Over the past three months I’ve tried Crossfit (what’s Crossfit?)- and thought I’d put down my impressions and lessons learned. To give some background on these points, brief ‘physical’ information about me:
- Male, 43 years old
- 6’2″, #195 lbs (88kg, # = lbs) on July 1st. Body fat 14.5%.
- Lifts in the gym during 2017, before July 1st: Bench #235 , Squat #305, Dead lift #455, 15 chin-ups, 12 pull-ups. Aerobic capacity – not great :-). Mobility – not great.
- From November 1st 2016 to June 30th 2017 I was training at GoPrimal in Gainesville, which did introduce to me to some of the methods / lifts used in Crossfit, and I had a fantastic time there. My routine was roughly 2-3 strength workouts / week and 1 conditioning workout / week during this time. Also did a 10-week body-comp challenge with them where I dropped from 18.5% body fat to 14.5%.
On to the Crossfit experience –
- On July 1st I started at Tern Crossfit and as I had a good base of the regular strength lifts (squats, dead-lifts, presses, chins et) I quickly got into the workouts, how to do the new movements etc.
- There is a structure to the workouts:
- Warm-ups – dynamic, movement, aerobic – about 10 min
- Skill movement – usually a practice of a skill movement like hand-stand push-ups (HSPU), double-unders (DU), rope-climb etc. Another 10 min maybe.
- Strength/ Olympic lifting movement – could be a 5×2 front squat EOM (every other minute), could be 5×1 snatch EOM, then 3×1 @ 90% of the max lift, could be push-press etc etc. Another 10-25 min.
- Workout of the Day (WOD) – this is the ‘High Intensity Training’ portion which can take from 10 min to 30 min total (usually 10-15 min). This is when carry out a combination of strength, olympic, cardio, strongman etc movement – usually trying to do as much work as possible, as quickly as possible…
The positive experiences:
- I’ve really enjoyed learning new movements / lifts etc. For example I didn’t know that I could at 43 years old learn to do a hand-stand push-up (against the wall). I’ve gone from not being able to do a snatch, to #135 snatch. OK, this is still what the competitive teen girls are warming up with, but with my mobility I consider it a win :-). So currently I’m working on stringing together more double-unders, getting better at HSPU’s etc.
- I’m kinda beginning to ‘embrace the suck‘ – especially in the WOD’s. There’s this zone usually about 5-8 minutes into the WOD where your lungs are burning, your eyes are stinging from sweat and you wonder if you can make it through. But then you remember to just focus on the next rep, making it through the current set, that pain is temporary and really – this suffering is actually not ‘that bad’…
- Aerobically challenging – as most workouts are very aerobically challenging for me, my work capacity has gone up, but I don’t have an objective measurement for this one, more of a feeling. Even to the point that I’m OK if the WOD includes a run these days. For example yesterdays WOD was:
- AMRAP (As many rounds as possible) for scaled Level 2:
- 2 burpee / pull-up – so you do a burpee, and then jump up to the bar for a pull-up, then
- 4 Pike push-ups off box, then
- 8 Kettlebells swings, with #70 – that’s one round.
- I ended up doing 15 rounds, 6 reps in 15 minutes, and not totally dying.
- Effortlessly stronger. On some lifts it feels like I’m getting effortlessly stronger. Eg. due to many WOD’s including pull-ups, squats, those lifts have gone up:
- Max Chin-ups: 15 ->18
- Max Pull-ups: 12 -> 16
- Max front squat: #245 to #260
- Progressions. It’s a fundamental aspect of CrossFit that any workout can be scaled to a person’s skill / mobility / strength levels. This really means that ANYONE can / should try it. Progressions also give you a motivating factor to first of be able to do any workout and also something to aim for if you can’t do the workout as ‘rx’ (as written). Bar muscle-ups – here I come 🙂
- Overhead squats / snatches. So I’m a taller guy who’s had a lifetime of sitting in front of computers, laptops – causing the regular forward head tilt, tight hips. I feel that doing overhead squats, snatches, where you strengthen the postural muscles involved in keeping your head upright, has actually improved my posture. And I’ve gone from barely being able to overhead squats with the bar – due to mobility – to OHS #135, so I feel this aspect will be very beneficial for me in the long run.
- Standards for lifts / movements. I think it’s very cool, useful to have standards to be able compare where your strengths, weaknesses are – so you know where you’d need to improve. Eg. my pulling strength is fine, but I need a lot of work on the skill movements, pushing strength, mobility etc. Greg Amundsen in ‘Firebreather fitness’ has a very detailed standards definition – broken down by gender, age, skill level – that I highly recommend.
- Expect and thrive on the unexpected. As I’d started lifting in my ‘adult’ life more actively at 34, by the time I’d reached 42 years old – I was pretty much in a rut. Yes I was enjoying the lifting, and there was some variation – but it was getting boring. With a CrossFit workout I never know until the day of, what will be thrown at me and there is tons of variation in the workouts. And I’m fine with the unknown, I know I’ll make it through to the other side, even though it’ll be painful in the middle. It takes a special kind of genius to be able to give folks that confidence.
- Eating / body-comp. Ever since doing the body-comp challenge in the Spring I’ve sorta maintained a ‘paleo’ / high-fat / high-protein diet which ‘Crossfitters’ usually ascribe to – about 85%-90% of the time. I’m at #198 now, and I’m guessing I’m a bit slimmer than three months ago. Bottom-line due to the WOD’s I think I could quite easily lose some body-fat if I felt like it. To give you an idea, my breakfast can be for example:
- Omelette, four eggs, slice of cheese, two strips of bacon, bulletproof coffee
- Shake with avocado, spinach, celery, whey protein, greek yoghurt, bulletproof coffee.
- Kids cross-fit. Many CrossFit boxes have kids classes, and I think in terms of general ‘fitness’ (strength, mobility, endurance, skills etc) I doubt you could find a better alternative for your kids. CrossFit will prepare them for pretty much any athletic endeavour they’d wanna pursue.
The ‘meh’ experiences:
- I’m missing doing heavy, unhurried strength work. You know the ones where you do one set of heavy 5, then rest until you are ready – say 3-4 minutes to go again. I’ve had to make up for this by going to open gym at 8AM on Sundays to do it, so it says something about how much I miss it.
- Kipping pull-ups, kipping this and that. I feel that some of the gymnastic movements put the shoulders in a very exposed position, and I’ve had some shoulder pain for the past month or so. Then again doing some WODs with strict PU’s is just ‘hard’ – so that’s how it needs to be done then 🙂
So clearly my experiences are largely positive, and I will absolutely recommend ANYONE to try out CrossFit. Give yourself at least two-three months to see how your body will react – if you are untrained, you will be sore. However if you’re ready to give it a go, see what you’re made of? I won’t say it will not hurt – because it will – but that’s OK too.