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Does CrossFit improve your running?

Comparison of Running before and after CrossFit

After running a half marathon, I decided to try CrossFit for a while.  Several of the CrossFit members agreed to run a half marathon together in Austin in mid-February.  I decided to join them to see if I can complete a half marathon in less than two hours.

I was concerned about meeting that goal because I have not run more than the running in the prescribed WOD (Workout of the Day).  You can see the daily workouts on the WOD blog. Only once was the running more than two sets of 800 meters, so I have not been running much at all with CrossFit.  Most of the METCON (metabolic conditioning) workouts at CrossFit Elevate are 20 minutes, but occasionally they take up to about 30 minutes depending on how fast you can finish the WOD.

So today, Christmas day, I decided to step out into the misty weather and see how I would compare to my last 45 minute run-walk-run training from just before the marathon on October 12th.  That run I was pushing the pace to show myself how far I had come during the Galloway training program.  By the way, I had already added 3/4 of a mile during the prior four months to the same 45 minute run (see June 1st’s data), so I had already made excellent progress in increasing pace before October.

Today, after doing nothing besides CrossFit for just under two months, I ran an additional half mile in the same 45 minute period (RunKeeper data).  The two data summaries for comparison are at the top of the post. That shows a definite improvement in run time over the last two months.

I am pleased that CrossFit seems to have kept me in condition to do mid-level runs without needing to run more than the WOD. To finish training for the half marathon, I will add only one long run per week for the next six weeks and an occasional 45 minute run. I want to see if I can beat my half marathon time of 2:02. The runs long will match the last six weeks of the Jeff Galloway program that I just completed.  I wish I would have given myself an additional two to four weeks, but I have to start where I am since there is a deadline.  I’ll post how it turns out — hopefully I can say that I took those two minutes off my time.

Of course this is just one case study, so if you don’t think it would work for you, the only way to find out is to join a CrossFit gym and try it for yourself.

 

UPDATE

I ran a longer run and compared it back to my run during my summer half marathon training. Below are the results… I ran one mile per minute faster pace on this same Run-Walk-Run training program.

Pst-CrossFit Running Data Comparison

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BodPod Results Prove Weight Loss w/ 4HB/SCD

As recommended in the book  the Four Hour Body, I have performed several tests to measure changes.  Last week, I returned for an updated BodPod Scan at the Memorial Herman Executive Wellness Center.  Per the BodPod chart, I started out the year as a Risky (High Body Fat) with 34% and have dropped to moderately lean with only 19% body fat.

Over the year I lost 45 pounds of fat and gained six pounds of muscle.  I thought training for and completing the MS150 would have caused me to gain muscle, but I actually lost one pound of muscle. (I’m riding the MS150 again from Houston to Austin in 2012.)  I also doubt that I gained any muscle from running a half marathon.  So that means it is highly probable that I gained seven pounds of muscle in just over three weeks of CrossFit.  Per the results of a regular scale, I thought my weight loss had stalled over the last month when I was still losing fat but also gaining muscle at the same time.

Here is another inspiring example of weight training and diet that I came across via Leroy Gardner.

View Larger Size Result Photo (opens in a new window)

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So, I lost weight, completed the MS150 (I am riding the MS150 again in 2012), ran a half marathon, so what should I do next for fitness and health?   Well, as I promised LeRoy Gardner, after I finished the half marathon, I joined Crossfit Elevate in Katy, Texas. LeRoy is one of the owners of Crossfit Elevate and has convinced me of the benefits of the training.

I took photos for the CrossFit Elevate Fall Brewses CrossFit Competition and became even more sold upon the training due to all the absolute grit and determination that I saw which was stacked up upon the strength and physical fitness. Photos of the event are below.

I decided to start and made the mistake of showing up on a Saturday without checking the CrossFit Elevate Blog. Normally, there is a free Saturday morning community workout per the usual schedule, but I showed up on the day of a competition.  Never one to back down from a challenge, I entered the competition — it was my second CrossFit work out ever.  I completed the regular men’s competition event and completed the following WoD scaled down to the women’s weight.   So just about one week after completing a half marathon in 2:02, I found myself face down in the grass sucking for air, consciously holding food down, and people standing over me asking if I was OK.

