Monthly Archives: May 2009

Recuperation and Recovery

Sunday morning with coffee, the New York Times, and conversation with Yael and cousin Amiyah. What am I writing here for? No plans, no workouts, no agenda. Go outside and enjoy the sun. Lie on a couch. Read something interesting. Plan for the week ahead. Fold laundry. Whatever. Life is good.

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PUC Day 23. CFA Teamwork WOD. Rafting the Pigeon.

Sleep was long (9:30 pm to 6:30 am) but interrupted about 3-4 times by Lena, including a 3:00 am nightmare, which brought her into our bed for 40 minutes. Food was adequate yesterday, and my choices were, on the whole, good. So I feel good this morning. Coffee, milk, 1 block breakfast, etc.

Pull-Up Challenge Day 23

I decided to do the Pull-Up Challenge first. 23 reps today. So I set my watch to a 75 second interval, and determined to do the whole group of 23 in a series of short sets spaced at 1:15 intervals. It would be 1 set every 75 seconds, first 1 set of 3, then 10 more sets of 2, for a total of 11 sets. This process worked well. On sets 9 & 11, front grip sets, I began to feel fatigue which made me worry I wouldn’t complete the second rep, but I got them. Reverse grip remains stronger than front grip.

Reps #1-23: done in 11 sets (1×3, 10×2), alternating grips, performed one set per 1:15, total time: 12:45. From 6:58 to 7:11 am.

After breakfast and more coffee, I headed to the CrossFit Asheville 9:00 Saturday workout.


Agility drills warm-up. Sampson. Hip mobility. Calf/Hamstring stretches. Overhead squats, Shotguns, Supermans, Hindu Pushups

WOD: Teamwork: Weighted Run, Tire Flip, Pull-Ups, Burpees, Kettlebells

3 Rounds for time of:
200m 45lbs overhead bar run
10 tire flips
20 pull-ups
20 burpees
30 Kettlebell swings

To be completed by teams of two. Work together to hold the bar overhead for the run and teams may work together for the tire flip, but for the remaining exercises only one person works at a time while the other rests.

My partner was Mike Peterson. Results: 23:48, 45# kettlebell.

It was a whole lot of fun, a good sweat. The workout was followed by a bit of playing around with rings and other stuff.

Rafting the Pigeon River

Yael’s cousin Amiya is in town from London, UK, for a few days, and had the brilliant plan to go whitewater rafting. I am a fan of this sort of thing, so I said, “heck yeah, I’m coming with you!”

We went on a half-day trip on the Pigeon River with Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC) and had quite a blast. Our guides, Charlie and Chris, were complete sweethearts, and the Pigeon half-day, with class II-IV rapids, was a fine couple of hours on the river. Highly recommended.

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Squat Clean. PUC Days 21 & 22.

Didn’t get enough sleep, but still feeling quite ready for the workout after yesterday’s good and moderate eating and restful activity level. I had a very small, less than 1/4 block, snack and coffee, and went to the 6:00 am CrossFit Asheville workout, without knowing beforehand what it would be.

Warm Up

Agility drills. Shoulder openers. Sampson stretch & hip openers. Calf and ham stretching. 1 round of: Hindu Pushups, Overhead Squats w/ PVC pipe, Shotguns, and Supermans (10 reps each).

WOD: Squat Cleans

Squat Clean:
Step I: find your 1 rep max
Step II: take 80% of you 1 rep max and complete 1 squat clean approximately every minute for 5 minutes.

in pounds
One rep each of: 45 / 65 / 75 / 95 / 105 / 115 / 120 / 125/ 130
One rep every minute at 80% of max: 105 / 105 / 105 / 105 / 105

Pull-Up Challenge: Days 21 & 22

For reasons of fatigue, etc., I skipped day 21 on Wednesday, and then took my regularly scheduled rest day on Thursday. So the plan is to complete the reps from Wednesday (Day 21), and today, Friday (Day 22) all today. Or to get as many of the 43 as are practical today. Tomorrow will be day 23, and Sunday will be taken off.
Reps #1-2: 7:10 am. Front Grip. At the gym.
Reps #3-4: 7:12 am. Reverse Grip. At the gym.
Rep #5: 7:13 am. Front grip. At the gym.
Rep #6: 7:14 am. Reverse grip. At the gym.
Rep #7: 12:45 pm. Front grip. At home.
Reps #8-30: 23 reps in 22 minutes, one every minute on the minute, from 1:48 pm to 2:10 pm. Alternating grips.
I was going to do all 36 remaining for the day in a series, but my daughter “woke up early from her nap,” so to speak. (You don’t want to know, but let me say only that it involves poop and an angry spouse).
Reps #31-43: 13 reps in 12 minutes, from 2:56-3:08 pm. Alternating grips.

