Apr 282012

On Friday, I completed my third sheet of SuperSlow training, i.e. another 16 sessions. By way of background, check out:

I began SuperSlow in early June of 2011, so I’ve been doing it for almost a year now. The sessions are grueling and exhausting, although I’ve definitely learned to limit my post-workout exhaustion by resting and eating for about 20 minutes immediately after my workout. I’m definitely enjoying the progress that I’ve made, particularly getting to 300 pounds on leg press. Mostly, I’m glad that I have the time, energy, and strength required to pursue my chosen sports — skiing, snowboarding, and horse riding — for the sheet pleasure of it. Physical fitness at the price of just 30 minutes once per week, with little muscle soreness, is pretty awesome.

Without further ado, here’s this third sheet. (Click to enlarge.)

Here’s a summary of my progress on various movements, starting from Session 32 from Sheet 2 to Session 48 on Sheet 3. All the machines are Nautilus, except the lower back and the torso rotation. As before, only Leg Press and Lower Back are done every session; all other movements are done every other session.

With this sheet, I pushed myself so hard on the leg press — and made so much progress — that I didn’t make much progress with other movements. For the last three sessions, we switched leg press to the last movement, with the expectation that I’ll be able to make more progress on other movements as a result. (The order of movements makes so much difference in my capacity to make progress!)

Every week:

  • LP: Leg Press: 260 to 305 lbs. I rocked the leg press with this sheet. I was increasing by 5 pounds with every workout, and then my trainer bumped me from 285 to 300 pounds. Gack! But I did it, and it was awesome. On 4/13, we moved the leg press to the end of my workout, so that I’m not completely trashed on other movements. Still, I got up to 305 lbs on Friday with a time of 2:24.
  • LB: Lower Back: 160 to 178 lbs. I was supposed to be at 168 this last week, but my trainer bumped me up an extra 10 pounds by accident. Still, I did two minutes!

Every other week:

  • Hip AB: Hip Abduction: Steady at 100 lbs, then readjusted position, so down to 85 lbs. I’d not been making any progress on this machine whatsoever with my feet on the upper rung. So my trainer moved my feet to the lower rung again. (That positioning affects the muscles I use in making the movement.) I made some progress in my last two sessions, but we’ll see what happens on the next sheet
  • Hip AD: Hip Adduction: 115 to 105 lbs. I was stuck at 115 lbs for weeks and weeks, so my trainer moved my feet to the lower rung and dropped the weight down to 105 pounds. That didn’t seem to help much in the last two sessions, but that might change. Or maybe more tweaks will be required.
  • Lower Back (see above)
  • Leg Press (see above)
  • PD: Lat Pull-Down: 110 to 115 lbs. Due to being completely trashed after my leg press, I made no progress on this machine for most of the sheet. My muscles weren’t failing: my whole body was just out of gas. After moving the leg press to the end of the workout, I did much better on 4/20, so I should be at 120 lbs next week.
  • CP: Chest Press: Steady at 65 lbs. Again, I was very exhausted after the leg press. But I’m always weak on this movement, so we’ll see what progress I make on the next sheet.
  • Row: Row: 60 to 55 lbs. I alternate between pulling and a 2 minute static hold. Due to leg press, plus the two arm movements before it, I couldn’t keep my form on this movement, so my trainer dropped my weight.
  • Ab C: Ab Crunch: 15 to 20 lbs. A bit of progress! Yay!

Every other week:

  • LE/LC: Leg Extension: 50 to 70 lbs. I was able to make great progress on this movement due to its early placement in the workout, plus really concentrating on working through the burn. (LC is a 90-second Leg Curl of progressive intensity against a stable frame.)
  • Leg Press (see above)
  • Bicep: 40 lbs to 50 lbs: Some progress, but I want more!
  • Tricep: 80 to 85 lbs: Just a bit of progress. I could really feel the exhaustion with this movement.
  • Lower Back (see above) Doing lower back after leg press nearly killed me. My legs, although locked in, would shake uncontrollably, and I often had to quit before I felt the tightness in my back.
  • Rot T: Rotate Torso: 48 to 50 lbs. Minimal progress: I was always so exhausted by this point in the workout!
  • CR: Calf Raises: 300 lbs. I only did this exercise a few times. I kept being a bit late or forgetting to bring the shoes I needed. I’ll have to make it happen more consistently on the next sheet.

