Asian Games: Thailand women win gold in 4×100-meter relay

Some upbeat news for Thailand near the end of what has been a difficult year: The women’s 4×100-meter relay team won a gold metal Friday at the Guangzhou Asian Games.

AP has the details:

Thailand was the surprise winner of the women’s race, clocking 44.09 seconds as they interrupted Chinese dominance of six straight golds in the event. No female sprinters from Thailand finished in the top three of either the 100 or the 200, but that didn’t prevent them putting togther a winning team.

Nongnuch Sanrat flashed a wide smile as she overtook China’s Ye Jiabei in the final leg to give Thailand its first track and field gold in Guangzhou. It was sweet vindication for the 27-year-old Thai after she dropped the baton in the same race at the previous Asian Games in Doha four years ago.

“We lost at the Doha Asian Games and this time we came here for a gold medal,” her 30-year-old teammate Neeranuch Klomdee said. “I have trained for 10 years. Our team trained five days every week and we worked on strength, speed and co-operation.”

(Emphasis mine.)

Here’s a video — embedded below — of the race. Nongnuch’s sprint in the final leg is inspiring indeed. She takes the baton around the 3:20 mark.

Around the Web: improving college rankings, Federer’s footwork, inventors killed by their own inventions, and more

Some links that have caught my eye of late:

Around the web: August 25th to August 30th

Some links that have caught my eye of late:

Crossfit workouts: a few of my favorite routines

Update 2 — September 22, 2011: I have recently started doing Crossfit workouts again. I switched to conventional strength training (see update below) for a while, but have now returned to Crossfit’s more intensive calisthenics workouts. I’m finding that cycling between the two is beneficial.

Update: this post is from 2009. For my more recent thoughts on fitness, see this April 2011 post.

About a year ago, my pal Danny, a trainer in New York City, introduced me to Crossfit, a fitness regimen that has changed the way I think about physical training.

What is Crossfit?

Crossfit is a fitness philosophy that incorporates calisthenics, running, jumping, and weight lifting done at high intensity, usually for short periods of time.

The Crossfit Wikipedia page has a good overview. And here’s a two minute YouTube video (embedded above) that explains the Crossfit mentality. You can find more info on the official Crossfit site, on the What is Crossfit? page.

I also like this description, also from the Crossfit site. It’s called “World-Class Fitness in 100 Words:

Eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch and no sugar. Keep intake to levels that will support exercise but not body fat. Practice and train major lifts: Deadlift, clean, squat, presses, C&J, and snatch. Similarly, master the basics of gymnastics: pull-ups, dips, rope climb, push-ups, sit-ups, presses to handstand, pirouettes, flips, splits, and holds. Bike, run, swim, row, etc, hard and fast. Five or six days per week mix these elements in as many combinations and patterns as creativity will allow. Routine is the enemy. Keep workouts short and intense. Regularly learn and play new sports.
~Greg Glassman

Why I like Crossfit

I really like Crossfit workouts. Here’s why:

  1. Simplicity — as you’ll see in the sample workouts below, a typical training session is quite straightforward. There’s a focus on calisthenics — exercises that involve moving your own body weight, like push-ups, pull-ups, sit ups, and squats.

    A word about pull-ups: Crossfit philosophy advocates kipping pull-ups, which are different than standard, dead-hang pull-ups. In a kipping pull-up, you swing your body and drive your hips upward, using your entire body to raise your chin over the bar. This can be difficult to learn, but the idea is that you can do more pull-ups in less time this way, and thus work your muscles more intensely than you can with dead-hang pull-ups. A couple of good kipping tutorials can be found on YouTube here and here.

