Thursday, February 28, 2013

10 Things I've Learned in My First 60 Days of CrossFit

For the past 60 days, I've been working out and trying to getting back into shape at CrossFit PleasantonNow that I've joined the ranks of ex-athletes who do CrossFit, I figured I would take the time to share some of my thoughts on what I like about CrossFit. All photos are from CrossFit Pleasanton (CFP), unless otherwise stated. 

1. CrossFit is addicting.

I first went to CrossFit Pleasanton was about a week after getting back into the country, and I started off by just going 3 times a week to their "On Ramp" introductory courses. I "graduated" 3 weeks later, after having learned the basic lifts and terminology, and my first workout was the "Filthy 50" on New Years Eve. After that, I started going just 3 days a week and doing the regular WODs. Those first few weeks were rough on my body, I was ridiculously sore after essentially taking 2.5 years off from lifting (I didn't have access to a weight room while living in Ukraine). then up to 4 days. Now I'm proud to say that I'm back to working out 6 days a week, with between 4-5 workouts at CrossFit and running for cardio on the other days. 

A group of CrossFitters on New Years. 
2. The world of CrossFit has its own lingo. 

CrossFit is used as both a noun and a verb. A gym is called a box, the daily workout is a "WOD" (workout of the day) and there are many other assorted abbreviations that I'm still learning. For example, RX = to do the weights as written in the workout (as opposed to modifying it to make it lighter), SDHP = sumo deadlift high pull, HSPU = handstand pushups, double unders = a double jump with a jump rope. 

I didn't even know what a kettlebell was until I started working out at CrossFit. 
3. CrossFit is an expensive hobby... 

One of the most common reactions that I get when I tell my friends that I've been doing CrossFit is "isn't that expensive?". Well, the answer is yes. I've spent over $500 in 2 months with paying for the gym membership, and buying gear like 2 pairs of shoes and a speed rope. And I still need to get olympic lifting shoes and a weightlifting belt, and maybe some wrist wraps. The costs add up while you're unemployed, but I think its a worthwhile investment in the long run. I would rather spend my money at a gym that actually pushes and challenges me, and I don't mind buying gear that will help me get better and stronger.

This RPM speed rope retails  for $45, but its apparently the best (read: fastest) for double unders. 
4. People don't judge you at CrossFit. 

One of my least favorite things about working out at gyms like LA Fitness is that guys always stare at you when you lift, especially if you're lifting the same amount of weight that they are or doing something that they've never seen before, like a one-arm dumbell snatch. CrossFitters don't frown at you for doing a lighter weight because lighter weight will get you more reps or faster rounds. They understand that everyone starts off at different fitness levels - they get that you're new, and try to give you tips on how to improve instead because they were once in your shoes. 

Coach and CFP owner Paul Southern deadlifting in an official CrossFit competition. 
On a side note: I'm thankful that I have had weightlifting coaches to teach me the proper technique for Olympic lifts. It makes a big difference and I know the good technique will serve me better in the long run than something like being able to crank out fast reps of power cleans in poor form. If you've never done any sort of Olympic lifting before, it will take you a while to learn the motions before you get it right. It took me probably about 6 months before I could get my elbows up (high enough to have my upper arms parallel to the floor) on a front squat, so don't be discouraged if you are having trouble with it - Olympic lifting isn't something that you should expect to learn in just a few weeks of On Ramp classes. 

5. Some things are just inevitable if you CrossFit.

Some things you just can't avoid: bruises from climbing the rope, banged up shins from deadlifts, calluses from pull-ups and gaining weight. I also banged up my collarbone from my first time doing thrusters (front squat plus an overhead push press), and had some nice bright bruises for about a week. The weight gain that I'm talking about is lean muscle mass, and its not necessarily a bad thing. I lost about 10lbs during my 2 years in Ukraine, from not eating enough protein and not working out. But I've gained it back within these two months, so I'm glad to say I'm back to the same weight I was in college. Ripping up your hands is also inevitable, people just take it in stride and compare how they "tore" up their palms after the workout. 

My friend Sally climbs the rope for the first time! 
This is what my leg looked like after climbing the rope for the first time. Well actually, I climbed it 5 times, 3 times, and then 1 time in a workout. 

6. Lululemon is the new Under Armor for fashion in fitness gear. 

I remember hearing about Lulu during my last year of college, but I brushed it off as just being a fad for designer work out gear. All the hardcore athletes that I knew preferred Under Armor to other fitness brands like Nike, Adidas and Reebok. Little did I know, that when I got back from spending over 2 years overseas, Lulu yoga pants had turned into the new Nike tempo shorts. Now everyone and their mother (and grandmother) wears Lulu. People also wear it on the streets in their daily lives with their UGG boots. Disclaimer: I'm not sure if this is just because I live in California or if this is a trend across the whole nation. 

Its also important to have awesome knee-high socks at CrossFit.  
7. Working out in a team environment is more fun than working out alone. 

One of my favorite parts about working out at CrossFit is the team environment. Although I work out around the same time every day, there are usually different people there. In my opinion, CrossFitters are competitive enough to push each other to work hard but not super-over-competitive to put people down which happens sometimes in competitive sports. It made me realize how much miss being on a team, working out with my teammates, cheering each other on and comparing our results to a record board. 

CrossFit Pleasanton has a recordboard too! I'll make it up there someday :) 
Everyone is just dead after a WOD sometimes. 
8. Weightlifting shoes are really worth it. 

I tried a pair when we did overhead squats for a 1 rep max, and I could totally feel the difference. They really stabilize your feet position, and now I see why the hardcore guys from my college swim team would rave about their weightlifting shoes. Since I don't have any good weightlifting shoe photos, here's a photo of one of the guys from CFP jumping 54.5" for a max box jump! I only jumped 34" that day haha. 

9. I can do pull-ups!

A few years ago, my max for strict pull-ups from a dead hang was like 5. This was while I was in college and worked out regularly, averaging 9 swim practices and 3 weightlifting sessions each week. When I started working out again after coming back from Ukraine, I couldn't even do a pull-up with a band in the On Ramp class. So I've been staying after the WOD every day for a few weeks to work on my pull-ups, and now I can do 9 kipping pull-ups on my own without a band! I haven't tried to max out strict pull-ups again yet, mostly because the kipping ones are easier so I don't want to go back to doing strict pull-ups. 

The kipping swing (photo credit to Coach Kaitlin).
Getting my chin above the bar! (Photo by Coach Kaitlin)
10. Swimmer shoulder problems will never go away. 

After enduring about 15 years of abuse in the pool, my shoulders still have problems. I used to swim distance, meaning that I ground my shoulders day in and day out by doing high volume anaerobic workouts in the pool. Swimmers were definitely known for wearing ice packs wrapped awkwardly around our shoulders in the athletic dining hall. Even now, I still have limited flexibility and a limited range of motion in overhead movements like snatching. I've gone back to doing shoulder rehab with rotator cuff strengthening exercises with a band, in the hopes that it will prevent my shoulders from the telltale pinching pain during workouts. 

One of my goals is to be able to do a 1-arm handstand someday like Coach Kat! I'm still working on just being able to do a regular handstand though. 
Looking forward, I've signed up to participate with CrossFit Pleasanton in the CrossFit Open 2013. I know that I'm not anywhere in shape to win anything and that I'll probably get beat by a lot of the moms who work out at CFP, but I'm still excited to work out with my gym and see where I'm at!  


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