Sunday, August 2, 2015

CrossFit Update: 9 Month Report

Looking back prior to parking myself on my back patio this morning, I was surprised to see it's been a month and a half since I wrote on this topic in detail...June 17th, to be exact. At that point, my wife and I were two weeks into a new CrossFit gym/box and starting over in many ways. This journey, itself, began last November 4th and here in 2 days will be 9 months old. It has been a great experience, overall, and one we have no intention of stopping. We still hear the comments like "You know it's a cult, right?" ... but we continue on knowing such a statement is simply the result of misinformation and while as innocent as it is, can't be taken seriously or any offense taken. As I try to sum it all up in a single, concise blog post, it's going to be hard not to compare/contrast the two gyms we have been a part of while bringing you current on where we stand. It's a huge part of our "story."


Google image...not me!
It's incredibly personal. One thing that will eventually hit is the "why" of why to dive into this "sport" of CrossFit. Seriously...why pay a premium fee to work so hard, give so much, bleed, and do workouts where your insides want to come to the outside? I mean seriously...Planet Fitness is only 10 bucks and they serve pizza. Whatever reason it is when you walk in most likely won't be the reason a month or 9 months later. We all want to lose weight, get fitter, eat better, etc. It was only 10 days ago when I faced the rawest of days in the gym. It was an all-time low and brought out a side of me that may have never seen the light of day. I truly lost my cool. It was a WOD/high intensity workout that included a movement called chest-to-bar. (pictured here is a photo I found online...definitely not me...I don't have any photo proof of me doing this but this helps you picture the movement) It's something I couldn't do prior to joining my current gym. It takes the pull-up to a new level and forces you to make contact with the bar with your chest to be a legitimate rep which requires more pulling and strength. Anyway, there were a LOT of them and I could feel my hands begin to tear...a common by-product of being on the bar. The last time I was in a similar workout, my hands tore in 6 places but I wouldn't quit but my coach did...I mean he literally got in his car and left the gym. He quit on me and that event was one of the many reasons I had to leave that gym. This workout 10 days ago brought that memory full circle as I looked up at the bar and saw my blood and in my hand, blood-colored chalk on one hand and skin hanging off my left. I said some things out of frustration and anger...yet my coach didn't leave. The clock continued to tick and he said "I won't quit on you as long as you don't quit on me." Well, I finished...it wasn't pretty, though. I had also said some things I wasn't proud of. Before I left that day, I apologized but little did I know, the worst was yet to come...and it wasn't the raw skin on both hands. As I replayed the event in my head, I grew more and more ashamed of myself and the question presented itself again..."Why?" Why do I do this? It was clear from my coach and others that I gave off the vibe that I didn't want to be there and didn't enjoy it...but I do. Well, it turns out that he was just as upset as I was but in a different way. The anger poured out and negativity had no place in his gym or in CrossFit. I knew it. He knew it. My wife knew it. It was a turning point and a point to re-commit to pack it up and leave. I prayed on it, discussed it at length with my bride and one last time, hashed it out and "buried the hatchet" with my coach. We were good. Renewed. A little bit of grace shown and I felt welcomed back into the fold but with a new recommitment to how I would enter the gym every day and how I would react to opposition...not from others, but from myself when I hit that ugly spot again in the future because I promise you, that day will come. "It never gets easier," I was once told by my original coach. Truth. It doesn't. It's such an incredible parallel to life, too. Work, marriage, running, parenting...how we deal with problems, pain, suffering, opposition, conflict...our reaction is such a reflection into our inner being, soul, and a glimpse into who we really are when the onion is truly peeled apart. CrossFit...it will peel that onion time and time again. Peel away... To my coach: "Thanks, Will, for not quitting on me."

Community. It's something I had read about and watched countless videos about. One of the big allures of CrossFit is not only the ripped abs and bodies often produced but the community that CrossFit gyms have. Due to the extremely loose requirements to open a legit CrossFit box (simply a Level One certification), what every box looks like is one-of-a-kind. From the programming, structure, class-climate, equipment, etc.,  it's all different. The "vibe" and community, too, are one-of-a-kind and may or may not even exist. I had been looking for this community for several months into this journey yet never found it. I found some awesome new friends but the community, no matter how hard I tried to find it or even volunteer to build it, never appeared. My new home couldn't be more different. It's normal for the grill to get fired up and steaks thrown on it after a long day. It's normal for laughter, taking fun jabs at each other, and celebrating new achievements together. It's normal for the gym to post advice on nutrition and science behind it. It is normal to have a clean gym and pride in it. It's also normal to accept that we're all built differently, have different abilities, but to expect us to all give 100% within those abilities. Heck, we're even going to hit up a Cleveland Indians game soon as a "family." It's not just about moving weight around and sweating a ridiculous amount, it's also about living and living abundantly. Doing the workouts becomes empty if not for a growing "community" and for me, I'm incredibly thankful to have found mine.

