Sunday, March 30, 2014

CrossFit Open 2014

Just in case you're wondering... "Why is the blog titled "Running for One" when all the posts are about lifting and eating and CrossFit?

Well, such is life. I discovered the adult athlete buried within me about 7 years ago. She was a runner. (Ok, I use this term loosely, not in the Kara Goucher sense of the word.) I completed my first run as a professional (a working mom) driven by stress and a desperate need for quiet (no "Mom. Mom! MOM!" or "Mrs. Lawson. Mrs. Lawson. Mrs. Lawson!" out on the road) and fell. in. love.

And then my inner writer finally quit snoozing and "Running for One" was birthed (read the story behind the title).

Fast forward 5 years or so. Enter obstacle course racing. Enter the Olympic lifting. Enter this little thing called The CrossFit Games (Thank you, ESPN!) and... I'm hooked. I've never been so fit. So healthy. So capable. So versatile. (I mean, for Pete's sake... I have abs! And they're not buried under a layer of fat! AND I turn 40 in a few months.) Anyway...

The CrossFit Open...

The Open is 5 weeks long. And it is just that-- open. To anyone and everyone who pays the $20 entry fee. Each week a new workout is released and athletes have a set amount of time to complete it (4 days). To ensure validity of the score, workouts need to be performed and judged at an affiliate or submitted by video. Once validated, each athlete's score is compiled onto

The Leaderboard... 

All the competition you've ever thought you wanted. For a type A, super competitive person like me, I sometimes think the leaderboard is the glory and the bane of my existence. (Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned. Really, it can become a bit of is an idol for me.) Anyway, the brains behind CrossFit are no dummies. This leaderboard (there's even an App!) publicly ranks every person who is registered in the Open. Stats galore! I can see where I stand in the world, in my region, and among my CrossFitting frenemies (because I love you, but I want to WIN).

The Workouts...

Aka the WODs are labeled according to year and week (so 14.1 is 2014, week 1). The beauty of CrossFit is the variety. Over the course of 5 weeks, there will be exercises that are in your wheelhouse and ones that are... well, not.

The Athletes...

Who should compete in the Open? Anyone and everyone who is physically fit for exercise; can safely complete the basic CrossFit exercises (pull ups, double unders, box jumps, wall balls and thrusters); and who can perform Olympic lifts (clean and jerks, dead lifts, snatches) at near Rx weights. Obviously, your coach should weigh in to your decision to compete. Just don't be intimidated!


14.3, or MY Wheelhouse

14.5, or Satan, as I like to call it.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

CrossFit Competitions

I have developed this growing passion for CrossFit.
The intensity.
The variety.
The sweat.

It has taken me awhile. My first exposure to CrossFit was not that spectacular. And I'm still not a fan of just doing a WOD (Workout Of the Day) daily (I also follow a strength building program and run). CrossFit is designed to create healthy, fit, all-round athletes. But in order for that to happen, the WOD does need to be programmed so that there is plenty of variety. So, in essence, the randomness needs to be planned for an athlete to progress and develop fully.

 Here is what I LOVE about CrossFit: the competition. I just can't help myself. I have this inner drive to be better. To do better. To beat the me I was yesterday. And if I beat you in the process, awesome.

If you are a member of a box, you will be doing daily WODs. Recording your scores on the white board for all to see-- competing against others at your box. YOU SHOULD KEEP A RECORD OF YOUR OWN SCORES. It's important. (Otherwise, how do you know if you've bested yourself?)
Photo Courtesy of CrossFit CVI
At some point, you may want to enter a competition. I recommend this. Highly. IF you can correctly and safely complete each standard. Where do you start?

