Coaches have so much to deal with. It has to be particularly challenging when dealing with athletes (a fellow coach, no less) suffering from early Friday morning brain cramps. This was the case today and Doug was very patient with me as I struggled to grasp some very elementary concepts.

Segment 1:
Back Squat
(75%/3) x 8

Did these at 225# today. That’s 75% of 300#, which is kind of my guestimated 1RM. Doug and I talked between sets about how my left leg is just ‘tired’ lately. Yesterday I called it ‘wobbly.’ Now tired seems like a more apt description. There’s no amount of foam-rolling or ROMWOD stretching right now that helps. I don’t know why it would be, but that leg specifically just feels fatigued. We talked about ways to alleviate that starting next week. More about that as it happens. In the end, these sets actually felt ‘ok.’

Segment 2:
4 Rounds:
25 Calorie Row
25 Wall Balls (20/14)
25 Chest to Bar Pullups

Pretty straight forward work out right? 4 rounds, 3 exercises. Nothing to it.

As we were warming up I was doing some pull ups and Doug came by to chat with me. He knows that pull ups are my weakness and would definitely be my limiting factor. We both knew that 100 pull ups, even chin over bar would be excessive.

So as I’m warming up my reps, thinking about my new gymnastics grips and thinking about rep/rest schemes etc; Doug says, “What do you think about 20,15,10,5.”

I looked at the white board, then looked at him and said in a puzzled voice, “Uhm, ok. But there are only 3 exercises in the workout. What’s the 5 for?”

Doug dropped his eyes, shook his head and said, “the pull ups, Paul. 4 rounds: 20, 15, 10 and 5.”

Me: ” OHHHH! Yes! That would be a fantastic rep scheme and totally appropriate scale. Thank you!” We both laughed and I continued to warm up.

Once the WOD was underway things went about as expected.

The rows were easiest. I pretty consistently rowed a calorie per stroke each round. That was very satisfying.

The wall balls were tougher than anticipated. Doug and I both joked about the idea that ‘well, it’s not 30 wall balls,” the implication being I should be able to go unbroken each time through. That didn’t work to plan. First round yes. Second round was 16 and 9. Third round 17 and 8. Final round 12 and 13. The last round was strange.

I mentioned that tired left leg. During the last round of wall balls, my leg had a mind of it’s own. Late in each set of the fourth round, when I was fully extended upward launching the ball to the target, my left leg would twitch or pedal completely of it’s own accord! It was the type of motion you would make to kick start a motorcycle! Very weird.

Pull ups were the toughest, as expected. The round of 20 seemed to take forever to work through. I was pleased to knock out the last set of 5 unbroken. After 19+ minutes of work, that was a little victory. Finished the WOD in 19:08.

Best part about the pull ups was I got to test out the new gymnastic wraps/grips which the family bought for my birthday. I’m going to like them a lot. They will take some getting used to. For 5 plus years now, I’ve done all bar work bare-handed. Having anything between my hand and the rig just feels foreign. That will take some adjustment. But generally, I was very satisfied.

Pretty good way to finish off the week. Looking forward to seeing what the next week holds

As much as I love crossfit, there are days where I have to take a step back and acknowledge that it absolutely warps my brain.

Case in point, last Friday the workout of the day was “Athlete’s Choice;” Either do Double DT, or Heavy DT. These workouts were used in the Crossfit Games Finals a couple of years ago. They’re Hero WODs, which are inherently tougher than average workouts, scaled UP to be made more challenging for the elite of the Crossfit elite.

I chose Double DT – which means I elected to do 10 rounds of 12 Deadlifts, 9 Hang Power Cleans and 6 Power Jerks. The prescribed weight is 155#. I scaled to 135#. My left leg has, for lack of a more technical diagnosis, been rather tired and “wobbly” lately. Not the knee exactly, but the muscles around it. I felt particularly shaky that day. So after 5 rounds, I walked away.

