Slacking, confused and needing to get my stuff back together

I started Crossfit on April 13 of this year, and it truly is night and day in terms of my fitness. While I am still fat and much less fit than others in my 5:30 am class, I am a completely different person than I was less than 6 months ago.

But, unfortunately, I think I have fallen in to a “this is the best I can do/this is who I am” mindset. I dropped from 302, made it low as 255, and this morning was 259. That 259 is really disappointing to me.

It’s not a “the scale changes every day/don’t focus on the scale” issue. The 259 really is laziness and becoming slack about my efforts. In the beginning, I was religious about 50g of protein and a cup of veggies for every meal except for my post workout meals with 50g of cards instead of veggies. And then my two protein shakes/snacks a day in between meals. I was religious about recording those meals in the Sparkpeople food log.

I also had gotten to the point where I was making it to Crossfit 4, sometimes 5 days a week, then running a 6th day. I was kicking butt.

About 5-6 weeks ago, I found myself really starting to slack on recording the food. (I had slacked occasionally before, but with this, I would skip whole days instead of just missing a meal or two.) I also felt a bit entitled to eat some bad food. Not that I did not occasionally fit in bad foods in the first five months, but they were intentionally planned and accounted for. This became frequent.

And then, about three weeks ago, the head coach at Crossfit posted a video about the need for your muscles to recover – that you really shouldn’t be doing Crossfit more than 4 days a week (but you could do other exercises on “off” days).  I wish I hadn’t seen that video, because I think I used that as an excuse to cut back, I have gone to Crossfit three days a week for the past three weeks. And eating the same and more than before.

There’s that four pounds.

This is a “Know thyself” moment for me. Sure. For most people it may be better to recover a day between workouts, and maybe when I get to where I ultimately want to be, I can follow that general guidance. But, for someone who has fairly easily derailed in the past, I can’t do that.

If you told me I had to run a half marathon this afternoon, it wouldn’t be pretty, but I think I could do it, probably at a 14 minute pace. I now have the ability to do 5+ at just under 12 minute miles, but if I run, then walk, I don’t have the ability to run again. I’d have to stick that that one pace and I would finish.

I have to get back to what works for me. I now need the momentum to get back to five days a week and recording all of my food intake. 255 was not my end goal, and 259 is not where I want to be.

I need to get back on track.

Short, medium and VERY long term goals

My family is a family of athletes – except for me. My wife has completed five marathons and countless half marathons. My daughter rowed on the top boat for a D1 school and has completed marathons and half marathons, and my son, in his first full marathon, finished in a Boston marathon qualifying time (3:04:27 – three years after completing his first half in just about 3 hours on the same course).

I have tried, but I am nothing like them. I do have endurance and have completed many halfs, but the most recent was about four years ago and I believe my time was about 3:45. I finished. I know I can do that. But, I have never been even the slightest bit competitive. (I did get a silver for my age group in a 5k distance swim, coming in deadl last, a full 6 minutes after the next to last swimmer. But there were only 37 swimmers in the event and only 2 in my age group!)

However, I have some goals. The first is to complete a half marathon in under 2:30. I know that is not fast. But, for me it is. And, I am shooting for April 2019 – the Holy Half at Notre Dame – with my wife and kids. That is the interim goal.

The short term goal has been changing weekly. In addition to doing Crossfit, I have begun building up time and distance for just one weekly run. This past Saturday, I did 5 miles in 59 minutes! Again, not fast for others, but fast for me. I aim to get to 6 in 60, and then start extending the time by 5 minutes a week after that. It is a lofty goal for me, but I am shooting for that 6 in 60 by the end of October.

And the very, very  long term goal? January 2040 – The Bermuda Walking Marathon. It will be immediately after my 50th wedding anniversary 1/13/40, and right before my 75th birthday on 3/25/40. I’d like to have my wife and kids and their future spouses and future kids there too. I figure if I can have made it that far with a family that loves me, be healthy enough to walk that far, and be able to afford to pay for all of that, not that I’d want to at that point, but I could then die a happy man.


