3 of My Favorite Workouts

Disclaimer: Exercise at your own risk. Listen to your body. I am not responsible for you hurting yourself doing one of these workouts.

Workout 1 – 300 Air Squats

This workout comes from my very favorite fitness account online, @DadWOD on Instagram.

Workout:

300 Air Squats for time

Every 30 squats, pause and do:

-15 Hand-Release Pushups

-15 Sit Ups

Put another way, set a timer and do 10 rounds of:

-30 Squats

-15 Hand-Release Pushups

-15 Sit Ups

See the demonstration here.

What I love about it.

  1. You need no equipment at all, only your body.
  2. There’s nowhere to hide on the pushups since you’re releasing your hands off the ground every time you go down. None of that half-way junk.
  3. It’s full-body and the 300 squats target your biggest muscle groups.

CAUTION: I am personally not a fan of sit ups. This workout rubbed the skin on my lower back raw. My new substitute for sit ups is a 4-count flutter kick (demo here).

Workout 2 – Kettlebell Khaos

This is my favorite kettlebell workout. When I first started doing it, I couldn’t get through the first round (there are 3). I’ll never forget the feeling when I finished the whole thing for the first time. It was blissful in one way and grueling in another.

Here’s the video that explains the workout:

And here’s the whole thing in text:

Round 1 – 10 mins

This round is an AMRAP (As Many Reps/Rounds as Possible), and you alternate the sides you work. Work through all 6 on the left side, then all 6 on the right, and repeat continuously for 10 minutes.

5 Kettlebell Pushup
5 Row
5 Deadlift
5 Cleans
5 Racked Squat
5 Shoulder Press

Round 2 – 40s work/20s rest
Snatch
Goblet Squat & Reverse Lunge
Alternating Single-Arm Swing
Cross-Body Clean
Swing to Squat

Repeat for other side of body.

Round 3
Kettlebell Swing/Burpee
1 swing/7 burpees
2/6
3/5
4/4
5/3
6/2
7/1

I started this workout with a 35 lb. kettlebell and couldn’t finish. Unless you’re in great shape, I would recommend starting lighter.

What I love about it.

  1. It’s very difficult.
  2. It’s full-body like few workouts are. I’m not sure if anything isn’t worked out here.
  3. I just feels so good to complete it.

CAUTION: Before you jump in to a kettlebell workout, please make sure you understand how to execute the movements.

Workout 3 – The Pfeil Pfurnace

If you really want to feel an insane burn in your whole body with a focus on your legs, here’s your plan.

For Time
-80 kettlebell goblet thrusters (demo)
-80 kettlebell swings (demo)
-80 kettlebell goblet reverse lunges (demo, but don’t do just one leg)
-40 burpees (demo)

This usually takes me about 18:00 minutes, and every minute is awful. It always gives me butterflies before I start; I always want to quit before the end.

I’ve worked through this sequentially, doing only thrusters until I’ve done 80, then moving on to swings, etc. You can also break it up into 4 rounds of 20 of each exercise. It’s impossible to make it easy, and that’s the point.

(My friends came up with this name after I put them through this workout one morning, and I changed the spelling for branding purposes.)

What I love about it.

  1. It’s very intense. You can feel the burn all day.
  2. It’s named after me.
  3. It focuses on the major muscles of your body, as good workouts should.

CAUTION: This workout could make you extremely sore. The first time I did it with a 35 lb. kettlebell, I was miserably sore for 5+ days.

I Tried CrossFit for 3 Months: Here’s My Takeaway

Photo by Victor Freitas on Unsplash

Background 

I’ve never been an athlete. I was an obese, inactive teenager, and I lost a lot of weight later. Now I’m wanting to finish the journey and become the best I can be.

A friend of mine has been a CrossFitter for 12+ years and he offered me a free month of membership at the beginning of 2020. By the end of the first month I decided to stay, and I showed up 3 times per week until COVID kicked me out of the gym.

