Kettle Bell “Fran”

Today was to have been a rest day, but a friend from my place of employment, Yael, asked if she could attend this morning’s session, so I joined her. I think I’ve gotten very used to resting on Wednesdays, because I felt incredibly tired and weak.

Coach S. led the session, and we warmed up with (you guessed it) yoga stretches and then FS, press, and thrusters using the 45 lb bar.

I set up my own platform, next to perfect-form-Kristen, and completed 3 reps of FS @ 135, 155, 165, and 175 lb (88% of 1RM). Lifts felt much better than expected, and Kristen was very complimentary.

“Fran” was today’s benchmark WOD, and early this morning I had decided that I wasn’t even going to attempt. At the last minute, however, I decided to do a modified version, based upon what I learned this past weekend.

Kettle Bell “Fran”
Kettle bell thrusters (35 lb each hand)

This was much more fun than it should’ve been. I originally thought 35 lb was going to be too heavy, but I think I chose the correct weight.

I completed the first round of both thrusters and pull-ups unbroken, the second round in reps of 9 and 6 (again, for both thrusters and pull-ups), and the last round in reps of 6 and 3 for thrusters, and 6, 2, and 1 for pull-ups. I just couldn’t get in the very last pull-up! I forgot the valuable lesson I had learned about not dropping from the bar, and I did indeed drop from the bar between reps for both the second and last round.

Time – 4:31


Too few double unders, just the right amount of burpees, far too may dead-lifts

Jack led today’s session. I showed pictures of Luke to all who would give me their attention, and then showed Meaghan a painfully delightful hip flexor stretch.

Jack then led us through what can only be considered a warmup for runners. We then spent a considerable amount of time attempting max height box jumps. Yours truly had a tape measure with him, so I was even more popular than usual. I jumped 39″, 1″ higher than my previous max jump. A new PR!

I had initially been looking forward to today’s met-con but enjoyed it less and less with each passing minute.

15-minute AMRAP of the following:
10 burpees
15 dead-lifts (185 lb)
20 double unders

I completed all rounds of burpees unbroken, as well I should have.

I talked with Jack just before the start, and informed him that I planned on doing all dead-lifts in reps of 5. He suggested that I do the first couple of sets unbroken — and then he hovered over me to make sure that I did! Smart man, that Jack. Well, smart as far as lawyers go. I completed round 3 in reps of 9 and 6, round 4 in reps of 7, 5, and 3, round 5 in reps of 6, 5, and 4, and round 6 in reps of 5.

I skinned my knee during the kettle bell cert this past weekend. I walked to the shelf where the band-aids are stored, but forgot what I was looking for once I got there. A medicine ball? No, don’t need that. A jump rope? I have a jump rope. A water bottle? I forgot mine.

Thus, I re-skinned my knee doing dead-lifts. Ouch.

I only completed 2 rounds of double unders unbroken, and this was a big disappointment. What was the problem? I was sweating so profusely that sweat was running into my eyes, and I kept having to blink away the sweat. Where’s a sweat rag when you need one? I also started over if I completed less than 10 out of the gate. No one knew this but me.

I completed 6 rounds + 10 double unders. Not bad, but not all that good, either.

For perspective:
70 burpees
90 dead-lifts
140 double unders 

185 if 56% of my 1RM and 127% of my bodyweight. 

I dead-lifted 16,650 lb, 185 lb at a time…

Luke, I am your father!

As many readers know, I lost my best friend, Xander, this past September 28. There hasn’t been a day that’s gone by that I haven’t cried numerous times. (6:15 CrossFitters, my puffy eyes were not caused by a lack of sleep…)

After having read my blog about Xander, Sandra, a former CrossFitter and (as I later discovered) faithful blog reader, sent me a message requesting my e-mail address. While I did send her my address, I asked her not to send anything that would make me cry. She responded with the following (I’ve not included the entire message) sent September 30:

A friend of mine finds homes for pets before they are put to sleep and I felt something special for this dog and told her I would foster care him until we found the perfect home. Then I read your story. I have 3 dogs now so having 4 is a little much but I couldn’t bear this dog to be put down. He is half boxer half lab and 6 months old. His name is Harper. Take your time and you are welcome to come out and meet him if you like. 

She then sent this picture.

