the spaz of fitness has arrived

Rebuilding Jo

In General, Training on May 2, 2013 at 3:36 pm

Anyone who’s been even remotely following this years’ CrossFit Games season will have heard of Sam Briggs. In 2011, I had just started CrossFitting, and did not pay much attention to the actual Games. In 2012, when Briggs had pulled out of competition, I was obsessively “leaderboarding”– tracking the big names like Annie (T and S), Kris Clever, Becca Voigt, Julie Foucher, Camille, etc. I was entirely unaware of Sam Briggs. Somewhere in the middle of the year, I stumbled across her blog, where she tracked her daily workouts. She seemed like the usual, down-to-earth, passionate CrossFitter. She mostly just posted daily WODs with little reflection or context, so I lost interest and stopped following. This year, she burst onto the scene and freaking kicked ass. Briggs placed 2nd in workout one and then claimed first place for the remaining four workouts of the Open.

Of course, being me, I began doing my homework. Briggs went on temporary hiatus in 2012 because of an injury– a fractured patella, to be specific. She had undergone serious rehab for the majority of the year, but returned possibly more beastly than ever. Something I’ve hated about this years’ Games season is the poor sportsmanship– the way people have tried to cheat or “loophole” their way through workouts, or the way people have tried to accuse entirely honest athletes of doing the same. Of course, when Briggs jumped back on the scene a serious workhorse, the conversation turned to steroids.

Non-athlete and non-sports-follower that I am, I tend to consult the Cookie Monster on all things athletic… When I asked him about Briggs’ impressive performance this year, he frowned pensively and answered, “I don’t know. Didn’t you say she’d been through rehab? That’s harder than normal training.”

I believe it now.

Though my back has been feeling progressively better each day since the deadlift injury, I made an appointment with a PT/Chiropractor just to get it checked out, and to address some other issues I may have. Though the glamorous life of graduate-student-ing doesn’t pay well, I’m currently the proud recipient of the best health insurance I’ll possibly ever have, so I might as well abuse it while I can.

Though I’d made the appointment for my back, the Doc looked at me for three minutes before he figured out that my hips are grossly misaligned. I mean, I’m not surprised. Jefe figured out a year ago that my hips tweak to the right when I rise from my squat. My right side always pulls the deadlift off the ground first. No matter how I try to maintain my alignment when I squat, I always pivot on the way up. For cossack squats, I can lower my right side fine, but I lack the same flexibility in my left. In fact, though the doc examined my back (I think a facet joint or two is inflamed from bearing unexpected weight? — der, the fifth rep of a 200lb deadlift, perhaps?), his greater concern was the hip imbalance.

And the more I think about it, the more I realize– like with all things CrossFit, this is probably something I should have fixed first, to establish a solid foundation, before I started trying to build on it– before I started pulling 2x bodyweight deadlifts for reps, before I started pushing my squat heavier.

The back is feeling better and better. The last remaining aches and pains have all but disappeared, but for the past few weeks, I’ve been too scared to go heavy. It’s been frustrating as hell– especially when trying to gain mass– refraining from heavy lifts or even hard metcons. Anytime I felt something tweak in my back, I slowed down. I stopped loading weights the moment I felt any strain. But the way I’m trying to look at this– my self-imposed silver lining– is that at least now, my body is forcing me to go back and rebuild my foundation. I can only work for form right now– not max weight, not speed. Coach has been programming my deadlifts and cleans at pathetic fractions of what I used to lift, and so the only way I can maintain my sanity is by using these moments to hone in on the mechanics.

Strangely, too, the rehab must be doing something. I left the doctor’s office feeling fine– not as if I’d exerted or worked anything. We spent 15 minutes with the electric stim machine, some light exercises, a bit of back-popping and I was on my way. But the next day I was sore– not achy in the post-injury way, but sore like I’d beasted out on a long WOD… and all of yesterday I couldn’t figure out why– I hadn’t done more than usual at the gym. Then it struck me (slo(w)-Jo): must’ve been the PT…

I complain a lot about my body. I’ve blamed it a lot for being awful to me– a childhood of steroid inhalations for asthma, an adulthood of treatment-roulette for my IBS… etc. But I’ve also been pretty terrible to my body in return (or, perhaps, more a chicken-and-egg thing). I did nothing remotely athletic or physical until age twenty, and upon discovering the thrill of endorphins, I jumped in 1 million percent without any regard for rest, mobility, or restoration. And now you, dear readers, get to hear about all the backpedaling ways in which I try to make up for it.

All that said, I’m happy with some of the progress I’m still making. Since I’ve been careful with the lower body lifts, I’ve concentrated more on upper body movements. My push-press broke its plateau and I PR’d the lift by 5lbs directly before shaving 4 minutes off my previous “Annie” time. My “Nicole” score yesterday was 68 points higher than my previous PR (granted– that old score was a year ago, from when I just started to do kipping pull-ups, and eeked out a whopping score of 11). At any rate… I’m trying to look at the brighter side of these things– that, though it’s taken me far too long to get around to it, I’m back to trying to establish a solid foundation for all my movements. Though I don’t anticipate a Sam Briggs-esque comeback, hopefully I’ll bounce back stronger and more durable 🙂

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