Sunday, 27 March 2016

Stuff(ed with chocolate).

A bit of a miscellany for today.

It's been a bit of a slow weekend, people. I haven't done much, which is good. I have no work things to do - all the bits and pieces I have had to write are being reviewed, so my hands are tied. I am happy with a bit of stillness - I used to feel bad for having a break and having not much to do. It's good to have a breather. April will be a busy month with one thing or another. I am off to 'Murica for a couple of weeks on Anzac day, conferencing. Also I have found some crossfit boxes to go to!

I have caught up on House of Cards, having binge-watched all of series 3. Frank Underwood is at his most diabolical and loathsome, and I find myself wanting Heather Dunbar to be POTUS. Claire remains strong and gracious and diabolical and divine - though she can be manipulative, I find myself liking her more as I watch. That Doug Stamper is just a scary bastard, as determined as Frank and Claire.

My mum came around for lunch yesterday, it was her birthday, and a year since I lost my shit at her dinner when my sister announced her pregnancy. Doesn't time fly? I covered myself in culinary glory with a slow roasted lamb shoulder and crispy roast spuds and home made mint sauce. Though I sometimes find myself at a loss for what to talk about with her, I can fill the conversation void with a bit of nice food.

My brother also came around, late as he had been out on the turps the previous night. He has just broken up with his GF of 9 years. He was ok. The relationship went on about 3 years longer than it ought to have - it was plain that neither of their hearts were in it for some time. I think they kept it going out of expectation, his ex GF is from a traditional Greek family and the expectation was that they were going to get married. The family took a while to embrace my brother, being skippy and all, and once he was embraced, it had to go all the way. I also think neither of them wanted to be the "bad guy" to end it. It really came to a head when she moved up to Sydney without him, and seemed reluctant for him to move up there, with lots of delaying tactics.

I wish the best for her, she was part of the family for a long while. I hope they both take time to cool their heels (and sheets) and work out what they want out of life and a relationship. They have spent the vast majority of their adult lives enmeshed. It takes a while to find out who you are.

I had best move on. Shopping to do, meals to plan, washing to fold.

I hope you have had a pleasant weekend.

Saturday, 26 March 2016

Open workout 16.5 - the end.

Today I completed the last workout of my first Crossfit open.

I was quite pumped, as there was very little that I could not manage.

However, if you ask any crossfitter what their least favourite exercises are, the two most common answers would be thrusters and burpees.

So finding out the workout on Friday really wiped the smile off my face


Thrusters (20kg)

So do 21 thrusters, then 21 bar facing burpees, jumping over the bar,
then 18 and 18, and so on.
That's 84 of each exercise. 164 reps in total.

To give you an idea of what the exercises entail, see below:

Here are thrusters

And here are bar-facing burpees

Just to clarify, I did not do them nearly as quickly as this guy. I had to do a few steps to get up to the bar. But that's the gist.

Crossfit workouts are often both physically and mentally challenging, and this is what I like about them. For a normal crossfit day, I will check the workout the night before, psychologically prepare, and think up modifications. However, in the open, no such modifications are possible, everybody does the same.

However, no modifications are possible in the open workouts, and you have to do them exactly as prescribed - this is the "scaled" version, the Rx version for women was 29kg on the bar.

For the first time, I had a freak-out. I even contemplated not going and doing the workout. A few things were running through my head.

  • It's going to take Foreverrrrrrr and people will be watching and I will be embarrassed.
  • I will fall over and break my ankle jumping over the bar (often workouts prescribe jumping over a bar, and I don't do them out of this fear - I have a real ankle phobia after twisting mine a couple of times)
  • I will hurt myself
  • The workout will hurt.
However, despite my misgivings, I went in.  I went first. I was scored by one of the coaches.

It did hurt, and I did feel weak at times. I broke it up into chunks (ie 4 thrusters then rest). The burpees were super slow but I kept moving.

I did finish last. Everyone who finished came to cheer me on. They gave me a countdown to lift the bar up, so I didn't rest too long. When pausing to start the burpees, they yelled "get down" so I didn't rest too long. When I wanted to take a rest while I was face down at the bottom of a burpee they yelled "get up". They also yelled "you are doing so well" and "you are looking strong".

Finally it finished, and I got a big round of applause. I threw myself down on the floor and caught my breath. In fact, pretty much everyone who completed the WOD did that. It was difficult for everyone.

It's going to sound a bit twee, but I was proud of myself. I fought off the fears and excuses, which I have used frequently in the past. I often avoid movements or reps because I think I am too fat, too slow, too unfit. My mind causes a fail before my body does, often. This was a good lesson, and I now have confidence to work towards a box jump.

