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A story about fitness and CrossFit

Discussion in 'General Health/Fitness & Injuries' started by gravityhomer, Aug 11, 2014.

  1. gravityhomer

    gravityhomer Elite Member
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    Skip down past the italicized part if you want to get past the more story part. I'm kind of a story teller but the story is not always interesting.

    Growing up I was more of a runner, doing track and Cross-country. I played LaCrosse in high school and that was my first introduction to weight lifting, but it was pretty minimal, just your standard bench and military press and lat pulldowns and leg machines, etc. No squats, no dead lifts. I was pretty small back then, so I don't think any coaches were worried about building me up and just let me do whatever.

    It wasn't until I first started coming to John Stone Fitness, 10 years ago that I started to get more into weight lifting. The whole first year, it was very basic, again no compound movements. After the first few years I got more into the big three: squat, dead lift and bench press. And I finally started to do some real numbers after a lot of encouragement of the people on this forum. I was also in grad school and had access to pretty good gyms for free and a lot of time to workout.

    After grad school, for the last 7 years or so, I would still lift at various gyms and recently built a minimal home gym in the basement. I always continued to focus on the three big movements, but I never really got back up to the numbers that I had in grad school. I started to get really bored, trying to come up with lifting routines, and working the same types of things with little variation. Sure, it is certainly my fault that I was not motivated enough to structure new routines. But you only have so much time and effort to focus on things and motivation is difficult when you are doing it alone. I have had a lifting partner here and there. It is good when it works, but as soon as someone starts to miss workouts, it falls apart pretty quickly.

    In addition to the above, I have rock climbed on and off over the years and am a pretty big fan of body weight exercises such as pull-ups. I even had a pull-up bar installed in the hallway of my grad school lab, so that I could go out and do reps when work was frustrating.

    So it was with the above background that I started to look into joining a gym near me in May of this year. I had not lifted since May the previous year, and just could not bring myself to do so in a dark basement as it got nicer out. In my never ending battle with body fat, I was coming off of a rough winter and had shed about 20 pounds (210 to 190), simply by walking and eating better during the Spring. I used my fitbit for motivation to track steps and even started tracking calories. It worked for several months, but after stalling for a month I knew that I just wasn't going to progress further without incorporating some kind of resistance work. My feet started to actually hurt from racking up the steps. I realized that a step counter was definitely the wrong feedback to use. So I wanted to incorporate weights and I was also willing to do some sort of personal training. I needed motivation, instruction, feedback and was willing to pay for it.

    So Google told me there was two gyms near me, one about a mile away and one 2.5 miles away and on a Sunday afternoon in May, I was like, that's it, I'm joining a gym. I walked to the first (so I could get my step count up!) and it is your typical gym, rows and rows of machines, mostly empty, yearly memberships, crazy expensive personal training programs, where you get 6 sessions or 12 sessions. So I took the pamphlet and started walking up the road to the next gym. On my way, I walk by a repurposed old bank. The drive-through lanes were filled with cage and rack systems, there were rubber pads on the cement, a half dozen large concrete spheres with numbers spray painted on them and several giant tractor tires. A big whiteboard was mounted on the outside with random numbers written everywhere. I walked up to the door, peaked in and saw a little waiting area and then just an open room, with ropes coming from the ceiling, pull-up bars everywhere, a number of moveable squat racks and a giant stacks of bumper plates.

    It was, of course, a cross-fit gym. I had only a vague awareness of CrossFit over the last few years from it coming up in internet articles and people always commenting on the crazy workouts and the crazier people who did them. I took a picture of the front door with the website and noted there was a free class on Saturday. I walked on to the next gym. It was a fancier version of the first one, more expensive with higher personal trainer rates, and even more empty. So I got home checked the website for the CrossFit gym and signed up for the free class.


    Okay, so now for what I think of it so far. It's been pretty awesome. There is a lot of to love though with some set backs.

    The positive things:

