Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Getting Stronger...

Yes, I am getting stronger, but the title above refers to the Rocky theme song :)



Strength is a big weakness of mine. My metabolic conditioning needs work too, but right now, strength is a limiting factor for me. I have many problem areas:
  • Weak squats (need to lift heavier)
  • Weak push-ups (working on high reps with perfect form)
  • Muscle-up (need to develop more explosive pull and strengthen false grip)
  • Weak lifts and o-lifts (need to focus on technique)
At CrossFit today, I did the following:

3 sets, 5 reps, Back Squat
185-205-205 (in lbs)

- Then -

5 Rounds for Time
15 Deadlifts (185 lbs)
15 Toes-to-Bar
(Time: 14:40)

Ouch ...

This morning I did yesterday's WOD.
5 Rounds for Time:
40 Double-Unders
30 Box Jumps (24")
20 Kettlebell Swings (55lbs)
A few rounds of this wasn't so bad. Five rounds though ... was a bit painful. I did a mile run to cool down after, which helped loosen me up a bit.

I attempted the partial muscle-ups again after the workout, but no luck ... I guess I can only do it when I'm fresh. Need to get stronger.

Finally, I learned that nutrition is important. I had a Tim Horton's breakfast sandwich (greasy sausage and egg in a greasy homestyle biscuit) prior to the workout. While this was supposed to gas my lungs, I ended up feeling only a fraction of the pain I was supposed to feel, since I was going a lot slower due to a queasy stomach.

The Weight of Being a Man

Continuing from my previous post, the second lesson I learned on my drive to Michigan was the weight of being a man. (As a note, there is "weight" in being anything involving responsibility and is not necessarily gender specific.)

Preamble

A few weeks before the drive the Michigan, I drove to Montreal for one of our dragonboat races. Despite my fatigue, I managed to power through with the help of friends singing, playing random games, laughing, and lots of ice and coffee =)

What startled me was that I could barely drive much during the Michigan trip. My dad drove the majority of the trip. I would go at spurts of an hour, barely holding on. Eventually my dad told me to just relax and he'll take over.

The mystery of being a man

How were both these cases different? It wasn't that much farther to Michigan. Mind you, we were driving to Michigan in the late evening, whereas the Montreal trip was around noon. Nevertheless, in both cases, you noticed that there is a certain edge that comes from being a man (or being the defending champion, etc).

When I drove to Montreal, and when my dad drove with me, both my dad and I bore a greater responsibility for those we were driving. Even if we were tired, we had to drive. And because we had to, we did.

The Weight of Responsibility

You may have heard of swordsmen who have weight behind their strike. In one instance, a samurai said that the extra weight comes from his heart - because he is fighting for a higher cause with strong belief. He has to defend his family. His homeland. His friends. His pride.

You can think of countless other analogies. I have to pick up this weight (barbell) or it will crush me. I have to finish this race since others are depending on me as a pace rabbit. I have to keep driving since my friends (or son) is in this car.

Too often, we live our lives with little weight or urgency. We move through life slothfully, settling for much less that we are capable.

The handful of men and women who assume responsibility, the few who give their word and keep it, these are the leaders of tomorrow. And these people are not leaders by birth, but by choice. By making consistent choices, step-by-step, that shape who they are.

After all, we are a product of our choices. And even if you have a history of bad choices, you can make small choices in the opposite direction.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Lessons on the drive to Michigan

Last week I drove with my dad to Michigan. It was definitely an adventure staying awake and a good time to catch up with my dad. There were two things that made an impression on me:

1. GD (Giant Dump)

A term coined by my younger brother and used by my dad to describe the incredible feeling of "letting go". Okay, definitely not the best analogy and a bit crude, but I thought about how wonderful it is to let go of things you're not meant to hold on to.

What's worth clinging to? When is it time to let go? Often, these questions become apparent over time, as our body gives us plenty of signals! Not just our physiological responses though, but also our emotional, mental, and spiritual responses. The more challenging aspect about letting go is not knowing what to let go of, but to have the courage to let go. Often we become constipated in our own strength, pride, or confidence.

Of course, the converse can be said about the importance about clinging to the right things. Holding on for dear life. Letting go of the things you should be clinging to (e.g. vital organs, values, identity) is also not so good.

In life, we need a balance of wisdom and courage.

2. The Weight of a Being a Man

... coming soon!

Muscle-Up somewhat completed

Monday (Aug 22), 8pm class.

Completed my first "muscle-up" on the rings. These were partial muscle-ups (starting with arms bent instead of from full extension) and using a kip.

Next steps:
- Work on false grip
- Kip with full extension
- Kip without false grip
- Strict

Anyways, needless to say, I was pretty happy when I finally did my first muscle-up! My body benefited from all that training and the rest I gave it last week.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Types of Running


Running is awesome.

The picture shown above was taken along one of my runs in Hong Kong. I love the view. In fact, often I would run to places just to catch a glimpse of breathtaking scenery (e.g. the stillness of the lake, the sunrise over a sleeping urban setting, the rushing waterfall).

As I was reflecting on my life journey as a runner, I was reminded of two kinds of running:
  1. Running to
  2. Running from
Running to ...
... the finish line
... school
... the gym
... get fit
... push my body to its limits

Running from ...
... a scary monster
... a coach chasing after you during interval runs :)
... responsibilities
... relationships
... situations requiring tough decisions

There are times when it is good to run away. And there are most definitely times when you should not run towards things (e.g. please do not run into the wall or a pole ... not fun!).

However, more often than not, we run away when we need to run to, and we run to when we should run away. What should you run to? What should you run from? I will leave that to your common sense and wisdom (though I would love to hear your thoughts!).