We corresponded a few more times, and then she sent me this message on October 6:

I got Harper Tuesday. He is a sweet dog. He loves people and is so friendly. He really has such a fun, energetic energy. I would love to keep him … he is special …no doubt.  He runs around investigating everything. He just jumped into the fed ex truck here making a delivery. So freaking friendly and smart. I hope that you and Jeff will come meet him and see if he can warm your heart.  

 She sent this picture.

 I sent her this message the following day:

Thank you for thinking of us, and for sharing the news about your visitor. I’m having a very difficult week, and am not yet ready to consider adding a member to our family. I know I will in time. I fear, however, that the time may not be in the very near future. I appreciate your patience and understanding.

 Sandra waited a week and sent me this message:

Yes I am writing you again. I figured you could just ignore me or just say NO. I am not a quitter. I do feel like a stalker because you don’t know me and I keep emailing you. When I first started CrossFit I signed up for your blog and was motivated by your great workouts spirit and personal writings. I wondered how someone could have so much energy writing and working out with such passion. Nevertheless, when I quit CrossFit to go back to my basic training class here in Hillsborough that started up again last month I was still receiving your writing via the CrossFit blog.  So that’s why I know about your loss of Xander.  I don’t know why I feel so strongly that you should meet my foster adoptee. I keep thinking about your loss and know your pain. I cannot stop telling you about Harper. He has such very happy spirit and I am stopping many times during the day laughing or smiling at his cute and crazy activities. He is so intelligent and so full of life. You can’t help but smile when this dog walks in the room. He reminds me of your energy the times I saw you at the gym. I just think this dog is so special and he deserves a great home that I know you will give him and you deserve to smile again. I am sure Xander would not want you to be in such pain. Just come and meet him.

Yet another picture, and this one was particularly wonderful.

That Sandra is quite persistent – and persuasive!

I finally agree to meet him. I did, however, meet him without Jeff present. Why? Because I knew I was going to be an emotional wreck if he were there, but that I could somewhat compose myself if he weren’t. Selfish, I know. And, if truth be told, Jeff’s the lover of cats and I’m the lover of dogs. Any cats we adopt will be drawn to Jeff, and any dog will be drawn to me. Jeff and I complement each other very well.

I finally visited him this past Sunday, October 16, and it truly was love at first sight. What convinced me most that we should be together, though, was when he followed me to my car. I opened the back door to see if he would hesitate to get in. He did not. He immediately noticed Xander’s collar and leash (I still can’t bring myself to remove them from the car or wash his nose prints off of the windows), and he sniffed them and then looked at me as if to say, “I understand.”

Sandra suggested that I take him home for an evening so he could meet Jeff and the cats. I did so yesterday, and I merely referred to it as a sleepover. I knew in my heart that this was The Dog.

He’s playful, somewhat uncoordinated, and very affectionate.

He hasn’t left my side any moment that we’ve been together. Well, except to steal some cat food. Ha!

Thank you Sandra! As I told her, “Fate has brought Luke and I together, and by ‘fate’ I mean ‘Sandra’. My new nickname for you is ‘fate’.”

Here’s a picture I just took. Does he seem at home? I think so!

Just run this way, Renee!

I attended the CrossFit Kettlebell Certification this past weekend with my friends Anna, Bea, Doug, and Rachel. Michael Kelley also attended. Overall, I learned much, and it was well worth the investment of time, energy, and money. The instructor was very knowledgeable, and the course (other than the lecture sessions) was organized and structured well.

I can be an elitist—not in regard to CrossFit, but in regard to presentational speaking. The instructor’s speech was filled with disfluencies, i.e., vocalized pauses, and the disfluencies were of the type I find the most annoying: “you know”, “you know what I’m saying”, “I mean”, and “it’s like”. I had to make a conscious effort to ignore the disfluencies and instead focus on content.

We received training on the Russian, power, and Americans swings, as well as swing release, 1-arm swing, half rotation switch (my favorite), and hand to hand swing. We also received training on the 1- and 2-arm floor press, the arm-bar stretch and the Turkish get-up.

But wait, there’s more! We received training on the dead clean, 1-arm clean, bottoms-up clean (my least favorite), and the double-bell clean, as well as the snatch and front squat. Last but not least were the military press, push press, and thruster.

What I liked most about this particular certification was the post-test. We had to actually demonstrate that we could properly execute all of the swings and lifts listed above. I’ll share my learnings on a blog dedicated to just the certification.

