Strength Monday 1/14/13 (w/ Bonus Handstands)

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In my quest for lean superhero-ness, I’m following the Wendler 5/3/1 strength training program. Twice a week, Dave and I are hitting the craptastic gym in our Converse to lift heavy and crank through a mini-metcon.

2013: The Year of Pullups and Handstands

In honor of my “You Are Here” intention, I’m not setting goals around pullups and handstands. Instead, just like I do with yoga and meditation, I’m practicing them. Twice a week. Slow, steady, and potentially uninspired some days, but committed.

I think that’s kinda neat.

What it means in practical terms is that after my strength training workouts, I’m going to do deadhang pullups (with a band to start, but I hope I hope I hope I hope I hope without a band at some yet-to-be-determined date in the future) and handstands (against the wall, but I hope I hope I hope I hope I hope I hope all on my own at some yet-to-be-determined date in the future).

I started today. Gold star.

(In case you’re kinda new around here… this post is all about the day I learned to kick up into a handstand… for the first time EVER… at the age of 42.)

5:00 treadmill: started at 3mph and increased speed every minute til I was jogging

2 rounds:
11 jumping jacks
11 air squats
11 lateral hops
11 front-back hops

static squat hold/ankle stretch
cat/cow + downward dog
hip & shoulder mobility


3 @ 70% of max =135#
3 @ 80% of max = 150#
max reps @ 90% of max = 170# – I did 6.
Whew! The weight felt Heavy today, but WOOT! That’s more than body weight, so I’m content with that.

Overhead Press:
3 @ 70% of max =60#
3 @ 80% of max = 70#
max reps @ 90% of max = 80# – I did 3.
My ego really wanted 4 reps this morning, but my body only delivered 3. Still, that’s really close to my all-time max, so I’ll take it.


I planned to do a metcon cashout today (21-15-9 deadlift + burpees), but I was feeling tired, so I decided to go for a long walk this afternoon instead. I think this is what’s known as “smart thinkin,” but it’s still new to me so I’m not quite sure. What the ego wants (“Hardcore workout every day! WOOT!”) is not necessarily what’s best for the rest of my body.


2 X 5 deadhang pullups with a band
1:45 wall handstands
I got my feet even farther away from the wall this morning than on Friday… so far, in fact, that I started to teeter-totter back toward the floor. That is HUGE progress for me because I didn’t panic. I held my core tight and just felt what it felt like to be upside down and NOT TOUCHING THE WALL FOR A SECOND OHMYGOD. It was cool.

Handstand Evidence photo

Monday Strength 4/15/13

In my quest for lean superhero-ness, I'm following the Wendler 5/3/1 strength training program. Twice a week, Dave and I are hitting the craptastic gym...

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Strength Wednesday 4/3/12 (w/ Bonus Arm Noodles)

In my quest for lean superhero-ness, I'm following the Wendler 5/3/1 strength training program. Twice a week, Dave and I are hitting the craptastic gym...

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  • Carina says:

    You are amazing and inspiring!! Great job committing to the pull ups and handstands.
    My goal is to do 5 unassisted pull ups, I can do 1.5 right now.

    Btw.. I made your cocoa cauliflower yesterday and had to put the bowl down and walk away. I want it to be for today too. Soooo delicious and simple. 🙂

    • Mel says:

      I’m so excited for you (and envious) that you can do a pullup. That is totally badass.

      Glad you like the cocoa cauliflower! YAY!

  • Melissa says:

    I really want to be able to do unassisted pull-ups. Right now I need the helper at the gym. I had to back off in the fall, because my rotator cuff was bothering me 🙁

    I need to get on the handstand bandwagon

  • Cathy M says:

    The CrossFit gym I go to programmed handstands last week, either free standig or kicking up against the wall, and then a scaling option of wall climbs instead. I’ve never kicked up into a handstand ever in my life, but I really wanted to. I was so frexcited! And I tried it, and managed probably about 10 really good ones, and a few more that were really close. And I kept flashing to your post about how excited you were to finally convince yourself to do it.

