A Review of Cal Newport’s Digital Minimalism

books, reading, technology

One of my main goals for this month was to watch my social media time. That is, I would try to restrict my time on facebook and instagram to Saturdays. This has been mostly successful. Saturdays has included Sundays and last week I checked facebook to check up on CrossFit Open information. I’ve been more mindful and quick to click out, so I think it is overall an improvement from mindlessly scrolling.

The inspiration for my social media hiatus is Cal Newport‘s Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World. I have been a follower of Newport ever since I listened to his interview with Ben Domenech on the Federalist Radio Hour the other year. Back then, he was discussing his book Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World. Both are similar in that the nemesis to be thwarted is an attachment to social media, but where Deep Work focused on the harmful effects of social media and the internet on work, Digital Minimalism focuses on their harmful effects in our personal life and ways to overcome our digital addiction. Quick sidenote: All Amazon links are affiliate links, meaning if you buy something I make a percentage. 

And that it is an addiction is a characteristic Newport wants to make clear. I think he describes most lives (including my own) when he writes, “The urge to check Twitter or refresh Reddit becomes a nervous twitch that shatters uninterrupted time into shards too small to support the presence necessary for an intentional life.” This happens to me when I’m trying to read. I have to check facebook. Or before I do any work, I have to check facebook, then instagram, then facebook again, then work. I try really hard not to look at my phone when out to dinner or visiting with friends, but I know I do it all the time when with Bruno or family. Baby C has a few more months to go, but I keep seeing articles pop up on what our constant phone checking is doing to children. I think Newport speaks to something we all know is true, but frankly, kind of feel helpless in what to do about it. The Internet is ubiquitous.

I think that is where this book becomes most useful. If you already know you are struggling with social media and internet use, to the point where you are constantly checking, you do not need to be preached to. But what to do about it is another thing entirely. After discussing what it is about social media that makes it so addicting, Newport presents his alternative (you guessed it): “Digital Minimalism. A philosophy of technology use in which you focus your online time on a small number of carefully selected and optimized activities that strongly support things you value, and then happily miss out on everything else.”

He provides a number of options for “digital minimalism,” but the suggestion I found most intriguing was that of cultivating leisure. Newport’s theory is that we cannot just get rid of the all-encompassing amount of social media in our lives, but we need to replace it with something. We’ve lost the meaning of leisure and have replaced it with facebook likes and instagram videos. And by leisure, he does not mean we should just read more books, but also create things and learn things. His list is fairly male-centric (learn how to do mechanics on the car, for example), but I think anybody could come up with a list of weekend learning projects. That way we have something to actually show for our lives beyond “a photo of your latest visit to a hip restaurant, hoping for likes.”

Another one of his suggestions I particularly appreciated had to do with politics and news coverage. I think news-media addition is its own problem, especially because most people I know who are constantly sharing things on social media probably never, if ever, read from a viewpoint different from their own (not to mention I think everything found in Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business can apply to sharing news on social media — the medium is the message — but I digress). Newport advises “slow news consumption,” as opposed to our twitter, outrage-addicted news cycle. One of the benefits of slow news consumption is worth quoting at length “if you’re interested in commentary on political and cultural issues, this experience is almost always enhsanced by also seeking out the best arguments against your preferred position. I live in Washington, DC, so I know professional political operatives on both sides of the aisle. A requirement of their job is that they keep up to speed on the best opposing arguments. A side effect of this requirement is that they tend to be much more interesting to chat with about politics. In private, they don’t exhibit the same anxious urge to tilt at straw man versions of opposing viewpoints that’s exhibited by most amateur political commenters, and instead are able to isolate the key underlying issues, or identify the interesting nuances that complicate the matter at hand. I suspect they derive much more pleasure out of consuming political commentary than those who merely seek confirmation that anyone who disagrees is deranged.” What a better world that would be.

I plan on continuing my current facebook/instagram amount into next March (this is more than Newport’s recommended 30 days completely off). I like having my weeks social media free. I think, after reading this book, the next step will be to focus on internet usage as a whole. I find myself far too often down the internet rabbit hole, googling, searching, checking, and window shopping all too often. And for what? I think the best argument Newport gives is how much more you can add to your life when you are not just mindlessly scrolling. You can read. You can listen to music. You can actually focus on the conversation you are having. Life becomes fuller and indeed more intentional when it is not lived with the constant chains of the screen.*

What are your thoughts on digital minimalism? Have you read anything by Cal Newport? Reading anything good now?

