A Tale of Two Opens

Well, another Cimage1 (3)rossFit Open is behind us. And, as I alluded to last week, I’m not entirely sorry to see it end. The Open is super-great, I think it’s really cool, and I love how it brings together the CrossFit community from all over the world. I’m definitely not sorry I did it.

But, much like last year, I was ready for it to come to a close. I won’t miss all the mind games, messing around with scheduling, picking and choosing movements to do or avoid based on what had or hadn’t come up. I’m looking forward to settling back into routine, starting a new lifting program, and focusing on other goals besides my standing on the leaderboard.

So, as promised last week, here is my Open summary post. The cool thing about not only participating in the Open two years ago but also blogging about it is that in addition to my scores and recollections, I have an actual written record to go on from one year to another. As I was writing all of my “16 on” series this year, I looked back on what I posted a year ago, and thought it would be cool to reflect back on my first two CrossFit Opens, to see what has changed, how I’ve grown, and what’s stayed the same.IMG_5306

Comparison number 1 is the first pair of pictures: me during an Open
WOD in 2015 and then during 16.2 this year (please ignore the horrible form on the clean/
give me some grace as it was during the last 10 seconds of the WOD. Also, how awesome is that pain face?).

Related to that is another comparison photo: On top my hand, casualty of T2B from 15.1 (and another T2B WOD the day before), bottom is this year, Easter Sunday, the day after completing the Open.

Why the comparison you ask? It’s not to say I ripped last year and not this year (although that’s great and true). It’s not to show off my Easter nails (although if you know me the fact that I painted my own nails and it doesn’t look like a 5 year-old did it is quite an accomplishment). It’s not a promo for Starbucks’ caramelized honey latte (pretty tasty though). Look at the ring. Same one in both photos. Index finger in 2015, and now it’s on the middle finger. Basically, it was getting too loose and I now have to wear it on a whole other finger!!! I’ll spare you body transformation details (read about it here if you haven’t) but it’s good to have tangible reminders of just far you’ve come, especially when it’s not new or fresh anymore.

And on the T2B front, I’d say that is one area where I’ve progressed SO MUCH from 2015 to 2016. I still can’t kip them (oh, to be able to kip things efficiently….). But, just think on this: 15.1 was a 9 minute AMRAP of 15 T2B, 10 deadlifts and 5 snatches. My score was 37. Meaning I did 22 T2B total, and if I had to guess, I’d say that was about 7 minutes of the whole workout.

This year: 16.2 was the whole T2B, DU, squat clean ladder. I almost made it past the first round, with a score of 87 I was just 3 cleans short (I still am hungry to re-do that one). But in that 4 minutes, I got through 25 T2B, 50 DU and 12 cleans. Wow. Just reading that comparison is a huge perspective-getter for me. I all-too-easily get down on myself and frustrated with what I perceive as lack of progress (especially when it comes to gymnastics movements). But when I see it right there in black and white, it’s hard to deny – I have come a long way.

Attitude is another thing that was different this year. I’d say that going into the Open this year, I actually felt a bit more nervous and anxious. It was because in 2015, it was my first Open and I had nothing to compare it to. This year, going in, I knew how hard I’d worked in the last year, I knew how I’d done a year ago, and I knew that I wanted to do better.

I think I’ve shared before my “CrossFit Philosophy: ” Assume that you suck at everything, and when you don’t, it’s a nice surprise. And I think that I’m just not used to being good at things, so when I have expectations, I stress myself out (I have no idea if that makes any sense). I’d rather go in with expectations low and surprise myself, than to get my hopes up and be disappointed.

So, going in, I got all psyched up, but once the Open started, I would say that overall I felt much more chill than last year. When I didn’t get a C2B during 16.1, yeah sure I was disappointed. But I didn’t quite plunge to the same depths as after failing to get a pull-up during 15.2 last year. There were a lot of things I wish I could have done better or differently, or made more progress in a year. But, at the end of the day, just as my 15.2 post was entitled: We’re doing this for fun.

image2 (2)

I LOVE this picture that my amazingly talented CrossFit friend Matt captured during the Open (week of 16.4 I believe). We’ll call it “Keep Calm, it’s just the Open. 1. Because it proves not all of my “Open faces” are terrifying (see 16.2 face above). 2. Because it was totally spontaneous and just captures the feeling of joy I have doing something I love with some of the most awesome people I know.

That doesn’t mean I have to lie or pretend I am always 100% satisfied with my performance. It just means that at the end of the day, I am getting better at shaking it off and moving on. With greater time spent in any sport comes greater perspective and maturity as an athlete. And, although I did ride the emotional highs and lows of the Open rollercoaster, I think this year I did a better job of remembering that age-old adage: Keep Calm, it’s just the Open.

Preparation-wise, I’d say the 2 months of Open Prep I did paid off in some regards. Gymnastics is still a glaring weakness (actual words of my coach – we are obviously now beyond the point of him trying to make me feel good when we are evaluating performance and goal-setting). I did a lot of work on HSPUs and C2B pull-ups, and yes, I’m disappointed that I didn’t do either one of them in the Open this year.

But gas tank-wise, I’d say the Open prep I did was really helpful. I got used to doing the “staple Open movements” (think rowing, thrusters, box jumps (although they never showed up), DUs, oly lifts, wall balls, burpees) under fatigue. So when they came up in the Open, it seemed almost like another day of training.

I also learned (again) that I am somewhat of a CrossFit anomaly in that I secretly love all those long, supposedly soul-crushing WODs that everyone else hates (read rowing/thrusters in 15.5 and thrusters/burpees in 16.5). I have great pacing ability, a pretty decent gas tank, a love for long workouts/a good grind, and enjoy WODS that are low skill, just requiring grit, mental toughness and repetitive movements. Both after 15.5 and 16.5, I felt like, what was the big deal? That’s what all the fuss was about?

One cool thing about 2016 vs. 2015 is that I submitted 5 scores RX this year. Granted, some were pretty low/I did the scaled version to get a workout in after submitting my RX score, but still, it is kind of neat to say I did the whole Open RX (although I still struggle with the whole RX vs scaling on some weeks and whether it’s in the “spirit of the Open” (whatever that means)…guess it just depends on your goals).

I have also learned, through 2 Opens, that progress, for me, is slow, but it is there. I have yet to get “my first ____________” during the Open, last year or this year (True, 15.1 was my first time RXing an entire T2B WOD, but not my actual first T2B). No C2B pull-up, handstand push-up, muscle-up (bar or otherwise) happened for me. And if I spend a lot of time thinking about it, I can get pretty upset (which is why I try not to).

That’s also why I posted a shout-out on Facebook after 16.3 to everyone who DIDN’T get their first bar muscle-up. I think it’s so cool all the people who did, and how the Open pushes people and all that, and I’m not trying to take anything away from them. But, reality is, it’s just not going to happen for a lot of us. And if you make the Open all about those elusive, magical moments that may or may not happen, you can set yourself up for disappointment (need I remind you of post 15.2 caverns of despair?).

If you’re showing up and doing the Open workouts each week, you win. If you’re working hard, chipping away at weaknesses, and grinding day in and day out no matter what season it is, that is the big victory. Don’t let 5 WODs and your ability (or lack thereof) define you.

 

Thanks to all who made this Open possible:

Dave Castro for your crazy Open announcement antics and the fodder it provided amongst CrossFit friends and on social media (I’m just going to hold back my opinion for now).

All those CrossFit friends: for the great Thursday night text conversations, cheers and camaraderie at the Saturday Open parties, and just generally being the awesome people that you are.

CrossFit friend Matt who took all the awesome Open photos at our gym this year, capturing my crazy pain and insanely happy faces, as well as designing some kick-a** t-shirts for our team.

CrossFit friend Kellee who forced/encouraged me to write Open update posts again this year when I didn’t think that I would.

CrossFit friend Kim for all the words of encouragement, being a (loving and honest) form judge, and all those post-WOD food and drink celebrations (which were much-needed).

All the coaches at Alchemy. Duncan for kicking my butt with 2 months of Open prep and unfailing honesty when it comes to assessing where I’m at. Broder for never letting me settle for less than I’m capable of (especially when it comes to kettlebells). Craig for encouragement/always making me laugh/reminding me to pull up my pants during 16.2 ;). Alex for your awesome countdown/pacing during 16.4. And Janet for captaining our awesome team (we should’ve won!) and great strategy advice each week.

So, with that, Open 2016 is officially a wrap. I made it through, with triumph and disappointment and a few bumps in the road, but ultimately I survived to WOD another day.

I’m ready to tackle a new lifting program starting this week and do a partner comp with  Kim at the end of the month (stay tuned for updates on both), and just generally shake off the Open crazies and get back to normal.

CrossFit Open, I’ll see you in 2017. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a heavy barbell I want to get back to and some gymnastics work to do.

 

 

Postpartum Crossfit

Hey friends. The boys are 7 months old now and I realize that I haven’t posted in a while (thank you Hilary for carrying this blog!). There have been some persistent requests for a ‘Postpartum Post’ and I haven’t felt ready to post until now. So here’s my last 7 months, in a nutshell. I’ll touch on PP recovery, life with new twins, postpartum depression, sleep deprivation, breastfeeding, athletic ability and my efforts to regain my fitness. If you’re a pregnant athlete, trying, or have a new hatchling at home, I hope some of my learnings will help you through the rough patches or maybe help you feel understood. So here it is, in raw honesty, from one mother to another.

jdc

The Realities of Parenthood 

Excelling in a high performance sport requires surprisingly few components. Dedication, drive/willpower, time, adequate rest and recovery, and proper nutrition/caloric intake… okay and maybe a bit of talent. This formula was always simple for me throughout my life: Food + Rest + Time + Passion/Hard Work = Success and Achievement  …Simple enough, right?

When I found out that my husband and I were expecting twins, I figured I would just add in ‘+ adorable twins’ somewhere in my equation and it would still be hunky dorey. We’ve all heard of supermoms- they exist, right? Reality hit hard last August. I crossfitted throughout pregnancy until 7months when I was just too large to be proficiently and comfortably mobile. I had had a great pregnancy and felt fantastic.

