the spaz of fitness has arrived

Posts Tagged ‘Fran’

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!


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.