Crossfit OnRamp Day 8

Crossfit OnRamp Day 8, Wednesday morning, and nothing is terribly sore to start out with.  I’m excited, a workout where I’m coming in “relatively” fresh!

The warm-up we began with seemed pretty reasonable.  Three consecutive sets of:

  • 20 jumping jacks
  • 5 plank walks
  • 10 situps
  • 20 flutter kicks
My abs were sore by the end, and I was warmed up, heart going, but not completely spent.  Just about right.  While the previous class finished up, I spent about 5 minutes on the jump rope myself working on double unders, then we began the “education” portion of today’s lesson.


We focused on kettle bell exercises and progressions, reviewing standard kettle bell swings, then working into kettle bell clean & jerks right-handed, left-handed, and simultaneously.  Then we moved into kettle bell snatches, which I actually liked better than the clean and jerks.  Finally, we spent a few minutes doing Turkish Get-Ups.  They were kind of fun from a technical standpoint and an exercise unlike anything I’ve ever done before, but I also quickly learned how tiring they get after a few repetitions doing them correctly.
Today’s workout was a quick one, though challenging.  Chris gave me a choice of going to lower or heavier kettle bells for the workout.  I chose the heavier set, but kept the lighter ones handy in case it was a bit more than I bargained for.  As it happened, I was able to complete the workout without moving to the lighter bells, but certainly didn’t have much (if anything) left in me by the time we were done.  The workout was one time through, for time:
  • 15 KB swings
  • 7 KB C&J (R)
  • 15 KB swings
  • 7 KB C&J (L)
  • 15 KB swings
  • 7 KB snatch (R)
  • 15 KB swings
  • 7 KB snatch (L)

I was a bit nervous about this one with all the shoulder work, given some artificial parts in my right shoulder and a missing rotator cuff muscle, but it worked out OK.  The 15 kettle bell swings, which I usually like, really had me pushing to keep good form by the end, and the 7 reps of the clean and jerks and snatches were just the right amount to push me, but not so much that I had to break the sets.  My biggest worry by the time we were done was keeping hold of the kettle bell, as I was absolutely drenched.  A couple trips for more chalk on my hands certainly fixed that issue, though.  Total time was around 6:20 for the workout.

I’d expected another “cash-out” killer exercise before leaving since I did the set unbroken, but we finished up with a shoulder stretching exercise.  This workout seemed just about right — challenging, pushing me, but it didn’t kill me for the rest of the day (and I’m hoping leaves me in reasonable shape for a couple matches of sand volleyball tomorrow night, as it’s our end-of-season playoff night)!  Friday is our “Total” day, in which we try to figure out my maximum weight for a variety of strength exercises.  I’m a bit excited to learn what my maximums are, but also a little nervous about staying injury free, as all heavy-weight work I’ve ever done has always involved sets of a minimum of eight repetitions.  One-rep maximums will be an entirely new critter!

Crossfit OnRamp Day 7

Monday morning, time for on-ramp workout day 7.  Before I get into that, though, a precursor about the weekend should probably be in order.  If you’ve read my post about Day 6, I was feeling reasonably OK when I left the gym.  And that evening.  But that night my little girl was sick so there wasn’t a lot of sleep going on in the house.  When the girls went down for their afternoon nap on Saturday, I thought I’d try and join them for about half an hour.  I laid down with them, nodded off reading my book for a bit, and when I woke up, I could not straighten my arms.  It was agony to try to unfurl them.  I couldn’t even lay down in an inverted starfish position without serious pain.  I did a bit of google searching and learned about Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS), which makes it sound pretty mild, but I gotta tell you, I was hurting until Monday morning.  By Monday morning it was starting to subside, but was by no means gone.  So, a couple of rough nights with little sleep and I certainly wasn’t feeling refreshed walking into Day 7.  But walk in I did.

I stretched out while watching the regular cross fit class do their work-out.  Oh my, they were mighty impressive, and I almost felt guilty stretching as they worked, but I had my turn pretty quickly.  Warmup was three sets of:

  • 10 split jerks (with PVC focusing on form)
  • 10 air squats
  • Samson Stretch
  • 10 situps
  • 20 mountain climbers

All pretty reasonable… heart rate was up, wasn’t too tired, ready to go.