My sons were born at 34w3d, six weeks early, presumably due to a lack of space. Both were born very healthy with APGARS of 9 and 10, they had to stay in the NICU for 5 weeks until they were big enough to feed on their own.These weeks were challenging to say the least but my husband and I left the hospital with our boys ready to take on the world. Life was easy and thrilling. They fed every 3 hours and slept in between. I could do things. I had time. The newness of parenthood was exhilarating and I started back at the gym when they were 6 weeks old. I would bring the boys in their stroller and while they slept I would work out. I took things slow at first and really enjoyed the Bootcamp classes my gym offered. They are programed in 1 minute stations so I could push myself as hard as I wanted to depending on how I was feeling that day. I was tired, and adjusting to motherhood and sleeping in 2.5 hour intervals, but with the boys sleeping in between their feeds, I was guaranteed this 2.5 hours of rest around the clock. Being a mother was so amazing, and I cherished my new sons immensely but I was also determined not to toss out my passions and interests for the job title of Mother. Don’t get me wrong my kids definitely came first, but I was also determined to be an awesome wife to my husband and also take time to look after myself!

Then they woke up (“It’s aliiiive!”). Hello 4 months! Around month 4 the boys started to spend more time awake during their feedings. They were now awake during the day and during the night. My 2.5 hours of rest between feeds became 2 hours, then 1 hour, then 15 minutes. If one boy was awake, the other was asleep. They seemed to tag team screaming matches, and my husband and I even joked that there seemed to be a buzzer in their nursery that went off if one of our heads hit a pillow. It was constant. I became a breastfeeding zombie. All I thought about was sleep, and my immediate yearning and desperate desire for some of it, just a little bit, anything really, took over my consciousness. My need for sleep became a powerful all consuming obsession. I started to analyze every movement I took. Could I save some energy by only eating while laying down? How could I minimize my walking steps? I read countless books on twins and scheduling. How to keep them on the same schedule, when they would start syncing more, when I could expect the fabled ‘sleeping through the night’.  Would or could the demands of breastfeeding actually kill me? I dropped off the map. I turned my phone off. Friends started to comment that I was a ‘hermit’. They didn’t understand. I was in survival mode. I took my earplugs out only to shower and to sleep. The few days that I felt like trying to go out with the boys I went to the grocery store. I quickly came to feel like a walking freak show. It seemed that everyone walking by me while I pushed my double stroller and pulled a cart had something nasty to say: ‘Oh double trouble!’, or ‘You’ve really got your hands full! I don’t envy you!’ or (my favorite) ‘Twins!? My condolences’. I started to hate everybody. It had taken me 2 hours to get the boys ready, loaded and into the grocery store. I felt a bit of accomplishment… I was doing something! Only to be heckled by strangers, stared at or harassed. This all sounds dramatic, but I assure you I’m serious. December and January were months I’d like to forget and I now understand why sleep deprivation is used for torture.

During this time I obviously did not go to the gym. I vividly remember my last visit around month 3.5. I had been ‘back’ for about a month and a half and I was desperately trying to do a set of thrusters during a WOD when I simply had to stop and basically collapsed on the floor. The realization that my body was not physically able to exert any more energy was crushing for my psyche. I had slept 3 hours total the night before and I felt that I had sacrificed so much becoming a mother that all I wanted was one hour away from the house, doing something for me and now it seemed impossible. I craved that endorphin rush after a great WOD, and the alertness I once felt at the gym. I needed something positive to motivate me and was truly crushed with the inconvenient truth of what was to come. My husband and I were running on all cylinders and there was no time or energy left for anything other than breastfeeding and caring for our two babies.

I think it was late December when I started to loose my milk. Looking back, I realize it was because I was eating so poorly and in such a sleep deprived state that I had completely lost my appetite. At the time I felt like it must have been some sort of cruel joke. I didn’t care about eating, I didn’t care about bathing, or changing my clothes or anything other than making it through the day and feeding my precious little boys. When my milk supply started to go, I truly hit an all time low. I was trying my very best, and now I couldn’t even feed my hungry babies. I went to see the doctor. My husband was concerned I was suffering from Postpartum depression and we needed some advice. I actually started to believe that my sleep deprivation would kill me. There were times that my husband would have to hold me up because I was too weak to stand. I constantly walked into doorways and felt like I was drifting. I dreaded when he went to work for his 24 hour shifts because it meant I was alone. Alone with two demanding boys without a second to sit down. If they did sleep I was busy resetting the house for their next wake. His parents helped out as much as possible, but I still had to feed every 3 hours. I was determined to breastfeed and really did not want to resort to formula. ‘I could do it!’, I thought. Even if it killed me, I wanted to keep trying.

The doctor explained that sometimes PPD leads to the sleep deprivation, and sometimes its the sleep deprivation that leads to PPD. I explained my feelings and symptoms and he felt that I had started down the later path. We agreed to meet weekly to discuss how I was doing, and I reluctantly agreed to try supplementing formula for one night feed. My husband and I made a more concrete plan with his parents and we all took turns for the next 4 weeks during the days to reduce the workload. My husband also started pre-cooking hearty meals that we froze so that I could just pop them in the microwave and eat when I had time. I became proficient at breastfeeding and eating. Actually, I became proficient with breastfeeding while doing anything. Walking, cleaning, laundry, peeing, brushing my teeth. The formula helped me regain a bit of my milk supply, and I was pumping in between feedings to try and stimulate more production. In the end my milk came back, but it was extremely tough. Looking back, I’m so glad I stuck with it.

Nearing the end of January, my husband and I were on a serious schedule with the boys. Every minute was analyzed and planned. With twins, you truly don’t have the luxury of ‘on demand’ feeding or sleeping. If there’s no schedule, there’s no predictability. The boys started to sync and were sleeping and eating at the same times. We had it down to a very fine art. We started to sleep more. FOUR HOURS! What a glorious thing. I remember sleeping for four hours in a row one day and feeling like a million bucks.

Fast forward to today. Mid-March and although the boys don’t sleep through the night (I’ve yet to actually meet these fabled children who do by the way), they do sleep long stretches at night. They go to bed around 8pm, wake at 2am to feed, and then 6:30am to feed and wake up for the day. They nap for one hour at 10:00am, and two hours between 1:00-3:00pm. We have an awesome schedule and we are enjoying life again. I’ve heard and read that with twins, people say that ‘the clouds part at around 6-7 months’. I think 7 months was our lucky number, and I’m so glad for it. My family is happy and healthy and I look forward to each new day.

The Inconvenient Truth

I started back seriously at the gym about a month ago. 3-4 days a week was my goal; Get out and move. It’s been a whole new experience returning as a mother. I’ve learned a lot about my body and the demands of crossfit. Hopefully some of my hard won battles can save you some toil…

It was obvious after my twins were born that my equation was now drastically altered and needed some serious revisions.  Food + Rest + Time + Passion/Hard Work = Success. If I wanted to Crossfit, I’d have to increase my food intake, ensure I was resting (ha), and set aside enough time to warm up, WOD and cool down properly. All these things were basics, but seemed a feat of strength in themselves! Throw the demands of breastfeeding in the mix and I seriously had to reconsider what I was doing. Breastfeeding requires an exorbitant amount of energy. Breastfeeding twins requires an outrageous amount of energy, especially because I’m naturally a lean person. I’m talking requirements of more than 3000- 4000 calories daily while working out. I’ve had to do some research on the feasibility of building muscle mass while breastfeeding. Are these two activities just incompatible? If going to the gym was going to reduce my milk supply, I knew I wouldn’t chance it. Feeding my kids is obviously more important than my fitness goals.

New Body, Old Tricks (and it ain’t like riding a bike)

It has taken me a while to accept that I’ve returned to the gym in a different body than I left. A different body with different abilities and capabilities. I’ve had to learn some serious self compassion, patience and hardest of all, I’ve learned to toss out old PRs, and expectations and replace them for new and more realistic goals (and not secretly still yearn for my old PRs). I guess I somehow expected to walk back into the gym and take off where I left off. The thing is, pregnancy changes your body- a lot. Everyone’s body changes differently and I’m no biologist by any means, so all I can tell you for sure is how it changed mine. I’m not quite sure where to start because it literally feels like I’m in a completely different shell, but I suppose I could start with my skeleton. Everything stretched wider, splayed and stayed wider after birth. My hips are two inches wider to be exact (totally killing my once fab summer wardrobe btw), and my ribs are almost three inches wider. I’ve read that this is because the ligaments that hold everything together, especially the pelvis stretch and relax to prepare for childbirth due to the hormone relaxin. During the later months in pregnancy, my abdominal tendons stretched and separated, this is called Diastasis Recti and is very common. If I do a crunch, I can stick two fingers in between my abdominal muscles- yeah, it’s weird. Basically it feels as though the ligaments and muscles in my abdominal wall that used to hold in my guts don’t do their job anymore. My guts feel ‘loose’ if that makes any sense. With my coaches guidance, I’ve been working on strengthening my core and regaining much of the stability that I lost… although I can tell you I still have a ways to go to rocking a six pack… I’ve got a two-pack at the moment. If you’re interested, there’s a great article on abdominal health postpartum here:  http://www.befitmom.com/postnatal.php . In addition to my muscular and skeletal changes, I’ve also started to sprout grey hair (…I’m 26), I’ve noticed wrinkles starting to form (gah!), and I just generally feel ‘older’. It’s hard to describe but I truly feel that pregnancy ages you. You have to give a bit of yourself up to receive the most beautiful gift of all! (All wrinkles in the world are totally worth it for my boys 🙂 ).

So what do these changes mean? Well, they mean that my ‘old tricks’ don’t come as easy as they used to. I have to work harder to achieve goals. My body doesn’t tone as quickly, recovery is much slower and that building muscle is more challenging than before. It means that I’m back to basics. I have an extremely weak core, and even weaker noodle legs. Luckily carrying around two growing boys has helped my wrist, grip and forearm strength bounce back which is awesome. I figure at this rate, I’ll basically look like Popeye in a year if nothing else changes. Whatever I’ll take it.

Oh right, boobs. I have those now. Although I’m now proficient at C2B pullups (hey, an extra couple of inches does wonders), all that milk production is really making it difficult for me to make serious gains. Yeah, we are back to that old conundrum of the incompatibility of gaining muscle mass while breastfeeding. Turns out you can build muscle, it’s just very difficult to do and you have to eat A LOT. My twins feed every three hours, and so do I. I am constantly eating. I wake up at 5am to eat, and then go back to sleep for an hour before the boys wake up. I eat dinner with my husband, fill my plate with more food than he does, and STILL COOK AND EAT A FULL MEAT LASAGNA TO MYSELF afterwards. I drink (get this) 12+ litres of chocolate milk a week. Not. Even. Joking. Costco is a magical place for me. So much meat and milk. Even with all this intake, it’s still difficult for me to build mass. I weigh about 6 lbs more than I did before I got pregnant, but I realize that my body needs this bodyfat store for nursing. I will add that I’m fairly certain that if I got more sleep, I wouldn’t have to eat as much. My husband and I have a tendency to replace missed sleep with food. Tired? Go drink a litre of chocolate milk. That’ll keep ya goin’ for at least another two hours.