CrossFit is controversial, intimidating, and sometimes downright confusing from the outside, so it’s worth an honest review.

What to expect at CrossFit.

Class Format

At the regular gym, the person at the front desk is usually the only person you speak to, and even that is sometimes just a nod. After that, you’re on your own. 

At CrossFit I walked in and immediately circled up with 10-20 other people. I assume this is similar to a class at a standard gym, but I don’t know since I’ve never done one.

The class began with a warm up that took about 10 minutes, then we would review the WOD as a group. After that comes a strength portion of the workout where you focus only on lifting weights, and then the conditioning portion which usually involves weights too, but in a more cardio-intensive way.

There’s always a moment when they turn up the music and the big clock on the wall starts counting down. Once it goes off, it’s go time. No turning back. It’s a pretty great feeling.

When you finish the workout you clean up whatever equipment you used and do some cool down stretching if you have time.

Language

There’s a lot of CrossFit-specific vernacular. In the workouts you often see the words WOD, AMRAP, EMOM, there’s sometimes a name on the workout title like Fran, Diane, or Barbara, and there’s a prescription that has a number to the side of it like this: 135#. It feels like stepping into another language at the beginning, but you start to understand it quickly.

WOD = Workout of the Day

AMRAP = As Many Reps/Rounds As Possible

EMOM = Every Minute on the Minute

Fran, Diane, Barbara = Certain CrossFit workouts they keep on rotation

135# = A way of abbreviating “pounds” that uses less letters. Not sure why they do this.

Box = What CrossFit gyms are sometimes called.

What I like about CrossFit.

  1. It’s expensive. – I won’t pay for it and not show up. Standard economical gyms charge so little because they depend on people’s tendency to forget about their memberships. You can let $12 draft out of your bank account automatically for years and it won’t bother you enough to show up or cancel. CrossFit is expensive enough for me to get my tail out of bed and at the class.
  2. It’s a challenge. – CrossFit is without a doubt the hardest I’ve worked out in my life. It hurt in a good way every time, and after a while this starts to be something you crave. In the beginning I feared people would watch me and think I was weak. Then I realized they were too busy sweating to even look around.
  3. Accountability. – When you’re by yourself and decide to sleep in, or if you quit a hard workout early, no one will know. At CrossFit you work out with a group of people who are all suffering the same way. You begin to feel, even though no one says it, that if they aren’t quitting you shouldn’t quit. The gym I was a part of had a great mix of people—moms in their 40s, retirees in their 60s, total beginners, and serious competitors. There were people ahead of me and people behind me in terms of fitness. If none of them were quitting early, it would be a shame for me to.
  4. Community. – You may not meet a new BFF at CrossFit, but going to the same classes at the same time throughout the week puts you around the same people, and this is a massive advantage. At the CrossFit box I attended, if you missed a few sessions, when you came back in they would say they were starting to worry about your fitness. This lighthearted camaraderie is surprisingly motivating. No one was unkind if I missed, but I didn’t want to miss because I wanted to prove that I had what it takes.
  5. The workouts are chosen for you. – There’s no time spent researching and picking workouts that sound feasible to you at the time. There’s little room to cut yourself slack. This means I would get exposure to exercises I would typically never try on my own, like rope climbs, box jumps, or the all-time classic, running. I don’t like running and wouldn’t pick it out for myself, but if it’s a part of the WOD, I do it.
  6. The methodology. – My friend who gave me the free month used to be the co-owner of the gym. He has often told me, “The goal of CrossFit is to condition you to (a) carry a heavy load (b) over a long distance (c) quickly.” In other words, it tries to fit all the best of fitness into one place. It’s not just endurance training, though you sometimes run and spend a long time on the rower. It’s not just strength training, though you lift a barbell pretty much every time you’re there. It’s not just about speed, though with the timers and the people around you working hard, you push yourself to move quickly. It’s about all of it working together to get you seriously fit. You won’t get big and frothy like a body builder, nor skinny and sinewy like a marathon runner. Instead, you’ll end up more like a well-rounded athlete.
  7. Efficiency. – Both the time spent and the type of workouts you do. The classes were strictly 1 hour, which included everything I described above. On top this, the workouts work your whole system. You never really know if you’re strength training or cardio training, but you know with certainty that you are burning calories.
  8. Coaches watch your form. – CrossFit is not known for its emphasis on proper form, and I’m going to speak to that below, but you do at least have more guidance at CrossFit than you do at the gym on your own. If you’re used to doing everything by yourself at PlanetFitness, it’s a game-changer to have someone step in and tell you to straighten your back or widen your feet when doing a lift. If I’m willing to trust what I learn on YouTube about proper lifting technique it can’t be much worse to trust a CrossFit coach who has been at it for several years. (More on this below.)