My shoulders and forearms are quite sore.

I hadn’t planned on attending this morning’s session, but since I was wide awake at 4:07 (thanks, Zac) I decided to attend but not do the WOD. I entered the box, and Jack said, “I didn’t expect to see you here today, Paul.” We briefly talked about the certification, and I then focused on warming up and stretching my shoulders.

I hadn’t worked up a good sweat during the certification, so that was my only goal for today. I began by running repeats of 20 double unders and 200m run, then 50 double unders and 200m run. Brandon noted (mocked, cajoled, wheedled) me about my arm placement. I recorded 2 rounds of 50 double unders. Upon reviewing, it appears that I progressively get worse. My second round, however, was better than my first round. Dave, may we have just one full-length mirror installed at the new and improved CFD? Puh-leeze? I also practiced dead-hang pull-ups, or what I referred to as “hang pull dead-lifts” when discussing with Renee.

First round of 50 double unders.
Second round of 50 double unders.

Renee was resting after a day of Starting Strength, and informed me that she was going to do a modified half Kelly WOD. I asked if I could join, and she graciously allowed me to do so. Renee completed 4 rounds of 200m run, 15 pushups, and 15 box jumps. I completed the following:

5 rounds for time:
200m run
15 pushups
15 KB front squats (20 lb KB each hand)

My goal was to complete met-con unbroken, and I achieved this goal, completing in 9:12. The most difficult part was cleaning the kettle bells because (as previously mentioned) my forearms are sore. I’ll be coaching the endurance WOD this evening, and then picking up Harper. He’s going to meet Jeff, Zac, and Meg, and spend tonight and tomorrow. Wish us luck!

It ain’t heavy, it’s a dead-lift.

The following is an exchange between me and Dave posted on Facebook last night:

Me: Tomorrow’s workout includes 10 rounds of 5, 275 lb dead-lifts. David says that all dead-lift reps should be lowered to the floor, not dropped from the hip, and that most should be done unbroken. So, Jack, should I go heavy, i.e., 275 lb? If so, am I going to be able to do unbroken? Last time I lifted 275 you let me drop the bar, but that doesn’t sound like an option tomorrow. Should I go lighter? Should I perhaps challenge myself by doing GHD instead of Abmat sit-ups? Should I just stay home? I need to know! Ashley, I welcome your guidance, too. Mind your own damn business, Michael Kelley.
Dave: I think you should at least be able to get the first 4-5 rounds of them unbroken.
Me: So, David, should I go heavy, i.e., 275 lb? Is that what you’re saying? Is it? Is it? I need to know!
Dave: If you think you can get through the first 4-5 rounds at that weight unbroken go for it. But also if you’re going to be doing 1 at a time in the later rounds I’d back it off a little.
Me: ‎175 lb it is!

I, along with the other Paul, was the first to arrive. Jack was reviewing the cool features of the latest iPhone OS, but did glance up at me ever so briefly to say, “Don’t lift 275. The last time you lifted that weight you could only do one lift at a time. Go with a lighter weight, but a weight that still more challenging, maybe 225 or 235.” I said, “Jack, I’ve lifted 225 lb 10 times unbroken.” He replied, “Use the warmup to determine a challenging weight.”

The focus today was on mobility specifically related to the dead-lift. Having watched Kelly Starrett’s videos (this and this), I knew I was in for a world of hurt. I was correct. We began by testing how flexible our hamstring muscles were. Uhm, I’m much more flexible than I was pre-CrossFit, but I’m still a runner at heart. Running=tight hamstrings. I’m good at math.

I warmed up lifting 135, 155, 205, and then put 235 on the bar and waited for the WOD to begin. As I did so, Max farted very loudly and for a very long time. Audrey, I look forward to your return to CFD, as Max is out of control when you’re not here.

10 rounds of the following for time:
5 dead-lifts (275)
7 pull-ups
9 Abmat sit-ups

My goals:
1. Complete all activities unbroken
2. Maintain proper form for all 50 dead-lifts
3. Do not rest between rounds
4. Do not look at clock until finish

I was fearful of this met-con due to the heavy dead-lifts and the high volume. Uhm, that’s 50 dead-lifts, 70 pull-ups, and 90 sit-ups.

