the spaz of fitness has arrived

Posts Tagged ‘gym’

Go Gumby

In Training, WOD on July 11, 2012 at 11:33 pm

Part of what makes CrossFit so much fun, and yet still one of its larger tragedies is how much it borrows from other fields to which other athletes dedicate their entire lives. Though CrossFit contains so many elements of many sports– sprinting, rowing, even the notorious softball throw from last year’s open– I think its perpetual ADD is particularly tragic when it applies to Olympic lifting and gymnastics– two extremely demanding disciplines that require so much time and attention to detail. I mentioned recently that our box started offering specific gymnastics classes. It’s a very cool feature and one I don’t think I’ve seen at many CrossFit gyms, though I do know that many top-tier athletes attend specialized gymnastics gyms to train.

But I’ve noticed something that differentiates these disciplines from the lifestyles of the typical WOD-aholic: the amount of time that athletes dedicate to supplementary work outside of “working out.” Now this supplementary work could be stuff like technique drills or training particular muscle groups, but I’m thinking of something even simpler: stretching. Even with quick research, I’ve found that Catalyst Athletics recommends an extensive stretching routine for any of its Olympic lifting programs– one that probably lasts longer than most CrossFit WODs. I’ve seen powerlifters take a full thirty minutes to warm up before approaching the bar. And I’m fairly certain that gymnasts can dedicate hours to stretching alone.

We CrossFitters, however, are the impatient sort. A popular marketing angle for CrossFit gyms is “get your workout in less than an hour!” We’re used to high-intensity, fast-paced AMRAPs. We’ve encountered four-minute workouts that can render you incoherent (Fran, anyone?). It’s no wonder that the slow, time-consuming discipline of proper stretching has fallen to the wayside. We’ve all heard the CrossFit mantra: “Your workout is my warmup,” and it’s true– but is that a good thing. Why are we warming up with other people’s workouts? Isn’t there a reason they warm up with other things? Perhaps to keep from snapping precious muscle fibers? I bring this up because I’m so very guilty of this mentality. For way too long, I’ve satiated myself with a bit of foam rolling before heavy lifts or sprints. Not only does it cripple the effectiveness of my workouts, it puts me at huge risk for injury. Well, no more!

We’re actually fortunate enough to have more than one gymnast at our box. Today, I pestered our little stretchy man (henceforth referred to as Gumby) to help me stretch out my hips. Let me tell you… twenty minutes of this hurt so much more than most WODs. I managed to ply and twist and agonize parts of my butt I didn’t even know I had. And it felt damn good… well afterwards, anyway. I’m also very perturbed by how entirely inflexible I am in certain ways. I think the backs of my legs (calves and hamstrings) are just made of cement. Gumby actually made a suggestion that I rather liked– that I stretch whilst typing for a few minutes a day. It’s really not that far of a stretch (ha! Pun intended) from my current routine, since I already take breaks from my desk to do handstand pushups against my wall or pistols on my living room floor.*

[*Yes, I realize how strange this is. I’ve conceded that I’d either be impossible to live with, or just damn entertaining…particularly when the occasional handstand-gone-awry results in couch-collisions]**

In fact, I type this now from my living room floor with painfully splayed limbs.**

[**Please stop picturing this. Or if you do, picture it far more graceful than it actually looks.]

Anyway… I’d planned to dedicate Tuesday to some kettlebell work, but the box’s WOD was too fun to resist:

AMRAP 5 minutes:
7 Sumo Deadlift High Pull (2/1.5)
3 Strict Pull Ups

Rest 3 Minutes

3 Deadlift @ 275/185

Rest 3 Minutes

7 Burpee Smashballs (15/10)
1 Rope Climb

Tomorrow, I have squats again… I alternate between feeling nervous about squats, and being excited. Right now’s a nervous time. Wish me luck. Hope I don’t get squished.

No Pain, No Pain

In Rhetoric, Training on July 1, 2012 at 2:53 pm

The notorious “Uncle Rhabdo”

I’ve mentioned a few times that I’m examining the gym as social/rhetorical space in my PhD work, and now and then I come across something I think worth sharing with my indulgent blog-readers. If this sounds like too much academic fluff, I apologize. What I’ll be looking at in my dissertation is the gym (particularly gyms that market “functional fitneess”– so CrossFit-esque though not necessarily strictly CrossFit) as a social space. And I want to examine how rhetorical practices (verbal and nonverbal) influence physical practices and vise versa, as well as how cultural context impacts all of the above. It’s all very muddled right now, but I’m excited about it because– not only is it something that fascinates me endlessly– it’s very unexamined territory right now, and thus an invigorating place to be in one’s studies. The gym’s such an interesting space because inhabits a borderland between “public” and “private,” and– even more interesting–it’s where we go to change our bodies, for whatever number of reasons… but those changes reflect and enact any number of personal and societal ideals.