What I don’t like about CrossFit.

  1. The stigma. – CrossFitters grunt loudly. They drop their barbells and it sounds like an explosion. They like to talk about CrossFit all the time. They take pride in their intensity. They tend to emphasize racing the clock over proper form. Even if I understand all of that more having been on the inside, it’s still true. The CrossFit I went to deconstructed some of that stigma for me; they did a lot of things really well. This point about stigma isn’t important. If it works, who cares about the stigma?
  2. Form isn’t always important. – I was lucky enough to be in a CrossFit where they took form seriously. They had a fundamentals course where they walked you through the basic barbell movements. They also spent a few minutes at every class reviewing the proper form while the CrossFitters held PVC pipes and followed along. Additionally, the coaches would correct you during workouts.

    However, I’m not sure it’s enough. Barbell movements like the snatch or the clean and jerk are complex. It’s not to say the average person can’t learn to do them well, but they involve a lot of time and focus to master and the average person wandering into a CrossFit is probably not going to spend time doing the research and perfecting their form. They may not even know to care about it, and this is alarming to me.

    You can’t adequately teach proper form in 2 fundamentals classes—form which has been explained in book length elsewhere. And learning as you go might not be smart either. What if the coach accidentally overlooks something you’re doing wrong and you injure yourself needlessly?
  3. Racing the clock. – Many of the workouts emphasize getting through the movements quickly to keep the intensity up. Intensity is good. Rushing through complicated movements just to beat the clock is not. This is a recipe for harm at some point. I think you should always set a clock when working out and I do so even when I’m alone. But CrossFit can be a little extreme with it. For example, it makes no sense to me to do 300 kipping pull-ups as fast as possible instead of 100 strict pull-ups as correctly as possible.
  4. It’s expensive. – Yes, this is also a con. I read a YouTube comment that said, “Fitness is free! Go get some.” This was posted under video from the beastly Iron Wolf, an active soldier who has earned that epic name by routinely posting videos of doing insane bodyweight workouts, such as this one where he did 500 burpees for time in the silence of his army barrack. You don’t really have to pay $100+ a month to get in shape. Your body is a gym.

Takeaway

There are more pros than cons in my review. I miss CrossFit and if COVID hadn’t come I would still be doing it 3-4 times a week. I’m just never going to have the same access to equipment and intensity in the workouts on my own.

CrossFit taught me what my best effort truly is. It showed me how much slack I cut myself. 

As soon as I stopped going, I started meeting up with 2-3 guys socially-distanced at a public football field. We brought our kettlebells and had a miniature CrossFit WOD in the open air. We found all sorts of workouts online and kept the intensity up, showed up consistently 3 times per week, and the result was that I got into the best shape of my life so far. 

I’m now getting 70% of the benefits of CrossFit at 0% of the cost.  Even so, when COVID is managed, I’ll probably be back.

My Favorite Mental Trick to Stop Overeating

This post is for people like me who are prone to overeating. It involves a level of thinking about food that will strike you funny if you’ve never had the struggle yourself.

