Wednesday, September 26, 2012

My First CrossFit Workout

I recently went back and looked at the first workout I ever did that was CrossFit related. It was the mainsite workout on January 31, 2008 and I scaled every single movement using CrossFit Brand X Forum. The Rx'd workout is in black, my scaled version is in red:

Three rounds for time of:
225 Deadlift, 15 reps (95lb. deadlift, 10 reps)
15 Handstand push-ups (10 hspu's on 3ft. box)
15 Pull-ups (10 strict pull ups)
95 pound Thruster, 15 reps (65lb. thruster, 10 reps)

My time? 12:42

I had decent bodyweight strength to do pull ups, but anything with weight was awful. My notes after the workout were:
"First time ever doing CrossFit, trying to get in a good workout routine. Never liked doing big lifting but after feeling my lower back during dead lifts, can see the value in them."

People see me now and think I've always been decent at CrossFit. This clearly shows that I had a lot of work to do, but putting in the time and effort has paid off. Don't get discouraged if you're just starting off with CrossFit or if you've plateaued. Focus on building strength through linear progression and you'll see good things.

Do you remember your first workout? What was it? Did you scale?

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Outside Magazine - Superman Push Ups

 If you happen to pick up or subscribe to Outside Magazine (October issue), you'll find me on the last page in their "Parting Shot." Outside is one of the two magazines I subscribe to (Backpacker being the other), so I was pretty stoked when the editors wanted the picture in their 35th anniversary edition.

Yesterday I went to the grocery store and bought a few extra copies to have on hand. The cashier looked at me and said "You know you're buying three of the same thing?" I said, "Yep."

caption: "CrossFit coaches Tim Pappas (left) and Chris Plentus doing jumping push-ups at New Jersey's Wildwood Beach."

Here's the video of me learning how to superman push up from fellow CrossFitter Mike years ago:

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Get Your Caffeine Fix - Coffee to Go (La Colombe and Chameleon Cold-Brew)

Just like there are republicans and democrats, there are coffee drinkers and non-coffee drinkers. I'm a coffee drinker. (you can guess the political careful, as I didn't mention libertarian!) To give you an idea of the type of tolerance to caffeine I have, I usually get a Starbucks venti black eye. This means 20oz. of drip coffee with two shots of espresso, black. I don't get this everyday, but if I had the funds, I would. We did invest in a legit espresso machine, so I'll make two shots to drink on my way to work. Curiously, I don't feel withdrawal or incredibly tired if I don't have coffee (recently for Labor Day, I decided to not drink coffee for 5 straight days and I was fine). Anyway, while I've seen flavored and sugary to-go drinks like Starbucks' bottled frappuccino, and instant coffee like Starbucks Via packets (incredible invention, especially while backpacking), I haven't seen much in the way of portable, ready-made black coffee. Until now. 

My good friend and health coach, Laura Pappas, gave me a bottle of La Colombe Pure black coffee. Here's a description of it from their website: 
Steeped for 16 hours in stainless steel wine tanks, free from oxygen, pressed and filtered twice, PURE BLACK is a bottled celebration of the culinary flavors of coffee - cocoa tones and sweet goodness. We recommend pouring PURE BLACK over ice.

La Colombe review: I drank it cold from the refrigerator and man, that's good coffee! I like my coffee dark and robust; this certainly was. I'm not sure what the caffeine content was, but after taking a few sips, I decided to add some fat to it which should help transport that caffeine a bit quicker to the system. I put some Nanak Pure Desi ghee and Now Foods MCT (medium chain triglyeride) oil in it and then used our handy Cuisinart Immersion blender to mix it all in. Since the coffee was cold, the ghee took a few passes through to get totally mixed in. (Note: all of those links lead to the products in my Amazon store. The cost is the same to you, but I get a few pennies if you buy something from there). 

coffee + ghee + MCT oil = buttery smooth coffee with a kick

The La Colombe bottled coffee was good enough that I would get it again. Laura picked it up from Whole Foods, but then later found it could also be bought from their website in packs of 2 or 12 bottles for $6 or $24 each, respectively. Shipping is $8.86 for UPS Ground (to Philadelphia area at least). 

After posting some pics to Facespace and Twittagram, my buddy John P. sent a pic of Chameleon Cold-Brew, another bottled coffee. Here is their description from their website:
Chameleon Cold-Brew is handcrafted in Austin, Texas by a small group of dedicated coffeenistas and entrepreneurs.  We brew each batch low and slow for more than 24 hours at a controlled temperature to produce a super smooth, extra caffeinated concentrated coffee with less acid than traditional hot-brewed coffees.  We only use 100% organic, Fair Trade Arabica coffee beans and filtered water. The rest is up to you. Enjoy Chameleon hot or cold, black, undiluted in small amounts or mixed with your favorite flavors, creamers, or other additions — and it’s perfect for drinking at home, at the office or on the go. You can find Chameleon Cold-Brew in the refrigerated section of select grocers in convenient and recyclable 16oz and 32oz glass bottles.
More than 24 hours? Wow! Pricing is $30 for three 32oz. bottles, or $22 for four 16oz. bottles.  John said that he got it at Wegman's, so I'm not sure what their price is. He also said he got the small bottle (I'm assuming he meant the 16oz. bottle) and that "it holds 4 servings. You're supposed to dilute with equal parts water." Which means that with one 16oz. bottle, you actually are getting 32oz. of regular coffee it seems. Or if you're like me, 16oz. of strong-enough coffee. 