This method, of using a stopwatch and doing a fixed number of reps at fixed intervals, proved to be a really good strategy for completing a lot of reps relatively quickly. I plan to use variations of it again in the future. For instance, tomorrow, I will do my 23 reps in 1 set of 3 followed immediately by 10 sets of 2 executed at 75 second intervals, so that the entire thing will take only 12.5 minutes! I am confident I can do it.

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Contemplating Intentionality and the Divided Subject

I’m not feeling great this morning.

Yesterday I was feeling over-tired and deflated. Then — this may be related — I lapsed in my self-control, and overdid it with food and drink. Around 5:00 pm, I began a binge. I ate way too many calories in too short a period at the end of the day: almost half the day’s calories (1305/2658) were between 7:45 pm and 9:30 pm. This process started with a shot of tequila, which was followed an hour later by half of a second shot (it would have been more but I spilled half of the second shot). Dinner was filling chicken and root veggies, and during dinner, I drank about 10 oz. of wine. Then I ate “dessert” right after dinner (it was, comparatively, a friendly dessert of watermelon, cheese, and 2 very small raw and organic chocolate truffles, but still, it was too much).

Of course, it’s almost a joke to call this “overdoing,” when I compare this kind of “binge” to the real binging I know I can do. I have years of experience with eating and drinking over 3700 calories per day. Many times have I downed massive hunks of meat with bread, chips, pasta, potatoes, and gooey cheese, stuffed myself with countless quantities of Oreos and ice cream, and swilled great vessels of booze. So compared to these times I have to admit that I remain comparatively “in control.”

But it’s like the apostle Paul says: “I know and am persuaded … that nothing is unclean in itself; but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. […] …whatever does not proceed from faith is sin” (Rom 14:14 & 23). For me, I realize that yesterday my awareness was blunted. I lost the sense of being “intentional,” or using my “will” or “control” in eating and drinking. In this sense, my behavior did not proceed from “faith,” and hence, today I feel regret.

Every gain I have made in the past six months has come through being intentional. In my life, I moved away from a long period where either my behaviors lay almost entirely outside of “intention,” or they were the result of a war of conscious and unconscious intentions, and into a life where I suddenly felt in control. I had been experiencing my life as a series of blurry days where I didn’t consciously choose my behaviors. But I found will-power.

After yesterday, at first I worried that I’d lost it. I remember a time when I could not achieve my best intentions, or they were actively and rudely interrupted by my worst.

In his recent book on the apostle Paul, atheist philosopher Alain Badiou points out that the apostle Paul may have intuited this existential dilemma 2000 years ago (see Saint Paul: The Foundation of Universalism). Paul also regarded the subject as being a divided structure: our being is divided between an impulse towards death, which comes from something he called “flesh” (although this is for him not the physical body so much as it is our socio-historical being outside of Christ) and an impulse towards life from what he called “spirit” (which is for Paul the transcendent, God-given part of our being). As he puts it: “the intention [Gk: phronema] of the flesh is death, [but] the intention of the spirit is life and peace” (Rom 8:6, my translation; I owe my citation of this verse today to Badiou).

In secular terms, this idea suggests that a part of us inevitably fights against every ideal that we embrace. We tend to resist every force seeking to constrains us, and also every law that we ourselves make. This is what the psychoanalysts refer to as the divided subject. Freudian psychoanalysis sees the human psyche as divided into separate drives. Especially, the Freudians talk of two opposing forces: an inner “death drive,” (thanatos), which does battle with eros, our drive for life and connection. This is important to remember. I should never again be surprised to find myself at war with myself. Civilization (or religion, or academics, or athleticism, or any self-discipline) requires the repression and sublimation of unwelcome, anti-social, or self-destructive drives and desires. These will inevitably resurface and cause havoc, from time to time.

There’s a tension at the heart of all our efforts of bettering our selves. But we cannot resolve this tension by eliminating the divided intentionality of our being, any more than we can stop dreaming. We cannot overcome the fact that we have an unconscious mind. We also have many unconsciously transgressive behaviors. Because this is natural, it is necessary to be patient and loving with one’s self. I believe this love begins with simply acknowledging one’s behaviors. Admitting them allows them to be observed by one’s conscious mind. When we embrace what we do, confessing it to our selves, and even own it as our own real behavior, we begin to restore unity to our intentional being. And from there, perhaps we can let spirit reassert control over flesh.

