Category Archives: crossfit

The spirit is willing, but…

You all know how that finishes, right? The spirit is willing…but the flesh is weak.

That statement has been particularly true for me in the past couple of weeks.

For one thing, I had my first (perhaps inevitable, but nonetheless unwelcome) Crossfit failure. I was visiting the second box I went to in Gainesville, FL, Crossfit GHFC.

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After a pretty comprehensive warmup, we started the day’s WOD set with Fran, one of the more well-known CF lady-named workouts (21-15-9 reps of thrusters, which are like a front squat and an overhead press in one move, and pullups). I was feeling pretty good. The techniques were coming back to me, the scaled weight was heavy but not too heavy, I was moving smoothly. And then without any warning, I couldn’t do any more. My body was literally like “okay, you’re done.” I had to stop in the middle of the set, and while I was able to do the second half of the WOD, Grace (30 clean and jerks, which I’d also done at Crossfit Empirical), I did it at a ridiculously low weight.

On the plus side, Crossfit GHFC was still really cool. The coach John was really supportive, the people there had a ton of enthusiasm, and oh yeah, did I mention the entire box was outside? It looked like this:

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To the right, just outside this picture, is a whole row of barbell racks for Olympic lifts, and there were some REALLY good lifters training on their own during the WOD I did. Watching them was pretty inspiring, or would have been if I’d had any energy left.

Next up in the flesh-over-spirit list: while I was in Gainesville, I stayed with a friend and her family, and one morning I helped her dad load up a bunch of branches and tree detritus to take to the dump. I was wearing sneakers, but I didn’t realize I should have been wearing higher socks and/or long pants. Before I knew it, my ankles and shins were covered with biting ants! I had to run my still-shod feet under running water to get them off, and by the time I’d done that they had taken some nice chomps out of my lower legs. Even with calamine lotion, those bites itched for days. Oops.

Ever since I visited my friend Ally in Orlando, who is an avid runner, I thought I’d try doing some running myself. I started out running for 30 seconds and walking for 4:30, repeated six times, three days a week. Then I moved up to a 1min/4min. A couple weeks past that, I tried 1:30/3:30, and around the same time the Crossfit boxes I went to started having me run as part of the warm-up, the WOD, or both. And then there were shin splints. (If you’ve never had shin splints, count yourself fortunate. They basically feel like your shins take the full weight of every running step you take, and they hurt more the longer you try to run.) I guess that’s what I get for trying to run while overweight. Spirit, flesh, etc.

Oh, and then there’s that during my two weeks in Gainesville I ate at McDonalds something like ten times, on top of a couple trips to Subway and several to Starbucks. In my defense, those places had wi-fi and the place I was staying had none, but even so. Excessive flesh over spirit (to say nothing of flesh over bank account).

But I’m going to end on a positive note. While I was in Greenville, SC, visiting my friend Tara (whom I know from Ice & Fire Con), I visited another Crossfit box, this one with the awesome name of Swamp Rabbit CrossFit.

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Apparently it’s named for the Swamp Rabbit Trail, a long walking and biking trail that goes through Greenville along the Reedy River, and which the box is built right next to. My pics of the inside didn’t turn out well enough to share here, but it’s one of the most spacious and best-appointed boxes I’ve ever been to. Something like 16,000 square feet, six showers, three separate WOD areas (one outside), a stretching and technique area, and enough equipment to accommodate a class of 25…well, it’s Crossfit, so I can’t say “without breaking a sweat,” but you get the picture. ;) The staff were really welcoming, even gave me a full tour before the class, and the WOD session started out with a QOD (question of the day) where everyone said their name and, that day, who their favorite teacher was in school. Kind of fun.

At Swamp Rabbit, not only did the warmup include a run, the WOD itself did as well. Seven two-minute rounds of 200m sprint, 7 deadlifts, and as many double-unders (jump rope with two passes in a jump) as possible, with one minute rest in between rounds. Now, I’ve got strong legs and my deadlift technique is solid, even after 18 months away. And while DUs are not as easy as they were, I can do a few of them still. It was the damn run that got to me. By the third round my shins hurt so much I could barely get through the run and deadlifts in two minutes, let alone do any DUs. I was exhausted. And the worst part was, the spirit was absolutely willing. I WANTED to keep going. I knew my technique was there. I just couldn’t take the pain of moving anymore.

But I wasn’t going to fall out of the WOD again. Not twice in a row. So I asked the coach if I could row the sprint instead of running it, to take the impact off my legs. He said sure, if I did 250m instead of 200. I said okay. And I did the last four rounds on the erg rather than the trail. It still hurt. It was still exhausting. And I still didn’t get many DUs in. But I didn’t let the complaints of my flesh drag my spirit down. And that felt great.