There is pleasure involved in eating. Several, actually:

  1. The pleasure of meeting a true physical need. Our body thanks us for responding to hunger.
  2. The pleasure of feeling full in the belly.
  3. The pleasure of taste in the mouth. 

It dawned on me one day that I have spent most of my life chasing pleasure 2 at meals. I had an implicit goal to get full—not stuffed, but more than satisfied. I sought more than the elimination of hunger. 

This habit, especially when mixed with high-calorie foods, is all it takes to become obese. Seriously. When I was obese, I didn’t stuff myself three times a day, but I got happily full often. When I decided to change, I knew this would have to stop.

We derive comfort from food, medicate ourselves with food, celebrate with food—it’s no wonder we have an emotional attachment to it! It’s an emotional experience to accept that you’ll have to stop eating in the way that has become natural over the years. I was truly disappointed to be eating less.

Then I had a realization: This isn’t the end of pleasure in eating, it’s the swapping of one pleasure for another.

Instead of chasing pleasure 2, I began to chase pleasures 1 and 3.

How many meals have I rushed through in my lifetime without stopping to savor what I’m tasting? Most! Because I was seeking pleasure 2 (full in the belly), and not pleasure 1 (eliminating hunger) and pleasure 3 (tasting and savoring).

This meant I could meet weight loss goals and still derive joy from meals. It also killed that most common lie we tell ourselves when trying to lose weight: “You’re missing out on something.” That lie is responsible for millions of unnecessary calories.

Enjoying meals more, not less.

You can actually gain more enjoyment from a meal if you seek pleasures 1 and 3 than if you seek pleasure 2. Here’s how:

Scenario 1 – Seeking Pleasure 2 (feeling full).

  • You have a double cheeseburger with large fries and a coke. 
  • You sit down, ravenously hungry, and take a bite. 
  • While you’re chewing the burger, you take some fries and stuff those in your mouth too. 
  • Then you use a splash of soda to assist you in swallowing. 
  • The moment the food is out of your mouth, when it has hardly entered your esophagus, your teeth clamp into the burger again. 
  • Repeat until the food is gone.
  • Time spent eating: 6 minutes.
  • You’ve thought about that meal for 3 hours, or maybe longer, and it’s already gone. The pleasure is over.

Scenario 2 – Seeking Pleasures 1 & 3 (eliminating hunger and tasting/savoring).

  • You have a single cheeseburger with regular fries and water (or no drink).  
  • You sit down, ravenously hungry, and take a bite.
  • You set down the burger on the table, lean back in your chair, chew slowly, and think about everything you’re tasting. You focus on what you’re doing. You breathe while you chew. You consciously try to enjoy the food.
  • When the food is completely chewed, you swallow. Your mouth is empty. 
  • Then (and here’s where a huge difference comes in) you take a deep breath or two. You look around. You allow gratitude that you’re alive and have food to fill your mind. 
  • Only then do you take another bite.
  • Repeat until the food is gone.
  • Time spent eating: 15-20 minutes.

In Scenario 2, you’ve (A) extended the total time spent actively eating (which is the thing you’ve been looking forward to since your last meal), (B) eaten less food overall, and (C)  given your body adequate time to tell you that you’re full.

Amazingly, you end up feeling almost just as full as when you stop eating in Scenario 1.

If you’re used to getting full at every meal, you may be surprised at how good it feels to be satisfied rather than full. They are two different experiences. When you’re satisfied, you’re not bloated, you don’t feel heavy, and you have the added feeling of pride that you’ve made a healthy choice.

Another benefit of eating like this is that you get the chance to assess your likes and dislikes. Some healthy foods taste better than we assume because we rush through them and don’t give them a chance. Some unhealthy foods aren’t as delicious as we think, we’ve just attached good experiences to them and built a reflex around them. 

Of course, this isn’t perfect. I don’t eat every meal like this, not even close. Some days I eat quickly with no shame. But this is the most powerful mental trick I’ve found for me.

