The Love of Big Round Numbers

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Image: mikeyarger (Flickr)

What is it about big round numbers that we love so much? New Year’s Eve 1999 was a special event only because it signified the ticking over of our calendar to a big round number, not because it was the end of the second millennium CE: that was New Year’s Eve 2000 (treated as just another party by most). Maths aside, we respond to such things.

And I’m no exception. I weighed myself this morning and my heart skipped a beat as it flickered at 99.9 for a second before settling on 100.0kg. And I got off and weighed myself a second time, just to be sure.

I have reached a major milestone in my weight loss journey: a Big Round Number. Exactly 100kg. There are now exactly ten of me to a tonne.

I have not weighed 100kg (220lb) since I was in my late teens. I’ll need to double-check exactly how old: it’s the kind of thing my mother remembers. I’m feeling a little self-satisfied (you understand) and quite a bit relieved, as for many years I have tried to do exactly what I am doing now – following the government- and medical-recommended weight loss methods, but have never come close and in each instance my stomach thought my throat had been cut. Yes, it may be the First Law of Thermodynamics at its most basic, but ease of compliance must not be overlooked.

Still, there’s a long way to go before I reach my target weight of 85kg, which the BMI chart insists is Overweight. I’ll reassess things when I eventually reach 85kg (BMI 26.8). Although it’s a lot closer than it was in February, it still feels a long way off. Bring it on.


Dukan Day 180: 41lb down

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Today is my 180th day on the (modified) Dukan Diet and I now weigh 100.8kg. I have lost 18.8kg (41lb) in that time, which averages just over 730g/week and gives a BMI of 31.8.

The rate of loss is still slowing, which I put down to a combination of CrossFit converting fat to muscle, trying to find a new balance in my fat-protein-carb ratios to provide enough energy for the demands of CrossFit, and trying to keep on top of carb creep in everyday food management.

Although I am eating a ~80% paleo diet at home, I’m still buying my lunches and that often results in poor options due to the nature of the convenience foods near where I work. I expect it won’t be too long before I’ll bite the bullet and make my own lunches. That’s something I’ve been avoiding so far as I’m both lazy and don’t want to feel too obsessive about everything I put in my mouth.

Anyway, the weight loss is progressing steadily, I’m feeling fantastic, I’m getting fitter, and I’m increasingly feeling like a new person. I have not weighed this “little” since I was a teenager, so it’s a great feeling.

Buck Furpees

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Image: mrtopp (Flickr)

I’m on holiday this week, so going anywhere in the evening was going to be a challenge. Still, after missing Monday’s session I was determined not to miss tonight.

There were just 4 of us doing the induction course. Dan and Paula were new faces for me, and Elisa joined in as a refresher after having been away for some time.

The warmup was to run 200m, and 3 sets each of 10x air squats and 10x pushups. I’m still doing knee-pushups, but I’m able to do more of them as time progresses. Looking forward to being able to do proper ones, as the others are a little embarrassing.

Weightlifting training was the Snatch, starting with the PVC pipe at the sternum, then just above the knees, and finally from the floor. And then onto the training bar. It’s another move I’m going to have to spend time practising, as it’s more complicated than it looks: to lift the bar past your knees you need to slightly straighten your legs and sit up (must not lift around the knees, and need to keep the bar moving vertically while maintaining form), then when it reaches above your knees you use your legs and hips to power the bar up (not your arms), and when it reaches your sternum you squat down quickly while moving your arms under the bar so the elbows lock the bar above your head, then you stand up. Trying to get all of those things happening in the right order and at the right time is a challenge.

Then it was time for the WOD (name unknown). It consisted of 3 activities, to take 9 minutes each:

  • 3x Row 500m within 3 mins (the sooner you finish each, the longer you get to rest)
  • 50x Wall Balls (I used a 7kg ball)
  • 9 sets of 5x Burpees and 5x Pullups

I was happy with the rowing, averaging 2:30 per set (that 30 seconds between each was vital). The wall balls were very tough: I could only manage 5-7 reps at a time before I reached the starting edge of tunnel vision (had to sit down a few times), but managed 35 overall. And the trainer (Thong) scaled the final activity down to just 9 sets 3x Burpees, which was close to my limit at that point.

So I nearly managed to complete another WOD and gives me another workout to use to measure myself in the future.

And I believe I’ve finally earned the right to say: BUCK FURPEES!

Dukan Day 168: Mini Milestone


Image: Jason Rogers (Flickr)


The graph I use shows that July has been an erratic weight loss month for me. I’ve gone over this previously, but I put this down to allowing certain treats to become more than just treats. (It’s not a treat if you do it every day or every second day: it’s a habit).

Regardless, I’ve managed to end July 2.2kg lighter than when I started it, and now weight 101.3kg.

That’s a BMI of 32.0 and, for those in the UK, means I’m now just under 16 stone. I can’t remember the last time I weighed this “little”: judging by the few photos I have of the period, I suspect it was somewhere around my 21st — around the time I started university.