One box, two box, red box, blue box

My quest to Crossfit in every city I visit is going really, really well. One of the great things about integrating these really intense workouts into my trip is that doing them once a week makes sense both physically and logistically. I’m moving around enough that one WOD a week (usually on Saturday) fits my schedule really well, and I’ve been away from CF for a long enough time (over a year and a half) that doing one WOD a week is about all my body is really ready for to begin with. This morning was my fourth WOD back, and while I was not in pain, I could tell that I physically wasn’t ready to do all of the exercises yet. And that was okay. Doing step-ups instead of box jumps, rowing instead of running, jumping pull-ups instead of banded ones, low weight on all the lifts, etc…I’m 100% okay with that, because I know I’m pushing myself hard at a level that works for me. The more I do and the longer I keep this trend up, the higher that level will get.

So last Saturday I was in Hollywood FL, staying with my good buddy Josh Barad, and I almost didn’t get to Crossfit. Because I’m writing about Crossfit on this blog, I’m trying to trade blog exposure for free drop-ins when I WOD (because saving money on this trip is pretty much priority 1). Normally the drop-in fee for a CF class is $15-20, and at this point even that amount once a week is not sustainable for me (though hopefully it will be soon). At the first box I went to that Saturday morning, the owner was out of town, and the coach leading the class didn’t feel able to offer me a free drop-in without the owner’s approval. So that box was out.

The second box I went to was closed, even though the door clearly said it was open 9-11 on Saturdays and I was there at 9:10. Strike two.

The next closest box I found was up in Fort Lauderdale, a good 10-15 min drive from where I was…and its next class started at 9:30! So I booked it north, navigated some crazy road layouts between the Fort Lauderdale airport and the Port of Fort Lauderdale, and drove through a tiny alley to find Crossfit Empirical. I got there just in time.

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When I say Crossfit Empirical is a hidden gem, I mean that literally. I almost couldn’t find it. It seemed a bit like the Isla de Muerta in the first Pirates of the Caribbean film: it can only be found by those who already know where it is. But once I got there, I was so glad I found it! The welcome I got was one of the warmest I’ve received at any box, and the self-professed “community Crossfit” box included a pen for members’ young kids and/or dogs to hang out in during WODs. (The coach of that morning’s class, Lindsay, had in fact brought her large dog, which barked the occasional encouragement at us from the pen. It was pretty awesome.)

The WOD was actually two WODs back to back: Grace and Helen. (For those not in the know, a lot of CF benchmark workouts are named after women.) Grace is 30 clean and jerks in a row, Helen is 3 rounds of 21 kettlebell swings, 12 pull-ups, and a 400m run or 500m row. I went light on weight for Grace, but it still tired me out for the first round of Helen–I’m pretty sure I negative split between rounds 1 and 2. Crossfit Empirical also has a computer system where members can input their results, even drop-ins like me. This was a very progressive box.

By contrast, the box I visited this morning, Crossfit Gainesville, was a bit more traditional–no computer system or dog pen there. But it still had a great energy and community feel to it, and the morning’s coach Matt was very welcoming.

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The box was also surrounded by grassy areas as well as paved streets, so when we did our opening 400m run, I got to run on the grass and save my ankles and shins a bit of impact. No complaints about that!

The WOD was fairly straightforward: 4 rounds of 30 KB swings, 20 box jumps, 10 burpees, and a 400m run or 500m row. I scaled the crap out of it (3 rounds of 20-20-10-500m), but still got a great challenge out of it. What I liked even more, though, was the skill work we did before the WOD. Periodically in Crossfit there will be strength or skill training after the warmups but before the WODs, and today’s was on a skill move I hadn’t done often even back when I WODded regularly: the snatch-balance, one of the rarer Olympic lifts.

What the hell is a snatch-balance? Imagine doing a squat and an overhead barbell press at the same time. Now imagine doing it really quickly, so you drop under the bar more than you push it upward. Now do that without falling over. That’s a snatch-balance. It’s tricky and technical, but a lot of fun in its way. I was definitely happy to get some pointers on it.

Next Saturday I have no idea where I’ll be, but I know I’ll find a box there. I’m excited already.

Fight Gone Bad, trip going better

I’m in Orlando now! I’m staying with Ally, another college friend, and her family. They have been uber-gracious to let me not only crash in their guest room but also eat their food and monopolize their dining room table for my workspace. And unfortunately, most of what I’ve been doing here in Orlando has been working and looking for work. I knew that would be the case, not just for this stop but for a lot of the trip, but it’s still taking a bit of getting used to. I read an article about mistakes beginning solopreneurs make on Sean Ogle’s site, Location 180, today, and one of the ones that stood out to me was the tendency to behave like a backpacker rather than an entrepreneur–that is, to treat travel like a vacation rather than a business trip, focusing on short-term fun rather than the long game of building a business. I knew going into this trip that it wasn’t going to be a vacation. But knowing that while still working out a decent work/life balance is a practice for sure, and I’m still figuring it all out. I’m sure I’ll have more to write about this in the future as well.

