Just a Number

July 4, 2015

Super Mamika, Sascha Goldberger, 2010*

The idea of a “fitness age” has been floating around for a while now. When I took the online test, my result placed me at less than half my age. Flattering, but what does that really mean? My training at times takes age into account, but I have never felt constrained by it (and as a competitor, my age as given me an advantage, since I’m one of the youngest in my bracket). Is younger necessarily better?

Of course, what’s excited scientists about “fitness age” is its apparent correlation with a

Adding Up and Counting Down

June 27, 2015

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There are just 22 days to go.   This is a tally of the quantifiable work* I did last week to prepare for the competition.

What, no rope climbs, again?

Heat, Kenneth Noland, 1958

Heat, Kenneth Noland, 1958

*The list does not include warmups, cool downs, or accessory and skill work.

It All Adds Up

June 21, 2015

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There are just 29 days left before the CrossFit Games begin.  This is a tally of the quantifiable work* I did last week to prepare for the competition.

What, no rope climbs?

Numbers.  Jasper Johns, 1960.

Numbers, Jasper Johns, 1960

*The list does not include warmups, cool downs, or accessory and skill work.

Loosen Up

June 18, 2015
The Acrobat, Pablo Picasso, 1930

The Acrobat, Pablo Picasso, 1930

Muscles, when exerted consistently, get tight. Between a build-up of lactic acid and an emphasis on a specific, abbreviated range of motion, a worked muscle becomes sore and contracted. Without intervention, the next work out becomes even more arduous, the results less and less impressive. That’s where mobility exercises come in—to relax and restore range of motion.

The ur-text of this type of body work is Kelly Starrett’s “Becoming a Supple Leopard,” which advocates approaching all movement—from sitting in a chair to lifting a barbell—with mindfulness. It’s so common to see this book

Taking it in Stride

June 16, 2015
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Hilary Swank, Norman Jean Roy, 2005

Like a lot of people, I’ve seen my running times slow over the years. (My PRs for a mile and a 400 meter sprint are from 2013 and 2012, respectively.) My number of strides per minute, though, (right + left) has remained the same: 184. I suspected that my stride length had diminished, though it didn’t seem any different to me.

A few weeks ago, I met with Chris Hinshaw, an expert running coach who works with CrossFit athletes on endurance. He confirmed my suspicions, and noted that studies have shown that while

A Gut Feeling

June 9, 2015
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Draped Seated Woman, Henry Moore, 1957-58


“What is my perfect weight?” is a question which has vexed me ever since I started to train for competition. If you ask the weightlifters, they will tell you to train heavy, since more mass can push and pull more volume. If you ask the gymnasts, they’ll claim featherweight makes it easier to move through space. And the endurance people say, forget weight: body-fat percentage—fuel on board and the capacity to tap into it—matters most. So the answer, like everything else, falls to the individual athlete to decide.

My instincts tell me that I

Prep Work

May 29, 2015
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Rudolf II of Habsburg as Vertumnus. Giuseppe Arcimboldo, 1590.



I love food. When I look at my fridge, I want to see pleasure, not obligation. Not antithetically, training also demands that I eat thoughtfully. I need to eat not only for taste, but for performance.

I follow a plan that ensures that I have energy when I need it, in balanced proportion (more or less 40% carb-30% protein-30% fat) without the sluggishness that follows a heavy meal (I eat about 1800 calories per day). But I’m often traveling between gyms during the day, which means I don’t have time to

God is in the Detail*

May 26, 2015
Dennis.  Robert Mapplethorpe, 1978.

Dennis. Robert Mapplethorpe, 1978.

During the last few weeks, Jessica and I have spent about half of our daily training time focused on strengthening the little muscles that often get missed or “worked around” during the faster pace of a timed workout.

At least three days a week for the last month, we have started our day with a shoulder warm-up routine, called Crossover Symmetry. Several of the specialized coaches we consult suggested the routine as a way to improve shoulder mobility and stability. It takes five minutes to perform eight easy movements. Among other things, it addresses the