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Weighing and Measuring Food

This post is the third in a series of posts on my “Weight Loss Arsenal,” tools and tricks that have been essential for me in the process of losing weight and keeping fat at bay.

For most of us, losing weight requires conscious, sustained effort. If you’re anything like me, a big part of the problem you have had with food is that you’re usually not conscious or aware of how much you are eating. In an earlier post, I suggested that keeping a food journal may be the most effective tool for becoming conscious of your food intake. But a second technique goes hand in hand with keeping a food diary. And that’s weighing and measuring your food. This post is about the very practical skill of weighing and measuring food, which has the side benefit of teaching you the habit of accurately estimating food portions.

Reasons to Measure your Food

It is possible that you don’t need to weigh and measure your food. As coach Corey at CrossFit Asheville has pointed out to me, “cavemen didn’t weigh and measure.” Of course, on the face of it, that is true. But usually, cavemen also didn’t need to lose 40 pounds.

Americans are fools when it comes to portion sizing. Cavemen didn’t have access to the super-abundant food-supplies that we have. One of the reasons so many of us are so fat is that we are used to being served portions that are entirely out of balance with the nutritional needs of a typical human being. As a result, many of us have no idea how to eat moderately. We have never developed a sense of proper portion sizing, because we have never attempted to understand precisely how much we are eating.

Let me state at the outset that this post is about a practical skill. I don’t care what your preferred theory of dieting is based on, you need this skill. You may follow the “paleolithic” or “caveman” diet, or the “Zone diet,” or the theories espoused by Greg Glassman and the devotees of CrossFit (Paleo-Zone). (I’ll explain in a later post how my own experience has led me to believe that this diet theory is the best). You may follow the South Beach diet, or the Mediterranean diet, or the Michael Pollan “food” diet. Maybe you use a super-low-fat and high-carb diet, or the Atkins diet, or even a simple calorie-restriction diet. For all of these diets, one thing is certain: you can follow them, but they really won’t work if you still eat too much. The simple fact is that most of these diets require you to measure or at least think about the quantity of food you put into your system. They require you to meet minimum goals of intake for certain foods, and not to exceed maximum limits for others. The diets will fail if you don’t follow them carefully. But there’s really no way to do that accurately, unless you get in the habit of weighing and measuring all your food.

The Kitchen Scale

My kitchen scale.

My kitchen scale.

If you are ready to weigh and measure, the first thing you need is a good kitchen scale. And what is a good scale? Simply put: it doesn’t need to be fancy. It should be functional, quick, and relatively easy to clean.

In using your scale, you need to be bold. Keep it out on the counter, where you regularly prepare food. Use your scale for any food item that can’t easily be counted or measured by volume, or for any type of food that is usefully recorded in ounces or grams.

There are many different times and ways you can use your scale. If you want to keep track of your actual food intake, probably the best time to use the scale is during the process of “plating” your food. So, unless you have an understanding spouse, partner, or table-mate who doesn’t mind you bringing the scale to the dining room table, you might take up the practice of plating your food in the kitchen, where the scale normally sits. But there are also other times you can profitably use your scale: while butchering meats, prepping food for cooking, etc.

If you use your scale enough, you will probably find that you very quickly develop the skill of estimating food amounts. Before long, you’ll be cutting off 1 oz. or 4 oz. chunks of meat exactly, on the first try. You’ll grab a handful of almonds, throw it on the scale and find that it weighs exactly 1 oz. These skills of estimation will become indispensable to you, as they help you learn about the amount of food you’re actually eating. For example, they allow you to go out to eat in a restaurant, or at a friend’s house, and still limit yourself to a sensible quantity of food.

Measuring Cups and Spoons

My doubly and triply redundant set of measuring cups and spoons.

My doubly and triply redundant set of measuring cups and spoons.

For weighing and measuring, you will also need measuring cups and spoons. But there’s nothing quite so frustrating as wanting to measure a teaspoon of canola oil, or a tablespoon of almond butter, or a 1/4 cup of cooked rice, and finding that you can’t find a clean measuring spoon anywhere. So I recommend having at least three sets of measuring spoons, and two sets of measuring cups, and keeping them in a predictable place, right where you prepare and plate your food.

Once you overcome any residual fears that you may harbor about using these tools—will people think I am a freak because I measure everything?—you will quickly discover that a measuring spoon or cup can work very well as a serving device. You can pull the suckers out while plating. Or you can even bring them right to the table and serve things with them. If you know you are only going to eat a 1/4 cup of cooked oatmeal, then by all means serve yourself with that 1/4 cup measure. If you are committed to limiting yourself to one 4 oz. glass of wine, pour the wine first into that 1/2 cup measure. If you’re planning to eat two cups of strawberries, cut them right into the cup measure, and then put them into a bowl. If you keep enough of these things around, and keep them close at hand while you are preparing or plating food, it becomes second nature to grab hold of them and measure how much you are making, or planning to eat.

