Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Running + Crossfit, 1 Week Down

I have been a long distance runner since 1997 so for about 17 years. I use that year as a landmark as it was the first year I ran a marathon and have so nearly every year since and more so ultra marathons in the past several years. To date, 28 marathons and 31 ultra marathons. In that time, I haven't done much else. I rarely stretch, I don't belong to a gym, but I can run a very long time. To me, a Saturday morning run that lasts 3 to 4 hours is a "perfect" morning along with 5 mile to 10 mile runs scattered in throughout the week. Physically, I don't have a lot of fat on me except for my arch nemesis, the love handles. No matter how many races or miles I run, they remain. Legs are strong, big and lean...above my waist "exists" with not much fat but no real definition to speak of. "Weak" is a good one word definition for that. For 2014, I've been running more than ever and enjoying it. While I've run less races than normal, my mileage has been up and consistently over 200 miles per month. When I began to feel injury knocking on my door in late September, I wasn't ok with doing nothing or measly miles. I decided to walk into a box (read: Crossfit gym) for the first time. That was 8 days ago.

From time to time, I want to log my thoughts as this longtime distance runner morphs into hopefully a Crossfitter runner...or is it runner Crossfitter. Whatever! I'm not much into labels! My goals are simple: Become stronger, fitter, run fewer miles, and set big ultra marathon goals and conquer them. My goal is NOT to bulk up, put on a ton of weight in muscle, and lose my mojo as a runner. Simple. Or is it?

Week 1 has been humbling. Today was Day 7 at the box. (Monday-Friday schedule) Every day, I have sweat it out and taken my heart rate to new heights that running never does. I have learned all kinds of terms like squat (many varieties), kettle bell, tempo push up, "WOD," lunges, double-unders, open hold, burpee, box jump, "AMRAP," hollow rock, sumo dead lift, box-overs, and I'm sure there are more. It's a whole different language but thanks to the awesome coaches, I'm getting a hang of it. Day 1 was more of an intro and not with the class. Rowing, kettle bell swings, and squats. I sweat like a pig in under 10min. When our coach that day, Lisa, said "This will take you about 10 minutes," I honestly thought to myself: "That's it? Only 10 minutes? Hmmm...this shouldn't be too hard." OK, reflect back to what I called myself earlier..."weak." Yea. Puddle of Mud.

Day 2 came and it was more learning and a huge focus on form over weight lifted. One thing that has been consistent is the distinct attention to form, safety, and flexibility. The trainers hold that all in high regard. It's not about the wimp or hulk you are, it's about executing the "movements" correctly, with intensity, and safely. Over time, it's my "understanding" that it'll get easier and the weight and intensity can increase...which essentially will negate the "easy" comment. :) Another observation was the environment in the class. The class varies in size day to day but is usually 15-25 people. From day 1, the word "acceptance" I think best defines how I've felt. That's an irony against what I thought it would be and many others probably think. On the outside, I'm betting that many assume the terms "family" and "acceptance" wouldn't be in the same sentence as "Crossfit." Well, that's the case here and what really got me to show up day 1...accounts from others (friends) there who said that exact thing.

This isn't a training log so I won't go day by day or share the WOD (workout of the day) for each day.  (See Instagram for more of that) I'll just say this: every day is humbling. Every day is a challenge and pushes me. Every day, I feel held accountable to show up, give it my all, focus on my form, stretch, and I am encouraged. Yea...the climate is one of being pushed but encouraged all along the way. Condemnation and intimidation don't exist. If I wake up tomorrow and think I'm just going to try and skate by, I should just stay home. On the flip side, if I wake up physically feeling the prior morning's hour at the box and hungry for more and whatever it throws at me today, it's time to shut up, show up, and give it everything...with heart.

What I know I need a lot of work on: Being a runner for 17 years and mostly long-distance minus any stretching, my muscles are short and tight! Holy hamstrings! This hasn't bode well in Crossfit. I have a lot more work to do than maybe others who haven't been runners. In fact, it kinda feels like "running" is a cuss word! For me, I actually ran home 11 miles from the box yesterday. Felt so good! So flexibility...need to work on that consistently. Keeping my heels flat in the squat, getting the bar to rest on my chest without my fingers feeling like they're going to snap, and jumping forward in the sloppy. All of these things will get "easier" with increased flexibility and practice. I was pretty darn happy this morning to do overhead walking lunges with the 35lb kettle bell high above my head...all 60 of them. That was 33% of today's WOD. Guaran-dang-tee I will feel that tomorrow morning at zero dark thirty. What I haven't done yet and am admittedly kinda sorta worried about: rope climbing and hand-stand pushups....and real pull-ups (I've been doing ring-rows). I'm sure there's much more (every day is a surprise!), too. If you like surprises, you'll love Crossfit! :) No need to plan every day...the trainers do it all for me. Show up, execute with 110%, go home.

7 days in, I'm all in. My symptoms of running injury have disappeared and the decreased running I have been doing has felt strong and confident. With each passing successful day in the box and each successful long run that confirms "I'm still a runner," I look more forward to 2015 and the ultra marathons I want to do, kicking off during the first weekend of January at the Frozen Sasquatch 50K in West Virginia. I hope to get a book in the next few days called "Inside the Box" by T.J. Murphy. It's his account of a long-distance runner and triathlete who turned to Crossfit and the journey...his story.

Stronger? Yes. Lots of work to do? Heck yea. Made new friends? Lots. Challenged? Every day. Humbling? Always. Do it again tomorrow? Can't wait.

Fitting name for my new home/box, don't you think?


Kim said...

I am very interested in this.
You are getting heavily into what is termed, the muscle confusion, or muscle mix up.
Criticism I have seen across the board with CF is form, and it seems like you (and your box)is working with you on form. My thing, with CF, is why do this WOD, as it is, as fast as possible, isn't it best to continue with best form as possible.

Nick B said...

I spoke with one of my trainers this morning and a good comparison to explain is imagining if you could run a 5K at 6:30 per mile with proper form and efficiency, yet you decided to go out and run it at 7:30 a mile...simply because. With proper form, you get the best workout possible by executing the exercise to your max potential...ASSUMING proper form, technique and safety are still in place. More energy output. When form suffers and it can't be maintained, the intensity is decreased or ended altogether. I hope this makes sense!