I had planned to start the following Monday but that was delayed due to the pain from Saturday.  So my third CrossFit workout was Wednesday and the fourth Friday of last week (Second week of November 2011). The following Monday I started in earnest by following it up with a work out on Tuesday (including a 10 mile spin bike ride in 20 minutes shortly after the WoD), Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday. Right now it is Sunday, and I need more rest. I am nearly certain that I did more pull ups on Friday than I have completed in my entire life — and that was half the prescribed number.  I’ll be back, but need a few more days to recover. I don’t see myself doing five days per week again for some time.

Here are some of my favorite photos from Fall Brewses CrossFit competition.

 

Full-size photos from the event are available:

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I completed the Houston Half Marathon today after having completed the Jeff Galloway Run-Walk-Run half marathon training program within the RunKeeper iPhone app. The target goal of the training program is 2 hours and 20 minutes for a half marathon. I finished in two hours two minutes and seven seconds (results / RunKeeper data). I was 121st place in my age group out of 224. Considering this was my first half marathon, I am happy with the results.

I am especially pleased when I think back to the New Year’s Resolution Run results. I ran that 5K race in 34:29 which is 11:06 per mile. Today, I ran the half marathon at 9:12 per mile. If I ran the half marathon at the same pace I ran the 5k, the half marathon would have taken me 2 hours 25 minutes and 24 seconds. Both my training and weight loss enabled that improvement.

Review of the RunKeeper iPhone App and Website
Review of the Jeff Galloway Half Marathon Training via RunKeeper
Review of the Houston Half Marathon

Review of the RunKeeper iPhone App and Website

I bought the RunKeeper application for the iPhone when it was originally $9.99 because it is one of the top run tracking apps available. (Now RunKeeper is free.) I used the app for a while, quit for a while, and then started using it again more consistently starting last Fall.  You can find my RunKeeper profile here.

Things I like about RunKeeper:

  • The application is exceptionally easy to use and has lots of options for tracking multiple types of activities and for reporting page, distance, etc during an activity.
  • The live tracking with RunKeeper pro puts my wife at ease when I am out running long distances. That makes the $20 per year for the Pro subscription worth it without any of the other benefits that it includes.
  • You can swipe the main part of the display to the side and see the map.  I had to use this a few times on long runs to find my way. It was quick and easy to get oriented.
  • Easy to set up interval training of various types.
  • The website makes it easy to track friends’ accomplishments and activities to form accountability partnerships. This is important to achieving goals.
  • It has good privacy controls around who can see the maps of your activities. This can also be changed on a per activity basis.

Needs Improvement in RunKeeper:

  • RunKeeper should separate records for “Spinning” from cycling. Same goes for records on the treadmill versus street when running. Those are two different activities in both cases and they distort your record paces. You indicate that you are using equipment in the logging so separating the records should be simple.
  • RunKeeper should add music controls rather than requiring switching over to the iPod player.  Even better idea — allow me to flag a song to remove it from a play list.
  • Sometimes the GPS does not feel accurate. You can see in the photo here that my half marathon was 13.34 miles. Maybe I just went wide on the turns, but I doubt it could add up to that much difference. Others reported similar differences today.
  • If I do interval training by time and my announcements of pace and distance are scheduled by time, they can collide.  (As a work around, I pause the workout upon starting for about 10 seconds.)
  • Pausing when doing time based intervals should stop the time. Occasionally, you can get stuck at a stop light or have to make a pit stop.
  • I seem to randomly lose and add back “street mates” (the term for “friends” within RunKeeper.)
  • I’d like the ability to add “acquaintances” so we can keep track of each other’s running without committing to seeing the actual maps which often start at my house.
  • RunKeeper does not work well for cycling which needs an automatic pause upon stopping.
  • RunKeeper requires you to convert swimming measurements into running measurements. RunKeeper should know to allow you to switch measurement types on the manual entry screen.

Summary of RunKepper

It is an easy to use iPhone app to track running activities and for aggregating other activities such as cycling, but there are still some things that need improving in the app. On the whole though, I find it to be a great place to track my activities and have engoyed the half marathon training class that I found via the application (see next section.) I recommend RunKepper for tracking runs, but hope that they can address a few of the issues I mentioned.

