So next week will mark the two month point of my CrossFit experience. Really, it’s not been a legit two months though, because the first couple of weeks was Intro and Fundamentals, and then during the first month of actual WODs I took quite a bit of time between workout days to recover. So keep that in mind as you read my thoughts on the experience so far.
When I started CrossFit, I weighed 191lbs. At the time I expected that my ideal body weight would probably be somewhere in the low to mid 180’s. Still some belly fat but not a “gut” by any means. My man boobs were “A cup” size. (I’m exaggerating for the purposes of humor).
Recap of the Experience
I’ve written some posts during the process, especially in the beginning, describing in excruciating detail how the Intro and Fundamentals sessions went. Refer to those posts for the gory details. In a nutshell: the Intro was a horror, the Fundamentals was really challenging and exposed my serious physical weaknesses, but was encouraging and fun.
The first proper WOD I did, which I forget now what it was, was really, really hard. Then the next WOD was an absolute breeze. What do I mean by “a breeze”? Well, it was harder than any workout you might get at a typical gym’s Pilates or Spin class or some shit like that. But it wasn’t a situation where mid-way through the WOD I was gasping for air and wondering if my heart rate was so high that I might die.
Then, there were a series of WODs that were mostly like the first one – very freakin difficult. But, like everyone says, there’s something addicting about CrossFit. So I kept going back for my twice a week sessions.
My Lessons Learned (and Suggestions for Other Out of Shape, Forty-Somethings Looking to Try CrossFit)
- There is no “looking to try CrossFit”.
I think you’ll find that, after the intro baseline, you’re either all in (mentally, at least) or will parrot what a lot of “personal trainers” and non-CrossFit gym rats parrot and say stuff like, “It’s too much.” or “Kipping pullups? What a joke!”, etc.
- Seriously consider your recovery time between WODs.
Twice per week was the way to go for me. I just now switched to 3 times per week and am not sure I’m totally ready, but I’m gonna give it a go as my recovery time is greatly improved now. I can actually function the day after an intense WOD now, whereas a month ago it took 2 or 3 days of lethargy and soreness before I felt good again. I was seriously worried that I couldn’t continue, it was so bad.
- Don’t forget to bring a bottle (or two) of cold water.
Trust me. You’re going to need it. But I guess that’s obvious.
- Introduce yourself to everyone, and make friends.
I seriously think that one of the benefits of being the slowest and weakest guy in the session is that everyone is happy to see you walk through the door – because they know they won’t be the slowest or weakest that day! : )
- SCALE SCALE SCALE.
Not only the weights, movements, etc. but most importantly, your intensity. I know this goes counter to the CrossFit mantra but if you’re like me then believe me, just making it through a WOD at the wimpiest (is that a word?) of intensities is going to leave you gasping for air and sore. I know they do me.
- Ignore #5 above and ATTACK the WOD.
I’ve never gone into a WOD not looking to kick its ass. I know it will kick mine. What I really meant by #5 above was to pace yourself. I didn’t pace myself the first few weeks and as a result I was dead 1/3rd of a way through each WOD. I try not to do that anymore but it’s hard when my version of “seriously intense” in terms of weight and speed is nowhere near most of the other folks in the box doing the same WOD. But it is what it is.
- Pick a schedule/time and try to stick to it.
I have a very flexible work schedule. With young kids involved in all sorts of activities and a spouse that works weekends/evenings sometimes, I was in a routine for a while of just showing up to CrossFit at different times. Since it’s the same WOD no matter when you show up, I figured it didn’t matter. But after a month of that it hit me that everyone seemed to know each other and the reason for that was that most people show up to the same time slot. I also found that certain time slots had all the “in shape” people and I prefer working out with the slow/weak people like myself : ) I’ve found a time that has a good mix of slow and super fit people and will stick to that for a while. Believe me, these WODs are so tough that the camaraderie of getting through them around the same group of folks is a real team-building thing and worth it.
I made a great decision a few weeks ago and bought an iPod Nano to use during my evening walks at the local track. Love the Nike+ Fitness app. Problem is, I literally walked over 35 miles this past month!!! I could show you my Nike+ page to prove it. That was WAY too much and, looking back, I think it did more harm than good. While “active recovery” is great, walking 4 miles at a time at high speed is not a good idea for my body when I’m still recovering from the prior day’s WOD. Your mileage may vary, but for me, a rest day needs to be a rest day. Walking long distances is not rest for me…maybe in a few months it will be.
- Don’t worry about what everyone else thinks.
The best tip I got was from a fellow CrossFitter who had been doing it about 2.5 years. After introducing myself and chatting a bit, mostly with me whining about how weak and slow I am, he told me he still couldn’t do an unassisted pull-up, but could deadlift 400lbs. He emphasized that everyone was good at some things and bad at others. To just keep at it. That really encouraged me a lot. But what really helped was the next point he made – to not give a shit (my interpretation, not his actual words). Or, at least, don’t beat yourself to a pulp. He then pointed out a guy who sometimes will stop, mid-WOD, and go take a shit! LOL. Then he comes out of the can and resumes his workout. He doesn’t care about his time. He doesn’t worry what everyone else will think. The fellow then looked me dead in the eye and said something to the effect of, “You don’t strike me as a guy who gives a shit what his PR on the clean and jerk is – am I right?” I replied, “I don’t care about that. I just want to be fit.” He agreed that that’s what it’s all about for older guys like us, who have weight problems, etc. He said to take it easy and just push enough to not kill yourself but to get a good workout.
- Work on your Mental Toughness
This is the thing that you may not expect when starting CrossFit. I think I and every other newbie expects their strength and overall fitness level to increase. And if you’re the type that worries about your PRs on lifts, etc., then maybe that needs to be your focus. But for me, the hardest thing has been my mental toughness – pushing through a WOD even though I have nothing left to give, my heart is pounding through my chest, the constant sweat is burning my eyes (bald guys like me don’t have nature’s mop on our heads to help impede the sweat…and no, I’ll not wear a 70’s style headband). A couple of weeks ago, after doing all the prior WODs with a constant “Can I make it? This hurts! Oh fuck, I can’t do another round!” etc etc etc running through my mind during each WOD, it hit me that that was holding me back some. My mental toughness was what I really needed to focus on. And sure enough, it has helped me greatly to focus on NOT focusing on this shit during a WOD. Yesterday’s WOD was a grueling one where I had to scale almost everything and even then it was a bitch. And even though I was hurting and wanted to quit, I had learned over the past couple of months that quitting just isn’t an option – so why even entertain the thought? So I just keep saying to myself, “Just keep going and before you know it it will be over.” Over, and over, and over. Try it.
I’m sorry to report that my weight has gone up as a result of CrossFit. I’ve been holding steady at 197lbs for the past month. But I assure you it is not fat gain – I don’t measure but if I did I’m certain that my body fat percentage has gone down at least a couple of percentage points since starting CrossFit. My body is much tighter, leaner, with some actual muscle definition starting to show through. Especially in my shoulders. In fact, I snapped some pics of myself just prior to starting CrossFit, and will post a before/after in a couple of more months to show the tangible gain. I am *really* hoping that my weight will start going down again, but if it stays at 197 and I keep getting truly leaner while more muscle defines itself then I will be content.
But, as in all cases, what matters most is not how one looks but how one feels. And I feel pretty darn great the last couple of weeks. It took a while to get my body acclimated to getting the shit kicked out of it during these WODs, but I feel like I’m over that hump now. And I feel great.