Alter We Go

Alter We GoHere’s a perfectly lovely example of adapting what is useful . . . CrossFit has a benchmark WOD (workout of the day) affectionately known as Fran, which consists of the deceptively simple movements, Thrusters & Pullups. Three total sets of each exercise for 45 total reps. 21-15-9 are well-known numbers, beloved & despised simultaneously. 21 Thrusters, 21 Pullups, 15 of each, then 9 of each.

Maybe we don’t need or particularly care for the idea of Pullups today . . . no worries . . . we can insert anything we want & or need into this well established template. Do try this at home, in the park, or wherever you can focus on the feeling:


  • Thrusters & Kettlebell Swings– same # of sets, same rep scheme
  • Burpees & Cleans– same sets, same reps
  • Squats & High Jumps– same, same & wear your big kid underwear


The list can & should go on. Like anything that attracts us into action, it looks simple, but it certainly isn’t easy. Whichever combination you pick, revisit it once a week and see if you feel less wiped out that the week before. There are ways to make it tougher . . . a down & up 21-15-9-9-15-21 rep scheme is one way, but make sure you can finish the basic template before experimenting with anything more complicated.

Whatever you choose, whatever you do, enjoy it . . . this might be your only chance in this earthly form.


Maybe I’m Doing This Wrong

physical-culture-picThere’s this CrossFit place on the square in Marietta, and I had the good fortune of getting to Crase the place this past Saturday. They were kind enough to host the Tactical Strength Challenge from StrongFirst, and I was confident enough to accept. Nice layout, all the right weights in all the right places, kind & knowledgeable folks . . . and then me.

Here is where the goal is different from the intent. The goal was to reach a max Deadlift in three attempts, perform as many Pullups as possible from a bottom-taut, non-swinging position . . . the way Pullups are supposed to be done, according to Dan John, Pavel, and others in-the-know, and finally, as many Kettlebell Snatches as possible in 5 minutes. Ready . . . go!

The intent was to lift more than I did, manage more Pullups than I was capable, and do more Snatches than I realistically completed. Who said what about learning from their mistakes?

My training for this event began all hot & heavy back in February, when I first heard of it. The excitement was high, and the training was rowdy, tight & totally off-the-cuff. Too bad that there were so many days between hot & heavy and the day-of-event. Yes, that was me . . . burnt out before I arrived, and without enough steam to climb back on the fresh wave of excitement that rolled in under my board.

Well, this isn’t a sad story, not by any stretch. Turns out that the event location didn’t have a big turn-out for the event, which meant that I was able to drink down a whole lot of attention. At first this seemed like a bad thing . . . for instance, when I was accused of sandbagging after stating that I would be competing in the novice class. Ha! Uh, no, not by a long shot. I was there to learn as much as I was there to participate.

Deadlift technique . . . not bad, but with a few tweaks, I should be lifting a lot more. Despite what many people think when they see the Deadlift performed, it is a very technical lift, and to do well with it, you need to know a lot of technique. See how that works? Good, apparently I didn’t. Nothing said was going to help me that particular Saturday, but days after my head is still swimming with a swarm of meaningful cues & lessons learned as to where my intent failed to meet the goal. Fair & well enough! Self-coaching might not be my forte, after all. Is it anyone’s? Much like the joke about the attorney who represents him/herself in court having a fool for a client and an attorney.

Pullups, work on them. Often. Grease-the-groove, the stout voice says.

Ketllebell Snatches may have been my most prominent strength, but yes, there is always room for improvement . . . especially by missing my intent by a dozen.

What did I take from the experience? A lot more than I put into it. Fortunately the Judge didn’t pack me off to prison for my Crimes against Strength, but the message was clear . . . pick a plan, stick to it, and make sure the plan lines up with your intended goals. Oh, and getting a Coach might not be a bad idea . . . next TSC will be in October, and whether or not I swim or surf my way out of the water, I’ intend to arrive better conditioned & more properly prepared.


To Variate, or Not to Variate

Mardi Gras 2Today began with a pretty attempt to evade & escape an ugly hangover. Sometimes work schedules get in the way of birthday schedules, and for some friends, you get together when & as soon as you can . . . and make sure everyone has their own Aveda Blue Oil, which just happens to be the absolute best way to both drink AND wake like a champ . . . because no one wants to do either like a chump.

Following some breakfast & coffee, and ascertaining that the Blue Oil did once again work flawlessly, it was time to burn off some of last night’s excess calories, and take another sneak peak at what these muscles could look like with a little more effort and a few less birthday celebrations.

The workout, translated into text, looked a lot like this:

  • Set1- 10 reps, Set 2- 11 reps . . . Set 6- 15 reps, sometimes called a progressive rep ladder and this particular one furnishes us with a total of 75 reps on each exercise
    • Swings
    • Jump Rope
    • KB Clean to Front Squats

So, we begin with 10 Kettlebell Swings, then 10 jumps of the rope, and 1 KB Clean & 5 Front Squats (each side) as our first set. Each subsequent set adds one rep . . . which could be challenging when we get to odd numbers on the KB Clean to Front Squat, but simply, we have two choices: alternate which side does the odd numbered reps, or always do the additional odd rep with your sub-dominant side. Additionally, any missed rep (which, if anywhere, would likely happen while jumping rope) results in a reset of counting . . . so if in the 4th set you trip after the 12th of 13 rope jumps, you start all over until the total number is performed unbroken & untripped. Extra incentive to do all right the first time.

We went with this workout because of its simplicity & basicalness. Going from KB Swings to jumping rope, then to Cleaning the KB for a series of Front Squats has some serious rest periods built in. Try this sequence and you will see what we mean.

Variation does not have to mean that we totally & thoroughly swap the exercises in our workout each time. By form, function & feeling we will quickly learn that beginning with a KB Clean to Front Squats, then moving to KB Swings and wrapping the set with jumping rope is a very different sensation than our initial workout. The same muscles are being worked, the same movements are being practiced, but the sensation after each will be noticeably different.

When some people add variation to their workouts they forget that the muscles worked during our last workout have been taxed, taken rest, and are ready to roll again. Whether we progress through our movements to hone our skills, or to develop strength in certain muscles, follow-up is just as important as our first date with a certain grouping of exercises & movements.

Likewise, when some decide to bash the idea of variation in the pursuit of strength or endurance, they forget that Variation & should be fully controlled and maximized to our advantage.

Whether working towards a goal, or working towards adding symmetry to our strength & movement, keep in mind that Variety is not the Wild West mentality of anything goes. In order to maximize the effectiveness of our exercises & movements, the best approach is often an internal re-working of an existing plan or scheme. Add excellence to your routine & results through variation, but keep a clamp on the cheez-whiz.