We began with today’s focus — rings.  Chris started by demonstrating a muscle-up, then, we moved to a progression with ring pulls.  I did three sets of five ring pulls from a fairly horizontal position, which made them significantly tougher.  Then he had me do a couple dips on the rings (I think I managed about 2.5), and he seemed surprised I was able to do even one of those.  Hmmm.  Then we started a muscle-up progression, just practicing going from an extended fake grip to a pre-dip position.  This was rather uncomfortable, but we did about five of those before putting the rings away.  Next, on to the WOD (Workout of the Day).

Today’s workout was a progression of jump rope and back squats.  Jump rope typically would be double-unders, but as I haven’t mastered those yet, Chris made them singles.  On the bright side, thanks to junior high wrestling coach I can pretty much rest while I jump rope singles… the bad news is that was pretty apparent, so the workout was probably easier than initially intended (which we made up for).  Chris gave me a choice of lighter or heavier weights for the back squats, and I chose heavier to see how things worked.  The progression was as follows:

  • 50 jump rope singles
  • 3 back squats
  • 40 jump rope singles
  • 6 back squats
  • 30 jump rope singles
  • 9 back squats
  • 20 jump rope singles
  • 12 back squats
  • 10 jump rope singles
  • 15 back squats

Before we began, Chris gave me a primer on back squats, and I did five or six to make sure I had the form down (or as close to down as a rookie can get).  Then it was time to begin.  We put roughly 55 pounds on the bar (I think) and it was off to the races.

The jump rope was rather easy, and the back squats were a focus more on form than strength, though by the time I got to the 12 and 15-rep sets, that weight was feeling mighty heavy.  Overall, though, this was the easiest WOD I’d completed yet, which didn’t go unnoticed.  I completed the entire thing in just under 6 minutes, so Chris added a “cash-out” program.  What did that mean?  20 Jump-the-box burpees.  Basically 20 burpees, but after each one, I was to broad jump onto a 24-inch high box, stand up, then step off to do my next burpee.  Given that my legs were already pretty tired from the back squats, this was a challenge, but I managed to get all 20 completed without ever stepping up onto the box (though I swear that box got higher and higher the more burpees I did).  Another good workout, and I only needed about five minutes before I was stable enough (quit shaking) to drive home.  On to Wednesday and Day 8!

Crossfit OnRamp Day 6

Start of day 6 (Friday morning) and I’m beginning in pretty bad shape.  My back just ached the entire day before, it hurt so much I had trouble sleeping at night, and this morning it’s worse, if that’s even possible.  So I started stretching about an hour before my workout, hoping to gain any little edge I could.

Arrived at the gym just in time to see the previous class doing their WOD — a 50-40-30-20-10 progressions of air squats, bear crawl (just one length), sit-ups, bear crawl, repeat until done (or deceased).  Oh my.

While they finished up, I began my warm-up…  Four sets of 10 burpees and a 200m run.  Probably a pretty reasonable warm-up on most days, but already being sore and tired, this pushed me a bit.  Made it through, though, and other than my back being so sore it hurt to stand, it didn’t go badly.

We sent right into 5-8 minutes of jump rope, working on doubles.  I found the singles actually relaxing after the warm-up as I got my breath back in this exercise, and am getting closer on doubles, but still not quite there.  Chris stopped me after a few minutes, and we spent a few moments doing some back stretches before moving into a progression on cleans with the bar bell.

We began with PVC, starting with dead lifts, then a progression of cleans.  Definitely some skill involved here to keep most of the lifting the job of the legs, and not the arms.  My form isn’t great by any stretch, but on the bright side, I can start to tell myself what I’m doing wrong and when it’s getting better.  So that was our skill portion, as we spent quite a bit of time here working through the progressions.

Time for the day’s workout… a 21-15-9 progression of thrusters followed by pull-ups.  So what’s a thruster, you may ask?  Basically, you start with the barbell doing a clean, then from a standing clean position, do a front squat and push the bar (and yourself) up to a fully-extended hold.  Chris offered to start me with lighter weights, but we decided to up them a bit to challenge me (I think the final weight we decided on was 75 lbs?).