*Yes, this is an intentional Rousseau ending. Ain’t no breaking these chains of love.

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Tales from My First CrossFit Open : 19.1 Scaled

crossfit, pregnancy

19.1 – Scaled

AMRAP – 19 wall-balls, 10 lbs. to 9 ft. target; 19 calorie row.

I do not cherry-pick my crossfit work-outs, but if I did there is one move I would avoid. I’m sure I have mentioned this before, but no movement in crossfit is more loathsome to me than the wall-ball: Hurl with all your might a heavy ball to a target, try not to get knocked down as it is making its way back. Do all this while squating and trying not to throw the ball like you are going in for a lay-up. It is a lot to think about.

So as you can imagine, when Bruno and I were watching the announcements for the first open work out (and our very first CrossFit open ever) last week Thursday evening, seeing AMRAP wall-balls for 19.1 initiated a special sort of dread in my heart. I think wall-balls takes a special sort of grace (actually, I think this about a lot of CrossFit movements). At 26 weeks pregnant, I have the grace of Pinnochio off-strings.

But, ready to embrace the challenge, I went to our gym Friday evening feeling pretty positive. I did not have any expectations — I thought, maybe four rounds, was reasonable. After trying a few practice wall-balls with the fourteen pound ball, I opted to scale. This turned out to be the right decision. The ten pound ball was heavy enough to get me struggling within the first one to two rounds.

I did not think it started that badly. Aside for constantly forgetting to squat on my first wall-ball and having to do another (see above about wall-balls involving a lot to think about), I was pleasantly surprised that I was quickly on the rower. But it hit me pretty quickly, the second round was less pleasant and by the third, I was taking a short breathing break after every five or so throws.

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Terrified of the target. 

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Be free!

There was a moment I looked at the clock and it said ten minutes left and I could not believe it. I felt as though I had been throwing and rowing plenty enough already. But I kept going. Every time I would start the wall-balls, I could not wait to get back on the rower. Every time I would start the rower, I would be ready to start the wall-balls. In this way, I actually really liked the work-out because even though painful and tough, it did offer frequent mental breaks.

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That moment where it has been on 18 calories for a little too long.

At a certain point, I lost count of my rounds. I thought I had maybe five when I was on my last 19 calorie row, where I actually almost began to cry. I don’t know if it was hormones or pain. I finished with enough time to do three more wall-balls before collapsing onto the floor when the timer went off. I was not the only one. I eventually walked elsewhere to get out of the way and put my legs up the wall.

After I “recovered,” I looked at my sheet and realized I did six rounds plus three wall-balls (231 reps), not five. I’ll admit to being surprised at myself. After all, as I said, I thought I would only manage four rounds. Even with it scaled, I thought six was kind of out of the question — maybe five, if I could push it and I was not sure I could. Last year, I don’t think I would have been able to do that work-out at all, but this year I’m twenty-six weeks pregnant, I pushed myself, and I’m extremely happy with how I did.

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CrossFit Open 2019 — where every wod is a partner-wod

That said, I still struggle with wall-balls, but maybe, just maybe, now after that work-out I’ll feel less terror when they are on the program.

Bring on 19.2!

 

 

Monday Miles : February 18 – 24, 2019 (25-26 Weeks Pregnant)

crossfit, lifting, monday miles, pregnancy, running, training

After the previous week’s “lost week” where everything was sacrificed to the dissertation gods, this week was more consistent. I decided last minute to sign up for the CrossFit Open and did my first open workout scaled. I’ll write more on that later, but it felt good to work out more than just two times. It also felt good to wake up and not work on my dissertation, but those two things are not necessarily related.

A big win this week was more yoga. I would like to thank Yoga with Adriene. Every time I try out a subscription service like Romwod or Jasyoga, I’m happy with it for a little bit, but Adriene has been my go-to for years. And most importantly, she is free. Even Bruno joined me for a yoga video on Friday before the open work out and asked, “So, why do we pay for these other subscription services again?”

