Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Snow Walking VS Snow Driving

There's been a lot of snow in Boise over the last few weeks. It started, charmingly, on the day before Christmas Eve and proceeded to record-breaking levels of accumulation and near-record low temperatures in the first week of the new year. Through it all, I got myself to Crossfit, with the trudge through the snow working adequately as a warm-up - at least on the days that weren't below 0.

One of the things I like best about my Crossfit box is that I live about a quarter mile away. It's easy to walk there, which means I never need to worry about parking and I have an opportunity for pre-warm-up warm ups and post-cool-down cool downs. I don't know that I'd go as often if I had to drive any significant distance. Being close motivates me. I have no excuse not to get over there.

I consider walking through the snow to be easier and safer than driving through it. I have more control over 2 feet and 145 pounds than 4 wheels and 2 tons - and if I fall, I affect only myself, not my expensive vehicle or other people or their expensive vehicles. The main thing that I change to get to Crossfit with snow on the ground is that I wear boots for the walk there and back and change into my gym shoes. Added bonus: saves wear on my gym shoes.

I have to admire far more the people who drove their cars through the messy wreck of our streets to get their workouts in. This kind of snow wouldn't be a big deal in Chicago, because it falls within normal parameters. Their fleets of plows and salt trucks would have handled it. Here in Boise, the yearly snow removal budget was spent by January 4th. The streets were not pretty last week. Deep snow compressed into ruts - high clearance required. Snow plows on the main streets exacerbated the problems on the side streets by piling the snow against them. There are still side streets that haven't been plowed, not even to clear the artificial berms.

But whether we walked or drove, a whole bunch of people were committed enough to come in through Boise's Snowmaggedon and Floodpocalypse. Others did Driveway Shoveling for Time instead. I'm happy to be a part of that community.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

New Years Goals

It's a new year, but I have the same goal. Well, not the exact same goal from last year. Last year at this time I was still working on my first pull up. Now I'm working on volume. I want to be able to do 5 strict pull ups in a row without dropping from the bar.

From everything I've read, increasing volume is all about doing pull ups throughout the day, but I don't have a bar. I'm looking at different ways to improvise, but it might have to wait until the weather is warm enough to use the outdoor gym near work. It isn't a perfect solution, since the grass gets overwatered in the spring and summer, making the ground muddy under the bar, and it's a pretty long walk from my office to there. But if I'm serious about volume, then I need to buckle down and find a way.

I suppose I do have another goal - a 100 mile solo hike through the deserts of Southern Idaho on the Idaho Centennial Trail. That trip is tentatively planned for late April, so the next Hike with Me book should be out in plenty of time for next Christmas (unlike the current one which isn't quite ready yet). I've never hiked in the desert before. From what I've read, I'll need to cache water and carry water, though spring will be a better time of year to tackle it than summer.

And I want to be generally fitter - not thinner or lighter necessarily, but more able. Able to bust out 100 miles in 5 days under pack. Able to lift heavier weights over my head. Able to accomplish more gymnastic feats on the bar. Able to push my body farther than I ever thought it could go.

I once overheard someone at Crossfit talk about how they felt it was overly dramatic when people collapsed to the floor after a workout. As someone who frequently makes sweat angels by collapsing after a workout, I took a bit of offense, although I didn't say anything. This person can lift heavier than I can, run faster and has more aerobic capacity. But maybe, just maybe, I push myself harder. To me, if I don't collapse to the floor after a workout, then I've still got energy left that I should have spent on the exercise. If my heart isn't pounding in my ears and my lungs aren't begging for mercy, then I haven't done the job I came to do.

There's always a little harder to push, and every time I push I have the chance to extend myself that little bit more. I don't always notice improvement because I can always make things more difficult for myself. So the last goal will be to take notice of improvements and not let myself forget how amazing what I can do really is.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Christmas Hike

I always want it to snow in the winter. I hold treasured memories of snow days from growing up in the suburbs of Chicago. But Boise is typically mild in the valley. Those who want snow must seek it in the mountains and ski basins - for the most part.

This year, the snow began falling on 12/23, kept falling through 12/24 and gave us a perfectly white, and sunny, Christmas day. Of course I had to go play in it!

My husband and I agreed to go for a walk in the afternoon. We would head towards the golf course by way of the Greenbelt and maybe go up towards Table Rock. Because we weren't taking a good deal of supplies, the farthest we would go would be a point 2 miles from home for a 4 mile round trip - max.

A winter wonderland awaited right outside our apartment door. 

Someone (me) made a snow angel on Christmas Eve day. 

Sure, we could have walked in the street and avoided post-holing on the sidewalk, but where would the adventure be in that? Besides, we were kitted out for snow and snow we would have! 

The Greenbelt had tracks from skis and fat tire bikes. 

Geese and ducks gathered in the water near the water treatment plant.

Table Rock looms over the golf course which was closed for golfing, but we saw skiers making tracks across it. 

Houses up on the foothills are nearly covered in misty clouds. 

I wanted to hike all the way up to Table Rock. Kind of. But only if we had brought water. 

I liked how icicles dripped from the tree's needles. 

