Only one week left!

Originally uploaded by alizinha/CrossFitNYC.
Til the NYC marathon and I've hardly blogged it like I had said I would. My excuse? Well, my marathon training's been practically non-existent. Honestly, half-way through this summer I admitted to myself that I was enjoying my CrossFit workouts way too much and just couldn't bear to do all the running necessary for conventional marathon training.

Given my history of Achilles tendonitis, I don't doubt that I made the right choice, because I could have easily re-injured myself with overuse and as it stands now I feel pretty good.

Did the Staten Island Half Marathon 2 weeks ago (which is where this pic comes from) and it felt great. My time was 2:18. (My best-ever Half was 2:11.)

My goal on Nov. 4 is to complete the race in approximately 5 hours, doing the run/walk method wherein I will walk 1 minute at every mile marker and run the rest.

We'll see how that goes, but one way or another, no matter what, I'm definitely going to have fun out there. New York City is the greatest city in the world and has the best marathon in the world from what everyone tells me. I know that people come out in droves to cheer the runners on, and if that doesn't get me through 26.2 miles, nothing will.


Welcome HuffPo Readers

RKB and me
photo courtesy of Brian Van, 485i

If you found my page via my friend Rachel Kramer Bussel's Huffington Post piece, welcome. This little blog of mine isn't that much yet; I tend to enjoy training myself and my clients so much that at the end of the day I don't always have time to post here. However, I do want to tell you a bit more about what I believe as a personal trainer, and how and why I believe serious strength training can benefit everyone.

Instead of trying to put together my own thoughts on the fly, I'd rather quote from the introduction of Starting Strength, a book that I believe is the most instructive strength training manual to come out in a generation (at least). It's a rather long quote, but I do believe it's worth reading quoting the entire passage:

Physical strength is the most important thing in life. This is true whether we want it to be or not. As humanity has developed throughout history, physical strength has become less critical to our daily existence, but no less important to our lives. Our strength, more than any other thing we possess, still determines the quality and the quantity of our time here in these bodies. Whereas previously our physical strength determined how much food we ate and how warm and dry we stayed, it now merely determines how well we function in these new surroundings we have crafted for ourselves as our culture has accumulated. But we are still animals--our physical existence is, in the final analysis, the only one that actually matters. A weak man is not as happy as that same man would be if he were strong. This reality is offensive to some people who would like the intellectual or spiritual to take precedence. It is instructive to see what happens to these very people as their squat strength goes up.

As the nature of our culture has changed, our relationship with physical activity has changed along with it. We previously were physically strong as a function of our continued existence in a simple physical world. We were adapted to this existence well, since we had no other choice. Those whose strength was adequate to the task of staying alive continued doing so. This shaped our basic physiology, and that of all our vertebrate associates on the bushy little tree of life. It remains with us today. The relatively recent innovation known as the Division of Labor is not so remote that our genetic composition has had time to adapt again.

Since most of us now have been freed from the necessity of personally obtaining our subsistence, physical activity is regarded as optional. Indeed it is, from the standpoint of immediate necessity, but the reality of millions of years of adaptation to a ruggedly physical existence will not just go away because desks were invented.
Like it or not, we remain the possessors of potentially strong muscle, bone, sinew, and nerve, and these hard-won commodities demand our attention. They were too long in the making to just be ignored, and we do so at our peril. They are the very components of our existence, the quality of which now depends on our conscious, directed effort at giving them the stimulus they need to stay in the condition that is normal to them. Exercise is that stimulus.

Over and above any considerations of performance for sports, exercise is the stimulus that returns our bodies to the conditions for which they were designed. Humans are not physically normal in the absence of hard physical effort. Exercise is not a thing we do to fix a problem--it is a thing we must do anyway, a thing without which there will always be problems. Exercise is the thing we must do to replicate the conditions under which our physiology was adapted, the conditions under which we are physically normal. In other words, exercise is substitute cave-man activity--the thing we need to make our bodies, and in fact our minds, normal in the 21st century. And merely normal, for most worthwhile humans, is not good enough.--Mark Rippetoe, Starting Strength

When I read that, I feel confirmed in why I exercise hard--because exercising hard is what we were born to do. No, it isn't easy; yes, the techniques must be learned and refined and improved upon so that they can be done safely and effectively. But just like we went to school to learn math and reading and writing, going to a gym like mine is where one can go to learn to squat heavy, to deadlift, to press, and pull, and twist. To test one's limits. To compete. To discover one's strengths and weaknesses.

Okay, gotta go to sleep now, more to come soon, promise!


Starting "Starting Strength"

After plenty of thinking about it, I've finally started doing the Rippetoe/Kilgore Starting Strength lifting regimen. KW and Dammit follow it, as do many other CrossFitters, so I thought I should get started on it as well, as I've become addicted to seeing my CrossFit Total numbers increase (I'm currently at 440--160# squat, 80# press, 200# deadlift, i.e., "intermediate" for my gender and weight class), and I know I can't expect to keep making real gains if I don't put in some extra effort. Once you've passed that beginner's stage of big strength gains, any further gains become smaller and more hard-won. So time to start doing the hard work to make that happen.

So here's what I did yesterday, my first official day on the plan:

Warm-up sets:
45 x 5
65 x 5
95 x 5
Work sets:
115 x 5
115 x 5
115 x 5

Warm-up sets:
45 x 5
55 x 5
Work sets:
60 x 5
60 x 5
60 x 5

Warm-up sets:
95 x 5
135 x 5
Work set:
155 x 5

Have to say it felt good, but I also know that this is the "easy" part, starting with a solid foundation of weight that I know I can lift. But each session I'll have to be increasing what I'm lifting in a linear fashion (no periodization) and I am not afraid to admit that the thought of that intimidates me. The trick is to not psych myself out. The other trick is to balance this training along side more met-connish WODs and my marathon training and not overdo everything and get sick/run down in the process.