My lifts are slowly recovering and I’m taking lifting very slowly. I’m not chasing any numbers, I’m just working on regaining my overall strength and stability. My main focus is bodyweight movements. My goals include: getting my strict pullups back, a 4:45 Baseline WOD (I’m at about 6:00 right now… damn push ups), and a muscle up by July 1. I’m currently competing in the Open for fun and have a competition lined up for this summer. 🙂 Going back to basics has been a blessing as I’ve been able to work on my technique and concentrate on form. Learned skills like HSPU are coming back now, but my strength and overall cardio/conditioning still needs a bit of work!

A Change in Perspective

The biggest change postpartum by far has been mentally and emotionally. The competitive aspect of Crossfit has taken a back seat to my desire to maintain a healthy and active lifestyle. The sport has shifted from my passion, to a rung in the ladder of my wellbeing. My children and husband take the front seat in my life now, but Crossfit is still an investment in myself- for my continued health. I want to stay healthy and fit for my children and my husband. Plus being active feels pretty great. I’ve learned not to compare myself to others at the gym. They don’t necessarily have the same commitments that I do and can afford to maybe spend a bit more time at the gym and take on more demanding goals. My priorities have changed and so have my motivations. I’ve been really lucky to find Crossfit, and become a mother to two little dudes. I hope to continue to enjoy my time at the gym and reap the benefits of a healthy and active lifestyle. xo Jess

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Special Thanks:  I wanted to give a special shout out to my amazing husband (who doesn’t even read this blog I’m pretty sure). You are the most incredible person I know.

Also special thanks to my friends at the gym, Alchemy Crossfit and the coaches there that have helped me through some of the most challenging months of my life. Sport is my therapy and you guys are my therapists. Thanks to Duncan, Broder, Craig and Janet for always making me feel empowered, motivated and making Crossfit seem possible again. Without you I would still have a one-pack. 😉

Further Reading:

http://games.crossfit.com/article/mother-first-athlete-second-tanya-wagner

http://kellymom.com/tandem-faq/04momnutrition/

http://www.healthline.com/health/pregnancy/body-changes-infographic

 

And suddenly, it’s the Open.

Well Hello there.

Sometimes, life gets busy. Sometimes you write a post or two for 2016, promise to come back and share about goals for 2016, then you’re packing, moving, writing report cards, trying to keep up with life, and all of a sudden it’s the week before the 2016 CrossFit Open and you haven’t written that post (that’s what happened to me, Hilary, if you couldn’t guess…).

Anyway, I’m still alive, still Crossfitting, Jess is still killing it as a mom to twins…just haven’t exactly been blogging much lately. But no matter. I still have goals to share, the Open to do (eek!…more on that in a minute), and life to catch up on.

So…about those goals. I’ve learned over my CrossFit career (going on 2.5 years now) that goals are useful and great to work towards, but I have to be careful. I’m all about the whole SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, results-focused, time-bound) goals thing, but only to a point. It’s important to give yourself deadlines, and it’s ok to fail to meet them. BUT I have also learned about myself (from experience) that sometimes, if I focus TOO much on a goal, I can either end up injured or really really disappointed.

With that in mind, I came up with a list, and gave it to my coach back in January, that had a couple of sections.

  • Short Term
  • Keep working on…
  • Sometime in 2016…

So, short term I requested:

  • Prep for the Open (within my own programming). And, boy oh boy has he delivered on that one. I’ve said to several friends – I’ll either kill the Open or be dead by then!
  • A combination of things that were in the last two programs I worked on (heavy lifts with more accessory and tempo work)

Keep working on… (no specific timeline here):

  • Getting lats that work (it’s a never-ending quest!)
  • Correcting bad habits to fix lifts
  • Pistols
  • HSPUs

Sometime in 2016 (again no specific timeline):

  • Compete in an individual competition (I’ve only ever done team ones)
  • Handstand walk
  • Deadlift 300 pounds
  • Complete the old goal of RX Fran

So…a few words on the goals and then we’ll move on to the Open.

Lats: The longer I CrossFit, the more I want them. And the more I realize that they are holding me back in EVERYTHING (ok, not everything, but it sure seems that way sometimes), not just pull-ups. Bottom of my clean and snatch? Gotta engage those lats. Rounding out when deadlifts get heavy? Lats again. Oh, and if I engaged my lats, kipping my T2B could actually be a thing.

So I am forever doing accessory work and activation drills in addition to all the pull-up stuff I’m always working on (nearly one year later, I’m still not beyond one strict pull-up in a row). Oh lats, why do you elude me so?

As for fixing bad habits, I’m feeling stalled out on a lot of my lifts. And it’s not because I’m  not stronger. It’s all those little things I’m doing wrong, all the poor habits I’ve kept up over 2 and a half years of Crossfit. So, slowly but surely, I’m trying to break myself of them, fix my form, and hopefully, see my numbers go up.

Pistols and HSPUs: I’m just tired of not being able to do them. Once again, it’s not a strength thing. HSPUs I think are a lot about positioning and learning the movement. Pistols are about mastering control at the bottom. I’ve been doing some accessory work for both, so we’ll see how it comes along. right now I’m feeling somewhat frustrated, especially with the HSPU. Progress, as ever, is slow.

Competing in an individual competition scares me, which is part of why I want to do it. I have loved all of the partner/team competitions I’ve done, but I think I’m finally ready to try a competition on my own. Just to push myself to my limits, outside of my comfort zone, and know that at the end of the day, it’s just me and what I can do. I didn’t want to pick a deadline for this one because it’s hard to know when/where the right comp will come up.

Handstand walk: I’ve been working towards freestanding handstands for awhile now, and I’m getting close. It’s another thing I’m just chipping away at. I don’t desperately need to HS walk (it’s not like I’m headed for regionals, and it doesn’t exactly come up in WODs all that often)…it’s just another thing I want to be able to do.

The last two goals are leftover from last year: Deadlifting 300 pounds and RX Fran. I’m hoping the goal of fixing bad habits helps my DL dreams come true. I PR’ed in January at 285, and tried 300 a couple times. I know I’m close. I’ve just gotta fix all those nagging issues, and I’ve got this.

RX Fran. I am finally at the point where I actually believe I can do it (I didn’t for the longest time). If you told me tomorrow that I had to do an RX Fran, I could. It would be painfully slow, but I could finish. But my coach and I have agreed that it’s better to wait until I’m more competent at kipping to pull it off. The last thing I want to do is to do Fran for the sake of it and end up hurting myself.

So those are my 2016 goals in a nutshell. Of course, there are tons more numbers I want to hit, and things I want to accomplish. I could easily make a list twice as long. But you have to start somewhere, so that’s where I’m going for now.

Now, a few words on the Open…

As previously mentioned, I requested Open Prep from my coach. It’s consisted of little WODs and tests like 50 wall balls/box jumps/burpee box jumps for time…or 4 minutes max burpees/wall balls/etc. The WODs I’ve been doing have been designed to tire me out but try to keep good form. To say they’ve been kicking my butt is an understatement. I’ve also had a ton of gymnastics work (hello, my perennial weakness).

My coach told me he thought a C2B pull-up and possibly even a HSPU during the Open were possible. I felt like he was crazy for saying that. But I also thought he was crazy last year when he had me re-testing strict pull-ups every week, then I got my first one…so who knows? C2B feels possible, maybe…but the HSPU seem illusive.

So how am I feeling going into my second CrossFit Open? I’d be lying if I said totally awesome. I’ve had some max lift days not go great. And my DUs feel like they’re all over the place. And I honestly just wish I was better at a lot of things.

I think part of the problem is my CrossFit philosophy (I should work on changing that this year): Assume that you suck at everything and then it’s a nice surprise when you don’t. This is honestly how I feel. The problem now though, is that I don’t suck at everything. I work my butt off every day.

Going into something feeling like I might actually succeed or have a shot is a foreign feeling to me. And it’s scary. It’s scarier for me to think I’m good at something, because I’ve always just hidden behind the excuse of “I can’t.” Plus I think the fact that it’s my second Open, and I know how hard I’ve worked and how far I’ve come, I’m putting a lot more pressure on myself. Pressure to beat myself, to be better than last year.

This is when I have to chill, slow down, and remind myself of one of the most important lessons learned last year during the Open: we’re doing this for fun. I remind myself of this often, not just during Open season. CrossFit is a hobby, as such, it should be something enjoyable.

Also, deep breath, relax. You’ve got this. You’ve put in the hard work. Shake off the bad days. Don’t let them define you. Because, at the end of the day, Open WODs are just another workout.

So, CrossFit Open 2016: You simultaneously excite, inspire, and terrify me. Whether or not I’m ready, here you are.

Given my current posting track record, don’t expect the weekly check-ins like last year. But I will pop in now and then to chat about how things are going. And one way or another, we’ll all crush our goals and get through the Open together. And life will go on, C2B, HSPU, or not. We will all live to CrossFit another day.

 

 

 

As Seen in 2016

As of this post, we are 11 days into the New Year. As promised, I will share my 2016 goals with you soon…but not today. In only a week and a half, there’s already been lessons learned, cool stuff happening, and reflections made. Enough to merit a post of their own. So enjoy my New Year’s revelations (not to be confused with resolutions) and I’ll be back with goals in the weeks ahead.

So, 2016 started on a high note for me…by RX’ing our gym’s baseline WOD (one of Jess’s favs – 500 M row, 40 squats, 30 sit-ups, 20 push-ups, 10 pull-ups) for the first time ever! 🙂 They always host a charity team workout New Year’s Day to raise money for a local charity for at-risk youth. This year the first part of the WOD was a relay of the baseline.

I did baseline on my very first day ever back in September 2013, and have done it a few times since, but not lately, and certainly not since my push-ups have gotten so good or I’ve been able to bust out a few kipping pull-ups. I looked a the clock when it was my turn to go so I’d have an idea of my time, then I went for it. The pull-ups were mostly singles, and not beautiful by any stretch, but hey, I got it done. Better still were the high fives I got from all the coaches and then the applause from everyone when the workout was done. I was so pumped. Talk about starting the year with a bang!

Then, I had to go back and re-read this post I wrote a year ago and remind myself to chill and not be so hard on myself. An amazing 2015 ended not so amazingly with a pretty serious bout of Christmas Day stomach flu. After being so sick, I had to take several days off of the gym because I was so weak and depleted. Then, the week after Christmas, I decided to eat double because I had been sick and could eat barely anything for a few days and missed out on some tasty Christmas eats.

