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Posts Tagged ‘Travel’

Where Monsters are Made: Visiting CrossFit CSA and East Valley CrossFit

In Uncategorized on January 5, 2014 at 4:46 pm

Recently, a friend posted this article to his Facebook wall.

I believe this quote sums it up best:

“I think the name CrossFit now tells you about as much as saying ‘I’m going to go out and get a burger,’” says Werner. “It could mean grass-fed, pull out the stops, try to make a great burger. Or it could be mass-produced like McDonald’s or something. It could be some truly awful hole in the wall.”

After the many blind panegyrics or equally ignorant tirades I’ve seen for and against CrossFit, this one was a welcome, more even-handed assessment of the current state of CrossFit. Because CrossFit has taken such a hands-off approach in the management of its brand, for the uninformed individual choosing a new CrossFit gym, it’s kind of like playing fitness roulette. Just a couple days ago, my mother introduced me to one of her coworkers who tried CrossFit for a day, sustained a shoulder injury, and vowed never to return.

“We’re not all like that,” I found myself saying. Though, in my travels, I’ve also seen too many gyms “like that.” CrossFit has introduced me to some of the most passionate, gifted, and attentive coaches I’ve known. It’s also thrown me into some of the most disastrous “fitness” settings. To extend that burger metaphor—right now, if we’re trying to discuss “injury rates” in CrossFit, it’s like trying to assess incidents of food poisoning in all people who ate burgers. I’d be much more suspicious of the plastic-wrapped, lukewarm patty from a gas station than a gourmet platter from a Michelin starred restaurant.

So with such diversity in the experience of CrossFit gyms, I’ve found myself wondering a lot lately—what makes a good gym? What defines a good gym, even? Without much guidance from HQ, where does a new gym look for inspiration?

CrossFit CSA in the early A.M.: the calm before the storm

EVCF: the weightlifter’s dream. CrossFit rig visible in the back. Not pictured: strongman equipment to the left, an ample supply of sleds, GHDs, KB’s, rowers…

Something I’ve observed from both CSA and EVCF (my home-gym-away-from-home): good leadership helps—someone with a clear vision of what s/he wants the gym to be and to do for its athletes. Coach told me a while ago that CSA took really good care of its athletes, and I got to witness this firsthand when I visited. The owner conducted regular meetings with the competition team to check up on their needs and progress. He promotes the shit out of them, constantly updating their social media and getting their names into the public. Meanwhile, CSA also takes care of its tremendously diverse clientele. There are designated spaces for the powerlifters, the MMA fighters, the CrossFitters. There are coaches with clear programs that manage all of these clients and their unique needs. The coaches know how to coordinate a busy class and still tailor to the individual—diagnosing the needs of each person before the session and scaling everything to his/her ability. While visiting CSA, I had the immense fortune of working out alongside the competition team as well as dropping in a normal class. With the competitors, intensity reigned and I saw the ferocity we admire so much in our Games-level athletes. However, with the regular classes, I saw a much wider range. There was a regionals-level competitor who completed each round with 100 unbroken double-unders and decided to challenge herself on unbroken ring push-ups until her shoulders gave. But right beside her, there were much more everyday exercisers who got in a good workout with a different pacing. These were people who, after the workout, had to clean themselves up and go to meetings or classrooms, etc… who CrossFit for wellness rather than competition… who might need to be able to lift their arms later in the day and wouldn’t benefit from shoulder-failure. And that was okay. Despite the wide range of objectives and work capacity in the participants of the CSA CrossFit class, the environment was such that every individual felt comfortable working at his or her own pace—and the coach that managed each class was skilled and comfortable enough to coordinate all these differences at once.

I saw that same balance at EVCF. My favorite Phoenix gym has gotten even bigger since the last time I was in town. They have the broadest offering of classes I’ve ever seen—from a massive weightlifting program with world-class coaches to a dedicated mobility class, a kettlebell class, powerlifting, sprinting… There’s separate programming for normal CrossFit and for EVCF’s rather successful competition team.  On Saturday mornings, their competition team trains together, there’s a mobility course and the kettlebell class, as well as the “Big 3,” which focuses on the major powerlifting movements. There’s also two weightlifting classes—one at 11:00am and 12:30pm. In addition, there are sometimes a few drop-ins doing their own thing, or private coaching sessions. With that much going on, I expected it to be chaos. But somehow EVCF has enough space and confident, authoritative coaches that everything proceeds smoothly.

