friendly faces or other folks, but somehow it’s just not the same as even back in February/March for the last one of these and definitely not the same as in years past.

So for 20.1 I was left with a couple of things I absolutely dread. One is a pressure heavy workout description. The other is the lack of the usual camaraderie I have felt in previous years.

Let’s break down the first one. Each of these workouts is usually timed. And you have to complete a certain amount of work within a given time domain. This means you’re working not only against your own limitations to complete a certain amount of work, but you’re also working against the clock.

I am not a competitive person by nature. I’ll cheer you on. I’ll do my best. But usually I’m working against my own physical and mental limitations more than trying to beat someone else’s efforts. Once the clock gets into my brain, I’m kind of screwed.

It’s one thing if the workout is “complete as many of this sequence of movements in this amount of time.” That’s what we call an “AMRAP” – As Many Rounds as Possible. You’re given a time domain – let’s say 15 minutes – and go until the clock ends to see how many rounds you can complete. I’m good with that. There’s no set final state – just do what you can do until the clock runs out.

Unfortunately for me, the first workout of the Open was — complete all of these movements in this amount of time. It’s similar to an AMRAP, but not the same. And I really should have restructured it so that it was more of just a traditional AMRAP instead of reading it as written. 10 rounds for time was not the way for me to look at this one.

It’s a mind game, but I’m coming to recognize that I have certain little mental pitfalls I can avoid by restructuring my thinking. I should have done that for this one, but I wasn’t thinking as clearly as I might have when I went in. I usually work out in the morning, so I’m less “with it” at the end of a long day like I was on Friday night.

So that’s the personal mind trap crap I’m dealing with. And then there’s the other half of the equation – the people.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my CrossFit box — CrossFit Continuum has been a home away from home since I started this crazy journey more than 6 years ago (7 in Feb 2020). And there are some fantastic folks there – from our coaches to our athletes.

But life happens. Athletes and coaches come and go. We live in a military town, so people are constantly moving and we’ve lost a number of great friends to deployments elsewhere. Quite a few members are younger and having kids, so that’s changing the equation as to when they can or can’t come workout. And job changes also play a part.

As a result, though I had friends there on Friday, they weren’t the right ones for me to push through my mind traps, so I fell in. And my judge (thank you Heather!) was more than a little worried when I just walked out after completing two rounds.

That’s it – I got through two complete rounds of 20.1, looked at the bar, patted Heather on the arm and said “I’m done” as I walked out the front door of the box to walk half a mile.

My score? 36. I was shooting for 100. I think I walked out at around the 5 minute mark, so it’s possible I could have hit the 100 by the end of 15 minutes. Who knows?

Nothing about that night felt right, but I failed the workout because of my own mind games more than any other reason. Was I sore? Sure. I hate burpees. But I scaled the ground to overhead – did a few snatches, did a few clean and jerks. 95# isn’t that heavy. And I broke down the burpees into smaller and smaller sets, but was doing them ok too.

This was just me imploding because things didn’t feel right. So I apologize if I worried anybody (sorry Heather!) but I didn’t have enough of the supports in place to keep me moving forward.

This week I will have similar issues, but I will try and reframe the workout if it’s another mental hurdle. I suspect some of the workouts for this Open will be physical ones that I can’t overcome, either in regards to weight or movements — but that’s a different issue entirely.

So let’s see what this week brings, shall we?

Been a while, 14-SEP-2019

Remember when I used to write a little summary of every single workout? Me too! The last few weeks have been crazy as I’ve sorted out a few things, focused on work and other projects, and tried to get my life back on track. Still not sure where those tracks lead, but I at least feel like I’m a bit more in control of my day to day again so I can enjoy the journey to wherever I’m headed…

But it’s not left a lot of time to write those little summaries. Thankfully I had a little time today to reflect and create a longer one for the week.

Thanks Borat!