Hmmm…almost a week of being sick, then a week of eating whatever the heck I wanted. You can probably guess how the first week back after that felt. Ugh. The thing was, I wasn’t even doing all that terribly at everything. I managed to get one of the top scores for our contest of the month (because it involved KB swings. Obvi.) And on a shoulders to overhead (my fav) and burpee workout, I think I was one of the top scores of the day. I just got myself mentally in a pretty bad place.

Note to self (and readers): Repeating “sucky suck suck” about yourself and your WODs over and over again in your head doesn’t help. At all. To cap it off, I gained back the weight I had lost from being sick and then some. Ugh. Again.

But this is where being a person who is constantly (some might say obsessively) logging WODs and weight comes in handy and really helps regain perspective. Yes. Maybe I overdid it and packed on a few pounds. But I looked back and my heavier post-holiday self is still 12 pounds lighter than last year’s version. It will come off.

And, newsflash: I don’t suck at everything. Even a week of less-than-amazing feeling WODs are still miles ahead of where I came from, or from the people who aren’t doing anything at all. And after Saturday’s partner WOD where I pushed it real good and carried our team at the end (overhead barbell holds while my partner struggled with snatches), I finally was like, “Oh yeah. I love this feeling. And I don’t suck at CrossFit.”

On a related note, it took my week-long New Year’s funk to make me realize again why I CrossFit and choose to eat a healthy diet. It’s not because I hate myself. It’s not a punishment. It’s not because I should. It’s not to lose weight or look a certain way. It’s because I really like myself. It’s because it’s fun. It’s because it’s where my friends are at. It’s because I love the feeling of working harder than I ever thought possible, then seeing it pay off and amazing myself. It’s because when I eat a healthy diet, I feel fueled and nourished and my body can do incredible things.

Oh, and there’s the fact that the Open is a little over 6 weeks away. Gulp. How the heck did that come up so quickly? Here we go again… In addition to the fact that our gym is programming a plethora of gas tank-depleting WODs to gear up for it, I also made the mistake of asking my coach to include Open prep for me in addition to my lifting program. Never again. If you read in a year from now that I plan on asking for Open prep, please reach out and stop me (Kidding. Sort of).

I haven’t decided yet if I’ll be amazing at the Open or be dead by then. One week in, it’s too early to tell. These Open prep mini WODs are TERRIBLE! Example: max set of back squats at 70% (I got to 20 reps). Rest a minute then 150 double unders for time. Slowest double unders of life!!!! Mind you, as seen above, I wasn’t feeling amazing last week. So I’m hoping at least things will get a little better, but I’m anticipating a kind of butt-kicking suckfest (in the best possible way) for the next 6 weeks. Hopefully it pays off.

In case you didn’t know, Jess is kind of a CrossFit celeb now. Have you seen this video about the Open? Go to 2:16 and see her big feature.

I also received one of my favourite pieces of gym feedback ever last week: I was gave a friend advice on double unders (practice a little bit every day, and try at first doing two singles skips, one DU, 2 skips, 1 DU…). A few days later he came up to me, said he tried it, and got the most DU he ever had! Hearing that totally made my day (thanks Matt- and way to go). Moments like that are one of the best parts of CrossFit, and great reminders that there’s more to success and victory than just hitting PRs all the time.

And, last but not least, in the first week and a half of 2016, I’ve been reminded anew of how awesome my gym and the people that make up our community are. I’m moving in a few weeks, and gym friends have been great about offering me boxes, a leather chair; and of course, help with the move. There was also last weekend’s fantastically fun holiday party at a local ping pong bar co-owned by one of our members. I take all my gym friendships for granted until I mention the party to a coworker and get asked “Your gym is having a Christmas party?” Oh yeah, I guess amazing friendships and great parties are not part of the typical gym experience. I can’t say it enough: love my CrossFit family.

Phew! Writing all that, it’s been a busy start to the year, and quite the emotional rollercoaster. I’ve run the gamut from huge Crossfit victories to celebrations to suckfests – and it’s only been 11 days! At this rate, 2016 is going to be quite the year – stay tuned!

2015: What a Year it’s Been!

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My Christmas present to my gym: Gingerbread Gym, complete with coaches to scale.

As I type this, it’s the last day of the year and I’m staring 2016 in the face. It seems like just yesterday I was sharing my goals with you for the year, and now it’s over.

Since I shared goals with you for the year, I think it’s only fair to share with you how I did. But, I’m also going to give you a bit of a year in review in my CrossFit life.

Basically, I met some goals and others I didn’t. Would I have liked to have met all of them? You bet. But you know what, I’m not particularly sad/upset/depressed about the ones I didn’t meet. Over the past year, I’ve come to see that goals are great to guide you. They give you vision and something to work towards. But, in CrossFit and in life, there is life beyond your goals.

Life happens, you run into setbacks, and some goals don’t get met. But, at the same time, sometimes there are unexpected victories. Sometimes success comes seemingly out of nowhere (but it’s actually the result of months of hard work). Just yesterday, my coach reminded me again how important the little things are. Which is an important perspective, especially when it seems like months are going by with no PRs. If you keep grinding away, working on the little things, you WILL see results.

That being said, let’s revisit the goals and talk about how things went…

  • Unassisted strict pull-up (hopefully in time for the Open!)
  • Pistol squats
    • Nope. But, to be fair, I didn’t work on them consistently all year – off and on again, but they were definitely back burner for a while. I’ve been back at it for the last couple weeks, and I think (and others have told me) I might be close.
  • Deadlift 300 pounds (currently at 270)
    • No. I actually haven’t retested my 1RM in months, but not there yet. I really think that I just need to clean up technique, and actively engage my lats, and I’ll have this. No doubt I’m strong but I need to fix some things. I can get this one in 2016.
  • Clean and Jerk 150 pounds (currently 135)
    • So close! I’ve gotten my C&J to 145, and I’ve cleaned 157, but the 150 C&J hasn’t happened – yet. Although I have to say, I’m really happy with the progress I made on my clean in the fall. It went up by a lot, and I’m way more comfortable in the squat clean now, which is huge for me, considering I always used to freak out and power clean when it got heavy.
  • Snatch 100 pounds (currently 90)
    • Yes! I actually got this one before the end of January in competition. And then I was stuck for most of the year…but thankfully PR’ed again (finally) in November. I still feel like if I can fix a few problems, I am on the verge of a breakthrough. My OH squat has gone way up, and other things have gotten a lot better. It’s not strength that’s holding me back (noticing a theme here…?).
  • Get better at tracking how I’m feeling after WODs. I’m really good at writing down my workouts every day, but I want to pay attention to how certain things feel so I can focus on how nutrition/life outside the gym is affecting my performance.
    • Yes…sort of. I’ve been better at recording this, but not exactly at looking back over it and making changes accordingly. I do think I’m more aware though of how differently I can feel on different things, and how what I eat (or don’t eat) affects my WODs. I will continue to pay more attention in the year ahead.
  • As well, keep up with clean eating in order to drop a bit more weight to help make body weight movements (especially those pull-ups) easier (I hope to write about this part of my journey in a separate post soon).
    • Yeah! It’s still a journey, but I have achieved the weight I wanted to be at, and managed to more or less maintain it (give or take a few pounds) for about 6 months. It’s amazing how not only what, but how much you eat can make such a difference in your performance. Yes, I’ve lost weight, but it’s amazing how much my body has changed over the last year.

So…my goal accomplishments were a mixed bag for 2015, but I’m not upset. Because, in addition to all the stuff mentioned above, a few others things happened…

I competed in my first CrossFit Open. To say I had highs and lows would be an understatement. But at the end of it all, I was proud of myself for putting myself out there and giving it my all. Even though I was pretty tired of the Open by the end, I am glad I did it, and am looking forward to/ am completely terrified for the Open 2016.

Toes to bar have come soooo far. Open workout 15.1 was the first time I’d ever RX’ed a T2B WOD. Huge accomplishment, I was so proud. Even though in a 9 minute workout, I only completed 18 T2B total. During the last few weeks of 2016, I did three WODS which involved 50+ T2B. RX. Yeah. So there’s that. Gymnastics movement are a huge struggle for me (understatement of the century) so any success in this domain is pretty big for me.

I got injured. At the time, this was one of the hardest and scariest things that had happened in my short CrossFit career. I couldn’t do the WODs or lift the weights I wanted to. So I was forced to drop the weight, do a crap ton of mobility, avoid some of my favourite moments, and have a laser focus on form. It wasn’t sexy or exciting, and at times it was downright frustrating. And PRs? Forget about it.

But, at the end of the summer, I started feeling better. And all that hard work payed off – big time. First of all, I fixed my squat, a longstanding bastion of terrible form (I now joke that my old heavy backsquat was a really heavy good morning – that’s how far forward I folded). My squat form is now on point (give me a follow on instagram and scroll back through for a great side by side comparison). Fixing the form was great, but I also started adding some serious weight to my back squat, and over the course of the fall, I PR’ed my back squat by a total of 15 pounds. And that’s 15 pounds heavier than my old PR at terrible form. I feel really great about where my squat is at now, both in weight and form.

Oh, and speaking of PRs…since building back up to lifting heavy, the last few months of 2015 were PR city. The summer drought ended, and in the last few months, I have PR’ed my overhead squat, back squat, snatch, clean and jerk, clean, bench press, push press and strict press.

I’m not sharing these numbers with you to show off. More so just to show that hard work really does pay off. And the longer you stick with CrossFit, or any sport, you see that you go through seasons and phases. Summer was really hard. I didn’t PR for months. But I didn’t give up and walk away. I worked hard in a different way, and, once I was healed, that hard

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The first pull-up. Easily my favourite CrossFit moment of 2015.

work payed off big time.

And speaking of hard work, one other thing that has really come a long way in 2015 is my push-ups. I’ve been chipping away at them all year, and didn’t really realize until the last few months that they have gotten so. much. stronger. Push-ups don’t come easily to me (or to most girls), but they are much less of a weakness than they used to be.

There’s a lot more that happened in 2015 (competitions, Murph, 6 AM crew getting even more awesome) but this post is getting pretty lengthy and I don’t want you to think I’m just here to brag. I just want to share some perspective, and to remind all of us that even when it seems like we might have failed, or haven’t met our goals, there are so many other successes going on.

So here’s to another amazing year. Another year of showing up, even when I don’t feel like it. Another year of hard work. Another year of finding my passion and chasing my dreams. Another year of small victories, of success and failure. Another year of PRs (and likely several months without a single one). But, most importantly, another year doing what I love alongside some of the most amazing people I know.