    -In the last 2.5 months, I have gone to the gym more often than I ever have before. I go about 4 times a week. I can definitely see how it is addicting. The instructors are very positive and encouraging. This rubs off on the other people and everyone is very open and encouraging of each other. I actually know the names of people that I workout next to. I talk to them. After years of blank stares and people wearing head phones, this is so refreshing and so much more fun. Hitting a big weight and then high-fiving someone who is happy that you did it, is the best feeling. Not since high school, have I had this type of athletic experience. I'm able to push myself more than I thought I could.
    -The gym is extremely friendly and has a good male/female mixture. About half the coaches are women. Some classes have more women than men, but I would say it is evenly split on average. This helped convince my wife to join. She has been open to weightlifting in the past, but she would definitely be scared off by a room full of guys throwing weight around. The fact that there is always other women for her to share a rack with, is a huge plus.
    -You start off with four fundamental classes where you have a one on one with an instructor and they teach you basic movements. You have to pay for these, but I learned a lot. Even if I had decided to not stay with the gym I learned a lot just from those classes.
    -The variety of movements is amazing. A typical class has a warmup of various bodyweight movements and dynamic stretching kind of like pilates or yoga. The movements are chosen based on what the main workouts are that day. I'm usually already sweating by the end of the warmup. Warmup is followed by one or two main workouts and then there is a similar cool down. If there are two main workouts, the first one is always a strength workout. This one is usually not timed, you just go through sets of Deadlift, or Back squat and do the max weight you can for a certain number of prescribed reps. The second main workout is called a metcon, for Metabolic Conditioning. This is an intense timed workout consisting of bodyweight and weight lifting moves or more exotic strength work (see next bullet). The idea here is to scale the workout with the right difficulty so that you can keep a high intensity for the entire time, typically 10-20 min. I am usually a complete ball of sweat by the end.
    -No seriously the variety of movements is amazing. In 2.5 months, I've flipped giant tires, swung a sledge hammer, pushed a sled, carried a giant boulder, rowed, jumped rope (for the first time in my life, I actually learned in the fundamental class), ring dips, medicine ball work, box jumps, sprints, handstands. Other firsts for me: Front squatting, the clean & jerk, the power snatch (still not getting the squat snatch down). I climbed a 20 foot rope.
    -My back squat and deadlift are already approaching the weights that I did 7 years ago, when I was training these exercises every week for months. Except now, I've only squatted and deadlifted maybe 3 or 4 times each in the last 2.5 months. So I am getting stronger at these movements without actually needing to do them. This is kind of mind blowing when you think about it.
    -The variety really helps with not becoming burned out. You don't find out what you do until the day before, so there is no need to think about it.
    -The app/website, Wodify, for tracking everything like signing up for classes, recording your performance and even your payment info, is really well done. I can look back at any previous exercise to see what weight I should do for the next class and get a graphed calculated 1 rep max for back squat over the last few months. It's pretty social too, people can like each other's performances on the day of the class.
    -I'm losing fat and gaining muscle. Although no weight change, but that's fine with me. I'm the same weight since I started, but my waist is 2 inches smaller. Using the Navy body fat calculator that means I've lost 5 pounds of fat and gained 5 pounds of lean mass. This amount of lean mass is a high water mark for me. About 150 pounds with a total weight of 188.

    The negative things:

    -Much of what I wrote above is going to be heavily gym dependent. I've only been to one and have had a really good experience. But if coaches are not friendly or less skilled at their job, it simply won't work at all. The whole thing relies on the coaches being good.
    -You don't get to pick your workouts. Unless you go everyday, which is hard to imagine, you are going to miss certain movements with time. So if you love back squat, but that comes on your day off, it might be frustrating for some. Although there is usually open gym at various times, where you could maybe make this stuff up if you want and have the energy.
    -There is absolutely the potential for overdoing it. My first week, there was a workout involving 5 sets of 30 box jumps, with some other things in between. This absolutely killed my back and I had to rest it for a week. We have not done that many since then, and if it came up now, I would probably be fine, but you learn pretty quickly, how to scale workouts for your ability. Another time I got a little over zealous on the weight I was using for a timed front squat workout where it ended up be 5 sets of 10. I only made it the fourth set and had to bail on the last rep. My ribs are still pretty sore on the back right side. Now I've adopted the philosophy that the un-timed weight lifting workouts are for experimenting with heavier weight and for the timed workouts it's best to go easier on the weight and focus on form and having a high intensity.
    -The coach goes over the fundamentals for every movement used that class, but when you are in the moment, it can be a lot to remember. There is a learning curve and you have to deal with the fact that some times you just won't get it the first time or at all that class. The coaches do what they can, but with 10-15 people they only have so much time. It will be frustrating for some. I still don't have certain things worked out completely. But each time it comes up I work at it best I can.
    -It's expensive. It is more than the cost of an expensive gym, but less than the cost of a gym membership plus personal training. But you have to spend your money on something and for me it is worth it.

    I'll post more things if I think of it.
     
  2. DFS

    DFS Well-Known Member

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    Cool story, thanks.

    Like you said, the expense of crossfit is too much for me to absorb at this stage in my life. We run pretty tight margins in my family and quite literally there's not an extra $200ish in our monthly budgets.
     
  3. gravityhomer

    gravityhomer Elite Member
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    Yeah, anyone on a tight budget, it will be tough to get past the price.

    But for anyone already going the personal trainer route or considering one, this is a cheap alternative in comparison to that. But again, it depends on the place. You need to make sure you like the coaches.
     
  4. Seltzer

    Seltzer Elite Member

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    GH, thanks for the informative write up. We have a facility (box?) in my town and the couple of people I know who go there like it a lot. He hasn't posted on JSF lately, but K3vbo joined a while back and had good things to say about his place.
     
  5. gravityhomer

    gravityhomer Elite Member
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    So I'm pretty happy with results so far this summer doing CrossFit. I just use the Navy circumference formula for BF% estimation.

    2_Fat_vs_lean_graph02.jpg

    According to this, since May I have gained about 5 pounds of lean mass and lost about 6 pounds of fat. I was really happy to see the result. I was only measuring weight for a while and this reminded me I need to be measuring waist size to see what is happening. My weight was staying the same, but my waist kept shrinking.