In the past couple of weeks, I’ve loved watching the EVCF competition team train. They actually work, well, as a team. Perhaps because CrossFit began with a certain individualized spirit (for the lone warrior who could train in his sparse garage gym), I’ve sometimes felt that some of the “team” efforts feel strangely detached—more like separate people working out beside each other than an actual team endeavor. But EVCF’s head coach, August, tailors his programming so that the athletes have to work together. They often go through the day’s workout in pairs and, though they need to train at different times throughout the week, they carve out that Saturday morning slot to come together. Like Kirian of CSA gym, August takes care of his athletes. He stresses to them the importance of recovery and mobility and oversees their individual needs. I’ve seen him sit around to direct his clients through specific stretches or assistance exercises—and I’ve seen him do this for everyone from his veteran athletes to the newbie who just walked through the door.

With a lot of younger gyms, I see such concern over labels and regulations, over what “is” or “isn’t” CrossFit. We do or don’t do certain movements. We must warm up or not warm up a certain way. We have to go at a certain intensity or we have to offer only these sorts of classes. But the success of CSA and EVCF shows that the spirit of CrossFit isn’t about any of that… it’s not about introducing all your members of Pukie. Not every class needs to follow the traditional metcon structure; not every CrossFitter needs to or wants to follow a standard “CrossFit” template. Part of the beauty of CrossFit is that it adapts to so many different individuals—and for that reason, we should remember that it’s not a one-size-fits-all program. CSA and EVCF have shown me what a diverse group of people and needs and training methodologies can come together in one place while still maintaining a tightly-bound community. Yes, there is definitely the danger that certain gyms will become too scattered trying to pursue too many shiny new interests at once– but CSA and EVCF have expanded their offerings (and their fitness-ings) without becoming chaotic by providing what can help their members rather than just what’s shiny and new.

Just there’s no single training approach that will build a great CrossFit athlete, there’s no single approach to creating a fantastic CrossFit gym… and it seems to me the most successful gyms recognize this. They aren’t afraid to experiment—to think, well, “outside the box.” Leading a successful CrossFit team involves treating them as such—as a group, yes, but one composed of unique individuals that must address disparate weaknesses and learn to work together. Creating a truly standout CrossFit box requires fostering an environment that encourages members to “go hard,” but also cushions them on the off-days—makes it okay to fail, and encourages them to come back the next day hungry for something better. For boxes that claim to welcome a wide range of skill-levels, they must juggle the needs of professional athletes and weekend warriors, and meet these needs on an individual basis rather than shoving everyone into a single mold.

I think because CrossFit began so simply—with Mainsite posting a single WOD for all the people—some gyms forget the unique guidance that their box can offer. If everyone would get the same quality workout doing burpees and pull-ups in their garage, no one would pay the $100+/mo gym dues at a CrossFit gym. We have the opportunity to treat members as individuals even as we create a larger, supportive community. I can’t imagine that meshing an MMA gym with a CrossFit gym with a powerlifting gym was easy for CSA… I can’t imagine that EVCF thought it would be easy to run a kettlebell class alongside a powerlifting class just as the weightlifting class begins warming up… But they’ve done so, maintaining a strong vision for what would best serve their community and their members. Though CrossFit CSA and East Valley CrossFit are very different places, what they share in common– and what I think makes them such effective powerhouses in their respective regions– is that they’re led by committed, level-headed in individuals that aren’t concerned with trends or what Rich Froning is doing in his garage. They aren’t trying to follow some paradigm of CrossFit, nor wasting their time trying to see what all the other gyms are doing. They’re concerned with the members of their own gyms who are already there and working their butts off day in and day out. They prioritize giving these people the best return for their hard work, and cultivate the most supportive environment for these specific individuals in their specific contexts.

Happy New Year, readers! Let’s make this one better than the last.