(It also helps that the coaches have bought padded boxes, so no skinned shins).

I think I will sleep well tonight.

Sunday, 20 March 2016


It finally happened. On Friday, I had the graduation ceremony, conferring me with my PhD.

People ask me how it feels - it feels surreal. The work is ongoing - today I was in at work, entering data for another paper. My career in research is not over, only just starting. The postnominal PhD is lovely but immaterial to what I do, in a way.

Melbourne was putting on some spectacularly shitty rainy windy weather, after a hot one the day before. I worked in the morning, and in the afternoon, my sister came into town. We met at Jimmy Watson's for a celebratory beverage and snack. This nice fella greeted us at the door. I told him we were celebrating the conferring of my PhD that evening. He took my hand and took us to the bar, asked the bartender to get some glasses and pour little sips into the glass for us to toast. We sat to drink a proper glass or two, intermittently chatting with the regulars. My sister, reluctant to leave her baby too long, headed down back down to the Peninsula, and I went to the uni to don Regalia, and wander about for an hour before we were briefed as to the ceremony protocol. Thankfully it was a PhD-only ceremony, so it was good and short.

Soon enough, we had the ceremony. We proceeded into the hall to choristers singing in Latin. I had no idea what they were singing, but it was very stirring. Finally my name and doctoral citation was read out, and I managed to doff my bonnet and shake hands and doff my bonnet again appropriately. I watched everyone else come down after receiving their testamur - the all had proud smiles.

The occasional speech was given by Professor Suzanne Cory, an eminent molecular biologist. There is now a Selective-entry secondary school named after her, in Werribee, where I grew up. It is good to see that smart westie kids are being valued and given access to special opportunities. There was nothing like this when I was going to school, 20 years ago.

This was my view for much of the ceremony.

All the bonnets being looked down upon by Jesus. Wilson Hall is beautiful. This view gave me shivers down my spine.

After the ceremony, my supervisor, who joined the academic procession, met me for a photo

He and his wife came back to my place for some drinks (Veuve Cliquot) and food. I remember before I started the PhD somebody saying to me that PhD supervisors and their students have a very special relationship. I didn't believe it at the time, but I do now. This bloke above is a very important, benevolent and special person in my life, and has seen me through a lot through the last 5 years. He believed in me when I struggled to believe in myself. His patience, kindness and generosity has made me want to do him proud.


The next day, I got up bright and early for Crossfit open 16.4 (you didn't think you'd come away without some xfit rantings, would you?). In a positively restrained fashion, I had only consumed 2 glasses of Veuve the previous evening and been to bed fairly early, so I felt fresh as a daisy.

The WOD was as follows

13 minutes AMRAP

  • 55 deadlifts, 43kg
  • 55 Wall Balls, 4 kg (Wall balls - squat to depth, come up, throw ball at 9 ft line, catch ball, squat to depth, repeat x55)
  • 55 Calorie row
  • 55 Hand release pushups (push-ups on toes)
I just about finished the row, so never got to challenge my push-up abilities. I don't think I have ever had such burn in my quads. I was happy that I gave it my best shot and worked steadily - 5 reps at a time. It bloody hurt - 55 reps of anything turns a strength workout into a bloody awful cardio/endurance workout.

There were some photos taken by a professional photographer. When I saw them, I have to admit I was horrified. I found them so unflattering. To paraphrase myself, I thought "I look so fat, I need to go on a diet". I promptly deleted all but one from my instagram feed.

I realised that I was being my own worst troll. I had a weekend celebrating the big things that I can do, that I never thought I'd be able to do, and I am getting upset about a few fat rolls. Exercise photos are never flattering, except if you are this guy. And here I am wearing actual lycra, which does a job but shows everything. I get around wearing lycra a lot, and rarely worry about how I look (if people don't like it, they can kiss my squat-enhanced arse). And I figure that any change to diet or exercise needs to come from a place of self respect and love, not self-castigation.

It's a terrible thing I do to myself. Hence I am gonna put my photos up here.

I am proud.

That might've been around rep 30. trying to keep my back active

Hittin' that rower after the wall balls. Legs were jelly


Friday, 11 March 2016

Open WOD 16.3 - Close, but no cigar. Lightbulb moments.

So if you are sick of my CrossFit musings then you will probably wish to click away now.

Still here? Good!

