Wednesday, May 11, 2016

CrossFit Update: 18 Months and Counting

Can you believe it's been since August 2, 2015 since I did an "official" update?! I have written on the topic and in particular, my experience with the 2016 Reebok CrossFit Games Open, but not in general about the journey. In case you're just joining for the first time, here's a super fast recap: I'm now a 43 year old guy who ran marathons and ultra marathons for over 17 years, totaling 61 finishes of a marathon or longer. (see them all here) More of those finishes are ultra marathons and include 3 100-mile finishes. (yes, all 100 miles at once!) In November 2014, friends of ours convinced us to give CrossFit a try and we did. "We" being my wife of over 23 years and I. Since then, running tapered WAY off and we've been through 2 CrossFit gyms and now are totally on our own...but that's jumping the gun on the update. As of August 2015, we were still cruising along at our second CrossFit home...

200+ miles per month (left) vs.
Little running + lots of CrossFit (right)
Our first gym wasn't necessarily a bad place, but we were certainly there during a transitional time and never really fit in, no matter how hard we tried. The "community" aspect of CrossFit that we've watched on countless YouTube videos put out by CrossFit HQ told us that the tight community part of CrossFit was out there...we just weren't finding it. For others, though, that place worked great for them and still does today. The #1 downside to leaving in May 2015 was leaving those friends who invited us in the first place. Throwing down with them every morning at 5:30am was awesome and a ton of fun. But, a change had to happen and that change became an easy one when another gym opened up only 2 miles away and actually closer to our home. We started there on June 1, 2015.

The second place was totally different. No classes, an oddity for a CrossFit affiliate, a small membership, top-end equipment and direct coaching, much similar to what you'd expect if you had a personal trainer. With such a small membership, this was possible but the small membership also forced a higher membership fee. We considered it worth it, though, and as the months progressed, we both sky-rocketed in strength and confidence. It was awesome to watch my wife totally come out of her shell. She gained a whole new confidence and muscles she had never seen before were emerging, her jeans were literally falling off and her "ability to generate intensity" (inside joke!) kept increasing. Her infectious smile really made working out even more fun and it rubbed off on fellow gym members. We had a great coach who knew what he was doing and he focused on the foundation first before building from there. Heck, I could hardly squat properly at all when I walked in there due to horrible flexibility so of course, that was the first issue to get addressed. I also lacked a lot of upper body strength. (just look at those photos above) So, I started doing a LOT of pullups, dips, hand stand push ups, push ups, and bench pressing for the first time in my life. Basically, I began building an upper body I never had before and the 1hr class at the first gym really didn't build that much, nor did I get coached like I did here. The improved flexibility and form over time along with greatly increased strength really started to yield results, not just in the mirror and how my clothes fit but how I could perform in workouts. The same was happening to my wife.

One dark cloud, though, continued to hang over my head through both gym experiences. I am super hard on myself and super critical of everything. I am my own worst judge ever. I also wear my emotions on my sleeve. This is often perceived from others to be a sour attitude and a dislike for even being in the gym. That couldn't be further from the truth but that's how I was perceived and there were many days I didn't know if I'd ever walk back in those doors. Sometimes, I took a few days off to cool down and get my head screwed on straight. Unfortunately, my dismay and personal struggle just hurt my wife and her almost-always-happy demeanor. I couldn't fathom leaving the gym and leaving her behind. We've always done this together and no person or place was going to rip us apart. I resolved many times to just suck it up and keep showing up. I loved working out hard, often for 2 hours plus, and the friendships I had made with others at the gym. In March 2016, the CrossFit Games Open arrived and my coach encouraged me to register, a suggestion that still baffles me today. (read my whole 5 week recap here) It was a fun 5 weeks and unlike 2015, my wife did the workouts, too, and surprised the heck out of herself week after week! It was awesome to watch. After the last workout on the last Saturday in March, we had a cookout to celebrate the Open and that's when we found the gym was a week. Jaws hit the floor along with a few tears and after enjoying some awesome food from the grill, we headed on home, not sure what the future would hold.