  1. Look for a beginner's competition for your first. This is less intimidating, and usually smaller and less expensive than the big ones. These typically offer 2 divisions like other competitions, but are scaled and then scaled again for those who are just not ready for heavy weights. 
  2. Go scaled. The scaled division modifies the WODs and the weights. For example, the RX division might have muscle ups as a standard; Scaled might have push ups instead. Weights for RX might be 95lb cleans; Scaled might be 75lb. 
  3. Bring your coach. Your coach can do for you in competition what she does for you daily. Plus there is the added knowledge that you are not alone and the help in planning strategy. The calming effect can also be huge.
  4. Bring your friends. Nothing beats those shouts of encouragement when you're giving your all and feel like you just might die (I've felt as if I might die in many WODs, but *behold* it's merely an exaggeration of the mind).
  5. Be safe. I feel like I should give a disclaimer-- perhaps this should be number 1. Get a physical every year. CrossFit is "constantly varied functional movements performed at a high intensity." You need to get cleared by a doctor before beginning any new exercise program. And whether in competition or not, ALWAYS perform the movements with good form. If you truly feel ill, stop working out. Your health is worth more than a few extra reps!
Last weekend I competed in CrossFit CVI's "No Retreat, No Surrender" competition. AND I had the pleasure of watching my son compete in his first competition. He's a little beast. 
**The following contains proud momma bragging, so if you're not interested, I'll say, "See ya next post!"**

So, I was nervous. My teen, competing against grown men. NOT SCALED. He's very strong. I knew he could lift the weight, just not sure how he could hold up in a WOD.  Or 3 of them in one day. (Please note, he is healthy and has been lifting-- age appropriately-- for 4 years, and under the care of a USA weightlifting certified coach. Please do not throw your teen into competition unless they are prepared and will not sacrifice form for ego.)

He had a BLAST. It was hard. I nearly cried multiple times as my heart swelled with pride.
He fought for each rep.
He didn't quit.
He did hard things.

95lb Snatch
Burpees over bar
135lb Clean, Front Squat, Shoulder to Overhead

3rd place and a jug of protein

Monday, March 17, 2014

Cheat Days and Other Such Nonsense

I'm going to let you in on a secret I learned a long time ago (ok, maybe I'm still trying to learn it):


I've recently entered several conversations about "cheat days" and "cheat meals," and I wanted to address it here because I feel it's so very important. From


 verb \ˈchēt\
: to break a rule or law usually to gain an advantage at something
: to take something from (someone) by lying or breaking a rule
: to prevent (someone) from having something that he or she deserves or was expecting to get
I hate the whole concept of a cheat day because of what it implies. Basically, the concept says, "My everyday eating plan is so horrendous that I can't wait to escape and be bad." With that kind of mentality, it's very easy to go overboard: 

"But wait!" you say. "I just eat a cheat meal." Same concept. You're counting the meals until that one. Forcing yourself through the drudgery until you reached that blessed moment of luxury, that holy grail-- your cheat meal. 

Please, don't misunderstand me. I don't expect you to eat perfectly clean 100% of the time. I'm just asking that you not be overly concerned (obsessed?) with your escape from clean eating. I just ask that you stop thinking of your voyage into the less healthy as a cheat. 

Maybe your "cheat" meal is specifically timed so that you don't go overboard all the time. Ok, I get it. But still, I think the root of the problem is viewing food as the enemy. You should enjoy food. The problem is, in America, we have lost our taste for real food. I blame Pop-Tarts. From an early age we get a taste of that deliciousness and there seems to be no turning back. Pop-Tarts aren't real food. And neither is most of the overly processed, bagged and boxed garbage that we find on the shelves of our grocery stores. 

People! Eat real food. It's delicious. There will be an adjustment period as your body learns to discover what natural food should taste like, but you will find you have more energy, sleep better, and think more clearly. 

And since I'm on my soapbox, can I just also say... 
Can we just...

Ok, I will stop shouting now. Just in case you are curious and my rambling has made little to no sense... I'll give you a typical day of eating for me:

Breakfast: Whole oats (just under 1/2 cup) + a few blueberries (or 1/4 of a banana or a spoon of pumpkin-- just enough to give a little flavor) + whey protein (about 15 g worth). Coffee w/ soy milk creamer.

Snack: small handful of almonds or cashews (I've been experimenting with a higher fat percentage in my diet, so cashews have been added. However these are dangerous-- I can easily put away several servings at once.)

Lunch: Sweet potato (about 1 cup), steak or chicken (1/2 to 1 cup)

Snack: Apple and almond butter or peanut butter (no sugar, no oil added) + 1/4 scoop of vanilla whey. Green tea (or coffee on those "I need more caffeine" days.)