Todays workout was

7 Minutes AMRAP (as many reps as possible)

10 Power Snatches, 15kg
5 chest to bar jumping pull-ups

I first looked at this workout on the webpage yesterday. I thought "sweet". However I picked up the term "chest to bar" and groaned inwardly. WOD 16.1 (reported here) involved jumping chin to bar pull-ups and I struggled with them. I thought "no way am gonna go chest to bar".

Still, before the WOD (workout of the day), I gave them a go. I tried a few times, changing around my grip. I had no issue getting my chin to the bar (yays) but could not get my chest up to the bar.

I was told that I could only score 10 reps (ie the first 10 snatches). I was disappointed, but still, it's 10 more snatches than I could do a year ago.

I did the WOD as best I could. I thought about not registering a score, but 10 is better than 0 so....

Here is a snatch (minds out of the gutter, folks)...

Though I always used to guffaw when I asked the coaches to look at my snatch....

The full workout had bar muscle-ups rather than chinups. Bar muscle ups are a beast of a move:

During the week I had a 1:1 session with the head coach. Great to learn some skills in a more supervised environment, and gain confidence.

Speaking of which, I am trying to write a paper with the proceeds of my research. I was getting really stalled - worrying about every little word on the page.

I wrote myself this note

I need to remember that my knowledge and my work is just as good as anyone else's.

We all need a lightbulb moment. Sometime's it's a liberating, empowering moment. Sometimes it's a realisation that comes of taking a good hard look at ourselves that makes us uncomfortable. I had one of these realisations this past week - I am not yet comfortable to discuss it on this forum; I could barely bring myself to talk to my partner. But it's all good.

Saturday, 5 March 2016

Open workout 16.2 - where I was to where I am now.

Today was the second workout of the Crossfit open, 16.2. The Open is a very big deal worldwide, with big fanfare leading up to the announcement of the workout, with a live countdown and youtube announcement. A bit like the footy grand final or something.

This was the scaled Women's version
Beginning on a 4-minute clock, complete as many reps as possible of:
25 hanging knee raises
50 single-unders
15 squat cleans, 25kg

If completed before 4 minutes, add 4 minutes to the clock and proceed to:
25 hanging knee raises
50 single-unders
13 squat cleans, 35kg

If completed before 8 minutes, add 4 minutes to the clock and proceed to:
25 hanging knee raises
50 single-unders
11 squat cleans, 43 kg

If completed before 12 minutes, add 4 minutes to the clock and proceed to:
25 hanging knee raises
50 single-unders
9 squat cleans, 52kg

If completed before 16 minutes, add 4 minutes to the clock and proceed to:
25 hanging knee raises
50 single-unders
7 squat cleans, 61kg 

Hanging leg raises involve jumping up to hang from the bar, then swinging bent knees toward the chest (knees above hip crease) and repeating. I remember doing this for the first time a year ago, when I first went to crossfit. Jumping up to grab a cold, rough bar and hang your body weight from it was really, really hard! My upper body strength was not great, and my hands baby soft, so there was a searing pain in my hands, and I could only do about 2-3 knee raises at a stretch. Today it was 25, and I did them! 

FYI, here is the full movement that I am working up to, that's in the full (Rx) workout, the toes to bar.

 Skipping is something I can do much better now than when I first came. I can skip like a boss. I can even do a few "double unders", which is where you pass the rope twice underneath the feet per jump - it involves jumping higher and moving the rope really fast. This is in the full workout.

The next movement is the squat clean. Again I had no knowledge of proper Olympic lifting prior to doing Crossfit. Now I have mastered the basic technique, but am still having issues with getting "under" the bar, required to get a heavy weight to shoulders. My squat is getting a lot better, though. You know my opinion on the importance of squatting deep.

My 1-rep max for a clean is 38kg. Hence I struggled with second, 35kg round, especially after doing all the stuff coming before it.

This is probably the only clean I'm working on.... (boom tish)

It was a great morning, where we all cheered each other on. I was particularly inspired by a girl I was working out with, who hit the 43kg round, and was powering through it. Here the grunt, kind of like what the tennis players do, really helps. It releases a hit of adrenaline and endorphins. Getting in touch with the masculine side. 

I would have liked to have done a few more reps during the workout, but I keep in mind that I could have done none of this a year ago. 

I did a bit of self-gifting this birthday.

The first thing was a personal training session with the head coach at the box - master some more techniques. Might do a few. Might get that elusive box jump.

The second thing was a pair of new kicks - Nike sneakers, in black. Badass black.

I am having a wild Saturday night in, watching Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. I had forgotten what a brilliant movie it was, and how great an actor Guy Pearce is.