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Fran and a Little Perspective

In Training, WOD on February 27, 2013 at 5:50 pm

Things I hate about “Fran”:

– The first thruster

– The second thruster

– The entire set of 21 thrusters

– Jumping onto the pull-up bar after the 21 thrusters

– Pull-ups 15-21 when kipping stops feeling fun and feels more like work

– Thrusters 6-15 of the second set

– All 15 pull-ups midway through

– The nine thrusters at the end

– Every. Last. Grinding. Final. Pull-up.

…. so when you add it all up, I probably enjoy maybe 15 pull-ups and 5 thrusters during Fran. That sounds like a good workout, right? 15 pull-ups, 5 thrusters. Call it a day. No? Fine.

No thanks to Zebrapants, the box’s WOD today was Fran. As of last night, Fran was my least favorite CrossFit workout. Here’s the reason why: I hover at that awkward strength level where I can technically do the workout prescribed, but I don’t think the stimulus is what the workout was programmed to be. My 65lb thrusters are slow. I have made it in under the 10 minute timecap before, but the thrusters were the bulk of the workout, and I definitely broke them more often than most people do during Fran. Every time my journey happens upon, Fran, then, I must decide– go with the workout as “prescribed”? Get a better metabolic workout with a lighter weight? It’s especially difficult because we so often perceive picking a lower weight as “slacking off” or cheating. And I’m determined, if anything in my pursuit of CrossFit, to disallow myself from slacking off. But then again, I’m reminded of a bit of CrossFit wisdom that often goes neglected: just because you can do a workout as prescribed, doesn’t mean you necessarily should.

This morning, I realized something… going heavier has been my way of slacking. At 65 lbs, I can’t move quickly enough through Fran for it to be the surreal deathrace that everyone describes it as. My first attempt at Fran involved me failing 50lb cleans rather than actually working out. Until this morning, I’d never attempted the workout below 50lbs (at the cert, I believe I did it at 55. I’ve done it once prescribed, at 9:48– I think).

Before we started the workout, Zebrapants gave the same instructions we received at our level one. If you can’t do the first set of thrusters unbroken at your starting weight, that weight is too heavy. Not even on my best day could I do 21 thrusters at 65. Or if I did, I wouldn’t be able to stand under the pull-up bar, let alone reach it. So I dropped straight to 45.

As it turns out… Fran at 45lbs sucks a hell of a lot more than Fran at 65 lbs– at least when your max thruster hovers around 85-90 lbs (haven’t tested in a while, not sure about that number). The point of the CrossFit couplets is that they’re designed to be short and intense. In my readings of CrossFit philosophy, I found that the original workouts were programmed for “elite” athletes and coaches were given the instructions to scale appropriately. Fran is ideally performed with 65lb thrusters by a woman with a 140 lb strict press. So… even though I can do 65 lb thrusters, those thrusters are a lot slower for me than they would be for the “ideal” athlete. And in doing so, I sacrifice intensity for pride. I do my strength-work separate from my metcons, so there’s really no reason to go heavy during Fran. Today, with 45-lbs, I made it through all but the last pull-up unbroken. I’m now almost proud of that fact, but during the actual workout, I didn’t even realize that that was what I was working for. It never struck me to aim for an unbroken workout–especially when my norm has involved dividing Fran into manageable chunks of 5-rep, 65-lb thrusters. I just know that once the clock started, Zebrapants told me I wasn’t allowed to put the bar down, so I didn’t. The first set of 21 pull-ups felt all right. Then that set of 15 thrusters, Zebrapants again told me not to set the bar down. He shouted me through (I respond well to being yelled at, usually) the entire set and I was back on the pull-up bar hating the universe but determined not to fall. Nine agonizing thrusters later, I was back on the bar, limited to slow pull-ups one or two at a time, forearms pleading for mercy, but refusing to let go. Technically, I got 89 and a half reps before I dropped… but the last pull-up was so ugly and so very far from the bar that I knew I wouldn’t be able to make it back up without shaking out my arms. So I did, and I jumped back up, and hit rep 90 at 4:27 (I think. Some ambiguity about whether it was 4:23, but let’s keep the last four seconds just in case). Regardless… it was a vastly different experience than my 65-lb Fran. During that bout, the pull-ups were actually a vacation for me. I had to take enough rest between thrusters that the pull-ups felt easy. And the weight was so heavy that I really couldn’t “push-through” the burn. I had to wait until my muscles recovered enough that they could lift the damn bar again.