2 – 18 : CrossFit. 7 x 2 power-cleans : 40 lbs., 45, 50, 55, 60, 70 (PR). AMRAP : 10 minutes – 20 alternate dumb-bell snatches @ 15 lbs., 10 no-push-up burpee box step-overs. 3 rounds + 11 alternate dumb-bell snatches. Romwod.

2 – 19 : Yoga with Adriene – Deep Stretch. I cannot believe this yoga video is forty-five minutes. It just flies by. There were some stretches I had to adjust because hello growing belly, but I think it really helped me this week to add this in to the routine.

2 – 20 : Rest.

2 – 21 : CrossFit. 5 Rounds for Time : 5 strict pull-ups with green band, 12 renegade rows with 10 lbs. dumb-bells, and 1 minute on the bike. 12 minutes 56 seconds. The work-out called for a 200m run, but I tried to do a 100m run in the warm-up and I just was not having it. Did you know I miss running?

2 – 22 : Yoga with Adriene – Deep Stretch. Yes, again. Bruno joined me this time around. We wanted to be all nice, loose, and limber for what was to come later that night. CrossFit. My first ever open work-out – 19.1 (Scaled) AMRAP 15 minutes 19 wall-balls at 10 lbs. to 9 feet, 19 calorie row. I’m going to write more on this work-out tomorrow, but I can tell you this: it hurt.

2 – 23 : Rest.

2 – 24 : Rest.

Totals : Crossfit – 3 hours. Yoga/Stretching – around 2 hours. 5 hours.

Onward!

 

 

Favorite Things: February 16 – 22, 2019

crossfit, favorite things

Today is the day of the Open! I’ll admit 19.1 will already be a challange for considering wall balls are my least favorite CrossFit movement of all. We usually go at noon, but today we are going to go do the work out at 5:30. I’m excited and extremely nervous. It is about to be a sufferfest!

Other than that, there are no major plans for this weekend. Tomorrow is sourdough Saturday, so I’ll make some bread. I’m just looking forward to relaxing (which is what I’ve been doing all week) and getting the house in order. Next week, I’m hoping to get more on a schedule and actually do things instead of loafing around all day. Ah, the joys of Ph.D. life.

Here are this week’s favorite things:

If you need ideas for your morning routine.

Exercise recovery: I agree that there is probably a lot hokey products out there, but that does not necessarily mean that all exercise recovery is a sham. That said, I would still be interested in reading this book.

Idle time: recovery for your brain. Who is Jean-Jacques Rousseau? I don’t even know anymore.

In praise of the useless life.

Lessons learned from eight years of writing an adventure blog.

The myth of the overnight success.

Welcome to the machine.

Drinking out of one right now.

Eating healthy on the budget, or the joys of rice and beans.

Big plans for this weekend? Are you doing the Open? Do you share my irrational loathing of wall balls?

Have a great weekend!

 

I Signed Up For My First CrossFit Open

crossfit, goals, lifting, pregnancy

I was on the fence all week about doing the CrossFit Open. It did not help that I have just felt exhausted and burnt out this whole month. I think that has more to do with finishing my dissertation and my doctorate than working out, but it added to the not-sure-if-I-should-do-this feeling. On Monday I was feeling pretty gung-ho about it, but after the work out my body felt so cranky that I felt silly to even consider doing the open as a second-to-third trimester pregnant lady.

But I was feeling bummed to have to miss out. And after talking about it with my coach, she said she thought as much. I know whatever I do is not going to be pretty or even outstanding, but as I told my coach today it still would be more than I was capable of doing last year. Seriously. I do not think I could back-squat over 45 pounds last year and now I have a one-rep max of 135. And I did that while pregnant.

So, what are my goals for my first open? I’m not exactly sure how to establish them considering that until tonight I will have no idea what the work out for tomorrow is, but I do have a few:

Establish some sort of base. Yeah, maybe that base would be better if I was not pregnant, but I still want something with which to compare next year. But it is not all about the future. I’m still fairly new to CrossFit, but I know I have made significant improvements and have done things I never expected to be able to do.

Do more than I think I can. Dangerous words from a pregnant woman, but I do want to have one “woah, I did not think I could do that” moment. Truth be told, I have those all the time. The day I was first allowed to use a bar in my over-head squat instead of a PVC pipe will always be a happy memory, but I want an Open moment too.

