Strength & Sprints & Satnam


Warning: workout war stories ahead.

As I explained last week, although I’ve been lax about sharing my workouts in my blog, I have been doing the workouts — and thanks to my new good health report card, I’m hitting ’em pretty hard. And loving it! Here’s what I’ve been to, sweat-wise.

Wednesday, March 20: Strength

It’s Week 3 of the Wendler 5/3/1 cycle, which means heavy, heavy, HEAVY and challenging ourselves to be brave with our max reps. Since I started CrossFit in 2008, I’ve had my eye on reaching the 200-pound deadlift milestone. I’ve gotten within spitting distance once or twice, but then something in life has interfered. (I’m looking at you, Frankenneck.)

Last Wednesday, my workout sheet said my final set was at 190# — the other time I attempted 190# was back in 2010 (!) — so I was frexcited.

deadliftIf you’re new to strength training, here’s a great overview of what all the lingo means.

5 @ 75% of max =150#
3 @ 85% of max = 170#
max reps @ 95% of max = 190# – I did 2 — PR!
max reps @ 75% of max = 150# – I did 11.

Next week we start a new cycle which means right before we leave for our trip to Europe, my last set will be 195#. I’ve decided to make a 200# attempt instead because if I don’t, I’ll definitely miss it again. We’re planning to lift heavy while we’re in Europe, but I sincerely doubt we’ll be tackling it with the same level of discipline while on vacation. I’m going for broke before we head off on foreign adventures for six weeks.

Overhead Press
5 @ 75% of max =65#
3 @ 85% of max = 75#
max reps @ 95% of max = 85# – I did 2. Sigh. I might be stuck here. Working on a solution.
max reps @ 75% of max = 65# – I did 7.

2 rounds:
11 front squat @ 65#
11 lat pulldown @ 90#

Handstand: I kicked up against the wall and then carefully, slooooowly moved my feet away from the wall. THREE SECONDS! I did three seconds free standing before I lost it. It’s starting to feel more comfortable.


Thursday, March 21 + Friday, March 22: Kundalini Yoga

I usually go to kundalini yoga two or three times a week, but for the next six weeks, Dave and I are also taking a special meditation class on Thursday nights. It’s 90 minutes devoted to learning new meditations with a focus on healing — both physical and emotional.

Part of our class assignment is an 11-minute meditation on our own at home. The chant is “Hari Ong” (sounds like “huddy ohng”). On “hari,” we pulse our abs and on “ong,” the sound reverberates through the palate. Throughout the meditation, we cross our arms in front to clutch opposite elbows, then hold our arms in that position overhead, letting them rest gently on the back of our heads. The idea is to gently pull the shoulder blades together in back to open up the heart center in the front, while feeling the mantra vibrate through our bodies. And to be annoying. I’m pretty sure the idea is to be annoying.

This is not my favorite mediation that I’ve ever done, but I’m sticking with my homework assignment. As of today, I’m on 14 days of consecutive meditation. (That is a PR.) While I don’t love this meditation, I do love doing meditation on a consistent basis, and there is value in it. It’s still difficult for me to find the words to articulate the benefits, but I feel different. More centered, maybe? As soon as I found the way to explain it, I’ll share.



Saturday, March 23: Hatha Star Yoga

On Saturdays, we go to Hatha Star, which is a slow-ish paced class in which we hold poses like downward dog and lunges, rather than doing them in a flow sequence. Our last class was devoted to twisting: We got to lie on our backs and stretch our legs across our bodies to each side. We stood and twisted to each side. We lunged (LUNGED!) and twisted. And finally, we squatted on a block, hooked our elbows around opposite knee for leverage, and twisted while in a deep squat. Afterward, a bunch of us agreed we felt a little like Batman, crouched on a building top, looking over Gotham. Or something like that.

batman_gotham_by_ErikVonLehmann[kickass Batman art by ErikVonLehman]

Anyway. I didn’t feel like I did anything super awesome in class, but my abs were sore for the NEXT TWO DAYS. So that’s pretty awesome. I love those kind of muscular surprises. Hello, obliques!


Monday, March 25: Sprints

I’ve never been one of those runners that aspires to run long distances uninterrupted; I much prefer the mental and physical break of intervals. Luckily, most fitness pros agree that’s a better way to train, both for cardiovascular fitness and body composition. But since my adrenal/thyroid meltdown, my intervals have been pretty gentle. The running segments varied from one to three minutes with equal walking recovery time. But now that I’m cleared for takeoff, I’m adding a sprint workout every week.