So, first set of thrusters.  Started out kinda fun (something new), and I made it to around 12 before really starting to struggle.  Pushed out a few more then had to take a break at 16.  Was hoping to pound the last nine out, but ended up doing three more, then two to finish it off.  On to the pull-ups.  I wanted to start with regular strict pull-ups to see how many I could do.  After the thrusters, apparently the correct number was three.  So I slid over to the box and finished out with jumping pull-ups (the downside was each jumping pull-up only counted as half credit, so I had to do 36 of them to finish off my 18).  It seemed like something that should be pretty easy, but I really focused hard on not jumping any more than I had to, so my shoulders were just about falling off by the time I finished (which required another break or two).

On to round two.  This time, I made it through about 8 thrusters before dropping the bar.  Thankfully, I was able to get my head out of the way.  Finished up then with a set of 4, tried for 3, but actually had to take a breather before pushing out the last one.  Then back to the pull-up bar.  Tried a strict one — nothing doing, so straight on to the box.  To finish the set I needed 30 jumping pull-ups.  And let me tell you, they took everything I had and a bit more.  Again, I didn’t make it through unbroken, but I did them.

One more round of nine reps.  By now thrusters weren’t nearly as fun as they were at the start, but I managed to complete them with a set of 5, 2, and 2, then back to the pull-up bar.  Started strong with the end in sight and got through 10 before my shoulders went on strike.  I negotiated with them for a moment and they came back to work, did five more, then two more, then thought I’d try to be a bad ass and end on a high note.  I moved over to the regular bar and tried to muscle out one last real pull-up.  Crap.  Arms back on strike.  Back to the box to finish the jumping pull-ups.  Day six complete, and a two day rest to hopefully get healed up before our next adventure on Monday!

Crossfit OnRamp Day 5

Our day 5 on-ramp class warm-up started fairly reasonably.  Three sets of a bear-crawl across the gym, 10 kettle bell swings (18 kg), 10 of something I can’t remember, and long-jumps back across the gym.  The warm-up was pretty reasonable again this time.  I was just starting to feel sore, heart rate was up, it wasn’t easy at all by round 3, but I still had something left in the tank.

Then we went on to skills.  We started by working on jump rope.  I did fine with my initial singles (thanks to my junior high wrestling coach), but struggled a bit doing doubles — well, struggled a lot.  But I’m sure that I can improve on.  The issue wasn’t fitness here, but skill.  Chris said that jump rope frustrates many folks as one of the hardest things in cross fit.  Hard to imagine, jump rope doesn’t worry me at all.  Those toes-to-bar and handstand push-ups make me nervous.  Anyhow, we spent about five minutes then moved on.

Next up was pull-ups.  Chris seemed surprised that I could do strict pull-ups, but after a few to prove it, we moved on to kipping pull-ups (which he said should make pull-ups easier).  This began with a progression of v-ups / super mans on the ground, then practicing on the bar for several sets.  I found these harder to do than the actual pull-ups, but it sounds like that’s probably a technique / core-conditioning issue.  Regardless, that had my shoulders pretty tired by the time we got to our work out.

Weightlifter close grip barbell upright rows hg clr

Today’s workout: Fight Gone Bad.  In short, it’s a 17-minute workout, broken into three sets of five minutes each, with a one-minute rest at the end of each five-minute block.  Each five-minute block consisted of:

  • 60s wall-ball (14-lb ball this time)
  • 60s sumo deadlift high-pull @55 lbs
  • 60s box-jumps
  • 60s push-press with 45 lbs
  • 60s rows

Initially we had the box at the prescribed 20″ at my request, but after finishing the first minute of wall-balls, I could tell that was going to leave me cracking my shins on the box, so I called an audible and moved to the lower box.  Each of these exercises by themselves would be pretty reasonable, but I neglected to recall how spent my legs were following the wall-ball exercise.  By the time I got to the deadlifts, it was a struggle to keep good form, and my lower back was starting to ache.  The box jumps really pushed my legs again, but I kept moving by transitioning to step-ups.  The first round of push-press I made through with some challenges, and the 60s row was almost a break in itself on my aching shoulders and back.  Round 1 complete, and that 60s break was mighty short.

