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Tag: Crossfit

Physical goals and stuff, April 2015

In October 2013ish, I was at the gym and we were doing heavy deadlifts. As a lark, I was all, “Fuck it, let’s throw 305 on this thing and give it a go.” I pulled the shit out of that bar and got it off the floor. I remember thinking, Whoa. That was crazy heavy.

Yesterday I pulled 405 lbs.

And today I back squatted 305 lbs for 2.

I am pretty proud of that.

Of course there’s a ton of stuff I have plenty of room to improve on. I can’t run to save my life. My overhead movements are still pretty bad (but getting better). My handstands are pretty wobbly. I can barely chain together a few double-unders at a time. I get pretty psyched out when I see high volume wods. I’m not super great at pushups. My shoulders are tight and inflexible. And there’s probably a bunch more stuff I’m missing right now, but you get the point.

And of course, I can still improve on my deadlift and back squat. Of course!

But that is part of the fun of this whole “reconnecting with the potential of my body” thing I’ve been working on the last few years: seeing how far I can improve. There is no end game, there is only continued learning. And I like that a lot.

#TeamMikko all the way.



The best t-shirt for a competitive athlete ever. Amazing.

“I Just Want to Be Active”

As much as I enjoy watching Mikko Salo destroy his competition WODs (really, a lot, I’ve seen so many), this kind of story is what keeps me going back to and endorsing Crossfit. Sure, there are some douchey people in the community and there are some aspects of it that aren’t perfect, but, in the end, the community is strong and the positives far outweigh the negatives.

This lady is tough as nails. An inspiration to anyone.

Crossfit – Take 2, or, How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Say “Fuck It”

In September 2011, I took a trip with my friend JJ to Spain, which you might have read about before. And, if you haven’t, there’s a handy dandy link in the previous sentence. Hyperlinked!

One night in Barcelona, JJ and I thought it would be an awesome idea (after a few bottles of retsina) to break into Parc Güell. We’d been there the day before, but it was full of tourists and hard to get a sense of what it was really like without the swarming masses of picture-takers. We also saw that the place was only protected by a 10 foot tall stone wall. No razor wire, no spikes, no nothing. So come 1am, JJ and I and our gracious host Iolanda, broke into the park. I had trouble pulling myself over the wall because of a serious lack of upper body strength, but we still managed to get in.

Over the next few days, JJ and I got to talking about fitness and he brought up Crossfit as a good, albeit intense, way to get into excellent shape. He had been training that way for a while and sang its praises. I got excited about it since I’d never really been into exercising before and it seemed like a good, directed way to get into shape. If it was left up to me to self-motivate and go to the gym to spend some time fucking around without any clear idea of what I should be doing, I would never ever work out. Case in point: I never ever worked out. But a class was something I could get into, and having someone there guiding you was even better. Plus, I wanted (and want) to get into good shape and impress this girl I was seeing. Besides, if your fitness goals are based on struggling while committing a crime, you’re probably on the right track.

Back in New York, I signed up for an intro class, nearly died doing it, signed up for the Elements course, finished that without dying, attended classes for a few weeks, but then got sad and drifted off. All the good intentions in the world weren’t going to get me out of bed in the morning to go work out. It was hard enough getting up at all; self-improvement was out the window. I spent a lot of time at the bar, though! That’s pretty cool, I guess.

Fast forward 12 months and a whole mess of life changes and I am back in the saddle. I took the Elements course again at the beginning of December to reacquaint myself with the exercises and ease into the regular (read: beginner) WODs. And I am still attending regularly. Hell, I’m even getting to the 8:30a classes on these miserable 15° January mornings which means getting up at 7:15, getting dressed in the half-light of dawn, leaving behind a nice warm body in bed, and getting on the god damned subway. Crossfit, do you understand what I sacrifice to be there on time?!


This time is different in that I feel like I am going to be successful in my goals. I think that deserves an examination. What exactly is different this time than it was a year ago when I stopped attending during the first attempt?

First, and most importantly, I feel a lot better about my life and the things going on in it. That is the biggest difference from last year. It’s a lot easier to take care of yourself, to make yourself incredibly uncomfortable for the purpose of bettering yourself, when you don’t feel like a worthless, miserable sack of shit all the time. Surprising, right? I know it is.

