Tuesday, October 12, 2010


So, for a few years, I've been thinking about trying CrossFit workouts. But, for a long, long time, Vermont had no CrossFit affiliates, so the opportunity didn't really exist. Recently, I decided to take a look again and I was surprised to see 2 affiliates in Vermont. One is in Montpelier, about halfway between my home and my office and the other is about a mile from my office. Last night, after work, I went to the one close to my office for a tour and to watch a workout.

People new to CrossFit, at this gym at least, are required to take a 4 session beginner class that focuses on teaching correct form for the various exercises. However, because the owner of this franchise knew that I am already a lifter and a runner, I went there prepared to work out, if he offered. And, of course, he did. And, I did indeed get worked.

CrossFit uses a standard warm-up, according to their web-site:

3 rounds of 10-15 reps of
Samson Stretch (do the Samson Stretch once each round for 15-30 seconds)
Overhead Squat with broomstick
Note that for a workout that's dip or pullup-centric, you might want to do something else in the warmup.

The overhead squat is a nemesis of mine from the gym. It shows my lack of flexibility in a few places, especially ankle dorsiflexion. And, my limited ankle dorsiflexion affects my skiing in a very negative way. This is part of why I am interested in CrossFit. Years of long distance running have resulted in a very inflexible body. Lifting weights has helped, but CrossFit places emphasis on flexibility, agility and balance, in addition to just being "strong" or having endurance.

I found out quickly where the "Our warm-up is your workout" phrase came from. It was an interesting introduction to CrossFit, and I wasn't at the workout yet. Next came ten minutes of "WYW" - Work Your Weakness. The owner took this time to teach me a lift I'd never done before that I'd need for the main workout - the squat clean. It's a complex move and I definitely struggled with it. After the 10 minutes were up, he suggested I use a power clean instead for the workout, which is an easier move overall. He suggested that I could use 95 pounds for the workout, based on my squat and deadlift maxes.

So, the workout was named Elizabeth, and was two different exercises with rep patterns of 21-15-9. There were two lifts: squat cleans and dips. Basically, as fast as possible, we were supposed to do 21 reps of each lift, then 15 of each and then 9 of each. There were a limited number of ring sets, so being the new guy, I gladly substituted push-ups for the dips. The coach said "Go" and we were off.

After about ten reps of power cleans, I had to rest for a bit. I did about 3 more reps and had to rest again. After my 17th rep, I was about to throw up. I stepped back from the bar to allow myself to recover. The coach noticed and suggested that I remove some weight from the bar. He said it was more important to keep moving rather than focus on the amount I could lift. So, we dropped from 95 pounds to 65 pounds, and I continued. It wasn't easy, but at least I wasn't hurling, so I guess the reduction in bar weight was a good idea. I finished in just under 8 minutes. Oh yeah, half of my push-ups were from the knees.

It was a killer 8 minutes, but I could see the value in something like this. It definitely hit me in a lot of areas where I'm weak. Not physically weak, but just not the best all-around athlete that I could be.

After the main workout, we still had a cool-down - 3x30 of either Abmat sit-ups or 3x30 of "toes to bar". I don't even know if I'm flexible or strong enough to do 1 rep of the latter, so I did (most of) the sit-ups. I was whipped.

So, next Monday night, I start the four "beginner" sessions. But, because I have experience in the gym, I've been invited to continue doing regular workouts while I go through the beginner classes.

Today, I'm not sore, but I can feel that I worked hard. I think this is going to help me a lot in a number of areas, especially with weight loss and improving my skiing. The improvements in my skiing will be by-products of CrossFit, but I'm sure they'll happen. Some people have likened CrossFit to a cult. I can see that perspective, and if it is true, I guess I'm going to drink the Kool-Aid.


Laurel said...

I've been intrigued by Cross Fit for a while now. I'm looking forward to see how it works for you!

Brian H said...

Welcome to the cult :) With 7 months of CrossFit under my belt I can say that I'm easily in the best shape of my life, and the only thing people should fear when considering CrossFit is how addictive it is!