I’m a couple of weeks in with my new coach. I’ve been somewhat taken aback by how challenging the transition has been. Things are settling in, but it’s certainly a process. The what, when and how of all the work I’m doing now could not be more different than what I had become accustomed to. I LOVE IT, and there’s so much learning involved. Establishing what weights I should be working at, re-learning movements I thought I had down, incorporating movements that are altogether new. All of that is growth in the right direction. The part that is killing me is my conditioning. Well, the lack thereof, really.
I felt sort of “outed” last week when a video of me doing a sad job on some conditioning work was posted on The Crossfit Games Facebook page. I’m sure it’s only in my narcissistic paranoid mind that anyone even gave the video a second thought. Nevertheless, I was pretty embarrassed by the public display of my lacking conditioning and skill. The purpose of videotaping my training is for my coach to see what I’m doing (and to document for myself, I think it’s really a useful training tool to watch yourself). My normal practice had been to set those videos to private, but now that my paltry fitness level is on blast anyway, I think I will be sharing more videos. There’s no shame in not being where you want to be, there’s only shame in not working for what you want. Did I land in this conditioning abyss through laziness? Nope, plain and simple, I was doing the wrong work to get me where I want to be. Where I want to be is beyond simply seeing some improvements. I think many of us could do almost any program and see improvement of some kind, but I want to find the limit of what my body can do. I haven’t even touched what intensity means in Crossfit. I’m not sure that I’ve even gotten close enough to smell it. As a trusted advisor once told me, “Good enough is f*cked.” Sorry to be crass about it, but that speaks to me. I’m doing this because I want to find out where my performance limit is and that is the goal that will guide how I train. There is no good enough, good enough means you don’t care.
I would make disparaging comment about myself, but the video pretty much handles that job.
The good news for me is that with the training I’m currently doing, I literally feel like I’m getting better every day. I work best when I can put 100% trust in what I’m doing (who doesn’t?). When I decided to make this move it felt largely like a leap of faith, a leap that is now being affirmed on a daily basis. During the decision making process I put a good deal of thought into my Crossfit and training knowledge and what experiences I could draw on to determine the best course for me. Turns out, as much as I love the physical work of training I’ve never made myself much of a student of it. It’s my eventual goal to become more of an expert so I can pass on what I’ve learned, but thus far my exploration of training and physical development has been somewhat stunted- I’ve never read a single book on training, I’ve never been a trainer, I don’t have my Crossfit Level 1 Certification. I’ve basically used the guess and check method. Things have routinely gone like this; 1). Walk into your neighborhood globo gym/weight room/YMCA, 2). Identify and befriend the biggest, strongest people, 3). Train with them and see if you achieve the desired results (however that was defined at the moment). Through this “method” I’ve trained with all kinds of different people; body builders, professional athletes, and a parolee who was so fresh out he still had the electronic monitoring device on his leg. He was the first person who ever taught me about squatting below parallel. Things that intuitively make sense to me have, until now, yielded a satisfactory outcome.
So yeah, basically when it comes to training I’ve been a follower. There’s probably no legitimate excuse for me not being more knowledgeable about my training, but to some extent I think my approach has been an outgrowth of being coached in structured athletics from the age of 4. I believe you become accustomed to allowing a coach to make decisions for you. Games athlete and former Gymnast Gretchen Kittelberger summed it up beautifully in a recent blog post:
“As an athlete, you are conditioned to put full trust in your coach. This is especially true of gymnastics. If your coach tells you you are ready to do a skill, then you are going to do it, whether or not you truly believe you are ready. This sort of obedience and giving up of control to an authority figure is partly necessary on the road to great athletic achievement. Sometimes as an athlete, we don’t always believe in ourselves as much as we could or should, and to have that coach there to push you and “make” you do that new skill, or lift more weight, or run faster, or jump higher is how we push past that mental barrier.”
A coach/athlete relationship that is structured in this way is a gift because you learn early that your body can do more than you think it can. In all honesty I prefer training this way. I like putting the onus on my coach to tell me the right things to do so I can keep my focus on the mental and physical tasks at hand- not making programming decisions. That’s this guy’s job.
“The rewards I see from working made me an addict, There’s way more people that want it than people that have it.”- Drake
Almost a year ago I walked into Crossfit Chicago (CFC) for my first class. I learned how to put a barbell over my head using a push jerk. I reveled in working out with other women who wanted to move weights. I chuckled to myself at my coach’s “I heart Nasty Girls” t-shirt. I had a fire for competition reignited that I hadn’t even realized I’d lost. I found a family and a community.
We all rolled through the Crossfit Games Open together, spending Saturday afternoons hitting the Open WODs with friends cheering in the balcony overlooking the lifting platforms. When I landed in the top 60 competitors in our region, it was a couple of heart to heart conversations with people at CFC that lead me to the decision to compete at the North Central Regional as an individual.
I’d like to say I wasn’t intimidated or nervous going into the Regional, but I was. I had no idea what to expect, and leaned heavily on the support and comfort of the CFC community who literally surrounded me with encouragement and energy.
I stood on the Regional podium, held back tears, received my medal from one of our coaches, and celebrated a ticket to the 2011 Crossfit Games. I had no idea what I was even signing up for, I just knew I wanted to be part of it.
