Monday, June 21, 2010

The Glorious Pain of CrossFit

By Diana Hsieh

In mid-May, I began training at a local CrossFit-affiliated gym: CIA Fit Gym. As has been evident from my tweets and status updates, I've been in PAIN GLORIOUS PAIN pretty consistently since then. I've also been enjoying myself immensely. And I'm very pleased with my results so far.

I'm just doing one or two half-hour classes per week, mostly with Kevin. On my off days, I'm gardening, rowing, and hiking. If I'm only doing one CrossFit class in a week, I try to lift heavy at home at least once. I might increase my training load after OCON, but right now, that's all that I can manage, physically or mentally. And it's good enough!

I've been nothing but super-happy with my experience with CrossFit so far. Here's some random thoughts about it:

  • I love the gym's schedule of four weeks on and then one week off. Breaks in training are important; you don't want to kill yourself week after week. My schedule of travel hasn't matched up with that well so far, but I'll get in sync after OCON. Also, they do the same workout for time at the beginning and the end of each four-week session, so that you can gauge your progress. (More on that below.)
  • I'm really pleased with the training I've gotten with regard to form on difficult movements, e.g. cleans. I've never felt neglected, nor burdened with more weight than I can handle as I learn these movements. So I'm definitely making progress with them, without risking injury.
  • I need the encouragement that I get from the trainers, as I could never convince myself to do these workouts on my own. They're simply too difficult. But I've never felt like I'm being pushed beyond my limits. If I'm just resting too long, I'll get a nudge to keep going. However, if I'm feeling off in any way -- like when I got a bit dizzy doing thrusters -- I can take the time I need to feel okay without any pressure.
  • I love the variety of movements I'm doing, and I love not knowing what I'll be doing in the workout until I check out the whiteboard in the gym. It's all difficult, particularly since I'm on the steep part of the learning curve for the skills, but it's interesting! Plus, I love seeing what used to be beyond my reach become easier, both with respect to strength and skill.
  • My classes are very small. I'm not in a popular time-slot because it's during working hours, and I like that. The gym does lots of fun outings though -- like backpacking trips -- that I'd love to do.
  • I'm definitely gaining in muscle. Hooray! I've still carrying about ten more pounds of fat than I'd like from the hypothyroidism, but I'm not going to worry about that for a few months. Just doing what I'm doing is quite enough.
  • My primary trainer Kevin is a darn nice guy, and he's eats Cordain's Paleo Diet. So we chat about beef jerky and other paleo foodstuffs pretty regularly. Heck, he even knew about Modern Paleo without my saying anything about it. That delighted me to no end, I must admit. After doing handstand pushups (with the band) for the first time on Friday, I said "Holy cow." Kevin corrected me: "Holy cats." Yup, that's a Robb-Wolf-ism. (He knows that I love that podcast.)
  • Much to my delight, the intense workouts seem to have kicked my metabolism into high gear, such that my few lingering hypothyroid symptoms have vanished. Basically, I'm no longer freezing cold, I've got plenty of energy, and the skin on my hands isn't dry. I feel totally normal, i.e. fabulous!
Finally, here's a fun note about my progress.

My very first CrossFit class happened to be the kind of killer workout for time that appears at the beginning and end of each session. That time, I managed to complete about 1/3 of it, and it nearly killed me. On Friday, in my sixth class, I did another such workout for the end of the session. (I was in New York at the beginning of the session, so I didn't do it then.) Here's what it was:
  • 10 hand-stand pushups. (I did those with a band and a spot, as that was my first time)
  • 70 push-ups with chest tap (ouch)
  • 30 sit-ups (on the ham-glute developer machine, but only going back to level)
  • 50 pullups (I used a band, and still I nearly died)
  • 50 figure-eight kettlebell lunges (I used 26 pounds, I think)
  • 50 air squats with hands overhead
  • 70 groiners (alternating legs, not so bad)
  • 30 dips
  • 10 burpees
You could do these items in any order, but once you started an item, you had to finish all the repetitions. My time was 33:37 -- definitely slower than everyone else, and slower than I'd like it to be. Nonetheless, I'm thrilled because I did the whole damn thing! Go me!

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