Then I spent the better part of the day chastising myself for quitting the work out of the day.

Saturday – I only had to coach a single class. So I ran out to the gym early with the thought that I would test a 1RM for a lift. I chose the deadlift on the drive in. Over the course of an hour I worked up to a successful single of 345#. I missed 365# twice. My all time best is 385#. Once again I found myself all kinds of pissy pretty much because I didn’t set a new personal record.

That was two days running where I walked out of the gym with a sour taste in my mouth. I failed to complete the assigned work on Friday and failed to max out my lift on Saturday. Definitely a glass half-empty mentality.

It was a full day later, possibly two, before I realized how absurd that attitude was. I mean, how weird is it that successfully completing a scaled hero WOD (afterall, 5 rounds equals the normal DT) and successfully lifting 345 freaking pounds left me disappointed?! And I know I’m not the only person who goes through this from time to time. Many of us struggle with this balance.

It’s great to have goals and all. It’s also important to demand a lot from ourselves. At the same time, it’s important to respect what actually gets accomplished and to keep it in perspective.

Like I said, if you don’t pay attention, Crossfit can definitely warp your perspective on things.

Some days you just have to write a work out off as ‘just not your day’ and see what you can do the next time around. That’s the way this week ended for me.

Thursday, 11/17
Segment 1:
hang squat cleans (115/75)
Chest-to-bar pull-ups

This WOD absolutely PUNK’D me! It looked straight forward and not overly punishing.

I knew I would scale the pull ups. My plan was to do C2B as long as possible, then go to chin over bar.

I wasn’t worried about the clean weights. 115# should be totally manageable. But then warming up a weird thing happened. Everything between my belly button to my knees front and back just felt ‘HEAVY’ and I was moving SO slowly. I ended up scaling the cleans to 95# and doing chin over bar pull ups from the word ‘go.’

I still need 11:14 of the 12 minute cap that Coach Charlotte set! Did not see that coming.

What made it even weirder was that I took a rest day Wednesday! I did mobility too, and was sure to get a good night’s rest. I did everything by the numbers and still just felt flat.

Not a big deal. Just unexpected. Decided to shake it off and come back on Friday.
Friday, October 18.
Segment 1:

You know you’re in for a good day when your snatch is feeling right! Bottom line, I hit a power snatch at 155#. The most I’ve ever put up in a snatch is 165# and that’s been years ago now. I got greedy and took two shots at 170# and couldn’t get them.

I pulled them plenty high enough. I just didn’t have the confidence to shoot my big ol’ butt under the bar where I could catch them.

It felt so good to be doing well with this lift today. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt competent at this lift and to have some serious success today was a real confidence booster.

Segment 2:
Back Squat
(85%/3) x 2

Because I was having such a good day with the snatch, I spent far more time there and pretty much abandoned this portion of the workout. This was done with Coach Doug’s permission and encouragement. As he said, when you’re having a particularly good day at something, stick with it and see how far you can take it. I really appreciated that latitude and told him and thanked him for it after the workout.

Ultimately, I got in three sets of three here at 135#, 155# and 185# respectively.

Segment 3:
22 Wallballs (20/14)
22 Power Snatch (75/55)
22 Box Jumps (24/20)
22 Push Press (75/55)
22 Calorie Row

This was a funky METCON. I really kind of liked it. All wall balls were done unbroken. Coach Doug would not have let me get away with less.

All box jumps were done as two-footed jumps. I was doing jumps during the last minute of the METCON and Doug told me I could go to step ups, if needed, but like other workouts recently, I’d challenged myself to do jumps all the way through. So I stuck to that plan chasing that goal. Cost me some reps? Probably? Like the snatch, gained me some confidence? Definitely. So I’ll take that trade.

Rowing was fine. Once I had the wheel up to speed I believe I pulled a calorie per stroke each time I was on the machine.

Had to break up the lifting each round. I didn’t track that too carefully.

