I’ve had some time to think about what I learned at my Level 1 Certification this past weekend. The lectures were interesting, the demonstrations were fantastic, the skill work was exciting and the workouts hammered it all home. I took a ton of notes, impressed by the finer points of the clean, the ten components of fitness and the Zone diet. There were so many details - nuances in theory, information, movements, and I really thought those details were going to be the most important part of the weekend for me.
So I almost started to drift off a bit when they asked us, "What is CrossFit?" Sigh. Constantly varied functional movements performed at high intensity. Prior to the certification, I must have heard that statement 4,722 times, and recited it even more often. How could there be anything more to that concept? It's, like, three things. The words aren't even that big. Can we please get back to the push-jerk, because my dip-drive needs work.
Except just then, a funny thing happened. My brain started to actually listen to the words. Constantly varied. Functional movements. High intensity. Something in my head started to hum, and those words started to reshape themselves. And slowly, one piece at a time, my brain took those three simple concepts and redirected them to my attention like a hard-ass, tough love Wheel of Fortune puzzle conceived by Jon Gilson himself.
How "varied" are my workouts, really? Sure, I incorporate lots of different movements. I do an okay job with that - I work goats, I try new things, I use different tools. But how VARIED are my WORKOUTS? I always train the same days of the week. I always train at 6 AM, in a fasted state. I always train at Gold's Gym. I always train alone. I always spend one hour at the gym, regardless of how long the actual workout takes. Sound "varied" to you?
I thought I had this piece right, because the movements I program and the workouts I put together are pretty varied. But this weekend, I realized that you need to stress EVERY ASPECT of your training, in order to promote better general fitness adaptations. I am so comfortable with my early AM crew at Gold's, my Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday routine, my 10 minute buy-in, my Friday deadlifts. I need to get outside that bubble of comfort and go train with Samy's Savages, or arrange a play date with another CrossFitter at their gym, or go outside and do something in the snow. I need to try hitting the big lifts at the end of the day, and see how my body reacts to being well fed, but tired. What about doing a 2-a-day once in a while, or trying the 3-1 schedule for a week or two? There are so many factors - an infinite number - that could be "varied". And the more I mix it up, the more of a well rounded athlete I will become.
Day One was all about the nine foundational movements. Air squat, front squat, overhead squat. Press, push-press, push jerk. Deadlift, SDHP, medicine ball clean. Nine movements, from which an enormous number of OTHER movements are based. Now, let's look back at my workout log and see how often I work my air squat. I'll save you the time - the answer is, pretty much never. (And trust me, it ain't 'cause it's perfect.) Compare that to how much I'm working my Sots press pistol - pretty much every week.
What is wrong with this picture? Sure, I like to work the sexy stuff. Pistols are sexy. Double-unders are sexy. Kettlebell windmills are sexy. But all the time I spend on those peripherals is time I could be spending building my athletic foundation. I'm not saying there is no time for the sexy stuff, but they belong in the buy-in, or the cash out... not in the bulk of my workouts. The workouts belong to the foundational exercises - learning them well, working them hard and (for some), going heavy. And if I learned one thing this weekend, it's that working on my air squat and press is going to do nothing but good things for those hot, hot Sots pistols.
It is the constant, annoying, jabbing poke from my brain that still continues to this very second... "YOU ARE NOT WORKING HARD ENOUGH". And dammit, my brain is right. Let's take this weekend's Fran, for example. I scaled it WAY down... I wasn't sure about the weight, and the time limit, so I used 45# for my thrusters. Made sense to me, considering my attempt two weeks ago with 55# was littered with broken thrusters, and took me over 14 minutes to get through.
Except damn if I didn't do every single thruster in my first AND last set unbroken. That is 21 unbroken thrusters, then a set of 10/5, then a full set of 9. I finished this weekend's Fran with 45# in 5:00 and change. With 55# thrusters, it took me over 7:00 to finish the first ROUND.
What does that tell you? Did I magically get SO much stronger in the last week leading up to the cert? Ha. I wish. It just means that the last time I did Fran, I was seriously slacking in my intensity. Just one example of the fact that I am not working hard enough - and believe me, there were many more along those lines during the weekend. (The fact that my (cert-fueled) BTB tabata score was the same as my last (Gold's Gym) regular old tabata score is very, very telling.) Good news is, this could be tied back to "constantly varied", where I'm always training by myself with no one to push me, yell at me, compete with me. So while I need to ramp up the intensity on my own, I can also give it a jump start (and hit two "lessons" at once) by visiting CrossFit NH for a workout, or inviting Daigle up to LRF for some kettlebell work and a few rounds of Helen.
And finally I can tie all of these in together with the last big-picture revelation from the weekend... if you can't measure it, you can't manage it. I mean, I'm a business analyst in my day job. You'd think I would have figured that part out. But no - I mix up workouts, rep schemes, weights too frequently. I do stuff "for practice" and I put more stock in how it FEELS, not how it actually WAS according to the load, the distance moved, the time it took.
I will tell you this, though... if I'm going to be really pushing my intensity, then I'm damn sure going to make sure I've got something concrete to show for it. So I'm going to start repeating workouts now, calculating power, determining my real products of fitness. Let's start measuring in cold, hard stats all of these things my brain is telling me I need to do better.
In conclusion, while I did learn the finer points of the push-press dip and the effect of carbohydrates on insulin levels and all the other details that the certification so neatly packaged for me, what I came away with was something so much biggger than the sum of all the parts. I would even call it EPIC. Mix it up. Get back to basics. Work harder. Those three short and unassuming lessons alone have already made me a smarter athlete. And you can bet that the second I set foot back in the gym on Wednesday, they're going to make me a FITTER athlete, too.
3, 2, 1, GO.