Review of the Jeff Galloway Half Marathon Training via RunKeeper

Late in 2010, a friend told me of the Jeff Galloway Run-Walk-Run method of running training. I hear some running purists criticize it, but I can now vouch for the effectiveness of the training program based upon my personal experience. His training has been converted into a downloadable RunKeeper training program that you may purchase via the website.  The training programs start on a specific date and end on a specific date — each activity can only be used time. Since I am a RunKeeper Pro member, I paid only $10 for the half-marathon training program. I have a friend who describes himself as cheap who is going to program each of the activities in manually rather than buy the program.  It is possible to do that, but I think your time and the defined organization of the plan are worth the $10.

The Run-Walk-Run training program works. It only takes three days per week to train for a half marathon. And generally, except for a few weeks of the program, it can be completed in less than four hours per week. This is what Tim Ferriss was talking about when he referred to the minimum effective dose in the book The Four Hour Body. You can see from the same 45 minute run between June and October the effectiveness of this program. I completed nearly an additional mile in the same amount of time.

One thing that I did notice that was disappointing — there was almost zero interaction between people signed up for the same training program schedule. I expected a bit more mutual encouragement and conversation. I tried commenting on their activities and proving encouragement, but there was no reciprocation at all from anyone so I stopped after about a month.

Something to note… I did not follow the program exactly. In fact, it took me a few more weeks to complete than the schedule and I skipped one week and a few work outs. Regardless, I still smashed the training program goal time by nearly 18 minutes.  I did that despite having trouble completing the first few work outs of the training program because I was not in sufficient shape.

I wish RunKeeper would offer a Jeff Galloway marathon training program as well.

Review of the Houston Half Marathon

I signed up for the Houston Half Marathon because the Fall timing was right, it is less expensive than some of the more prestigious longer running events in Houston, and there is no lottery to be accepted.  The start was a bit crowded but it thinned out reasonably quickly. I liked the up and downs in the elevation on the course, but there is no way my running training out in the flat lands of Katy, Texas could have prepared me for nearly 1,000 feet in elevation change.  Many of my training runs had elevation changes of 85-150 feet.  The finish line also became crowded again especially for the photo section. Overall though it was a good race and I will likely run it again next year.

I would like to see the option to have the packet mailed to me. I know that they are trying to drive traffic to the sponsoring running store. However, I was off work Thursday and Friday so I had to spend nearly two hours of my Saturday before the race to pick up the race packet.  I would have gladly paid $10 to have it sent to my home.

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Update: This page is from 2012′s MS 150, next year’s fundraising page is here:  http://www.brettmorrison.net/MS150

 

I signed up for the MS150 again for April 2012 to cycle from Houston to Austin with the ConocoPhillips Bike Club (update renamed Ready 2 Roll Cycling). This is the event in 2011 that started me down the path towards significant weight loss.  I’d appreciate your donation towards my ride to raise money to fight Multiple Sclerosis.  Click on the donate button below to go to my donation page.

Once on my MS150 donation page, just below the photo click “Donate to Brett!” The money doesn’t actually go to me despite the poor wording on the MS150 site.  It all goes to the sponsoring organization the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. I appreciate your support!

 

Donate to Fight Multiple Sclerosis via Brett Morrison for the MS150

Below are some photos from my 2011 ride to raise money to fight Multiple Sclerosis. I rode from Houston to Austin, got in shape, made some new friends, and had a good time fighting a debilitating disease.

 

Donate to Fight Multiple Sclerosis via Brett Morrison for the MS150

 

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How I Easily Lost 60 Pounds (photos)

I have lost approximately 60 pounds. I look and feel much better. 50 pounds of that weight was lost easily in less than six months. Oddly, it was not difficult with the Slow Carb Diet I found in the book the Four Hour Body. I’ll explain in more detail:

Before and After Photo: 50 Pounds Lost on Slow Carb Diet with Four Hour Body

Background and Results

Currently, I weigh just under 200 pounds. My peak weight was about 260. That equals to a drop in waist size of 6 inches and dropping from XL shirts to Larges. I had been fat for so long that I thought that I inherently had to wear extra large shirts because I am tall and have fairly broad shoulders. It turns out that was not true; I was just fat.

One morning I had trouble tying my shoes. It hurt because my gut was so big. I like minimalist slip on shoes, but I want to wear them by choice and not because I physically can’t tie shoes. That caused me to also do a quick calculation. I had gained six to seven pounds per year for 10 years. That meant that I was only about 7 years away from weighing 300 pounds. I did not realize it, but that was my “elephant moment.”

