CrossFit Cape Ann – A Five Star Experience

This morning, I took a little drive up the road on my day off (love random days off just hanging around doing what I want to do) and started the morning with Jonny Conant and a couple of his crew at the 9 AM workout of the day (WOD) – my first of many visits to newly opened CrossFit Cape Ann, I’m sure.

A manageable space splashed with all kinds of signature Conant flavor (bearing a mild semblance of The Hive Cape Ann, another Conant adventure, certainly making it unique among CrossFit “boxes”), CrossFit Cape Ann will immediately feel like home to any CrossFit junkie and is certainly welcoming to the first-timer alike.  There’s ample equipment for a bunch of people, plenty of room on the beefy pull-up/lifting rig, and ample running room.  Yeah, about that running room: beware workouts that say “run to the end of the pier and back”.  Don’t think it’s going to be a cute little jog – just wait ’til you turn the corner and see exactly where “the end of the pier” is (but don’t let that stop you from taking on the challenge, there’s a reward at the end of the pier if you enjoy a good view, see gallery below).

If CrossFit Cape Ann was a restaurant, doggie bags in good supply would be a must – Jonny C served up a big portion of work that I couldn’t finish, which is awesome since he’ll doubtful have some heavy hitters come in who will need lots of well-done “meat” to chew on to fulfill their movement requirement for the day; but as a good chef will, he also built the day’s menu with a couple “lighter”, more manageable options, still generous in nutrition, but not overwhelming for those who not yet seasoned in functional fitness or those who are starting with small steps to overcome injury, physical condition, or the overly-present-in-modern-culture couch-potatoism.

As a coach, Jon is into detail and clearly has a big heart for the community in general.  He’s not out to build an army of super-athletes (though I’m sure he wouldn’t be opposed to having a couple spring out of CrossFit Cape Ann eventually and is more than capable of training them with the intensity and skill they need to represent well), but rather, is very welcoming and looks forward to training all ages, all skill and fitness levels; bringing all the benefits of strength and conditioning training in a functional fitness model (and perhaps some added variety that will make CrossFit Cape Ann as unique as its art) to anyone in and around the Gloucester MA area (a really cool town if you’ve never been up for a visit).

CrossFit Cape Ann is a “perfect storm” of flavor, portion size, and nutrition in the realm of movement as an essential element.  I highly recommend it to everyone who BREATHES!  Get in there and pay nothing this week except what you leave on the mat (and I’d encourage you to leave everything on the mat, I certainly did – the best gains come when we leave the gym with nothing leftover, whatever that may mean for us individually).

We can all take actions to make life great for ourselves and for those around us – CrossFit Cape Ann is the culmination of many great actions (small and large) taken one-by-one that will make life great for many who need just what it provides – another opportunity and some of the tools needed to take a step toward optimal wellness and an overall better life.

Thanks Jon & Karen!

I’ll be seein’ya!

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Point of Greatest Positive Impact

Near the intersection of interest and aptitude we find our purpose and potential for greatest positive impact.

Doubtless we have all seen and experienced the opposite ends of the interest vs. aptitude spectrum:

  • The person who absolutely, undeniably loves to sing and puts his/her heart and soul into every word…and yet couldn’t carry a tune in a vacuum sealed storage container if his/her life depended on it.
  • The stellar performer whose skills at a particular task are beyond measure but who clearly never enjoyed it a day in his/her life and who is never without a negative thing to say about it (e.g. the person who keeps the tidiest carpets in town and does it for the best price in the shortest amount of time but has the filthiest attitude toward that particular responsibility).

We all have, and are entitled to, our opinions of which of the two is more “pleasant” to be around repeatedly or for extended periods of time. Refreshingly, every now and then we run into someone who sits nearer the center of the spectrum – someone whose skill and ability complement his/her love and enjoyment of whatever it is that s/he is doing:

  • The speaker passionate about his/her subject matter and well-equipped to deliver the message with conviction and poise
  • The scientist driven by discovery of the unknown and great at using the tools available to facilitate the exploration
  • The teacher who finds so much pleasure in his/her interaction and influence on the young that his/her 40 years of service seem to him/her like the twinkle of an eye

To know one of these people is to know someone who lives near his/her purpose in that particular moment, and accordingly, someone who is living near the greatest potential positive impact on those who s/he interacts with.