For this next sheet, I want to focus on making major progress on just a few machines — just as I made so much progress on leg press and leg extension on this sheet. I’m thinking lat pull-down, hip abduction, and hip adduction. I’ll have to ask my trainer if we can move those around to be on different days, so that I can really give them my full power.

Basically, SuperSlow is still working really well for me. I’m making good progress with just one 30-minute session per week, and I’m looking forward to progressing even more in my next 16 sessions of Sheet 4!

P.S. If you decide to try my SuperSlow gym — now TruFit Health — in south Denver, please tell them that I referred you!

The Battle of the Bulge

 Posted by on 14 April 2012 at 10:00 am  Fitness, Funny, Health, WTF
Apr 142012

Clearly, we paleo women need to stop lifting heavy weights and start this 1940′s workout routine! (Really, it’s hysterical!)

On the plus side — definitely no pun intended — these women look so much healthier than today’s stick-figure models!

For more on women and weight, I’d recommend reading Why Women Need Fat by Melissa McEwen and I’m OK, You’re Fat by Crystal Meadows.


For the past few months, I’ve been diligently working toward doing 300 pounds on leg press in my SuperSlow workouts. Lately, I’ve been making great progress, increasing by five pounds every session, yet doing between 2 minutes 40 seconds and 3 minutes each time. I was up to 285 pounds in my last session, so I figured that I’d hit 300 pounds in mid-April.

On Friday, I was supposed to increase to 290 pounds, but my trainer suggested trying 300 pounds, saying that often a person can make a big jump like that — of 15 pounds! — if progressing as regularly as I’ve been doing. And… I did it! I managed 2 minutes and 8 seconds under that load, which just amazes me.

In May of 2011, I started the leg press at 190 pounds, so getting up to 300 pounds is more than a 1.57 times increase in strength. Notably, 300 pounds on the machine at my gym doesn’t translate to 300 pounds on every machine. In fact, I should be able to do well over 600 pounds on the leg press machine at Doug McGuff’s gym when I visit EDan in late May.

So…. Yay Me! It’s so awesome to be making such clear and measurable progress!

Hitler Versus CrossFit

 Posted by on 24 March 2012 at 9:00 am  Fitness, Health
Mar 242012

Heh. Hitler is not a fan of CrossFit:

More seriously, here’s a segment of Robb Wolf’s podcast from 2011 on some common problems with CrossFit, as done by CrossFitHQ:

As happy as I am with my switch from CrossFit to SuperSlow, my year of periodic Olympic lifts at CrossFit enabled me to repeatedly pop a heavy box of food to the top of the fridge at SnowCon 2012. It’s all about that explosive power from the hips!

Feb 042012

As you might recall, I quit doing CrossFit for SuperSlow in May for the reasons detailed in this post: From CrossFit to High Intensity Weightlifting. (SuperSlow means resistance training to failure of major muscle groups using slow movements once per week.) In October, I posted my first progress report based on 16 sessions of training. Now I’m past due for the second progress report… so here it is!

I completed this 16-session sheet in early January. (Click to enlarge.)

Here’s a summary of my progress on various movements, starting from Session 16 from Sheet 1 to Session 32 on Sheet 2. All the machines are Nautilus, except the lower back, the torso rotation, and the funky ab cruncher hold machines, which are MedX. My trainer added a few new machines, so now most movements are done every other session. (In fact, only Leg Press and Lower Back are done every session.) Also, the order is switched around with every sheet, and that makes a huge difference in my ability to progress on a given machine.

Every week:

  • LB: Lower Back: 150 to 160 lbs. I’m happy with my steady progress. I like being able to increase by 2 lb increments on this machine. (The Nautilus machines increment by 5 lbs only.)
  • LP: Leg Press: 225 to 260 lbs. The leg press is definitely my focus with every workout. During this sheet, I had to really focus on staying calm, as I was tending to panic as I reached failure. As a result, I made some speedy progress in the middle of the sheet. Overall, I’m pleased with my progress, but mostly, I’m eager to get to 300 lbs!Every other week:
    • Hip AB: Hip Abduction: 75 to 90 lbs. I made good progress in the beginning, but I leveled out in the last few sessions.
  • Hip AD: Hip Adduction: 105 to 115 lbs. Okay progress.
  • Lower Back (see above)
  • Leg Press (see above)
  • Row: Row: 50 to 65 lbs. I alternate between pulling and a 2 minute static hold. I’ve made progress, but I still need to work on my form.
  • CP: Chest Press: 55 to 65 lbs. I was stalled on my first sheet due to my seat position being too high. My trainer corrected that, so I’ve made some progress on this sheet. I’m pleased about that, but I want to do more.
  • PD: Lat Pull-Down: Steady at 115 lbs. This movement was near the end of my workout on this sheet, and I just couldn’t make any progress whatsoever.
  • Ab C: Ab Crunch: Steady at 15 lbs. This movement is not only last, but also makes me feel like I can’t breathe. Fun!Every other week:
    • Rot T: Rotate Torso: 38 to 48 lbs. Every other week. My form is better, and I’m pleased with my progress.
  • New MXCP: (Funky MedX Ab Cruncher Hold): 65 to 75 lbs: Okay progress.
  • Lower Back (see above)
  • Leg Press (see above)
  • New: Bicep: 30 lbs to 40 lbs: Some progress, but I want more!
  • New: Tricep: 65 to 80 lbs: Good progress!
  • LE/LC: Leg Extension: Steady at 50 lbs. This movement was at the very end of my workout, and I struggled with it. The contraction hurts, just due to the nerve endings in the muscle, and I’ve been working on staying calm despite that. (LC is a 90-second Leg Curl of progressive intensity against a stable frame.)I’ve learned a few things in these 16 sessions of training.
    • Sleep matters to my performance… hugely! I need to have a few good nights of sleep under my belt for a good workout. (Sleep is hugely important to my adrenal function too.)
    • The order of machines has a huge impact on whether I make progress or not on any given machine. If I have a strong performance on the leg press, I might not be able to make any progress on any machine after that.
    • I can often go for a rep or two beyond what my trainer supposes. I love doing that. Once, I was telling my trainer that I thought I might have been able to do another rep on the leg press, and as I got out of the machine, I fell to the ground because I was literally unable to hold up my own weight. That was pretty awesome.
    • At the end of my first sheet, I was having some problems with being ridiculously exhausted after my workout. I’ve solved that problem in two ways. First, I run any errands before my workout, so that I’m not attempting to haul around 60 pounds of meat from Costco just after the workout. Second, I take 15 to 20 minutes to sit down in the waiting area after my workout. I drink my coconut water, and I chill out. That really helps.

    A number of people have told me that they’d like to do SuperSlow, but they’ve not been able to find a gym in their area. That’s definitely a problem, and I’m lucky to have such an awesome SuperSlow gym — now TruFit Health — just 30 minutes from home. (For me, that’s nearby!) If that’s your situation, then I’d recommend trying to find a personal trainer willing to do the SuperSlow / Body by Science method. Sure, it’s possible to work on your own, but I wouldn’t have made nearly the progress that I have without a trainer to push me to my absolute limit.

    Also, if you decide to try my SuperSlow gym — now TruFit Health — in south Denver, please tell them that I referred you!

Jan 212012

Last week, I had a great four days of snowboarding in Beaver Creek, then one final day of skiing. Much to my delight, the third day offered six inches of glorious powder — and that much powder transforms snowboarding from “yay fun!” to “OMG OMG OMG THIS IS THE BEST THING EVER!”

My snowboarding skills are definitely improving with every day on the slopes. (These were days five through eight on a snowboard.) My turns are much better: I can do pretty flat s-curves down the milder slopes, and I can do turns on steeper slopes now too. I’m able to get off the lifts reliably, thank goodness. I’m only falling on occasion now too.

Interestingly, I’m pretty much ambidextrous on the snowboard. I’m goofy-footed, mostly because the inflamed nerve (morton’s neuroma) in the ball of my right foot is happier when strapped in full-time. However, I’m happy to go down the slope with left or right foot forward, and my turns are equally good (or bad) on either side. That flexibility is good: I can face whichever way makes the most sense given the terrain, not based on my own body’s preferences.

I snowboarded or skied for four to five hours every day. I was tired by that, but not wildly exhausted. (The only exception was the first day, but that involved waking up early and driving three hours to Beaver Creek, then snowboarding.) Also, I was sore after the first day or two in my quads, but that faded. That tells me that my 20 minute SuperSlow workouts once per week are keeping me in as good shape as CrossFit did.

By the time we went home, the only thing that hurt was the backs of my knees. I couldn’t figure out why… until I realized that the problem was likely my construction-style knee pads, because the main strap wrapped around the backs of my knees. I’ve ordered knew knee pads, so hopefully those will work without causing strain.