In brief, the last couple of weeks have seen me back to doing three or four workouts a week instead of 2 or 3. That’s an improvement. I always feel better after working out, so it’s good to get in more regularly to keep those good endorphins flowing.

This week was a good mix of movements that I either dislike strongly or could scale to something more reasonable. Made it in Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.

Monday started things off with overhead squats and calories on an assault bike. We began that day with a strength workout, building to a heavy single OHS. I didn’t get as far as I wanted, but rolled with what my shoulders would allow. Got to 115# and called it good after my body said “no” to a 125# attempt. Finished that with some calories on the rower instead of the assault bike and even more overhead squats, which I scaled heavily — but I finished in a time close to what was set as the time domain (10:17, which was close to 10 minutes).

Tuesday we shifted to kettlebell swings, jump rope, and running. Again, I scaled to make it something I could not only *do* but *finish*. A 400m run became a 200m jog and then a 200m walk. 70# kettlebell swings became 55# kettlebell swings. And double unders became single unders (though I did manage a double under in practice, so that was nice). And we finished in the right time domain (20 minutes was set, I finished in 18:13).

And Thursday was another challenge… we had no idea about an 800m run buy-in going into the day, but it definitely made things interesting. Worked on a team with Todd & Robert and we chugged through the 25 minute AMRAP with a sled push, wreckbag “run” (I used the sandbag or the 53# kettlebell and walked it), and a 200m “run” that became another run/walk. I suspect that I was the shortest contributor to the mix, but I did a few rounds.

Today was Team WOD and I worked with Robert & Marino to get through a ton of reps. For the first time in a long time, I felt my asthma kick in to tighten my chest after about 10 minutes — we’ve had a lot of crap kicked up in the air thanks to wind, so I’m pretty sure it was all allergies.

My goal was to not slow down my teammates, so I did my best to keep up. We worked with 115# instead of 135#, which was fine for things like the deadlifts and hang power cleans — and felt heavier as we got further into the workout with front squats, push jerks, and thrusters. ๐Ÿ™‚ But it was the burpees at the start of every minute after the first minute that really took its toll. I started at 5 burpees for a while, then fell to 3, then had a round of 1, went back to 3, and then did 5 push ups off my knees just to keep moving.

I was amused that 5 thrusters felt easier than 5 front squats, but hey — my body is a temple, right? The doors are locked, the priests are haunted, and nobody is answering. ๐Ÿ™‚

So here’s the positives for the week

  1. Only had a few moments of wanting to “quit” during workouts early in the week, but had a plan to scale and just kept chugging along instead.
  2. Focused less on weight or doing prescribed movements and more on scaling to keep moving and finish each workout.
  3. Chose to use common sense for the most part, though I was super sore after Tuesday and really had to push myself to go back on Thursday. Did it anyway and was happier for it, but was a bit of a struggle.

There were no downsides this week. I used to do better on overhead squats (I think my one rep is 145# from a few years ago), but that wasn’t what my body was up for this week. I’m coming to terms with the fact that today is not yesterday — which seems an odd concept, but it’s not a new one.

Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher born in 544 b.c. said, โ€œNo man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.โ€

Every day I step into the box I need to take what my body gives me. I can push that and try to recapture past glories – but I’m better if I let things ebb and flow as they will. This comes as a hard lesson, accepting that change is inevitable, and dealing with the fact that I must roll with things as they are, not as they were or as I want them to be.

Willpower can overcome a lot of challenges, but it’s not enough to reverse aging at this point. Perhaps down the line I’ll put more focus into caring for my physical being, but these days I’m trying to deal with the thoughts inside my head more than what’s going on outside.

We’ll see how that goes.

In other news, I’m down a few pounds since the first of the month – started around 231 and was 227 yesterday. Slow, steady progress by watching diet and keeping moving. That’s good enough for now. ๐Ÿ™‚

Huge thank you to all the coaches and athletes at CrossFit Continuum for encouragement and enthusiasm as we chug through all these challenges together. The next one will be the CrossFit Open that starts in just a few weeks!