And university’s effect on waistlines is legendary across most cultures…

2011 CrossFit Games is on this weekend

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If you’re unaware, the 2011 CrossFit Games is on this weekend. It’s amazing to watch, regardless of whether you’re into CrossFit or not.

You can watch it online: CrossFit Games

That page lets you view it live and watch events that have already occurred. If nothing else, I recommend the Masters heats from Friday. There are 50+ and 60+ categories for competitors. Can you picture your grandfather doing CrossFit? It’s inspiring.

CrossFit: Week 2

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Image: lululemonathletica (Flickr)

Well, that’s my second week of CrossFit completed, totalling 4 sessions. Wow! I’ve never done anything that demands everything you’ve got and makes you want to come back for more.

Another long post, which should be the last such post for some time. Apologies again in advance.

As CrossFit is done in a group, you have a trainer guiding you along and making sure your form and technique are correct, the people you’re working out with are doing the work according to their own abilities — up to the “As Rx’d” level of the WOD (as received, with no scaling down) — and, although you may be disappointed or frustrated with your own level of ability, there really is none of the peer pressure or feeling of judgement that you may remember from school. Everyone’s doing their best and everyone is encouraging everyone else.

As the Foundations article describes, CrossFit combines diet, metabolic conditioning (met-con, aka cardio), gymnastics, weightlifting and throwing, and sport.

Monday’s session started with a warmup (typically running/jogging, pushups, skipping, lunges, etc) that knackered me, and then we started the real work: back squats, overhead presses and rowing sprints. I’ve never done any weight work before, always having been steered towards weight machines in gyms, so I had no idea what to expect. It’s far more difficult than it looks.

The back squat, for example: the barbell is placed across the deltoids behind the neck, with a straight spine the backside must move backwards before the knees start to bend to help ensure that the knees don’t move forward of the toes, the chest must be kept forward and you need to look straight ahead to prevent the back’s tendency to arch. And it has to be done slowly down and quicker up, using the thighs for power.

The overhead press is equally complicated, even starting from the rack position (barbell sitting across the collar bone, with palms facing up, bar resting on the first knuckles, elbows directly under the wrists and pushing forward). To push the bar up, you need to pull your jaw back so that you can thrust the bar directly upwards without clocking your jaw or breaking your nose, then move your head forwards to allow your elbows to lock at full extension directly above the centre line of your body. And to bring it back to the rack, you need to move your head back to allow the bar to come straight down without braining yourself.

There may be some omissions or errors above, but it serves to give an idea of how unexpectedly complicated weightlifting is.

And aside from weightlifting technique, there is the matter of strength. The ability to move and control the weight through the lift’s range of motion. Having always had strong legs, a reasonable core but weak upper body and arms, I’ve always thought that weightlifting would be fairly easy for me. And back squats are… but overhead presses are most definitely not. I couldn’t even reliably do 5 reps of 20kg (a bare Olympic barbell!). I have new-found respect for any weightlifting whose movements include lifting the weight above their head.

Thursday’s session started with learning the Power Clean: lifting a barbell off the ground and into the rack position. It sounds so simple, especially when you think of doing it with a broomstick or piece of PVC pipe. Now try adding some weight. The bare Olympic barbell was a reasonable place to start, and it seemed to go fine. Doubling that weight with 2x10kg plates forced me to concentrate on my form. Lifting 40kg up to the first position just under the knees was easy, but the rest of the movement was more difficult than expected, both because of the technique required and the tendency to try to use your arm muscles to do the lifting. My left arm/shoulder is noticeably weaker than my right, so whenever I screwed this up it was obvious to anyone watching. But when I got it right, it felt and worked great. It’s going to take a lot of practice.

Then it was time for the WOD. Helen requires you to repeat the following 3 times (for time):

  • Run 4x100m
  • 21x 1.5pood kettlebell swings
  • 12 chin-ups

I scaled this to run/walk as needed, 16kg (1pood) kettlebell, and jumping ring pull-ups. And it’s not without a small amount of self-satisfaction that I say that I managed to beat this scaled Helen. It took me 15:12 to do it, but it’s a baseline from which I can now measure myself.

So after 2 weeks of CrossFit what do I think?

I love it. I’ve never wanted to be a weightlifter, a muscle-bound brute, or a hardcore super-fit kinda guy. But this lets me get a piece of all of this, with as much of it as I like, and all in an environment that encourages effort and work. It’s not about what weight you lift, distance run or activity count. It’s about giving it all you have got.

And in just 2 weeks I’m beginning to see changes in my body. Certain movements are easier, I’m more flexible, post-workout DOMS is less severe, stairs are easier, I’m less conscious of my breathing at rest, I’m still losing weight, and I’m seeing muscle replace the fat (on my arms, for example: veins are becoming more noticeable). Some of that is bound to be because I’m paying more attention to such things, but even if you halve that list, it’s not bad for 2 weeks.