Stay tuned for a post coming with 2016 goals. And keep on doing what YOU love. Whether or not you met your 2015 goals, I’m pretty sure you did something awesome this year.

Happy New Year!

Love Hilary ( on behalf of the Two Babes and Barbell)

The Post I’ve wanted to write since starting this Blog….

In case you missed it in last week’s post, I finally, after months of hard work, frustration, and tears, I achieved the dream: I got my strict pull-up. This was a moment I’d dreamed about almost since Day One of CrossFit. It’s something I worked on day in and day out for almost a year and a half. It’s something I wanted more than anything else, and something that seemed beyond my grasp more than once.

But I am nothing if not stubborn and determined not to give up (although I came close after 15.2). And on Friday, March 27, months of hard work and dedication came together and that first pull-up happened. pullupI promised you a post devoted to that glorious event, so here it is.

Background first: I set my sights on pull-ups almost from the get-go. I started CrossFit in September 2013. In October, I had my first one-on-one skills session (included with our membership at Alchemy). I said I wanted to work on getting pull-ups. It’s been so long now, that I can’t exactly remember what Coach Duncan said at the time. I think he told me that it wouldn’t be a quick process (we have joked several times over all these months that it’s a good thing I didn’t know at the time just how long the process would take). But he didn’t discourage me. He didn’t laugh at me. He just assessed where I was at, saw where I wanted to get, and came up with a plan to help me get there.

I started off working with 3 bands. You read that right. THREE. I had the double-whammy working against me of being heavier and lacking the necessary upper body strength. But I dutifully did my homework and worked on my pull-up program 3 days a week for months. Still no pull-up. I should add, throughout this process, that I had strict (pun somewhat intended) orders from Coach Duncan that I wasn’t allowed to kip pull-ups until I had the strength to do one strict (even though Jess has tried more than once to get me to do so).

Over the many months, there were many tweaks to my program. Somewhere during last summer we added in ring rows to work on developing strength at the bottom of the pull. Duncan reminded me not to cheat and swing with the bands, otherwise I wouldn’t be developing strength and wasn’t really doing myself any favours.

I re-tested my pull-ups several times, and had made some improvements, but it seemed like towards the end of the summer, things were stagnating. I was not where I wanted to be. Then, last fall, I was about to do my first competition. We knew pull-ups would make an appearance. So, Duncan said he would make an exception to his rule and teach me to kip for the competition.

One morning, we set to work on learning to kip those pull-ups. I should add that this latissimus-dorsiwas right after I had first successfully climbed the rope (after almost 6 months of work), so my strength was clearly coming along. With Duncan watching, I tried strict. Clearly no go. Then I tried getting my hips into it, to kip things. Nope. Then he took a video of my shoulders (I kid you not). Then we had somewhat of a lightbulb moment. I wasn’t using my lats. You know those giant muscles on your back (see illustration at right) that are the main ones involved in a pull-up? Nothing. Not activating. No wonder pull-ups seemed so hard!

This is where I got the nickname Lazy Lats, and a whole new set of pull-up homework: lat pull-downs. We literally looped a band over the pull-up rig, put a 15 pound bar through it, and had me sit down on a box underneath pulling the bar down. You have no idea how many times I had to explain to people what I was doing. I definitely looked a bit ridiculous, but I didn’t care. Like everything else Crossfit-related, I didn’t take myself too seriously, and chose to have a sense of humor about it. Plus, in the long run, I knew that this exercise would help out in isolating the muscles that were slacking off. I didn’t get a pull-up for that competition (which ended up being ok), but I felt encouraged that we knew what the problem was and were on the road to fixing it.

Over the fall, I also recruited more help for, as I called it “Team Lat Activation”: the two health professionals (one chiropractor, one massage therapist) that I see regularly for Active Release technique. (Our gym membership includes one free ART session a month which is so awesome and I find so helpful, plus I get benefits through my work so I’ve been going more regularly). Lisa and Mandy were great at working to find out what was going on, what wasn’t working (and why), and giving me stretches, mobility and activation exercises to help things out.

My pull-up program underwent more tweaks over the fall. I kept up with my lat pull-downs, ring rows, and banded pull-ups (reps/bands changing from time to time). We added jumping pull-ups to get my muscles used to the movement pattern. Duncan also came up with “bottom half” pull-ups, (which are just what they sound like), where he had me working at a greater difficulty (ie less assistive bands) on the bottom part of the pull. Eventually I graduated from the lat pulldowns and moved on to reverse dumbbell flies (again, I looked SO cool….it’s a good thing I don’t take myself too seriously).

I worked away at those pull-ups as hard as ever. Progress came, but slowly. I was getting frustrated. Then in November, Duncan made the suggestion we talk about nutrition. When it came right down to it, pull-ups are a body weight movement. The simple, hard truth is that if I weighed less, a pull-up would be easier.

I’ll write another post soon totally devoted to nutrition and that whole process, but for now, I’ll just say a couple of things. 1. Working out is the easy part, but it focusing in on what you’re eating (or not eating) is HARD. It’s totally worth it, but requires willingness to be disciplined and put in the work. 2. It makes a HUGE difference. Not just in your weight and how you look, but how you feel and for your workouts. And, after a month of hard work, by December I was down to a strict pull-up with just the red band (the super-skinny, tiniest one available). That unassisted pull-up was within my reach.

The new year came. More pull-up work, more tweaks to programming. Now, instead of having pull-ups programmed a few days a week, they were showing up in every day of my programming (mind you in slightly lower volume). And Duncan also started telling me specifically which difficulty of bands to work at. At first, the difficulty seemed challenging and a little ambitious, but I’m glad now that he did that, as I think it really pushed me and increased my strength.

I was coming along, and thought I’d be getting a pull-up in time for the Open. I re-tested right before it started. Still Nope. Then 15.2 happened. I don’t need to rehash it here. But, suffice it to say, after all my hard work, it felt like a devastating failure. I had come so far, and gotten so close, but I just wasn’t there yet. I was so frustrated. So angry. At that point, I honestly considered asking Duncan if we could just take a couple of weeks off of working on pull-ups – that’s how upset I was.

Around that time, I started a new programming cycle designed to take me to the end of the Open. As part of my pull-up programming this time, Duncan had me retesting strict pull-ups every Friday. I remember asking him what the point was (still pretty frustrated). He said that at this point, I was close and said it wouldn’t be long and that he didn’t want me to have the strength to do a pull-up and go weeks without knowing it. I figured I might as well take his word for it (although I secretly didn’t really believe him). But I trusted his judgement and figured, what did I have to lose?

Friday, March 27 came around. At 6 AM, I completed 15.5 and was thrilled that the Open was behind me, and had come to terms that a pull-up from the Open wasn’t going to happen. I went back to the gym to lift in the afternoon, and, since it was Friday, re-test pull-ups.

As had become my routine, I warmed up using bands of increasing difficulty, treating it as I would a one rep max attempt on a lift. Things were feeling good. Duncan was in the back judging someone on 15.5, and I remember him giving me an encouraging look when I was on the black band (second hardest). It was looking easy.

My friend Sam was there watching me, and after I did a pull-up with the red band, she said “Why don’t you just do a pull-up already? That looked easy,” and made me go get my phone so she could videotape me going for it. Gulp. The pressure (I should add at this point that pretty much EVERYONE at the gym knows how badly I wanted this, and how long and hard I’d been working for it).

Just as everyone else was starting 15.5 during the 4:15 class, Sam grabbed my phone, hit record, and I went for it. I pulled. And got up, and up, and kicked my feet a bit, and made it! The funniest part, which is also captured on video, is that I ask “did that count?” Duncan had been right by the rig, but his back was turned since he was watching someone row. He immediately watched the video, confirmed that it counted, congratulated me, and gave me a big hug. (If you want to see the full video, go follow me on Instagram).

Cheers commenced. I may or may not have ran around telling everyone. I texted Jess and a few other Crossfit friends. I social media-ed the crap out of that video. I actually couldn’t believe it. After nearly a year and a half of hard work, and wanting to give up on more than one occasion, I had achieved my dream.

So, strict pull-up down (and you better believe it got a green emoji checkmark on my Crossfit goals note in my phone). What next? Duncan and I already had a pre-existing appointment to talk about goals and programming after the Open, and now with the first pull-up in the books, it seemed like an even better time to figure out where I went from here.

His idea? Programming to keep attacking my weaknesses (mostly bodyweight/gymnastics movements) in time for the team competition I’ve entered in early July. Then we figured out that it was almost exactly 100 days away from our meeting. And Duncan got the idea to set two ambitious goals for me. 100 days gave us about 14 weeks.

After the first 8 weeks? RX Fran (21-15-9 thrusters and pull-ups). Gulp.

Oh, but that’s not enough. After another 6 weeks, RX Mary (20 min AMRAP of 5 handstand pushups, 10 pistols, 15 pullups). (I currently can’t do HSPUs or pistols, if you were wondering).

His reasoning? I could do Fran now. It might take me all day, but I could do it. And once I got a bit stronger and could kip, Fran would be totally doable (I might not have the fastest time, but still).

As for Mary, Duncan admitted it’s a loftier goal. He thinks pistols won’t be a problem, I just need to work on mobility. And I’ve got a ton of shoulder strength, I just need to get the mobility, stability and general “shoulder health” piece down. And, as he pointed out, if I could do pull-ups, HSPUs and pistols, come the Open 2016, I’m only a muscle-up away from being an RX athlete (now there’s a crazy thought).

So, I’m two weeks into the new programming…a lot of push-up and pull-up work, and Olympic lift accessory work too (which I’m so happy about. Oly took a back seat for awhile and I’ve missed it). I’m not really lifting heavy all that much right now (which I miss), but, it’s something I’m good at and, as Duncan pointed out, if I get to the comp in the summer and can squat and deadlift a ton but just barely do a pull-up, that doesn’t help me much.

The goal is to build up pull-up strength in April, then come May, start to work on kipping and then at the beginning of June, it’s Fran time. If you follow us on Facebook, you’ll know that I was able to crank out 3 pull-ups last weekend. Crazy. Just crazy. I still can’t believe it. I’m supposed to do 3 strict pullups for time once a week for the next couple weeks on top of my other pull-up work, then increase to 5 after that.

If you’re still reading (sorry this turned into such a novel), thanks for sticking with me. I share this story only to say that anything, absolutely anything is possible if you work hard and never give up on your dream. That success doesn’t belong to just one person. It truly takes a village. I couldn’t have gotten that first strict pull-up without the amazingly supportive community of friends at my gym, health professionals, and of course, a coach who never gave up on me.