In searching for the Chameleon Brew, I came across this caffeine database. It says that a 32oz. bottle of Chameleon Cold-Brew has 2160mg of caffeine in it, or 67mg per fl. oz. To give you some perspective on just how kick-you-in-the-pants strong this is, espresso comes in second with 51mg/oz. Yowzahs! So for $30, you're essentially getting a liter of jacked up espresso.

I have yet to try the Chameleon Cold-Brew, but I look forward to it. I am also waiting to see what other companies pop up selling ready-to-go black coffee. I like that these two companies use organic, fair trade beans and filtered water, plus they were both started with only a couple of guys in Philadelphia and Austin, respectively.

Do you know of other coffee-only products that are great to just grab and go? Post to comments and the world know. 

Thursday, September 6, 2012

3 Tips to Help You Set a Deadlift PR

Coaching the deadlift is one of my favorite things to do (behind coaching the clean and jerk). Deadlifting is about speed, power, and mental toughness. Plus, it's just COOL to deadlift. As I've said before, I really like that CrossFit introduces strength training to women (REAL strength training, not 5lb. dumbbell strength training) and deadlifting is really empowering for the chicas.

Last night I coached three classes where the WOD was to find a 1RM on the deadlift (sumo or conventional). Out of 37 people, 24 of them PR'd. I know you might be thinking that they were all new and therefore, any number would have been a PR. Out of those 24 people, 18 of them were experienced CrossFitters with previous numbers to beat and the 6 who were new drastically exceeded expectations. 

Some examples of PR's: 
-110lbs. female member: going from 118lbs to 165lbs deadlift
-new member in her 50's who never lifted weights before: pulled 213lbs
-female member with a goal of 200lbs (already a 10# PR) but then continuing to 225lbs
-a three-year CF veteran setting a 30lb+ PR...and then later his wife set a 35lb PR
-two experienced CrossFitters setting 70lb PR's (380lbs and 475lbs respectively)

Looking back through workouts, the last time a 1RM deadlift came up was three months ago on 5/23/12 in a CrossFit total workout. 

There are some tips that are common for deadlift technique: Flat back, weight in the heels, externally rotate the legs (knees out), take the slack out of the bar, etc. I won't go over those here, but I will talk about three tips that I gave members last night:

Some days you got it and some days you don't. But on deadlift day, you better have it. And if you don't, then fake it. No one PRs on their deadlift in a blah mood. You have to get pumped up and either get excited, angry, or both. Think of something that either made you really happy or something that made you really mad. Yeah, pull an Adam Sandler and go to that happy place. Now go lift the bar. 
For people that have their form down, I'll have them jump up and down like a boxer before a match. Either tuck jumps, little hops, or slapping their thighs, I think this primes their body to explode out of the bottom of the deadlift. Like I said, I only do this with people who have good form b/c I don't need them jumping up and down and then quickly getting on the bar in a hunchback.
Once they are on the bar and ready to go, I kneel down to the side and YELL at (sometimes with) them. Usually it's something like "Let's go!" or "Speed!" (see #2, or "Commit to it!" (see #3) but I generally find yelling helps get that athlete's adrenaline pumping. 99% of the time when I'm coaching, I don't yell, but on 1RM deadlift day, I do. 

Rudy Nielsen of Outlaw CrossFit once had his members do an experiment. Instead of conventional deadlift programming, he had his members do heavy cleans. Then he tested their deadlift. Almost every single person PR'd. Why? Because they were so used to coming off the floor with the speed necessary for the clean that when it came to deadlifts, they used that same speed to set PR's. 
Last night I told folks to go FAST off the ground, even in light sets. When you watch someone deadlift at or near a PR weight, they move slowly. But you better believe that their EFFORT is fast and furious; it's the tremendous weight that's slowing them down. So many members technically got a "PR" last night, but were moving so fast that I told them to slap on 10's, 15's, etc. They looked at me like I had two heads, but the fact is that they were not anywhere near their TRUE 1RM.
The oh-so-important caveat is that you need to still have proper form coming off the ground. Going fast off the ground only to have your back round or jerk the bar erratically is not going to help your cause. There's a difference between a professional drag racer and a teenage kid looking to impress his girlfriend at a stop sign. Newbies, stick with honing your form for now. 

If newbs should ignore #1, then they should pay attention to #2: Commit to the lift. This means STICK WITH IT and don't give up easily. This happens a lot with coming off the floor in a deadlift. Too many times I see people grab the bar for 0.2 seconds and then give up. They haven't even tried! If you tell yourself to commit to the lift and keep pulling for four or five seconds, you just might surprise yourself. I've had deadlifts that look like their going nowhere, and then just like a long train getting started, the barbell suddenly clears the ground and picks up steam on the way to a PR. 
This might also happen if you stall at thigh-level and are trying to lock out with open hips. As long as your back isn't compromised, stick with it and see where the lift goes. If the going gets tough...well, you better keep going!

I think an underlying theme here is also the mental aspect of deadlifting, especially committing to the lift and getting psyched up. Believing in yourself and going for that PR is no easy task, especially when you just did a heavy single (or set a PR already). But if you can get psyched up, focus on speed from the floor, and commit to the lift, you're on your way to a PR. 

What tips do you have for setting a Deadlift PR? 

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