Finally, due to my still-super-strict elimination diet, I cooked all of our meals in the kitchen of the condo. We usually had bacon and grapefruit for breakfast. (Hence, the caption on on the picture!) Paul had coffee, and I had my cinnamon hot cocoa. I packed some meat (ham or leftovers), plus sweet potato for lunch. Then we had yummy dinners: slow-cooked pork ribs, roast chicken, pork roast, and so on. That worked really well: I kept strictly to my diet, and I enjoyed what we ate. Also, we probably saved a few hundred dollars, since eating out anywhere neat Beaver Creek is ridiculously expensive.

Overall, I’m really happy that I took up snowboarding this season. I’m enjoying the challenge of learning a new snow sport, particularly that difficult process of forcing myself by sheer will to overcome my fears. (I hope to write more about that later.) Mostly…


Learning to Snowboard at the Ripe Old Age of 37

 Posted by on 17 December 2011 at 10:00 am  Fitness, Personal, Sports
Dec 172011

Last Sunday afternoon, Paul and I headed out to Breckenridge for a few days of much-needed vacation. I decided to try to learn to snowboard on this trip. (I’m a pretty good skier, but I’ve not yet skied this season.) I wanted the challenge of learning a new sport, and snowboarding seemed like a good fit for me. Plus, I suspect that snowboarding might be easier on my increasingly painful Morton’s neuroma. (That’s an inflamed nerve in the ball of my right foot, acquired by wearing bicycle clip shoes.) So with three full days to play in the snow, I decided to take the plunge into snowboarding!

The first two days were pretty darn miserable. I’m not exaggerating. On the first day, I took a full-day lesson to learn the basics, and that was essential. (We had one instructor, plus an instructor-in-training, for four people. That was awesome.) The class worked on the bunny hill of Peak 9 for most of the day, but our final run was on a green slope. While I improved over the course of the day, I struggled to learn how to shift my weight properly in order to steer. Still, the green run was good… including the bit of real hill toward the bottom.

The second day — my 37th birthday — was the worst. I still struggled to steer, even just on my heel edge, and often I was sucked into the edges of the run by seemingly insignificant fall lines. Also, I had serious troubles “skating,” i.e. moving with one foot detached. That’s tricky to learn, and because I switched from regular-footed to goofy-footed after the first day, I had to relearn it. (I’m pretty sure that I could go either way in my stance, but my bad foot is always strapped in with a goofy stance, and that puts far less stress on my neuroma. So goofy I am!) Alas, I had lots of skating to do on this day because I was stupid enough to return to Peak 9, with its long stretch of flat with that strong fall line to the right. (I’d never even notice that skiing!) That was a mistake. However, the absolute worst was the platter-pull lift on the bunny slope: it was not merely ridiculously difficult to skate on a snowboard while being dragged uphill, but also extremely tiring. I was always more winded at the top of the slope than I was at the bottom. After switching to the green run later in the day, I got better at controlling my direction and speed, but I’d not even been able to think about turns yet.

On the third day, I dreaded returning to the slopes. Every muscle in my body ached, and after my first two days, I didn’t see much hope for fun. However, I was determined not to permit all of my pain of the first two days go to waste by my giving up, so off to the slopes I went.

Happily, I had a blast! I went to Peak 8, and I stuck with an easy green run and an easy two-person lift. (I could only stay for three hours.) That was perfect. The hill posed enough of a challenge that I never got bored. I worked on my heed-side traversing, then my toe-side traversing, then my j-turns, then c-turns, then s-turns. If I tried to turn on a steeper portion of the hill, I’d crash in a most spectacular way, but I was able to do the turns pretty well on the flatter sections. Control over my speed and direction began to come naturally to me, meaning that I didn’t have to think through every body motion. Also, I was able to practice my skating to get on and off the lift. I even managed to skate off the lift perfectly a few times. (Really, that was a feat!) Oh, and it was awesome to have an inch of powder on the slopes that day too!

I’m now eager to return to the slopes to continue learning the basic skills of snowboarding. Obviously, I have much to learn yet, but I think I’ve gotten over the painfully frustrating portion of the learning curve.

