40 Plus Takeaways from TJ’s Gym Masters Class For Over 40

I came back to my Crossfit box today after a long weekend away taking TJ’s Gym Master Class  and one of the first questions I was asked was what was so special about the class.   I may have gushed, “everything;” which isn’t too far from the truth.    The Master Class was a two-day event  geared towards Masters athletes, ages 40-plus, learning new skills and how to be better athletes.   Two days of super star athletes and trainers sharing their wisdom and precious time – Coach B, Carl Paoli, Brian McKenzie, Diane Fu, Marcus Filly, Dr. Allison Belger, and TJ Belger.

1040521_10151743096020972_1976916589_oIf there was one overall all theme of the weekend it was this – you need a goal, a plan, and a coach.   How you envision the next 3, 6, 9, and 12 months, plan for that implementation, and engage in that vision is everything.   I realized that this is something I really need to work on and change in short order.  Many of my movements are progressions that I learned when I was larger,  I now need to re-think and re-learn them.   I don’t run, I shuffle, but I can change that with time and practice.   More specifically, my takeaways from this weekend’s event that I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to participate are….

1)       Coach B prioritized the skills of Olympic lifting as a) mobility; b) speed; and c) strength.  Which maybe the opposite of what I was practicing.  Lifting heavy stuff is fun, getting the junk moving around in the joints is anything but fun, but its necessary.   Go as low as you can, but don’t lose form.


2)      Diane Fu started the Olympic lifting session with preparing the muscles by doing several mobilization techniques from the Mobility WOD which mobilized the hips, hamstrings, ankles, and shoulders (hanging on the bar and having a super friend push the back of your shoulders in three different positions, the pistol squat stretch, and an ankle and hip mobilization).

3)      The three things to focus on as a beginner lifter is the set-up and having the shoulders over the bar and hitting the power position (if you can hit the power position, you have a 90% chance of making the lift); and know how the lock out position feels.

4)      Your butt is your re-set button.  You can’t recover from a bad position.   Reset.  Diane Fu is a total badass and I’m a total fan girl.


5)      I was a fan girl of Carl Paoli before coming to the workshop.   I adore him even more now.   We worked on some fundamental movements including the burpee, pistol, rolling pistol, muscle up transition, and the handstand push-up; but more importantly what connected for me is that there is skill transfer in everything.

6)      Since there is skill transfer in everything and how you do many things is actually the same, you need to know why you are doing what you are doing and ask yourself what you are hoping to accomplish.   Just because you are modifying a skill doesn’t make it wrong, it just may not allow you progress with it to the next skill.

7)      Don’t be afraid of making mistakes.

8)      You need to see and look for the opportunities.  carl

9)      Pretend you’ve got a $100 bill between your feet when doing burpees – pretend it is your life.

10)  The two key components to doing push-ups is having your arms in and having a straight vertical forearm (I learned that I’ve been doing them in a way that won’t progress to other skills).

11)  As one of Robb Wolf’s testimonials, I knew a lot of the information in Marcus Filly’s talk on nutrition, but it was a good reminder.   I need to dial it back in.  I started implementing some of those changes this morning and am feeling good this morning.  I didn’t know Marcus walking into the room, but I felt like I just wanted to sit by his feet and absorb his knowledge (OK – and maybe just gaze at his beauty a while too.)   Margie and I met him during lunch and he was just such a nice guy and I’ll be cheering for him during his third crack at the Crossfit Games.   Go Team Filly!  marcus

12)  Resilience is the ability to adapt, recover and adjust to the stress of training, compounded by life stresses (mental, emotional, spiritual, etc).   Our resilience is dependent upon many factors and is age dependent.   We have a diminishing resilience capacity.   I can’t afford to miss nutrition to tip the recovery/resilience scale.

13)  Nutrition is the opportunity to offset the training stress and it can also cause a tremendous amount of stress.

14)  When you want to pull, wait one more second.

15)  Don’t mute the hips

16)  Stroke rate workouts are the key to getting faster

17)  Adjust your toes on the rower – you want full contact with the ground when lifting, you want full contact with rowing.

18)  The rowing finish is the same as the hollow rock with your elbows tucked in.

19)  For women, the drag factor on the Concept 2 should be between 105-125.

20)  The higher your stroke rate on the Concept 2, the higher your skill.SanFran

21)  Running equates with your fear of falling.

22)  Lions run like lions, gazelles run like gazelles, and humans run like humans.   Why would we think that we have different running styles.   It’s a complex skill that needs to be learned and practiced like everything else.   Drill work should be done 3-4 times a week.

23)  We are constantly hunting for stability.   Prioritize your motor patterns.