Photo byย Leo Roometsย onย Unsplash

Lets roll with the crashing waves and see what comes next. ๐Ÿ™‚

Mind over Matter Did Not Work Today

I will be the first to admit that I’ve been on the struggle bus for months. And the road has become amazingly rocky. I have always believed that if I could just ignore things long enough, they’d go away. Apparently that’s not the case.

LIES! DON’T LISTEN TO OLD ME!

Last week I made it in Monday and Tuesday and completed both workouts, even if I was slow as molasses. I felt like that was progress. The rest of the week was a hot mess and though I could have gone to team WOD on Saturday, I decided that my body was telling me that exhaustion was something I shouldn’t ignore.

Sunday night there was a fun discussion about doing a 30 day challenge of 100 push-ups and 100 air squats per day. And I agreed to start that on September 1st. It’s a nice easy start date and will coincide with a few other things diet-wise I’m hoping to restart as well.

That brings me to today. I made it in for Coach Drea’s 8:30 class with Melissa, Lisa, and Erin.

Better Downward Dog than Mine today…

We started with some movement to get us ready for thrusters, so we did shoulder work, hip work, and so on. After not doing anything for a few days, it felt good to work out the kinks a bit. We moved on from there to kettlebell swings and thruster movement prep, which was ok.

And then we started the strength bit of the workout. We had 15 minutes to work up to a heavy 10-rep set of thrusters. My sets went like this:

  • 5 reps @ 75#
  • 10 reps @ 95#
  • 10 reps @ 105#
  • done

I felt ok with those numbers until I got home…

  • 165# on 7-MAY-15
  • 175# on 19-MAY-16
  • 2x 145# on 15-DEC-2016
  • 3x 145# on 23-AUG-2018
  • 5x 145# on 2-JAN-2019

I am nowhere near where I was back in 2016, but 145# x5 at the beginning of the year isn’t awful. I have no clue what my one rep max is these days, but I found a calculator that says it may only be 140# based on today’s workout. ( https://muscleandstrengthpyramids.com/1rm-calculator/ )

So meh… maybe I’m losing strength after not working out as regularly over the last few months? Yeah, that’s logical.

Then we got to the second part of the workout, which was rough. 21-18-15-12-9 with KB swings and thrusters. I’ve always disliked this particular rep scheme because it’s overwhelming. 21-15-9 works great – why not stick with that. ๐Ÿ™‚

Even scaling the KBS to just 45# (Rx was 53#) and using the light Rx weight thrusters at 75#, a couple of things happened. My hips were unhappy about the heavier thrusters before that. And my shoulders were on the verge of revolt as well. My goal was to persevere, but the time domain then got in my head.

8-10 minutes. Funny people.

I got through the round of 21 (sets of 11 and 10 KBS and then three sets of 7 thrusters). And in the round of 18, my shoulders were on fire and I lost the battle with my inner terrorist. He said that pain DOES hurt and it means I should stop. I got through 18 kettlebell swings (9 and 9 KBS) and started sets of 6 thrusters – made it through two sets of 6 and lost the mental battle. That was at the 7:45 mark on the clock.

I walked out and did an 800m (1/2 mile) loop and came back, cleaned up my stuff that was in the way of the 9:30 class that was warming up, got my stuff together, and headed home.

Thinking back on it, here’s what I think happened… First, this was my first workout in almost a week and my body told me all about how unfair that was. Second, though I thought 75# thrusters were light enough, maybe I should have scaled to keep moving. Third, even if I discount the second point, I should have possibly scaled to front squats instead of thrusters once I felt the burn. And fourth, though I faced away from the clock to avoid that trap, I fell into the trap anyway.

Looking at the clock saying 7:45 after finishing only 72 of the 150 reps would have put me at least at the 15 minute mark, well beyond the 10 minute guide set by my coach. My inner terrorist used that knowledge against me and won the negotiation at that point.

