Thursday, July 12, 2012

My Progress as a CrossFit Outlaw

By Jenn Casey

(This post was originally posted at my blog, Rational Jenn, on July 11, 2012, under the title CrossFit Update. Some relevant facts about me: I'm 41, a homeschooling mom of three kids, and have been doing CrossFit since September 2010 as a way to recover from my previously sedentary lifestyle.)

It's been a while since I've documented my CrossFit progress, so here goes!

I'm about six months into The Outlaw Way, and I still really really enjoy it. This programming is great for me, because of all of the focus on Olympic lifting and building strength in general, as well as short-ish met-cons (when we have them).

There's a terrific interview with Rudy Nielsen (who I call "Mr. Outlaw") at Again Faster that came out just yesterday. There are 15 Outlaws competing at The CrossFit Games (starting--surprise!--today!), one of whom happens to go to the same gym I do, which turns out to have been a lucky happenstance for little old me, because otherwise I'd probably be at a CF gym that follows the more traditional programming.

I have been working very hard over the last six months, and I think I have a lot to show for it. Here are some recent accomplishments.

New Personal Records (PRs):

  • Deadlift: 255# (there's a video of this on my FB page--let me know if this link works)
  • Bench Press: 120#
  • Squat: 215#
  • Press: 80#
  • CrossFit Total (Squat plus Press plus Deadlift): 550
  • Run 400m: 1:37 
  • Run 1 mile: 9:20 (believe me when I say this is truly unprecedented)
  • 5K: 31:45 (previous PR was 35:22 I think)
  • Box Jump Height: 24" (you don't know what it cost me to try for that, but I'm glad I did)
  • Strict Dead-Hang Unassisted Pull Up: 1 (believe me when I say this was truly impossible)

There are lots and lots of things I can do now, such as double unders (more than one in a row--I'm working to get to 10 in a row), and strict toes-to-bar, and handstand push ups (still not quite to depth, but I'm getting better), and turkish get ups (super fun), and I even climbed the rope a bit!

My Olympic lifts are coming along nicely, though I haven't hit any PRs in weight in a good long while. I'm still at 90# for snatch (power snatch), and 125# for (power) clean and jerk. So that might not sound impressive on the surface.

HOWEVER, my technique and form is miles ahead of where it was. I think of Oly lifting like I remember practicing musical instruments. We do drill after drill after drill in Outlaw, five days a week. So I'm practicing constantly, and I think that is what leads to improvement in Olympic lifting. So we are doing high pulls and heavy pulls and stop pulls, snatches and cleans off boxes of differing heights, split jerks and push jerks. Sometimes we put these moves all together; sometimes not. And though I haven't hit any max weight PRs, I am doing these drills at progressively heavier and heavier weights, and that is no small accomplishment.

Here I am doing a couple of clean and jerks back in May:

And here is a snatch:

It's really a lot like practicing scales and finger exercises on the piano. Each exercise focused on a different aspect of technique, and practicing them (though the repetition was sometimes dull) was the way to improve your technique overall. So when you played the piece you were working on, you were that much better.

I love the Oly drills. It's the first thing we do each day. It requires so much more thoughtful attention than I ever imagined. It's as much a mental exercise as it is a physical one. When my brains are turned on, I generally lift better. When I can't settle down and focus, I'm a complete spaz. I love it so much! I really need to take more videos of my lifts, since that really helps, too, to observe one's technique.

I finally got lifting shoes, about a month ago. I decided that if I was going to be serious about all of this lifting, then I needed to break down and get the ugliest shoes known to humankind to wear while lifting. I like them a lot, though they took some getting used to. In other equipment acquisition news, I also got a jump rope, which I'm hoping will help my double under efforts. At the very least, it will be nice not to have to spend 10 minutes adjusting the gym ropes to my height (apparently I'm one of the shortest people at the gym and only Amazon giants use the gym ropes).

I am still holding my own, old lady non-young-whippersnapper that I am. After that initial adjustment period, I don't have tons of residual DOMS and I haven't managed to hurt myself. I've been getting semi-regular sports massages and that is lovely. I have had a few spectacular Oly lift fails (always fun in a crowded gym full of spectators!), but I am choosing to look at those fails as "opportunities to learn how to get out of the way of the bar more quickly." :D

So what's next? I originally gave myself 5-6 months of trying The Outlaw Way to see if I liked it and if I got results. And the verdict: I like it and I get results! So I am sticking with it for the foreseeable future.

I signed up for the Festivus Games, a CrossFit competition for beginner and intermediate people (Festivus, the competition for the rest of us, get it?) and that will be August 4. I'm nervous/excited because this will be my first foray into CF competitions (not counting The Open I guess). No matter how I do, though, it'll be more interesting than running a 5K, that's for sure.

A bunch of us from ATLOS (join us!) will be doing the Gladiator Rock'n Run in September. It will be my first mud run/obstacle course event, and having lots of fun people to go with will make it an awesome experience!

And later in September, I will be taking the Level 1 CrossFit certification class! There are two reasons I'm going for the L1--first, I'm just interested in what they have to say and what I can learn. The main reason is that it's a prerequisite for the CrossFit Kids certification class that I'll be taking in October!

I'm excited about being able to teach some CFKids classes at some point in the future, and I need to get these certs out of the way in order to do that. I don't have immediate plans to teach, but I think the CFKids market is exploding and there will be lots of opportunities in my area. It will not be something I can do full-time at first, but my kids are only getting older (sigh) which means I will one day be able to--gasp!--leave them at home for a couple of hours while I go out and do something. So these classes will be, I hope, an investment in my future, both short-term and long-term.

I have some specific personal CrossFit goals and stuff, too. I'd like to get 10 double unders in a row at some point in my life. I want to do a strict pull up each day so I don't forget how, and to build strength so that one day I will be able to do two, and then three, etc. A sub-30 minute 5K would be amazing, and I think that is a goal within reach. I want to increase my numbers on my lifts, too--I truly think it's possible that I could a 300# deadlift one day (I did get 270# a few inches off the ground the night I got my PR). That will be a fun goal to work toward! And I will get a 95# snatch--even if it's a power snatch--I WILL get that one day.

So that's where I am with CrossFit these days! Still loving it, having fun, enjoying the effects on my health and the shape of my muscles. Look me up on Fitocracy if you want to chat about daily workouts and goals and Oly lifting in a more detailed way. And check out this Outlaw stuff--it's totally awesome!

Here's a recent picture of me and my seven year old daughter, showing off our muscles (and a bit of The World's Ugliest Bathroom here at Wildhaven):

We rock, don't we?

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