This morning’s workout took four and a half minutes. We warmed up for a good twenty beforehand and spent ten to twenty minutes stretching afterwards. The funny thing is… I can usually gauge how taxing a workout is by how hungry I am a little while afterwards, and judging by my empty fridge… those were apparently a very demanding four minutes. I didn’t expect my body to feel particularly sore afterwards, but sitting at my desk, I can already feel my arms, back, and shoulders begging for a lacrosse ball. I think that’s what Fran was supposed to be– something fast, explosive, and stimulating. Strangely enough… I don’t hate her anymore. I mean… she’s miserable. Those five minutes were so much worse than ten minutes with 65-lbs, but it was a five minute sprint, during which I got to push as hard as my body would let me… rather than ten minutes of shaking out my arms and waiting for my strength to recover, angrily glaring at the iron on the floor.

Actually, I’ve been reading a lot of material lately that steers me away from workouts that feel like “long slogs.” I mean, you know I love the long WOD because I’m a masochist like that… but I think I finally admit that when I do them it’s more for self-enjoyment and than furthering my health or physical well-being. For the most part, it seems health is best maintained by heavy lifting, sprints (and/or sprint-esque metcons under 15 minutes), and walking. Long, slow endurance puts  your body under unnecessary stress. And for those with body composition goals, endurance apparently isn’t that great for that either. (If you want more input on this, consult Poloquin, or the fine folks of Barbell Shrugged. Also consider studies here, or this mayo clinic study. This is by no means a thorough list… but there’s tons of material out there if you just start looking). Anyway, in my case, too much work beyond the 20 minute mark really prevents me from recovering well enough to build muscle– or it tears down the muscle I’ve built. That doesn’t mean I still don’t want to do “The Seven” or “Murph” on occasion… but I used to have this strange guilt when I didn’t do one long workout a week (a routine I’ve abandoned for nearly a year now–don’t worry), but as it turns out, I was doing myself a favor.

I just have one more thought for today. I try to pick up what I can about coaching and different coaching styles, to keep in mind things I’d like to emulate if    when I become a coach. And I was reminded this morning of what a difference a coach’s attitude can make. For 8:00am workouts, I’ve probably only slept six and a half hours… I woke up about forty five minutes ago, shoved down a few spoonfuls of nut butter and some protein powder and stumbled out the door, trying to will my limbs to warm up and unstiffen. Anticipation of Fran only strained the knot in my stomach. But all that didn’t matter when I got to the box because Zebrapants was all smiles and encouragement and that attitude reminded me that… it really doesn’t matter if I thruster (yes that’s now a verb) with 65 lbs or 45 lbs today. If I do 44 pull-ups unbroken, or none. The worst that could happen is that I get a slightly lesser workout… I come back and try tomorrow. I lose nothing– not the job that I’m lucky enough to find important and inspiring (on most days), not the support and acceptance of my friends, and the encouragement of my doofy Cookie Monster better half (whom I get to see in a little more than 24 hours. HOUSTON-BOUND FOR THE WEEKEND!). Life is good, even when the day starts with Fran. Perhaps even better with Fran and a little perspective.

I will continue to push myself. I know the prescribed weights exist to give athletes a gauge for goalsetting and I’d like someday for my Fran at 65lbs to feel as it does with 45 lbs. And I will get there. Until then– patience, and perspective.

Thanks for reading everyone. I’m sure I’ll update you after the Houston adventures. Have a fantastic Wednesday!

Recovery: the Ugly Step-Child

In Training, WOD on February 24, 2013 at 7:00 pm

Let’s talk about the oft-ignored, terribly neglected, ugly forgotten step-child of the CrossFit family: mobility work. We discussed this during my Level 1 seminar, and I think it’s a portion of the coach’s training that many boxes choose to forget– most likely due to client demand. CrossFitters arrive everyday ready to “hit it” harder. We live for the intense workout– for the lost breaths beneath the bar, the triumph of a heavy lift or a quick metcon time. Many people see the warm-up or the cool-down as “optional”– something they can phone in, or skip altogether when they’re in a rush to get from home to the gym back to classes. However, when I look at all the serious athletes I know and/or stalk via the internets– despite the wide variance in their training methodologies– they all have one great constant: dedication to mobility and recovery.