This past Friday...a little bit of cleanup is needed! CHEST DAY!
Coaching matters. I could give you Webster's definition of it but honestly, it's common sense. A coach is someone who actually cares about his/her athlete, wants to see them succeed, is trained in the fundamentals, can teach and demonstrate those fundamentals, can motivate, will hold accountable, keeps safety in mind, and will stay grounded and true to the mission at hand. Slapping a label on a person because they hold a certificate, degree, etc. doesn't make them a coach. Maybe it puts some letters behind their name but it doesn't matter at all if the above don't jive. I have heard time and time again over the past month from new gym members how in ONE DAY, they have improved drastically in something...and why? They were actually coached one-on-one and not just shouted to from across the room as an afterthought. I saw it again yesterday when we had a free squat clinic. We had a visitor who really struggled in the squat and in only the clinic time itself, totally turned it around. The squat is fundamental to just about everything and if it's not right, pretty much nothing else will be either. So for me approaching 9 months, I've gotten so much better at fundamental things in the past two months due to the coaching, I'm pumped about what is to come. It's slow...but I'll get there. Plus, I've got this little thing called "age" and "in-flexibility" that are working against me. I'm just not as limber as some of these other guys and gals! One fellow gym member was shocked a few days back to find out I was twice his age. Yep...42 years young!

The Icing on the Cake. I am positive that many enter CrossFit the first time because of the pictures of others they see. The 8 packs...the shapely shoulders, toned chests and butts that clearly squat often. That wasn't my driving force...I'm the exception. I will also say that CrossFit's impact on the body is different for every person out there. Not only are we physiologically different but our stress levels, amount of sleep, nutrition, length of time spent in the gym, effort given...it all feeds into the results. Yesterday, our newest coach, Ashley, did body fat measurements prior to the squat clinic using calipers. While it's not the most scientific method, it's better than what the military does to me...jump on a scale, measure my neck and abdomen, and call it a day. For years, they have called me borderline obese. Well, I came in at 10.2% body fat yesterday when I was expecting a number near 20. I haven't even lost 10 pounds since November last year, though. However, I've essentially flipped the "pear" over. Before, I was shaped more "pear" like with zero definition of anything in my upper body with a spare tire that would never go away, even running 200+ miles a month. Today, the tire is almost gone but I have that definition up top. The jeans were a tight 34 or 36 and today are a loose 32. While the scale shows little change, the mirror reflects a total change. I've got photo proof but for today, I'm just not comfortable showing them...not sure if I ever will be! But yea, it's the icing on the cake. It's great to finally "fill out" my military uniform as it should be and have clothes fit tighter in "good" areas and loose in the previous "bad" areas.

It wouldn't be a normal post of mine without some photos so I'm going to stop typing and share some photos. I've given a bit of narration under each one to explain it. If you want to stay more in touch on a daily basis, subscribe to my Instagram feed. (link is at top right of blog if viewing on a computer) I post most often there and try to post less on Facebook.
My little creation one day playing around. Ready to slap one of these on the back of my car!

Oh yes. This would be the bar I wrote about where I bled and spend a lot of time working. Of course, I cleaned the bar that day but I return daily to get stronger. I love working on this bar.

Yea...this is pretty normal lately along with my new addiction of sweet potatoes. Need protein!

Always proud of my bride. She has the attitude I need. She keeps it positive and displays the attitude I need in the gym.

Such a burn. It's not so bad pushing the sled with those tall bars. It's the return trip with the lower bar that light up the quads!

One photo from my first-ever competition during a hand stand hold at CrossFit Steeltown in PA.

Ah yes...gymnastic rings. The "holy grail" movement in CrossFit is the muscle up. I am slowly moving towards attempting my first one but for now, am working on pull-ups using the rings and getting my hands in the proper positions.

While I have lost some endurance fitness for distance running, I ran this 5K on July 4th and competed against local runners that I could never keep up with before. On a hilly course across Kent State University, I took first place in my age group! The pic, taken by my wife, does show how I have physically changed. There was zero muscle in my upper body before!

Work work work! Climbing this 18 foot rope has become a real test for me. Just a week ago, I finally figured out how to most efficiently wrap my foot to climb efficiently, quickly, and saving energy. I'm now to the point of making it to the ceiling in 3 pulls. I love climbing the rope.

Self-explanatory. One year before and after...same spot...different morning.

We use the GHD's in the background and the kettle bells and boxes quite a bit. It's commonplace now to warm up with back extensions and GHD situps daily on those guys back there.

On this day two weeks ago, I came within 10 pounds of a new back squat personal record but I didn't have it in me. On the flip side, I am squatting so much better and stronger. Today when I lift, I spend maybe an hour or more building strength and focusing on the fundamentals vs. 10min of strength work. Overall, I am much stronger.

Honestly, I wouldn't want to do this "just me." We're approaching 23 years now and doing this together is critical for me. It's safe to say I am not meant to be alone...she can attest to that! While we may not always sweat together at the gym, we share the journey, encourage each other, and celebrate the little victories. 23 years is a long time but I wouldn't want to travel this path with anyone else. CrossFit doesn't define me or us but it does teach us how to live better and enjoy it. That along with our grounded faith and commitment to each other makes a life worth living.

Click here for my entire CrossFit series since 11/2014

1 comment:

Amy@Will Run For Ice Cream said...

Great post. I know several who do CrossFit and love it! I'm glad you found your community!