We all have a purpose; we all have a design.  We know what we enjoy, what we endure, and what we detest.  We also know in our heart of hearts when things we are involved in do not line up with what we love and/or what we have particular skill/potential in.  Sadly, many of us are busy with things that we are neither good or getting better at nor that we enjoy or truly live for simply because we fail to regularly assess our activity against our passions and skills.

Much of the joy of life comes from affecting our personal worlds positively and watching good things come of them. This video workshop on Total Life Conditioning provides tools and strategies to help us, among other things, locate our place of maximum positive impact for ourselves and on those around us by identifying where our interests meet our aptitudes, and arranging them in such a way that those having the biggest benefit are prioritized above the others.

Going forward, let us take the initiative to be conscious about how the activity of our lives lines up with the design and purpose of our lives.  None of us has the luxury of spinning our wheels producing nothing with lasting and positive result without paying an exorbitant price for time, energy, and resources.  None of us has anyone who will take more interest in the fulfillment of our life’s purpose than we ourselves.

We owe it then, to ourselves and to those we care about, to live as near to where our interest meets our aptitude as possible so we can achieve the maximum positive impact that only we can.  Let’s determine today to make it happen…for all the good we have yet to live!

Achieving Absolute Excellence,

Brandon

CrossFit Total 3

In 16 months since joining North Shore CrossFit, I’ve come upon the CrossFit Total three times.  [Sidebar: When was the last time it took you almost a year and a half to hit the same workout the third time?  Is it time for a change?]

The first time, I was in the initial discovery phase a month and a half in – finding out what I was capable of never having lifted very heavy at all before joining.

My CrossFit Total that first time at the end of August 2009 (all numbers in pounds U.S.):

  • Total: 555
  • Back Squat: 215
  • Press: 105
  • Deadlift: 235

The second time I took on the Total in May 2010, I moved everything up substantially, hitting new personal records (PR’s) on all the lifts:

  • Total: 630
  • Back Squat: 255
  • Press: 110
  • Deadlift: 275

Tonight, going into it, I had visions of great lifts – Back Squat: 275, Press: 115, Deadlift: 300 – and all kinds of excitement about getting on the weights.  When all was said and done, my hopes of a 690 Total had gone the way of the seconds on the timer with somewhat anticlimactic results:

  • Total: 595
  • Back Squat: 245
  • Press: 115 (PR)
  • Deadlift: 235

Though the numbers don’t show “progress” by themselves, I have no choice but to consider that:

  • I’m a 5’9″ Japanese boy who weighed in this morning at a whopping 153.4 pounds.
  • I hit my target on the standing barbell press for a PR of 115 and gave 120 a solid effort.
  • My back squat technique has been retooled over the last couple months for better mechanics and is greatly improved technically.  It may take a little while to bring the strength back up to where it was in May.  I got 245 with authority and 255 didn’t feel overwhelming on my shoulders and core (which are greatly improved since May); not to mention, I had full control on the way down and finished my 255 attempt with a perfectly executed bail to the back.
  • I’ve not had a ton of heavy deadlifting recently and I had a coaching assist (thanks Dave) during my warm-up as I was lifting with Olympic-style technique to start, which was slightly inefficient when working toward a max deadlift.

Overall, though the score is mildly disappointing and the question of why I couldn’t get 265 to budge in the deadlift still lingers, I am happy with the result.  In my mind, I’ve not gone backwards, I’ve progressed technically and will eventually surpass any prior weight records I set when I was a bit less technically sound.  I’ve got all kinds of patience.

When we don’t hit our mark, we move forward with the objective of becoming slightly better each step following.  I’m far better at the lifts than I was the last time around and am already looking forward to tomorrow’s Olympic lifting instruction session where I’ll be able to apply a bit more quickness and momentum to my lifts – I desperately missed that piece tonight.