Round 2 and the wall ball really started to push me.  I had to take a 5-6 second break toward the end of the set, and the deadlifts just piled on to sore legs.  The box-jumps started with one or two legit jumps, then transitioned to step-ups again, but I kept moving.  The push-press, well, that’s where things started to come apart.  In this round after hammering out 6 or 7, I had to catch a quick break with the bar on my chest a few times, and that 45-pound bar was mighty heavy by the time the minute was up.  Got to the rows again and focused on form.  One round left and by now I was really starting to hurt, was a touch dizzy, and just walking to the next station had me pretty jelly-legged.

Round 3 and the wall ball required another break or two, and I even dropped the ball once.  Oops.  Transitioning to the deadlift and I was really struggling with my form.  Put the bar down once for a few seconds, but managed to get through it.  The box-jumps were just an ongoing step-up exercise as I sang in my head “just keep swimming…” and the push-press, well, it wasn’t pretty at all, but I survived.  When the buzzer sounded to move to the rows I was thrilled, as the row machine does push from a cardio standpoint, but there was no one single muscle group that screamed at me.  I was panting and dripping all over by the time that last minute ended, and even getting out of the rowing machine was a little trickier than one might imagine when you’re that exhausted, but overall, another good workout.

Crossfit OnRamp Day 4

Day 4 of my Crossfit OnRamp Classes, and I was somewhat excited in having had an entire weekend off to recuperate, hoping I could walk in and start a workout without being too sore at beat up at the outset.  Friday’s class (OnRamp Day 3) had gone fairly well, so I was excited to see if the trend continued.  I really wanted a good workout that pushed me, but not so much that I started getting sick or nervous about hurting myself.

Today didn’t disappoint.  The warm-up was quite reasonable, I thought.  We started with three consecutive sets of: 10 air squats, 3 plank walks, 10 sit-ups, and 20 jumping jacks. In reality, it may have been the “easiest” warm-up yet, but I thought it did what it was supposed to.  My heart rate was up, I was stretched out, moving, and ready to go.

We then jumped into some stretching exercises to get ready for “press day.”  With some PVC pipe we did a number of shoulder exercises to stretch things out, then we talked about a number of different types of presses.  We started with form practice for the strict press with the PVC pipe, then a push press, then finished with practice of the split-jerk press.  It was all about form, and I know it’ll take some practice, but most of it seemed pretty reasonable.  I’m sure, just like when I first started using free weights 10 years back or so, it feels uncomfortable and scary for a while until you get used to it.

Then we moved into our progression for handstand push-ups.  Yup, really, just like it sounds.  To begin with, we started with a hand stand.  I began against the wall doing a tripod progression to a hand-stand without too much trouble.  Next, however, was getting into an arm-locked handstand without the tripod.  Not quite as good… I’m not sure I really have the shoulder strength to handle that yet, but with Chris’s help I was able to hold the position for a few seconds with help getting into it against the wall.  He said it was better than most beginners for that exercise — he may have been bolstering my feelings, but it seemed like a decent start.

The workout of the day was of the AMRAP type — As Many Rounds As Possible — in 15 minutes.  Our progression was 10 kettle bell swings (18-lb bell), 15 kettle bell squats, and a 200 m run.  I gotta say, it sounded pretty reasonable at the start.  The first round went well.  Kettle bell swings are actually kinda fun.  I know my weight was light, but I was also focusing on form.  Then the 15 kettle bell squats started to get challenging by the end, but about the right intensity, and I knew once I finished those I’d have a 200m run to recuperate before round two.  Silly me.  Finished the squats, put the bell down, and took about three steps before I almost fell on my face.  Apparently my legs had turned to gelatin during the squats.  OK, so not as easy as I’d figured.  I knew there had to be a catch.

Despite the jelly legs, I finished my 200m run and started on round two.  Again, the kettle bell swings were kinda fun, the squats really started to push me, and it was the run following the squats that again kicked my butt.  During round 3 I had to take a quick circle walk about halfway through the kettle bell squats, then finished up with a stumble out the door.  By the time we finished the 15 minutes, I’d completed five rounds (barely), and had 8 kettle bell swings into round 6 complete.  Not wanting to leave the fun part unfinished, I did the last two after the buzzer, then attempted to walk around and regain my senses for a few moments, as that last run I’d started to get a bit dizzy.  I sat down, walked around, talked (gasped) to the instructor for a few minutes, then headed home for my shower.  Which got MUCH more exciting when I decided to climb the stairs to get to the bathroom.  OK, need the railing here.  No problem.  Until I had to go back DOWN the stairs to let the dog in.  Going down the stairs was a bit more exciting, as I barely had enough in my legs to keep from falling.  Yup, good workout.  Survived day four, onto number five on Wednesday!