24)  Check out The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle –  coaching, motivation and practice.

25)  Work on the 30-40 videos and 6 weeks of progressions on Crossfit Endurance.

26)   Practice makes permanent.   The key to adult learning is repetition.

27)  Practice with the jump rope with pulls on each leg – 5,4,3,2 and lean.

28)  Mobility WOD has a 3-part series on rebuilding the feet. Brian

29)  Barefoot jump rope sometimes.   Your feet and your hands are the same tissue for a reason.   Your feet should look like your hands.

30)  Learn diaphramic breathing for running.   I have absolutely no idea what this is and its going to take some research.

31)  Asana is a posture, but it also reflects a mental attitude.

32)  Stress Up: Vitality Down à Offload stress whenever possible

33)  Even the heart has built in rest.   2:1 rest work ratio.  The heart has more neurological tissue than muscular tissue and produces hormones

34)  You are either building up or breaking down.   Metabolism means to change.

35)  If you block one pathway, its has got to find a different pathway.   Do you really think you are smarter than evolution and the body?   Science and medicine are constantly changing.   Engage in the process.

36)  Everything really matters.  Don’t set the bar too low.   Unlearn what you are thinking and find your resistance points to change and improve.   We get set in our ways as we get older and those ways are either serving us or not.

37)  Learn a new gear and learn a new skill.

38)  Be aware and cognizant of over-reaching and under-recovery.

39)  Build your base of fitness.   Limit the high intensity sessions particularly during the off season.   There are times when its appropriate to just rollout and row.   Periodization is varying the levels of intensity and volume according to your priorities and its appropriate and necessary. Plan your progressions from week to week and month to month.

40)  Restorative aerobic work 10-20 minutes after a workout at about 120 beats per minute for about 30 minutes.

41)  Figure out why you are doing what you are doing and set your expectations and goals.

42)  Address fears and your worst case scenario.  Is it really that bad?   Is it perceived versus actual.  Is it FNE – fear of negative evaluation.

43)  I may forget what was said and what I did, but I left feeling like I’m on the right path of taking better care of myself,  improving my health, and a plan for some changes.


Sunday Evening Rambles


“When we least expect it, life sets us a challenge to test our courage and willingness to change; at such a moment, there is no point in pretending that nothing has happened or in saying that we are not yet ready. The challenge will not wait. Life does not look back.” – Paul Coelho.

My weight has been fluctuating plus or minus twenty pounds for the past year.   I hit a certain weight and then went off on a binge that would ensure that I wouldn’t be back at that weight for a good long while.

I understood that it was self-sabotage, but I couldn’t really stop myself from doing it. The body will only go where the mind will let it and my brain hadn’t caught up with my body.  Part of my self-sabotage was giving my brain time to just deal with the changes of the past couple of years – to adjust.

I do my best thinking when driving.  I miss the long road trips while on the mainland because that is how I could always clear my mind and figure things out.  Driving to the gym this morning,that little voice inside my head –  I’m ready now.   I’m ready to move on now and take the next step.

13.4 – More than 82,000 people submitted scores for the ascending ladder of clean and jerks and toes-to-bar with the average female completing 47 reps.   My 42 reps are below average – but it didn’t feel that way – it felt like Snoopy doing a happy dance.


13.2 and One Week of Whole 30 in the Books

132Crossfit Founder, Greg Glassman, showed up at our box for 13.2.   Island-wide gathering tomorrow to hang out with the founder and talk story.

13.2 was 10 minute AMRAP of 5 Shoulder to overhead, at  75 lbs; 10 Deadlift at 75 lbs and 15 Box jumps at 20 inch.     184 reps total – so still mid-group for the women masters.   Strength, work capacity…skill has got to be next one and probably not something I can do yet, but its been a fun ride.       Both my legs have been testy for the past two days.   Bad knee felt crunchy yesterday and good leg was just really sore today.     And that’s OK.  Not quite two years out from the accident.   90 step ups in 10 minutes.   Getting up my stairs from my door to the car used to take 10 minutes.   Maybe its because the anniversary is approaching, maybe it’s because Glassman crew was asking me about the accident and my journey, maybe its because participating in the first two round of the games which I originally watched while pedaling the bike not sure how my leg was going to turn out kind of brings that old stuff up again and beginning to get better.  Doing what one can, add one more rep or add one more pound, and slowly getting getting better with patience and consistency.