Tonight, I couldn’t have asked for a better crew to work out with.  Nancy to my left, steady, quietly knocking down the lifts with awesome persistence and focus adding strength and health with every movement; Kathryn and Alexis helping each other destroy their Totals (making it look really easy, to the point that I had to fight off the thoughts of “what the heck is wrong with me?”); and Doc Franson cranking away at a workout some of the fittest in the world would be happy to survive (way to rock it Doc!).  I couldn’t see what was happening down at the other end of the gym but from what I could hear, there were monsters down at that end too).  It was my very happy place doing my thing boxed in by awesome athletic giants who are more than happy to let their work do all the talking.  I’ll never get over it – great job folks!

I depart tonight with a conversation that destroys our concept of the “impossible”:

Boy: Do not try and bend the spoon. That’s impossible. Instead… only try to realize the truth.
Neo: What truth?
Boy: There is no spoon.
Neo: There is no spoon?
Boy: Then you’ll see, that it is not the spoon that bends, it is only yourself.

Next time we approach our one-rep max (or the next seemingly impossible task), let’s remember –

There IS no max

Until the next time, 595 CrossFit Total it is.

Back in the rhythm, back in the pursuit, ready to take on the world once again – onto tomorrow!

Peace!

Sweet Cabbage Stew – Surprise!

I got home after dark this evening from four days of work in Baltimore with varying (small) degrees of sleep throughout and nearly no exercise due to scheduling demands for the project we were working on. On my way home, I hurriedly made my way through two grocery stores to pick up breakfast and snack supplies for the week [expand] before creating a healthy dinner from what I had in the house and prepare for the week ahead.

When I arrived home, I discovered that the grim reaper had already come for the tomatoes I was going to use for the base of my dinner delight – they’ll go out uneaten on Tuesday with the trash. I also found that I did a good job of clearing out most of the farm-grown goodies I had in the fridge before I left on the trip. My options were limited but I’ve worked with “limited” before and come out with decent stuff. Thankfully, tonight’s creation was no exception – I was truly surprised by the good natural flavor the dish had when it was served up – my “Iron Chef” ingredient of the night: cabbage (two full heads hanging out in the fridge).

Here’s how I assembled dinner while I cleaned the kitchen and unpacked:

1/2 small onion, diced
3 cloves fresh garlic, minced
1 butternut squash, peeled and thin-sliced for quick cooking
1/4 cabbage, peeled, chopped, sliced (whatever the preference)
1 c water
4 large carrots, chunked
Fresh ground pepper to taste
1 fresh turkey breast tenderloin, sliced into bite-size pieces
Freshly squeezed juice of 1/3 lemon

In a covered medium-sized pot, combine all ingredients and let come to a steady slow boil. Stir occasionally with a wooden spoon. Stew until the cabbage is nearly translucent and the carrots begin to break up as you stir (by then, the butternut squash should be completely “dissolved”).

Shut off the heat and serve it up! I’d guess this could serve about 3-4 typical eaters (I don’t qualify in that grouping).

 

Sweet Cabbage Stew

Sweet Cabbage Stew

 

It doesn’t really look or sound like much but the flavor was surprisingly good – I think the sweetness of the carrots and the butternut squash were the secret (thus Sweet Cabbage Stew Surprise) and I had my doubts about combining them with garlic and onion but the combination was great. The ground pepper gives it a nice little kick if you add enough.

I left out the fat in the dish (I considered adding olive oil to it, but then decided just to have a snack of nuts afterward to cover that piece). Feel free to add some if you please, I doubt it will alter the flavor much.  Without the fat content, the leftovers will be a great quick absorption refuel immediately following tomorrow night’s awesome workout (can’t wait!).

I now go to bed with a satisfied belly and happy that I have total control over my ingredients list again!

Oh, and I DID happen to get one workout in on my work-through weekend in Baltimore.  Last night I had planned to go to the gym but upon my arrival at the hotel front desk for a pass, I was informed that it had already closed for the day. SO, in my room while watching my Buckeyes get their butts handed to them by the Badgers (who CLEARLY showed up to play…unlike their opponents), I whipped up a recipe to satisfy my four-day long craving for movement.  A mix & match of for time of:

  • 300 (air) squats
  • 200 sit-ups
  • 100 push-ups

Reps could be completed in any order and I finished it in 34:25.  Then, for good measure, I threw in a couple full lock-out static holds for time:

  • head-through handstand hold (only heels touching the wall, body in a strict plank, head forward of shoulders)
  • push-up plank hold.