I forgot where I read it, but I recently encountered a blog post with the following advice: the shorter your WOD, the longer the required warm-up. While this is probably a bit reductive, it’s also fairly sound advice. If you have a long, slow workout at low intensity ahead of you, your body will probably require less prep than it does before Fran– 2 to 10 minutes of absolute, Hellacious shock. Your warm-up for Fran will probably take longer than the workout itself, which is fine because honestly if you don’t do it, you’re subjecting yourself to injury, poor recovery… and/or just a really disappointing WOD.

Proper warm-up/mobility/recovery is on my mind lately because I had an odd experience in the past couple days. Friday night, I woke up in the middle of the night with my right elbow in absolute agony. I still don’t know what it was, but it definitely felt like tendon pain. Eventually, I fell back asleep. When I woke up, the pain was gone, but out of concern, I spent a morning stretching and “smashing” with a lacrosse ball.

Later that morning, I performed the box’s WOD:

3 rds:

30 pull-ups

30 deadlfits (155/105)

30 box jumps (24″/20″)

Because we know deadlifts are a silly point of pride for me… I was determined to do the WOD as prescribed. Also because 105lbs is just about bodyweight for me, I knew it would hurt. I figured, because I had just taken a rest day, and would rest again the day after, I could afford a rough workout. And it’s been a while since I’ve had a long, tough WOD. I completed the workout in 20:15, and felt good. I enjoyed it. It was intense and the right balance of movements so that I could keep slogging through without feeling absolutely miserable. However, people who work out intensely should probably not return to their highly sedentary jobs and proceed to sit at a desk for hours on end. After hour three of studying, I felt my entire body begin to seize… Eventually, the sensation was so uncomfortable and distracting (more painful than the workout itself), I had to just get out of my chair. I then spent a good half-hour devoted to foam rolling, lacrosse-balling, and stretching. Eventually, my body loosened up, and I could get back to work. But of the rest of the evening, I made sure to rise periodically and loosen up my limbs. Before bed, I stretched and rolled out again.

When up woke up the next morning, I felt better and looser than I have in a long time. Shockingly, I had no aches and no soreness– though I feel as if I should have for that workout. Anyway, it stressed to me the importance of mobility and recovery, and how I neglect it far too often in my routine.

Since I was feeling fairly limber, I decided just to try out a few snatch drills I discovered from the good folks of Barbell Shrugged (PVC/training bar/light weight). I’m eager to try it with some real snatch weights, but I’ll save that for an actual training day. I will say, however, that my snatch felt smoother than ever after this long progression. Yeah, it’d be a fairly long warm-up, but definitely something worth a shot if you’re trying for a max, or something to do as drills on a light day:

This is the link for part one of the progression (there are four total videos) and they’re well worth your time.

Another useful resource: this provides some static stretches to do the night before lifting. Because static stretching actually taxes the muscles, common wisdom is not to do them too much before the actual lift– but these can help your mobility both the night before and the night following.

So… to sum up… for anyone at all concerned with their health and wellness, mobility and recovery should be just as great a concern as the workout itself– and, in fact, should be considered as part of your workout. I say this, knowing guiltily that I’ve neglected it for years. So, whaddya say, join me in learning to take better care of ourselves?

DNF Without Shame

In Training, WOD on February 20, 2013 at 11:58 am

We know I love CrossFit– I love its spirit and community and its sheer heart. We also know I’ve had my reservations about some of its rhetoric. I realize slogans are rallying points, not meant to be dissected and overanalyzed, but some of them, I think echo attitudes that work to the detriment of the sport. Particularly, I have a gripe about “Strong is the New Skinny”– elaborated here and reoccurring here. Another token phrase that’s troubled me is “Death before DNF.”

For those who don’t know, “DNF” stands for “Did Not Finish,” a CrossFit abbreviation for any time you could not complete the WOD within the time cap. CrossFitters, understandably proud of themselves for “going hard” and leaving everything on the floor are also notoriously for pushing themselves beyond the bounds of reason (and rhabdo) before ever calling it quits. Last semester, I completed “The Seven”  in just under 50 minutes. The Seven is one of my favorite CrossFit workouts, and pretty much the only thing I remember about that long slog was hearing the clock beep at 45 minutes, knowing I only had half a round left, and rasping out to Jefe, “I’m finishing.” So obviously, I’ve imbibed a bit of the Kool-Aid. Sometimes pride kicks in. Sometimes you have to finish.