How to completely shred your leg muscles in just one day

Originally uploaded by alizinha.
In my last post, about last Sunday's double bill of 4-mile race followed by 5x5 heavy back squats, I somehow neglected to mention how later that night I went dancing at my long-favorite dance party, Brazilian Beat Brooklyn. Those of you who know me and my old (and sadly neglected) Brazilian music blog know how much I love to dance to Brazilian music. For two reasons: the music itself, and the way one dances to it. The music is beautiful, it makes me happy, and I like to think that even if I were simply a disembodied brain in a vat of formaldehyde, I would still love that music. But I'm not. I live in a body that forces me to move in time to music that reaches my soul. (Does that sound cheeseball? I don't care.) And the way that Brazilian music--whether bossa nova, forro, batucada, samba, or MPB--reaches me has always been immediate, intense, and unique.

So when I dance to this music, I'm happy. And when it's samba in particular, the dancing is rather, shall we say, INTENSE. As in, "gee my thigh muscles are burning with all this super-fast gyrating, but I don't care because I'm having so much fun!"

Fitness experts always recommend to novice wanna-be active people to find exercise that they really like so they will stick with it. I have to agree with that sentiment, because I don't think I would ever work my legs so hard if I weren't having such a good time in the process.

(Oh, and my legs still hurt.)


Mother's Day Race Revisited

Originally uploaded by alizinha.
This pic is from last year, when I did the NYJL Mother's Day women's half-marathon. Well, this year, they changed it to a 10-mile women's race and a 4-mile co-ed race. I went with the 4-miler, as I'm not up to speed yet for a 10-mile race. Brian from The Box had posted in comments that he was going to run this race and had put down "Team CrossFit NYC" as his affiliation. Which got me to thinking I should do the race, too, and run on behalf of CrossFit.

I remember the challenge of that day last year, running that half-marathon just a month or so after the Brooklyn Half, and improving my time by 20 minutes. It was quite the accomplishment, but I'm happy to say that this year's race was an accomplishment in it's own way.

Having hardly done any running in 2007, but a lot of CrossFitting, I was curious to see how fast I'd be able to race. Here's the comment I posted on the CrossFit blog, which pretty much sums up why it was a great day:
This morning I ran the 4-mile co-ed NYJL Mother's Day race in Central Park at 8am before doing the 11am class.

Let me just say that I haven't been running nearly as much as I used to pre-CF, and yet today I set a new PR at 35 minutes and 4 seconds, shaving nearly 3 minutes off of my previous PR at this distance. My pace of 8:46 is also the fastest racing I've EVER done, barring the one time I did a 1-mile race.

So it seems that the CrossFit is working. But let me just say that I felt my accomplishment this morning was as much mental as physical--or should I say mental AND physical. I've definitely increased my pain tolerance (and become more competitive than I ever used to be), so when I would pass 2 runners chatting with each other, all I could think was, "Why are you TALKING when you should be RUNNING! This is a RACE!!!"

For the squats I did 105 x 5, 110 x 5, 135 x 5, 145 x 3, 145 x 3.


CrossfitNYC Part V--Sweaty Pull-ups Edition

Keith managed to make two great new videos of recent workout-of-the-day craziness at the Black Box. I like them both but I think I prefer this one for the sheer sweatiness of the pull-ups. (And maybe the fact that you can see me doing some real pull-ups in this video, not just jumping pull-ups...)


My circuitous path to the marathon

Originally uploaded by alizinha.
Back in the fall of 2005 I decided that I was finally ready to tackle the NYC Marathon. After running for over 10 years (yet considering myself "a runner" for only the last couple of those years), I realized that the marathon distance was a challenge that I was capable of completing, if only I could manage not to get injured in the process. Having done my first and only half marathon the year before, I remembered how rewarding was the process of gradually adding mileage until I could finally run a full 13.1 miles without stopping. Crossing that finish line gave me a unique sense of accomplishment, one that I couldn't compare to any other thing I'd ever done.

So when I committed last year to doing the New York Road Runners' program of becoming a member and completing 9 qualifying races so as to secure a guaranteed position in the 2007 Marathon, I decided to do not just one half marathon race, but three. I improved my half-marathon time by 20 minutes from the Brooklyn Half in March to the Mother's Day Half in May. Then the third one I ran--the inaugural NYC Half Marathon that happened last August--was slightly faster but with no big jump in speed. But the fact that I saw myself getting faster at all was pretty amazing. I always imagined myself more of a persistent runner than a fast one. Maybe it's just the fact that when you run races with thousands of entrants, there's no way to ever feel fast when so many other people finish before you do.

So I was competing with myself, and I was fine with that.

The only problem with all those races (and particular those three half marathons) was that I managed to overtrain my way into a return of my chronic Achilles tendonitis. So after my final race this past September (the Fifth Avenue Mile) I hung up my running shoes to let my ankle heal. I focused on yoga, weight training, and that useful-yet-boring piece of cardio equipment, the elliptical.

Well now I'm back to running again, and it seems to be going okay but it's not something I'm focusing on in quite the same single-minded way as before. And that's because of CrossFit, an explanation of which I'll leave for one of my next posts, soon...