Community support. I do not know where Bruno and I will be next year. But I love the CrossFit we are currently at – I want to be able to share this. I want to be able to cheer people on. One thing I love about CrossFit is that I am so inspired to go work out and see people really pushing themselves hard. I love it when I see people suffer and push through it anyways. There are some amazing people there. I want to see them accomplish things they did not realize they could do.

Hopefully in the next few weeks I’ll be able to give you tales from my first open, but I am truly excited that I finally signed up – and excited to do the whole thing as a partner WOD as well.*

*Me and the baby…if you couldn’t get the joke!

 

On Impostor Syndrome and my Dissertation Defense

dissertation, graduate school

Last week Wednesday, I defended my dissertation. The following day I gave my public lecture. And just like that, it was all done. Aside for responding to any corrections to Turabian and citation formatting, I am finished. A Ph.D. Everything went well. I was told that people thought my public lecture was good and the question/answer section went satisfactorily. It would appear everything went smoothly.

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The picture of confidence, right?

But frankly, until we got home Thursday night it was one of the worst weeks I have had in graduate school. I don’t think I’ve had such a bad week since my comprehensive exams where I just felt immobilized by worry. And trust me, I’m naturally anxious so even for me this was excessive. And I knew, I knew my anxiety was irrational. Nobody lets you defend if they think you are going to fail. It would be a total waste of everyone’s time.

That said — the whole time I was sure, certain even, that this was the moment where I would be found out. I do not know anything about Jean-Jacques Rousseau. I was pretty sure that after all was said and done people would think, “Goodness, I thought this was supposed to be good?” I was afraid my public lecture would be incomprehensible or boring. I was terrified that I would be unable to satisfactorily answer a single question. I would be given my Ph.D. sure, but at the cost of everyone finding out I was a fraud.

I have been dealing with “impostor syndrome” since I started graduate school. And though all evidence over the last six years has shown me that I am perfectly capable of fulfilling all requirements, not just well, but sometimes extremely well, I have never been able to shake it. Not very inspiring or encouraging, right? But then again, courage never meant completely shaking off fear exactly.

After the public lecture, we went home. I celebrated with a can of bubbly…La Croix. I felt immediately better. I was just so happy that it was indeed finally over. A few days — I still feel happy, although I probably could use a return of structure to my day! It is almost as if the feelings of impostor syndrome never existed.

I know they are still there though. I’m not sure yet what to do about impostor syndrome, except to just simply make peace that yes, this does happen. I think the important thing is to understand that I’m irrationally worried and do what it is anyway. That method, at the very least, seems to have worked out for me.

And most importantly, I am still done.

 

 

Monday Miles: February 4 – 17, 2019 (24-25 Weeks Pregnant)

crossfit, lifting, monday miles, training

Two weeks behind, but there is not much to report….except….I’m a “doctor” now. “Doctor” in that it isn’t officially official until I have my diploma, but I still finished up all my requirements for my Ph.D. in politics. I passed my defense. The public presentation is over. I’m done. But more on that later.

It was not the most productive of work-out weeks, because everything was sacrificed to the dissertation gods and when I finished, I could not function for at least three days. I am back at it today, so that is good. The Crossfit Open starts this week and I plan on signing up at some point today. I’ll get back on a regular schedule, baby and body willing.

For the week of February 4-10

2 – 4 : CrossFit. 3 rounds for time – 10 calorie row, 15 push-press @ 45 lbs. – 6 minutes, 28 seconds. Strength – 4 rep max push-press: 55 lbs., 60 lbs., 65 lbs. Finished up at home with a twenty minute indoor cycle on the trainer. It was so boring.

2 – 5 : 29 years old today! CrossFit. Strict Cindy – AMRAP 20 minutes – 5 pull-ups (used assistance bands), 10 push-ups, 15 squats. 11 rounds + 5 pull-ups + 5 push-ups. I am very proud to say that I did not do a single push-up on my knees. Finished with 2 minutes total dumb-bell over-head hold, used 25 lbs. dumb-bells.

2 – 6 : JasYoga – Fluidity for Pregnancy.

