(A guest post from Potomac CrossFit Coach, Erika PCF. She chronicles her fitness journey over the last several years. A pretty amazing story.)
Aaron’s recent post about plateaus and progress inspired me to write something similar. I talk to tons of women in our gym that just can’t wait to get that first pull up or do the benchmarks rx’d….and no matter how many times I tell them that we’ll get there, they’re still anxious. Bad past pictures be damned, I want to let all the Crossfit women out there know that we all start somewhere.
Growing up, I was pretty athletic. Lettered in 3 sports in high school, was a competitive dancer, and believe it or not….I didn’t hate running (with the passion I do now). Stayed fairly active in college and knew my way around the weight room better than most….though I’ll cop to performing forearm curls, leg presses, and squats that in no way reached acceptable depth. I didn’t know any better.
Then, I got my first job after college….and got lazy. And soft. Fast forward a couple years – I had a membership at Results (yep, still working those leg presses) and started running again. Somewhere along the way, I decided I wanted to run a half marathon, and it just so happened that the guy I started dating was training for a marathon…and dabbling in this thing called Crossfit.
Long story short, Aaron and I ran the Marine Corps Half Marathon in September 2006, he ran the Marathon while I ran the 10k in October….and we both decided we were over running shortly thereafter. Somewhere in early 2007 he convinced me to try this Crossfit thing, and I must admit, like many of you guys, I. WAS. FRUSTRATED. I mean, I ran a half marathon…I was in pretty good shape….but those damn pull ups and push ups and crazy things called cleans, well, they kicked me in the ass. I hated being bad at things, so I’d occasionally do workouts with Aaron, but only on the days where it was some movement that I could perform without looking like a complete idiot. I liked that I was slowly getting stronger (and slightly less uncoordinated), but I did NOT like still sucking at some things. Okay, at a lot of things. To borrow from Aaron’s lingo, this was Phase I – when I started, I had zero pull ups, maybe 3 real push ups (though range of motion was probably suspect) and I think I deadlifted around 135. On a good day. I let the frustrations get me down, and I needed a change in attitude.
After about 6 months of dabbling in this CF thing, I decided I wanted to be good. I no longer cared if I looked like a fool….I’d been watching videos (we never went to an affiliate, just did CF on our own in the Pentagon gym) and those chicks named Annie, Eva and Nicole were hot. And fantastically strong. I wavered between being pissed (and sad) that I couldn’t do the things they could, to wanting to be like them. I decided to do something about it, and started taking my training a little more seriously — which happened to coincide with the time Aaron started actually training other people and talking about maybe opening a CF gym of his own some day. Hello, Phase II.
Fast forward to the spring/summer of 2008, or what I’d like to call Phase III. I’d been actually trying to get better, had worked my way up to some kipping pull ups, and I think completed my first “real” Fran….in about 10 minutes. We linked up with Brian and Dan, who were working toward opening an affiliate, and we started working out with them at park WODs. This was the first time I’d ever done CF with anyone else (besides Aaron)….and I came to the realization I need to step up my game. I started training harder. And decided that some day I wanted to be good enough to help others progress and that I liked the idea of becoming a trainer.
I’ve said this before, but the first major breakthrough in my CF career came when I “got” pull ups and my DL surpassed 200#. Things started clicking, I could do most WODs as rx’d, and I was first among the women in this crazy new affiliate we just helped open.
PCF started growing, we started getting new members – some of which were women – that again made me kick my game up a notch. I started having people to compete with, and that made me a better athlete. By 2009, I was pretty good at most things, could do almost every WOD as rx’d (aside from those stupid HSPU and muscle ups), and I really started looking and feeling strong. I liked where I was at, but had my sights set on being competitive after going to my first competition (Regionals in 2009) and realizing there were still tons and tons of women out there hitting it harder than I was.
Phase IV involved me dialing in my eating (this is where I really started to see differences in my body composition….who knew I would ever be able to see my abs in my 30’s?!) and training smarter. Which led to me actually getting that elusive muscle up, a 1.75x bodyweight DL, etc. Which led to me placing 17th in our three state Secional, qualifying me for Regionals. I was thrilled….but knew I still had a way to go in order to get where I wanted to be.
So, here I am – roughly three years later. I’m finally attacking my weakness (PCF Fast Runner’s Club, anyone?), working on a strength cycle, and focusing on oly lifting in order to dial in my technique. In the course of that time I’ve gone from zero pull ups to having muscle ups, a 135# DL to a 300# DL, and to looking and feeling better than I ever thought was possible. When I started, I didn’t know what the hell a clean and jerk was, and certainly did not have the strength to perform one at 95#….. I just this month PR’d Grace (30 clean and jerks at 95) with a 2:41. I recently PR’d my 5k at 25:25, which is down from about 30:00…in my running days. I’m certainly better at 33 than I was at 23, both in terms of my overall health/endurance and body composition.
And here’s the real beauty of the situation: no matter where you are in your CF journey, or what your end state goals are, there’s always someone one step behind that looks up to you and uses you as their rabbit. You may not think so, but trust me on this. Likewise, I know each of you has someone that you look to for times and weights you should hit when you step into the box. And you know what? Both of those people are going to be standing there cheering you on every step of the way….right along with the rest of us. Embrace the ups and downs, the people that chase you and the people that you chase, and use that energy to make you better. To all you PCF women (and men) that think that you’ve hit a plateau and are frustrated….stick with it. With a little hard work and practice, you’ll achieve things you never thought were possible. And I promise to be there to help you every step of the way.