I achieved goals 1, 3, and 4, but was unfortunately unable to complete pull-ups unbroken. I did, however, complete all rounds of sit-ups unbroken (this wasn’t a challenge nor should it have been). I was most pleased in my ability to complete all rounds of dead-lifts unbroken – and with proper form. Bea observed and post-workout said, “Every dead-lift was impeccable.” Thanks, Bea! I was trying.

While dead-lifts began to feel heavy, I probably could’ve/should’ve gone ever so slightly heavier. Okay, I’ve said this on more than one occasion. I am, however, glad that I focused on form today, and I learned that I can lift 1.62% of my bodyweight 50 times using proper form.

The following conversation took place post-workout:

Me: Jack, should I have gone heavier?
Jack: What was your time?

Me: Twelve minutes and 3 seconds.
Jack: And you lifted 235 lb?
Me: Yes.
Jack: And all rounds were unbroken?
Me: Yes.
Jack: Yes, you probably should’ve gone heavier, but I’m still glad that you didn’t go too heavy. Remember when you were lifting 275 one at a time? Next time there’s a similar workout increase the weight to 245 or even 255.
Me: Barack Obama. (Inside joke.)

I want to once again communicate my gratitude to all those who donated to the Xander Tribute and Animal Protection Society Fundraiser. Folks donated $1,022, and with my matching donation we presented APS with $2,044. For non-CrossFit readers, this speaks to the testament of CrossFit as not just a gym, but a community. Do you know the names of people who are at your gym when you work out? If so, do they provide direction and support to you when you work out? If so, is there a coach/trainer present at each and every workout? Finally, would your local gym hold such a personal fundraiser? Check out your local CrossFit. Support your local animal shelter.

My good friend Michelle, who works at APS Durham, informed me that their annual dogwash is typically APS’s largest fundraiser, but our event surpassed the dollar amount raised.

One last thing… Xander will have a cage (I like to call it a “pen”) named in his honor, and for the next 12 years. The plaque will read “In loving memory of Xander Potorti”.




Today’s skill was ring pushups (which we completed after a loooooooong, yoga-based warmup). We placed our feet on a box so that we could be parallel to the ground while completing pushups. I will admit that I neglected to follow direction for the first round, and Brandon called me out on it. I was supposed to have paused for a count of one at the bottom of each pushup. I did not. I nonetheless completed 25 pushups the first round. I did pause for a second for the second and third rounds, completing 16 and 12, respectively, for a total of 53 reps.

Coach S. paid for far too much attention to Brandon and Troie (The Big Boys) and I had to constantly remind him that not only was I using proper form, i.e., holding the plank position and using full range of motion, but I was also completing more reps than The Big Boys. In Coach S.’s defense, I was the only one doing ring pushups using rings hanging from the pull-up bars, i.e., separated from other CFers. Yes, I self-segregated.

4 rounds of the following AFAP:
20 pushups
30 kettle bell swings (52 lb)
40 air squats
Run 400m

More pushups, Dave? Really? I said to Coach S., “I did kettle bell swings just yesterday.” He replied, “Life’s like that. You may have to swing kettle bells two days in a row.” I said, “In my life outside of CrossFit, I never have to swing kettle bells, let alone two days in a row.”

Coach S. estimated that this met-con would take about 20 minutes.

My one and only goal was to complete the first round unbroken. Not a lofty goal, I know.

I completed the first round unbroken, and if I recall my time was 4 minutes and 15 or so seconds. I also completed the second round unbroken. I completed the third round of pushups unbroken (how did that happen?), KB swings in reps of 20 & 10, and air squats in reps of 15, 15, & 10. For the final round, I completed pushups in reps of 15 & 5, swings in reps of 20 & 10, and air squats in reps of 10. The air squats were perhaps more challenging than the pushups or swings! Running, of course, was a pleasure.

I completed the met-con in 17:49.

Lucas was the only person within striking distance, but by the final round I had already begun 400m run while he was still doing KB swings. Brandon and Troie weren’t in contention, and I say this only as it has to do with what I’m about to say…

For most of the rounds, I was often the only person doing KB swings. I grunt. I grunt loudly. I make an “uhn” sound at the top of each and every swing. I attempted to decrease the volume of my grunts, but to no avail. This had to have been noticeable by all present.