Given you know what you should be running from and running to, do you have the courage to follow-up? Are you fit enough to do "what-you-got-to-do"?

I'd love to hear from you. Post up, message me, or talk :) I would be delighted to discover more of your life journey.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Muscle-Up Attempt Failure(s)

Not fail, a verb that I typically use as a noun.

Muscle-Ups by Tuesday (3 days ago)

I was supposed to get my muscle-ups by Tuesday and I still cannot get it. I have been going to CrossFit a lot just to work on this basic gymnastic movement. Yet it seems the harder I try, the less I improve, and the more I rip (see image above).

Less is More

I am taking the next two days off and will allow my body to recover. While it seemed that I made little progress this week, I did put in a lot of work. I believe that all this hard work, the coaching from the CF trainers, and the encouragement from my fellow athletes will all come to fruition in due time.

For now, I need to rest, trust in the training, in the trainers, and never give up.

4-D Failures

There were multiple times this week when I should have rested. I was a bit too desperate to get the muscle-up by Tuesday (or as soon as possible). Rather, like Jesus' Parable of the Sower, I need to just keep sowing the seeds in good soil. Putting in good quality workouts and ensuring adequate rest. And be patient for the fruit to come.

I find this relevant to other areas of my life. Be it being fruitlessly busy on academic work (mind), trying to find God in my own strength (soul), or trying too hard to make a relationship a certain way (heart). Whatever dimension of my life, the same general principle seems to apply:
Rather than pursuing a very specific outcome, ensure that your desired outcome is flexible and aligns with your personal values. Then, with all your might, pursue very specific processes.
For the muscle-up, I need to rush less and focus on the progressions. For my academics, I need to put in the time and ensure that I am not writing mindlessly. For my spiritual life, I need to daily rely on God for strength and wisdom, submitting my will to His will. For my relationships, I need to focus on developing my character and live by my principles and not on impulse nor emotion.

There is a fine line, drawn by Wisdom, between resting and laziness. You know yourself best and know whether you are emotional reacting to situations, or whether you are living a principled life. For me, this past week was an example of my emotional impulse to workout with no regard to my health (i.e. disregarding my sleep). This kind of behaviour can lead to a myriad of consequences, including visible skin tears on the wrists and invisible tears to the shoulders.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

4-Dimensional Laziness

Therefore, be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil.
--Ephesians 5:15-16

I recently started reading the book Making Life Work, by Bill Hybels. The book gives practical advice to everyday situations based on the teachings from the book of Proverbs. As a snapshot, here are some sample questions from the back cover:
What factors are critical to achieving life's goals?
How can I get a friendship back on track?
Why is it so hard to trust God in certain situations?
How can I make a difference in the marketplace?
How should I respond to someone who is angry with me?
What is the surprising result of helping others?
How can I establish a solid financial foundation?
In the second chapter of the book, Bill Hybels talks about the value of taking initiative and the importance of not being a sluggard. He makes the case that most of us struggle with some kind laziness. In other words, that most of us are selectively lazy, lazy in at least one area of our lives.

Personal Example

As a personal example, I find that I have been fairly industrious with my academic work. I work hard (generally) and enjoy the work. I am also a fitness enthusiast, working out regularly and part of the coaching team for Iron Dragons (dragonboat). With this snapshot (and from what my friends may observe), laziness is not a problem for me.

Assuming that I am indeed industrious in my academics and fitness (which is not always true), I have still been selectively lazy. Only recently have I been taking more care of my finances and the cleanliness of my living environment. More importantly, I am currently working on being more industrious with relationships.

Laziness applies to relationships too. A lot of emotions can be left unsaid. Small problems can be left to fester, accumulating over time. Like final academic projects or larger-than-life fitness goals, relationships take work. Making relationships (and life) work involves making wise decisions day by day, especially when no one is there to watch you. But many times, I am lazy - not wanting to deal with my own issues, or relational problems, because it is [insert lame excuse here].

Bringing it all together

My life pursuit is total fitness (1D-, 4D-, 1000D-, N-Dimensional Fitness). The value of N does not matter, but rather, it is about being fit in every area of your life - however you choose to separate your life. To be fit is to have the ability and courage to live the life that you want, with this "want" being based on desire, principles, values, etc.

Laziness is intrinsic to the human condition. We often want to put things off, be it school projects, relational conflicts, financial problems, and so on. However, laziness - in any area of your life - will keep you from living life the way you were meant to live.

Ephesians 5 talks about "making the most of your time" (NASB) or "redeeming the time" (KJV) because the days are evil. We need to live wisely, consistently making wise choices (e.g. tracking finances, communicating, not procrastinating ...).

Much of my life has been lived as unwise. I need to redeem the time, by making wise choices on a daily basis.

Awake, sleeper,
And arise from the dead,
And Christ will shine on you.
--Ephesians 5:14

It is time to wake up. [*cue motivational music :)]

Monday, August 1, 2011

Welcome to CrossFit

Today I brought a friend (James) to try out CrossFit for the first time. What better introduction than by starting with one of the most difficult CrossFit workouts. Of course, as expected, he did fairly well for his first time. Here's what we did:
"Murph"
1 mile run
100 Pull-Ups
200 Push-Ups
300 Squats
1 mile run
*Note: The exercises in the middle were broken down into 20 sets of Cindy (5 pull-ups, 10 push-ups, 15 squats).

(Time: Josh - 59:16, James - 53:15, Jireh - 72:58)
I have ONE MORE DAY left before my first muscle-up is due! I made a few attempts after Murph today, but was pretty tired. The best I can do is to rest up and do my best tomorrow! And that is what I plan to do :)