Crossfit OnRamp Day 3

I walked into Day 3 a bit apprehensive and a bit excited, as I was still quite sore from the previous two workouts, but looking forward to seeing what would come next.  As I walked in, two folks from the regular class were finishing up sets of pull-ups and wall balls, and it did my heart good to see that they were struggling as well.

I started off with what I thought was a perfect warmup.  Three sets of a 200m run, 10 push-ups, 10 sit-ups, and 20 mountain-climbers.  The run felt good, I managed the first 10 push-ups with just a bit of struggle at the end, I was burning from sit-up one from my previous days, and the mountain climbers certainly got my heart pumping.  By round 2 I was struggling on the push-ups and sit-ups, and by round 3 push-up and sit-up #10 were big struggles.  For where I’m at currently, that seemed just about right.


On to our lessons.  We began with wall climbs, in which you get in push-up position with your feet against the wall, do a push-up, then slowly walk backwards up the wall.  It looked pretty cool in the demo, but was quite a bit tougher to do in practice.  On the first one I just about fell down the wall, the second I got the hang of it, and by the third I was pooped and half fell down the wall at the end again.  Looking forward to more of these, though, if just from a “something different” perspective.

Next we worked on dead lifts by practicing with the medicine ball.  As all these free-weight exercises are new to me (I’ve only really done isolated bar exercises, and mostly for upper body, as in the past all leg-work was done with dumb bells instead of a bar), there’s a lot of work to be done on form.  We started with learning how to pick up the ball and clean it, focusing on maintaining a good squat position and keeping the ball in tight.  From there, we practiced some wall balls (which felt amazingly like setter drills but with a bit more weight and bit bigger ball).  After lesson time, it was time for the daily workout.


Today’s workout was a 21-15-9 progression of wall balls and a form of abdominal torture known as toes to bar.  From a hanging position, the goal is to pull your toes up to the bar as shown at the left.  Yeah, I thought that was funny too.  Chris modified the instructions for me, allowing me to shoot for getting me knees up to my elbows.  I got a bit closer there, but still REALLY struggled.  After instruction, it was time to start the workout!

The first set of 21 wall balls wasn’t too bad… I was using a 10-pound ball and the form was very similar to volleyball.  Not saying I wasn’t struggling and huffing and puffing by the end, but I didn’t want to die (yet).  Then on to the bar for 21 “elbows-to-knees.”  Yikes.  I was spent from the three I did to practice before we started.  I tried my best to maintain proper form and not swing, but it probably took me 6 or 7 sets to finish the required 21.  Was THRILLED to go back to wall ball for my set of 15.  Again, the wall-balls got tough after about 10, but I was still happy to be there and not yet at the bar.  The walk from the wall to the bar was mighty depressing.  Got to the bar and 15 elbows-to-knees seemed excruciating.  I ended up breaking the set into 5’s, then 4’s, then 3’s, and just about cried.  OK, the set of nine left.  Hanging in there.  Back to the wall ball.  Mighty tired, but ecstatic to be away from the bar, so nine of these wasn’t too bad (not sure if it was the 10-pound ball or just hating the ab exercises).  Next time I probably ought to jump to the 14-pound weight and find out.  Nine elbows-to-knees on the bar.  Yeah.  Started out trying for sets of 3.  Wasn’t happening.  Made it through two of these, tried my last set of three and only got two weak ones in, then hunkered down for one last good one.  Yippee, done!

I was spent, sore, tired, exhausted, but wasn’t ready to throw up or pass out.  This seemed like what a workout should be.  Two days off until my next lesson, so perhaps a bit more time for my soreness to work itself out… sure hoping today’s improvement is a trend toward starting to get more comfortable and not just a workout that was a touch lighter since I was so familiar with the wall-ball type exercise from volleyball!

Crossfit OnRamp Day 2

Following Monday’s workout, I found myself a bit sore on Tuesday, with some pretty sore legs by Wednesday.  Despite the soreness, I was excited to see how the second day would go.  I got up early, got a banana in me for a bit of fuel (still taking it easy on breakfast as I have no desire to paint the gym floor), and headed out.

