the spaz of fitness has arrived

BIGGER

In Food, Training, WOD on October 13, 2012 at 1:58 pm

There’s a four-letter word in CrossFit more forceful than any of the offhand expletives screamed against the backbeat of dropped barbells and box jumps: F-R-A-N. Only the Cyborg would be cruel enough to program both Nancy and Fran in the same week (which he did), though at least he gave us warning before Fran. When the announcement came on our box’s facebook page, I realized that I have managed to avoid Fran for all my sixteen months as a CrossFitter. The first time our box programmed it, it was a partner WOD. The next time, I could not yet clean 50lbs, and I spent all 20 minutes cursing at a barbell as I dropped it again and again. The third time, it was my rest day, and I “conveniently” prescribed my own replacement WOD after my lifts the next day. A prescribed Fran has been on my horizon ever since I managed 65 lb cleans… but for a while, I knew the weight would still be too heavy and I would all but slog through the workout. And since then, well… I’ve just been dreading it. It’s silly. I think a lot of the stigma that surrounds Fran is just a product of the way CrossFit has talked about it and put this girl on its own pedestal. Inherently, there’s nothing about it that makes it more demanding than many of the other girls– but because it’s THE benchmark workout, athletes push harder and dread it more, using their Fran time as the indicator of their ability.

So… even with all this wisdom and perspective, when Fran appeared on our whiteboard this week, I knew I’d have to do it Rx’d… an actual measure of myself as a CrossFitter– no excuses about how small I am, no stories about how I’ve never been an athlete. If I can do it RX’d, I can compare my number to that of all other CrossFitters.

How was it? Hellish. Though I still don’t think that Fran is harder than a lot of the other girls, the combination of thrusters and pullups, I think, is strategically cruel. My grip– one of my weaknesses– gives out first, and being unable to hold onto the bar makes both movements impossible. For those of you who don’t know, Fran is actually a relatively short workout. It’s 21, 15, 9 reps of Thrusters and Pull-ups. Today, our time cap was 15 minutes. The best CrossFit athletes can manage it between 2 and 3 minutes. But it takes them another 20 to pry their spent bodies off the floor.

For me, my limiting factor is definitely my shoulders. With my max press somewhere just below 75 lbs, the weight is just a bit much. I’m getting better at using the drive from my legs and hips, but I think my shoulders still bear a disproportionate amount of the “overhead” effort. The pull-ups felt fine. The Cyborg “no-repped” me on a few, but I’m getting a better sense of how high I need to pull for my butterfly kips. It’s just damn thrusters…

I came in at 9 minutes 30 seconds. And… you know what? I’ll take it. It’s fucking long for a Fran time, but it’s a far leap from 20 minutes of failing to clean 50 lbs off the ground.

If you guys haven’t seen this, the e-book Bigger Smaller Bigger has been making a small splash in the fitness world. Writer/Fitness enthusiast Nate Green undertook a (probably reckless) project in which he gained 20 lbs (mostly muscle) in 28 days, lost 20lbs in 5 days, and reconstituted himself in 24 hours. Other than the initial 28 day ramp up, the cutting and reconstitution routine is actually something that MMA fighters practice regularly to “make weight” for their fights, but I haven’t seen anyone document the process in such detail. Now Nate subjected himself to all sorts of unnecessary hell, but at least he did so with the guidance of a couple experts– Dr. John Berardi (of Precision Nutrition) and MMA trainer Martin Rooney (who has worked with am impressive list of legends). The website/ebook documents all of Nate’s diet and workout routines, so I won’t go into detail on that. Of course, he doesn’t advise that anyone try such a hapless undertaking, but he does construct some rather helpful takeaways for those looking to put on weight. Mostly… it’s hard, and it requires eating a lot more than you think you should. That’s something I struggled with a lot when I started getting “bigger.”

As of today, I weigh 118, which means that from the time I started CrossFit, I’ve put on 30lbs– more than 1/3 of my person. A very, very necessary 30lbs, mind you, but I was sort of relieved reading Nate’s blog to realize that I wasn’t just a singularly weird person while doing it. My past year has involved a lot of eating to the point of discomfort.

Wayyyy back when my stomach problems first started, I got used to eating less and less because food caused me pain. By the time I arrived in State College, I’d pretty much forgotten what a normal plate of food looked like because I was  used to scraping by on so little. So when my coaches told me to “eat more,” I was definitely eating more– but even “more” at that point was barely a drop in the bucket. Nate Green– who, I assume, does not have IBS, was not recovering from a stomach infection, and did not have to pop 4 or 5 prescription-strength pills a day– felt uncomfortable and bloated while on his weight gain regimen. My first months of really aggressive “eating” were absolute hell. When I finally got sick of being small and weak, I ramped up the size of my meals until they took me 30-40 minutes to finish. For months, I went to bed unable to sleep because I was full to the point of agony.

But what Nate observed… and what I learned… is that, the body is a weird little survivor– even mine, with its shitty, awful no good digestive system. I went from force-feeding myself spoons of peanut butter, to a pretty spectacular birthday feast at the Brazilian steakhouse– after which our waiter approached the table and told me, “I’ve never seen anything like that before. Thank you.” (seriously). I’ve chilled out a bit on pounding down food– I can go to bed comfortably now, and thankfully my IBS has been recovering a lot since I’ve stopped taxing my system so much. But I’m still gaining and getting stronger… In June, I declared that I wanted to try an Rx’d Fran in under 10 minutes before the New Year, and I’m glad I can check that one off my list. New long-term goal? A “Man Fran” (95lb thrusters) in under 15 minutes by this time next year :). Watch out world, Jo’s getting a little less scrawny day-by-day.

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