In general, I don’t prefer working out in groups. Especially in the shape I’m in now – I’m working hard, but it is a struggle, and I mostly don’t want anybody watching my fat ass work through something that I can barely do anyway. And one thing about Crossfit is that there is always a group. Sometimes the workouts are structured so that everybody is so busy trying to figure out what they’re doing that they don’t have time to see you, and everybody finishes at roughly the same time. Sometimes, though, they are structured such that the really fit people get done much faster than the not-so-really fit people – of which I am a gold-star member.
Tuesday morning was one of those latter workouts. We did what they call a Chipper – what appears to be an incredibly high number of repetitions of relatively simple movements. You do it for time, and the idea is that you just chip away at the total – Chipper. So this particular morning was 100 (!) Double Unders (jumping rope, the rope goes under your feet twice for every time you jump. I have still never successfully completed a single Double Under), 50 Power Cleans, 100 Air Squats, and 50 Toes-to-Bar. With a 20 minute cap, but that exists mostly to make sure I leave before the next class starts.
If you can’t do Double Unders, they let you triple-up on single unders – so 300 regular jumps at the rope. I got about 30 jumps in and the coach came over and told me I could just do 200 so I didn’t spend the whole workout just jumping rope.
Aside – jumping rope is hell. Hell.
So then I go and do my Power Cleans with 65# – I can clean a lot more weight than that, but I’ve learned the hard way to be careful with weight – doing it once and doing it 50 times are two very different things.
And then I started my air squats. I got maybe halfway through these when the fit people started finishing up their workouts. They were cleaning up the weights while I was in the corner plugging away. One of the girls came over to me, and I asked her if she was going to yell at me while I finished. She looked at me and said, “Nope, I’m going to do the rest with you. How many do you have left?” And then another came over, and another, and for the last 20 squats or so there were probably 5 – 6 people around me doing extra squats while I finished. And when I finished they all cheered.
That was about 17 and a half minutes in, and they all thought I was done. Of course, I still hadn’t done any toes-to-bars – which I have to modify and do on the floor. So, down to the floor I went and the coach in particular encouraged me through. My form sucked for these, but I did 28 of them before time ran out – and that was something.
I still don’t like being last by that much, and I don’t like being the fat guy people feel they need to go encourage. But, damn, was that nice. I never would have pushed myself that hard and done that many if I weren’t in a group that would come help me through. It hurt, but I did it – and they helped. I’m only 6 weeks in to this, and when I’m 6 months into this and doing much better I’m going to remember that encouragement helps, and I should give it whenever I can.
That always feels good. This belt only has one more notch on it – and when I have to go to that one I’ll wind up not being able to wear these pants, either. When you have to put a fold in the pants to make them fit, they’re too big.
I did something this time that I’ve never done before – I took before pictures. I’ve been considering writing a long, emotional post about how I’ve always been embarrassed by my body and I hate for people to see me without a shirt on and I always wear a shirt even when I’m swimming and all of that kind of business.
Then I realized – to hell with that. Enough with the navel-gazing.
This is embarrassing for me, mostly because these pictures even gross ME out. But – what the heck. This won’t look like this forever. These were taken April 16th, and I was at about 320 pounds. I’ll try and do another set this weekend to see if a month of living right has made a difference.
The goal, by the way, is to get to the point that I can feel comfortable without a shirt at the beach or the pool. One day.
Alternately: Why the hell would I choose Crossfit?
Every time I mention that I’ve started Crossfit (including Monday’s post), I get one of two reactions – either a real “good for you!” kind of thing, or “I am just not in good enough shape to do that.” Even my wife, when I mentioned it to her for the first time several months ago, gave me the “don’t you think you should get yourself into better shape and THEN think about doing that?” And that might not be a completely unreasonable first reaction.
All of the people that I know that have done this have been super fit people. Like, you see them and you say “oh, there goes an athlete” kind of fit. Like turning heads in bathing suits and bikinis fit. So that’s intimidating.
And then just use the Google and start researching what people have to say about Crossfit. There is a lot of positive, but also a LOT of negative out there about it. Weightlifters, in particular, really dislike that some of the Crossfit movements are not done with strict form – especially the pullups. Extra especially the pullups. There are tons of articles and columns and videos out there, each talking shit about the whole idea and accusing Crossfit people of being cult-like. This is a good overview:
The other thing about Crossfit, mentioned in that Gawker thing, is that it is expensive. And that is true, though mine isn’t nearly as expensive as they mentioned. The thing about running is … you buy some shoes, and you go run. Not too much money there. This thing costs much, much more.
And for the record, I’m also not in enough shape to do this … well. But I am in enough shape to get in there and start working. I was middle to end of the pack in the fundamentals class (if situps are involved, I’m toast – those are HARD), and I’m going to be firmly in the back of the regular class. And that’s OK – I’ve made peace with the idea that I can only start from where I am. Not doing things to get fit because I’m not fit enough feels like a vicious cycle.
