Learning Crossfit: Phase 1 – Olympic Lifting

So… I’ve recently begun a new training program. Something that I’ve never even thought of doing before, being a former cardio junkie, like most women who are afraid of putting on too much muscle or “getting too bulky” (I shall rant about that in another blog). Since I starting regular weight training (maybe 5 years ago???) I’ve really found a love for it. It has not only improved my performance in all sports I’ve played, helped me lose more body fat, look more toned, but it also makes me feel SUPER BADA$$!

I’m a major advocate for all-around training (cross-training). It provides us with a very incredible all-around fitness level and keeps us engaged because we are constantly changing up what we are doing.

For the past two years of resistance training I was teaching so many group fitness classes, that I didn’t have time (or energy) for my own workout. The fitness classes I taught were great for keeping me in shape, and I had a lot of stamina and endurance, because they were high-rep, low weight, cardio-heavy workouts. Now that I’m teaching WAY less, I have time for myself to focus on shaping my muscles – which can only be done by lifting heavier weight. The bonus of this is that I would also get stronger. Something I noticed with my weight training was that I had plateau’d. I was fit, but I wasn’t getting stronger, just maintaining muscle tone and stamina.

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A friend of mine is a CrossFIT coach and in¬†wicked shape, so I bugged him one day about doing a workout together. I didn’t know I was about to do crossfit, nor what was even in store for me. He starting setting up our area, with an Olympic lifting bar, some plates (I didn’t know how he chose the weights for me), a medicine ball, skipping ropes, and a thick exercise band for assisted pull-ups on a bar. He proceded to teach me how to perform a Power Clean without much weight on the bar. When he was satisfied with my form (after much scrutiny and many little adjustments), I began to wonder where this was going and when I would get to start sweating. He proceeded to write down on the whiteboard (photo to the left).

So we started the timer and began the workout. I was feeling good – it was really hard, but it was basically a metabolic-strength workout. I took rests when I needed, but as little as possible to see what my time would be.

Once I was complete (and completely out of breath) – I checked the time. it took about 14 min 50 sec, but I of course wasn’t at the Rx weight. This is Crossfit lingo for the prescribed weight that you have to lift, height you have to jump, etc. They don’t discriminate between age, height, weight (or even gender some of the time). If you can’t lift the Rx weight, then the rep doesn’t count in a competition. For beginners like me however, the weight isn’t important – the quality and form is what matters to learn the movements and prevent injury. So I’m not concerned about “Rx-ing” any of my workouts…just yet.

Anyways after the 15 minutes, I was confused. We went to stretch, and that was it? I usually spend an hour (at least) doing some circuits with intervals, or high intensity cardio with compound strength movements built in. But heck, it was a friday evening, and I thought to myself: “at least I did something”.

The next three days I was completely sore all over my entire body. I couldn’t straighten my arms until the 3rd day, and I literally¬†thought I had torn my biceps muscles because of it. Thankfully I didn’t, and after a few days I began to become “crossfit curious”. How could someone with my level of shape be SO SORE after a 15-minute workout??? I asked my buddy to teach me the ways of Crossfit, since he is a certified crossfit coach and has his Olympic Lifting Coaching certification and has taught lifts for many years. He’s now got me on a lifting program, which started as basic strength building, and has now added in some segments of Olympic Lifts to practice technique.

It’s so fun and exciting for me to be learning something so purely technical but involving a lot of dedication. You have to be dedicated to continuously building the basic strength (I work on squats, deadlifts, split squats, pull ups, and push-ups more than 3x/week), and you have to be patient because technique is so critical. It’s a process, just like anything else. I forgot what it’s like to be focused and dedicated to learning something new. I’ve grown impatient – always expecting results, and forgot what it’s like to start from scratch.

The exciting thing is that I’ve already increased by strength – I can now lift more than 40lbs more than I could when I started, and I can do at least 4 unassisted pull-ups! So Phase 1 of my Journey to crossfit is really all about getting stronger, and better at the technical lifts. Below shows the sequence of practising the Clean-Grip High Pulls. Until next time!

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