“Give me your old and young and everything between early bipedalism and death. And while you’re at it give me your non-bipedal: your limps and gimps and wimps and wheeled and caned and casted and bandaged. Untangle your sweaty hospital sheets and IV tubes and tentacles of fear and shame and move whatever isn’t strapped down. A finger, a leg, an eyelid. Whatever you can move, keep moving it. Next week, add some weight to that.” – Stumptous.com

1 Week into the Whole 30 program.   I can’t say that I’ve really noticed any changes yet.  Switching to coconut milk for coffee feels like a permanent switch when I’m home.   



Day 2 of Whole 30

Day 2 of the Whole 30. I’ve tried to cut dairy out in the past and have always caved. I have a half and half problem. I’d call it a coffee problem, but I don’t think its entirely a coffee deal – my resistance in cutting dairy was fierce and I’m not entirely sure what is up with that.

It feels good to be back on track. Saying the words I’ve gained back 24 pounds out loud kinda sucked, but you can’t fix what you don’t acknowledge. So I went off the rails again – too many treats, too much half and half, not enough movement, too much travel, and not enough taking care of myself. So back to prioritizing some more self care.

Beyond Lazy Baked Salmon20130311-124413.jpg

Pineapple salsa from Costco

Coconut shreds.

Bake about 20 minutes at 450.

Thoughts on 13.1

photo (2)Week one of the 2013  CrossFit Games is officially on the books.   I survived.  I learned a few things.   And most importantly to me, I did it.  Last year, there was no way in hell I would have signed up because I was barely brave enough to walk in the box’s door most days and would have laughed at even the suggestion of participating in the games. The year before that, I was morbidly obese lying in the hospital the day after surgery during the 2011 open.  I’ll be dropped out of the games, either this week or the next with one movement or another that I physically can’t do yet.  And I don’t care –  I am competing against myself from the past and I’ve already won.  I finished the beginner’s classes the end of February last year, so this marks a little over a year of hard work and overcoming things I never thought I could.   

This is the open workout:

17 minute AMRAP of:
40 Burpees
30 Snatch, 75 / 45 lbs
30 Burpees
30 Snatch, 135 / 75 lbs
20 Burpees
30 Snatch, 165 / 100 lbs
10 burpees
Max rep Snatch, 210 / 120 lbs

My goal going in was to get through the awful burpees without having an asthma attack and get through 10 of the 75 pound snatches.  I can do the 75 pound snatches (max muscle snatch is 90 pounds), but to get to that point there was a 70 (!!!) burpee “buy-in”.  70 (!!!) burpees – oh how I loathe you.   I’ve been on a bit of a tear lately – traveling too much, eating poorly, being sick for a month, and generally not taking care of myself and I consequently gained back 24 pounds.   Each one of those burpees was going to suck even more with those 24 pounds back on me.   I know that I can easily gas myself out doing burpees. My strategy was just to keep moving slowly and steadily and never let my breathing get too out of control.  I did my best.  Maybe I could have done better if I re-did it and pushed it a little more, but I beat my original goal by 8 reps.  I’m happy with my 118 reps and don’t want to see 70 (!!!) burpees again for a good long while.

My sister rocking it

Watching others at the box cheering and doing work and pushing themselves was awesome.  Feeling the excitement of the open in myself and others was a kick.   Talking to my sister about how she did and comparing notes was fun.   Instead of feeling terribly embarrassed doing the WOD, I understood and felt the support from everyone in the room.  It was a fantastic experience from start to finish.   13.2, come at me!


To quote a fellow blogger at Stumptuous.com –

All are welcome in this house that strength built.

I mean the strength that moves the barbell and the strength that tries to move the bar and the strength that gets you to go near the bar in the first place when you are bowel-loosening scairt and intimidated as shit in that small grimy weight room full of grunting furry manpeople who smell like cheese and wet dog and old sweaty leather.

I mean the strength of putting one foot in front of the other. Or simply standing still when the winds of life are shoving you backwards like a schoolyard bully.

I mean the strength that sometimes looks like madness. The strength that sometimes looks like baby-weakness. The strength that is a tiny nugget of steel inside you. The strength that is compassion big enough to cuddle the world… even if you don’t yet know it is there, and certainly cannot yet turn it on yourself. The strength that 2 million years of evolution have given you, in your standard-issue package of human DNA.

I mean the strength of getting up off the floor and trying again. Wherever you are in your journey of strength, you are welcome here. This place is for you.



My 9 Take-Aways from the Whole 9 Seminar

seminar2My 9 Take-Aways from the Whole 9 Seminar

I bought my THIRD copy of It Starts With Food  by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig while attending their all day seminar in Honolulu yesterday.   If you ever get the chance to go to their seminar – GO!   Its a great experience.   Not that there was anything earth-shaking or revolutionary said during the day, but some of the dots were connected and it was some dedicated time spent thinking about my dietary and lifestyle choices with some smart people.