Got a minute and a half on both, not my max ever, but certainly enough after 600 other reps.  Not surprisingly, I slept great last night.

I’m exceptionally glad to be back home and certainly more ready for the week than I anticipated before the weekend.

Go out this week and do something great with whatever it is that you have – doesn’t have to be complicated, just has to be RIGHT. Apply a little imagination, a little discipline and make yourself happy through accomplishment. It’s a great treat!

GAME ON!!!

Ninja Script 1

I am happy to announce that the first ninja-scripted workout is in the books as of an hour ago!

Being that I couldn’t make it to the only workout of the day at my CrossFit gym, I was faced with a choice – work out on my own plan or don’t workout at all.  Thankfully, a couple days ago, a fellow CrossFit fiend, er…friend (quite awesome in her own right) asked me if I’d be around for a joint workout Monday, giving me a little help with motivation today.  Of course at the end of my workday, I wasn’t sure if she had already fulfilled her daily requirement for the essential element of movement but I thought I’d give it a shot and ask her about the joint workout as I was on my way home.

BINGO!  She hadn’t done a workout yet and was up for one  – I needed one badly.  She left it up to me to script out the work and I gladly accepted the challenge having an hour-long commute home before we’d hit the beach park.

Closely modeling my script after what I’m accustomed to in the gym, I came out with one of those workouts that doesn’t look like much written out but has certain provisions that make it as easy or as tough as the participant chooses.  Here’s what we were up against:

Warm-up:

  • Jog 1200m

As Many Rounds As Possible (AMRAP) in 15 minutes:

  • 10 stick-up lunges (hands extended straight overhead)
  • 20 double-unders
  • 5 burpees

Then, after a break to catch the breath,

Alternating Tabata intervals (8 minutes):

  • Sit-ups
  • Tuck jumps

Like I said, it doesn’t sound like much on paper, but the AMRAP alone was QUITE enough to fulfill a day’s movement requirement.  There were several times I wondered what I had done to us.  I struggled with my non-cooperative, too-long speed rope AND was passed up by my only “competitor”.  I never did catch up to her…when it was all said and done, we had done nine complete rounds and I was only a couple double-unders into my tenth round when the clock called time.  The champion of the night was already into the burpees of her tenth round by the time the clock rang out.  [Do the math and you’ll see just how much work that was in 15 minutes.]

Then came the alternating Tabata interval sit-ups and tuck jumps – eight minutes of 20-seconds-work-10-seconds-rest self-destruction.  We couldn’t help but lie motionless there in the dew-soaked grass and sandy dirt for a few minutes afterward.  At that point, neither dew, nor dirt makes a spit of difference in the world!

Just a second…before I let you think that’s all we did because it was the end of the script, I must say that when the two of us Slight Edge people get together, there’s always a little extra – a small, seemingly insignificant something – that makes sure we attain that little higher level that over time will produce great results.  A song came on the radio and we decided that for the duration of the song, we’d maintain (as best as possible) static plank holds – I’ve heard the song before but NEVER has it EVER seemed THAT long before!  EVER!

Overall, a REALLY great workout born of 15 months of great coaching and community training.  Not too bad for a first script!

Until next time, be encouraged – it is well within each of us to put our hand to our task and achieve something that is truly amazing – EVERY ONE OF US!

Sleep will be sweet tonight…

If footwear does this…

Vibram FiveFingers KSO Black/Orange

Recently I was walking to my normal spot on the Orange Line Inbound platform of Boston’s North Station when I was greeted from one of the benches with a very energetic and rather happy, “THERE’S my friend!”  I looked down to see the familiar smiling face of a woman I had only met once, several weeks before.  I had no idea of the rather exciting conversation that was to fill the second half of my morning commute.