I know that a lot of my trouble isn’t physical. I can scale to reasonable movements and avoid hurting myself, while forcing myself to push through. My problem is definitely mental.

Denial is not a good tactic when dealing with emotional baggage and change. I’ve never been good at change and there’s been a ton we’ve been hit with since March and even before that. This whole year has been a huge challenge and I’ve just put off dealing with it.

Putting one foot in front of the other is sometimes all I can do. Continuing to move forward, despite the urges to fall backwards, is important. Maybe that’s all I can hope for at this point.

At any rate, the 8:30 class kicked my butt today. Good work ladies! And thanks Drea. ๐Ÿ™‚

Reading is fundamental

This is going to be another of *those* weeks where real life interferes with keeping a regular schedule of any kind. But I was able to get in for another workout before things got too crazy.

There were a handful of us for Coach Lara… Melissa, Robert, myself, and a new gal. Jessica? (Damn I should have written it down.) And the Devil’s Tricycle was there in full view when we walked in, which meant it would be featured prominently in the WOD.

Hello, evil creature from heck!

Our warm-up involved a lot of work with our back, torso, and shoulders, getting everything moving for the day’s movements. And we did a few little 5 calorie turns on the assault bike, which didn’t feel too awful. It gave me a little bit of a false sense of hope for the workout, I must say. ๐Ÿ™‚

By the time we were done with the movement prep and warm-up, we had gone through the assault bike, toes to bars (and their variations), push presses, and kettlebell swings.

Our goal? To complete as many rounds as possible (AMRAP) in 20 minutes of 30 kettlebell swings, 30 push presses, 21/15 calories on the assault bike, and 30 toes to bar. I chose to scale everything down the line… a 45# kettlebell instead of a 53#, 75# on the bar instead of 95#, toes to bar became hanging knee raises or knees to elbows, and the assault bike became a slog.

My only problem? In my brain, I changed it from 21 calories on the bike to 30 calories on the bike, which made it a whole lot worse.

My workout became:

  • 15-10-5, kettlebell swings @ 45#
  • 10-10-10, push presses @ 75#
  • 30 calories on the assault bike, doing a few calories with just legs, a few with arms and legs, a few with just arms… just struggling to keep moving
  • 2 or 3 toes to bar with a wild swing, then finishing up with 7-5-5-5-5
  • 5-5-5-5-5-5, kettlebell swings @ 45#
  • 5-5-5-5-5-5, push press @ 75#
  • 28 calories on the assault bike, just slogging through again a few calories at a time
  • Total: 1 round + 88 reps

I think I would have finished 2 rounds and maybe had a few reps beyond that if I had read the board that was less than 8 feet from my face and seen “21” instead of thinking “30” for assault bike calories — but there you go.

Reading is fundamental. Remember that folks. ๐Ÿ™‚

Everybody did awesome. There were some fantastic toes to bars going on with the ladies and Robert worked his way through 2+ rounds I think by the end.

Definitely a challenge today, like everything else with crossfit. ๐Ÿ™‚

Thanks Lara and great work 8:30 class!

Loosening my grip

Another day, another opportunity to learn how to loosen my grip so more stress can escape into the world. That’s probably an odd sentiment to some, so let me explain a bit.

Like many folks, I come at each experience with a set of expectations. Sometimes they’re low and easy to achieve. Most of the time they’re unrealistic and impossible to achieve. And when reality doesn’t meet those unrealistic expectations, it creates stress.

https://www.timclue.com/blog/expectations-vs-reality

My reaction is usually to grit my teeth and clench tightly to those expectations long after they have proven themselves to be broken. And that just creates more stress.

The lesson here? I create most of my own stress. It’s a cottage industry I’m sure many people are aware of and run their own little workshops to do the same. Why outsource stress when you can do it yourself for half the cost!?