My first impression was how stunningly beautiful and handsome Melissa and Dallas are.  Good genetics, sure.   But also clearly they are doing something right.   Since I had taken a seat in the front row and spent the day a few feet away from them listening to them answer questions during breaks and chatting with them during lunch, they are also clearly beautiful on the inside as well and were consummate compassionate professionals throughout the day.  It was weird to be on a different island and be recognized within the community – Dallas kept looking at me for a while trying to figure out where he’d seen me before – I suspect it was from Robb Wolf’s testimonial website and another Coach commented in a private conversation on how I had lost 200 pounds or something like that (no, not quite).

Some of you saw my notes from the seminar and were surprised – where’s the notes on the food, nutrients, and what to eat?   They did cover that – a little bit – but the vast majority of the day was spent on discussing the philosophy behind and the framework for their Whole 30 program. I wouldn’t have lasted more than five minutes discussing food, nutrients, blocks, supplements, and the like, but understanding the biology and psychology behind food choices had me at my edge of the seat most of the day.  Seriously, it was exactly what I needed.  As they say, the things that get you from point A to point B may not be the things that get you from point B to point C.   I needed to re-frame my food philosophy and Dallas and Melissa helped to do that.

So my takeaways from the Whole 9 Seminar – hopefully slightly more coherent than my jotting notes from my mobile device on the bus last night.

1.  Its about the BIG PICTURE

The trick to forgetting the big picture is to look at everything close up.  Getting OCD on your diet or exercise can be counterproductive.   They are pieces to the whole – important pieces – but if the rest of your life factors are not correct you may be spinning your wheels.  Dallas and Melissa talk about the nine factors that they believe, when properly balanced, will lead you to optimal health.   I think I wrote the word STRESS about a hundred times yesterday and its something I need to address in my life.

2.  Form follows Function

They don’t care a rip if you lose weight doing the Whole 30 program and they are right.   They do care about getting you healthy.   And form follows function – get healthy and everything starts falling back into place.   Robb Wolf recommends giving your scale away to someone you dislike and chase performance goals.   The Whole 30 program does not allow you to step on the scale for 30 days.  I got an email last night from a person who found me from Robb’s website upset that she’d “only” lost 3 pounds in two weeks and that left her feeling “hopeless”.  Whoa – that little device on the floor that tells you your relationship with gravity is also dictating your self-worth is kind of a  pretty scary thought.   We are all so much more than our packaging we come in and remembering that form follows function can clear some of that crazy making stuff.

3.  The Lizard Wins

You cannot out-willpower, out-think, out-logic your body’s hormonal response to food. You can’t beat hormones, the lizard part of the brain is deeper and stronger than willpower. Caloric restriction will always lose.   Give your body what it needs nutritionally (its about nutrition, not nurturing).   If you feed yourself empty calories, you will keep eating chasing that nutrition.  Our bodies are way smarter than we give them credit for and certainly way smarter than the chemist designing the new sweetener and hyper-stimulating food

4.  Don’t OverCARBsume

I could have hugged Melissa when she said that when nutritionists  tell you to “just listen to your body”that its pure bullshit.  Your body lies.   Particularly when you have been treating it poorly and screwing up all the signals that are supposed to be there with natural foods.   ‘Food with no breaks’ that have no dense nutrition, no satiety factors, little fiber or water in them just have me eating the whole bag/container (i.e. its a processed carboliscious food).   I’ve hardwired my brain to respond to “Hoover (vacuum) the whole thing” in a nice little habitual neurological loop.  The more volatile your blood sugars are, the less good you feel and since I kind of fudged myself up on this one as a former pre-diabetic, my margin of err is even smaller than most.

5.  Get Over the Internalized Fat-Phobia

Dallas and Melissa passed out a meal planning template which is also in the book that I must have skimmed when I read the book.  Actually really reading their meal planning template, I had kind of a visceral kick to the gut – holy Batman – that’s a lot of fat.   In my mind.   Right now.  I’d be perfectly happy (well until I quickly died from diabetes) eating nothing but carbohydrates the rest of my life, but eating that much fat horrified me just a bit.  Me, of all people, has internalized fat phobia.  Avocados are going to be making a comeback in my life.

6. Examine if Your Behaviors are Supporting Your Goals

This one resonated deeply with me and I am feeling a little like a stubborn two-year old stomping my good leg over it.  There is no question that long, slow endurance running races do not support my long-term goals and I need to give them up.   The cost/benefit and pain/reward doesn’t pencil out for me anymore.  Its a tough one for me and I’m not quite ready to stop, but I’m getting closer.   There are definitely other behaviors and goals that are misaligned, but having spent half of last week in pain, its the one that I thought about the most.