    Here’s to handstand and pullup practice in 2013!

    • Mel says:

      Kicking up *still* gives me a thrill, though it’s starting to get a little more comfortable. My next thing to work on is walking up the wall backwards — some handstand experts say that THAT’s the say to really learn to do them free standing. We’ll see…

      Congratulations on kicking up last week. That is TOTALLY BADASS!

  • Vee says:

    Thanks Mel, knowing you are “practicing” handstands and pullups has make me reset my mind. Instead of setting a goal that at this time is not happening I am going to start practicing too. I am not setting myself up to fail! Whew that takes the pressure off.

  • Lynne says:

    Hi Mel, love your blog and your book, this is the first time I have commented though – handstand fear is very close to my heart!!

    I am so jealous of everyone that can kick up into handstands. I have been trying for a couple of years now and just can’t seem to get past the ‘I don’t want to be upside down’ fear, and then the panicking when I get there. But your post has inspired me to just keep chipping away – hopefully just doing them all the time will start to make it less scary.

    But on the upside, I can do 13 x dead hang pull ups in a row! The day you get your first dead-hang is a very exciting day!!! I still remember it, although it was quite a few years ago now. Just keep going and it will happen…and once you get one it seems to be a bit easier to up the numbers.

    • Mel says:

      THIRTEEN pullups?! That is gorgeous. Right f’ing on.

      I promise you, getting a handstand will ultimately be more manageable than the pullups. For real. The way I was able to calm my fear was to start with my hands in position on the floor, knees bent, feet on the floor, then I just kicked like a mo-fo to get my feet up and let my body crash into the wall. Once I learned it didn’t hurt to crash into the wall, I thought of the wall as my friend. Just AIM FOR THE WALL and it will all be OK.

      A technical tip: Really lock out your arms overhead. TIGHT! Abs in super tight. Arms straight like steel rods. That makes a HUGE difference.

  • Stompy says:

    Big ‘Ol Congrats! Handstands can be so tricky, I’ve managed to kick up a few times, but def prefer doing the walking up the wall thing. Pull-up practice really works! I’m taking the same approach as you with those & just graduated down(up?) to the skinnier band. Woohoo girls doing pull-ups!

  • Pam says:

    Hi Mel, I’ve been following your blog for a while and love, love, love all your recipes. i felt compelled to comment today, because I did my first ever unassisted dead hang pull-up today! At age 53 I’m feeling pretty proud of myself. Handstands are another story. I get vertigo really easily, so I try not to go upside-down. Maybe someday. Keep up the great work, I’m looking forward to Wellfed 2!!!

    • Mel says:

      CONGRATULATIONS! You must feel like a million bucks. RIGHT ON! I hope you celebrated somehow!

      I’m looking forward to Well Fed 2, too 😉

  • Liz N. says:

    Congratulations on your commitment to dead hang pull ups and handstands. I have the same goals this year. I have been toying with the idea of improving strength using the Wendler principles and it’s been great following your journey. After losing 30 lbs recently and eating Paleo consistently for several months, my strength has decreased about 30% and it’s been a source of frustration. Have you found that the Wendler 5-3-1 has helped improve your strength?

    • Mel says:

      I’ve been following Wendler for a year, and when I do it consistently, my strength steadily increases. The thing about the program is that it takes away any AHA! moments. You just slowly, steadily increased the weight you’re lifting, so there are now fireworks-worthy jumps in your PR. Instead, if you follow the program and do it consistently, you pretty much increase your lower body lifts by 5-10lbs. per month and upper body by 2.5-5lbs. per month.

  • NJ Paleo says:

    I love reading about your strength workouts. I just started the Wendler 5-3-1 program too, and I’m interested in seeing how well it goes for me — it seems to be working for you!

    And funny — I too did my first kick up into handstand at 42! I don’t like being upside down, so that was a big feat.