Pre-workout: BCAA's + beta alanine

Post workout: Creatine complex (Both pre- and post- workout supplements are recent additions due to my high volume training. At lower volume I am fine with a post workout whey + water shake.)

Dinner: Large spinach/kale salad w/ bacon or walnuts and vinaigrette or blue cheese dressing (1/2 serving), steak (or chicken or omelet w/ spinach, mushrooms, tomatoes) (I add 1/2 white potato occasionally if my cardio is especially high or I feel my calories have been too low.)

Wednesday is pizza night-- it's a great break in the middle of the week-- family dinner in front of the t.v. night. 

Saturday or Sunday is our day to eat out. A typical meal out for me-- large salad with grilled chicken. I skip the appetizers, unless it's a Mexican restaurant-- I will totally eat some chips and salsa. But I stick to ordering the same type of food I usually eat-- it just makes me feel better. Physically. I avoid dairy and wheat (except on Pizza night, and even then I watch it). But IT'S ABOUT FEELING GOOD. If I eat crap, I feel like crap-- bloated, grouchy, upset stomach. Who needs that?

Ok. Officially stepping off the soapbox. Thanks for putting up with me!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Training for a Spartan Race

This is part 3 in my Spartan Race series; my trifecta, if you will.

Read part 1 and enter to win a free Spartan Race here.
Read part 2, the preview of Spartan Up! (and a discount) here.

As I mentioned in my last post, I had the opportunity to ask the founder of Spartan Race, Joe De Sena a few questions. I was interested in finding out his opinions on a few questions that are commonly discussed in obstacle racing groups on Facebook.

Me: Where do you personally find inspiration and motivation?

Joe: From all the other Spartans that are sending in pictures, videos, and letters... They are amazing!! It is so inspirational; it makes it easy to get up each day!

Me: What do you think is the biggest mistake people make in preparing for a Spartan Race?

Joe: They don't run enough… and they don't follow our daily free workouts… we have a methodology that is free. They should be following.

So, there you have it from the brains behind the Spartan Race courses.

Here is my advice based on my own experience (placed in the top 15 elite women in the Miami Super each year, placed 7th woman in the 2014 SuperHero Scramble Gamble World Championship, and top 3 female in several local OCR's) and the training plans that have been designed by my husband (certified by The Cooper Institute, USA Weightlifting, and CSCS):

1. Run. Did you read what Joe said? If anyone knows how you should be training for a Spartan, it's him. I tend to over-do it... if running is good, then more running is better. Ten miles this week, 20 miles next week. Wrong. Running experts recommend the 10% rule-- don't add more than 10% of your total mileage from week to week. Ten miles this week means 11 miles next week. Frustratingly slow, you say? Yes. But it will help you avoid injury. Find a good training plan and follow it. I run 3 or 4 times a week and follow a half marathon training plan for the Spartan Super. I'd follow a 10k plan for the 5k distance, and modify (add slightly more miles to) a half marathon plan for a Beast. Good plans will incorporate long runs, hill running and speed work each week.

2. Strength Train. For my first Spartan Race, I focused on body weight exercises. Sign up here for the free Spartan daily workout. The following helped me have success on the course:

  • Pull ups-- you won't do any on the course, but you will have to use your upper body strength for the Herculean hoist and pulling yourself up and over walls. Plus it's just really cool to be able to walk up to a bar and crank out some pull ups. Here is a good progression video.
  • Squats-- again, not on the course, but these will build leg strength for the running and jumping you will do. Be sure to use the correct form, especially before adding weight.
  • Burpees-- if you fail an obstacle, you will have to complete 30 burpees. Incorporate these in your training. Often. They have been called the single best exercise you can do.  
  • Rope climb-- There are a few different techniques. Find one that works for you and find somewhere to practice. Typically on a course, there may only be one rope climb, but mastering it will give you a giant motivational boost on the course. Where to find a rope to climb? That's the tricky part-- I suggest a Crossfit box (gym).
  • Tire flips-- often on the course, you will find a tire flip obstacle. I'm not sure if the real Spartans were flipping tires, but who cares. It's fun.
  • Push ups. These will help build your upper body strength. 
3. Yoga / Stretching. Especially practice the balance postures, such as the tree pose, to help build ankle stability and balance. 