I found counting to 22 to be a surprising challenge. We so frequently do things to 21 reps, that it took a fair bit of concentration to complete each round of each exercise to the full required 22 reps. I kept wanting to bail out and transition a rep early.

When the time had expired, I had completed 2 full rounds and 59 additional reps. 7 reps shy of completing a third round of box jumps. It was a very satisfying score.

Feeling pretty good about training lately. Learning a few things about myself and trying to take those lessons to heart. Also have some questions that I feel need some answers.

I’m not going to cover all the work outs since the last post a week ago. I will say that I got my requisite 4 work outs in last week and yesterday. So that was cool. I’m getting my intended work in and staying on schedule. They went fine. Each with their own ups and downs. No “Highlight Reel” moments, no PR’s or such. So to save time and space, I’m going to forgo recapping each one individually.

I will say this about Monday’s WOD, which included Bar Muscle Ups. I was pretty excited about those however, I was very active on Sunday and very LAZY about my diet. I paid greatly for that on Monday morning. I couldn’t get my hips NEAR the bar, let alone over. Bummer.

Today’s WOD and part of yesterday’s workout has me wondering about a lot of things

Segment 1:
AMRAP 4 minutes
Thrusters (95/65)
Rest 4:00

The guidance on all of these segments was to keep moving. So we were to scale weights and movements to allow that to happen. We were to pace ourselves and control our heart rates; but don’t stand around looking at the bar because it was too heavy; or stalling in the next exercise because it was too difficult.

With that in mind, I scaled Thrusters to 75#. My legs were feeling pretty creaky and tired after the 20 heavy back squats and 150 air squats in Monday’s session. Moving through 95# thrusters would have been a real grind.

I managed to work through the round of 21 plus another 11 thrusters. So 53 reps. Pull ups were slower than I would have liked, but that was not unexpected.

Segment 2:
AMRAP 4 minutes
Deadlifts (225/155)
Handstand Push-ups
Rest 4:00

Scaled the DL to 185# and the plan for HSPU was to do 7-5-3 (counting attempts as reps).

Once the clock was running, it became apparent that even 7 HSPU’s would be too much. I made the decision to pull back to 5. Turned out to be 2 good reps and 3 attempts.

Total score in the 4 minute window: 38 reps = 21 DL, 5 HSPU, 12 DL.

Segment 3:
AMRAP 4 minutes:
30 Clean & Jerks (135/95)

I did this at 115# and JUST completed all 30 reps in 3:58.

All of this ‘parts of benchmark WODS’ and some recent heavy back squat work has me wondering about benchmark testing and one rep maxes. As we were cooling down and cleaning up, Coach Doug asked me if I thought I could match today’s Grace performance at the Rx weight, if I was fresh. It’s a very interesting question.

At the time, I told him my Grace PR, Rx, was just under 5 minutes. So I was reasonably confident that if I was fresh and did the WOD Rx, I could certainly get closer to 4 minutes than 5; but I wasn’t certain I could get under 4. In checking an old WOD book; I now see that I was mistaken. In May of 2014, I did Grace Rx in 4:30. Now, I’m really wondering….could I do Grace Rx in under 4 minutes? I’m damn curious.

That 2014 score brings up an interesting point too. In doing some WOD Book research – most of my last recorded Benchmark scores are from 2014! Many are even older. That’s not a total surprise. Given all the medical challenges in my leg in 2015 which carried over into the middle of this year; benchmark testing was not realistic. But now, I would be really curious to put this competition programming that the gym has been using to the test.

The other part of this equation is that all of my 1RM scores are dated (minimum 1yr old, most older than that). I can tell in our programming that my lifts are off (mostly down), but I don’t know by how much. I’d like to have updated numbers (whatever they might be) to help me calculate work percentages and work smarter.