    I lost about 2 inches on my waist.

    The total for this year is 25 pounds fat lost, 6-7 pounds lean mass added and 5.25 inches taken off my waist.

    I'm sure the Navy formula doesn't work for all people, but I think it is pretty good for me, in that I really carry most of my fat right at the midsection. I keep my neck measurement constant at 15 inches for all calculations, even though it is a little larger when I'm heavier with more fat. I think this is fine as a bigger neck measurement always ups the lean mass. The equation seems to assume the larger neck is muscle, but for me it's fat.

    Here is the formula, I'll try to find the website I took it from.

    BF% =-450+495/(1.0324-(0.19077*LOG(waist*2.54-neck*2.54))+(0.15456*LOG(height*2.54)))

    Waist, height and neck are all in inches.
     
  6. gravityhomer

    gravityhomer Elite Member
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    I had a PR on squat today too. :D

    275#, the most I've ever squatted by 30 pounds.
     
  7. Seltzer

    Seltzer Elite Member

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    :claphigh:
     
  8. akm3

    akm3 Well-Known Member

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    Those are great results GH!
     
  9. gravityhomer

    gravityhomer Elite Member
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    A little update here on my progress since I last posted. It's been almost 2 years doing crossfit and a year and 8 months since I updated here. Above I mention that I was 188 pounds with maybe 150 pounds of lean mass and I was celebrating a 275# PR on back squat.

    Right now I am about 195 pounds with about 160 pounds of lean mass and my waist is smaller than 2 years ago, this is 10 pounds of more muscle since I last posted and 15 pounds more muscle since starting crossfit.

    We just tested the crossfit total this past friday, which is a 1 rep max on back squat, shoulder press (aka military press) and deadlift. I hit 365 on my back squat (15 pound PR from last Nov), 165 pounds on shoulder press (failed twice on 170), and 385 pounds on the deadlift (10 pound PR from last Nov). Probably could have gone a little more on the deadlift, but was pretty tired at that point. Testing all three is pretty exhausting.

    Since last posting in 2014, these numbers are a 90 pound increase in squat, 25 pound increase in shoulder press and 110 pound increase in deadlift. I've also recently hit a 305 pound front squat, also a 90 pound increase from 2014, a 215 pound clean and jerk, 80 pound increase from 2 years ago and a 225 pound clean, 70 pound increase from 2 years ago.

    I'm definitely better at the strength work, but my gymnastics is getting better and I was recently able to start doing bar muscle ups, which i was happy to do at this weight. This is where you pull yourself from below the bar to above the bar, using a big hip thrust.

    Been really happy with this type of program and really liking the results.
     
    John Stone likes this.
  10. John Stone

    John Stone Every day is Leg Day
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    Excellent progress, and great to see you here checking in, GH! I'm glad things are going so well for you!It sounds like crossfit is a great match for you. I have some friends who are diehard crossfitters, and they love it!
     
  11. gravityhomer

    gravityhomer Elite Member
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    Thanks John. I find it to be a nice mix of strength work and conditioning. I always struggled in the past to combine the two. I would get big in to lifting or big in to running, but it would be difficult to do them at the same time.

    There are a few other compatible things about it that make it work for me specifically.

    1) I was always prone to overuse injuries without knowing why (I can explain why in the next point), and while I loved running it would eventually wear me down and I would not be able to do it anymore. But now I've learned so many different ways of getting my heart rate up, other than simply running faster and longer and the variety helps me from overdoing any one movement.

    2) I really benefit from a focus on mobility work. There are a lot of movements in CrossFit, that you just can't do unless you fix things like tight hip flexors. My quads, hip flexors and ITB have been horribly tight my whole life, and now I have learned that these are the things that would lead to the eventual low back pain and knee pain that would start after months of running. The past two years I've learned a lot about how to loosen different areas. I have also had to do a lot of work on my general posture of my shoulders. I never realized how much I would slump my shoulders even in a resting position. I had extremely tight traps and pecs and very loose back muscles between the shoulder blades. I've been doing exercises for the last year and have seen some significant muscle gain in my upper back to help balance.
    In general this process of finding a weakness and working on it gets repeated over and over and it helps keep things going. I would never do this type of maintenance stuff in the past and that would eventually lead to me thinking I was prone to overuse injuries.
     
    John Stone likes this.
  12. phillydude

    phillydude Don't Never Give Up.

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    Hey GH... good to see you posting! Stick around... we miss you! There's even a Crossfit forum on here, and I think Volleyball (down in the members section) is also a fan.
     
  13. volleyball

    volleyball Pickled

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    :dance:

    No box nearby for me, but I get 'em done in CrossFit Hyperborean -- or what I call the garage since I don't wanna pay for an L1 and the licensing fee. :kickrock:

    Seriously, it's great to read the progress you've enjoyed using CF. Don't be a stranger -- would love to hear moar! :popcorn:
     

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