The warm-up today seemed pretty reasonable.  Another 400m run, followed by three continuous sets of: 10 lunges, a bear crawl (all 4’s) across the gym, 20 leg lifts (aka scissors), and long jumps (bunny hops) back to the initial side of the gym.  The 400m run felt good, and I made sure to take my time to make the warm-up truly a warm-up, as opposed to Monday’s excitement.  The lunges went fine, the bear crawl started out easy, but by the time I reached the far side of the gym I remembered why those were a good warm-up exercise.  The first set of 20 leg lifts felt great through about #16, and the long jump back was kind of fun.  Round two, though, was a bit different.  My pulse was up, I started breathing more heavily, and the 10 lunges were uneventful.  The bear crawl really started to push me, the leg lifts began as a quick respite (on my back) until about #10, then they weren’t so much fun.  And the long jumps back had my legs all a flutter (especially seeing as they’d started out sore).  Round three and things just started to go blurry.  Lunges were OK, bear crawl started to really burn, leg lifts began to burn at about #6 of 20, and the long jumps back were a challenge.

Once I’d finished the warm-up, I had a few more minutes to walk around and continue stretching (recovering) due to another class finishing up in the gym, something I greatly appreciated.  Our “lesson” of the day was about dead lifts and sumo lifts.  We worked on form with just 20 pounds on the bar — this bar work still feels uncomfortable, especially since my previous experience with bar bells was all upper body and/or closely-spotted exercise.  I want to really focus on form to minimize any possible injury, so am happy to take these slowly.  Even with the light weights, as I focused on form and moved slowly I could feel the burn in my legs and triceps from the sumo dead lifts by the time I was done.

All right, on to the “workout of the day” for me.  First off, Chris asked if I knew what burpees were.  I did, having done them (and had my kids do them) as a volleyball coach.  Chris’s, however, were a bit different than I was used to.  Upon reaching a standing position with each one, I was to jump with my hands overhead (not something I’d done before).  The goal was to jump 6″ each time, but Chris said he just wanted to see daylight under my feet for today.  The workout itself was pretty straightforward — as long as it takes to complete a pyramid of 10 burpees followed by 10 sit-ups, with the goal to always keep moving.  If rest was required, it was to be taken standing up.  That means 10 burpees, 10 sit-ups; followed by 9 burpees, 9 sit-ups; and so on, all the way down to 1.  Sounded simple.  I knew there had to be a catch, and I quickly learned it.


The first 8 burpees or so went fine, and I really had to push on the last in order to keep my legs moving, and was glad to move right into sit-ups, forgetting how tired/sore I was already before starting.  Managed the 10 sit-ups, jumped right back up into the burpees (9 this time), and managed about 4 before things got rough.  Oh crap.  I’ve done 14 burpees, with 41 left… not a good sign.  I struggled through the nine burpees, eventually moving to “crawling” my legs back up to stand up by the end of the set, before jumping into sit-ups again.  Which were NOWHERE near as easy as nine sit-ups should have been.  Pushed myself through them just in time to jump up and start on the set of 8.  Chris mentioned “good job, it’s getting easier each time!”  Unfortunately, I’m pretty good at math, and the factorial of 8 was still a pretty big number in my head.  So I focused on trying to do a set of 4 and of 4.  Unfortunately, even getting through the first set of 4 had me spent.  Made it through, though, with miserable form and lots of dragging of body parts.  On to the round of 7.  Chris called out “you’re more than halfway there.”  Again, I’m pretty good at math — but I didn’t have the breath to argue with him.  Let’s just say it didn’t get prettier from there.  I did manage to finish them all up, taking several standing rests along the way, but finished up absolutely spent.

I managed to stand up and stumble around the gym as I regained my faculties, knowing this is going to help me in the long run.  Not much time for recovery, my daughter had a ballet recital down the road in 5 minutes.  I thanked Chris, stumbled to the car, drank a pint of water, and it was off to the recital.  Day two down, excited (and apprehensive) about what day three will bring!

Crossfit OnRamp, Day 1

So after a couple years of sitting on my rear-end writing and chasing little ones, coupled with a wife who’s a great cook, I’ve fallen WAY out of shape, and my weekly volleyball match isn’t nearly enough exercise.  So I finally bit the bullet and signed up for Crossfit at a local gym that’s just starting up.

