Friday, April 22, 2011

Six months of CrossFit

I was looking at my workout logs this morning and realized that it's been six months since I started doing CrossFit. That seemed like a good time to take an assessment of what I think so far. Is it helping me to get fitter? Leaner? Am I having fun? Is it a good value? Does it fit in with the rest of my life? Should I keep doing it or is just another passing phase?

One thing that disappointed me is that I've averaged only two CrossFit workouts per week for six months. So, in some respects, I don't have enough data points to know the full potential benefits (or risks) of CrossFit. I have been to the gym another 17 days for lifting on my own in those six months, so I've been to the gym about 70 times in six months. I also skied almost 50 days in those six months, plus I've gone for a run on occasion.

Here are my CF workouts by month since the first of the year:

January - 7
February - 1
March -7
April - 9

February included a lot of skiing, a week of vacation, and a lot of stress at work, especially early in the month. To be honest, I didn't feel like going to the gym much of that month, but that is in the past now.

So, what were those questions?

Is it helping me to get fitter?
I think the answer to this has been a definitive yes, when I go. In the past six weeks, I've noticed some significant improvements in both strength and working at my limits (anaerobic threshold, lactic threshold, whatever you want to call it). On Tuesday night this week, as I finished my workout and I was holding onto a door and trying to catch my breath, I realized that this same effort would have had me throwing up a month or two ago. Last night's workout was the same way - lots of burpees which tend to completely gas me, and I got through the workout pretty well.

I haven't stepped on the scale for a while. And, I did fail miserably at the Paleo challenge at the gym. I started out OK in the challenge, and then as work got more intense and I took some vacation time, my diet fell apart and I was drinking alcohol on a regular basis. But, since early March, I have virtually stopped drinking alcohol and my diet is better as well. I'm going to the gym more often and I've started running a bit again. And, I'm getting leaner. I'm hearing that from people at the gym and I can tell by the way my clothes fit. I'll probably never be as lean as I'd like, but CrossFit is helping. I still think that body composition is about 80% diet and 20% exercise, but CrossFit is helping me to think more about what I put into my body.

Am I having fun?
This is a good question. In February, I would have said no. My motivation to go to the gym was pretty much zero, yet I felt pressured by the ongoing Paleo challenge. But, in the past six weeks, my attitude has turned around a lot. I think it's become a snowball effect. I started to go to the gym more, which improved my fitness, making the workouts more fun, which makes me want to go to the gym more. I think the nine days so far this month (#10 tonight) is a good indicator that I've turned some kind of corner.

Is it a good value?
From an equipment perspective, it's cheaper than running. I use an old pair of racing flats for footwear and my warm-weather running clothes. That's it. I was one of the early members of the gym, so I pay less than the newer members of the gym pay. In February, it was not a good value. But overall, I think it is a good value.

Does it fit in with the rest of my life?
This one is a little bit tougher. There are no showers at the gym and I have no shower at work. That means I can't really go there for morning workouts. And, the gym is near my office, which means it is 60+ miles from my home. I can only train there on days when I work in my office. And, the classes late in the day are at 4:30, which means leaving work early, or 5:45, which means getting home at 8:00 at night. So, there is definitely some inconvenience. But then again, my job is inconvenient too and I still go to work.

And, in a couple months, the CF gym is moving to a new location that will include showers. This will be a big boost for me.

I think the no-car experiment for the next few months will give me more feedback. I will be spending less time with my family for a while, but I'll be at the gym more, cycling more and probably running more as well. By getting rid of commuting time almost entirely, going to the gym will fit in much better with my life. I still have to see what effect being gone from home midweek will have on my life.

Should I keep doing it or is just another passing phase?
Well, I just committed to a 3-month experiment that makes going to CrossFit much more convenient. I will have the time to be at the gym. I'll have more time for working out overall.

I will certainly stick with it for those three months. At the end of July, it will be time to re-assess my commute, the workouts I'm doing, and how my entire life is scheduled, I suppose.

But, right now, I'm enjoying the progress I'm making, I'm enjoying the encouragement of working out in a group and with coaches, and I'm looking forward to going to the gym on a regular basis.

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