Bonus footage of CSA’s competition team training

(ignore the scrawny Asian interloper)

CrossFit Lawrence: Refuge and Rage

In General, Training on June 4, 2013 at 2:59 pm

People throw around the word “community” a lot lately. Your neighborhood is a “community.” Your classroom is a community. Your workplace would like to be a community. One of the many things I love about Crossfit is that, in this claim—and all claims—it is honest. The CrossFit community is a tangible, palpable, reliable thing. And, fortunately for us, the proliferation of boxes across the country means that the traveling CrossFitter is rarely stranded.

As most of you know, I’m in Kansas for the week for a professional conference. Because I didn’t want to throw away an entire week of training, I spoke with Coach and she programmed a week of travel workouts for me. I emailed Thomas Thatcher, the owner of CrossFit Lawrence, to ask if I could obnoxiously impose and use his facility for my own pre-programed workouts. He responded with two words: “Come rage.” I liked him immediately.

Despite my frequent travels, I still feel a bit of anxiety about visiting new boxes: what if I get in the way? What if I misrepresent my box or my coach? What if I trip over my own two feet again and faceplant on their plyo boxes? Yet always, I feel silly for these thoughts within five minutes of visiting a new box. The coaches always welcome me into their space. The members are friendly and help me find the equipment I need. They don’t judge me, or watch to evaluate how much I lift or how many skills I can perform; they just encourage me to WOD on beside them.

Every time I visit a new box, I also try to take in everything about their procedures, their coaching process, etc… to see what I can smuggle back to my own box. Thatcher runs a fantastic facility. Given: the space is expansive and has more toys than I can name—tires, a full rig, a bouldering wall, kettlebells, and dumbbells, and a yoke. They have indoor and outdoor lifting platforms.

But, more importantly, Thatcher runs with his box with thoughtful attention and an infectious enthusiasm, and just an embracive love of people and movement. The daily workouts are balanced and carefully planned. Today, I witnessed a group warm-up, focused strength and skill work, an intense metcon, and a cool-down—all packed into an hourlong class. Though Thatcher circulates the facility throughout the workout, twirling a PVC, shouting at his athletes, he keeps a critical eye on everything. Between enthusiastic whoops and Kelly Clarkson lyrics, he corrects form and technique and advises athletes on how to scale. He maintains a keen awareness of when athletes need to be spurred on, and when they need a moment to breathe. And somehow within all that, he has the time to visit a back-squatting Jo, to tell her to power through the bar for her last set.

Next week will be my first week of trial-coaching, and I’m so grateful for the opportunity to conduct a few classes. I’ve been working towards this moment since I tripped over my first plyo box—since the first time I dragged my scrawny, asthmatic butt through a 400m run and bruised my collarbone on 50lb cleans. I’ve grown a lot since those hapless days, but I know I still have far to go. I will never stop learning, and I want to apply that education to help others find their own way, perhaps even to save them from some of my mistakes. As a coach, I want to be able to promise my athletes the same things I pledge to the students in my English classes: I will never ask you to do something without knowing concretely why and how it will benefit you. I have done and will continue to do my utmost in self-education and experiential learning so that I can provide you with the most comprehensive understanding of your own plan for self-improvement. We are in this together, and I will not abandon or give up on you. I’ve got your back.

As I become even more of an active member of the CrossFit community, I remain conscious of the ways I can draw from and give back to this world. Regardless of my silly anxieties, I will continue visiting new boxes and putting myself in strange environments to force myself to grow and learn from this newness. I will observe more experienced, more knowledgeable coaches like Thomas. I will eventually become a model from which others can learn. I will provide a refuge for athletes and traveling CrossFitters looking for a place to sneak in a pre-conference WOD. I will add to this network of compassionate trainers and athletes and humans out there that support one another, hundreds of miles from home. Thanks to this very solid, very real community, and Thomas, and the folks at Crossfit Lawrence…  at 6:00am before a full day of professionalization and headache-inducing conversation, I get to listen to the Kansas rain, watch the dawn crest the horizon, bury my thoughts beneath the barbell… and rage.