Second, I am allowing myself to be vain. Is it wrong that a big part of my motivation is wanting to look good when I get married? Nope. I don’t feel bad about that being a motivator for me in the slightest. I would like to do away with some fluff and add a significant amount of tone to my body before the date (which we do not yet know). Why not? I am stil trying to impress that girl. I want to do a billion pull-ups at the wedding.

Third, I’ve adopted an incredibly helpful “Fuck it, whatever,” attitude with the workouts. My gym, Crossfit NYC, posts the next day’s workout every day so you can get a sense of what to expect. While I understand that they are just trying to help people plan their training regimen, I found this information to be absolutely poisonous to my attendance. I would read what was planned for the next day and start worrying about it so much I would end up not going. “Oh no, 30 million push-ups?! I’ll die!” or “What the fuck is a ‘thruster’?” or “Burpees?! Fuck you.” It was a terrible way to approach Crossfit.

This time, I don’t even bother looking. I don’t want to know until I get there and it is too late to leave. There are enough things that get in the way of showing up (work, life, soreness) without psyching myself out about it. Now I just go when I can and think “fuck it, whatever the WOD is, I am going to do it. It might be miserable, it might be fine, but whatever it is, I am going to do it.” So much better. Actually, now that I’m thinking about it, that attitude echoes a lot of what I’ve written here on The Black Laser about being a creative person. And it boils down to “shut the fuck up and do the work.”

Here’s what we’re looking at for the weather tomorrow morning when I am supposed to be getting up and going to work out.

That's in Fs, my Metric friends.

That’s in Fs, my Metric friends.

Am I worried about it? Yup! Sounds miserable.

Is it going to stop me from working out? Nope! So it’s going to be cold! Fuck it, whatever. See you guys on the other side.

Crossfit – Beauty In Strength

Besides the fact that these ladies are all super cut, I think that this video has an incredibly positive message for not just women, but anyone who is trying to improve their health: work hard and focus on the things you have power over, and you will succeed.

I suppose the advice echoes the serenity prayer (without the God aspect) which every 12-stepper knows. The truth is, though, that it is good advice and a good way to look at life. And it applies to so many things. Want to write books? Want to kill a million dudes in Halo? Want to own a business? Want to deadlift twice your body weight? It doesn’t matter: work hard, control the things you can, and you will get there.

Do your ten thousand hours.

Do the work.

Creative Projects-October: Where The Hell Was My Project, or, Crossfit Is Making Me Hurt.

October was a fine month! I went back to California and saw my brother and his little family and went to my friend’s wedding and saw a bunch of good old folks I haven’t seen in ages. It was a heart warming, rousing good time.

Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to do any creative work this month. Sure, I had the photos I posted of the girls, but I really just think of those as snapshots. Fancy pants snapshots, but snapshots still. The photos from Spain were a different beast. They were more calculated, more deliberate. The photos from home just weren’t and I don’t really feel good about calling them a project.

Matt at Vox Critica asked me to do a bunch more Torgeirs too, but I could manage to get my shit together and actually write them so that is slipping into next month as well. Stupid.

And of course, October was also when I did my first pro VO job which is fucking awesome. But, again, money was made so I don’t get to count it toward my tally for the year. It was still incredible though, and I hope it’s the start of many more.

So, October, not exactly the most creative month for me, but that’s ok. I’ve been on a roll recently, and a little lull isn’t the end of the world. Next month look out for more Torgeirs, Ancient Aliens, and this year’s Christmas track(s??).

And on to the second half of this year’s theme: slowing my roll. So much of slowing my roll this year has been focused on not drinking all the time like a god damned drunk. And, honestly, I feel like I’ve been doing really well on that count. But “slowing my roll” is not just about how much or how little I drink. It’s also about taking care of myself in the face of my overwhelmingly bad habits and tendencies. And that means getting my ass out of the house to exercise.

Enter the Crossfit Elements course at Crossfit NYC.

I discussed this a little bit in last month’s summary. Crossfit, recommended to me by the inimitable JJ Zambrano, is a high intensity workout designed to build practical strength. Here’s what they have to say about it.

CrossFit is an extremely efficient and effective way to get into world-class shape.

Our workouts consist of constantly varied, functional movements (like pushups and pullups, deadlifts and squats, gymnastics, kettlebells, running, rowing, and olympic lifting), executed at high intensity in a group setting.

Essentially, a fun, friendly, yet high-intensity boot camp, with weights.