No one handed me anything. I had to fight every day, work hard when I didn’t want to, and keep going in the face of failure and defeat. But I look at where I am now, and I am so glad I kept fighting.

A year and a half ago, I was a girl with a big dream. If you had told me that in 18 months, I would be the athlete I am today, having achieved not only that illusive pull-up, but so many more things along the way, I’m not sure I would have believed you. Proving myself wrong has never felt so amazing.

Meanwhile, during the Open

The 2015 Crossfit Open is over. So, as promised, I am writing about something else. Several somethings else, in fact. You see, there was lots of other great stuff going on during the Open. But, I wanted to be like all the cool kids and talk about the Open, so I’ve been keeping this stuff to myself for the last 5 weeks. No longer. I’m happy to share that…

pullup1. I GOT MY FIRST STRICT PULL-UP. Yep. It happened. It’s a thing. That big CrossFit goal I’ve been working on for a year and a half. The thing that almost had me in tears after 15.2. Cross that one off the bucket list. (This was the teaser from last week’s post).

The cool thing is that it happened the very last Friday of the Open. I had made it a goal to get a pull-up for the Open, and, after 15.2 pretty much resigned myself to the fact that it wasn’t gonna happen. Well, it may not have happened in time to post an Open score, but before the 2015 CrossFit Open was finished, I had a strict pull-up in the books! 🙂

I will write an entire post on it soon, but let’s just say it was a pretty awesome moment, one that will likely go down in history as one of the best ever in my CrossFit career. There were some wild leg flails, a lot of cheering, hugs, and high fives. Yeah, it was great.

IMG_31702. I bought a speed rope. I finally broke down and did it. A GGW podcast finally put me over the top. Our relationship has been a little rocky, shall we say. At first, I was instantly smitten. I tried it out, hit a bunch of DUs way easier than I thought I would (I was expecting it to be harder to adjust to the new rope) and that was that. But then I threw it back in my gym bag, it got really coiled up, I tried to use it in a WOD, and things got ugly.

After that, I left it hanging in the gym to iron out those kinks (that’s still where I keep it). I’ve been practicing, getting more used to it, and things have been improving. One thing it’s NOT good for? Regular skipping. Remember 15.3? Yeah, at coach’s suggestion I had to sub it out for a standard plastic rope mid-WOD. A speed rope is just too light if you’re not doing those fast dubs. It kept getting all coiled and tangled up due to the slower rhythm of those single skips. Lesson learned.

I’ve also been working at making my double unders/skipping more efficient lately. The thing with me and DUs is that it’s not that I can’t do them. I can. I devoted months last winter/spring to getting them down. And I can double under, and consistently get anywhere between 30 and 60 unbroken. But I just use way to much energy and gas out really quickly. I’m stopping not because I can’t do more, but because I’m just too tired. Something about DUs, I just tense up and then it’s not a good scene. So I’ve taken to making myself do two sets of 50 as part of my warmup when I come in to lift. Slowly but surely, we’re getting there.

3. I gave my first “Crossfit talk.” Remember how I mentioned that I was speaking at my church a while back? That happened a couple weeks ago. I was super nervous going into it, and worried that I might bomb/be really boring/not be good at it. But once I sat down and firmed up my notes, and went over what I was going to say, I started getting more excited. And once I got up there, I wasn’t even really that nervous. It was a cool opportunity to talk about something I loved in front of an audience who wanted to hear from me, and actually something I hope I can do more of. Nicer still? A friend from out of town saw my post on Facebook about the event, came to hear me and took me out for dinner! 🙂

4. I got a new job. Now, you may be asking yourself why I’m sharing this in a post about CrossFit. Well, it is an important life event. But the cool thing is that I was at the gym when I found out. I went out back to take the phone call, since I couldn’t hear anything inside. Jenn came out to see what I was doing (because people generally don’t hang out in the back lot). She knew about my job interview so I mouthed to her “I got the job.” Then, when I went back in, I was greeted by cheers, hugs, high fives, and congratulations all around. Such a great moment. I love my CrossFit family.

5. Jess bought a house (and we celebrated 4 and 5 plus the littlIMG_3175e babies with dinner, drinks, (Virgin Caesar for Jess) and dessert). I had March Break, so we went on a fun girls’ day of shopping (most of my pants are too big these days…more on that to come) and Jess needs new clothes (for other reasons. ;)). Then we wrapped things up by treating ourselves to dinner at the Keg (and if you tell them you’re celebrating, dessert is free – score!).

6. I made it on our gym’s leaderboard for a couple benchmark WODs. IMG_3192

I’d been meaning to re-do Fight Gone Bad for some time. I did it for the first time in the summer and made it on the leaderboard in 5th place with 243 reps, but my score didn’t last and I was edged out by someone with only 10 more reps than me. Plus, I actually kind of like the WOD and didn’t feel super terrible after so I was hungry to try again.

So, like any good CrossFitting teacher would do, I made a date to do it with a friend on my week off for March Break. I had a goal to beat my last score and as you can see, I managed a 40 rep improvement! I was stoked. Next time, over 300 for sure!

Our gym also did Grace last week. I wasn’t going to do it, as I had already done the early morning kettlebell WOD, but I’d also had this one in my sights for some time, as I had never done it RX. 4:52 and #5 on the leaderboard…I’ll take it! Special thanks to Diana for cheering me on and pushing me through. I didn’t even pace that well so I know I can do better next time.

7. I finally PR’ed my strict press! It is the only lift where a 3 pound PR after 6+ months stuck at the same weight can make me so incredibly happy. Strict press can be just. so.frustrating. Am I right?

Finishing the Open, the pull-up, strict press PR, and Grace time were all within one week….definitely the best CrossFit week I’ve had in a while. 🙂

Your turn: what’s your latest and greatest Crossfit news? What have you been up to since the Open has finished?

15.5: Is there a time cap for sympathy?

So guess what? The fact that I’m typing this, and you’re reading it means snoopy_happy_danceone thing: the 2015 CrossFit Open is DONE! (See accompanying image of Snoopy and Charlie Brown for my feelings on this). We made it!

No more angsty Thursday nights. No more shifting my lifting program schedule around due to Open WODs. No more mental craziness. It’s all behind me. I’ll sum up my Open thoughts at the end of this post, but for now, onto my 15.5 experience.

(If you missed my previous Open posts, catch up with them here: 15.1, 15.2, 15.3, 15.4).

Thursday night I missed the live announcement due to my very first (and hopefully not last, ’cause it was really fun) Crossfit Speaking Engagement (remember I mentioned it here). But of course, the minute I checked my phone, I had the usual series of Thursday night texts from my crew (I’ll actually miss that ritual).

So the two texts I had waiting for me said: “I’m going to vomit,” (Courtney) and “Rowing and thrusters! Lots of it!!” (Soph). Of course that made me hugely curious as to the rep scheme, so I had to go to the bathroom and look it up on my phone before I could get home.

27-21-15-9. That’s a lot (72 to be exact). My thoughts? 1. Guess I was wrong about those burpees and box jumps. 2. Finally, a week without gymnastics! 3. I can RX this one. 4. I don’t hate rowing, but I don’t love it either. Thrusters are ok, but will get old real quick after that many reps. 5.This is going to take a long time, and suck a lot.

My post title was a question I asked Courtney in our text conversation. We were making mental Murph comparisons. I figured it couldn’t be worse than that, right? I HAD to be done before 45 minutes, didn’t I? I had visions of a 20+ minute WOD, a total suckfest, and feeling like death after. I went to bed and couldn’t wait for Friday morning (to be precise, Friday morning at 7 AM, when I was done this WOD and the Open was behind me).

6 AM Friday: for the last time, I hit the gym ready to tackle an Open WOD. I was (thankfully) placed in the first heat (I like to get things over and done). Going into the workout, I had a loose strategy of breaking the thrusters up into 9-9-9 the first round, then 7-7-7, 8-7 for the third round and see how I was feeling the last round. I also decided not to kill it on the rowing. I knew the thrusters would gas me, so I wanted the row to be a nice break.

I got going with Jen as my judge. 27 cal row was good. I went at a good pace, but nothing crazy. Then onto the bar. Thrusters felt good. Surprisingly good. Better than I was expecting. I hit 9 and felt ok, so kept going. At 11 I decided to break. This is the strategy that, when sharing with others, I dubbed: “Drop the bar before it sucks.” I maybe could have cranked out a few more, but I didn’t want to gas myself early and regret it later. After a few seconds rest, I picked it up again and did 9 more. Drop, rest, then the last 7. Back to the rower.

21 cals – same as before, nice and easy. My memory is a little fuzzy on my rep scheme for the thrusters the second round. I either did something like 9-7-5, or possibly 7-7-7 – not sure (apparently the Open does something to my perception of pacing reps – remember my 15.3 delusion of breaking up wall balls?). But 3 sets either way. I love workouts with a descending rep scheme. Nothing like being 2/4 rounds in and knowing you’re over halfway done.

Coach Duncan was around the whole time giving advice and cheering me on. I got through the 15 calorie row, then did my 15 thrusters as planned in a set of 8, then 7. Then, it was on to the home stretch – round of 9!

I tried to push a bit more on the row but still didn’t go nuts. Then when I hit the bar, Duncan said to do it in one set, and rest at the top if needed. I gave it one final push, busted out those 9 reps and boom! The 2015 Crossfit Open was in the books. Final time? 12:42.

After a few minutes of recovery, I turned around and returned the favor and judged Jen as she crushed 15.5 and finished her Open. High fives all around at the end of class – we did it! We survived our first Open (I think all of us from the 6 AM crew were Open newbies this year).

I have to say, I really didn’t feel that bad after 15.5. Since I was the first one at Alchemy to do it, lots of people were asking for advice/how I felt. And I saw the pain faces of many fellow athletes over the weekend and how badly they felt afterward. Then I had a nagging feeling that maybe I could have pushed myself harder. Maybe the fact that I didn’t feel like death, and utterly depleted meant I had held back. Maybe I should’ve rowed faster. Maybe my thruster breaks should’ve been shorter. Maybe I should’ve done bigger sets.

But then again, maybe I was stronger than I knew. Maybe it had just been a workout that finally played to my strengths. Maybe my pacing was bang-on.

