In my prior post I talked about how devastating the CrossFit Baseline workout that I endured during my “Intro” session was. That night, I was freaked. I was worried I was not going to be able to sustain that kind of intensity even a couple of times per week. Still not sure, but I completed my first CrossFit Fundamentals class today and it was perfect – both very intense but not so intense that I couldn’t function the rest of the day, unlike the Intro!
Because of my schedule, the kind folks at my local box were very accommodating and allowed me to pick the date and time for my first session. I showed up for what was a one-on-one with the trainer (I won’t include her name here as I didn’t get permission from her first) – a wonderful lady who was very friendly, clearly very knowledgeable, and patient with me. As I was getting my dues paid, she handed me a pamphlet for the Philly CowShare – a way for members to band up and get a group discount on local grass-fed beef. I asked her if most of the people at this box were Paleo and she said with a smile and half-jokingly, “Yup. Almost everyone is in the cult!” I started telling my story and she said, “Primal?”. Yup.
She then asked me a number of questions related to whether I’ve lifted weights, etc., (I tried using the StrongLifts method but it was a complete failure), and then said we’re going to do a warm-up. I had read prior that a CrossFit motto is “Our warm-up is your workout!” It lived up to that.
1. 500m Row
I did very well at this. The trainer said my form was excellent, and although I was out of breath towards the last 100m, all in all I guess I’m a decent enough rower and I was able to recover pretty quickly.
2. 10x Stretching and Push-up Thingys (Don’t remember what they’re called)
Then she had me do a traditional ‘straight leg bend over and touch your toes’ (which I can’t do), followed by walking my hands up to put my body into a push-up position, do a push-up, then at the top of the push-up, slowly walk my hands back into the standing position. Repeat. She had me do a few to make sure my form was right, corrected some things I was doing wrong, then told me to do 10 of them.
3. High Leg Kicks
I’ve never done these but have seen athletes do them. Basically just kick your leg up as high as you can as you step forward (holding your hand out in front of you as a target), then do the opposite leg, then repeat. I’ve seen pro baseball players do this before games. She had me do that for the length of the box (30 yards?). It was kind of tough but not nearly as tough as….
This is where she had my walk in tiny steps and, with each step, kick myself in the ass. During today’s session I learned two things, and one of them was that my balance isn’t as good as I thought it was. So keeping my balance while kicking myself in the ass wasn’t so easy. She had me do this the length of the box.
That concluded the warm-up. I was in a pretty good sweat and breathing hard, but not dying. It was time for instruction on the olympic weight lifts.
I said previously that I learned two things about my body during this session, with the first being that my balance wasn’t so hot. But the biggest one, by far, is that I am now certifiably one of the most inflexible people on the planet. The look on the trainer’s face when she realized this was half-funny and half-scary to me. For about 15 minutes or so I was seriously wondering if my lack of flexibility was going to disqualify me from continuing on with CrossFit, but she assured me I’d be fine given time.
It All Went to Squat From There
I knew from The Primal Blueprint that the squat was the single most important movement for fitness, but until today I didn’t realize just how important. Every lift we covered today was based on the squat.
The trainer asked me if I had every lifted weights before. I explained that I had enthusiastically attempted the StrongGains program, but after a couple of sessions trying my best to execute a proper back squat, I knew I just either couldn’t do it right due to inflexibility, or was doing something seriously wrong. She then handed me a thin PVC bar and demonstrated a proper back squat and had me try a number of times.
My lack of flexibility, which is throughout my entire body, is pretty startling. I think she realized this and at first didn’t believe it. Throughout the different lifts, she was doing all kinds of tricks to get my body stretched – pulling on my arms, she had a lacrosse ball and was needling my shoulders/biceps (which hurt but worked surprisingly well), and at one point had me doing weightless bicep curls with my arm resting on the bar – that HURT LIKE HELL. 3 reps, then move my arm back a half-inch and repeat, until I get to the end of my arm. Then switch to the other arm. Hurt. After the trainer needled my shoulders/biceps with a lacrosse ball for a bit, I was finally able to get the bar comfortably in the right spot on my back for a back squat.