I’ve never fallen much in skiing, even while learning. I fell over and over again in my three days of snowboarding, often suddenly and hard. However, I didn’t suffer any other aches or pains or bruises from that, apart from muscle soreness. (The only exception is a dark circular bruise, two inches wide, on the side of my thigh. I have no idea how I got that!) I stayed out of trouble because I wore a slew of protective equipment, including:

  • A helmet. I bonked my head slightly a few times, so I was very glad to have protected my beloved noggin. I plan to wear a helmet whenever I ski or snowboard from here on out.
  • Wrist guards. They weren’t just useful for when I’d catch an edge, but also for helping to prop myself up when attempting to stand up. My instructor cautioned against relying on them for too long: to prevent broken bones, you want to learn to break your forward falls with your shoulder, rather than your arms.
  • Knee pads. I used some knee pads that we’d bought at Home Depot years ago, strapping them on over my ski pants. They definitely cushioned me on some very hard forward falls. I’ll likely wear these heavy-duty knee pads for a few more outings, then look for some snowpants with built-in knee pads.
  • Butt pad. This was sheer brilliance on my part, even if the ideas were borrowed from others. I secured the perfect pad to my rear by taking an inch-thick “kneeling pad” for gardening, again from Home Depot, and securing it in the proper place with spandex shorts. (It worked best to put it on over my long underwear.) It was sheer brilliance, I tell you! It really worked: despite some bone-jarring falls, my butt was never sore. The set-up did require large ski pants, however.

My only equipment failure was my mittens. My usual skiing mittens, which are lovely and warm, weren’t large enough to fit over my wrist guards, and the wrist guards weren’t large enough to fit over my mittens. Doh! Since the wrist guards needed a layer of cushion underneath, I decided to wear my warmer-weather gloves. It wasn’t too cold for that, but wowee, they got soaked. As a skier, my hands just aren’t in the snow. As a snowboarder, my hands were digging into the snow every time I’d fall, sit down to rest, or get up — meaning about once every three minutes. That meant soaking wet gloves. I was too cheap to buy new gloves in Breckenridge, but I found an excellent pair of large waterproof gloves and a pair of large mittens at Costco in Denver.

Now I just need to buy myself a used snowboard and boots… and get back out on the slopes!

So what are the lessons here for learning a new sport? I’d say (1) don’t give up too soon, (2) pad yourself like crazy, and (3) keep working toward the fun!

Oct 012011

In mid-September, I completed my first “sheet” with my SuperSlow gym — now TruFit Health — in south Denver. That’s a milestone of sorts — 16 sessions in 16 weeks. Since I know that many people are curious about how I like SuperSlow compared to CrossFit, now seems like an excellent time to blog an update.

As you might recall I’d done CrossFit for a year as of May. I enjoyed it at the time, but I grew weary of it for all the reasons outlined in this blog post. In early June, I started SuperSlow — meaning resistance training to failure of major muscle groups using slow movements once per week.

So… here’s my sheet of 16 weeks. You can click for a larger version. The weight is in the top-left of each box, while the time under load is in the bottom-left. As you can see, I’m doing more movements than just the Big Three or the Big Five.

Here’s what I’ve done, with my progress in load from the first good failure weight (usually at week 3, 6/20) to week 16 (9/19). All the machines are Nautilus, except the lower back and torso rotation, which are MedX.

  • LE/LC: Leg Extension: 50 to 60 lbs. Meh on progress. I find this machine extraordinarily unpleasant. (LC is a 90-second Leg Curl of progressive intensity against a stable frame.) Only done every other week, alternating with Hip AB and Hip AD.
  • Hip AB: Hip Abduction: 55 lbs to 75 lbs. Good progress. Only done every other week, alternating with LE/LC.
  • Hip AD: Hip Adduction: 90 lbs to 105 lbs. Okay progress. Only done every other week, alternating with LE/LC.
  • LB: Lower Back: 108 lbs to 150 lbs. Good progress! You can see that I went from 128 lbs to 170 lbs to 150 lbs from 8/22 to 9/7. The 170 lbs was a mistake: my trainer forgot to adjust the machine. It was the day of Paul’s hip dislocation and fracture, and we were all a bit distracted. After that, we realized that I could do much more than what I had been doing, but 170 lbs was too much, so we went down to 150 lbs.
  • LP: Leg Press: 190 lbs to 225 lbs. Good! I love the leg press, and I hate the leg press.
  • PD: Lat Pull-Down: 85 lbs to 115 lbs. Good progress, particularly given how difficult I find this movement.
  • CP: Chest Press: 50 lbs to 55 lbs. Boo, almost no progress! I’ve not made much progress on the chest press, and we just realized that that’s probably because my seat was set too high to fully engage my pecs. That’s been fixed, so we’ll see how I do in future weeks.
  • Row: Row: 40 lbs to 50 lbs. Okay on progress, given that I’ve had a terrible time with proper form on this movement, but I’m finally getting the hang of it. Alternating pulling with a 2 minute static hold every week.
  • Ab C: Ab Crunch: 10 lbs to 15 lbs. Okay progress. Only done every other week, alternating with Rot T.
  • Rot T: Rotate Torso: 30 lbs to 38 lbs. Okay progress. Only done every other week, alternating with Ab C.Overall, I’ve been very pleased with the SuperSlow method and with my SuperSlow gym — again, now TruFit Health. The competitor in me wants to make progress faster, but I’m pretty content, knowing that I’m pushing myself as hard as I can every week. (My absolute favorite thing to do is to tell my trainer that I can do one more rep!) Plus, I know that I started SuperSlow with a pretty darn good fitness base from my year of CrossFit.

