CrossFit Gainz: When hard work starts paying off

As much stress as the last weeks have brought me at work, they were beautifully balanced out through a few moments of joy at CrossFit. The last few Mondays it was either go to the 7 AM morning class or not go at all. So I forced myself out of bed at 5:30 AM. Getting up so early was tough in the dark, but getting to see one of the coaches I hadn’t seen in a very long time was certainly worth it.

She’s one of the owners of the box and generally does the 7 AM classes that I used to go to last summer, before I switched back to PM classes in the fall. By the time I go to the box these days, she’s already long gone. She’s a great coach who’s very, very nitpicky when it comes to working with weight. I think this is a wonderful trait to have as a CrossFit coach since so many claim the sport is dangerous, when really the issue with injury in CrossFit is a combination of too much ego and poor coaching. I’ve lost count of the number of times she’s told me to go down in weight and how frustrated I’ve been because all I wanted was a new PR. But she wouldn’t let me because my safety came first.

So anyway.

We did snatches and then some clean & jerks. I did some extra burpees because I was puttering around the barbell and then picked it up with a bent back. Justified punishment. At the end of class, we did some dips. She came over to me and commented on how much I’d improved since she last saw me. She commented on my good form for the front squat when I performed the clean. I grew a little taller when she praised me. (Partly also because I remember how I nearly cried when we first did squat cleans and how I could just not get it right and despite understanding what the coach was instructing me, I could just not put it into practice. I was so frustrated I think I actually did cry.)

Her husband (who owns the box with her) has made offhand comments too on the number of weight I use. He’d been saying things like That’s quite something/that’s quite a lot of plates on that barbell or There’s a hobbit right there, moving a lot of weight. (He calls me a hobbit.) I never thought much of it because he’s a funny guy who jokes a lot and keeps the atmosphere light and friendly at the box. I didn’t think he was lying or making fun of me – not at all! – but if I compare myself to some others, that’s still not a lot of weight. I thought he was just teasing.

But then the other day another coach commented on my progress. Just out of the blue. I was warming up when he came up to me and said I was making good gains. And finally, last week, a fourth coach commented on my deadlifts and how nice they’re looking with my knees so stable now. [I’m extremely flexible, to the point of it being a disadvantage because I have trouble maintaining tension in my core and joints. But hey, I can sit below parallel with a perfectly upright upper body for a while.]

I’m not a strong athlete by any means. Compared to others, I weigh too much and lift too little weight. I deadlift only a little more than my bodyweight. I can’t squat my weight. I can also only clean about 60%. I have no background in any kinds of sports before I started working out to lose weight in 2011 and I’ve only been CrossFitting since I moved to Munich in December 2013. But it’s right – I have come a long way.

I feel a lot more comfortable in a lot of movements now. When I think back to my first tries of squat cleans (nearly cried), overhead squats (wobbled down about one third of the way with a 15 kg barbell, then wobbled back up), anything with a squat (knees all over the place), the snatch or the clean or anything where you need to be explosive in the hips. My first push-ups: on my knees. I still have my weaknesses and they’re plentiful. But there’s so many things I can do now, that I never thought I’d ever be able to do. Pistols. Wall walks. Double-unders (sometimes) or starting to complete workouts as RX’ed.

I think my personal highlight of the last few weeks was when we did Rahoi. If you’re not familiar with Rahoi, this is it:

12:00 AMRAP:
12 Box Jumps, 20 in
6 Thrusters, 65 lbs/30 kg
6 Burpee (Bar Facing)s

We’d done Rahoi in January, where I scaled the thrusters to 25 kg. This time, I was going for 30 kg. RX’ed. Eeep! I knew I was going to do less rounds than last time, but that was part of the plan. RX, make it harder on myself and sacrifice some speed if needed. I thought I was going to die, but I finished the WOD with not even one full round fewer than last time. I’d RX’ed workouts before, but never anything with a prescribed weight. I was proud as Punch.

I’ve gained about 10 kilos (ca. 11 lbs) from my lowest weight in 2011 and I have to admit that I sometimes struggle with the gain. It’s some fat, but also quite a bit of muscle mass. My arms are bigger, my back is broader, my shoulders are rounder and my ass firmer, my naturally big thighs are even bigger. I have a love hate relationship with how CrossFit has been and is shaping my body. I love how I’m getting stronger, how I’m becoming faster, how I’m learning to do things I never thought I’d ever be able to do. But I hate how so many clothes in my wardrobe don’t fit anymore, I hate how I no longer look as petite as I used to. My body composition feels weird to me on a bad day. On a bad day, I don’t feel like I look athletic because I still have too much fat on my body to make my muscles stand out. But then, on a bad day, I PR my squat clean or my hated pull-ups are just a tad easier and I remember that my body needs to continue to change if I want to continue making gains.

I’ve spoken to my Mom about the recent changes and even though I ought to be saving money, I think it’s time I invest in some new clothes to accomodate that new body I’m building.

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