This morning, however — at least to the best of my recollection– was the first time I technically DNF’d a workout. There are many reasons for this– I spent a period of CrossFit scaling too light and not challenging myself with weights… then I went too heavy for a period, but our box didn’t really enforce time caps, so I had times like a 44-minute Eva and an even longer Manion.

Now, yesterday… yesterday was a wonderful day at the box. We did the CrossFit For Kenya WOD: AMRAP 12 of 50 squats, 30 pushups, and 15 pull-ups. A classic “Ninja” WOD that plays to my strengths. I was happy with my rounds and didn’t feel particularly beat up afterwards. But CrossFit is constantly varied– just after it stokes our egos, it douses us with reality.

When I saw today’s WOD go up on the box’s webpage last night, I knew three things: 1) I would suck at every part of this workout; 2) I looked forward to absolutely none of it; 3) I would still be there, 8:00am, trying my best to smile through it. The workout’s simple: 3 rounds, 500mrow, 10 relatively heavy cleans (RX’d 135lbs/95lbs). 12 minute time cap.

I’m a shamefully slow rower. I may be one of the slowest rowers at the box. While my strength to size ratio isn’t as shameful as it used to be, the rower doesn’t give a shit about ratios. It punishes smallness and weakness, indiscriminately. So, I’m slow. Add that to the fact that the RX’d weight is my 1RM, and I knew it would be a miserable WOD. While I obviously wasn’t going to try to clean my max 30 times in between rowing sprints, I knew I still wanted to go heavy enough to challenge myself. When I picked my weight (70lbs), Zebrapants asked, “Are you going to be able to rep that between rows?” and I said, “yeah… at least for round one.” I could– it would suck, but I could, and if this WOD was going to suck anyway, I wanted to embrace that suck.

When I stumbled off the rower in round one, I suddenly remembered how a mere 500m could decimate one’s legs. My knees shook as I reached for the bar. What usually feels like a moderate, comfortable weight seemed impossibly heavy throughout the first pull, as I fired my hips, and even worse as the steel crashed onto my chest. One rep. Two. I think I might have repped four in the first round before a breather. It wasn’t until my last row that I realized I wouldn’t beat the clock. I reached my last set of cleans when the clock sounded, my legs anesthetized by fire, my vision narrowed to the two square feet of rubber floor in front of me as I bowed forward, gasping air.

Didn’t finish. But I’m fucking glad I didn’t finish. I could have gone lighter. At 60 lbs, or even 65 I think I could have repped them fast enough to get my last cleans in before the time cap. Perhaps I overestimated myself a bit and chose something a wee bit on the heavy side. But I’m glad I did. It was 8:00am, and I hadn’t gotten enough sleep, the WOD was an ugly pairing of things-Jo-sucks-at, I’d slept poorly, I had to run off to the office afterwards, my apartment was too cold when I woke up… blah blah blah, life’s small imperfections, but for those twelve minutes, I can say I was 100% there. I challenged myself and, yeah, fell a little short, but I’m glad I attempted the challenge. I’ve scaled before to the point that I felt disappointed at the completion of a workout– when the victory felt hollow because I had underestimated my potential. There’s no shame in my DNF. I got a better workout than I would have if I dropped to a light clean and blazed through that part of the workout… and, on the opposite end of the spectrum, I’m glad there was a cap and I didn’t drive myself absolutely through the ground so that I’d be wrecked for the next few days. I’d take DNF before muscledeath any day if it means I can come back and try harder the next time.

So… after nearly two years of CrossFit, I’ll take my DNF and wear it proudly. I didn’t finish, but I also didn’t give up or give in. I’ll take that before a pretty time on the board any day.

Level One Recap

In Training on February 12, 2013 at 10:25 pm

The CrossFit King of Prussia Level One Seminar

Well! This past weekend was my Level One Certification Seminar. That means I woke up at 3:30am on Saturday to drive to King of Prussia to spend nine hours Saturday and nine hours Sunday living and breathing CrossFit. Then I came straight back… and arrived in my apartment sometime past 10pm Sunday night, trying desperately not to think about two days of neglected work. Many, many thanks to the Scotchness for being my roadtrip buddy and generally quelling my nerves throughout the weekend.

