Friday, November 4, 2011

A visit with Crossfit!

Well, I just got back from my first Crossfit experience. No, I didn't do a WOD, I just hung out and watched the goings-on.

My good friend Ali, who moved to Colorado several months ago, was back in town for a wedding and went back to her old Crossfit gym to work out, which happens to be right near my school. I swung by to say hi and check it out, since she's been trying for over a year to get me go.

I walked in, and of course, loved the facility. This particular affiliate has, essentially, two separate gyms. I saw both, and they are awesome. It was equipped like your standard Crossfit gym would be: rubber floors, lots of squat racks and pull-up  bars, bumper plates and open space. I arrived just after the class finished their warm-up and was going through what the Workout Of the Day (WOD) was going to be. Todays WOD was 3 rounds of 10 squat clean thrusters and 50 double unders. Men were supposed to use 115 pounds and the ladies were supposed to use 80 pounds.

Before this, however, they did a strength workout that consisted of 6x2 clean and jerk. This was performed like a regular strength workout, with adequate rest periods and coaches supervising. I watched the class, which consisted of 3 guys and 8 or 9 ladies. The skill level varied: one of the guys was clearly advanced, one was intermediate and the other one was pretty new. The girls also varied, Ali is pretty advanced, whereas most of the girls varied in the intermediate proficiency level.

I watched everyone going through their clean and jerk progressions. The coach on hand spent a lot of time with the beginner level group, and the more advanced athletes helped coach each other. The two guys near where I was hanging out where the advanced/intermediate guys. The intermediate was pretty un-remarkable; just very intermediate. Had some things to work on that were pretty recognizable, but it was mostly just a matter of strength. The advanced guy had strength in spades; he was a big S.O.B., and for some reason was lifting with a toothpick in his mouth. We get it, bro. You're strong.

I mostly alternated between watching Ali and her partner lift, and this guy. First thing I noticed was the fact that he should NOT have been doing his O lifts in chucks. He simply did not have the ankle mobility to do it properly. I'm willing to bet that in a pair of olympic lifting shoes he would be a good deal stronger. Every time he dipped to grab the bar, his heels left the ground. Every time he caught the bar in the power position, his heels came up off the ground. Things got worse as he progressed to his heavier weights and started catching in a squat. Feet shot out super wide and, still, his heels came up off the ground.

In fact, everyone except the intermediate guy, and a girl in regular running shoes, was lifting in some sort of minimal footwear. Clearly, this is something that I approve of. However, there was a decent amount of lifters who just did not have the ankle dorsiflexion to be performing cleans in flat shoes. I get it, though. Olympic shoes are expensive; I don't have a pair yet. In terms of "bad things", I count heels lifting on the "ok" end of the spectrum.

After they all finished their cleans, it was time for the WOD. Everyone got their barbells and jump ropes on their own. The coach started the clock, pumped up the music, and away they went. This is what I was waiting for, my first taste of a WOD. First round went pretty easily for most people, it seemed. The second round was fairly easy for some, pretty challenging for others. This is where I started to see the things that I don't love about Crossfit. The stronger lifters were still good, the weaker ones were starting to fail. Cleans were caught with the wrists, knees were squeezing on catches, heels were up on squats, and upper backs were rounding on the concentric front squat. The weights were light enough for people to muscle the bar around during the squat/press portion, but things weren't gorgeous. The last round was only a little worse. Form, for the beginners, was still sloppy. Same problems were occurring and weaknesses were being unveiled. This person was tight in the hips. This person had a weak upper back, elbows are pointed down. This person has weak abductors.

There was nothing that made me think "Oh Lord, this person's spleen is going to come firing out of their side", but things were less than perfect. I love the idea of pushing yourself behind perceived mental barriers...for experienced lifters. Ali is strong enough and disciplined enough to not let her form stray, and to know when to take a quick rest. Some of the other lifters were not. I am generally very strict with my clients on their form, so it is tough for me to see a handful of people lifting with less than perfect form. Was it awful? No.

All in all, it was a good experience. It's nice seeing a group of athletes push themselves against a clock and against themselves. It's really nice to see a gym full of females doing cleans and squats, without a single one asking about getting "big and bulky". It was extremely nice to see one of the owners, Amy, working with a woman who appeared to be in her 70's. I didn't pay super close attention, but I saw a barbell and a box. That can only mean good things!

My next foray into the world of Firebreather's will have to be when I actually go do a WOD. Who knows when that will happen. Maybe I will let Ali convince me the next time she comes back for a visit!

For now, I will have to settle for going and lifting heavy shit on my own!

p.s. A devastatingly high percentage of Crossfit girls have remarkable glute development.

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