Over the next two months my coach took me, a person with some raw athletic ability but little/no Crossfit skill, and prepped me for the biggest stage in the sport. He was literally with me every step of the way. Literally. Every metcon. Every run. The week my double unders disappeared. The day I got my first strict muscle ups.
So now I’m a “Games Athlete.” Less than a year into the game, but I can’t claim novice status anymore. That’s ok, because I don’t feel like a novice. It’s time for me to take responsibility for my training on another level than I have in the past. As a result, I’ve selected new coaching for myself, which comes with a new training environment. My desire for change in my training means having to leave what I consider to be my Crossfit family and the community that has always been the center of my life as a Crossfitter. By any measure, this is a phenomenal group of people. They’ve opened their arms and embraced both me and my family. I’m forever grateful for, and my life forever changed for the better, by being a part of CFC.
All that being said, it should be evident how strongly I feel about my decision to train with my new coach http://outlawcoach.wordpress.com/ , at my new box http://cfconstruct.com/, and the road I need to take to develop as a competitor. As tough as this transition is, I’m incredibly excited and feel so fortunate to have found both a coach and training environment that I feel are the right fit for me at this stage in my training.
I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye. -Psalm 32:8
I had the amazing opportunity to attend and compete in my first national level Olympic Weightlifting meet on Sunday. The 2011 American Open Weightlifting Championship was held in Mobile, Alabama over the course of the weekend. It was an exciting and proud day for me. Less than a year ago I had never put a barbell over my head, and yesterday I shared a lifting platform with Olympians, World Championship Team members and National Champions in the sport. What an honor. I feel fortunate that I also got a good taste of the spectator experience without interfering with my lifting. I only stayed in Mobile for about 24 hours, but in that time I was able to compete and watch three weight classes lift. When I arrived on Saturday the Women’s 69kg was in full swing at the Outlaw Convention Center. These girls were moving impressive amounts of weight. The 85kg men followed, and featured multiple international level competitors including Olympian Kendrick Farris. This man did not fail to provide some excitement, particularly on his final Snatch attempt. It appeared he might lose it, but sitting in what had to be one of the deepest squats I’ve ever seen, he stabilized the 159kg overhead and stood it up. I literally got choked up watching it. It’s phenomenal what the human body can be trained to do. Farris has the highest qualifying total coming into the event, but did not walk away with the title. That distinction went to a lifter named Matt Bruce who Snatched 148kg and Clean and Jerked 187kg. Matt was amazing to watch, little did I know he would become an integral part of my competition the following day.
Just prior to warming up on competition morning I was chatting with one of the other competitors, and she was pretty shocked that I was there by myself. She called over some people from her training facility over and recruited them to help me load my bar for warm ups, count lifters before my turn, and time my warm up reps. The interesting part of the story is that the “some people” were folks from an Olympic lifting program of EPIC status. Matt Bruce, the lifter who won the men’s 85kg, and also happens to have been on every Senior World Team since 2005, stood with me, advised me, announced my lifts, and coached me through my first national Olympic lifting meet. He trains under Senior U.S. International Coach, 2004 Athens men’s Coach and USA Weightlifting Hall of Fame member Gayle Hatch- legendary status! I had the opportunity to meet Coach Hatch which was awesome. I just can’t get over how kind Matt’s actions were, he jumped in without hesitation. There was no incentive for him to do what he did, it was just plain and simple good will. I was so fortunate that he stepped up, I don’t know that I would have successfully navigated the terrain without his expertise and support. Matt is the man, that is some southern hospitality for you!
As a Crossfitter competing at this level I felt a world away from the small local weightlifting competition through which I qualified for the event. Olympic weightlifting is an incredibly strategic and calculated sport. You can’t just show up with your “Lift Big or Go Home” t-shirt, lift some weight and expect a successful result. Athletes and coaches at this level are very specific about what warm up reps to take, when to take them, counting the competitors before your lift (which changes constantly), what weights they want to take their competition lifts at. You absolutely need a knowledgeable and experienced Olympic lifting coach with you at this level of competition. People at this level are really pushing the limit of how much weight they can lift and testing their ability to perform under the immense pressure of the competition. I was somewhat surprised to see how few lifters went six for six on their lifts. In fact there’s an award given to athletes who lift six for six at a national meet. I think this recognition is a testament to how close to their upper limits athletes are lifting, and also the challenges involved in performing on a national platform.
My final Clean & Jerk, you can see and hear my buddy Matt in the background:
In terms of the actual lifting, it was a roller coaster of a day for me. I underperformed on the snatch (70kg), making only my second of three attempts, and I was quite embarrassed by finding new and exciting ways to drop a barbell on myself. I went three for three on the Clean & Jerk, reaching 91kg. Watching the culmination of our weight class gave me chills as the top two women went after 112kg and 114kg, looking for the win. What a compelling and exciting sport, I gained an entirely new level of respect this weekend. I am completely honored to have competed with this group of women. In the end, I got what I asked for in competing at the American Open. I wanted to put myself in an uncomfortable and unfamiliar setting and test my ability to perform under those conditions. This definitely met the criteria of being uncomfortable and unfamiliar, but it by far exceeded my expectations with regard to meeting some fantastic people and growing as a weightlifter.