The experience was… surprisingly enlightening. I’ve heard many different perspectives about the Level One seminar. First off, I do still stand that it’s obscenely priced. But that said, I’ve also heard that it was a useless experience, and I definitely disagree. While it’s impossible to cram any thoroughly educative experience into two days, the CrossFit seminar staff have at least streamlined their program so that they fit in as much as possible. Though I’ve been doing CrossFit for nearly two years now, and have read very nearly all of the CrossFit Journal…and though I’m a regular participant on the forums, though I’ve read so much of Robb Wolf, Mark Sisson, Mark Rippetoe, Jim Wendler, John Welbourn, Charles Poloquin and all sorts of other figures that drift in and out of (and sometimes clash with) the CrossFit world… I still learned plenty at this seminar. The CrossFit nerd that I am, I was delighted to have two days to ask CrossFit experts all the questions that have troubled my overinquisitive mind for years.

What I loved most, however, was just being surrounded by other people who cared about and lived CrossFit.

The seminar tries to cover a lot of material in two days: CrossFit’s own definition of concepts such as “fitness” and “health” and “intensity” and how their interpretations stray from mainstream conceptions. Most of this I’ve already read in the Journal. The best part of the seminar, in my opinion, is the movement workshops. They strip CrossFit down to 9 “foundational” movements in 3 clusters: Squat (Air Squat, Front Squat, Overhead Squat); Press (Strict Press, Push Press, Push Jerk); and Deadlift (Deadlift, Sumo Deadlift High Pull, Med Ball Clean). We worked in individual breakout groups with the seminar staff and they critiqued our form. And, trust me, there’s much to be gained from one of CrossFit’s elite coaches analyzing your form. Then there were more seminar classes on things like nutrition and programming. Obviously, I loved the programming block. Though I understand the reasoning, I’m sad that they save it for right before the test because then they rush through the material and don’t have as much time for questions because we need the last hour to take the exam. Nevertheless, we went through a 9 days of theoretical programming, and they really emphasized the fact that… though CrossFit is constantly varied, it’s not random. Effective programming still has thought behind it, and they guided us through an experienced coach’s thought process and many considerations in how to arrange a progression of days– how to maximize an athlete’s exposure to a wide range of stimuli.

I will find out the result of my test within 10 days, so… fingers crossed.

Of course, we also did the notorious Fran during our seminar. I love how the seminar staff stressed that you should leave your ego at the door– that this weekend wasn’t about being the fastest, strongest CrossFitter, but about doing things virtuously. Nevertheless, when Fran arrived, I saw participants immediately slip into competitive habits. I’m happy to say that most people understood the spirit of the weekend. I, for one, was happy just trying to perform the movements well, clinging to every bit of advice I could get from Mel Ockerby, Chuck Carswell, Austin Malleolo, and the rest of the veritable list of CrossFit allstars. But there were a handful of attendees who I saw eyeing up their competition. A few people who shoved other people out of the way to leap to the nearest pull-up bar. I noticed one participant raise her hand to say that she completed the WOD “Rx’d” when in fact she stripped the bar before the set of 15 (not to be a tattletell…). It makes me want to address the competitiveness in CrossFit classes. I mean… competition just makes me an anxious basketcase, but I get that others enjoy it– that they feed off of it and it makes them better athletes. But I think sometimes people lose sight of what’s important when focusing on competition– even if that competition is just beating his own record time. When you sacrifice form and integrity for the sake of the clock, you’ve forfeited your very pursuit– health, self-improvement, etc. You’re not going to get the same gains with a quarter-squat… and you certainly won’t have the same workout if your Fran rep-scheme turned into 15-12-9.

Anyway, I can’t say anything about my strength progress or not-progress since I’ve started to train differently, but I really am just enjoying the classes again without worrying too much about it. I feel so much better training in the company of others, and I’m so grateful to have experienced eyes to note errors in my form. Here’s the other thing. When I started CrossFit, every workout made me nervous… Every one was a chance to disappoint myself– to get too few rounds, to get a shitty time. Now I task myself with showing up, putting my all into that hour or hour and a half, and just freaking enjoying it. The thing is: competitiveness aside… I’m “better” this way. My times surprise me sometimes. Yeah, I have bad, high-gravity days too. But my “scores,” even though I’ve decided not to live and die by them, are actually higher than they used to be when I psyched myself out before the workout.