So I’m trying to let go. If I don’t know how to help with something, I’m letting it go until something arises I can help with. If there’s something I can do, I just do it and get out of the way rather than ask someone else to do so.

Photo byย Ben Whiteย onย Unsplash

And that even comes down to working out now.

Yesterday I made it to yoga for the first time in months and had a great practice with Yogi Vanessa. I did the best I could and laughed at my own awkwardness because honestly laughter is as much a release as everything else. And by giving myself that permission, I may have even dozed a bit during shavasna. ๐Ÿ™‚

Today I went in knowing that the workout involved two of my least favorite things. Double unders and running. And it involved a good thing – rowing – along with back squats.

We had a lot of folks in class today — Todd & Melissa, Melissa S, John, Marino, Lara, and Trent. Coach Drea had her hands full. ๐Ÿ™‚ But we had fun.

For the back squats, I teamed up with Trent, who turned out to be a great guy. (Not shocking, our box tends to attract good folks!) But I decided I’d slow down a bit to work out more at his pace. That resulted in my not getting as heavy as I might have, but that was ok for a Monday.

Photo byย Victor Freitasย onย Unsplash

Our goal was three sets of a heavy 5 reps. I did 115#, 145#, and 165#. Not too bad. We did 10×3 back squats last month and I managed 235# x3, so I probably should have been around the 195/215/225# range — but five was a lot. ๐Ÿ™‚ I was happy to just keep it lighter and focus on range of motion and quality of movement.

Meanwhile, Trent did great and got to 125# I think, so he wasn’t too far behind me. ๐Ÿ™‚

After that it was time for a lot of cardio.

  • 200 single unders
  • 800m run
  • 60 calorie row

It took me 12:52 to complete all of that. I was done with my 200 single-unders in about 2 minutes and back in from my “run” (mostly a run/walk) by about the 9 minute mark, which left nearly 4 minutes to complete my calorie row.

Trent did awesome at that as well, finishing less than a minute after I did. Not bad for just starting out in crossfit. ๐Ÿ™‚

So let’s go back to the topic from the start of this post — loosening my grip. I had an expectation going in for back squats and I let that go. It wasn’t going to happen today and I was able to help Trent a little in the process, so that was good enough.

I expected the run to suck today and it kind of did, but I continued to move forward and ran about 2/3 of it, so that wasn’t too bad. And with the row, I tried to focus on the strokes per minute more than the distance it predicted. I tried to keep it in the 29-32 range the whole time, which forced me to slow down and get more quality out of each pull rather than flail the whole time.

Letting go may be the answer to some of my expectations problems. I just have to get better at it. ๐Ÿ™‚

Great work 8:30 class! Thanks Drea!

Time away and starting again

So it’s been a while since I posted last. Between reevaluating my priorities (aka “losing my mind a bit”), two soccer tourneys for AJ, and generally not having any time to do diddly squat, it’s been fun. It’s been PHun (not fun, but still smiling) at times, but we’ve made it through.

But I thought it was a good time to talk about where I’m at mentally and physically.

First, after two weeks with minimal workouts (two days a couple of weeks ago and only one workout day last week), you’d think I had a lot of time to kill — but that would be a lie. I really haven’t had much time to myself at all in the midst of all the craziness. I’m hoping things settle down a bit — and this week *may* get back to some semblance of “normal” I hope.

This week I’ve made it all the way through two workouts without losing my mind. I’m not breaking any weightlifting or land-speed records, but I’m focusing on keeping moving through the workout and completing each one to the best of my ability ON THAT DAY.

That’s really been the biggest win out of all of this is finally realizing that today is the only day that really matters. I can’t worry about what I did yesterday or what I’m doing tomorrow — just what’s currently on my plate right now.

Depending on the workout, I can focus on a wide variety of things… Maybe it’s strength. Usually it’s form. Sometimes it’s speed or accuracy. But right now I’m just focusing on feel. I am ok with pushing a bit, but if it feels like I’m hitting a wall I’m going to back off.

