I ran across an online discussion thread about CrossFit earlier this week. Someone was discussing a four month experiment with CrossFit, and how he had finally decided that CrossFit wasn't for him. He said that his fitness had improved. His body composition had improved. He liked most of the results from CrossFit. Yet, there was one thing he didn't like and it led him to abandon CF.
What was the one thing he didn't like? He was tired of being stiff and sore and tired. As I read the post, I kept thinking about the length of time he had spent doing CF - only four months. I found myself thinking he was still adapting to CF and simply needed to give it more time.
And then I thought about my own experiences. I read this yesterday. I also looked at my workout log for 2010, and saw that yesterday was the two-year anniversary of when I started CF. My notes in my log for that workout are as follows:
"21-15-9 of power cleans and push-ups. Pathetic - low weight, girly push-ups, almost puked, I loved it."
Two weeks later, I had to step outside in the middle of a workout named "Chief" and I did puke into the bushes that day.
I've learned a lot since then. I've gotten a lot stronger. My back squat PR has gone from 265 to 340, and I think I'll hit 350 this coming Monday. My deadlift had stagnated at 365 before CrossFit, but I can lift 405 now. My ability to pace myself through a high intensity workout is much better.
I wish I could claim that my body composition has improved tremendously. In those two years, my weight has gone up by a net of 8 pounds. I'm guessing that I've gained more than 8 pounds of muscle and I've lost some fat. But, I still carry too much body fat and I weigh more than I'd like.
That all sounds pretty good. Even the worst thing, my weight, is somewhat neutral. But, the post that I read did hit on one thing that's true for me as well. I am sore and stiff and tired a lot of the time.
Why do I spend so much time training, whether it's in the gym or the long, long distance running I've done in the past? Part of it has been to compete. Part has been so that I could perform well at other things I love, whether hiking or skiing or rock climbing or whatever else I wanted to play at.
I think that CrossFit helps me to do that. So did running.
But, today, my knees are sore, my shoulders are sore, and my biceps are sore. I know why these muscles are sore. The workouts of the last two days hit some different muscle groups than I hit routinely, or hit them differently. Last night I did 15 x 4 chin-ups, every minute, on the minute. That explains the sore biceps. Wednesday night, I did 7x3 of a lift called rack pulls (essentially, the upper half of a deadlift) at weights from 365 to 405 pounds. That explains the shoulders. Box jumps and burpees and squats are probably responsible for achy knees.
One of the funny things about CrossFit is the nearly infinite number of ways you can scale a workout. When I first started, I did the workouts at a very low level compared to the "prescribed" weight and rep schemes. As I've gotten more "CrossFit fit", I simply add more pounds or more reps or do a more complex movement. I still scale things down as well, but I do a lot more than I did two years ago. Every workout can be made to be incredibly difficult.
Two years later, I still do box jumps on a shorter box than most people. I use resistance bands for pull-ups, especially when we have lots of reps. I find alternate exercises when the workout calls for muscle-ups or handstand push-ups or double unders. But, I still push myself hard almost every workout. And, as I constantly remind myself, I'm not getting any younger. And I'm not a skinny guy.
When I took a week of vacation to go fly fishing last month, I worked out on my own for most of the week and only made it to CF once that week. Some of the aches and pains disappeared for a few days. One day that week, while wading upstream in some fast-moving water, I remember thinking that I felt strong and steady in some water that could be intimidating for wading.
When I put my air conditioners away for the season, I find that they feel light and I can easily move them myself. Last weekend, I helped my in-laws getting their summer camp ready for the summer. The "heavy" things they needed help with didn't feel heavy at all to me. An afternoon spent stacking firewood doesn't leave me sore for days. A day spent skiing steep bumps on the mountain doesn't tire me out the way it did a few years ago.
So, yeah, I'm stiff and sore and tired at times. But, at age 50, my body is still functioning pretty well. I guess I'm finding that the good still outweighs any bad.
And in an hour, I'll be in the gym to do some front squats, back squats and some ab work. Tomorrow, I'll take it easy and do some fly fishing. Sunday, I'll probably go for an easy run. And Monday, I'll be right back at CF, going as hard as I can.