This week was a good week. Even my broccoli was cheering for me, or flexing his green broccoli muscles, whichever.
Whilst I’ve certainly enjoyed a good few sessions at ‘the box’, I’ve still had this feeling of something not being quite right. I haven’t exactly always been chomping at the bit to get there, and I was starting to wonder if it really was for me. Strongman was fun, and I had enjoyed some sessions but I had lost some confidence with Olympic lifting and had been avoiding the main WOD sessions.
Then I attended a WOD that was being coached by the lovely Coach AP, who I’ve had dealings with previously but never attended one of his WODs. The workout was 42-30-19 pull ups, thrusters and push ups with a 15 minute time cap. For clarity, this is 42 of every movement, then 30 of every movement, then 19 of ever movement – over 200 reps in total. Coach AP, having a good idea of my level of fitness and ability and injury (knee), basically redesigned the workout for me. Pull ups were done with my feet on the floor, sort of squatting under a barbell on a rack, then maintaining tension in the arms to pull myself up. For the thrusters, he took my 15kg bar and replaced it with a 7kg bar. Push ups were to be done to a 24″ box.
Oh my word! In this workout, in a short 15 minute space of time, I realised the ingredient that had been missing for me to really make Crossfit fun and worthwhile and hard work and effective. INTENSITY. Because the movements were adapted to my current levels of fitness and ability, I was able to work constantly for 15 minutes and with a high degree of intensity.
I’d always read about how hard Crossfit sessions were and how they put you on your back, but I always left feeling underwhelmed and as if I could have worked harder. Now I realise why. Because I had not been scaling – or adapting as a less loaded word – appropriately, I had been trying to do things that were preventative of the appropriate intensity and thus I had been taking more rest than actually working out. I could have done those thrusters with a 15kg bar, for example, but it would have likely taken me twice as long because I would have needed to keep stopping to get my breath. With a 7kg bar I was able to pretty much go very nearly unbroken and got a much better work out for it.
This was a rare occasion that I left feeling proud of what I’d done, accomplished and full of the joys of endorphins! I don’t really care that I was doing highly adapted versions of the exercises, and I was the only one doing that – I was there for my workout and I loved it. And anyway, it’s very true that no one else cares. Not that they are only interested in themselves, though in the heat of a WOD you pretty much are, but just that they seem to understand that you are there for a good workout as much as they are, it’s just that yours looks different.
The workout above had been preceded by my first ring row experience, 120 reps with 10 reps EMOM. It had seemed fine at the time, but the DOMs for the next two days was pretty spectacular. I couldn’t actually straighten my arm and really, truly felt like a t-rex with short, stumpy arms permanently bent! It’s worn off now, so nothing more than DOMs but OUCH, though I wore it with pride.
Given the breakthrough of the previous day, I was keen to go back to another WOD to see if I could replicate the intensity and accompanying sweat and happiness. Thankfully I was able to speak to the Coach who could not have been more helpful in pointing out what I could do as alternatives. Here’s the workout, and then what I actually did:
16kg Kettlebell snatch = 4kg dumbbell snatch
Kettlebell burpee box step over = 8kg kettlebell burpee 2x 25kg plate step overs
Everyone was using kettlebells and I had a tiny little dumbbell. Everyone was using a 20″ box, I was using two bumper plates. But, again, I got my version of a great workout and I loved it.
My choice of adaptations were purposeful based on unlocking intensity. I CAN step onto a 20″ box but I’m so unbalanced and scared around even little heights that I would have been mostly crawling on and off on my knees. I CAN snatch an 8kg kettlebell, I did it for the first round, but I definitely would have slowed down doing 10 reps at a time. This sounds like I’m justifying my decision to adapt as if I’m ashamed of it. I’m not, I’m just saying I think I’ve learned that just because you are capable of lifting something heavier, sometimes it’s best to go for intensity over weight, as a strategic decision. Strongman, for instance, would not be a time to do this – that is a time to go heavy as you can, because you’re not going for time or reps – but I think it’s important to recognise the difference.
There will also be sessions when I can adapt less/differently. Whilst I don’t yet have the big numbers that some of the strong ladies at Crossfit have, I’m not exactly a weakling – so sessions that are all about heavy deadlifts or sled pushes, I’m not going to be pussyfooting around with those. I guess it’s about knowing where you are in any one arena, and adapting accordingly. It requires a bit of self-honesty, which can be tough.
I was particularly excited to drip sweat onto the bumper plates … I must have been working hard!
As further reminder of the fact that other people are so not bothered by what you’re doing, the chap next to me in this session helped me put my stuff away. Not in a “Oh poor you could only manage to step onto 2 x 25kg plates” but in a “well done, you worked hard, let me help you clear away” type way. It really is a very accepting environment.
The feeling I got from these two workouts came something close to some of the happier sessions I had “before”, but I never walked out of any workout feeling like I nailed it, gave it my all, and couldn’t have done better – until this week anyway, hence this is a massive breakthrough.
The other thing that needs noting is that I don’t really care how I look. I know that my arms are flappy and flabby and dangle all around. I know that I have a large tummy and heavy thighs. But, whether it’s the environment or me that is different, or maybe both, I have been able to wear my vest and not feel conscious. I was never able to do this “before”, and it’s a joy. I don’t like the way my body currently looks but I’m doing something about it so whilst the transformation works I’m stuck with it and I’m actually really rather proud of that. Especially since exercise and PMDD were so closely linked, plus the disastrous attempt at Crossfit previously, I’m damned lucky and grateful that I’m here at all.
One more thing I’ve learned or accepted this week is that I’ve lost such a lot of fitness. I’m 1.5 stones heavier than I was at my lightest, and I can really feel it. Things that I would have been able to do before, I am now struggling to do. It’s more motivation to lose weight, but I think accepting this was part of my unlocking intensity. I could have pretended in my head that I can lift 15kg for reps with intensity, but actually once I accepted that 7kg was much more reasonable and I could work harder with it, I felt free to have fun and I felt safe and secure that I’ve been fitter before, and I will be fitter again. I’m now looking forward to the next 75 days because I’m sure that my fitness (and weight) will change and improve all the time, and I’m excited to see where that takes me.
In a glimmer of the former braveness that I had when I was smaller and fitter, the last part of the session on Wednesday was handstand practice. I’m sure in a blog a long time ago I wrote about how I convinced my H-D mates to try handstands and I was super proud of my ability to get upside down. Well, wall walks were an option but I was too frightened to try them so I did a conan’s wheel thing instead, which was OK. But after the class finished I decided to have a little go at a walk walk. OK so I didn’t get as far as I have before, in fact I only got 3 breeze blocks up the wall, but it was a start and at least I tried. I think there are two measures I will use for the next 75 days – the amount of sweat I produce in a session, and how many blocks up the wall I can get my feet!