So with that in mind, I’m thinking that I may add benchmark testing and 1RM testing into my schedule. Perhaps on Saturdays after coaching. That may not be ideal. Coaching three consecutive sessions takes a surprising amount of energy. I don’t know that I can consider myself “fresh” at that point in a day. However, it would be the most convenient time to do it. I’ll have to think about it and see.

Some days you have to absorb the upsets while you enjoy the small victories too.

Segment 1:
Back Squat
(80%/4) x 2

If things had gone to plan, I would have worked up to 4 sets of 2 reps at 265#. Things were fine up until that last segment.

I did one set of two without issue. It was heavy, but nothing surprising.

In the second round, I got pinned under the second rep and had to dump it off my back.

Coach Doug and I were both pretty surprised by the miss. I decided that I was done working at that percentage. So I stripped the bar back to 60% (225#) and did two successful lifts, just to walk away with a hit.

Segment 2:
AMRAP in 7 minutes:
10 sumo deadlift high pulls (135/95)
10 push presses

I wasn’t certain what the target should be in terms of number of rounds for this METCON. Seven minutes doesn’t seem like that long a time, so I really wanted to keep moving. 135# was out of my range, but I warmed up both 95# and 115# and chose to run fast and light.

Around the 4 minute mark I had completed three rounds. Based on the scores posted in the earlier class, that seemed fast. Doug was walking the floor and I said out loud, “maybe I should have run 115#.” His answer, “It’s not too late to add weight to the bar.” So I jumped up to 115 and completed one more full round before time expired.

Final score: 4 rounds.

Segment 3: Muscle Ups
Coach Doug explained that this was pretty wide open. Athletes were free to use the time remaining to practice any scale/exercise/movement that contributed towards working to the goal of muscle ups.

I elected to do bar muscle ups. I started with two purple bands, the same assistance that I used last week. I made two successful rounds of two reps each. The success made gave me enough confidence to scale back the band assistance. I traded in one of my purple (2″) bands for a red one (1/2″).

For the next ten minutes or so, I made attempts using that scale. I JUST missed 8 or 9 times. Some where in the midst of all of those misses, I was able to pull off one really smooth pretty rep and get up over the bar! Couldn’t replicate it though. That was a very cool feeling. I like this scale. It’s a challenge, but I get a little bit of success with it, enough to keep me moving forward and working at it. I expect I’ll use this combination for both strength and METCON training for the forseeable future.

One observation on today’s 7:15 crew. EVERYONE seemed to be having great success with their chosen scales. There were a number of people getting above the bar. Folks who were working ring holds, transitions and such were all looking strong. This group seems to be jelling together very well. That’s a lot of fun to be part of and observe.

On a more personal note, my wife and I have a friendly competition going to see who can get unassisted bar muscle ups first. It’s going to be an interesting race. Smart money is on her. Even though her primary focus is on Olympic Lifting right now, the fact is she’s far more focused and stays on task better with these sort of challenges. I’m almost certainly going to get distracted by some new bright shiny thing. More likely, I’ll have a bit of success on some unexpected movement or lift and then that will become my new number 1 goal. We’ll see.

Some days we all need a healthy dose of it.

Last Thursday, after the regularly scheduled WOD, I tinkered with Handstand Push Ups a bit more and I achieved my goal of getting unassisted kipping handstand push ups from the floor (no mats under the head). In fact, I got three!

I wrote this very long post detailing the effort and why it’s significant and everything. I didn’t quite finish the post before I went off to spend the evening with Lil Bit on a Daddy Daughter date. We went to the Kellogg’s Tour of Gymnastics Champions show at the Greensboro Coliseum, where I saw these guys.


See the guys in the rings in the corners roughly 25′ up? Notice there are no nets beneath them? At that point, suddenly my 3 handstand push ups felt kind of measly.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m still proud of what I accomplished, but like I said….perspective.