East Valley CrossFit

In Training on December 22, 2012 at 5:42 pm

I’m beginning to understand just how much you can gauge about a new gym from a drop-in day. Today, I had the good fortune of visiting East Valley CrossFit in AZ, and I was completely blown away. First off, the facilities are a homesick CrossFitter’s wet dream– fully decked out Rogue rig, a host of Oly-lifting platforms, bumper plates, kettlebells, ropes, plyo boxes, rowers– all the goodies, all neatly arrayed. More telling, however, was the behavior of the coaches. For me, it speaks volumes of a gym’s integrity if the coaches pay attention to their drop-in visitors, even if these people won’t be a huge source of income, even if these people might only be around for a day or two. This attitude shows that 1) these coaches actually care about their jobs as individuals responsible for the safety and well-being of those in their gym, and 2) these coaches give a damn about you as a human being even if you’re not one of their normal members.

East Valley CrossFit actually has a wide range of specialty classes– from kettlebells to rowing, running, Olympic lifting, and something called “Romanian conditioning” that piqued my interest. With my own fixation on my Olympic lifting weakness, however, I knew I wanted to at least make it to an Oly class with my limited time here in Az. The coaching staff at EVCF includes 7 USA Weightlifting Level 1 coaches. You can read more about the myriad accomplishments of their many weightlifting coaches here.

Anyway, I was one of three visiting members and I expected to just be heaped into the crowd and left to my own devices, as I often am in drop-in situations. But the coaches actually separated us and worked with us individually on technique. This meant going back to the very basics of the snatch, down to PVC drills with snatch pulls– which was actually perfect for me because in my hurry to learn all the things and lift all the weights, I really think I skipped too quickly through the basic introductory movements of the Olympic movements… and we all know I have trouble slowing down.

Some differences here: they taught us to keep our weight on the mid-foot rather than the heel with an emphasis of keeping the shoulders over the bar on its way up. Additionally (Coach) Alex pinpointed something about my pull that I never noticed– my legs extend too much before the bar reaches my hips, meaning I have no leg drive by the third pull. It’s something I’d like to slow down and work with light weight more when I get back to the box. Also, I need to begin videotaping my movements, as much as I don’t want to see how ugly they look :p

Anyway, it was really enlightening to see how another box teaches the most notoriously complex of CrossFit movements. And, my favorite thing about EVCF– it’s the first box I’ve visited that has truly the “community” feel that reminds me of my own home gym. The coaches and members all seem very familiar with one another, and they treat each other with that perfect mix of facetious derision and respect. Even better– they’re quick to embrace drop-in Jo’s as one of their own.

I really hope I have the chance to make it back before I leave town. One of the many things about staying at home that clashes with my OCD is that I can never get a handle on my family/friends’ itinerary and I’m constantly ambushed with last-minute obligations for which I did not plan.

But thanks again to the wonderful community at EVCF– I think I’ve found my new home base for all the many future visits I’ll have in Phoenix.

CrossFit Center City

In General, Training on October 7, 2012 at 8:47 pm

To the most understanding and ridiculously good-looking readership a Wandering Jomad could ever ask for: It has been far too long since my last update, and I apologize… profusely. I’ve been busy the past few weeks cramming my work together so I could prepare for a brief, three-day vacation in Philadelphia, and  my weekend involved… enjoying that vacation and blithely pretending that graduate school and life and responsibilities did not exist. I was quasi-triumphant—as in, I spent all my days from waking until roughly 9:00pm rejoicing in the fact that I was in a city—with pedestrians and public transportation, and people!—and then from 9:00pm to 1:00am, I sat before my computer screen cursing all of academia and all its anxiety-inducing ways.

Nevertheless, my vacation was delightful (thank you for asking). I discovered the wonders of Reading Terminal Market (omg FOOD), the Mutter Museum (omg CADAVERS), and took my requisite picture with the Rocky statue. I also had the fortune of visiting CrossFit Center City, where one of my friends is now a coach. Perhaps you’ll remember my post, “Life’s Small Lessons” in which I bid farewell to 70’s Bove. Only a year ago, he wandered into our gym unable to define a muscle up or a thruster, and now he has a damn good shot of making regionals this year.