This bench gives a good indication of how much snow we really got. A lot! 

Those little yellow flags mark the holes on the putting green. 

Ambrose makes his way up the trail slow and steady. 

At last! A bird held still enough for me to take his portrait. A robin, I think. 

Climbing the snowy trail in the icy air gave me a feeling of pure joy. Every breath was exhilarating. Even though every step was difficult, even though the wind bit at my exposed skin, being out there and exerting myself was perfect.  

Yeah, we went up there.

I was getting closer to the plateau where we'd have to stop. 

The wind was getting stronger and colder the higher I climbed. 

Since I knew the point of return would be exposed and windy, I took shelter in the lee of a large boulder and waited for Ambrose to gain on me. There, I watched snowmelt drip off of the rock and managed to capture it just before it fell. 

I thought the orange flags marked the trail, but then I started to see them "everywhere."

I could see hardier souls than us on top of Table Rock. Although, to be fair, they could have driven up there, if their vehicles were up for it. There is a paved road up there, after all. 

Ambrose is almost to the plateau! 

He made it and I got him to take a picture of me. The down jacket and down balaclava were a little too heavy for walking on the Greenbelt, but for being up there in the wind they were barely warmth enough. 

I think I'm getting better at taking pictures of us with the camera - this was my first try :)
Going downhill, Ambrose kept pace with me. 

Here, he demonstrates the depth of the snow. 

We're almost back to the flats of the Greenbelt. I have reached the point where I can't wait to get home and shower. 

And yet, I found it in myself to take the time to climb the golf course parking lot's snow plow pile. 

Ambrose walked in the street on our last stretch home, but I stubbornly stayed on the snowy sidewalk. 
He told me that he liked being on the street because he was ahead of me. And it was true, I couldn't keep pace with him. My feet sunk into the snow and slipped and slid while he ambled on.

But I wasn't about to let that stop me.

With only a couple blocks to go before home, I started to run through the snow. I half ran, half leaped through the snow, gaining on him. When I reached the shoveled sidewalk in front of an apartment complex, I gained yet more. And then I hit one more patch of snow and went for it. I was breathing so heavy I was sure he could hear me coming; he said he heard my footsteps on the clear patch of sidewalk. But it was through snow that I drew even to him, and then passed him, heaving for breath and very satisfied.

Despite not feeling very cold while I was walking, once I got into that hot shower, I realized that our 3 hour hike had left me colder than I realized as my skin burned at the warmth.

But I still can't wait to do it again.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Three Years of Crossfit

Just over three years ago, I tried Crossfit for the first time. At the time, I couldn't afford more than 1 month of classes, but I went every day that I could and blogged about it here. After that first 30 days, I was hooked.

I couldn't afford to go back right away, but I saved up and bought ten punch passes, using them for one or two classes a week to stretch them out enough so I could buy more. Last March, my finances were finally at a point where I could afford the monthly membership.

Because of how much the classes cost, I held them dear. I strove to make it to at least 10 classes a month, so that I would be meeting or exceeding what I could have done with a 10 punch pass. I averaged 3 classes a week from the end of March through July. August was different, because I had two full week backpacking trips that took a bite out of my availability. But in September I got back into the swing of things, and then the Nutrition challenge happened in mid-October.

Part of the Nutrition challenge was to workout as frequently as possible, to aid with the weight loss. So I focused on going to 5 or 6 classes a week and made that goal in the 30 days of the challenge.

Since then, I've dropped back to a mere 4 classes per week, on average. I've been meaning to do 5, but I can't seem to reconcile going on Sunday, waiting for my husband to get back from the gym and then going to the gym myself to do my pull up workout. So I just go to the gym with my husband to get my pull up workout done.

To be honest, I only knew it was 3 years because Arbor Crossfit emailed me about it. I hadn't been thinking about it. But, looking back, I'm proud of the progress that I've made. I can do a pull up. My weight lifting technique has improved. I know more names than I used to. I still scale a lot of movements and weights, but that's part of the beauty of Crossfit. I can scale any workout to a place that pushes me; I can work my hardest without breaking myself. And who knows where I'll be in another 3 years if I keep at it.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Fitness Progress

Yesterday at Crossfit, we did one of the Open workouts. 14.4 to be exact. The last time I had tried that workout was in February of 2015. It was just before the Open, and we were practicing for it. Practicing for the Open meant pairing up and taking turns doing the workout and judging each other. I happened to be paired with one of the most athletic women there.

The workout is simple enough. 60 calorie row, 50 toes to bar, 40 wallballs (14 lbs for women), 30 cleans (95 lbs for women), 20 muscle ups. As many rounds as possible of those exercises in 14 minutes.

Back in February 2015, that did not go very well for me.

I got through the 60 calorie row. It took me a while, but I did it.

And then I spent the rest of the time desperately trying to do even a single toes to bar.

I got close several times, whiffing the bar with one shoe, but not both. I kept trying, even as it became obvious that my body was not ready for that movement. The spirit was willing, but the flesh was weak.

I was so frustrated that day. I didn't feel like I had gotten a good workout, because I spent most of my time not doing toes to bar. I was practically in tears by the time I walked home, and I was certain that I wouldn't be participating in the Open.