So why would I do this? Let’s count down some things:
I am apparently not good at consistently motivating myself to get up and go it alone with exercise. I can do it for short, and sometimes even medium-long, stretches, but then it falls apart. I am not a confident enough runner to try and run with people (yet, maybe ever). And the thing about running not costing much is that if you don’t go, you aren’t wasting your money. The group aspect of Crossfit is an important benefit to me. I have paid (a lot of money – more on that in a minute) to do this, and the coaches initially and now my classmates are expecting to see me there. And if I don’t show when I should, I’m going to get asked about it. And, at some point, it is easier (and far better) to JUST GO DO THE WORKOUT ALREADY.
An extension of that is that I respond very well to coaching. It turns out that if I’ve got somebody there pushing me and encouraging me and helping me figure it out, I will push myself much harder than I ever would alone. I’ve now done 14 Crossfit workouts, and I haven’t finished a single one of them where I wasn’t gasping for air and really stretching to get the last reps in. That happens occasionally, but not enough, I feel, when I’m on my own. It feels good to really push hard.
Cross-training is hard for me. I still consider myself a runner. I don’t want to be a powerlifter or put on piles of muscle or anything like that. I need to be fit, and then I need to work on running. Working in cross-training days is something that was logistically very hard for me, and I think my running and overall fitness suffered for it. This, by definition, gets me that cross-training, and particularly works on my core, which can use all of the help it can get.
So here is the plan – my goal is to use weekdays to workout, weekends are free for family time unless I’m training for something specific, at which point I’ll do my long run on Saturday morning. Between now and June 6th, I’m going to do Crossfit four days a week (Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday), and run one time a week (Thursday) just to make sure my body remembers. On June 6th I leave for a work trip – that week will be runs while I’m traveling and only two Crossfit workouts. And then the following week I begin a schedule that has me do Crossfit MWF and running on Tue-Thurs. I’m registered for a 10k in early November, and after that I start the long-run build to the Gasparilla Distance Classic Half Marathon in late February. New long-term goals include only one big race a year. I was trying to do too much last time and I think I burned out.
Also, let’s talk about money. This gym (Celebration Crossfit, by the way – so far the coaches are great) requires a 3-week Couch-to-Crossfit fundamentals course that cost $97 for 12 classes. After that, it is $159 / month for an annual membership, but they credit the $97 if you sign up during the first couple of weeks. That’s a lot of money, but I look at it a little differently. Given my expected schedule, that’s going to work out to somewhere between $10 and $12 for each class I go to. That’s $10 / $12 per hour for 1.) use of their gym and equipment, 2.) on-hand trainers and coaches taking you through the workouts and modifying the movements if necessary, 3.) planned daily workouts – I don’t have to think about them, just show up and do them, 4.) nutritional advice if I want it (not at this point, but maybe eventually), and 5.) accountability to the coaches and the classmates that will actually motivate me to show up.
That’s a hell of a lot of value for that money. And if this sticks (and unless I get hurt I don’t know why it wouldn’t) and I lose a lot lot of pounds and get into a routine where I keep them off – it would have been worth it at many times that price.
So – that’s why I’m doing Crossfit. I promise I’m not going to become a Crossfit cult member, and I’m not going to spend every damn post every damn day talking about it. This is NOT going to be a Crossfit blog. But – it is what is going on right now, so for a bit this is what I’m talking about. Next post is going to be about nutrition. Still working up the nerve to put those before pictures up.
They say when you come back from an extended gap from blogging – and even especially when you’re blogging about getting back into shape and then you fall off the edge of the world … that you don’t owe an explanation. No need to say “Sorry” or “So … this happened” – nope, just get back in the saddle and start writing blogs.
In spite of that, here is my 30 second version – was doing great, loving life, down about 15 pounds back in the fall, and then got busy with work travel and then the holidays and then the family and de-prioritized my health and gained all of that back and then some. My blood pressure got back up to a-doctor-would-put-me-on-medicine levels, and I got fat again. I’ve never approached the top that I hit back in 2012, but I’ve headed that way.
So since I’ve struggled with the methodology that worked so well when I first lost all the weight (running and Weight Watchers), I’ve decided it is time to do something new, and make the commitment a bit more formally and hard-core(ly?).
That’s right – I started Crossfit.
They made me do a fundamentals, Couch-to-Crossfit thing that took three weeks. But this morning was my first regular class, and while it was a big step up it didn’t kill me. I’m eating right, and the weight-loss, it is back on.
The posts are going to start up again – I took some proper before pictures that I’m getting the nerve up to post, and I need to talk about nutrition (spoiler: I am not doing paleo) and scheduling and goals and fitting in running (I’m still a runner) and all of that other business.