  2. Intensity — Many Crossfit workouts last 20 minutes or less. But you push yourself as hard as you can for the given amount of time. The workouts, which resemble interval training, tend to be short and punishing (with occasional long runs and rowing workouts thrown in for good measure). My sense is that this produces better fitness gains than the typical gym route: a run at a moderate pace followed by some resistance training. This recent New York Times blog post contains more info on the benefits of interval training.
  3. Everything is measurable — nearly every workout is done for time. So while workouts are highly variable, when you do repeat a given workout, you can check to see what your previous time was and try to beat it.
  4. Variety — Crossfit is cross-training to the extreme. The notion is that every workout should challenge your body in a different way. I’ve never done a boring Crossfit workout.
  5. No machines are required — Crossfit workouts require very little equipment. Many exercises are simply calisthenics. My favorite no-machine workout involves a grueling exercise called the burpee. More on that below…
  6. Crossfit is unconventional — the philosophy challenges our traditional ideas about fitness. In Western society, as Crossfit devotees point out, we tend to hold up the endurance athlete as a model of fitness. But Crossfit proponents would argue that the decathlete should be the gold standard of physical fitness.
  7. It’s fun to learn new movements. I’d never spent much time performing movements like squats and dead lifts, but I now see how helpful they can be. Here’s a list of Crossfit exercises
  8. Sense of community — Crossfit proponents all over the world check Crossfit.com every day to check the WOD (“workout of the day”), and then hundreds of people post their times to the comments. And the Crossfit discussion board has lively discussions and tips for beginners. In addition, there are Crossfit gyms in many North American cities, most of which have their own blogs. And every year seriously hard-core Crossfit enthusiasts gather for the Crossfit Games. Note: there is not, as far as I know, a Crossfit Bangkok. (Food for thought?)

A few of my favorite Crossfit workouts

So what’s a Crossfit workout look like? Here are a few of my favorite routines. You’ll see that compared to the workouts posted on the Crossfit main page, these tend to avoid olymypic-style weightlifting.

  • “Cindy”: do as many rounds of the following as you can in 20 minutes:
    5 pull-ups, 10 push ups, and 15 squats; repeat.
  • Deadlift and fast run: do 5 sets of 5 repetitions of the dead lift (5,5,5,5,5), then run 1.5 miles for time.
  • Double-unders and situps: For time, do 50/40/30/20/10 reps of: Double unders (jumping rope — the rope passes under your feet twice during one jump) and sit-ups. That is, do 50 double unders, 50 sit-ups; 40 double unders, 40 sit-ups…down to 10 and 10.
  • Fast runs and pull-ups: Maximum rounds in 20 min. of: maximum rep pull-ups (as many as you can do without coming off the bar), then run 400 meters. Repeat. (Measure your total number of pull-ups.)
  • “Fran”: 21-15-9 reps for time of: 95 pound thrusters, then pull-ups. That is, 21 thrusters, 21 pull-ups, 15 thrusters, 15 pull-ups, etc. Here’s a video demonstration Fran. (Note that my performance in this exercise is nowhere near as proficient as what you see here!)
  • Burpee madness: 100 burpees for time. What’s a burpee? It’s a pushup with a jump at the end. Here’s a video demonstration. And here’s another. Do a bunch of these for time and your cardiovascular system will be reeling.

Criticism of Crossfit

It’s worth nothing that Crossfit is not without its critics. Some people point out that some of the exercises, if done incorrectly, are dangerous. That’s true. If you’re learning new movements, like the squat, ask a trainer or someone knowledgeable to help you.

Some people also argue that the Crossfit community is unfairly dismissive of conventional gym-goers, and that some of those who undertake Crossfit training seem to…well, take themselves too seriously. I think this is also true.

Here’s an overview of Crossfit’s unique culture from the New York Times. Worth a read.

Do you Crossfit? If so, why do you like it? Leave a comment below. Not a fan? Tell me why. Good Crossfit workout suggestions? I’m all ears.

Thaksin, Manchester City, and Football in Thailand

Thailand's Ousted PM Thaksin Shinawatra

What does ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s recent return to Thailand mean for Manchester City, the English Premier League team he purchased during his exile? What does his return mean for football (soccer) in Thailand?

That was the subject of an AFP story that I wrote last week.

You can find it on Yahoo News here: “Thaksin return raises hopes of Thai fans.”

Takraw in The Onion

Sepak takraw (or simply takraw in Thai), is a volleyball-like game played with the feet using a rattan ball. The sport is popular throughout Southeast Asia, but especially so here in Thailand.

