I have told this story before:
Five years ago I was in Iraq. I thought I was in pretty good shape. I had been training for and competing in triathlons and lost a bunch of weight in the previous year as I started to take my running more seriously. I had been a competitive runner in high school.
But I was weak. I was soft. I had little noticeable muscle tone.
When I got to Iraq my running was limited to the treadmill and the occasional run up hill by our house that required me to suffer through dusty air and the need to carry a pistol with me the whole time. Not surprisingly, I started running less. I didn’t have a bike or a pool, so there wasn’t a great deal of other Tri training to do.
One of the guys in the House showed me a website. In 2005 there were fewer than 20 affiliates. There were very few videos on the website and a few of the demos were a series of pictures rather than the high quality streaming HD stuff we see today. Clearly, everyone on the website was crazy. I mean, cheating pull-ups, using your legs to lift weights up over your head, rep schemes in the hundreds? That’s insanity! And I should know. I have read the Internets before and EVERYONE agrees that is no way to work out.
But, in my boredom and competitive zeal, I finally agreed to do a workout. I looked up what was on tap for that day and got to work. Here is the link to my very first WOD. You read that right. My first WOD was Fran. Looked easy. I put 95lbs on the bar, placed a bench right behind me (I didn’t have a medball to lower myself to, so I replaced it with a bench that left me a good 3 inches above parallel) and got to work.
I didn’t know how to rack the bar on my shoulders.
I didn’t know how to move fast with a barbell.
I had never done a thruster.
I didn’t know how to kip.
I thought going fast meant not taking 3 minutes between sets.
It took me 18 minutes.
Remember, I had never been to a CrossFit gym. I hadn’t watched hours of workouts. I hadn’t read the comments. I didn’t know what “fast” meant. I hadn’t seen other people push. I was impressed with my partner … who completed it in 12 minutes.
I started doing more workouts. I kept up my running (I was training for a marathon) within a month my body started changing. I was a skinny runner but now I had abs. You started seeing muscles in my arms. What the hell was happening to me? I had exercised my whole life in a million different ways and this had never happened! It had only been a month! I was hooked.
That was Phase I of my CrossFit career. Phase II was me changing the way I thought about CrossFit. I started learning. After returning from Iraq, I did run that marathon. I kept CrossFitting and continued to see changes in my body, but I worked out at regular gyms, only paid a little attention to what I was eating, didn’t workout with a group, and never had a chance to compete. I looked like an in shape but skinny distance runner.
I eventually got certified and started training people. I wanted to open my own gym. Luckily, I ran across a few other folks trying to open their own gym in Arlington, and I decided I would try to join in. The process of training hundreds (thousands?) of clients changed the way I thought about my own training. By myself I tended to stick to what I was good at. I was always first in a group of one, so I didn’t know how much I harder I needed to work. I am not even sure I knew how much harder I COULD work.
That realization brought me to the end of Phase of II of my training. Potomac CrossFit had started and grown to 50-100 athletes. We had a few plates, half a wall of pull-up bars, and the fastest Fran time at the gym was 3:59 (that was my time, by the way, 14 minutes faster than I had done it 3 years prior).
Phase III, I realized, meant I had to start taking this shit seriously. The gym grew. I was no longer first of 1, I was in a group of ever improving athletes. In programming for them I started realizing how many holes I had. I realized where my weaknesses were and figured out I had to do more than just practice once or twice a month to get better. I became much more serious about how I ate (read my food blog from last month) and I started competing against international competition. There was nowhere to hide.
I began to take my weaknesses seriously. I started periodizing and taking seminars in a desperate attempt to solve them. My body started changing again as my diet improved and I tailored it to my specific goals. I am constantly searching and experimenting, not only for my own fitness but for my clients.
I am still in Phase III. I don’t know what Phase IV looks like but I will let you know in another 5 years if I have reached it yet. Potomac CrossFit has hundreds of clients. We are packed with equipment. When I started CrossFit I had an 18 minute Fran. I just retested at 3 minutes flat. I had a 115lb power clean. I now have a 235lb power clean. It took me two years to learn to overhead squat and snatch. It took me two years to get a muscle-up. Every once in a while a client comes to me discouraged. A few people are way ahead of them in the gym and it doesn’t seem like they will ever catch up. I have to remind them of where I started. How many years it takes to become competent, much less good at this. But look at the progress you’ve made DURING your journey and remember you have a lifetime left ahead of you.
This is going to have to become a two piece post. I got a little long winded in what was supposed to just be an intro. More to come on plataeus and progress.