But I spoke to other people who, like me, couldn't do toes to bar (some of them had wisely just scaled the damn movement). And I was convinced that, because in 2015 there would be scaling options for the Open, that I could give it a try.

I did, and I enjoyed it.

When I saw this workout posted last night, I was excited. There have been a couple workouts in the last few weeks involving toes to bar, and I knew I could do them. I wasn't entirely sure about 50 in a row in the time frame, but I could start them. I could beat my last attempt for sure.

We didn't do it as a judged workout this time. Everyone judged themselves. I set up for the wallballs and the cleans, both with scaled weights (12 lbs and 55 lbs), but I didn't bother to put much thought into what I would do instead of muscle ups. My focus was on conquering those toes to bar.

I took a slow and steady approach to the row, trying to keep my calories per hour above 800 and my stroke rate below 27. I surprised myself by not finishing last and headed over to the bar.

In mostly sets of 5, I worked my way slowly through 50 toes to bar. The only sets that weren't 5 were the last 2. My toes missed the bar on rep number 49. I hit on the next one and dropped, leaving me still at 49. I had to hop up one last time to finish, despite the pain in my hands that grew worse with each rep.

There was less than a minute to go; I had no hope of completing 40 wallballs no matter how light I went. So I went rogue and borrowed someone else's rx weight wallball (14 lbs), because she was busy doing the cleans and wouldn't need it. I got in 6 reps. And since I didn't make it to the movements that I couldn't do at rx (the cleans would have been difficult and the muscle ups impossible), my workout was rx.

50 toes to bar. From 0 about 20 months ago. Progress can be slow. It can go in fits and starts. But I am making progress.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016


My husband thinks I've reached a plateau on my pull ups. I don't think he's wrong, but I'm not sure what to do about it. As soon as I could do a pull up, that was awesome, but I wanted to be able to do more than 1, and to keep being able to do them.

I kept doing the workout that led me to being able to do 1, but backpacking season reduced my opportunities to workout at a gym. I ended up with a very sporadic rate of working out, completely unlike the serious, focused effort that led to number 1.

Between coming down with colds, school work and other challenges, I haven't been able to regain that focused effort on my pull up workouts until the last two weeks or so. I'm hoping that if I can get back into the swing of things, I'll be able to start seeing some improvement again, but I might not.

From the research I've done, the best way to train to do more pull ups is to do pull ups, but I don't have a pull up bar handy at home or at work. I do them when I go to the gym (3 days a week if I keep up with my workout schedule), when I go to Crossfit (4 days a week, after the workout if that day's WOD doesn't include them), and when I go grocery shopping at Winco (their cart returns are a little short, but completely workable for pull ups). 2 of the gym days overlap with the Crossfit days and I only go shopping once every 2 weeks, so that's really not enough.

I'm hoping that if I refocus on the pull up workout, and get consistent again, that my reps will increase, but I have to face the possibility that I might be reaching a plateau with that method. If I have another opportunity to attend a workshop on pull ups, then I will; I might even look outside of my normal sources to find one. But I have a hard time believing that any program will tell me much that I don't already know.

Do more pull ups!

Or lose weight... The weight loss from the nutrition challenge did seem to make the movement easier, but it also left me extra exhausted so it was hard to figure out if I had actually gotten a net benefit when it came to pull ups.

I really want to be able to do 5 pull ups in a row without dropping from the bar. And I want to be able to do more kipping pull ups without dropping. And world peace. That's not so much to ask, is it?

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

30 Day Nutrition Challenge

I, and to an extent, my husband, took a nutrition challenge recently. We changed our eating habits entirely, and I also tried to track my caloric intake and make sure I got close to getting my calories from 10% or less of carbs, 60% fat and 30% protein, give or take.

On the one hand, this meant being able to eat bacon and eggs, all kinds of meats. On the other hand, it meant cutting out bread altogether along with just about anything with added sugar. We also cut out most fruits and took care with the vegetables to limit carbs.

We both lost weight over the 30 days. I proved to myself that I could indeed cut all those delicious little candy treats out of my life and survive. No candy, no donuts, no pumpkin muffins with cream cheese icing that my director brought in on the first day, no cupcakes at the office Halloween party, no Halloween candy, no party cake, no bread, no crackers, no chips. I can do that. For at least 30 days.

By the time the diet ended, I had stopped craving sweets, but I still craved bread, crackers and rice. I dreamed about pasta.

But each day that I succeeded gave me the strength I needed to get through the next one. I know I can't maintain that kind of diet indefinitely, partly because I'm pretty sure my doctor would have a conniption fit if she knew how much cholesterol I was consuming, and partly because my discipline in avoiding carbs only stretches so far.

I haven't weighed myself since the challenge ended. It isn't so much that I'm afraid to know how much I've gained back, though that's part of it. Mostly, I don't have a desire to obsess over my weight at the moment. I am happy with going about my exercise routines and knowing that I can lose weight if I put in the effort.

The diet was a marathon in my fitness journey; a long period of focused effort. But it was not the entirety of my journey. That experiment has ended; the journey continues.