That’s the update for now. I’m trying to exercise that same presence of mind and peacefulness as I approach catching back up in my schoolwork! Also… dealing with the terrible stress of my living situation and the uncertainty of the coming years. But ah, one step at a time. So much gratitude to this community and to my friends for keeping me alive. And for making that life worth living.

CrossFit, Compassion, And Chilling Out

In General, Training on February 3, 2013 at 5:39 pm

So! A few observant readers may notice the gigantic strikethrough in my last post after I’d claimed to settle on a “new training program.” I feel bad posting a revision so shortly after– as I am notorious for program-hopping– but I do think this is for the better. In the past week, I’ve had a few truly heartening conversations that have reminded me of why I so love this community and how lucky I am to be surrounded by such generous, compassionate people.

I’ll start off with a statement I made in that last post: I am a plan-based mammal. I’m so plan-based, I’m fairly certain that it borders on some degree of OCD. I try not to let it affect too much of my daily life, and more importantly, I try not to let my small paranoia and aggravations impact the much more easygoing folk in my life– though I readily admit that oftentimes I am less successful than others. Regardless, I’m so plan-based that I cannot sit still for as long as I have a to-do list (which is always). I must always be working on or eliminating something on that list– getting groceries, getting my car fixed, planning lessons, grading homework, studying, working on a paper, a short story, an essay, querying agents, training, reading about training, planning for training… etc. I map out my days ahead of time and weeks ahead of time and I wish it were something I could even say I enjoyed, but it’s really something I do to keep myself sane… to placate the frantic, neurotic Jo in my head. It’s for this reason that I grew so dependent upon “training plans.” Also, common wisdom tells us to have training regimens, right? The internet is abound with “plans” for your first 5k. We have Starting Strength and Greyskull and 5/3/1 and Catalyst Athletics’ huge archive of Olympic training cycles that are all “plans.” So… as much as I am a CrossFit devotee, there is something about the unpredictability that scares the bejeezus out of me. Going to bed without knowing what workout I’m going to do the next day makes me more anxious than it should any sane individual.

Add all that to the fact that, for my first six or eight months of CrossFit, I actually made little to no progress. My strength numbers didn’t go up, my endurance didn’t get any better… I was in the gym for hours every day (longer than I should have been), but I was just hopping through WODs at random and breaking down more than I was rebuilding. So… I’m terrified of spinning my wheels again, of wasting my time… of putting all this work and dedication and heart into something and disappointing myself– or worse, those that have supported me.

But perhaps I’ve thrown myself too far into the opposite side of the spectrum.

Zebrapants was kind enough to sit down with me and chat this morning, and something he said really stuck with me: “This isn’t supposed to be stressful. Have fun with it.” It’s something I tell others all the time– have fun with your fitness! Enjoy it! And I do. I enjoy every minute I’m in the gym, but I spend too much time outside of it agonizing what I should be doing, overanalyzing why certain numbers have dropped or why others haven’t increased as they should. Truth be told, I have it so easy compared to someone like Zebrapants. I’m not competing. I have no Games-related ambitions, and the only reason I would ever compete is just to participate and to enjoy the community. There’s a little bit at stake for me in being “good”– in that I’d like to cultivate a certain respect from my athletes, but I’m not trying to get to outpace Rich Froning or dethrone Iceland Annie. 

So… have fun with it. I believe that CrossFit works. Hell, I’ve seen it work. I’ve seen it transform individuals not just physically but mentally. I need to trust that it can work for me without overthinking, without overplanning– that constantly varied movement in all modal domains will stimulate growth and self-improvement without a meticulously plotted roadmap.

So, Zebrapants suggested that I take one heavy powerlifting day a week, one heavy Olympic lifting day, and do three of the box’s programmed classes. And two rest days. Perhaps this time around, since I won’t be programming my own random 20 minute amraps throughout the weeks, I’ll actually see some progress. I also hope that, by now, after having tried and researched all these different strength programs, I’ll have a decent intuition for what I should and can focus on depending on the week and the other wods I’ve had. Is it the optimal way to train if I were trying to become a competitive firebreather? No. But I just want to be a more active, capable participant in this community, and I hope this is a step in the right direction. Also, I’ll note that my “heavy” Oly days are going to involve weights I can handle with good form… I’m sick of letting my ego get the better of me and landing shitty cleans at 95lbs when I should be catching them smoothly at 85.