    Now that I’ve got 16 weeks under my belt, let me review my bullet points from my original post on switching from CrossFit to SuperSlow:

    1. Measuring Progress: I never bothered doing much measuring or recording in CrossFit because writing anything down would have taken time away from my workout. I’m pretty sure that I stalled out in the last few months of doing CrossFitting, but I couldn’t tell for sure. With SuperSlow, I like that my progress is clearly measured and recorded, but that my trainer does the measuring and recording for me. It would just be too hard to do myself in the midst of muscle failure. I’ve actually fallen to the ground after getting off the leg press machine. No, really.
  • Time at Gym: I love going to the gym only once per week. That’s definitely helped me recover from my adrenal fatigue. CrossFit was not doing me any favors in that regard, not with its periodic “metcon beatdowns.”
  • Sports for Pleasure: I’m happy to be doing the sports that I love, whenever I please, without trying to squeeze them into my CrossFit schedule. I don’t just save the time of two hour-long CrossFit workouts per week, but also I don’t suffer from periodic bouts of horrible muscle soreness. I’m usually a tad sore and weak for the day or two after a SuperSlow workout — and that’s it. Life is so much more bearable that way!
  • Exhaustion after Workouts: Overall, I’ve been much less tired after SuperSlow workouts than after CrossFit workouts. However, for the past few weeks, I’ve found myself completely exhausted by my workouts for some hours afterwards, to the point of wanting to rip someone’s head off and then crawl in a hole. That’s not good! I think that’s happening in part because I’m getting better at pushing myself to full capacity in my workouts — which is hard, because your brain has been hollering for you to stop for a good 15 seconds by that point. So I’m more exhausted, but then I’ve added other stressors on my workout days, like not eating right away, shopping at Costco afterwards, and/or feeding all the beasts and making dinner immediately upon on arriving home. That needs to stop! So in future, I’ll do any errands before my workout. Then, afterwards, I’ll sit in the waiting room for a half hour, munching on some snacks. Once I get home, I’ll sit down for a bit if needed. That will help me feel reasonably good in my post-workout evenings, I think.
  • Injury Risk: I love that I have zero injury risk. Zero. Think about that as you’re doing box jumps, oh my CrossFitting friends! (Seriously, I do worry about you!)
  • No Summer Heat: I’ve enjoyed the air conditioning and fans in the SuperSlow gym all summer long! My trainer freezes herself for us — and I so appreciate that.
  • Cost: I’m still saving money compared to CrossFit. Cha-ching!I will say, however, that SuperSlow is damn hard, even harder than CrossFit in some ways. The last minute on every machine is seriously awful, and the last 15 seconds is pure agony. You have to learn to ignore that, knowing that you’re not doing yourself damage, so that you can push through to full failure. That’s not easy!

    In getting to that point of utter failure, I benefit hugely from working with a trainer, rather than attempting to do the workout on my own. As with CrossFit, I just couldn’t push myself alone sufficently: I’d give up somewhere between 50% and 80% effort. If you don’t have a SuperSlow affiliate in your area, you might be able to find a personal trainer willing to use the SuperSlow methodology with you in private sessions. That’s really worth the cost, I think.

    Overall, I’m extremely pleased with my current level of fitness on SuperSlow, particularly given that I’m only putting in 30 minutes per week. I’ve not done any test runs or rows to compare my capacity yet, but I suspect that I’d do as well with those as when I was CrossFitting. I’m able to easily carry two 40 lbs bags of horse feed a few hundred feet into the barn. I can sprint without getting winded. I’m very secure in riding, largely due to working my inner thighs. (That was wholly lacking in CrossFit.) So I can comfortably work my horse Lila for over an hour without stirrups, which is something!

    Mostly, I feel healthy and strong — without inflicting any wear and tear on my body. And that’s really, really good!