Favorite mental trick to stop overeating in summary: change the type of pleasure you seek when you eat.

It’s that simple.

Consistency = Weight Loss

Disclaimer: I am not a fitness coach, nutritionist, or doctor of any kind. I am a common dude who lost some weight and likes to share his thoughts on it. This means (1) I’m still learning all the time and (2) I might be wrong. Follow my advice at your own risk.


One of the most underrated factors in successful weight loss is consistency.

When I lost 100 pounds, I didn’t know what macronutrients were. I didn’t prioritize protein or limit carbs or look for healthy fats. I followed intuition, ate foods that seemed healthier, and fell into a routine. A lot of the foods I ate weren’t that healthy. I certainly didn’t have enough protein. But I consistently ate less calories than my body burned and the fat melted off.

I had a bowl of oatmeal every single day for breakfast. I even used white sugar to sweeten it. I had one serving of almonds I would eat about 3:00 PM every single day. I would go to bed hungry every single day.

The other thing I never varied was my workout. I’ve seen a lot of advice online about varying your workouts and preventing your body from getting used to the activity, but there’s a problem with this. You can spend more time thinking than doing. 

When I was successful with weight loss, I spent zero time looking up workouts. When I saw it was Monday or Wednesday or Friday, I simply knew I was going to go to my Total Gym and do the same 18 exercises back to back.

It was so simple. I didn’t worry about which parts of my body I was targeting or neglecting. I just knew it was a full-body exercise and it was unpleasant. When it got easier, I would move up a notch and get to work on that next level. (The Total Gym makes this easy.) 

Focus on consistency, not variance, until your results plateau. A second-rate workout routine that you execute without fail 3 times a week is much better than a perfect routine you perform once every 10 days.

My advice would be:

  1. Find a simple full-body routine. (Like this one.)
  2. Do it 3x a week. 
  3. Time yourself each time. Beat your last time each time without sacrificing form.
  4. When it gets easy, add another round. 
  5. Repeat steps 2-4.

Don’t change a thing. Don’t do any research at all. Focus on completing the action. Don’t get distracted or bored. Do the exact same thing until the results stop. Only then should you find a new routine and repeat the process.

How I Lost 106 Pounds

  1. Exercise – Full body exercise 3x per week. I used a Total Gym, yes, the iconic Chuck Norris bench machine. I did the same routine every time: 18 exercises, performed back to back with no rest, 15 reps each exercise. It was intense, meaning a discomfort level of 8/10. Each workout took about 20 minutes.
  2. Diet – No sweets. No snacks. No sodas. None was easier than some. No up-sizing my orders. No second plates. I didn’t count calories. I didn’t even know what macronutrients were. (A cup of tea with a little honey before bed was the exception to the no-snack rule.)
  3. Eat Slowly – I only ate until the hunger was gone. Sometimes I was still hungry when I finished. It’s one thing to feel full, it’s another thing to feel satisfied. It takes a while for a meal to set in. If you’re full the moment you swallow your last bite, you’ve eaten too much. If you’re still a little hungry when you swallowed your last bite, you’ll probably be satisfied in a few minutes.
  4. I stuck with it. – It only took 8 months (two 4-month periods) of unwavering consistency.
  5. I was motivated. – This is the most important factor. Our problem with weight loss isn’t a lack of information. I was happy to not feeling full. I was happy going to bed mildly hungry. I didn’t consult myself on whether I wanted to workout, I just started it. How does one get there? It’s different for each person. My first period of weight loss happened the months leading up to my wedding. My second period happened because our new health insurance had to charge us an additional $80/mo. due to my waist measurement. In both of these situations, there was no possibility of failure in my mind. I was all in.

Everything I did was successful for weight loss. My new goal has been to build muscle and lose fat, which has proven to be much more difficult than weight loss in general.

There’s much more to say about this and I hope to talk about it more in the future.


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