I had moments of considering re-doing it. I think if I had had someone on me the whole time, pushing me, I might have done better. How much better, I’m not sure. But ultimately I decided that 12:42 RX was still a darn good score (hey, within 5 minutes of the fittest girl in the world) and I would take it. Besides – redoing 15.5 would mean delaying the finish of my 2015 Open, something I was in a hurry to celebrate.

15.5Since my score was submitted and validated so early, come Friday afternoon, I was doing pretty well on the leaderboard. Unfortunately, the rest of the world was on the ball and also submitted their scores, so my placing didn’t last. 😉

Friday afternoon I was back at the gym and achieved a HUGE CrossFit milestone (but I’m going to leave you hanging on that one until next week…unless you go to my gym, then you already know ;)), and watched a few others complete their Open (including one scary barbell drop down the back on the last round of thrusters).

Saturday I worked out, then had my last judging stint of the 2015 Open. I was impressed by the mental fortitude of my fellow athletes who kept going when those thrusters got tough. I really enjoyed pushing people, cheering them on, and encouraging them to pick up that bar even when they thought they couldn’t.

I also had a moment (and this is in no means meant to sound like I’m bragging or minimizing others’ performances) of being really impressed with myself and just how strong I’ve gotten over 1.5 years of Crossfit. I saw others really struggling with the thrusters, and having to break them up into sets of 5 or 3. I allowed myself to sit back, look at my performance and say, “You know what Hilary? You may not have the top time. But you are STRONG.” I have a really bad habit of underestimating myself and selling myself short. But not anyone can crank out thrusters like that, just saying. I’ve come a long way, baby.

After everything was all said and done, Soph and I went out to celebrate the end of the Open and my big Friday victory (curious yet?) with lunch and cheesecake. 🙂

So…2015 Open. My closing thoughts?

  • 15.1: Push yourself beyond what you think you are capable of. You CAN do it and you just might surprise yourself.
  • 15.2: CrossFit is for FUN. Don’t take yourself too seriously, and don’t let one failure define your story.
  • 15.3: Be smart about how you partition a workout. Listen when coaches who know you tell you that you can push harder (and be grateful for them).
  • 15.4: You’re stronger than you think you are. Don’t be ashamed to scale. Sometimes a WOD is just made for you, you crush it, and don’t feel bad about celebrating that.
  • 15.5: Be smart about pacing, but don’t hold anything back.

What I won’t miss…

  • How it messes with my schedule and screws up the days of my lifting program
  • The anxiety I feel going into the workouts
  • Feeling like a complete and total failure when I couldn’t get a pull-up for 15.2
  • Not lifting heavy like I usually do because it’s “Open Season”
  • The pressure of having to make sure I get my Open WOD done within the specific time frame
  • Redoing the same, horrible wallball/skipping couplet over the course of a weekend, because it’s THE OPEN (that being said, I’m still glad I did that, and glad to have a coach who pushes me when he knows I can do better)

What I will miss…

  • Thursday night text exchanges with my CrossFit gals
  • The general camaraderie around the gym as people commiserated about the Open WOD, or shared tips and triumphs
  • Feeling more a part of the global CrossFit community than ever, since the Open was EVERYWHERE (podcasts, social media, articles, memes)
  • Knowing I was doing the same workout as thousands of others, including the fittest people on the planet
  • CrossFit Open memes. Because they kill me. Every time.
  • Pushing myself to do things I never have before (RXing my first T2B WOD)
  • Finally crushing 2 workouts and knowing I killed it after 3 weeks of WODs that did NOT play to my strengths.

I’m glad I did the Open. It was hard (but I didn’t expect anything less). I know there were a lot of people who were angry about the Open this year (too much scaling/not enough scaling. And those muscle-ups). Some people said they wouldn’t do it again.

I still think I would. I’m glad the Open only comes once a year. I’m glad it only lasts 5 weeks (which flew by, to be honest). There are definitely things I didn’t like about it and I wouldn’t want this crazy competition atmosphere to last all year. But for me, in the end, the benefits, and lessons learned, outweigh the negatives.

I think about how far I’ve come since starting CrossFit. Then I think about the year ahead. I’m going to set new goals this week. I can’t wait to see how much stronger I am in a year. I can’t wait to come out and test myself, not just against everyone else in the world, but against the athlete I am today (who’s pretty fierce, I might add). Dave Castro, see you in 2016.

Stay tuned for a post next week that’s NOT ABOUT THE OPEN!

What are your final thoughts on the 2015 CrossFit Open?

15.4: Are we there yet?

Anyone else suffering from Open Fatigue yet? I can’t tell you how many conversations I’ve had with friends at the gym in the last couple of days that have started with: “I can’t wait ’till the Open’s done.”

Don’t get me wrong. I’m glad I did the Open. In case you missed it, 1 RX’ed a T2B WOD for the first time in 15.1, fell into a brief depression after coming up short in 15.2, and learned just how hard I could push myself (and that 10 pound wall balls are no joke) after 15.3.

I’m just getting tired. Tired of feeling like I HAVE to write a post about the Open when I’ve got other ideas floating around in my head. Tired of seeing the Open workout and having to readjust the lifts I had planned for the day around it. Tired of not really lifting heavy for weeks now because “that’s not how you train for the Open.”

OK. End rant. I think the Open is great, I’m glad I did it, but I’m also glad we are coming up to the last week (man, that went fast).

Onto 15.4. Things went down a little differently for me this week than usual. For one, I ended up watching the live announcement with my momma (I was home visiting since I had the week off school last week). Like everyone else, I found the initial push-up and rep scheme announcement confusing. Then when Castro made his little HSPU announcement, I knew I’d be scaling once again (I keep waiting for the week when there’s no complicated gymnastic movement I suck at or can’t do. I’m afraid it’s not going to come).

I started watching the guys and went about scrolling through the Crossfit games site on my phone, looking to see what I’d be doing. At first, I assumed it would be regular push-ups. I had mixed feelings. On the one hand, I’m not the strongest at them, but on the other hand, it’s something I’ve been working on A LOT lately. Maybe all the hard work would pay off. Then I saw the push press and clean combo. And I got happy. Really happy. No gymnastics? 8 minutes of brute strength and 2 movements that I really like at weights that are fairly light for me?

Yup. You better believe I was dancing along with Pharrell on the inside. I was a little confused as to why us scaled folks needed a whole different rep scheme (anyone want to shed some light on that?, but overall really excited to go crush this one.

I couldn’t do my usual Friday 6 AM WOD because I was out of town at my mom’s, but headed back home in the morning, and made it to the gym a little before 11.

After stretching, warming up, taking note of Jen (remember her? Fellow 6 AM-er, Crossfit life hero)’s score of 110 and mentally making plans to beat it (Jen’s fast, and pretty strong, but I had a feeling I might have the edge on this one. I love working out with the same people so I have benchmarks to compare myself to and then push myself), I was ready to go.

Plus side of going at a later time? I got to do the WOD alongside my Crossfit friend Kim, which doesn’t usually happen due to our differing schedules. I was also judged this time by Coach Craig, instead of Duncan as per usual. How would all these changes affect my performance? I was also a little nervous because I had done Fight Gone Bad on Thursday (and reclaimed a spot on our gym’s leader board, beating my previous score by 40 reps – woot!), which includes 3 minutes of push press. Would that prove to be a bad decision?

Craig advised me to go unbroken on the push press, and drop after each clean. I’m glad he said that or I totally would’ve done touch and go and probably gassed myself pretty early on. I find that I can get into more trouble with lighter cleans in a workout, because then I think it’s easy and don’t pace myself and end up really gassed (I did that at a competition last fall with the exact same weight, 75#).

I pretty much stuck to the plan the whole time. 10 push press. Then turn around, onto the clean bar, pick it up, put it down, ten times. It felt good. Really good. Craig and Mike, a fellow member who stuck around to watch, were really great at encouraging me and cheering me on. I didn’t really take any breaks. As soon as I came off one movement I went right to the other. I can’t remember the exact time, but I hit 110 and knew I’d beat Jen’s score. Still felt good and kept pushing.

Craig and Mike pushed me to sprint the last minute. When I got to my last set of cleans, Craig said this time I was doing touch and go. I dug in and managed to bust out 6 cleans, meaning I was just shy of 7 rounds, for a score of 136.

Yep. I crushed it. I felt good the whole time, did what I needed to do, put it all out there, and dominated. Craig even said he thought I might take this one for the scaled division at our gym. 15.4 Scaled was easily, hands down, my favourite workout of the Open. I guess all those changes and the previous day’s FGB hadn’t hurt me too badly after all.

Later on Friday, I came back for Oly lifting class, to work on other stuff, and help judge. Crossfit friend Meaghan gave me a run for my money but ended up tying my score. Then I judged Victoria. She pushed hard. She did great. Coach Craig also came up to her during the last minute and urged her to do touch and go.

Darn it Craig – you just cost me my top score! Victoria got 138! Although I was disappointed to no longer be number one (and, more than a little tempted to redo it, I’ll admit), she totally earned it. Victoria worked hard, and deserved everyone one of those 138 reps. I can settle for second.

More judging on Saturday for both scaled and RX divisions (I’ll admit – judging the RX division on this one was scary! That rep scheme! That HSPU standard!). I had to give out several no reps, which I hate doing – nothing more frustrating than putting out all that effort and then not having it count. Poor Josh Bridges.

I did receive a compliment though that made my day. After judging Diana, she said that from now on only me and Coach Craig were allowed to judge her! When she saw that Craig wasn’t there, she requested me as a judge over others who were there! ❤ And last week Breanne requesting me? Awwww, you guys. I just do my job.

Well, another Open WOD in the books. Meaning we are one workout closer to THE END of the 2015 Open. My 15.5 prediction is that it will have at least one, and possibly all of: burpees, thrusters and box jumps. Perhaps some pistol squats too (although that means I’m scaling again for sure). Anyone else want to take a guess?

Again, although I was sorry to have to scale, it was nice to finally have a workout that I truly felt was in my wheelhouse. It was great to go out there, give it my all, and totally rock it. If that meant scaling, so be it (and who am I kidding? I’m not even close to being a regionals athlete. Everyone keeps saying the Open is totally different this year with the scaled division. I now have an idea of what I can work towards for next year).

Yeah, actually, now that I think of it, I take that back. I’m not sorry I had to scale. I’m glad I got to do a workout that was appropriate for where I am now as an athlete. I’m glad I got to push hard for 8 minutes doing movements I’m confident with. It’s not “just” a scaled score. It’s a score of someone strong, fierce, who totally dominated. Nothing to be sorry about.

15.4 – what did you think? Did you do scaled or RX?

Are you suffering from Open Fatigue?

Any 15.5 predictions?

