Saturday, September 21, 2013

Keeping the Beast alive

Last weekend, I competed for the first time at BeastFest, a CrossFit competition hosted by Xplore CrossFit. It was so great to be back in Seattle and Xplore and meet all the folks there. While my performance in the competition was nothing to write home about ( I finished last and by quite a distance), the whole experience was special to me. For starters, it made me see where the bar is in terms of elite fitness - the quality of athletes at the event was truly awe inspiring. More importantly, this experience is going to be the 'ignition' to keep me going and training to the best level I can for my next training cycle.

If I look back at my training experience over the last year, there have been ebbs and flows. I have gone through periods of high and low motivation and hence, good and bad results. Every now and again when going through a bad phase or experiencing a rut, there would be this one 'spark' that has gotten me back on track. Watching the CrossFit games a few months ago was one. More often than not, this has come from watching a fellow athlete do something extraordinary, that normal guy at the gym who did something that made me say to myself 'I can be that guy'. I can't speak for everyone who trains out there but I definitely need re-ignition regularly. I have trained alone and done OK but need that other regular guy pushing me to do more and get better.

I experienced the power of community, social support and this 'spark' first hand at BeastFest. The motivation and support for every single athlete at BeastFest was incredible. I was struggling through event 3 which was a 12 minute AMRAP of 10 Thrusters @ 60K + run up and down Harbor Steps (roughly 50-60 steps) x 3 rounds. As I was struggling to complete my 10 thrusters for round 2, I was joined by a competitor who had completed his 3 rounds well under 7-8 minutes. He pushed me rep by rep for the Thrusters and step by step for the stair run. He didn't need to do that - he was probably tired and could have spent time recovering. Instead, he actually ran up and down the stairs with me and made sure I completed round 2. It was amazing - he pushed me to be better than I was!

The "Beast" in me is alive for now. When it is starting to fade out, I will reach out to my very own social support sphere to be my source of inspiration.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

How I grew to love 'The Squat' in 12 months

“You don’t like your current role (in your job) because you are not good at it” – This is what my reporting manager gave me as feedback almost a year ago during one of my performance reviews as I sat there complaining about how I was not enjoying work.

That statement makes a lot of sense, especially when I think back about how I used to hate ‘leg days’ at the gym. From the time I started college, wanted to look good and impress the ladies and started going to the gym, building muscle for me was all about the Bench Press, ‘Abs’ and bodyweight stuff like Push-ups and Pull-ups. Mark Rippetoe attributes this to us being very ‘handsy’ people – we like to work out on parts of our body we can see in a mirror. There is nothing super wrong about that - the Bench Press and bodyweight stuff can be important parts of your training program.

However this approach, combined with the absence of a sustained spell of strength training and periods of under-eating left me for the major part of the last 10 years with chicken legs, not too much of a backside and in general, lack of strength and mobility.

(borrowed this pic from some other blog)

I think I did a proper back squat with a barbell for the first time in 29 years when I joined Xplore CrossFit in Seattle last July (am not counting the quarter/half squat attempts with the Smith machine earlier). I started off pretty weak - I could barely get below parallel, I would get all kinds off aches and pains when I squatted, be sore for days after and progression was pretty slow. It was frustrating because I was working hard – I squatted regularly at the gym, ate clean and spent time every day at home trying to hold a squat position and get deeper for as long as possible. I would even take my conference calls for work from a squat position. After 6-9 months of training and as recent as March/April early this year, I was squatting heavier but progressing slowly, at 1 Kg a week or less for a 5x5 workout – I didn’t hate squat days as much but would still be more excited if Bench Press was part of my training than the Back Squat and certainly didn’t look forward to the Front Squat.

Today, I squat in some form for at least 100 reps in a week – free squats, warm up sets, Back, Front, Overhead, 5x5, 5x3, 1 rep max, with the Snatches and Cleans..... I don’t know if that is high or low. All I know is that I love it – Squat days are now my favorite days in the week. I think there are a few reasons for this change – One, my progression has started to accelerate and two, I am starting to see how squatting is helping me perform better, with daily activity, mobility, running as well as for pretty much everything I do at the gym like the Olympic lifts. I love squatting - even when I am not at the gym. I still get the little aches and pains, but I don’t get as sore.

Oh and also, I don’t suck at squatting – at least, not as much as I used to.

So when I ask myself -

  1. Am I satisfied that my 1 rep max for the Back Squat is 126Kg? Nope, I need to be squatting more. Next goal is at least 2x bodyweight
  2. Am I satisfied that my 1 rep max for the Back Squat has progressed from 82 Kg in October 2012 to 126 Kg now? Hell yeah!  I should be on track to hit 52 Kg for the calendar year
So going back to what my manager told me - If you are complaining about something, you probably suck at it. And if you don’t get better at it even a little at a time, you will continue to complain about it. If you get better at it enough, you might just grow to love it!