Bad form? I’ll say.

The 5:30 am Crossfit Alpharetta class is really the right class for me. Great encouraging people – usually 3-5 of which are also coaches. What that means is that they are not only there working out, but they also can’t help themselves in giving additional encouragement and instructions to others in that class. And, since the others in the class are all realky in good shape, that means they help the fat, old guy – me.

Today it was Justin, the owner, who was coaching and we were doing power snatches. For someone completely unathletic, it is not an easy move to get. I am getting better, but it really is a struggle. But, Justin was trying, unsuccessfully, to get me to correct my form. He was demonstrating what to do, and I felt like I was doing it. So, he took a video of me doing it so he could show me.

As he was showing me the video, he was earnestly explaining how to correct it. But, like in movies with explosions where the characters only hear muffled words immediately after a bomb goes off, I only heard mumbles. Because, honestly, an explosion went off in my head when I saw, even 45 pounds lighter than when I started  in April, my big gut hanging down as the bar went up.

Believe me, I have never had this grand illusion of being in better shape than I am. But, I honestly had no idea just how bad I really am. It was – no is – that bad. I can’t imagine how bad it was when I started in April.

I guess, to a certain extent, I saw other big people and think, I’m probably not in that bad a shape. But, that video of me doing a power snatch is absolute proof that I am wrong. I still am in that bad a shape.

I am not going to get frustrated and give up. I am going to try to use what I saw this morning as motivation for a renewed, stronger focus on improvement.


The struggle is real (to me)

I can only speak for myself, but I think it is pretty easy to play the role of the fat guy. I have been it all my life. Physically, it may be uncomfortable, but mentally and emotionally, it is easy to accept.

So, when you are working your butt off, doing this Crossfit thing, and not making the strides you had hoped for, you (meaning me) start to hear “Just accept the fact that you are never going to be fit.”

Unfortunately, I am in a bit of that phase now. Many mornings, when that alarm goes off at 4:55, I think to myself, “Hit snooze. You can go tomorrow. Today, you’ll get another hour and a half of sleep.” But, I do know, if I give myself that break, I may actually break the habit I have gotten in to for the last 4 months. I know I am a slacker, fat guy at heart. I am trying to change that.

Almost daily, by about 5:05, when I am putting my running shoes on, I am pleased with myself that I didn’t hit snooze – that I am heading to Crossfit. But, so many days, I am just so close to throwing in the towel and accepting that I will never be 220 or 200 or 180 pounds and healthy.

If you have suggestions for staying motivated – for staying on the straight and narrow – I am all ears. I don’t want to slip back into my old ways.

Do you feel any different?

Justin, the owner of Crossfit Alpharetta, asked me that question on Wednesday morning. I responded with weight related successes – down 42 pounds; went from struggling with the last hole on a belt to moving to the smallest on that belt (it’s still huge, but it is an improvement). He responded with “No. Do you feel any different?”

On vacation the prior week, I was able to walk 8-12 miles a day in 95+ degree heat without bitching (any more than anyone else because of the heat). I was able to carry my backpack suitcase up 4 flights of stairs to our Airbnb without issue. Great non-scale victories.

But, this morning, I realized my biggest non-scale victory. It is really a mental/attitude change.

My right elbow/shoulder has been hurting for weeks. I thought a week’s vacation would have helped, but the pain is still there. Not so much that I can’t work out. Just a dull pain when I move them certain ways. What’s the victory? I have not used that as an excuse to give up. Rather, I have accepted that I am going to have aches and pains as I improve my health. I have accepted that I may have to get it taken care of. But, I absolutely want to keep working. I absolutely want to continue to improve – not settle back in to my old comfort zone.

Though, at the moment, there is a little pain, I believe this path I am on is my new comfort zone.

Slow and steady wins the race?