Thus far, I’ve only visited a handful of other boxes outside of my home gym, and the experiences have been wildly varied but always enlightening. CrossFit Center City is definitely a gym to watch out for—I could easily see this place sporting a competitive team for regionals in the upcoming years. Apparently they’ve only recently moved into their new location, but it’s a fantastic space—with designated Olympic lifting platforms, a strongman room, a yoga room (in-progress), and a dedicated space for gymnastics. Their coaches are knowledgeable, talented athletes (who undergo an extensive hiring process), and their members were welcoming and inclusive.

To be honest, I still harbor a slight anxiety about visiting other gyms. There’s no rational justification. I’m just afraid I’ll somehow embarrass my box or myself by screwing up. And I want to do justice to the coaches who’ve trained me and the places that has converted me from a completely stickling spaz to… a slightly less stick-like, slightly less spazzy spaz. But the people at CrossFit Center City made me feel right at home.

I’m always interested in seeing how other gyms undertake their programming. At Center City, they have a longer, involved warm-up (something we’ve gravitated to as well, here at LionHeart). Their workouts are also very strength-centric at the moment. I would say, of the hour I spent there, the first ten minutes were warm-up, the next half-hour involved finding a 3 rep max back squat, and the final ten minutes was the metcon (15-12-9-6 Box Jumps (30”/24”) and Ring Push Ups).

As 70’s Bove informs me, the box is scheduling their programming so that they have a strength program for now, and then they’ll ramp up the metcons as they near the CrossFit Open. As far as I know, that adheres pretty closely with Rich Froning’s own programming. Right now, the Games are so strength-dependent that no competitor can survive without the sheer muscle required by the weights. As we could see by this year’s games, smaller athletes like Chris Spealler and Annie Sakamoto suffered significantly compared to their performances in previous years. At any rate, by orienting their programming around the Games’s schedule, CCC is positioning itself to be a major figure in this region, and I’d definitely watch out for them in coming years.

The CCC WOD was my only workout for the weekend. Since it was a short trip, I decided to take the opportunity to just… rest completely. I walked a lot of Philly, attained bacon-nirvana at Green Eggs Café. Of course, I also took advantage of Chinatown like the former Asian fat kid I am (I’m pretty sure I need to sacrifice about 5 grassfed cows to the Paleo gods for exactly how un-Paleo this weekend was 😉 )

Anyway, I’m now back in State College and back to work. Hope everyone else had a lovely weekend!

Functional in Formosa

In General, Rhetoric, Writing on May 27, 2012 at 10:52 pm

As fun as kipping pull-ups are, after I’ve incorporated more strict pull-ups into my regimen, I have to admit that they’re not at all the same beast as the real thing. One’s a conditioning movement, one’s strength…

Fortunately, I had a chance to return to Formosa Fitness, where I got to sit down and speak with the owner– Dave Chesser. To be honest, I was relieved to have a conversation in English for the first time in a significant while, and to talk about “functional fitness” which seems a foreign language in and of itself sometimes. Moreover, I was really impressed by Dave and the amount of thought and devotion he has put into his business. Though still somewhat of a niche market in America, CrossFit seems downright mainstream there compared to the fitness culture in Taiwan. When I tried explaining what I was studying to my aunt and uncle (the seminar paper I wrote last semester on CrossFit Sri Ram Ashram), they– very generously though misguidedly– brought me to a tour of the highly exclusive gym atop Taipei 101. There, we were given a small tour of the facilities (a glut of elliptical machines and some globo-gym weight machines). Our neatly tailored, three-piece-suited tour guide informed me that “weight training is not just for men” and “these days, women are starting to try strength training. Women should not be afraid of using the weight machines because they would not make you bulky.”

Anyway, Dave articulated to me precisely the reason I had a difficult time explaining to my aunt and uncle the philosophy behind CrossFit (though eventually I think I almost managed it). The concepts are so foreign here, there aren’t any terms for things like “metabolic conditioning.” Poor Dave first has to define his services before he can market them to the public. Nevertheless, it seems like he’s done pretty well. He talked about what limited access he has to equipment, but (as I mentioned in my last post) he has virtually everything a CrossFitter-away-from-home could hope for, and then some. All the equipment is in stellar condition, and though they’re not branded by Rogue or Again Faster, they’re damned more than I could have wished for thousands of miles from home.