15.3: It’s not even f***ing Karen!

So. 15.1 and 15.2 are in the books. First RX’ed T2B WOD, check. Try like crazy, still fail at getting a pull-up, go to the depths of despair for a day or two only to be pulled out by your encouraging and awesome Crossfit friends; check. I figured, great, two really challenging movements are behind me now, maybe I even have a shot of doing the whole Open RX? (How wrong I was)…..

I watched the 15.3 announcement at Crossfit friend Soph’s house. We got settled in after a few initial technical difficulties and watched Dave Castro do his little gag with the pull-up bar and barbell (me and my torn hands were singing the hallelujah chorus along with thousands of others, I’m sure).IMG_3159

When I heard wall balls and double unders, I was like, “Ok, I got this.” I’m not amazing at DUs, but fairly competent. And I don’t love wall balls (who does?) but I can do them. And then. Then, well, you know what comes next. Those muscle-ups. Cue the creation of a million hilarious Crossfit memes…. (Seriously though, can we just have a moment of silence to stop and appreciate how hilarious Crossfit memes are? Particularly Ryan Gosling ones. Next time you’re having a bad day, just Google “Ryan Gosling Hey Crossfit Girl.” You’re welcome).

Oh muscle-ups. The mystical Rainbow Crossfit Unicorn we’re all chasing after, but so few of us grasp. Neither Soph or I had ever grasped that magical MU Unicorn, so neither one of us was particularly thrilled at the announcement. We settled in to watch Lauren and Julie duke it out, waiting to see what the scaled option would be, all the while sending despairing texts to fellow Crossfitters and expressing our dismay at how the muscle up was coming at the beginning a WOD, instantly excluding a huge part of the Crossfit community from posting an RX score.

Then came the scaled version… you all know by now: for women a 14 minute AMRAP of 50 wall balls at 10# and 200 skips. Turns out there’s no substitute or scale for muscle-ups, according to Castro and his pals at Crossfit HQ. The triplet had become a couplet, 14 minutes of gas tank depleting fun.

…and that would be where the title of this post comes from. Our frustration was that, for athletes like Soph and I, who had been Crossfitting for a year or more, the scaled version seemed like a hard way to measure progress. DUs were out. All those hard months of practice that so many of us did were not going to count for 15.3. And the wall balls? Lighter than the 14# we usually use in a WOD. So we couldn’t really compare our progress to WODS we’d already done. That’s when Soph uttered those immortal words: “It’s not even f***ing Karen!” (meaning since the wall balls were lighter than RX Karen, it wasn’t a meaningful point of comparison). Those words seemed to sum up so perfectly what many Crossfitters seemed to feel…15.2’s scaling was still pretty tricky, and 15.3 seemed almost in a way unfair or too easy.

So…after some mutual complaints, sighs of resignation, plans to attempt to work on MUs (that was Soph…I’m nowhere near that point), we chatted some more, then I headed home so I could get to bed in time to make my early wake up call.

Friday morning, 6 AM (you’re probably sensing a pattern here). I wasn’t feeling super nervous. After all, the wall balls were lighter. Just skips, no DUs. After the physical, mental and emotional toll 15.2 took on me, I just wanted to get in, do 15.3 and be done. As unthrilled as I was about the muscle-ups, at least it made the whole scaling vs RX decision real easy (you guys, I hate to break it to you, but I’m not going to regionals now. I know, you were sure I was after the first 2 weeks, but alas, my scaled score cuts me out. Guess I’ll have to let that dream die). Seriously though, I knew a muscle-up was way out of my grasp this year, so I just resolved to go in, do the best I could on the WOD, and that would be that.

I figured I’d start with sets of 15, 15, 10, 10 for the wall balls and then just see how the skipping went. After warming up, I opted to go in the first heat because I’m a big fan of “get it done and over with.”

Round one: wall balls went as planned. 10#….great! Skipping, not awesome, but ok.

Round two: Hmmm…these wall balls might be lighter, but 50 of them is still pretty sucky. I think I still managed to get through sets of 10. Then skipping. SKIPPING. Why did you start to suck so bad?!?! I just felt really tired and gassed, and had to break it up into I don’t know how many sets because I was so. freaking. tired.

Round three: Did I mention how tired I was? 10# wall balls, I’m sorry I underestimated you. I take it all back. I respect you and your power to beat me into submission even though you’re not as heavy as the standard RX weight for most wall balling I do. I sucked it up on this round. 5s it was. Thank God for Coach Duncan counting me through 5s, then 5 seconds of rest, then forcing me to get back to it.

Didn’t quite make it through all the wall balls on this round, so finished with a final score of 540. Not super impressive (especially considering the next heat that went, where Jen, mother of 4 and one of my Crossfit Life Heroes, posted a score of 921!!!!), but I thought, “hey, I’ll take it. It’s over, it’s done, I’m good.”  I was humbled that the seemingly “easy” scaled WOD had taken so much out of me, but at least.15.3 was in the books.

I rolled, stretched, got on with my day and then came back that afternoon for Oly Lifting class (love that our gym has this option…one of my favs). That’s when he said it. Coach Duncan asked, “So, are you gonna re-do this one?” (cue inward groan).

“Why, should I?”

He answered that it was up to me, but he thought I could do better, saying that I hadn’t broken the wall balls up enough in the first round and had done way too big a set (Our accounts of my 6 AM attempt differ, I swear I did the 15-15-10-10, he says I did a big set and he was yelling at me to break them up and I didn’t hear him. Weird. Apparently I was in some sort of early morning Open Zone).

Hmmm…you have to understand that Duncan knows me pretty well as an athlete. Since I am a loyal 6 AM-er, he is the coach for the majority of the classes I go to, and has worked a lot with me one-on-one. He knows what I’m capable of, and I respect his opinion, so if he says I can do better, I probably can.

Dang it. So much for “one and done.”

I judged a few athletes Friday and another on Sunday between my own lifting and workouts (don’t ask how many hours I spent at the gym between Friday and Saturday. Yeah, just don’t).

I also chatted some more with Duncan, asking him what he thought my chances were of making it to the end of Round 3 if I re-did the WOD and broke up the wallballs more. He said I could at least make it way farther into the round, and agreed that it wouldn’t be worth doing for only a few more reps. We then proceeded to talk about my skipping. Let me say that I’m not bad when it comes to skipping and DUs. After practicing last year for many months, I’d say I’m a reasonably competent double-under-er. But I’m really inefficient. I tense up, then hit the ground way too hard, kick my feet up too much and use my arms IMG_3170way more than I need to. Even as it’s happening I know I’m doing it, hence why I get so tired and gassed out super quickly. Duncan’s advice? Take my rope home for the weekend, practice skipping, focus on staying relaxed and efficient, and if it felt good, go for the re-do again Monday morning.

Thank goodness it was a nice day on Sunday, because the ceilings in my apartment are too low to allow for indoor skipping. I didn’t practice a ton (in part because I was feeling pretty tired and lazy), but did 3 sets of 2 minutes of skipping with 2 minutes rest in between. My time improved a bit each round, and I felt pretty loose and mellow, so I figured I’d give it another go Monday morning (plus, when I texted Soph and Meaghan (she’s the one responsible for those Boxing Day Burpees. Such a bad influence), they both told me to go for it. Dang it again. I couldn’t let them down).

Monday morning. I “slept in” because I’ve got the week off for March Break (#teacherperks) and showed up at the gym for 6:40 (I was going to go at 7, but last night, my friend Breanne messaged me (she of snow day fame) and asked if I could judge her early (apparently my judging prowess has made me famous…ha!). So I judged her, then set about warming myself up. Going into an Open workout the second time is worse if you ask me, because you know just how much it’s going to suck.

A little before 7:30 was go time. I knew I wanted to make it past the 3rd round of wallballs or I’d be really annoyed, and my goal from there was just to make it as far as I could towards completing 3 rounds. Duncan was great about counting my wallballs and rest (I had another witness who said I did the first round almost unbroken. Jen had been helping judge me and she backed up what Duncan said. I have no idea what I was thinking). I did 10s right from the start, then he would count down from 5 and I picked it back up.

First round of skipping went pretty well, I tried as must as I could to breathe and relax (as Duncan kept reminding me). Then onto the second round of wall balls. Funny how breaking them up from the get go had me feeling less like death. 10s again, then onto the skipping. I got tripped up several times during the second round, which was sort of frustrating. Duncan even grabbed me another rope to swap out for my speed rope, which is still new for me and a little coiled up. Once I had the new rope things went a little smoother. Looking at the clock, I knew I was ahead of my previous pace.

Third round, I started with 10s for the wall balls but after 20 or 30, I went to 5s, with Duncan counting my work/rest the whole time. I knew I was going to finish all 50, which made me super stoked and helped me power through. With under a minute left, I made it back to the rope and skipped my little heart out.

Final score? 605, or 65 reps more than the first time….YESS!!!!

Lessons learned from 15.3?

Crossfit takes a village. You can call it an individual sport, but it’s all about the team effort if you ask me. If it wasn’t for Duncan pushing me to do better, I wouldn’t have even tried to improve my score. And his coaching and counting were a huge help. Then there’s Soph and Meaghan, who wouldn’t let me bail. And Courtney, who told me it was ok if I wanted to. And then Kellee and Emily, who were both there Monday morning to do 15.3, who helped cheer me on and push me through (Kellee crushed her previous RX score. She’s a retired gymnast, general badass, and another one of my Crossfit life heroes). All of them pushed me to higher heights than I could’ve achieved on my own.

Never underestimate a scaled workout. All that “it’s not eve f***ing Karen” business and talk about how the scaling wasn’t fair or too easy? Well, it still might not have been fair, but I challenge anyone who did this WOD to say it was easy. In fact, several of the people at my gym who RX’ed said scaled was harder without the muscle-ups to “rest” (I use that term lightly). You should never ever a) be ashamed to scale a WOD or b) think that just because you or someone else is scaling, it’s going to be easy. Push yourself to your limits no matter what, and I guarantee you’ll have a great workout.

Finally, (this one almost goes without saying): BREAK UP THE WALL BALLS! (Or any high volume movement). If you’re in a WOD with a lot of a single movement, even if it feels easy, be smart about it. Break it up sooner than you think you need to. Trust me, you’ll regret it later.

15.3, you weren’t easy. Dave Castro, I’m still not super happy about about those muscle-ups, but you still managed a scaled WOD that sucked pretty hard. But I pushed, I overcame, and I know I didn’t hold back. That’s worth as much as a muscle-up any day (but I’m still chasing that unicorn. I’ll get there, one day).