Two years ago I completed P90X.  It was one of the toughest programs I’d ever attempted, and I left in the best shape of my life.  It’s amazing, though, how quickly that goes away when you don’t keep at it.  I walked in to the Crossfit gym not really knowing what to expect, but fully understanding that I would likely struggle for a while.  I wasn’t wrong.

The gym’s owner, Chris, gave me a few minutes to stretch in our first on-ramp course then sent me on a short “warm-up” exercise.  I began with a 400m run.  No big deal, I can do that, and I did.  The short run got my pulse up, which then led into the real warm-up, consisting of 10 air squats, 10 pushups, 10 situps, and 10 “mountain climbers,” repeated three times.  The first time through — no big deal.  The second time through, I was sucking wind and beginning to get dizzy.  By the time I finished the third set, I was having trouble remaining on my feet and thought perhaps it might be time to return the contents of my stomach to the wide open world.  I didn’t eat breakfast before the workout because I was afraid I might throw up, but I may have also been done in by that strategy in not having enough fuel in my system.  Lesson for future workouts — eat something beforehand.

Chris was kind enough to give me a spell to recuperate, then we spent some time practice a couple different types of squats with the barbell.  I focused on my form and paid as much attention as I could while the world slowly stopped spinning, and I think I had the form and key points pretty well figured out (though more practice would certainly be helpful) before it was time for the regular workout to end our day.

The workout itself was eight minutes long.  The first four minutes consisted of eight rounds of 20 seconds of air squats followed by 10 seconds of rest.  Was definitely “feeling it” by the time I got through the first four minutes.  The next four minutes, though, were pure hell.  I was to do another eight rounds of 20 seconds on with 10 seconds of rest, only each round now was continuous pushups.  Having already warmed up with more pushups than I’d done in quite some time, I was a bit sore.  I made it through the first minute Bunny thumping foot lg clr efore I had to start doing pushups on my knees.  By now I had just about nothing left, but did my best to keep moving for the final six 20-second rounds of pushups.  The last round I may have only accomplished three or four reps.  When the timer finished, I rolled over and saw three bunnies in the corner by my water giving me the evil eye.  The room was spinning, I was sweating so hard I could hardly see, and was WAY out of my comfort zone.  Chris gave me a minute, then we went to the wall to do some stretching exercises.  I did my best to stretch, but really at this point most of my focus was on not falling over and trying to keep the gym from moving around me.  We finished the stretching and I sat down for a few moments to gather myself before getting up to find my water bottle (where I noticed the three evil bunnies from earlier were really just my extra T-shirt coupled with extreme fatigue and triple-vision.)

Sat in the car for a few moments again before starting it up and heading home.  I’ve got a lot of work to do, but was amazed how much of a workout this felt like, given that the actual “high intensity” portion was really only the warm-up coupled with 8 minutes of real workout.  Hopefully Wednesday will go better.

Free AP Physics C: Mechanics Videos

It’s been a crazy couple months, but last night I finished up the flipped class videos covering the entire AP Physics C: Mechanics curriculum.  My goal was to try and target all the major points of the course requirements in roughly 6 hours worth of videos, realizing, of course, that students would need some background in physics in order to handle the material at this speed.  I have a bit of tweaking to do (there’s a minor math typo in the SHM video, for example, that I’ll redo at my earliest convenience), but I’m pretty excited that the entire set of videos clocks in right around 6:18:00.

When peopAPlusPhysicsLogole first hear this, the typical reaction I receive is “you must not have done a good job to cover all that material in such a short period of time.”  I look at it from the alternate perspective — I’m boiling down the course into the key concepts and examples that illustrate them.  These videos are not meant to be a substitute for an in-the-classroom standard course — far from it, for that purpose, they would be an abysmal failure (as, I imagine, any video-based system would fail).  Instead, these are meant as an additional resource, a tool, for students to review the take-away highlights from each subject, reinforcing major principles and applications.  Physics is something you do, not something you know, therefore the meat of any course is taking resources such as these and applying them in a variety of situations.  Practice, exploration, discovery — that’s how you learn.  But having a concise review available on demand certainly can’t hurt.