It’s also worth noting that Formosa Fitness is not a CrossFit affiliate. In truth, that’s probably a good choice. The word “CrossFit” has virtually no value here– at least not in any of the conversations I’ve had, so there’d be no reason for Dave to shell out the affiliate fee. Moreover, Dave seems to exercise more freedom in his own programming, tailoring it to the needs of his clients in their setting.

For example, Formosa Fitness seems to make more frequent use of kettlebells– something I actually envy because I wish I knew more/had the technique to actually employ kettlebells to their full potential. KB’s suit Taipei rather well because they take up less space than fully-loaded olympic bars… and space is a rare commodity in this city. Moreover, it may just be my personal experience, but for some reason Taiwanese people seem more intrigued by kettlebells than powerlifting. When I showed CrossFit websites to friends and family, they were immediately curious about the black, steel bells.

I’ve also made no secret about the fact that I have certain reservations about some CrossFit practices. Heavy lifts in AMRAPs, for example, invite poor form and injury. It could be that my own technique and ability just aren’t there for these elements, but I tend to avoid movements that I think carry too much risk. Because Dave operates independently from any overarching “program,” he has even more room to breathe when helping his clients. Just from the materials around the gym, I saw elements of traditional CrossFit, Gym Jones, 4-hour body, Tactical Athlete, and of course Dave’s own approach.

Our conversation also gave me some more ideas about my dissertation research. I’m not going to go too in-depth here, but I’m thinking about looking at the various manifestations/interpretations of “functional fitness”– considering the physical practices as rhetoric and seeing what values are produced, performed, or resisted in different cultural settings…

Also, as a random note on “functional fitness,” I really haven’t done much CrossFit here– if any– but small moments here remind me of what I’ve gained in the past year. I’m certain that, before CrossFit, I couldn’t have cleaned and pressed my mom’s carryon luggage into the train’s overhead bin. I also couldn’t have deadlifted my grandfather in his wheelchair over the curb to get him from the hospital to the restaurant across the street when taking him out for lunch. I would’ve also possibly not made the mad sprint to the bus stop so that I wouldn’t have to wait another 20 minutes for the next one. Not quite the same as chasing mastodons and hunting sabre-tooth tigers, but still… functional fitness in practice :).

Formosa Fitness

In General, WOD on May 23, 2012 at 5:30 am

The travels continue to progress well. Mostly my days are filled with eating and socializing (which happens around more eating) and walking about Taipei. I’ve been pretty shamelessfully neglecting my work, but hopefully my adviser will forgive me for that when I return to reality America.

Really, food is just better here– everything from duck-tongue-on-a-stick from stands on the side of the road to 7-course meals where every course incorporates toro (tuna belly– in America, sometimes $20 for two pieces).

Today I paid a visit to Formosa Fitness, which– according to my extensive googling– is the closest thing Taiwan has to a CrossFit gym. The owner, Dave Chesser, has his Level 1 cert (along with what seems like a very thorough kettlebell background), but the gym isn’t an affiliate. Unfortunately, Dave wasn’t around when I dropped in, but hopefully I’ll catch him sometime before I leave the country. Nevertheless, I couldn’t surpress my mile-wide grin when I walked into the facilities and saw two Concept2’s sitting on the main floor. Downstairs, Formosa Fitness boasts an extensive kettlebell collection, two squat racks, bumper plates, medicine balls, a punching bag (with gloves and focus mits/pads/etc), and two prowlers. There were also rings and ropes and tires and all such things that delight a CrossFit-sick Jo.

If only because I was overenthused to see the squat rack, I tried doing 3×5 with 30kg loaded onto the bar. Unfortunately, I failed on the third rep of the last set. I’m thinking it could be because I’m out of practice, could be because I’m walking around a lot, could be because I wasn’t in the right headspace… but I’m not going to overthink it really. I’ll just see where my squats really are when I’m back home. After that, I did “The Chief” for the hell of it:

5 rounds of:

3 minute AMRAP

3 power cleans (I did 10 kg on a standard bar… something a little less than 70lbs?)