No. There’s no winning the race for me. But, there is finishing the race. The picture above is from the Peachtree on July 4th – the world’s largest 10k. 60,000 runners.  I was slow as all hell, but I finished. That’s my wife and daughter with me.

Crossfit is definitely making a difference fitness wise. I don’t think it will make me a faster runner or help too much with endurance because we really don’t do too much aerobically, so I will have to work on that on my own. But, in the past, I have focused mostly on aerobic exercise and it hasn’t helped with the weight. But, Crossfit really has.  It kind of feels like one big plateau because there is not any day to day loss that I can see, but the weight is coming off –  very, very slowly. I am down around 265-ish (+/- 1 pound). That’s from the 302 at the beginning of April, and even 16 off of my previous all time high.

Over the past couple of weeks, I think as I have tried to add weight, I have focused a little less on form as I do some of the exercises which has, unfortunately, hurt my efforts. From my now almost three months of Crossfit experience, as the coaches repeatedly point out, work on getting the motions down first – the weight will come later. I have done a little forearm muscle damage as I have done poor form power cleans. But, I have lightened the load and I feel like the movement is becoming a bit more natural.

I have addressed it a few times in previous blogs, but this morning’s class was a recurring example of why Crossfit, or at least Crossfit Alpharetta, is a phenomenal place for people of all fitness levels. Itr wasn’t the normal weight portion that we started with today.  It was a 5 minute piece where you did as many pull ups as possible unbroken, and then once you stopped, you did as many more as possible in the remaining 5 minutes. I think there were 7 of us. I can’t do a pull up, so I was doing ring rows. Another person was doing band assisted pull up, a couple more were doing regular pull ups, and 2 more were doing chest to bar pull ups, but on rings (pretty unbelievable to watch). Each person giving their best effort. After the weight portion of the class, you go in to conditioning. Today’s was a 20 minute AMRAP (as many reps as possible) of a 200m run, followed by Russian kettlebell swings then sit ups then start over. It was 20 and 20 of kettle bells and sit ups, but mine was scaled to 15 and 15. I’m using a 20 pound kettle bell, while others were pushing 60+. I ended up with 6 rounds, while some ended up with 9-10. But, as we passed each other occasionally on the run portion, it was “way to go Jack (or Grace or Jessica or Andy or Dan or Christine or Will)…”  Each person giving their own personal maximum effort.

It is this type of encouragement that is keeping me on track and allowing me to becoming a healthier person.

I don’t think it gets easier…

My impression now of Crossfit is that it is never supposed to get easier. It is supposed to always be a challenge – an effort towards continuous improvement.

Slowly, very slowly, the weights I am lifting are increasing. If I went back to those weights from the first couple of weeks, I am sure they would be easy. But the point is to push yourself to do and be better.

Part of what we did today was Power Cleans (barbell from the ground to your waist then hip swing with the barbell landing at the top of the chest/shoulders) at a heavy weight, followed by sets of power cleans and burpees in a series of 15 each, 12 each, and 9 each.  Two months ago, in all honesty, the 45 pound barbell was a struggle. Today, 105 was a struggle. But that’s improvement. I still can’t do a decent burpee, but I have gone from stepping back and forward one foot at a time to jumping back and forward with both feet. Again, improvement.

So, I had some satisfaction. There was another guy there today, Eric. He is also a coach. (There are always at least a couple of coaches in the 5:30 am class that, even though they are not officially coaching are always coaching and trying to make sure you are improving.) He must have hit a PR today. I think I heard him say 315. This guy has been doing crossfit for (I think) something like 6 years. And the guy is still working on continuous improvement.

So he hits 315 and I hit 105.  Everyone else in that room hit somewhere in between my low and his high.

I have to say that is a really cool thing about crossfit. I sincerely believe that every one of those people in that class get satisfaction out of doing their best and are genuinely encouraging of and satisfied when seeing each other do their best.