Ace of Hearts: eleven push-ups.  No problem.
5 of Diamonds: five pull-ups.  No problem.  This won’t be that bad.
Four Cards Later
Joker:  25 burpees.  Well, at least that one is out of the way.
Two Cards Later
Joker:  25 more burpees.  Oy. This might be rough.

At this point.  Only ten cards into a deck of fifty-four (jokers stay in) I realized the workout was going to be significantly more challenging than I’d imagined.

The Deck of Cards workout works as such:  for each suit you assign a particular exercise.  For today diamonds were pull-ups, hearts were push-ups, spades were flutterkicks, and clubs were air squats.  You shuffle the deck and do the number of reps according to the card you turn over.  Face cards are ten.  Aces are eleven.  Jokers you make something challenging and extra-hard.  Today it was twenty-five burpees.  I also pushed myself to complete each exercise with full range of motion.  It worked for the push-ups and squats.  By the end of the workout the my legs were barely moving on the flutterkicks and I was primarily doing jumping pull-ups.

My downfall in underestimating the workout was the math.  I didn’t put together just how many reps of each exercise I’d be doing.  I mean, you’d have to get pretty unlucky to do more than a max of fifteen or so at a time, and with proper rotation it shouldn’t be that bad….  It caught up to me.  With a full set of two through ten, three face cards, and an ace it totals ninety-five reps of each exercise.  Ninety-five  air squats isn’t bad, ninety-five push-ups properly broken up is very doable, but I got wrecked by the pull-ups.  Late in the workout I drew multiple diamonds in a row that completely fatigued my arms.

Despite its deceptive difficulty (more likely because of it) I really enjoyed the Deck of Cards.  The random aspect of the workout had me focusing on going hard the entire time instead of trying to be strategic with my energy so that I could make sure to complete everything.  I did catch myself trying to count cards at a couple points but promptly lost track as fatigue set in and I had to use all my mental energy to complete each exercise with good form and intensity.

The workout is beautifully simple.  Pick four exercises.  Pick something nasty for the joker.  Shuffle up some cards and have fun.  You can do it in your living room or you can orchestrate it to involve all the complex machinery your gym has to offer.  I chose a relatively balanced approach today:  a pull, a press, legs, and core.  You could easily destroy your core with four core exercises.  You could do it as an all legs day and dread stairs for a week.  You could do all ring exercises and be a total badass.  Four different Olympic Lifts would be particularly demanding.  (Too much?)  The combination of simplicity and randomness make Deck of Cards an excellent way to add variety to a dull workout routine with the added bonus of funny stares at the gym as you flip over cards and do two reps of one exercise followed by eight of another.

Deck of Cards

Diamonds: Pull-ups
Hearts: Push-ups
Spades: Flutterkicks (4 count)
Clubs: Air Squats
Jokers: 25 Burpees
Time: 18:24

Sunday Cooking WOD (al la Melissa Joulwan):
3lbs Citrus Carnitas
2lbs Garlic Browned (Grass Fed) Beef
2.5lbs Grilled Chicken (Brined TYVM)
2.5gal Chicken Stock
1doz Hard Boiled Eggs
Double Batch of Mashed Cauliflower
A Gigantic Pile of Veggies
Ready for the week?  Check!


Gamblin’ Man

About halfway through the box jumps I thought reducing the height from twenty-four to eighteen inches had been a mistake and I wasn’t pushing myself hard enough.  “This WOD won’t be too bad, good thing I already go some grappling in,” I told myself.  By the time I was halfway through the pull-up round I thought I was going to die from exhaustion and I was calling myself an idiot for even attempting this workout.

The “Filthy Fifty” is a serious mental challenge.  Ten exercises.  Fifty reps of each exercise.   For time.

When I was about 30 pull-ups in I felt like my brain was going to explode.  I’d just done about 90 minutes of grappling, and MMA sparing, and I could feel my blood racing to the spots where I’d been hit.  My heart felt like it was trying to sprint past the tempo of the punk rock blasting through my headphones.

The kettlebell swings and walking lunges flew by.  I hardly thought about fatigue or pain and just completed the movements one rep at a time.  Shoot the window.  Lots of hip toss.  Full extension on the lunges.  Just step and lunge.  I almost felt refreshed going into the knees to elbows. When I passed through the first four rounds my fatigue changed.  I accepted it.  I knew I was exhausted.  It wasn’t going to get better and it wasn’t going away.  Only one option: choose to move.

Then I crashed.  After about twenty knees to elbows my core was on fire.  It felt like I rested for a full minute after those first twenty, but it likely wasn’t more than about twenty seconds.  By this point in the workout I was breaking up the sets of fifty into multiple sets of ten or fifteen with a few breaths in between.  I gutted out the remaining knees to elbows with my abs, biceps and hands all ready to catch fire.  The forty-five pound push-presses and back extensions almost felt like resting by comparison.

Some exercises aren’t terribly taxing until I do tons of them (air squats) while some others are brutal right out of the gate (burpees).  Wall ball shots are possibly the single most deceptive exercise I’ve ever done.  For those who are unfamiliar a wall ball shot is an exercise where you hold a nonreactive medicine ball that’s anywhere from ten to twenty pounds, (I used twenty today) you do a full goblet squat, and then shoot the ball to a target that’s ten feet in the air, usually against a wall.  The first five to ten feel like a joke.  Hardly worth the effort.  Then, if you’re doing them right, your quads, glutes, chest, and abs all start to catch fire.  I had to take my rounds of ten and fifteen and break them down to rounds of five.  Squat, shoot, catch. Squat, shoot catch. Squat, shoot, catch. Squat, shoot, catch. Squat, shoot, catch. Try not to let my body shut down.  Choose to move.  Get through the round.  After all, I had burpees and doubleunders to look forward to.