After the met-con, I gathered my belongs and headed to the shower. As I entered the ancillary (that’s another BIG word, Michael Kelley) room, Ashley said, “You made us laugh, Paul. We heard, ‘Uhn… Uhn… Uhn… Uhn… Shit!’” After completing the last round of kettle bell swings, I did indeed loudly exclaim “Shit”. I admit it. I did not know, however, that I could be heard by everyone. My apologies to anyone I may have offended.

I did enjoy hearing Ashley say “shit”. I like when women swear, and I don’t know why this thrills me so much.

About last night…

Again, I truly miss my evening walks with Xander, and I find myself the most depressed between the hours of 5 to 7, when we would typically go for a long walk. To occupy my time, I visited Apex Lifestyle Family Fitness. I practiced double unders with my brand old/new rope. I love it! I also received my new Buddy Lee jump rope yesterday, so I’ll have a spare to share. I rowed 500m in 1:55 keeping s/m at exactly 23. I practiced headstands, handstands, ball-ups, and clean positions (using 45 lb. bar).

About today…

Today is the 2-week anniversary of the loss of my best friend, Xander. It feels like only yesterday that I held him in my arms, yet it feels like a lifetime since I have done so. My grief has not subsided. I desperately want to adopt another dog, and sincerely don’t know if I’ll be able to do so in the near future. My pain is currently too tangible, and I fear that I would not be able to connect with another dog if for no other reason than fear that I would lose the dog.

The less-dreaded snatch….

I’ve discovered that I feel very weak the morning following a rest day. My only activity yesterday was running with the endurance athletes as I coached, but I barely broke a sweat and certainly wasn’t running at much greater than 75% effort. Perhaps it’s just that my muscles are tight. Or that I’m old. Or that I’m weak.

I arrived early to allow time for stretching, and then Jack led us through a warmup and review of snatch positions.

1st position 1-1-1
2nd position 1-1-1
Full snatch 1-1-1

The focus for me was on form, as I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to go heavy. Truth be told, Sunday’s WOD took its toll on me, and my lower body is somewhat sore and certainly tight. I warmed up with the bar, and then lifted 65, 75, and 85 lb. I did, however, lift each weight from each position 3 to 5 times. I        finished by lowering the weight to 65 and practicing the full snatch. Jack’s remarks ranged from “Not bad” to “That was your best one of the day”. I’ll take it. Progress for this, as well as the clean and the dreaded overhead squat, has been laboriously slow, and one of the main reasons that I’ve opted to not compete in the Fitness Challenge this year. I may even have wait until I’m 50. Or 60.

21 KB snatch (52)
21 Knee to elbows
21 double unders
18 KB snatch
18 KTE
18 double unders
15 KB snatch
15 KTE
15 double unders

I completed far too many kettle bell snatches this past Sunday, and want to make sure I don’t reinjure my right elbow.

Me: Jack, what’s a good substitute for kettle bell snatches?
(long pause) Kettle bell swings, American style, and heavy. Use 52 pounds. Lifting heavy is one of your weaknesses, so use the 52 pound kettle bell.
Me: Jack, what you’re really saying is that I’m weak, not that kettle bell swings are one of my weaknesses.

As the Big Boys were still showing off with snatches, Jack allowed the group to complete the met-con in 2 groups. I chose to go with the Big Boys. However, I was getting bored and impatient waiting for someone to come out (as it’s National Coming Out Day), so I started the met-con 4 minutes past the time the first group began. Thus, I was the last to finish.

My new Buddy Lee jump rope has not yet arrived, so I had to use one of the crappy ropes.

I completed the first round of KB swings unbroken, the second round in reps of 10 and 8, and the last round in reps of 10 and 5. Jack was correct: I am weak. I nonetheless made sure that I completed swings American style (KB above head with elbows locked).

I completed first round of KTE unbroken and kipping, second round in reps of 12 and 6 kipping, and the last round in reps of 5, 4, and 3, with all but the last 3 kipping. As in the past, it was my tearing hands that caused the most concern.

Double unders were very challenging, again because of the crappy rope. I didn’t complete any rounds unbroken, and I can easily complete many more than 21 dus unbroken. Stupid rope.

I completed the met-con in 7:04.

It’s a dreary, drizzly, rainy day. Xander loved to go for walks in the rain. There’s nothing quite so wonderful as the smell of a wet dog.