Anyway, there’s very little work done on the gym as social space– particularly fitness facilities. Sports theory has focused largely on professional (or collegiate) sports… some of the material I’ve found has been entirely useless while others have presented fascinating kernels of insight without further exploration. One article I read, authored by an English professor/spinning instructor meditated on the vocabulary used by different fitness instructors in their training methodology. How the harsher, drill-instructor types seemed only to recruit already-fit clients. Anyway… she pointed out how much of fitness refers to itself as punishment– how many personal trainers tell you to “work off” the muffin you had this morning, or– even worse– to “earn” the pumpkin pie you’ll eat at Thanksgiving, as if you’re being castigated for a predicted crime. While I’m proud to say that CrossFit eschews much of this (I’ve heard no mention of burning off your morning donuts in the box), it has definitely embraced exercise-as-punishment– or rather, exercise should hurt. However facetiously, this is a sport that’s made a mascot out of rhabdomyolysis.

Another fascinating aspect of studying CrossFit for me is that it’s still an emergent sport. It’s still finding its footing, still in the process of becoming whatever it is it wants to be. I see a lot of CrossFit now taking steps towards caution– more advice about smarter programming, patient training, and fewer glamor shots of ripped hands. Nevertheless, we have many years of that “no pain, no gain” philosophy to counteract. A lot of what I see on the CrossFit forums these days is veteran, more experienced athletes counseling new enthusiasts about moderation. Not every day has to be a metcon, not every workout needs to leave you an incoherent puddle. But is anyone surprised that CrossFit has perpetuated this athletic masochism? We have t-shirts like “Fran Happened” — featuring bloodied palms from 4 minutes of delirious exertion. We’ve adopted slang such as “meeting pukie” as if exhausting yourself to the point that your body rebels is a rite of passage.

Don’t get me wrong, I love in intensity. I’ve written several odes to that meditative state you hit in a particularly grueling workout, but I’m glad CrossFit is beginning to draw the line between pushing your limits and brazenly crashing through them. CrossFit already attracts a certain type– people eager willing to throw themselves through strength programs followed by all-out-intensity rounds of box jumps and thrusters and wall balls. 5 days a week. Perhaps sometimes what we need to reinforce sometimes is not the “pain” but the healing. After all– that’s how we build our strength, right? You get stronger not when your muscles are torn apart, but as they repair.

There’s Jo’s thought of the day.

As for my “Whole 14” challenge, it’s going by quicker than I thought. Soon, I’ll be reintroducing peanuts, then soy, then protein powders and then eventually I work my way through the other banned ingredients to test my individual tolerance. As to how I feel? It’s day twelve and… meh. The sugar cravings are gone, which I appreciate, though I don’t doubt they’ll come back. I just don’t think I’ll avoid all sweeteners everywhere forever… they’re everywhere, and they’re tasty on occasion. My digestive disturbances are significantly fewer and further between. Unfortunately, they’re not altogether absent. I suppose it would’ve been too naive to hope for one of those paleo “transformation” stories where this lifestyle cured me of a lifetime of suffering. Not quite so much. I do feel better–much, much better, but I still have to accept the fact that my genetics suck and my digestive system may always hate me a little bit. But my recovery still sucks. I’m still sore-ish, and really before this I’d long moved past the perpetual soreness you feel upon starting a CrossFit regimen. The recovery drink is probably a crutch and my dependence on it might entirely be placebo effect… but at least it was working? I hope it’s not what was irritating my stomach, but I suppose we’ll found out later in the week.

No really excited WODs to post about today. Yesterday, I worked on O-lift technique– definitely light weights. Today, I did squats (3 week reset), bench (still going up– *knock on wood*), and then I tried an actually fun new exercise: lateral sled drag. Basically, you hook a sled up to your ankles and walk sideways to work your adductor/abductors (I never remember which one’s which). 6 x 20 yards.

Happy Sunday, folks!

Strength Losses and Women’s CrossFit

In Training, WOD on June 3, 2012 at 1:37 pm

Well, I’m back in the States but not at all feeling normal yet. I’m still trying to shake the jetlag and general headfog of being relocated by 7,000 miles and 15 hours. Despite that, I thought I’d write you all a general fitness update. My lifts are actually… tragically disappointing at the moment, though I’d anticipated a measurable setback. After some tentative testing at LA fitness, I’ve found that my squats still feel strong, but my press 5rm has dropped by at least 5 lbs and my power cleans by 10lbs. I’d really like to attribute that power clean loss to the lack of bumper plates, but I suppose we’ll find out. I have another week here in Arizona before I return home and reacquaint myself with the comforts of the Rogue rig and rubber plates.