The game doesn’t get much attention outside of Asia, so you can imagine my surprise when I came across this fake video report on The Onion News Network. The spot features elaborate NFL-style TV graphics, breathless analysis, and a Keyshawn Johnson reference:

“Ngyuen Thi Buch Thuy: ‘Just Give Me The Damn Sepak Takraw Ball’”

Mexican Politician Cheats in Berlin Marathon

Mexican Politician Cheats in Berlin Marathon [not my image]

IHT:

Having spent his life as a stalwart in the corrupt political machine that ruled Mexico for decades, Roberto Madrazo has never suffered from a reputation for honesty.

So it provoked laughter here when Madrazo, a former presidential candidate for the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, was disqualified this week for cheating in the Berlin Marathon.

Madrazo, who came in a distant third in last year’s presidential race, crossed the finish line in Berlin on Sept. 30 with a startling time of 2 hours 41 minutes 12 seconds, easily winning the men’s category for age 55. He grinned and pumped his fists in the air.

But a sports photographer, Victor Sailer, wondered why Madrazo was wearing a jacket, a cap and long tights on a day when most of the runners finished the race in sweat-soaked T-shirts and shorts. Sailer showed his photo to race officials and raised the possibility that Madrazo might have broken the rules.

On Monday, race officials said they had proof that Madrazo had taken a shortcut. An electronic tracking chip in one of his running shoes showed he had skipped two checkpoints and appeared to have run one nine-mile section faster than any human being on record, taking only 21 minutes.

“Not even the world record holder can go that fast,” the race director, Mark Milde, told The Associated Press. (The record for 15,000 meters, about 9.3 miles, is 41 minutes 29 seconds, set by Felix Limo of Kenya in November 2001.)

In June, Madrazo completed a marathon in San Diego in 3 hours 44 minutes 6 seconds, an hour slower than his Berlin time. On Tuesday, a phone call to his office was not answered, and a person at his house said he was not there.

(Emphasis mine.)

Football Team Management 2.0

Fantasy Football (Soccer) [not my image]

Springwise.com:

Quick update about MyFootballClub, which we wrote about when they launched in May. The venture, which hopes to harness the wisdom of crowds to manage a professional league soccer team (or football club, if you prefer), has just reached its target of 50,000 members. If all members follow through and pay their GBP 35 membership fee, MyFootballClub will soon have GBP 1,5 million in the bank and will be able to buy a team.

Thanks to a novel concept that garnered plenty of media coverage, it took MyFootballClub less than three months to get 50,000 potential owner-managers to sign up. Negotiations with clubs will start soon; the top 4 clubs on members’ lists are Leeds United, Nottingham Forest, Cambridge United and Accrington Stanley, but selection will depend on a club’s availability as well as its popularity. Things will truly become interesting once 50,000 members start managing the team…

(Emphasis mine.)

Thanks to Mike W. for the tip.

New Blog on Baseball and Asian Culture

Baseball in Taiwan [not my image]

Speaking of notable new blogs, Asia-watchers and baseball fans alike will want to check out the recently-launched East Windup Chronicle, “A Journal of Sports, Art, Politics, and Culture from the Pacific Rim” (with a heavy emphasis on baseball).

My pal Aaron and his friend Jackson, writing from South Korea and Taiwan, respectively, have been discussing issues such as Japan’s most underrated MLB player; Kim Ng, who may become the first female GM in baseball history; and a game-fixing scandal in the CPBL, Taiwan’s pro league.

Definitely worth a look.

“Why Thailand’s Generals Will Root for Man U”

Time’s Hannah Beech:

The guy selling spears of chilled guava down the street sports a Chelsea football jersey. Everywhere in soccer-mad Bangkok, in fact, people wear garments proclaiming their affiliation with one or another English Premier League team. But one jersey you’re unlikely to spot? That of Manchester City. It’s not because City has struggled, unsuccessfully, for three decades now to emerge from the shadow of its more moneyed crosstown rival, Manchester United. Even Birmingham’s lackluster Aston Villa, after all, maintains a dogged fan base in Thailand’s capital. No, the reason Manchester City is taboo in Bangkok is because its new owner is ousted Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra…