Saturday, March 21, 2015

CrossFit: Week 20 Almost Done

It's been nearly 3 weeks since I primarily wrote about this journey called "CrossFit." If you're new to the discussion, I've been a distance runner for over 17 years and an ultra runner for about 7 or 8 years. 60 marathon or ultra marathon finishes under my belt. Back on November 4, 2014, I jumped head first into the CrossFit world and have rarely missed a workout since.

Things are going well but there has certainly been some ups and downs. I do regret not taking photos of myself back on the 4th of November, just for comparison...not for any bragging rights or anything. I would just like to see the before/after. I did get a photo taken a few days ago by my wife when she began making comments about my back when I was getting ready for work in the morning. I'll share that photo later on. Regardless, I still haven't lost much weight at all (maybe 5-10 pounds..and that's generous) but the way my clothes fit are completely different. Waist is slimmer and slimming more and more and more muscle is taking up residence in my upper body. Ironically, my thighs have shrunk. Before, I was logging 200 or more miles a month and my thighs had become tree trunks. Due to the decreased mileage, I do believe I have lost muscle mass there, as indicated by nothing more than observation and how a pair of jeans fit.

After my first Toes to Bar
Every day, I walk in the box with the intention of giving everything I have and hopefully, doing something new or greater than before. It may be hitting a new personal record on an olympic lift or doing a movement for the first time or simply doing a movement RIGHT and PROPER for the first time. There are so many integral parts to this sport that no one will ever master them all...and they shouldn't. A big part of CrossFit is doing everything well but not specializing in one particular thing. Constant change, every day is a surprise, the body (and mind) just needs to adapt and overcome. Here are some of my personal victories in the past 3 weeks since I last wrote:
  • 34 unassisted pullups. I didn't use a band. I did them on my own strength. (Hero WOD "Danny")
  • Toes to Bar: I have LONG legs in comparison to my upper body so this has been tough but I finally did it on Thursday! A result? I tore my palm for the first time...but it was worth it. I got in about 4 reps.
  • Strict Pull-Ups: Prior to November 4th, I could not do a strict pull-up...ever. Strict meaning hanging from the bar and using no body motion/momentum to go vertical. Nothing but raw strength. I did my first a week or so ago then a few days ago, I did 15...doing at most 3 in a row. My goal is to string 20 together unbroken. (without rest)
  • Multiple PRs in my many olympic lifts
  • Cleans: in the power clean and hang power clean, I have been struggling to get the movement down, back proper, and land it correctly on my shoulders. Since my flexibility is crap (putting it nicely), this has been tough. Lately, though, it's coming together and anytime I see clean "anything" on the daily board for a workout, I smile. It's an opportunity to get better and improve.
The "community" at our box is still lacking. We just don't see each other too often outside of classes. No overlap so no real sense of being a "family" like I see at many other CrossFit affiliates. I am still hopeful that someday we will come together, do more outside of class time and in the community. The one opportunity as of late has been the CrossFit Games Open. Today, we did week 4 (dubbed 15.4) at the box and lots of people were there, spread across 4 heats to complete the workout that was announced on Thursday night. Each Thursday night at 8pm, CrossFit Games Director, Dave Castro, has moved to a different city and announced the workout followed by two elite athletes facing off to do it. No one knows the workout prior to his announcement and once it's out, social media lights up with endless opinions/strategies about it. Today, it was a couplet workout for me doing push presses over my head and cleans that I just spoke of. 10 of each back and forth for 8min. Max intensity. I ended up with 78 reps and happy with that. That tear in my hand didn't slow me down but it did crack open during those 8min. Neosporin to the rescue! Overall, I'm "meh" about the Open. I was already driving myself hard prior to the Open and most workouts daily are harder than what I've seen so far...in the scaled division, that is. I'm not doing the prescribed CrossFit Games Open workouts...I can't. I'm doing the "stepped down" version called "scaled." Still, though, it's afforded me the opportunity to meet others, see the rest of the gym on Saturday and root others on. I don't regret it but I can't say I've benefited from it greatly, either. My little victories are coming during the daily classes and staying a few minutes after class to practice and/or finally get a movement conquered...e.g.: toes to bar. I'll leave the 2016 Open undecided for now. Who knows if I'll even be doing CrossFit let alone where I'll be physically. The photo here is from today's workout. That's the push press locked out overhead...the legit end to that movement.

So what's my favorite part of CrossFit? Great question. It definitely has it's addictive side but why? I absolutely love to be challenged and pushed to the point of wanting to quit. I guess that's why I love ultra running as well. CrossFit does that but in a very short period of time! The "high intensity" of CrossFit is very real and I LOVE walking away from my 1hr per day knowing I gave everything I had and held nothing back. Also, it's not exactly a bad side effect to see the physical changes. For nearly 42 years, I have been either sedentary or a long distance runner. I have never been a gym "rat," lifted weights, or anything else. Running...or nothing. So prior to November 4th, I had a smooth back and nice love handles...no matter how far I ran. Today? Well, my wife snapped this photo a few days ago. I'm still a little bit stunned when I look at it...like I can't believe it's MY back! The funny thing is that I had to Google the different muscle names when a friend started pointing them out. I had no idea!
So if I need motivation to keep moving, this will certainly fill the bill. I feel great, my running is still strong, and I love the surprise everyday of "what's next?" when I walk in the gym's door. Constantly varied, always challenging, and even some fun doing it every day. I will also add that I love the few friends I've made so far and how much fun it is to work hard every morning together...or almost every morning. (schedules are crazy!) The unspoken accountability to each other is something that also drives me and keeps it fun.

Moving forward, a true test lingers on the horizon. I am registered for a 50 miler on the second week on April down in the remote northern mountains of Virginia. I am certainly undertrained by ultra running standards (whatever those are) but whenever I run, I feel strong. I have not gone "long" since my last 50K in the first week of January so this should/could be interesting. I am eager (and a little bit scared) to know how I will fare over 50 miles and 10-12 hours of running in the mountains. How will doing CrossFit five days a week benefit me in that arena? Only time will tell. I'm sure I'll have a story to tell after that one.

Before I wrap today, I had some fun on St. Patrick's Day. The workout played on the 17th of March theme and became the WOD of 17s. 3 rounds of 17 box jumps, 17 kettle bell swings, and 17 pushups. I set up my iPhone and caught the whole thing on video. (awesome way to critique yourself, by the way) Below is a 15 second video of the workout....wearing green, of course. Off to Week 21...

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