6 pushups

9 air squats

1 minute rest

At any rate, I hope to have a chance to drop in and actually meet Dave before I depart. Maybe I’ll try one of his WODs on the board. But for now, I’m off to the night market for more deliciousness. Best wishes to all.


In Food, Training, WOD on May 18, 2012 at 8:40 pm

A tasty spread at a Taiwanese restaurant. Guests select any number of vegetables, noodles, and meats (mostly organ meats– pig’s ear, chicken heart, pig intestines…) and have it cooked and sauced and plated. Delicious.

Well it didn’t take that long. Four days without CrossFit and I begin to get irritable. Don’t get me wrong… I love it here. I adore the pace of life, the food (omg the food), the atmosphere… Strangely enough, as much as I’d always resisted visiting Taiwan as a child, I now feel a sense of belonging here that I’d never had as a kid… it speaks to the part of Jo that must remain dormant for most of her life in State College. Unfortunately, CrossFitter Jo doesn’t have much of a place here. With no CrossFit gym– or, indeed, no access to a gym at all for the past few days and most likely the coming weeks, I miss lifting heavy things ;). It’s also the rainy season here right now, so it’s been pouring nonstop for the past four days. For those of you unfamiliar with weather on tropical islands, by “pouring” I don’t mean heavy rain; by “pouring” I mean God has upturned a bottomless bucket of water that is shitting indiscriminately over everything. I mean I wake up in the middle of the night to what sounds like waves crashing on the rooftop. Anyway… with the significant decrease in physical activity, I’ve actually started climbing the walls– literally. I’ve discovered that one can do dead-hang pull-ups by clinging to the edge of a door. Not ideal, but it absolutely prevents you from cheat-kipping, or even curling your legs up.

This morning, just before the drizzle rolled in, I took my jump rope to the park across the street and did a short AMRAP. 15 Minutes:

Sprint (a loop between two pagodas and stone turtle statues… I’d guess ~150m)

20 double unders

10 “ski-abs” (This is not at all a CrossFit maneuver, as far as I know… I stole it from my Shaun T “Insanity” days…)

I chose the ski abs because mountain climbers tend to wear my shoulders well before my abs and I never feel them in my core… but I don’t think 10 was enough of the ski abs to get much of an effect either. I have to figure out an effective core movement that doesn’t require me to sprawl down on the questionably black and slushy Taiwanese concrete…

That said, I’m so happy to be here and grateful that I had the opportunity and resources to save up for this trip. I’ve managed to not at all touch any of the work I’ve brought with me, but it’s still the first few days of “vacation,” right? Supposedly, I’ll have read through the entirety of a course syllabus I’ve drafted with my dissertation adviser by then (roughly 2 anthologies of articles and another 15ish articles, maybe?), I hope I’ll manage that…

Wishing all of you well back in the States.

Made to Order

In Rhetoric, Training, WOD, Writing on April 8, 2012 at 12:05 pm

A confession: as convenient as it is to defer to greater authorities and follow gym programming, I’m also fond of designing my own workouts. It should come as no surprise to… well, anyone, that– with my obsessive tendencies– I  delight in plotting my own WODs. I think we’re fortunate in that our gym exposes us to a lot of different, knowledgeable trainers with a wide range of expertise. We witness diverse training programs and get to experience the upsides and downsides to each approach. Over time, I’ve developed an understanding of rep schemes and exercise configurations that keep me motivated, that work a synchronous set of muscle groups, and that challenge me but don’t exhaust me to the point of overexertion. I also like the adaptability of CrossFit so that, when I go on vacation, I can concoct a quick workout that suits my surroundings. For example, when I went to Chicago for a writers’ conference, I was disappointed to discover that my hotel charged $25/day for gym use. Instead of using the gym, I spent one morning running ten flights of stairs, with ten body builders on each landing. Another day involved hotel-room pistols and handstand pushups in the space I could clear between the heater and the bed. Perhaps just to spite them, I also took my jump rope and did double-unders outside the glass doors of their fancy shmancy gym. The receptionist shot me dirty looks; I smiled. Each of these workouts cost nothing, required no equipment (except for the rope), were fun, and took less than fifteen minutes to complete– perfect for squeezing into my conference schedule. Of course, given the choice, I’d still rather workout at the box. I miss my barbells and slam balls and ab mats and all other such toys– and, in particular, I miss working out among people, but now and then life gets in the way. Like today! I’m told that it’s kind of a big deal. Something about bunnies and chocolate eggs, right?*

The box was closed for Easter and, besides, I hope to finish revising the second half of my novel today (perhaps dreaming too big), so I woke just wanting a quick workout, something that got my heart moving, and something with a strength emphasis. As much as I enjoy participating in the CrossFit classes, another bonus of getting to design my workkouts is that they’re obviously customized to my needs and how my body feels at that exact moment. Because yesterday’s WOD was leg-heavy (“Wilmot” : 6 rounds of 50 air squats, 25 dips), I wanted something that worked my upper body. Because I’m concerned about gaining strength more than metabolic conditioning, I wanted something that wore down my muscles faster than my lungs. And, because I felt like I’ve neglected my core lately, I wanted something that worked my midline. So, today’s impromptu WOD:


Dumbell push-presses (strength)

Toes-to-Bar (midline)

Burpees (… because, well… duh)

I finished out with some planks, cooked breakfast, and went to Wegman’s– whereupon I was reminded of why one shouldn’t grocery shop after CrossFitting, even after breakfast. If you’re looking for eggs, avocados, or sweet potatoes in Central PA, don’t bother. I HAVE THEM ALL.

I would, however, like to throw a question out there. I’m fairly certain that I’ll be gym-less for about 3 and a half weeks from mid May to mid June. During that time, I’ll be hopping about Taiwan (can’t explain how much I’m looking forward to this) and stopping back in my hometown, Phoenix, before returning to Pennsylvania. I actually hope to visit a gym in Taipei that has kettlebell classes and wall balls and the like. It’s the closest thing to a CrossFit gym in Taiwan that I could find. However, their website, interestingly enough, discusses how they don’t conduct “traditional” CrossFit workouts (particularly any with olympic lifts, or powerlifts, I think) because Asian culture resists such a strength emphasis.** The cultural impact on the public conception of health and fitness is something I’ll be evaluating during my PhD studies (which I’ll begin next fall, after finishing my MFA in creative writing…)*** But anyway, besides the probably single visit to Formosa Fitness (during which I hope to speak with the owner in service of my dissertation research), I probably won’t have access to anything with… weights. It’s not the biggest deal. I don’t really intend to spend much of my vacation/travel time working out anyway, but I’m sure I’ll want to do the occasional W OD. While I can think of and design an endless series of metcons involving burpees and sprints and “box” jumps and double-unders, I wonder if I could still try to maintain somewhat of a strength bias without access to heavy weights. Does anyone have any ideas for how to do strength work with just bodyweight stuff? I think pistols are still taxing enough to work the legs… chest-to-bar chin-ups are also probably good, as well as handstand push-ups and hand-release pushups. I welcome any other suggestions.

Anyway, happy holidays to those of you celebrating today. For me, it’s thesis day… possibly some grading too.


*A point of Jo trivia: My absolute ignorance of most Christian beliefs/traditions is the Achilles heel of my English studies. The extent of my religious upbringing involves a few months of Buddhist temple and meditation during my middle school years. In college, I took Reli 101 in hopes to better my Christian education. (God forgive me) I fell asleep so many times on the Bible, my roommate began waking me with the words: “And Lo! Jo fell asleep.” My apologize to all of Christianity; I mean no disrespect… and should cure myself of my ignorance. So much to learn, so little time.

**This summer, for my independent study on physical/material rhetoric, I’ll need to start a blog to document my progress for my mentor. I may try to link it to this page in some way– on the off chance that a few of you are curious. I’m fascinated by the intersections of cultural values and health, the human body, and rhetorical manifestations of all of the above.

***Completion of my MFA requires that I finish my novel/thesis… which seems less likely the more time I spend blogging about CrossFit 😉

P.S. I think I want to make a poster of that image for my office. New policy: 10 burpees every time you text during my class.