Rewind a couple of months to a somewhat brisk late summer morning.  As far as I could tell, there was nothing hugely different about it – the weather was beautiful, the temperature perfect, and I was loving life just as much that morning as I typically do these days (generally a lot).  As I emerged from Boston’s Back Bay subway station and waited to cross the street a few minutes’ walk from my office, a very friendly woman tapped me on the shoulder and, with a rather excited curiosity, asked me about my footwear, stating that “they” look very comfortable.

Indeed “they” were.  That morning, I was commuting, as had been my custom since early summer, in my Vibram FiveFingers® KSO, black with orange accents (accurate pronunciation: VEE’-brahm, as in Vitale Bramani, company founder).

I wasn’t at all surprised at the inquiry as dress slacks and FiveFingers® on public transportation during morning rush hour do tend to draw some attention (though very few have been brave enough to comment or inquire on them).  I began with my usual response when I’m asked about what they are or how I like them, “They’re great – I love them”, and so began our two-minute conversation as we walked across the street.  Based on her inquiries, I imagine it was the first time that the woman had ever been able to speak with someone wearing a pair of FiveFingers®, and possibly the first time she had ever seen them.  I gladly gave her the quick summary of my experience with them and before we parted ways, I made sure to let her know that they’re called FiveFingers® and which local sporting goods store I visited to try a pair on and get correct sizing.

So there we were a couple of months later waiting for the subway, the same woman (I’ll refer to her as “Dee” from here on) excitedly getting my attention and introducing me to her commuting buddy there with her, having hoped for weeks that she would run into me again.  The first thing she directed my attention to was her own pair of FiveFingers® Classic, which I, as a big fan, was thrilled to see.  It turns out that she had wasted no time in researching the FiveFingers® after our initial conversation – she had looked them up online and then went to one of the local sporting goods stores to get fitted and try a pair on.  Dee had ended up purchasing a pair of her own that very week!

If that alone wasn’t cool enough from a mutual fan perspective, Dee explained to me that her experience over the last couple months since she had begun wearing her Classics had literally been life-changing!  Dee had not enjoyed walking before she began wearing them because of back pain – since she started wearing her FiveFingers®, the pain of walking is gone and she walks and stands more upright.  She clearly enjoys her commute in them and wears them proudly!

Dee also mentioned that she previously experienced a good amount of hypertension-related swelling in her feet as the days would go on, but that in her FiveFingers®, the swelling is lessened – very likely by increased circulation afforded to toes that are free to, and required to, move about independently as she walks.  She was also rather excited that since she had bought her pair, another friend or family member had/was about to join in the FiveFinger® “family”.

During the course of our rather enjoyable conversation (we had the entire second half of our commute to chat), we learned that we both work in information technology and discovered that our offices are right across the street from each other.  Dee also told me about some of her past health challenges and I was able to share a little about my health and fitness adventures over the last year or so (more to come on that…much more).  Before we parted ways this time, I gave her my business card and she gave me her email address, then we both went on with the day one friend richer than we had started it.

I almost instantly decided that I would send Dee more information on all the things that have brought me to where I am today in the hopes that there are other things in my recent (and rather awesome) experience that she’ll be able to incorporate into her life to get her nearer her optimal life, short-term and for years to come.

I had begun that day with a smile and by the time I had reached my office, the greatness measure of that day had jumped up exponentially.  One tiny detail of the better life I had begun living a year prior had significantly impacted a complete stranger’s in a very positive way and now I have another friend!

I typically anticipate great things to happen to and around me every day, but I had no idea I was going to receive a “Thank you for changing my life” from anyone that day.

…and that was just a result of my footwear…

Live the greatest life you can and live it well – you never know who’s looking and who needs what you have!

How truly awesome this Bonfire life is!

Until next time!

[For more about the awesome wellness lifestyle adventure I’m on, visit www.BonfireHealth.com and check out the BonfireHealth.com Facebook page – I’m all about it!  If you’re considering the new footwear, don’t settle for counterfeit merchandise – refer to the official Vibram FiveFingers site for details: http://www.vibramfivefingers.com/]