All posts by neilonanhst

My first sense of achievement

Well, my body didn’t scream at me after my first workout, so I decided to bite the bullet and go to my second workout on Wednesday.  A similar number of people were there, including a girl who was at Monday’s workout.

Two 1km runs? Are you kidding me?!
Two 1km runs? Are you kidding me?!

The warm-up was easier than last time, including the rather comical sight of a line of people all power-lunging across the room, like some kind of fitness Conga.

The front squat should be easy enough (squat with the bar resting on your shoulders, on top of your chest, fingers on bar, elbows out and up), but I have poor mobility in my shoulders, and I can’t quite get my elbows high enough.  When I do get them high enough, the bar is pushing into my throat, making me feel sick.  I was shown an exercise I can do with a band to help with that, so there’s another area that needs work.

Regardless, I was able to front squat 25kg with no other issues (although I started at 20kg), and this part of the workout was gentle enough to prepare me for what lay ahead …

A 1km run?!  Our CrossFit is located in an industrial estate, which is on a massive hill.  The 1km route involves running up a picturesque road (think furniture warehouses and car-repair garages, with the faint waft of Chinese food), along a dual carriageway, and then down a hill past an old railway line.  I had intended to do the “L1” run (600m, and turn LEFT out of the car park) but for some reason, like a twat, I followed everyone else out to the RIGHT, and before I knew it I was running the 1km route.  I was last-but-one to finish (no surprises there), but running’s not my forte, and I was treating it as a gentle jog once I was over the top of the hill.

Once back, it was straight into as many wall balls (squat down with medicine ball, stand up, and throw it up the wall as high as you can, catch it, and repeat) as you could in whatever was left of the seven minutes allowed for them and the run (if you follow).  I did the run in six minutes, so I was able to get 12 balls in before it was straight back out for ANOTHER 1KM RUN!  Well this time, I DID only do the 600m course, along with one of the girls.  We jogged it together, as she was the last finisher on the previous run, and I didn’t want to leave her behind.  Teamwork and all that.

Back into the box, and then it was 30 more wall balls for time.  I was in agony after 15, but I wasn’t going to cheat and call time before I’d done all 30.  And I just about did it too.  I was glad I chose the 3kg ball to start with.  I saw no point in trying to be macho and using the 9kg one!  Technique, not speed …

I turned round, looked at the digital clock, and saw “13:46”.  I was quite impressed.  You may think, “Yeah but you only did a 600m run second time, so you got back before the others”.  Er, wrong.  The fastest 2k runners were back in the box AT THE SAME TIME as the other girl and me, and so I started my 30 wall balls at the same time as them.

I'm pretty impressed with this time.
I’m pretty impressed with this time.

For once, I wasn’t the “worst” performer, but I try not to get competitive with these things.  The fact I wasn’t trailing behind on 12 balls while everyone else was standing there watching me struggle to finish was very pleasing.  My first proper sense of achievement at CrossFit.  And I don’t do running!  What was I thinking?  (Mental note – at a steady pace, and on flat ground, my 5K time would be around 30 to 35 minutes.  I have no idea if that’s good or not.)

Once we were done, one of the more experienced guys took us through some proper warm-down stretching exercises – always stretch it out, people.  I’ll be doing Yoga before you know it …

My first proper workout

So, I suppose you’re wondering if I went back to CrossFit, and how I got on when I did.  Well, I did go back.  As I’m working late shift this week, the 11am sessions have been ideal for me.  As a result, there I was on Monday morning, walking into a room of people I didn’t know, and introducing myself to the trainer (and letting him know it was my first session, so he didn’t kill me).  That, in itself, was a barrier climbed.

Just before we were due to start, the other guy from my induction course strolled in, so I went to chat to him.  This was his second workout, so I suspected we were going to be at roughly the same sort of level.  On the other side of the coin, a man known as “The Captain” was there – a veteran of six years at CrossFit, and a regular representative of our box at the CrossFit Games.  I had no intention of trying to compete against HIM!

The trainer gathered us round, and talked us through the workout:

Here we go then - workout number one!
Here we go then – workout number one!