Ideally, I would tell you to join a good CrossFit box (gym). You will get one on one coaching, programming for increasing strength and overall fitness, and motivation from other athletes-- and many form teams to race together. Not sure how to find a good box? I gave some pointers in this post

If not CrossFit, join a gym that offers classes-- bootcamp, yoga, etc. 

If you can't do that-- try P90x. The DVD series has strength, stretching and cardio sessions, plus tips on eating plans. 

Whatever you do... prepare. Spartan Races are physically and mentally challenging. 
The most challenging races I've done. 

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Spartan Up! Book Preview

I do lots of reading. I am, after all, an English teacher. Nonfiction is my genre of choice. I love the stuff of real life. I love reading about real lives... struggles, insight, wisdom shared from people who get out there and live. So, when I was asked to write a post about the new book written by the Joe De Sena, creator of Spartan Race, it was a no brainer.

Spartan already has a free downloadable ebook... a how-to for obstacle racing and training. I expected the upcoming book to be similar, just in hard copy form. However, this isn't the case, and I'm quite excited!

Spartan Up! is more than your average how-to book. More than a "why you should register for a Spartan" commercial. I've written before about how racing and training so mimic life; this book includes a thorough explanation of obstacles that can be found on the Spartan Race course, the inspiration behind them, how they parallel life, and how they can help us overcome the obstacles we face off the course. Spartan Up! is "A take no prisoners guide to overcoming obstacles and achieving peak performance in life." Hear from Joe De Sena himself:

Containing everything from racing and training strategies, life lessons, and advice on developing mental toughness, Spartan Up! should be on your "to read" list. Follow this link to pre-order your own copy for a discount of 20% off the retail price. Use the code SPARTANUP. (Discount expires 4/1/14)

I had the opportunity to ask Joe a few questions, so I asked about the future of Spartan Race-- he didn't reveal specifics but when asked if there are plans to expand by opening racing and training facilities across the U.S., he said that they plan to be in all markets by 2015. I asked about other new and different things coming. He replied, "Books, TV, etc. It's all coming and coming faster than we all imagined!"

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Why you HAVE to do a Spartan Race... and enter to WIN!

1. Spartan Races are incredibly fun. When else in life do you get a chance to climb over obstacles, jump into puddles, crawl through mud and push your way through people with pugel sticks? (More thoughts on this here.)

2. Spartan Races are challenging. With 4 different distances-- the 3+ mile / 15+ obstacle Spartan Sprint, the 8+ mile / 20+ obstacle Spartan Super, the 12+ mile / 25+ obstacle Spartan Beast, and the marathon distance Spartan Ultra Beast, there is a distance for everyone. *Note-- shorter distance doesn't mean easier. Course designers make use of the terrain to ensure each course presents its own unique challenges.

3. Spartan Races are inspiring. Rather, the people who do Spartan Races are inspiring. From people such as Amanda Sullivan and Misty Diaz (athletes with physical challenges) to Team X-T.R.E.M.E. (wounded veterans) to those who join the Biggest Loser teams, all you need to do is look around you on the course to find warriors whose hearts are bigger than the obstacles on the course.

4. Spartan Races help you learn about life. So, this might sound cheesy and overly dramatic, but just go with me. Spartan doesn't publish a course map before the event. In each race, you will face the unknown. Some obstacles may come easy, some may be nearly unconquerable, and some you will fail and pay a penalty. But you will keep pushing on because there is a finish line and difficult things do not last forever.

5. Spartan Races help you learn about you. In each Spartan Race that I've done, I've faced an obstacle (or a few) that I didn't think I could accomplish-- sometimes the wall looked too high, or the tire too heavy to drag, or the distance too far, but by putting one foot in front of the other and refusing to give up,  I've dug deep and found the strength to continue.

I'm hoping to see some of you at the Miami Super Spartan on April 12 and 13. And to further encourage you... here is a code for 15% off of a Spartan Race in any location (open heat only)!

AND... it's giveaway time! Spartan Race has graciously given me a race to give to one of YOU!!!!! The entry is for any open heat of any 2014 Spartan Race in the continental U.S. Just read the instructions and follow them to enter:

a Rafflecopter giveaway And there's this:
Stay tuned next week for "How to Train for a Spartan Race"!