Athlete Journal: Patrick McCarty, Entry 2 – 3/6/2013

In preparing for the Reebok CrossFit Open, I have been taking a close look at the variables that I can control during my training. Today I’ll discuss one crucial variable: the warm up.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Welcome to the athlete journal of CrossFit trainer and masters athlete Patrick McCarty. Patrick competed in the 2011 Reebok CrossFit Games in the 45-49 age bracket and has his sights set on the Games again this year. Follow Patrick’s journals here every Wednesday.

Athlete Journal Entry 2: 3/6/2013

In preparing for the Reebok CrossFit Open, I have been taking a close look at the variables that I can control and tweaking them accordingly to see how the adjustments affect my performance.

Because I follow OPT programming, that variable is set. The other factors that I can control include, diet, (including type, quantity, and timing), sleep, where and with whom I train, and the way that I warm up. Each week I will discuss one of those components and how managing that variable has impacted my quest to return to the Games in 2013.

This Week’s Target Workout:

3 minute AMRAP of:
3 Thrusters – 165lbs (you read that right.)
3 Muscle Ups

Goal: 4 full rounds, feeling fast and light in the muscle-ups, and zero hip or shoulder pain/tightness on the thrusters.

Variable #1: Warming Up

I have noticed a direct correlation between how well I warm up and how well I perform in a workout. And what I have noticed is that the more discomfort I feel warming up, the less I will feel working out. Let me explain:

One thing I know is that my muscles need oxygen to perform at their peak. That may seem like stating the obvious, but I am always a bit surprised at how little people warm up at times. I am a firm believer that one needs to prime the pump – get the heart rate up, get blood to the muscles, which will then take oxygen to said muscles, where it will be available during the workout.

If I don’t prime my pump during my warm-up, it will happen during the workout, which is why sometimes you will hear people say “round three felt much better than the first couple of rounds.” That’s because the first couple of rounds were the warm up.

In addition to “opening up my pipes” with some fairly vigorous cardio, I spend time dynamically stretching each and every muscle in my body, especially the ones that will be involved in the workout. Because this workout involves heavy thrusters, my shoulders got special attention.

I easily spent 30 minutes warming up for this short 3-minute workout. The very heavy thrusters demand a ton of shoulder warming, as do the muscle ups. This was my protocol:

  • Row 500 meter – 50% for 100m, 90% for 100m, on and off.
  • Foam roller – Back and neck, especially my neck.
  • Wrist mobility – I like to kneel on the ground with my fingers pointing to my knees and roll back and forth, around in circles, unlocking the discomfort and tightness in my wrists and forearms. Wrist, elbow, arm rotations. Trunk rotations, hip rotations, etc.
  • Squat – Hold it and force the knees out with elbows, on and off, loosening adductors.
  • Good Mornings – Stretching the hammies
  • Sampson stretch – Focusing on squeezing the glute of the back leg to stretch the hip flexor (this will be important for the heavy thrusters – if my hip flexors are tight and painful, the thrusters become impossible.
  • Spiderman – Crawl several meters in a spiderman crawl – this is a great full body dynamic stretch.
  • And everything in between.

Because I have had issues with forearm pain, I then spent time “ungluing” (as Kelly Starrett would say) them – first with a Lacrosse ball, then with my knee. I stand against a wall compressing the ball into the wall with my forearms and roll. It’s painful, but effective. Next, I kneel down on the inside of my forearm and roll my knee into the muscle.

Finally, the workout-specific warm up. I take a bar, clean it, press it, roll my elbows up, down, thruster it, etc. I then start adding weight and literally do 1-2 thrusters with 95, 115, 135, 145, 155, and finally, 165. This is not only to warm my shoulders fully but also to keep my lungs primed and to make sure the first rep doesn’t shock me. And as silly as this may sound, when I was loading my bar, I jogged over to grab the bumpers, jogged back to my bar. Looks a bit weird, but it keeps me primed.

I do essentially the same with the muscle ups – starting with negative dips, then full dips, then ring pull-ups. I tend to save the muscle ups for the actual workout.

My goal for a workout like this is to feel “light.” I don’t want to get to the first muscle up and feel like I am wearing a 30lb weight vest. By making a concerted effort to get very loose and warm, nothing should hurt from rep one to the last rep. The thrusters should feel solid and pain-free; the muscle ups light and fast. My goal for this 3-minute AMRAP was 4 full rounds. My result: 1 muscle up short of 4 rounds. But I felt GREAT throughout.

Next week: Variable 2 – Nutrition.