2 – 7 : CrossFit. 5 rounds for time – 2 minutes on bike, 10 left-hand arm over-head squats with 5 lbs., 10 right-hand arm over-head squats with 5 lbs. – 17 minutes, 38 seconds. My notes say: “This was a sneaky hard work-out – I was not expecting it to be that bad, then boom it was.” Story of my CrossFit life.

2 – 8 : CrossFit. 29 birthday burpees. For time – 2 minutes 30 seconds double-under attempts, 5 x 20 seconds tuck-sit, 10 power-cleans at 45 lbs., 2 minutes 30 seconds double-under attempts. I managed 28 double-unders during five minutes of attempts. Woof.

2 – 9 : Walked. 30 minutes. 1.6 miles. I think I may have done a Romwod after — cannot remember for sure.

2 – 10 : Rest.

Totals : Miles – 1.6 miles, 30 minutes, Biked – 20 minutes, CrossFit – 4 hours. Four hours, fifty minutes.

For the week of February 11-17

2 – 11 : CrossFit. For time – 12 power snatches at 35 Lbs., 20 wall balls at 10 lbs., 9 power snatches, 20 wall balls, 6 power snatches, 20 wall balls, 3 power snatches – 10 minutes, 3 seconds. JasYoga – PreNatal Reset.

2 – 12 : Frantically getting things ready for my dissertation defense.

2 – 13 : DEFENSE DAY. Celebrated with CrossFit. 3 rounds for time – row 500m, 21 knee-tuck crunches, 12 push-jerks @ 45 lbs. 13 minutes 37 seconds. 3 x 100m farmer/waited walk with 20 lbs. dumb-bells with one minute rest.

2 – 14 : Basically catatonic. Prepared to give my public lecture. Gave my public lecture.

2 – 15 : In a state of shock that I was done.

2 – 16 : Still in shock.

2 – 17 : Shock. Still.

Totals: CrossFit. 2 hours.

Onward!

 

 

 

 

Favorite Things: February 2-8, 2019

favorite things

Happy Friday! This is the last weekend for the big two days — the dissertation defense and public presentation. I have been a bundle of nerves these last few days, especially as I begin to work on my presentation. What am I going to say? What if it is boring? I will admit that it has been hard to stay calm and an emergency double-bacon cheeseburger from a new burger place was ordered last night. Do not judge me.

So — not much is planned for this week. I have some family coming up for the presentation, so the house will have to be cleaned, the presentation written, and hopefully some time spent outside to calm my frazzled nerves. Assuming all goes well, this will be the last weekend when someone asks what I’m doing, I’ll respond, “I have to work on my dissertation.” I hope to end it on a high note.

Here are a few favorites for this week:

Appropriate for my birthday week.

I agree. Getting a Ph.D. is harder than running a marathon.

I love Allie Kiefer.

And Liza Howard might also be my new hero.

An article about mental toughness and running, but I think it is helpful for all aspects in life.

This cracked me up: pretentious foodie mom declares child will never eat from kid’s menu.

Great article on Crossfit and pregnancy.

Happy a great and relaxing weekend!

February 2019 Goals : The Year of 1% Better

books, crossfit, goals, pregnancy, reading, running, year of 1% better

I officially have 364 days left of being in my twenties. Yes, yesterday I turned twenty-nine. I celebrated by taking the day off any dissertation/Rousseau-related/job search work. I read books on the couch, did my first Cindy wod at CrossFit, and Bruno made crab cakes for dinner and homemade brownies for dessert. I was in bed by nine — a great start to my 29th year.

If you’re new here, or if you just need a refresher, I declared 2019 the year of 1% better. You can read January’s goals here and how I did here.

And now we are in the second month. January seemed to go on forever, but we already only have around three weeks of February left. I assume, because it is a big month for, that it will fly by.

Here are the goals/things I want to work on this month:

GET MY PH.D. I defend my dissertation next week Wednesday and give a public lecture on my dissertation research on Thursday evening. I’m not sure if that makes me “officially” a Ph.D. or if I still have to use Ph.D. candidate until I graduate, but one thing is for sure — if all goes well, I will be finished with my requirements for my doctorate. As with last month’s goal to submit my dissertation, this is the most important goal. All else can go to pieces, but this, this is years and years of work about to come to an end.