The great thing is that, soon enough, as with the scale, you’ll learn what three cups of broccoli or cooked kale really looks like on your plate; you’ll learn to serve yourself exactly 1/4 cup of rice without a cup-measure. You’ll learn how full (or empty) your wine glass looks when filled with 4 oz. of Chardonnay.

For the record, it is also helpful to memorize three or four very simple conversions. 8 fluid ounces = 1 cup. 16 tablespoons = 1 cup. 1 tablespoon = 1/2 fluid ounce. 1 fluid ounce = 28 grams.

The Virtues of Weighing and Measuring

The virtues of this way of eating are many. Chiefly, weighing and measuring helps you be realistic and accurate in the record of your eating you make in your food journal. Secondarily, it helps you achieve specific dietary goals, such as controlling calorie intake, or meeting consumption goals for specific macronutrients (protein, fat, and carbs). Thirdly, and perhaps best, weighing and measuring your food trains you to become much more aware of your eating, and how the quantities you eat affect your body and your progress in your diet.

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Two by Five (Active Rest)

I checked the CrossFit Asheville WOD yesterday before bed.  I liked to see it posted in advance, but I was worried about the workout: “Lynne-Like,” five rounds of max reps of ring dips followed immediately by pull ups, with 3-5 minutes of rest between rounds.  I was already feeling shredded and tattered in my lats, triceps, and shoulders from my workouts on Saturday, Monday, and Tuesday, and from my pull-up challenge.  I worried about a new torn callus, injury, or general over-training malaise.

Last night, as I lay in bed, my hand calluses actually were HURTING.  Ouch.  When I woke up automatically (before 5:00 am). with less than 5 hours of sleep under my belt (poor choices last night), I knew in advance I wouldn’t do the workout. But I went in to the 6:00 am class anyway, just to hang out. No breakfast. A bit of coffee. Instead of workout out, today would be a day of “active rest.”

When I got there, I was happy to learn that the coaches were cool with my plan. Which rapidly evolved to include a couple of 500 meter rows for time on the C2 rowing ergometer.


Judo/MMA warm-up: shoulder rotations, 360/45 lunges, forward roll w/ bear crawl. Shoulder dislocates. Squats, Hindu Pushups, Shotguns, Supermans (10 reps each… taking it easy).

Active Rest: Two 500 Meter Rows

I stood around a bit, then hopped on the rower. I did 500 meters for time. Waited about 15 minutes, and then did it again. That was the extent of my workout.

Results: 1:38; 139.3.

Postponed: Pull-Up Challenge Day 21

I have decided to postpone today’s pull-ups until tomorrow. And I may even put them off until Friday (and then do 43). My body is feeling kind of wrecked, sore and extremely tired. I think I need to take care of myself more than I need to push through this self-motivated Pull-Up challenge. I will continue with it! Just not today.

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Double Trouble. PUC Day 20.

Decent sleep (about 7 hours). Feeling super sore from yesterday, especially in the trapezius muscles. Had a 1 block breakfast. Coffee w/ milk. Then heading to the 7:00 am CrossFit Asheville workout.


Judo/MMA warm-up (shoulder rotations, 45 x 360 lunges, deadfall practice, front-roll to bear crawl); sampson/hip mobility stretches, various stretches, shoulder dislocates; squats, Hindu Pushups, Shotguns, Supermans (15 reps each).

Skill Work

10 minutes practicing double unders. This was pretty disorganized. I did manage to get about 5 double unders.

CrossFit Asheville WOD

As many rounds as possible in 20 minutes of:
30 double-unders or 90 singles
Suitcase dumbbell healthlift, 12 each side (M-45lbs, W-30lbs)
18 Knees to elbows

I used 45# weights and did single-unders. My results:
5 rounds and 30 single jumpropes.

Pull-Up Challenge Day 20

Reps #1-4: 5:40 pm. Set of 4. Front grip.
Reps #5-8: 6:50 pm. Set of 4. Reverse grip.
Reps #9-12: 7:30 pm. Set of 4. Front grip.
Reps #13-17: 7:45 pm. Set of 5. Reverse grip.
Reps #18-20: 7:55 pm. Set of 3. Front grip.

And that’s my reps for today. Whew.

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