Hi! You must be new here. If you’ve just recently graduated out of Boot Camp, you’re probably just getting yourself immersed into CrossFit. If you’re anything like I was when I first started, it’s probably pretty new to you, maybe a little intimidating? Well, you’re in good company – six months ago, everything I knew about CrossFit I had learned from a Reebok commercial. Before joining, I had been lifting weights for over a year after several years of inactivity and a lot of really bad eating and drinking. I made great progress in this time; at my peak I was squatting and deadlifting in the upper 300lb range, but my physique seemed to have little to show for it. As an introvert, weight lifting is great because it’s something you can do by yourself, but I was in a rut and didn’t know how to get out of it. I’ve only been to this area for a few months, so this was something I started completely on my own and with next to no foreknowledge of. With that being said, let me share with you the lessons I’ve managed to learn by diving into this group.
The first thing I had to deal with right after I left my last on-ramp class were headaches – and not just little ones, but the kind that feel like your brain is splitting in two. In fact, I didn’t even get through the warm-up in my first official WOD because my head felt like it started splitting open a couple of minutes into it. Initially I thought it was dehydration so I upped my water intake, but as it turned out, my body was completely unaccustomed to the exercise variety and was creating a large amount of tension in my traps and my neck that were causing this. With a massage and regular use of a lacrosse ball against the wall, I was able to make this pain go away and get through a workout without worrying whether my brain was going to explode. You’ll notice that one of the first things you’ll see on the WOD page, before every WOD, is something pertaining to mobility. THIS IS VALUABLE INFORMATION. As you schedule your workouts, you’re going to find yourself hurting from the last one, and if you’ve got a heavy schedule, it’s only going to get worse. Treat the mobility movements as their own separate WOD, or wait until Caleb teaches your class and makes you do it. You’ll either find yourself glad you did, or find yourself limping around complaining about being stiff and sore. Massage aids recovery!
The other immediate challenge I had was actually harder than the headaches. After the first couple of weeks of CrossFit, I watched the scale in disbelief as I gained twenty pounds. After some soul-searching and dropping various foods from my diet, I came to understand just how badly my diet was working against me. It wasn’t until I talked to my dad, who was recently diagnosed with diabetes, and listening to him talk about the foods he can and can’t eat that woke me up to the dangers of some of the most commonplace foods in the average daily diet, including my own. I studied insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome, found myself recognizing in myself an alarming number of symptoms, and changed everything about my eating habits. Starting in July my diet now consists only of meat, eggs and green vegetables – no rice, beans, pastas, or any corn-based product. I started measuring my spare tire and recording it every week in a spreadsheet, and I’m happy to report that since I cleaned up my diet, I’ve lost six inches off the thickest part of my midsection so far. It works!
New programs take time for your body to adapt to. When I first started exercising, I got into weight lifting. In fact, before I joined CrossFit, I was squatting and deadlifting in the 300lb range. But getting there took time, and a lot of time in the beginning is spent adapting your body to the new work being performed. I’ll be honest – I thought my strength training would give me a leg up in the WODS, and it did for some. One of the WODS in my second week had back squats; I crushed 335lbs and felt great about it. What my training didn’t prepare me for were front squats, snatches, thrusters, burpees, or even box jumps, to name a few (and don’t get me started on cardio). I could back squat 335lbs, but I couldn’t front squat 100lbs and overhead squats, well, those are just cruel and unusual. It took my body three months before I could get through a WOD without leaving puddles of sweat everywhere and a sensation that I was going to keel over from the exertion. After three months, my body started adapting to the work, and week by week I get a little bit better at some of the things I’ve been terrible at. Some things are still better than others, but the persistence will eventually start to pay off. Don’t give up – it gets better! Take it from the slowest runner and the guy who usually finishes last.
One of the great things about being last and sucking – besides improving over time, of course – is the fact that you’re surrounded by a community of enthusiasts and enthusiastic coaches, all who want to see you succeed, and are happy to help you get there. I absolutely love the fact that there’s always someone telling me how to improve my form; it took a little getting used to at first, but your form is everything in every exercise you do, and if you want to do them right, you’ll learn to appreciate the help. You learn quickly that it’s okay to suck at something, no matter how many things you think you suck at. Chances are you’re going to suck at something; I know my list isn’t short. The beauty of the system is the scaling of the exercises; I can deadlift heavy, but I can’t do handstand pushups (yet), so my strategy for a WOD involving those two exercises would be to try and Rx the deadlift and do the best ring pushups I can do. The exercise is consistently as difficult as my body can handle and no more, with the intended goal of doing those damned handstand pushups one day. Mix it up a little too – I’ve found Viv’s kettlebell class to be great conditioning for my core and forearms, which I credit for helping me prepare for the WODs better.
There’s a lot of things you’ll probably have to learn on your own, sometimes the hard way. For example, if you’re going to eat before you go to a WOD, plan it as far as you can in advance. I made the mistake of eating a large breakfast before doing the fourth of July WOD, and I almost left scrambled eggs everywhere; fortunately, I’ve only made that mistake once. Plan your meals carefully – not just what you eat, but when you eat them. I’ve also come to appreciate the benefits of a creatine supplement before and after my WODS. I learned, through my studies in supplements, that mixing in a little bit of baking soda helps give you an extra boost; I also learned the hard way that baking soda has a shelf life, and if you use baking soda past its expiration date (typically a little over a month), you’re setting yourself up for an embarrassing “Immodium AD” moment in the middle of your workout. You’re welcome.
My first six months at Albany CrossFit have been marked with a lot of personal discovery and growth. I’ve learned a lot about my body, my health, and my form; I’ve come to enjoy having a coaching staff always around, and I’ve been able to set a number of personal goals based on my experiences and the progress I’ve made so far. Of course, your mileage may vary for better or for worse, but the good news is you won’t be going it alone.