So how did I lose the weight? The first ten pounds (from 260 to 250) I lost by simply trying to eat less and healthier lunches. The weight loss stalled at 250 for 12 months, but at least I was not getting any bigger. I dropped the next fifty pounds as fast as I dropped that first ten using the diet information below.

Recommended Books for Motivation and Action

The “elephant moment” comes not from the size I had reached, but from the book Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard. The elephant is the driving force that causes people to understand the need for change and causes the person to be motivated to make the change. I read the book Switch late last year after already having lost the first ten pounds. The book was extremely inspiring in its examples of both organizational and personal change. Switch is also very practical in addition to inspirational. (Side bar: I am terribly disappointed that a very high priority work project overruled a conference where I could have met the authors of Switch.)

Shortly after reading Switch, Tim Ferriss published the book The 4-Hour Body. I bought a copy more because of his internet fame than any specific idea about losing weight. The 4-Hour Body ended up being “the rider.” According to Switch, the rider provides the direction to the elephant. Now I had both motivation and path to follow.  This book is six hundred pages, but don’t let that deter you. The author respects your time and in in the first chapter tells you which additional chapters are necessary for weight loss. It is not many pages of the entire book that you need to read. The rest is like a buffet — you can graze at your leisure. I still have not read the majority of the book and it is completely not necessary to lose weight.

The Diet – Slow Carb

The diet I found in the The 4-Hour Body is called Slow Carb. I discovered it at the right time because of having just read Switch which provided some inspiring examples of change. Also, I had signed up for the MS150, so I needed to shed some pounds to make the ride easier.

Basically, the slow carb diet is high protein and no simple carbs. It relies heavily upon the following:

  • 30 grams of protein within 30 minutes of waking — two eggs or egg whites is the most common option
  • No breads, fruits, potatoes, etc — similar to Atkins
  • Lots of beans and leafy vegetables — the beans provide energy and together with the vegetables help fill you up
  • If you are hungry, just eat more protein, beans, and greens.
  • Cut out sugars and dairy products because they spike your blood sugar. I cut sugar and milk out of my coffee as well.
  • One day per week, you can eat anything you want. This allows you to postpone any cravings since cravings are not forbidden, but only allowed one day per week. Usually, people call this day cheat day. It helps you stay on course by preventing you from regularly cheating in small ways.
  • Red wine only — no beer (except on cheat day).
  • No soda — not even diet soda. Technically, the book says one diet soda per day is acceptable, but I had been drinking 4 to 5 per day, so I just decided to cut them out completely because even the diet sodas cause weight gain. Do not measure food by calories which is how much energy is released when a food is burned. Your body is not a crucible, so you need to measure foods in their impact to your waist line. Diet sodas impact your waist line. Even if I am wrong and you switch to water, it won’t hurt you in anway to have switched to water. That brings me to the next point…
  • Drink lots of water.

The Exercise

Many people assume that it is mainly due to the exercise that caused the weight loss, but I don’t believe that. A marathoner and cyclist I know said to me one day — actually specifically it was the day we completed the MS150 together — “What did you do to lose the weight? And don’t say cycling because I know that it was not cycling.” And I think he is right, I saw many fat cyclists on the MS150. Many people simply use the exercise as an excuse to eat more bad foods. In fact, lots of exercise encourages that behavior.

I am not sure if it is the weight loss or the exercise which has made me feel better, but I am certain that there is some interdependence. There is certainly something psychological pleasing about completing the MS150 and a triathlon in personal record pace for each of the three events. It is possible that I physically could have completed either of these events at my original weight. Although possible physically, I probably could not have done it psychologically because it would have been hard to overcome the feeling and mindset of being fat.

