Sunday, December 29, 2013

What I learnt doing Crossfit....

1. Suck it up.
2. Always finish a workout - no matter how long it takes.
3. Because you can't do a specific exercise today, doesn't mean you won't be able to do it in the future.
4. Be patient with yourself.
5. Even if you can't see the point of all this training, persevere, it has great value.
6. Never, ever, ever compare yourself to anyone else.
7. Don't give up.
8. Suck it up some more.

Let me illustrate with a few examples:

1.  Sometimes when I started the class, after 5 minutes, I felt like I was done and ready to leave. Sometimes my head was just not in the workout and it felt like a tough day at the office - especially since the WOD was still coming up. But I've leaned to take a deep breath and just concentrate on getting through it. Quite often I've been amazed at what I've managed to achieve in that class, by sheer dint of will.....

2.  It's not easy being unfit, neither is it easy being the last to finish the workout.  But I found I could block that out, and get the job done. And I also found that I was not always the last to finish. Like running, you are in competition with yourself, but sometimes it's tough when all the times are written down on the board, and yours is the slowest. But I learned to control those feelings and thoughts, and that is a major victory for me.

3. I started doing overhead presses with a 15 lb bar.  When I first started, it was hard to even lift that overhead.  Today I can do 10 overhead presses in rapid succession with a weight of 55 lbs.  This took time, and sometimes I had to go back to the bare 35lb bar if my shoulder was bothering me. The point is, just because you can't do something today, does not mean you won't be able to in the future.

4.  As with everything, I want to see 'progress', and often expected to see big changes from one workout to the next.  Clearly it does not function like that.  It's step after little baby step.  To do knees-to-elbows, I needed to step onto a box to reach the bars, and could only hold on for 5 seconds at a time.  When you are doing a timed workout, those are valuable seconds wasted.  I don't know how it happened, but one day I was able to jump up and grab hold of the bars - without the box.  I was also able to hang on for 10 reps.  Slowly, I got up to 4 sets of 10.....naturally there were bad days mixed in too.  Developing this skill took time, and lots of patience, a lesson that will serve me well with running.

5.  Back-to-back half marathons with no running training (see previous blog posts). The crossfit naysayers are often critical of crossfit "because you are not training for anything". This is true.  However, I have also run half marathons with all the requisite running training, and found myself limping at mile 8, with so much ITB pain.  Now, although I had not done any running training, I did not have that problem, thanks to my strong back, glutes and thigh muscles, from all that lifting and squatting.....

6.  See #2. Initially I had a lot of that going on.  I went through periods of depression (or something like that), of asking myself whether crossfit was really for me, of wanting to be 10 years younger (at least!), of feeling like Sisyphus. But crossfit focuses on developing 10 key strengths, and as the workouts progressed, I was stronger in some skills than others - just like everyone else - and suddenly, it's more of a level playing field.  But the point is, I learnt to compete with myself, and only myself.

7.  The only reason I did not leave crossfit was because I had paid one year in advance - and it was not cheap.  I had committed to trying it for a year, and I was going to see it through. I did need a 2 week break after 6 months, but I went back. Even though money may have been the driver, if I had given up (and that temptation was ever present), I would have missed out on one of the most positive fitness experiences. 

8.  Crossfit = sucking it up big time.  Ok., when you are doing a 20 mile long run, you develop a mental fortitude to run through snow, rain, howling winds.  It's a bit different when you are doing a set of exercises that you are terrible at, and don't enjoy.  It's demoralising not being able to do a proper squat press, and it's hard to find the motivation (many times) to continue doing something you don't like. This will serve me well with running, so watch this spot!

As you can see, with one of our benchmark workouts, Helen, I posted a respectable 12:51. I was not the first, but neither was I the last (last group of names near bottom of board). As I write about crossfit, I am still going back and forth on whether to continue with this in 2014, and feeling torn....


  1. Bellissimo post e concordo sugli 8 punti. Comunque la lezione più importante che io abbia mai imparato è "don't give up": noi possiamo sempre essere attivi in qualsiasi condizione, anche con due stampelle come è successo a me. Tanti tanti auguri di buon fine anno e felice anno nuovo!!!! E se torni in Italia ..... ring the bell!

  2. Grazie! Ho sempre letto i tuoi posts con grande interesse. Il tuo viaggio mi ha inspirato tante volte, e ho imparato tanto dalla tua determinazione. Spero che quest'anno sia grande per entrambi noi con la corsa!