DIGITAL MINIMALISM. I am reading Cal Newport‘s new book, Digital Minimalism at the moment. I have always had struggles with social media. I’ve never been a Twitter person, but I can find myself sucked down the facebook, instagram, and just web-searching wormhole too frequently than I care to admit. I have failed too often in my battles against the internet, so I’m hoping to use some of the advice from this book to help. For now, the goal is to keep my social media use restricted to Saturdays — so far this has been working. I have not even been on facebook to see my birthday messages. Look ma, no facebook or instagram on my phone!

BIKE 20 MINUTES/WEEK. I know in the grand scheme of things is not very much, but as with running and swimming I am not sure how my hips and pelvis will react to time on the trainer. I’m starting here and if it goes well, next month I will increase. I suspect this also for mental training, because in case you did not know, cycling on a trainer is one of the most boring things you could ever do. It makes running on a treadmill seem like an entertaining time.

WALK (OR RUN) 30 MINUTES 2X WEEK. Like I said, trying to be moderate in my expectations. Some days I feel great, some days I really do not. I would really like to start running again, especially after I defend, but I am just not so sure if it will happen. Walking, at the very least, will get me outside.

PRE-NATAL YOGA 2X WEEK. Jasyoga has a few prenatal videos that I need to be more consistent about cycling through. I am hoping that if I hold myself accountable maybe, just maybe, those ligaments will start to feel better.

CathLIT2019. I am still working through some of the suggestions on Carrots for Michaelmas’s Catholic reading plan. I am currently reading Jesus of Nazareth by Benedict XVI and I love it. The one book a month plan is working out well for me thus far, but we will see what happens when baby gets here.

I think those are goals a-plenty for the month I’m planning on completing my doctoral requirements. What are your goals for February?

 

Monday Miles: January 28 – February 3, 2019 (22 Weeks Pregnant)

crossfit, monday miles, pregnancy, training

I am still not running, nor doing much of anything except for going to CrossFit. For whatever reason, this is the only thing that does not exacerbate my pelvic pain at the moment. I can modify everything that does. I cannot really modify running. Either I’m running, or I’m not. There is not in between. And frankly, the pelvic pain is getting worse anyway. I had a hard time all this weekend just simply moving around and I did not work out at all. A phone call to the chiropractor is on my to-do list for today, so hopefully she will get me straightened out.

This upcoming week I would like to focus on doing a little more Jasyoga to see if that helps with the pain. I have not been as consistent at stretching as I frankly should be, so that will definitely be something to work on as the weeks get closer and closer to the due date, even if I cannot run or do anything else.

The good news is my ankle is feeling a million times better. I barely even notice that there is a problem with it today, so hopefully the next time we have double-unders in programming I can keep working on them. Plus, that will give me a good idea on how cranky or not cranky my ankle is from the hopping up and down.

1 – 28 : CrossFit. 3 x 5 Overhead Squats — all at 45 pounds. I tried to go higher, but I failed 50 pounds, even though my PR is 55 pounds. I just did not have it in me. 3 x for reps : 30s air squat, 30s rest, 30s Russian kettle bell swings @ 35 lbs., 30 s rest, 30 s plate over-head lunges @ 10 lbs., 30 seconds rest. For air squats: 16, 18, 20; for kettle-bell swings: 13, 15, 15; for over-head plate lunges: 13, 15, 15. I am glad I ended with a higher number than I started.

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Box step-ups. 

1 – 29 : CrossFit. 5 x 10 pike push-ups, 10 box step-ups, 10 box-dips, 100 feet dumb-bell farmer’s carry — first 3 rounds carried 20 lbs., 4 + 5 carried 25 lbs.). I did this in about 16 minutes 27 seconds.

1 – 30 : CrossFit cancelled due to being super cold in Michigan.

1 – 31 : We had a prenatal appointment during our typical Crossfit time, so did not go. Everything on the baby looks good, although we have to get a growth ultrasound in a few weeks to take another look at the kidneys.

2 – 1 : Starting off the month right. CrossFit. 16.3 AMRAP 10 power snatches @ 35 lbs., 5 jumping chest-to-bar pull-ups. I managed four rounds.

2 – 2 : Rest.

2 – 3 : Rest.

Totals: Three hours CrossFit.

Onward!