CrossFit: Week 1

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Image: dainsandoval (Flickr)

This is a long post to summarise the week’s CrossFit fun, rather than split into smaller entries. Apologies for its length.

Monday evening saw me parking outside CrossFit Reading 20 minutes early with not just a small amount of trepidation. Walking through the door and seeing what everyone was doing didn’t provide much comfort. But I’m beginning to realise that this is not the type of comfort you get or should expect.

I did the introductions thing with the 7pm group I met on Thursday and anyone else who wasn’t walking past with the thousand-yard stare, before disappearing into the gents to get changed. Our warmup was lessons on performing the Clean phase of the Clean & Jerk weightlifting movement, using a length of PVC pipe. It mostly seemed straightforward, but it’s going to take some practice to get the steps down correctly.

Today’s WOD (Workout Of the Day) was Barbara – they’re named either after ladies (given names) or KIA soldiers (surnames) – and she’s a hard lady to please. The list of WODs can be found in the CrossFit FAQ. Here’s what this WOD consists of:


Five rounds each (record time for each):

    • 20 Pull-ups
    • 30 Push-ups
    • 40 Sit-ups
    • 50 Squats

Rest exactly 3 minutes between rounds.

That is seriously hard work, so all of us had it scaled down quite a bit. As it turned out, mine needed to be scaled down even further… and I still didn’t complete the round 3. I just had nothing left in my arms. I reached the point where I had done as many pushups as I could (even switching from regular to knees-on-ground) and I couldn’t get off the floor without rolling over. I couldn’t even lift my drink bottle to my mouth, and had to wait a good 30 minutes before I felt safe enough to drive home.

Success or not, I gave it everything I had. I have to be happy with that for now, despite the frustration at not completing an already noobified WOD.

They have blogged about Monday here, though my only appearance is part of my left side in the background of Picture 2.

The next morning I was woken at 4am by my left tricep complaining quite loudly. I’m not sure why it was just that one muscle — perhaps it was because of my left shoulder injury and the loss of strength looking after it produced. Either way, I found myself waking up every hour or so after that.

During the day the tricep continued to be sore, so I gave it some sport massage using a lacrosse ball that Thong, one of the owners/trainers, had loaned me. Then I visited MobilityWOD and found Episode 44, which covers what to do when your triceps, biceps, etc, need attention. It made a huge difference. I was able to spend some time without aches/pains before eventually having to re-do the exercises as things tightened up again. That site is essential aftercare.

Wednesday morning I woke again at 4am to find my entire upper body complaining. That’s 36 hours: perfect timing to be properly hit by DOMS. DOMS++ even. Every muscle below my neck and above my hips had something to say, in varying levels.

It stayed this way until this afternoon, when it noticeable began to dissipate. Still achey, but not sore. So again I found myself parked outside the box and walked in to see loads of people there all doing what appeared to be a team event that looked all kinds of painful. One of the regulars, Emile, is leaving today so this was a going away party, CrossFit style. They have blogged about tonight (Thursday) here.

Our group’s warmup was more traditional this time: stepping knee dips, pushups, ring rows and air squats. Then we found ourselves doing a slightly modified version of the team workout that Emile’s group had done. We were split into guys versus girls and told to do the following (resting between each):

  • Row 3km as fast as possible, unlimited tag team changes.
  • 10 minutes of wall balls, unlimited tag team changes
  • 5 minutes of jumping rope: all participating, adding our combined jumps.
  • 10 minutes of overhead squats: unlimited tag team changes. (Some used PVC pipes, others used Olympic bars without any weights).

Parts of this were excruciating (rowing especially), and the other parts weren’t too terrible. I found myself wanting to be sick on the rowing machine, so swapped out whenever I got close. I was mostly unable to do the wall balls properly (even with a green/7kg ball) as the warmup had taken most of what I had from my arms, and even using my body properly I couldn’t convince my triceps to complete the movement sufficiently. The jumping rope should have been fairly easy (I was an avid little jump-roper for the Jump Rope For Heart campaign… 28 years ago!), but although I had good coordination I just got tired too quickly. And the overhead squats seemed fine to start with, then went downhill as my thighs started to go on strike.

Poor Emily got massive cramp in her calf and went down during the jump rope. It was proper agony cramp, too, where you can see the muscle trying to escape by climbing around the shin and up to the knee. Thong gave her some sports massage, and it was a good thing we were all making so much noise. After the workout we chatted about MobilityWOD, the lacrosse balls for massaging, and taking in salt before a workout.

So tonight was a completely different type of workout and it floored me in a totally different way. I don’t feel that I’ve completely drained any particular muscle group this time, which may be because tonight was largely cardio. The next WOD (I’m going on Mondays and Thursdays for now) will probably chew up my legs, I expect.

This is fun. Don’t laugh. I’m serious.

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