So, for those interested in such a resource, I hope you find these videos useful and enjoyable.  At the beginning of the year I’d never planned to undertake this project, but student requests in early September got me started, and ongoing feedback on the value of these has been tremendous.  Our most recent unit, in which I completely flipped the classroom (absolutely no lecture in class, students watched videos at night and each day was hands-on exploration, lab, group problem solving, and reflection) led to the highest end-of-unit exam grades I’ve seen from a class to date.  This reinforces how effective this method of instruction can be with motivated students who engage fully in the process.

In short, I hope others are also able to take some value from these videos.  For the 6 hours of completed videos, I would estimate I’ve put in close to 120 hours of work (organizing, researching, presenting, taping, re-taping, re-re-taping, editing, producing, etc.) beyond what I would have done just to teach my standard lectures, but I believe I’ve created a resource I can use again and again, year after year, tweaking and updating the videos as I find improved methods and alternate explanations.  Not sure I want to take on the E&M half of the course this year… I have a ton of other projects on my docket (some of which are quite extensive with looming deadlines), but would love your feedback if you find these of value, if you don’t, or if you’d like to see E&M completed as well.

Make it a great day!


Link to AP Physics C: Mechanics videos

Link to AP Physics C: Mechanics videos on Youtube

Link to AP Physics C: Mechanics guide sheets (accompany videos)

The Novel Never Written

It’s been several months of planning, thinking, dreaming, taking notes, etc., but I recently finished my outline for my first novel, “Entanglement.”  Entanglement is a Sci-Fi novel set in the near future about a man whose wife and daughter are taken from him in a government conspiracy.  He must leave the world he knows to battle an organization he’s devoted his life too in an attempt to save them.

The 36-chapter story follows a model that doesn’t deviate too far from the Hero’s Journey, and fits in well with the Dramatica Theory of Story.  And I doubt it will ever be written.

As I Monkey using typewriter hg whtfinished the plot of the book, I spent a couple weeks walking through it step by step, looking for holes, noting what excited me about the story, and also noting potential weaknesses.  And following all of this, I’ve come to the conclusion that the story, as currently written, just doesn’t work.  I’ve tried too hard to make an action novel fit in with a scientific premise and mold itself to a standard structure, and in so doing, have lost the uniqueness, the sense of wonder, and the character development that would keep me excited to write it.

Of course, I could go back and refine it, and refine it more, and continue to force it into a working structural mold, but I really don’t think that’s the right answer.  It’s not a story that goes where I want it to, and although I’m proud of the work I’ve done developing it, the character arcs I’ve walked through, and the detailed research and world-building I’ve done, the bottom line is it just doesn’t feel right.

So, I think it’s time to chalk up this first attempt as a great learning experience and exercise in the steps to building a story, and move forward with some other ideas that I feel will make for a better overall tale.  They may not break as much new ground as Entanglement may have, but for a beginning writer, the web of Entanglement, as it currently stands, is beyond my purview.

I’ve been mulling over an idea for an urban fantasy novel based on a key tenet of our laws of physics, partially inspired by both Jennifer Ouellette’s “Physics of the Buffyverse” and Patrick Rothfuss’s “Name of the Wind.”  Not only do I feel this will be a better starting point for a rookie, I also think it will be considerably more fun to write, as I’m less concerned with the subtleties of political manipulation and intrigue, and sliding back into the adventure, action, and swagger of the type of stories I tend to enjoy.

I’ve heard it said a writer needs to write one million words of dross before reaching the gold… to date, my only real fiction story is the one my 2-year-old helped me write about Cornelius the Dinosaur.  But that’s OK, I have enough serious challenges in my life that I don’t need to push and force — my real goal is to have fun with this project as a diversionary sidelight, and I need to keep that in sight, especially as the hours I’d hoped were available to devote to this project over the summer months have rapidly evaporated.  We’re one week into August and already I feel behind on my professional work I’d hoped to complete this summer due to a number of unexpected challenges, family illnesses, etc. — and the paying job and my family have to take precedence.

So, I’m going to continue to work on a novel, but at this point I think it’s wise to start over with my new concept, one I have more energy around, one I feel has a better chance of success, and one that I feel can be handled better as a sidelight/hobby as opposed to an extremely involved, highly entangled knot of interwoven plots and characters.