Yesterday we did a workout that involved running and dumbbells. The dumbbell stuff felt ok (at a reasonable weight), but my left knee was cranky on our warm-up runs and I backed off the run to do calories on the assault bike instead. Though I was slow (DFL in fact), I finished. And that for me was a bigger win than the rest of it.

Evil, evil thing…

Today we had two workouts. First we did bench press, building up to our heaviest set of three reps. Then we did a series of Tabatas.

On the bench, I worked with Robert and Todd and just went until it felt like too much. And I surprised myself.

Our family spreadsheet of PRs has me down for a max of 3x at 175# back in November 2018. Today I beat that by 20# and hit 195# x3 — I even moved up to 205# but only got it up about 1.5x, so that doesn’t count.

But we quickly evened the score out by doing a series of four tabata workouts…

  • strict pull-ups
  • assault bike for calories
  • push-ups
  • assault bike for calories

I didn’t do awesome, but I finished. I started strong on chin-up grip strict pull-ups and faded quickly (5-3-2-1-1-1-1-1-1). My two assault bike rounds were wildly different but ended with the same score (35 calories) — first one started off great and petered out quickly, second one stayed more constant all the way through. And push-ups… not my jam today but I was super consistent doing 5 for three rounds and 4 for each round after that.

Looking at the scoreboard, I did not wow anybody. And that’s fine. My goal was simply to find a pace, keep moving, and finish the damn workout — which has not always been the easiest thing to attain in the last few months.

So my goal? Focus on one thing for a while… Finishing. Maybe that requires scaling things down to nothing for a bit and that’s fine. But I think working through things all the way to the end is important before I start pushing on something else.

Just taking this one day and one workout at a time. We’ll see how it goes from there.

Broken, not Beaten?

More and more I find myself fighting the same old battles. Whether it’s body or mind that gets in the way, it’s me. I trip myself up with unproductive thoughts, incorrect form, or a body getting older despite my best intentions.

Today was my one workout this week. Last week I only got in two. And the week before I think I only got in one. My momentum to keep going as often as possible to crossfit has hit a low I’ve not felt since I started back in 2013.

Photo byย Max Bรถhmeย onย Unsplash

Coach Drea mentioned an intention for the day’s workout this morning. Things are hard before they’re easy, like a flywheel struggling to get moving from a standstill. A body at rest tends to stay at rest. Thanks Newton.

I couldn’t help but think of Sisyphus, rolling his boulder up the hill. I feel like that these days and seem to get crushed by the rock as it rolls over me gaining speed the opposite direction.

Without momentum, all I have is sheer will. And will is not enough. Forward motion is needed.

Every movement today felt tight to start, and sore to finish. Wide overhead movements — overhead squats and snatches like we did today — are not my jam. Add to that burpees and… you guessed it, with no easy momentum I was left with willpower. My willpower only held out for so long.

As soon as my body began to fail, the willpower vanished. Working through pain is not one of my strongest skills. And it’s not like it really hurt — my right shoulder went to sleep doing overhead squats. Asleep.

So let’s add mental weakness to physical weakness and I’m left wondering if I should continue at all. But then the voice in the back of my head asks the dangerous question — if I stop, how far back down the hill will I slide?

Photo byย Fabrizio Contiย onย Unsplash

I started as an overweight 43-year-old who was ready to eat himself into an early grave and barely came out of that nosedive. Now? Now I’m nearly 50, feeling the effects of pushing weights for the last few years and having fun with my crossfit family.

If I stop, do I fall all the way back to that 260 pound fat guy? Or is there another path I can take that keeps me moving while I rebuild strength and flexibility where it’s lacking?

I honestly don’t know. Am I broken? Or am I beaten? If it’s the latter, there are some rocky roads ahead.

A site about my crossfit journey…