Other thoughts about the Daddy/Daughter Date:
Remember how I said last week that I needed to change my sleep habits because something was out of whack? I thought it was something physical. When I say “trouble sleeping” I mean I was getting only 3-4 hours a night for four nights running. I would lie down with and my eyes were exhausted, but I couldn’t turn off my brain. Everything in my bedroom annoyed or disturbed me. I ended up spending 4 nights sleeping alone on the couch in the front room because the sound of my wife and dog sleeping so peacefully in the bedroom was making me crazy.

I was certain the problem had to be physical. Some change in my routine that was throwing me off. Yeah, not so much.

It seems that I was obsessing even more than I realized about having that ‘perfect’ event for my little girl.

I knew at a high-level that I was tense about that gymnastics show. I was concerned that Lil Bit’s favorite athlete, Simone Biles, might have an injury in a previous show, or get ill or just have some other reason not to perform the night we showed up.

I was worried about the logistics and the noise (as much as Lil Bit wanted to go, she really does NOT enjoy large crowds or noise). But I didn’t understand how much I was internalizing all of this and how much it was eating me up.

When we were at the arena Lil Bit was pretty quiet throughout the show. When the women’s team was introduced (Gabby Douglas, Aly Raisman and Simone Biles were all present) the first thing Lil Bit asked was, “Wait! Laurie and Morgan aren’t here?!” Oh, boy.

She was attentive and engaged, but not exuberant. The only time she actively cheered was when Simone opened the second act with a solo floor routine. For THAT part of the show, Lil Bit cheered every time Simone crossed the floor!

I asked a couple of times during the show how Lil Bit was enjoying things. Everything was, “fine” or “good.” That’s it?! Just fine? OK.

The night ended in tears too because I was unwilling to wait in the souvenir line to try and purchase a Team USA replica leotard for $90. There were 150 people waiting in line and THREE people working the stand. There was no organization. It was a madhouse. I was convinced that we’d spend 45 minutes waiting in line to find out they sold out. So I pulled her out of line and of course, being exhausted and disappointed and seven, she cried huge sobbing tears as I carried her all the way to the car. Once she was in, she curled into a ball with her back to me and fell asleep.

I spent the hour long ride home wondering if that was going to be her lasting memory of the evening.

Friday morning I was out the door before she woke. I needed to text Erin about something and in the process read the messages that Lil Bit sent Erin during the intermission.

“Hi Mom. It’s M. I saw Simone Biles and she did a good job. This is the best show in my whole life!”


Friday night, I slept like a log and haven’t had a problem since.

Following up on a number of WODs over the past few days.

Sunday, Oct 23
WWII Army Physical Fitness Test
So we conducted the Army Physical Fitness Test, the World War II version. This was pretty cool.

You can read about the test itself in more detail here.

Basically, it consists of the following:

2 Min Max Rep Strict Pull Up
2 Min Max Rep Push Up
2 Min Max Rep Sit Up
2 Min Max Rep Jump Squats
300 Yd Shuttle run

I really enjoyed participating in this one. So much so that I went out and bought some “vintage” (God it pains me to say that!) Battle Dress Uniform pants in the style that I wore when I served 20 years ago. I also wore my LL Bean boots, as they were the closest thing to combat boots that I own.

By event

Pull Ups – Fail: Needed 7 strict unbroken reps to pass. I got 3. Rounded out the remainder of the two minutes doing kipping and amassed 14 or so.

Push Ups – Fail: Needed 27 unbroken. I got 24. This surprised and disappointed me. I consider my push ups a personal strength. Burning out this early caught me off guard.

I unfortunately had the standard for my era of 42 push ups in my head. I could feel myself failing and kind of bailed. If I had remembered that 27 was the standard, I MAY have been able to squeak those out, or pace myself differently. Honestly, I’m not sure. Kind of bugs me to have missed by that little though.

Sit Ups – Pass: Needed 50 or 52. I got 53

Jump Squats – Pass: Needed 50. I just got by it. This one amused me. I was one of the highest scores for this test in my session. I believe that my MovNat work helped me adapt and succeed with this very unfamiliar move.