    Note: If you decide to try my SuperSlow gym — TruFit Health — in south Denver, please tell them that I referred you!

Jun 182011

Tammy was excited to discover that a local pack of ultra-endurance runners had set up a 12-hour event where participants try to complete as many laps as possible of a 6-mile trail right here in our foothills (Boise has a fantastic network of running/mountain-biking trails). This format lets ultrarunning crazies at different levels of development all play together: the newer crazies can do just a few laps, while more seasoned crazies can go for substantial distances, all in the same event.
As her “support crew,” I was thrilled that this would be happening just a couple of miles from our house (hey, it was a loooong drive to those the two 12-hour trail races in Moab she did, awesome as they were).
And Tammy was thrilled to report that they would have a mountain-biking division. Uh, oh.

But, dear, I’m the crucial support crew for you on your crazy ultra-endurance runs! See, I need to mix your custom goo for you and reload your water and… Well, yes, I suppose you could pre-mix it the night before and manage your own water… But you’re forgetting that I’ve only done maybe two quick rides this season. You know that with no conditioning my rear couldn’t handle any kind of time in the saddle, much less 12 freaking hours! Well, yeah, I suppose I could just do a few laps to participate a bit while I cheer you and the other crazies on…
So we took my bike.
6:00am Saturday morning. They all counted down and took off while I was messing with getting my front brakes to work right, and I was able to hit the trail 15 minutes later.
It turned out to be a moderate single-track mountain-bike loop, with about 800 feet of climbing and of course 800 of downhill. Soon I was back at the trailhead to record the lap, then I headed out again going the opposite direction.

My rear wasn’t complaining too badly after a few laps, so I thought I’d maybe try to work in a solid six laps over the course of the day. That seemed like a respectable amount of time/distance/elevation for the “support crew” to Represent. Besides, it was kind of fun checking in on all of the runners (especially my runner) with each pass of the course, going back and forth in alternating directions.
Soon I had been adopted as the runners’ Token Biker for the day. Many asked how many laps I was going for as I passed, and I would explain that I was just there with Tammy, having a little fun, and that I would stop when she did.
After five or six hours, though, I noticed that I still felt fine — and I wasn’t slowing down at all. So naturally I started flirting with the idea of just going for it and seeing if I could really keep riding like that for the entire 12 hours and complete 12 full laps, whether or not Tammy wanted to keep going! Since I had no ultra-endurance experience or preparation, this unusual effort would also be a great test of the “ready state” that CrossFit is supposed to be giving me.
Well, apparently Tammy knows me too well! She had mixed twice as much goo as she needed the night before, just so I could fuel a very long day right along with her.

In the end, we had a great time with a nice group of folks, and we enjoyed a clean sweep of both the running and the mountain-biking divisions that day. Woo! Team Perkins brings it! :^)
I was able to ride steadily through all 12 hours, from 6:00am to 6:00pm, covering 12 laps. That’s about 73 miles, and almost 20,000 vertical feet of elevation change.
More difficult in my opinion was Tammy running all 12 hours, covering 9 laps. That is just shy of 55 miles with almost 15,000 vertical feet of elevation change. On foot!
We were certainly depleted, but not disabled, and we recovered quickly. In fact, I didn’t suffer any soreness to speak of, despite becoming a spontaneous ultra-endurance athlete for a day. Heading as usual to the CrossFit gym early Monday morning, we turned in decent performances, smiling through the strain because we knew it was preparing us for the next fun challenge to come our way.
(Thanks to Longrun Picture Company for photographing everyone that day!)

After exactly a year of CrossFit, I’ve decided to switch to “high intensity weightlifting” — a.k.a. “Body By Science” or “SuperSlow.” Yowza, what a change for me… and a good one, I hope!

I’ve been toying with the idea of this change in my workouts for a while now, partly due to concerns that the whole “metcon” aspect of CrossFit was exhausting me without improving my strength or fitness. Other reasons, as you’ll see below, grew on me too. Ultimately, I was convinced after doing an official BBS/SS workout with Ed at Doug McGuff’s gym Ultimate Exercise a few weeks ago, when visiting Eric Daniels before ATLOSCon. (Yes, the experience was seriously awesome, and I really enjoyed chatting with Dr. McGuff afterward.)