Speaking of bumper plates, I did manage to pay a visit to a local CrossFit gym. I won’t name them here due to the nature of my commentary, however. For a while, I’ve been nervous about visiting another affiliate. Worried that I’d both embarrass myself and my gym. When I rolled my jetlagged butt out of bed and realized I had only ten minutes to get dressed and get to the box for the scheduled class time, I deliberated over whether or not to wear my Lionheart shirt for fear that I’d make a fool of myself. Again, I overthink things. At any rate, I eventually shoved on the Lionheart shirt and sped my way to the gym where I was told to hop in during their WOD.

The owner/trainer of the box was very inviting. She allowed me to work out for free and after my WOD actually invited me to return and join them anytime I’m in town. This gym is actually a “women-only” CrossFit gym. I didn’t attend it for that reason; I chose it because it was closest to my house. Structurally, the class wasn’t all that different from that of my own gym. We started with a warm-up that involved tabata-based core work, then we moved to 5/3/1 deadlifts. However, instead of having each individual class member lift according to her own strength stats, there were only three “tiers” with prescribed weight numbers. For me, the tiers seemed surprisingly low. I lifted the prescribed weights for the top “tier,” which was actually still lower than what my actual 5/3/1 programming would be. I say this without any sort of an inflated ego because my deadlifts are on the low end among the women at our gym. Yet, in a class of maybe 12 women, I was one of only two that lifted in “tier one,” and I was still easily one of the smallest individuals in the gym.

The WOD that followed was rx’d at:

5 Rounds

10 clean and jerks (55lbs)

15 squats

The board simply stated “squats,” so with that weight, I actually assumed front squats with the bar. However, the intended prescription involved air squats. Again, I was only one of two attendees lifting the prescribed weight.

Now, I’m the last person to recommend rash entry into the world of lifting heavy…. and I’ve had my ruminations on the dangers of the too-much, too-fast CrossFit attitude, but I almost felt as if this class had underestimated the women in the room. Looking around, I felt as if a number of the girls could be/probably are more powerful athletes than I. They were simply fearful of adding weight to the bar. Similarly, I was a little stunned when a couple women paused mid-wod to start a casual conversation. It’s not that I think CrossFit should involve “killing it” every second. I don’t think every workout needs to leave you breathless, slack-limbed, and incoherent. But I also felt a little strange lifting more weight than women twice my size who were sort of halfheartedy swinging up 30lbs with poor form.

I guess it was just a very different environment than that to which I’m accustomed. I’ve heard visitors remark that our gym is already a lot less competitive than other CrossFit gyms (which I love), though we also know how to bring the intensity. I could see how someone might feel more comfortable in a low-key environment. Considering the fitness woes faced by our country, I think most activities that get people up and moving are fairly commendable. My bigger disappointment was that the athletes weren’t given much advice on form for their lifts– in which case, it’s probably safer that they remain with lighter loads. It’s just also a shame considering that I could see how much stronger some of these women were; they just don’t know it.

That said, I’d like to revisit this gym–perhaps just because they were kind enough to invite me back. But they don’t have open gym hours and I can’t do anything there but the prescribed WOD, so… for right now, I’m a little more concerned about getting back to my linear progression program– of which I’ve been entirely neglectful for the past two and a half weeks.

This morning’s visit to LA fitness (whereupon I swear I witnessed a man standing in front of the dumbbell rack, conducting pelvic thrusts with a dumbbell held to his crotch….) involved the following (after I finished gawking at the dumbbell-violation)**:

**For once I wasn’t the most noticeable weirdo at the LA Fitness…

Power cleans: 5×3 (had to drop 10lbs lower than my pre-vacation weight… not thrilled about this… hoping to recover soon)

Dips (also felt very weak)

WOD: 15 min EMOM

2 power cleans (2x @ 60% 3RM)*

5 pull-ups

* I have to admit I succumbed to my ego a bit here and used my old 3rm rather than my shitty one from this morning…

Also, for the hell of it, I tried tabata sprints on the treadmill (just four minutes worth) 12% incline on the 6.5 setting. If you want to meet Jesus in four minutes of running, I’d say that’s the way to go.


EDIT: On an unrelated note, if you’re wondering where you stack up against the average Games athlete, here’s a nifty breakdown of the “average” 2010 Games competitors:,614/