CrossFit is for anyone, regardless of their age or fitness level. Our members range from professional athletes and members of the New York FBI SWAT Team to grandfathers in their mid-seventies and desk jockeys with barely enough hand-eye coordination to use a mouse.

In short, if you care about health, real-world performance, or just want to look better naked, CrossFit is for you.

It’s the kind of workout you could do in your garage (if you have a garage; I do not). In fact, I’ve been able to successfully do some workouts in my weird little Brooklyn apartment. It’s great. You set a timer, go through the things, and jam while listening to metal. What the hell? That’s awesome. I can totally do that. Now, nearly at the end of the course (the last one starts in a couple hours), I feel like this is something I can really stick with. I intend to give it six months to see how I feel. You can’t really get solid results without a solid commitment, so that’s what I want to do. Commit.

Just before my first class, I was wandering about with Sarah and she asked me what my goals were for the class. I told her, “I want to feel better,” which is completely true. Since then I’ve thought about it a little more and I feel that while “I want to feel better” is still the perfect umbrella answer, there are some more specific ways to break it down.

First, I want to be stronger. That’s pretty basic. Can you do a dead hang over-arm pullup? I can’t. Not to save my life. How many pushups can you do in 2 minutes? The first night I found out that I can only do about 30 of them before I am unable to lift myself off the ground. And that was pushing myself HARD. I want to be able to do better than that. Seriously better than that.

Next, I want to look better. I am not ugly, let’s don’t even go there, but for the last couple of years I have felt a little too fluffy for my tastes. I’d like be leaner than I am now. I am already on the road having changed quite dramatically the way I am eating. I’ve lost about 10 pounds from my coasting weight of 205 pounds to about 195. There’s a little variance, but that’s normal. The next step is to change the shape of my body. I don’t want to spend the rest of my waning youth soft. Let’s get intense, motherfucker.

Next, I want to address the nagging asthma that I’ve been pissed off about for the last few years. At some point, while living next to a BQE underpass, I developed cough-equivalent asthma. Basically, instead of having gasping asthma attacks, I am wracked with violent, dry coughing fits. A lot of things irritate my lungs: seasonal allergies, overly air-conditioned spaces, humidity, whatever. I keep it under control, usually, with my Advair, but without health insurance it’s 250 bucks a month which is like, what?, like 40 beers? That’s a lot of beers. I really hope that I can use the increased endurance and pulmonary strength I hope to build in Crossfit to lessen the effects of my asthma. I really hate it.

Next, I’d like to get back into martial arts, but I’d like to be in better shape before I go back. As a kid I studied Tae Kwon Do and loved it. I dropped it because I was a pre-teen and an idiot and had no idea what was good for me. I should have kept going. In college I flirted with Wing Chun Kung Fu for a minute, but eventually settled into American Jiu Jitsu—a middle ground between Japanese Jiu Jitsu and Brazilian Jiu Jistu. I studied that for a year and a half or so until my senior year of school when I was hunkering down for my final film and ran out of money and time. By the time I had time again, I’d graduated and certainly didn’t have the money for it. Luckily, these days I both have time (not waking up hungover every morning) and money (bling bling, motherfucker) to take martial arts classes. But this time I think I am going to go for Krav Maga, or as a former boss called it “Jew Jitsu”. Krav Maga is a martial art designed by and for the Israeli Special Forces focused on kicking the shit out of the other guy. Grappling and floor fighting and katas and forms and whatever aren’t going to help you kill the other guy and get away as undamaged as possible; Krav Maga will. That’s awesome. I remember the physical confidence I had when studying Jiu Jitsu and I would like to possess that again.

Really, I’d like to go into my 30s (June 17, 2012) looking, feeling, and being as good as I can. I spent my 20s fucking off and doing whatever and getting my career in order, so now it’s time to get my body and my head in order. I’d like to have a head start. That’s where this is all leading. The slowing my roll, the projects, the myriad year themes: they’re all directed at putting me into a better place than I was yesterday. I think that’s important. I owe it not just to myself, but to the people I love and who love me, to the people who rely on me and the people who will come to rely on me, to be healthy and sane and productive. You can’t take care of your folks when you’re a fucking mess. I know that. And that’s all that life is, you and your people. Do your best to be your best in everything.

Ok, /end Joe’s life philosophy. I’ll check back in after November with thoughts about that month and, perhaps, thoughts about next year’s theme. Exciting. Stay tuned.