I did go to my second CrossFit workout yesterday, though! I found a box called CrossFit High Performance a short drive from where I’m staying, and dropped in for a Sunday morning WOD. That was actually the first thing that impressed me about CFHP, that they actually HAD a Sunday morning WOD. Most of the other boxes I’ve been to are closed on Sundays, or else have open gym or at most a late afternoon specialty WOD. CFHP has an 11:30am WOD on Sundays, as well as one at 6:00pm. The owner Tyrone and the class leader Adrian were very welcoming and knowledgeable.

Unfortunately (for me), the WOD was a workout called Fight Gone Bad, which is somewhat notorious in the CrossFit repertoire as being a ballbreaker. Basically you do as many reps as possible (AMRAP) of five different exercises for one minute each, then you get a minute break. That’s one round. The WOD itself is FIVE rounds. I remember round one and most of round two…the rest is pretty much a blur of struggling to do one more rep, then another after that, etc. This WOD was a reminder of one of the lessons I learned from taking cold showers: the first day of doing anything tough is easy. It’s the SECOND day that will kill you. And even scaled way, way down, this second WOD was REALLY hard. This is what my results looked like:

Wall balls, sumo deadlift high pulls, box jumps, push presses, and row for calories.

Wall balls, sumo deadlift high pulls, box jumps, push presses, and row for calories.

I manged to stay relatively consistent on the first four exercises of each round, but you can see in each rowing round how dead I was by that point. (You can also tell I was exhausted by the mistakes in my arithmetic, as round 2 should have been 47 reps, not 57.) The good news was that despite feeling like death during and after the WOD, I woke up this morning able to move normally, with only minimal pain and soreness. And as noted before, after completing the WOD my main goal at this early point is not to end up so sore I can’t move. So I count this a win.

Back In The Box

So since day one, I’ve been staying with my college friend Andrew in Boynton Beach. He’s got a pull-out couch for me to sleep on, and lots of movies and miniseries on DVD for us to watch (Lego movie, season 3 of Sherlock, the Hornblower series, etc). He’s also taken me to some decent restaurants, in particular the Old Key Lime House, a very touristy place that nonetheless has pretty good food and (as you might expect) excellent key lime pie, and Due South Brewery, which serves its beer in a bar layout on weekends and has various board and card games for people to play while they drink. My high school friend Andie joined Andrew and I at Due South on Saturday night, and the three of us played Cards Against Humanity. She also took me to another cool restaurant, the Blue Anchor in Delray Beach, which was basically like someone had taken an English pub and transplanted it from across the pond to a touristy strip in eastern Florida. Pretty awesome. And I took another ocean picture, or more accurately a canal picture as Andie and I walked over the bridge spanning the intercoastal waterway.

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I also recently did something I haven’t done in over a year and a half: I went and worked out at a Crossfit box. Crossfit Boynton Beach is a pretty large box, with probably 20+ people to a class (at least on a Saturday morning). Possibly because of this, the WOD was a team workout where the class was split into groups of three. Sarah, the coach, clearly knew her attendees very well, because she pretty effortlessly divided everyone into teams based on experience and capability–or at least by gender and body type–before all of them had even arrived. I was on the Out Of Shape Guys team, which was not the team’s actual name (none of them were named) but was nonetheless largely true. The three of us could do all the exercises, but not as quickly or with as much weight as the other teams; we all were solidly built but carrying some extra weight; and as a result our WOD scores were somewhat lower than the other teams’ scores.

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But really, that was fine with me. My goal in going to CF again was just that, to GO. Well, that and not die. I’ve returned to CF after long periods away before, and several times pushed myself really hard in the first WOD back only to spend the following week too sore to move properly. So while I didn’t exactly slack off in this workout, I did listen to my body and made sure not to go too hard too fast. And while some of the exercises were really tough (knees to elbows reminded me how hard hanging from a bar is, and the 400m run at the end was brutal), I was pleasantly surprised by my performance in others (in particular wall balls, power cleans, and double-unders). And best of all, the next day I was only sore enough to feel how good the workout had been. No pain, no difficulty moving. It felt awesome.

(Of course, yesterday I did a few sprints after my morning walk and then today my left knee decided to hurt pretty much all day, but you can’t win them all.)

I’ll be in Boynton Beach for another day or so, and then on to visit my friend Ally in Orlando! The journey continues….