    What kills me is that my almost-13-year-old daughter can do 3 unassisted pullups with no problem, whereas it’s a struggle for me to do 2! (But yay that my kid is fit!)

  • Britt says:

    Hi Mel, I’ve been reading your blog for awhile, and just wanted to finally leave a comment to thank you for all the time, effort, and amazing recipes you put into making this info available. I stumbled on your blog 6 months ago after being diagnosed with thyroid disease, chronic fatigue, and adrenal fatigue, and being told (at 22 years old) that I was going to be tired and sick for the rest of my life. Reading your story inspired me to start transitioning toward a paleo lifestyle and, even though healing is slow, all my disease markers and blood tests are better than my doctors ever expected. I’m preparing to start on my first Whole30 tomorrow, and am excited to finally slay the sugar (and in my case, dairy) dragon! I just want to say thank you for doing what you do…it is helping me get back a quality of life I never expected to have!

    • Mel says:

      Britt! Thank you so much for posting… I’m so glad to learn that you didn’t listen to the dire news from your doctors and transitioned to Paleo. Good for you!

      Congratulations on taking on the Whole30. Please hit me in email if you have any questions or need support!

      Your comments totally made a giant lump in my throat, so thanks for that 🙂 Wishing you all the best!

  • angela says:

    I’m right there with you on the pull-ups. I’ve been going to my Crossfit gym for 2 1/2 years, and this ability still escapes me. Drives me nuts! I have gotten one, almost 2, but that’s as far as I’ve ever gone. On the morning of Jan 1, I wrote a list of my resolutions. The pull-up and the rope climb are on my list for 2013. My husband, who is also lacking the inherent pull-up gene, tells people we are “jumpers”, not “climbers”. We jump off cliffs, boats, walls, whatever. But climbing is the elusive skill… Weirdly, it must skip a generation because all three of our boys are rock stars at pull-ups and never fail to remind us. Keep up the strong work, and hopefully this is our magical pull-up year!

  • De23 says:

    WOOOOOT! for handstands!!! I’ve found one of the advantages of my new job (which I hate) is that when I get to the gym I’m so angry and frustrated that I tackle WODs and skill work with abandon. I’m starting to inch away from the wall on handstands, have got the 20″ box jump mojo going on, and on Saturday I did 10 (TEN!!!) double unders in a row without adding singles in between. Pullups are still a struggle — I need to work on them more consistently. Thanks for the inspiration! I think my very first handstand kickup was due to your post about yours.

    • Mel says:

      Congratulations on getting the double unders! What’s funny is that the day I finally got them without singles in between, it was because my coach was yelling at me, “Get mad!” It made me spin the rope really aggressively… which made it finally go fast enough to get around twice. HA!

      Congrats on the handstand, too. Glad to know my post helped a teeny bit 🙂

  • AHKeatley says:

    Hi Mel,

    I started my Whole 30 on Jan 7th. I did not give up dairy until Jan 15 so I plan to do 45 full days…just to prove to myself I can do it. Anyways, I love your cookbook and made, The Best Chicken Ever, Almond Green Beans, and Mashed Cauliflower. I also made the Berries with Coconut Cream as a dessert. My husband and mom loved my meal and it was soooooo good. I had leftovers today for lunch!!!

    I have three goals for 2013 regarding my fitness. To be able to do full kipping pull-ups Rx for any WOD and to do real, head to the mat handstand push ups. I can do about 5 unassisted kipping pullups before I have to drop. It would be awesome to get one dead hang before the year is over.

    I have to say the fact that I am posting on your blog about good, healthy food and fitness is a bit surreal to me. In 2005, I weighed about 270 lbs and today weigh 162, with CrossFit becoming apart of my journey in 2010. It’s amazing to be able to do things you never thought possible and have the confidence to dream bigger.

    • Mel says:

      Congratulations to you! I hope you celebrate your success every day — that is SO beautiful. I love your goals for 2013, and I’m excited for your Whole45. Right on! Thanks for sharing your inspiration with all of us.