March 31, 2016
Our heads spun with the "what to do?" question and where to go. The first gym really wasn't an option as it just didn't work out the first time and we had no reason to believe things would be different the second time around. Other than that, no other gym was close enough to home. Unlike cities and towns where there are multiple options within a few miles of each other, we live in the country and simply don't have that convenience. Within a few days, we resolved to bring it all home. We would make a trip to Columbus, OH and the home of Rogue Fitness and drop a "few" bucks and build our own garage gym. Because of the excellent coaching we received over the previous 10 months, we could do it safely. We also had the knowledge of knowing what we needed. As for the daily workouts and "programming," I had all of the workouts for the previous year plus there are many resources and other gyms online that post their daily workouts. IT COULD BE DONE. So, we began researching every last component we needed and planned that trip for the next weekend. In the interim, though, we wanted to finish and finish strong at the gym. We kept on going that whole next week and on March 31st, we said goodbye. On April 1st, we began for the 3rd time at home.

Over that weekend, almost everything needed was acquired except for the bumper plates and the rower. The majority of our garage is filled from gear from Rogue but I did find those horse stall mats off of Craigslist so that saved some money. About a week later, the bumper plates showed up and we could finally get to work like we were used to.

So far, it's going really good but there have been bumps in the road. There is a major convenience to having it all right outside your door but the big word ACCOUNTABILITY is gone. Before, perhaps it was our coach or fellow gym members who were expecting us at the gym that ensured we showed up. There was also the routine of it. Each day of the week is different but we had a rhythm to it all and we did it...and it worked. Now, it's all on us to program the workouts and do them...alone. There's good and bad in everything! Now as we're about 7 weeks into this new routine of ours, we're getting traction under us. Morning vs. evening, together vs. alone, length of time to workout, what to do...all of those questions have been getting answered. We have found we certainly enjoy the time together. It doesn't work 100% of the time but we try. We have found that mornings are certainly better, even if that means sacrificing some sleep. I have also found a few really good sources of programming that I call upon every morning to keep us rolling along and keep it all "constantly varied" and still quite intense. We also focus on many of the foundational strength components that got us where we are today and continue to work on them. Heck, my ring dips are better than EVER right now!

One thing I really appreciate and value these days is the choice over what I do. I am a military man and I take seriously the sacrifices of others to keep us free. There are many Hero WODs within the CrossFit universe and most are attached to a fallen servicemember. They are typically not easy at all and require going to that "dark place" to get through them...vs. quitting. I like to read their short story of their family and when/where/how they died and think about them as I do the workout. I found a channel on iHeart Radio, too, that is heavily patriotic so I turn that on as well. Just this morning, for example, I was due for a heavy squatting day and give my upper body a rest so I did "Manion," named for 1st Lt Travis Manion who was killed by sniper fire on April 29, 2007. Check out my Instagram account for his photo, the details, and the workout. (IG account: RTRSBM)

We also had the privilege of inviting over those friends that invited us all the way back in November 2014 to throw down a few Saturdays ago. I came up with a team workout (Beauty vs. Brawn) since we have limited equipment and it was awesome. GREAT time, lots of work done, and great conversation and fellowship after. We definitely plan on future workouts with them and others, too. We continue, too, to exchange banter and encouragement daily via texts to help motivate each other and celebrate those victories as they come and new personal records. Great friends ARE hard to find but I think we found a few. ;)

A few days ago on "Flex Friday" and
Military Spouse Appreciation Day
Moving forward, we hope to add on a 3rd car garage and move the gym into that. If things go right, I'll hang a climbing rope in there and gymnastic rings to hopefully one day allow that first muscle-up to happen. Everything happens for a reason and I'm for sure thankful that I have the ability to not only build out a home gym but that I get to workout and do it with my bride. I told her yesterday that we need to keep in focus the "why" of why we do this. Are we trying to be compete in the future? Do we have something to prove to someone? The truth is that we'll never "compete" and no one really cares what we do in the gym...or what the scale says...or how our clothes get the idea. We simply want to live life to it's fullest, enjoy each other, be healthy, and work hard in every facet of our life. God made the human body to work. He gave it muscles, a brain, a strong heart and it can do more than we can even imagine. Why waste such a gift? We should strive to be the very best version of us and if that means we can do it with the very person we love more than life itself, it makes it all the sweeter.

(Follow me on Instagram for almost-daily posts of our workouts and more. @RTRSBM)

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