So… my days will be up in the air, but I think I’ll probably do Monday and Friday as strength days, WOD with the classes Tuesday, Wednesday, and Saturday, and use Thursday and Sunday for rest, mobility, and technique.

On a related note, I wanted to share with you a reader question that I received via email (who graciously allowed me to post it here). Actually, for those of you that find me somehow via the internets, I can’t tell you how flattered and grateful I am that you read my random musings. It still makes me a little giddy to receive emails and messages sometimes, so… keep ’em coming! Anyway, Kelly wrote me an email with the following question:

“Since I read so much good stuff about crossfit on your blog and others I decided to try the crossfit gym near my house but its been a week and I don’t feel like I fit in. I’m in okay shape (went to the globo gym 6 days/week  before this. did yoga, pilates, bodypump), but all the moves are new to me and I can’t use the same weights as most of the other women and it seems like they already have formed cliques. I haven’t seen the big deal that everyone keeps talking about. I just feel left out and demoralized after classes.”

First off, Kelly, I’m sorry that this is anyone’s experience in a new gym, and I’m sorry that other members and coaches haven’t taken their time to make you feel welcome. I think it’s admirable that you’ve stepped outside your comfort zone and decided to try something new. As for the movements themselves– they’ll come… because CrossFit is so varied, chances are no one’s good at everything the moment she steps in the door. Make sure you establish a good, safe foundation first– learn a proper squat before you ever load an overhead squat… do one push-up with a tight core and good form rather than 10 sloppy flops and half presses. Honestly, the grand majority of the people I’ve met in the CrossFit world have been genuinely invested in helping others. Perhaps if you spoke to your trainers, they would be willing to help you with the areas in which you feel lacking. Same with trying to approach the other members at the gym. Give it a little more time. Most people really couldn’t care less if you’re lifting the same weight on the bar– if you take five minutes or fifteen. It’s just a matter of showing up with the right attitude and putting your all into it– and enjoying it! If, after a while, you still feel as if this environment isn’t for you… you won’t have lost that much. You could try something else or return to your former routine. But at least you’ve ventured into new territory, absorbed new knowledge and experience :). Good luck, Kelly!

I think the above is why I’m really glad I’ve tried all these different strength programs and spent so much time researching the many different methods CrossFitters have adapted to their programmings for different biases– olympic lifting, powerlifting, endurance, etc. I was speaking with one of the girls at the gym earlier this week– a natural-born athlete (the anti-Jo) who joined last year and picked things up so quickly. She hopes to participate in local competitions by this time next year… and honestly, I’d love to be coaching by that time. Being a competitive athlete doesn’t have much of an appeal to me, but I’d love to help others get there– and to help any one reach his or her goals be it making regionals or just running a complete mile.

Something I really appreciated about my talk with Zebrapants: He didn’t patronize or belittle my ambitions. I know I sound a bit like a crazy person when I obsess over the minutiae of my training… and I feel like it probably sounds even crazier when I talk to someone who’s actually training to make Regionals… But he treated my concerns as absolutely legitimate and worked with me and my compulsions to figure out what I could do that’s both productive and adaptive to my neuroses. I think that’s key to maintaining the spirit of CrossFit as this sport becomes a larger phenomenon. CrossFit is a big deal because it made fitness both fun and accessible to so many people– because it was “universally scalable” and it acknowledged that our physical needs differ by degree and not kind. Somewhat paradoxically, I want to stress the “individual” in that universality. Because we can cater to such a wide-ranging population, I think CrossFit should keep in mind the many different needs of its participants and continue to cultivate inclusive, accepting environments. So coaches like those at Kelly’s gym should remember that a new member might feel uncertain, and take the time to work with her on the basics so that she’s comfortable with the foundational movements… so that she doesn’t feel lost amid the flurry of thrusters and clean and jerks and toes to bars and etc…

Anyway… Thank you for paying attention to my ramblings. I’m sure I’ll fret about something or other again soon, but hopefully I’ll also start to chill out a bit. Next week, I’ll be attending a Level 1 seminar in King of Prussia. Expectedly, I’m excited and nervous as hell. I’m sure you’ll get a full report!

… also enjoy the football or something that appears to be happening today.