Fitness: MS150 and Triathlon Photos

Lessons Learned and weight loss tips from Losing 60 Pounds

  • I was not simply big, I was fat. It may seem obvious to others, but it is amazing how one can start to rationalize being unnecessarily large.
  • Fat is easy to lose with the right diet.
  • It does not really take exercise to lose weight. It helps, but only in reasonable doses.
  • Losing weight can cause other positive life changes.
  • Despite seeing the results, many people are still critics of the diet — I strongly believe that for most people they are simply rationalizing and making excuses to not follow the same weight loss. Ignore them.
  • Having a support network helps — I joined an online group for questions and support on the slow carb diet.
  • Get your family onboard. My family does not follow the diet, but I got my wife to agree that when she cooks she will make at least a meat dish I can eat. If she wants potatoes on the side, I will open a can of beans and spinach for my side dishes.
  • I sleep much better without all the extra weight.  Better sleep makes a huge difference.
  • Exercise is much easier when you are not carrying around 50+ unnecessary pounds. In fact, I not only completed the MS150, but also a Triathlon. And I registered for a half marathon. Update: I successfully completed the half marathon.
  • Fat loss just like weight gain is contagious. I have several friends who have already been inspired by my weight loss who are also making dramatic health improvements. I am not posting this to brag, but in the hope that one more person will find the direction they need to also lose weight.

Reference Links:

Additional Posts about the Four Hour Body & Weight Loss
I am planning a future serious of posts about the Four Hour Body and my weight loss experience. Here is a partial list of topics that you can expect:
“Brett thanks for turning me on the 4 hour body. I have dropped about 25lbs so far.”
“I can vouch that the Slow Carb Diet works. I have lost 60 pounds easily!”


Disclosure: Book links are Amazon Affiliate links. Full Disclosure: I’d link to these two books even if it cost me $0.25 every time someone bought one via my link. They are that good. Seriously. Edit: I removed the affiliate links because I don’t want anyone to think that is my motivation for sharing this information.


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Saving Money on Diapers with Amazon Mom Subscription Discount

 

I never thought I would be excited about diapers, but I just “subscribed” to diapers on Amazon at a cost of $12.79 for the same box that costs about $20 at Walmart. You can save 15% for the subscription & if you become an “Amazon Mom” via Amazon Prime (dads are eligible too) you save 30%. You can get a free Amazon Prime membership for up to one year if you sign up for Amazon Moms. Two caveats to this free Amazon Prime membership for diaper savings:

I wish I had seen this earlier because these less expensive diapers will add up to a tremendous cost savings over time.

I am a huge Amazon Prime fan and already had several items on subscription like Organic Lentils of all things so this was a no brainier to sign up for the subscription. It is easy to skip a subscribed order, add an extra order, or cancel your subscription on the manage subscription page that you can find under your account page.

All those diapers in the picture… There are 800 of them. Using Amazon Mom Prime subscriptions though they only cost a bit less than $100. That many diapers would have cost around $140 at Wal-Mart. Saving that much money on a necessary item impacts your bottom line directly.

Disclosure: Product links are Amazon Affiliate links

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Lightroom B&W Preset for Silhouettes

I am releasing a free B&W Lightroom preset for silhouettes. I thought it would be fun to release one after testing Victor’s B&W preset. The goal of this B&W Silhouette preset is to leave the sky details while still turning the main portion of the image into a B&W silhouette.   You can see the before and post preset photos in the gallery below.  I have several other B&W presets that I will be releasing and I’ll be posting the results of using another B&W preset by Victor as well.

You need to start with an image that lends itself to being converted into a B&W silhouette — one that includes underexposed areas. You won’t get a picture like this with default automatic settings on your DSLR.  One idea is to scroll the wheel on your Canon camera to make it under expose by a stop of light or two to make the perfect shot to use this Lightroom preset for silhouettes.

Download the B&W Silhouettes Lightroom Preset.

Lightroom preset licensed under creative commons – attribution – non-commercial – share alike (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0).  An attribution link back to this post will bring good karma – plus I might promote your preset as well.

Photos all rights reserved.

 

 

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Girl Talk – All Day – Album Download

Girl Talk All Day Album Front CoverGirl Talk is an electronic DJ who uses his computer to mix together samples of many different songs to make some amazing music.

The full All Day album is downloadable for free. It is amazing how many artists’ samples actually go into creating this. It shows this is a talent to combine music like this.

I am finding it to be a great album for photo editing and working on websites. The music is high energy yet smooth. If you don’t like a section, just wait about 15 seconds and it will change. Unfortunately, the lyrics are not work or kid safe, so I have to listen via headphones. Also, I recommend downloading it all in the one single file. That seems the way it was intended.

If you go back to the Illegal Art home page there is another album posted for free.

I had never heard of Girl Talk until yesterday when Tim Ferriss posted about him and included a link to this “a day in the life of” video on Hulu. Again, this shows how much work goes into creating this music.

A great quote from the video: “Even though it is all sampled, it is original music.”

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