First, what is the Body By Science or SuperSlow method? Here’s how it’s described on the website of Ultimate Exercise:

I. High Intensity – To stimulate your body to make an adaptive change your exercise intensity must cross a certain threshold before your body will respond. By training to muscular failure, we send an alarm to your body that more muscle and improved metabolic are needed. Also, we use a training protocol called “SuperSlow” which involves lifting and lowering the weights over a 10 second time frame. This eliminates acceleration and momentum which keeps the muscle under continuous load and more effectively fatigues the muscle.

II. Brief Workouts – All of our workouts last 20 minutes or less. We desire the minimum amount of exercise that will produce the stimulus for adaptation. Anything beyond this amount of exercise only acts to consume precious recovery resources.

III. Infrequent Workouts – Reaching the required stimulus intensity threshold consumes a large amount of your body’s resources and the subsequent adaptive changes are metabolically expensive. Replenishing resources and making metabolic investments takes time. Reintroducing the stimulus (a workout) too soon will interrupt these processes.

IV. Precise Record-Keeping – Keeping precise records of your workout performance allows us to know if we are manipulating the variables of intensity, duration, and frequency appropriately. By doing this our clients can show progress on every exercise of every workout.

Second, why am I switching? I’ll tell you! But please keep in mind that these reasons are personal to me. I have no beef with my CrossFit gym, nor with anyone who chooses to CrossFit. If it’s working for you, keep working it!

  1. I’m enthused that my progress will be measured with every workout, but that I won’t need to do the measuring. I’ve been frustrated by my inability to easily tell whether I’m doing better or worse in CrossFit. Yet that’s important to me, given my thyroid problems. I’ll have noticeable gains or losses in strength, purely due to increasing or decreasing my desiccated thyroid. It will be good to track my strength, carefully and objectively — or rather, to have someone else do that!
  2. I don’t want to go to the gym more than once per week, and that’s all that BS/SS advises. I live in a rural area and work from home, so every hour-long CrossFit session consumed nearly three hours of my day — and seriously interrupted the flow of my work. I could manage that once per week, on Mondays, when I have my dog training lesson and grocery shopping to do. Twice per week had become a burden, due to changes in my schedule. With BBS, I’ll just be lifting once per week, for about 20 minutes, when I’m already in town. That’s a major win for me.
  3. I want to enjoy fun physical activities most days of the week! Whenever I’d CrossFit, I wouldn’t have the time or energy to ride my horse Lila. That began to seem like a sacrifice to me. With BBS/SS, I’ll have the time to do whatever sports I please on my six days off, so long as I’m not lifting weights.
  4. I want to leave the gym energized, not deliriously exhausted. Too often, CrossFit workouts would just beat me down, to the point where I couldn’t think clearly or work for hours and hours afterwards. That’s why I had to work out in the evenings, from 5:30 to 6:30 pm, because I couldn’t afford to spend the whole day in that state of exhaustion. Sure, we did a fair bit of strength training at CrossFit, but not as much as I wanted. The “metcons” just killed me — and I wondered not only whether they were providing any benefit, but also whether I was actively doing myself harm, particularly given my (still ongoing but better) thyroid problems. In contrast, after the initial recovery from my jelly legs with BBS/SS, I might feel a bit tired, but not beaten to a pulp.
  5. I’m excited to be able to push myself to full capacity without risking injury. With CrossFit, it’s too easy to injure yourself as you push yourself with more weight in lifts or kettlebells, more height on boxjumps, and so on. Yes, there’s lots of attention to form, but when you get tired, just one bad rep can do real damage. I strained the rotator cuff in my right shoulder in a workout this winter, and while it’s better, it’s still not great. As a result, I’ve been cautious about the weight I use, particularly with kettlebells, and that’s limiting my progress. From what I’ve read, the injury rate on BBS/SS is nearly non-existent, because you’re lifting the super-heavy weight so slowly and in such a controlled way.
  6. I’m enthused to be working out in air conditioning! I was not looking forward to hour-long CrossFit workouts in the broiling heat of Colorado afternoons. Yet I couldn’t switch to morning workouts, for fear that I’d be exhausted for a whole day rather than just a few hours at night. That might seem trivial, but working out in the heat is extra-draining.
  7. As the icing on the cake, SS/BBS will be cheaper per week than even my measly two sessions of CrossFit. Win!

So, given all that, I’m very excited to start BBS/SS. I don’t want to do it on my own: I need a trainer to push me to do my very best. Happily, South Denver has a SuperSlow affiliate (update: now de-affiliated as TruFit Health), and my first workout was on Monday. That went really well, and I’m looking forward to future workouts.

As for the results… I’ll keep you updated!

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