It was around that time that she told me that, in CrossFit, intensity/adversity/”pain” is okay, but real pain is not, and once I feel real pain I need to stop. I replied, “Okay, we’d better stop the workout now then.” I don’t think she got my humor. We moved on to the front squat.
With the back squat the problem was the inflexibility in my hips/back/lower body. With the front squat the inflexibility in my shoulders and arms was even worse. It’s pretty clear that my lack of flexibility is not normal. When I first tried squash, about 12 years ago, the instructor, who was a world-ranked player from Europe, told me that I had the most inflexible wrist he’d ever seen in his life. And he’d been teaching squash for decades…
The front squat required flexibility in my arms/shoulders that I just don’t have, and the trainer made it pretty clear that I’ll likely be limited to the PVC pipe and maybe the bar with no weights for quite some time until I gain the flexibility to safely do heavy weights. My front squat is so inflexible that I can’t get my elbows forward enough to rest the bar on my body instead of holding the weight in my hands, at a downward (and dangerous) angle. Sad but true.
This was posed the same problem – my inability to do a squat low enough. But I surprisingly had another problem – getting my face out of the way when extending the bar up and bringing it back down. It’s tougher than it looked (to me, anyways) and I struggled with it. Eventually I ‘got it’ but I was brushing my nose with the bar and I know that can’t be good. It’s fine with a piece of plastic pipe but not when a steel bar with weight on it is slapping my nose/chin! the trainer said she’s almost broken her nose doing them. I can see a broken nose in my future….
For each of these olympic lifts, the trainer would demo the form, then have me do them a number of times, correct me during until I was able to execute them safely, repeat, etc. We spent about 45 minutes on the olympic lifts.
With the squat-based olympic lifts in the bag, it was time for my WOD. I was surprised by this – I figured I’d worked enough, but really, I knew it was coming. How could anyone escape ‘the box’ without a serious dose of pain on the way out? : )
Introducing the Wall Ball
I’d seen the wall ball on television during the 2011 CrossFit games. If you don’t know what a wall ball is, it’s a medicine ball. In CrossFit, you have to throw it from the deep squat position, up to hit a wall ABOVE a line that is painted on the wall. For men, it is 10 feet. For women I believe the trainer said it was 9 feet. Here is a video demonstrating the form, if not the height requirement:
Although I knew I was in for pain, I was happy to try one of the core ‘skill’ things like this. Looked like fun!
The trainer handed me an 8lb ball and showed me the form and talked about the height requirement, then had me do a few throws. After the first one or two she said, “Whoah! Way too light for you.”, and handed me the 10lb ball she had grabbed for herself. She had me do 5 reps of that and then said that was too light and handed me the 14lb ball. She then told me my WOD was to do 50 wall balls for time. I was figuring 25, maybe 30, but 50?!? Damn. She counted down and said, “Go!”
The first 10 went okay. By the 20th I was hurting. I just did what I had to do during the Baseline WOD to get through it – just don’t even think about it and keep going. When I got to the 25th, I took a short 5 second pause to catch my breath. I then kept going. The last 5 I really pushed the pace to finish. I was spent. Some people behind me were cheering and congratulating me. It was cool. After the humiliation during the lifting training due to my lack of flexibility, I felt like I was a wall ball champion : )
So that was Fundamentals One at CrossFit King of Prussia. When I left I was pretty stoked that I not only survived without them needing to pull out the portable defibrilator, but that I felt pretty good. Sweating my ass off, and soreness was already kicking in, but I wasn’t SO spent that I was worried I may not be able to continue with CrossFit (like I felt after the Baseline WOD). I’m excited to go again, but unfortunately have to wait until Tuesday due to my being scheduled to play golf on Friday for the first time in years, and then the holiday weekend.
But my weekend won’t be pain-free/CrossFit free – the trainer gave me homework: 50 air squats (consecutively, not “10 at a time or any of that stuff”) 3 times per week, in order to increase my flexibility. I will definitely be doing them. Gotta get my flexibility improved. May throw in some video yoga too…