So, as I type this, we are in the twilight of summer. The days are getting shorter, and I am preparing to give up the lazy days and head back to the classroom next week (I know, you have ZERO sympathy).
I think back on the past couple of months, and am extremely grateful. I had an awesome summer in so many ways. But, CrossFit-wise at least, it wasn’t exactly the summer I had planned. I was thinking, “2 months off, let’s lift heavy, hit some PRs, do Fran, etc etc.” More time off = more time to get your swole on,right? But If you remember, I started summer off with an injury. And although it gave me some great perspective and gratitude, it was also frustrating and discouraging at times.
All that extra time at the gym I was planning on? I still used it, but it was mobility city. As my back started to get better, during my month-long, coach developed “rehab” program, I would routinely do up to 45 minutes of mobility before I even thought about touching a barbell (not joking). My beloved Oly lifts were off the table. And those kipping pull-ups I wanted so bad and was just starting to work on were off limits as well.
So, like I said, not the CrossFit summer I planned, but in many ways, exactly the summer I needed. And after feeling discouraged, depressed, and disappointed for much of the past 2 months, I’m happy to say that the hard work, and sticking with it even when it didn’t always feel fun and exciting, is really starting to pay off.
First off, the squats. I have developed a lot of bad habits in my nearly 2 years of CrossFitting and my squats have always been one of them. I really don’t use my hamstrings and even in air squats I won’t sit back in my heels. I also have this bad habit of when I’m doing heavy back squats I like to fold forward a lot. It’s not a strength thing, more so the midline stability.
Anyways, during rehab (by the way, my back is A LOT better), the plan was a ton of squat mobility, hamstring activation exercises, and squatting at lighter weights with perfect form. Again, not always super exciting, but necessary.
So I am currently into the 4th week of my post-rehab program. I’m allowed to squat heavier, but have coach-assigned limits so I’m still not pushing to and beyond my old maxes to maintain quality of movement.
A couple weeks ago now we were doing a 1 RM back squat as the class lift. My coach and I agreed on a number I’d work towards (20 pounds below my old max). His eyes were on me as I went for the heavy single. After I’d finished and racked the bar, he looked at me and said “I’m so happy.” No folding over! All the hard work was paying off, and I hit my heavy single with perfect form. I will take that over a sketchy, bentover, heavier 1 rep max any day.
Then there’s my posture. You’ll recall from this post that I’ve been working with “my team” (coach, massage therapist, chiropractor) to correct longstanding bad habits like hyperextending my knees and not standing correctly. Well, I’ve been told twice now in the past month how great my posture looks. Once from a friend who I hadn’t seen in over a year. And then from my mom, who has been on me for years to stop “boinging my knees,” as she puts it. (There’s nothing like getting a text from your mom after you’ve been home visiting that says: “Hilary!!! It just occured to me…I think your posture has improved!!”).
It’s certainly something I still have to think about, but those two comments meant the world to me. It hasn’t changed overnight (after all, we are talking about a lifetime of bad movement patterns), and has been the result of lots of mobility, some of the exercises I mentioned above, and just being a lot more conscious of how I move and giving myself “postural check in” reminders, but I know I’m moving in the right direction. And those postural fixes in turn mean that a lot of my movements are looking a lot better.
And last, but certainly not least, there’s pull-ups. Read this post to get an idea how long and hard I’ve worked on them. Pull-ups have always been a struggle for me, and this summer I’ve felt pretty bummed about them, frankly. Like I said, I wasn’t allowed to work on kipping pull-ups. I went back to using MORE bands than I had been previously so I could focus on *perfect* form, body position, and engaging my lats (darn lazy lats) and not cheating and swinging. I’ve also been doing a bunch of accessory work like body rows, bentover rows and dumbbell flys.
Well, last weekend I did our gym’s “competitive training class” (basically just designed to push those who are interested in doing competitions just a little bit harder). I’ve only just recently started going back to it, as while I was injured I didn’t want to get caught up and push too hard and hurt myself, which is easy to do (and I already did once back in June) in that environment. Anyway, the second part of Saturday’s WOD was a partner workout where one partner did a bunch of cleans while the other did a 4 minute AMRAP of 3 pull-ups, 5 hand-release push-ups and 7 squats.
I got my green band ready on the pull-up rig. Coach Craig saw this and asked how many I could do without a band. I shrugged and muttered something about how I didn’t really know in reply. He challenged me to not use the band, saying to try for the first round and I could use it if I needed after the fact.
I grumbled, but complied. I got up there the first time, fully expecting to fail. But then I did a kipping pull-up. Then another. Then one more. I had just done 3! Dropped off the bar and went on to do my push-ups and squats. Every time I got up there, I honestly expected not to be able to do pull-ups again, like the previous round had been some sort of fluke, or that I’d be tired and not able to do do anymore. Nope. 4 full rounds! My first pull-up WOD EVER at RX! Boo yah!
I can’t even tell you how happy I was, and how glad that I have coaches who believe in me and will push me to challenge myself beyond what I think I’m capable of (Craig told me afterwards that the coaches had been talking about the work I’d put in, and how they needed to push me to challenge myself on pull-ups…just another reason I love my gym).
And after the WOD, everyone clapped for me in celebration (Its now secret how long and hard I’ve been working on pull-ups…ha)!
It’s just nice to know, after a summer that hasn’t gone the way I’d expected, that the hard work was worth it. I’ve written before about the importance of accessory work, and I really believe that the combination of accessory work, mobility, increased awareness of movement, attention to form and posture, and following the advice of my coach, RMT and chiropractor are coming together.
I’m grateful to be feeling better, after feeling for weeks that my back would never improve. I’m loving being back oly lifting again. I am still amazed that I’ve now RX’ed a pull-up WOD (Fran soon? Gulp). And I’m excited to keep squatting heavier with perfect form.
This summer was a necessary detour. And I know that the work I put in over the past two months will serve me well for months and years to come. An important reminder to all of us: getting stronger is great. But, if you sacrifice form on the way to get there, don’t be surprised if you wind up injured. And if you do, use that time to your advantage – you won’t be sorry you did!