This week, it was 20-second sprints with a 1:20 recovery walk; that’s a 1:4 ratio. Generally speaking, to move from the realm of intervals to true high-intensity interval training, a.k.a., HIIT, the work segment should be short enough to go all out and the work to recovery ratio can be 1:1, 1:2, 1:3, or 1:4. Since I’m trying to be smart about easing into high-intensity workouts, I took the longer recovery option.

Anyhoodle. I did 11 rounds and WOOT! my legs were toast right around number 8, and those last few were barn-burners. I always run around the lake, so sometimes there were big rocks that I had to jump on during my sprint, and there were little inclines, and at one point, I stopped to do 10 pushups. It was delightful and difficult. When the intervals were done, I finished my lap around the lake with mostly walking and a few 1:00 bouts of easy (EASY) jogging, just ’cause I felt like it.

Then: BONUS! I kicked up into a handstand against a tree (!) and managed a 3- second free-standing handstand. No lie, friends, I was really scared to try kicking up against the tree. I have no idea why because it was big and wide and probably more stable than the wall at the craptastic gym. But I was feeling like a chicken liver. But I did it anyway. And it was awesome.

Tuesday, March 26: Strength

I’m still doing my back squats with a med ball under my butt, and dang! it’s still super hard… but in that really good way. I’m also enjoying — where “enjoying” means “whimpering and wishing for it to stop” the volume work I added a few weeks ago. Max reps at 65-75% of max is no joke. LOVE the jelly legs!

Back squat
5 @ 75% of max =115#
3 @ 85% of max = 130#
max reps @ 95% of max = 145# – I did 4.
max reps @ 75% of max = 115# – I did 11.

Next week, it’s time for a new cycle, and I’m on the fence about whether I’m ready to increase my weight. I didn’t quite touch my butt to the ball on my last set today — but that was wimpiness not lack of strength. I have two options: (1) increase my weight as planned and pinkie-swear to myself that I will make it all the way down to the ball with the increased weight; or (2) give myself a month of remedial work. I haven’t made the decision yet; increasing the weight without good form is Cheating at Solitaire.

Bench Press
5 @ 75% of max =90#
3 @ 85% of max = 100#
max reps @ 95% of max = 110# – I did 2. (This is a tie with my workout on 1/25.)
max reps @ 75% of max = 95# – I did 7.

3 rounds:
11 front squat @ 55#
11 overhead press @ 55#


Wednesday, March 27: Walk

Look at me, learning from past mistakes! Instead of grinding myself into the ground with another pedal-to-the-metal, Gretal workout on Wednesday, I took a leisurely stroll around the lake with a friend. (Hi, Danielle!)

What kind of mischief have you been getting up to?

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  • Lydia says:

    This is one of the most happy-making posts in the history of ever.

  • MC says:

    Ooh, if you figure out a solution to the “stuck at same weight on shoulder press” issue, please share!

    I’ve been at the same max for more than 2 years. Most other lifts getting stronger; press is unchanged!

  • Emily says:

    Woot to the handstands! I need to start working on mine again. I could do them a million years ago when I was young and spry … now I just have to work on doing them while being old and spry! 🙂

  • Sandi says:

    Solution to the shoulder press: the suggestion from Justin over at was to either 1) go to doubles or singles, meaning that instead of 3×3 at 95%, do 1×3 @95% OR 2) add in a push press workout once a week. You can push press approx. 30% more weight than a strict press so you can do a simple 3×5 Push press workout with ascending weight. That way you are pressing more weight over head and getting stronger. You should see an improvement in your strict press.
    I went with option #2 and it worked but then i got preggers so i had to scale back 😉

  • Cathy M says:

    Here’s a link to an article from Lift Big Eat Big that might give you something to chew on in the back squat dilema…

  • Stompy says:

    Go for the deadlift! You have totally got that!

  • NJ Paleo says:

    You and I are both right there with the deadlift! I’m finishing my Wendler cycle this week and got up to 3 x 185. Will be tackling 195 on the next cycle, and hopefully in May I’ll be across the 200 hurdle…..maybe we’ll both hit it around the same time!

    I’m the opposite with you regarding sprints. I am a long distance runner, and I force myself to do sprints for speed workouts. Hate them. Love them when they’re over and when I’m running faster in a race, but hate them during!

    Great workouts!