By this point I accepted the mental game.  I’d been exhausted since the knees to elbows.  There were no light exercises left.  Just a burn to the end.  The only way to stop the burning was to finish the workout.  Slowing down would only prolong the suffering.

Burpees suck.  There is simply no way around that.  You can be doing ten or a hundred and every single one makes you feel slow and exhausted.  Doing a significant number in a row (like fifty) is a serious exercise in self control and self motivation.  All I could think about was the clock and how badly I wanted some food and water.  My goal of doing the burpees as five sets of ten broke down after twenty.  I just had to do as many as I could in a row.  Catch my breath and let my body re-phosphorylate some creatine so my muscles could work again.   Burpees down.  Just doubleunders and I’d be done.

I’ve been working on my doubleunders.  I’d done twenty unbroken doubleunders.  Fifty would be challenging more from a cardiovascular point of view than a skill point of view at this stage of the workout.  Could I remain focused and energetic enough to string doubleunders together, or would my fatigue get the best of me and hurt my form?

I dominated my fatigue.  After a broken start of only three doubleunders I hit a PR and strung together twenty-seven unbroken doubleunders.  After all that work, and fatigue, and exhaustion I hit a PR.  With the finish line in my sights I brought all my remaining mental strength to bear and finished the last fifteen unbroken as well to end the workout.

Time: 28:32.  Not too bad for my first time and post-grappling.  Now I’ve got to do it again as prescribed and to beat my time.


Workout:  Filthy Fifty

For time:
50 Box jump (18″)
50 Jumping pull-ups
50 Kettlebell swings (16kg)
50 Walking Lunge steps
50 Knees to elbows
50 Push press (45#)
50 Back extensions
50 Wall ball shots (20#)
50 Burpees
50 Jump Rope doubleunders


I’m Gonna Be

Finals is a time for pushing oneself.  Taking everything you’ve learned in a course and going into put up or shut up mode.  My world history students had a 2 hour block of time to write two essays.  Many of them said it’s the longest single period of sustained work they’ve ever done, and while challenging, they felt that they had all the knowledge and skills necessary to complete it.  That’s the sign of a good final exam to me.  A significant challenge, yet still accessible to the vast majority of the class.

As a teacher I try to do my best modeling best practices for my colleagues and students.  If I ask my students to put in their best work at all times I’d better be doing the same to show them that hard work is a lifestyle, not something that is only true while you’re in school.  I push myself to be the best teacher, husband, athlete, friend, and cook that I know how to be.

In this spirit I’m taking the responsibility of promptly scoring my students final exams extremely seriously.  Not so seriously that I sacrifice everything else in my life, but seriously enough that when it’s work time I work with minimal breaks and reduced distractions.  No Facebook open while I’m grading.  No grading in front of the TV.  Turn the phone to silent for a while.  Modeling the behaviors I ask of my students even if they never know about it.

Finals were Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday of this week and I’m proud to say that I’m already halfway finished with scoring them.  All the other extraneous late work, rewrites, and skill checks are taken care of, so it’s just two classes worth of essays left between me and finalized grades for first semester.  I’m pushing myself to maintain my high standards and have all my grades finalized by the end of the day Saturday.

Today’s workout is a good example too.  Before today I’d never truly failed a squat.  Today I had complete muscle failure trying to squat 260 pounds. I had to drop the weight.  I’d never failed because I told myself that to do heavy squats I need a spotter, or I need to work up to it for fear of injury.  Well, that’s why there are the adjustable rails on the squat rack.  They catch your weight.  Today’s “failed” squat at 260 pounds gives me more confidence to push myself than my successful (PR) squat at 255.  I know that when I push myself next time I can really do it.  Worst case I have to sit down and drop the weight.  The fear is gone.  I broke my own mental barrier.

To continue pushing myself I’m doing my own “Fitness Final”.  On Saturday I’m tackling the “filthy fifty” a workout I thought I needed to work up to, and wait to try until I “got a little better.”  The workout is 10 different exercises at 50 reps each.  I might not finish on Saturday.  I might fail, but I know that I can push myself as hard as I need to, then come back to the workout and beat my time.

Workout for 1 Feb:

Rings skills.  Ring support position, pull-ups, push-ups, dips, L-sits to inverted hang to inverted pike.

Back Squats:
1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1
225, 235, 245, 250, 255 (PR by 30#!), 260 (fail)


I’m going to get back on this horse.  If nothing else this can be a way to keep track of workouts, and provide some external accountability.  For January (read: manuary #2) I’ve been posting most of my workouts and other (somewhat) manly feats through Facebook.  The simple act of posting the workouts in a public way has caused me to think more deliberately about what exercises I’m doing, mixing up muscle groups, and enjoying the public recognition of my PRs.

I’m still going to use this blog for writing about education, and other thoughts, but I want to explicitly add the exercise component.  Today was a rest day.  First posted WOD will be tomorrow.

For now here are some Current PRs and Goals:

Deadlift:  295 | 340 (2x bodyweight)
Back Squat: 225 | 300
Bench Press: ?? | 225
Push-ups: 52 unbroken | 100
Pull-ups: ?? | 50 unbroken
Doubleunders: 22 (unbroken) | 50
Ring Muscle-ups: ?? | 10 (unbroken)
HSPU: 5 | 15
Ring Dips: 5 | 30
5k: 25min | 18min