300 Yd Shuttle Run: Fail: Needed :52 seconds. I took a minute thirty something.

Bummed I failed, but not too disappointed. The standards above are presumably for a new recruit ranging in age from 18-24. I am well outside that age range. Hell, if I was still serving, I’d be eligible to retire at my age! I have been unable to locate age scaled standards for that version of the test.

By today’s standards for my age group, I scored much more respectably.

Based on this chart – for the 37-41 age bracket (remember, I’m going to be 46 in November, but there’s no scale for that offered here) – 34 reps would be a passing 60% score. I still failed with my 24 reps. However, I know from experience the standard in a modern test is different. By WW II standards, you had to go unbroken. In the modern test, it’s simply 2 minutes max rep. You are permitted to break plank and rest. Hands and feet have to remain in contact with the ground at all times, but you can break plank and redistribute your weight forward or back to find some rest. If we were using today’s testing techniques/standards, I’m confident I would have passed.

For the sit ups – by today’s standards – my score would have put me in the 76th percentile, a comfortably passing score.

So while I don’t like to claim age as an excuse, when you stack my scores against the expectations for my age. I am technically fit for duty. That makes this old soldier feel pretty useful.

Monday, October 24
3 Rounds:
10 Front Squats (185/135)
20 C2B Pullups
50 Double Unders

I scaled Front Squats to 155# and C2B pull ups to chin over bar. I completed 2 rounds and 4 additional front squats. Not really much more to say about this METCON.

I felt very heavy on the pull up rig on this day. Before we got started Doug casually mentioned that he thought perhaps I ought to attempt the front squats at the Rx 185#. I nervously laughed him off and said something off-hand like, “yeah, that would be impressive,” but made no move to increase the weight. He didn’t push the issue. So neither did I. Based on the work I completed, I’m comfortable with the chosen scale.

Wednesday, October 26
15 Wall Balls (20/14)
15 KB Swings (52/35)

The simple METCONs are always the wildest ones. Knew going in that this would be grinder. As Doug instructed the entire class, my goal was to go unbroken through each activity each time I started. It would be ok to rest a bit between say wall balls and KB swings, but once I started, I wanted to go unbroken for that activity.

I almost met that goal. Last round I misplayed a wall ball and dropped it on I believe the 9th rep. Bummer.

When time expired I had completed 9 full rounds and a tenth round of Wall balls. So that’s basically Karen (150 wall balls) and 135 KB swings. Not a bad morning’s work.

Some Random Additional Thoughts:

Saturday I tinkered with kipping Handstand Push Ups again. I successfully completed 2 reps to a single AbMat. I got cocky and attempted a few reps with head on floor. I’m VERY close, but can’t say that I got it. My goal is to continue to practice this and due kipping handstands (head on floor) by the end of November.

Sleep Mode – the last few nights I’ve been having trouble getting to and staying asleep. Monday night it was severe enough that I skipped Tuesday’s WOD and returned home for an extra hour of sleep after dropping my son at school.

Not really certain why this is a challenge lately. I don’t feel particularly stressed about anything, but I find it’s very difficult to settle my mind once I turn out the lights. I’m going to start with a few small changes to my evening routine and see if that helps. First, no screens after 9pm. Hopefully, that will help cut down on the stimulus/chatter as well as help my eyes rest before turning in. Two, no eating after dinner. I’ve been indulging in sweet sugary desserts anywhere between 8 and 9pm. I think perhaps the sugar is getting to me once I try to turn in. We’ll try it for a while and see how it goes.

War of the WODS – Roughly 10 weeks until the competition in mid-January. I’ve had my week of indulgence (it was only supposed to be 4 or 5 days) after the Triangle Invitational. Now I’m policing up my diet again and very much looking forward to this event. I still want to encourage as many fellow Crossfit Durham athletes as possible to compete in this event. I think that would be a blast.