7.There are Plenty of Common Denominators

My vegan friends and I agree on far more on food than we disagree upon.   The common denominators:

  • Eat whole, real food 
  • Sugar is evil.  Sweeteners are even worse.
  • Your diet should be based mostly on vegetables.  They estimated it at about 60% on veggies and encouraged them at EVERY meal.
  • Animals should be treated with respect and humanely.
  • Whole 30 removes dairy and considers it a food that makes you less healthy.   I’m going to remove it for 30 days, but after the 30 days are over, I’ll re-evaluate it then.  This is the food group that is a sticking point for me.  I’m going to do it, but I make no promises long-term.
  • Avoid consuming chemicals and frankenfoods.
  • Eat to keep your good gut bacteria happy and plenty.
  • You need to cook your own food and plan ahead to make your diet a success in less than ideal situations.

8.  Stay Positive

Perception can equal fact in the brain.   The brain cannot tell the difference between perceived stress and real stress – its both real whether it happens or not.  Its the same with diet and being hard on yourself just takes one down a spiral that leads nowhere good.   ” Using words like “fail”, “faileo”, or “cheat” to describe food choices only contributes to our societal moralization of food, and predisposes to diet-related guilt. Food choices are not moral choices – they are health choices. No guilt, only consequences.” -Melisa Hartwig.   Mind your internal language.

9.  Hit the Reset Every Now and Then

They make a point about the Whole 30 being a reset, being self-experimentation on what works for you, and that its not about it being the Whole 100.  They do a Whole 3 or a Whole 7 when they come back from vacation just to get back on track.  Dallas takes coffee vacations quarterly (another punch in a gut response there of noooo!) just to reset that little stimulant addiction.  Its good to pay attention to take a step back and check-in with yourself again periodically.

I’m traveling for the next two weeks to the mainland, but once I return.   Let the Whole 30 begin.

Cauliflower Rice/Potatoes

I was reading Robb Wolf’s blog Part Deux on low carb diets and some of people’s insanity to make diet their religion. I get it, I truly do.   I struggled to lose weight for decades without success and finding something that works for me makes me want to preach like that alcoholic who just found AA – this is the way!   Well, its not.   Its the way for me.  It works – for me and fundamentally, it probably works for a lot of people.   But people need to find their own path, not be crazy about things, and not think they have found the one true light.   Staying on the lower carb side of the equation for me helps me not be hungry so I don’t eat as much.  Staying on the lower carb side of the equation helps me make decision and have “will power” because there is just so much that is not on the menu to begin with.  But that is just me and I am dysfunctional when it comes to food, so now that I found something that works for me, I’m sticking with it.

Lunch this afternoon with enough leftovers for lunch again tomorrow.   Chicken tenders (salt and pepper and pan fried in coconut oil), green beans from the farmers market, kula tomato, and cauliflower rice.   I do really love cauliflower rice and (gasp) even think its as good as mashed potatoes (the real kind).   Steam a head of cauliflower to the point of getting it soft enough to smash.   In this case, I used the same pan that I had just finished cooking chicken in so it still had that good chicken browning parts in it.   Add a can of chicken broth and let simmer down.   Add a bunch of garlic.   Smashing will depend on if you are going for the rice or the potato look – either way – tastes good.

My family celebrated the end of 2011 and hoped that 2012 would be better since we were pretty sure that if it was more of the same, we all wouldn’t be standing above ground. The number of emergency room visits in 2012 was significantly less although there were still a couple close calls, but Mom is feeling good and holding her own now.

I started out the year being discharged from physical therapy on January 6th. Eleven months later, I completed my first marathon with 4 half marathons in between. Rowed nearly 600,000 meters. Learned how to throw 110 pounds above my head and deadlift 250 – i.e. developed OCD (obsessive Crossfit disorder). Visited 7 states. Saw my baby sister get married to her high school sweetheart. Drank waaaay too much beer with my big brother. Started regular weekly chats with my sister talking crossfit (see OCD above). Climbed around the worlds largest caves with my sister in Kentucky and reflected on the last time we had been there together about 35 years previously. Walked my sister’s first 10k with her on Maui. Cherished spending time with my mother after her difficult year. Tried Zumba and kickboxing with my Cousin and taught another Cousin to SUP. Went Ziplining with a friend I’ve literally known all my life (my mother tells me we were in the nursery together) and reconnected with friends. Its been a full and busy year getting back on my feet and spending time with friends and family.

Here’s hoping for more good times and happiness in 2013.