As you can see, it looks a lot easier than the induction, (see my second-ever post, and it was!  After the warm-up, the first section comprised five sets of three strict presses (lifting the bar from your shoulders to overhead), followed by lowering the bar to below your knees and pulling it up into your stomach (bent over rows).  I decided to start off with the 15kg bar with two 5kg weights on each end, just to see what I could lift straight out of the box.  I was able to do it, so I was quite pleased about that.

The second section was three sets of ten overhead squats (squatting down with the bar held over your head).  For this I used the bar only, as I wanted to work on my technique, as well as wanting to go easy on my legs!  No problems there, although my quads were starting to feel it by the end.  Note to self – remember to keep your arms back throughout!

And then the bastard made us to seven sets of one-minute bursts of burpees.  Everyone hates burpees, and one girl decided against it altogether.  I wish I had too, as I can’t yet do burpees without crashing my knees into the floor, and they are now quite sore from the experience.  I missed the fourth set, as I was knackered, and managed a total of 60 burpees in six minutes.  Not particularly impressive, especially when you consider that a man a few years older than me did 139!  Improvement needed.

However, at the end I felt satisfied that I’d completed my first proper workout, and grateful that my legs didn’t feel anything like they had done nine days previously.

I said "60"; he wrote "70". I was too tired to argue.
I said “60”; he wrote “70”. I was too tired to argue.

Onwards and upwards!

Too much, too soon?

I’ve come to a crashing halt. At first it was physical, although my mind is beginning to become affected by the related worry.

The long and short of it is that I destroyed my body on Saturday at the induction course. For an introduction to fitness, it was certainly brutal, and I wonder if it was a little (a lot) TOO brutal. All of the stuff we did (see picture in last post) was a little much for someone who hasn’t done any proper physical exercise in seven years, and I even told the trainer that fact before we started. Remind me not to do a workout with him for a few months …

It’s now four whole days since that course, and my legs still won’t take me up or down the stairs without my muscles screaming at me to stop. My upper body has come back down to Earth more quickly, and my core (what there is of it) aches when getting out of bed or a chair.

I don’t think it’s unfair to expect a four-hour “induction” course to not consist almost entirely of a FOUR-HOUR HIIT workout. I didn’t even do all of it – I had to bail out of one bit because I was so knackered, and was starting to feel sick. I was expecting to walk in and be shown the moves, have a go at doing them myself for a bit, and then go home. As the normal workouts are considerably shorter than four hours, I hope I’ll be able to get through one of those, especially as they’re graded for difficulty depending on your ability level.

Or will I? I’ve been stressing myself out with the fact that I have not been able to go back in four days due to an inability to move effectively. I’ve been worrying that I’m expected to go three times a week (as I signed up through some kind of promotion where I pay for two weeks of “three-a-week” sessions). I’ve been worrying that I’ll go to my first session and end up achieving nothing because I’ll have forgotten the most basic stuff from Saturday, and, and, and …

I know most of my worries are unfounded, as I’ve had some good advice from a friend who does CrossFit, and this is all completely normal, apparently. I’ll just be glad when I’ve had a few sessions, and my body had eased its way into regular exercise. Until then, my poor legs …

My first day at school

Today I went along to CrossFit to do my four-hour induction course. Some CrossFit franchises split the induction over two days, but we were shown all the fundamental moves, and some other stuff, in one go. I suppose doing it all in one go was better for me, as I ACHE LIKE HELL. If I had to go back tomorrow to finish off, I think it would be ME who would be finished off.

So anyway, I arrived just before 2pm, to fill in a form to prove I wasn’t falling to pieces. “Do you suffer from … being over 40?”, was the question I found most amusing. “Yes, I’m 41”, I wrote. I hope it’s not frowned upon.

There were four of us on the course, and one of the girls is a dance teacher and ex-gym instructor, so already I knew she’d be doing everything with ease while I puffed away. Our instructor started by talking us through what CrossFit is all about, the nine fundamental disciplines of weightlifting we’d have to master, along with a few other nasty gym-type things (wall balls, as a Twitter friend has already noted, are evil).

On-Ramp Itinerary
Induction day – kill me now

So we started out with a warm-up, followed by some basic exercises to determine our overall level of fitness. This comprised of 50 skips (with imaginary skipping rope), 40 alternate lunges, 30 sit-ups, 20 press-ups, and ten burpees. I hate burpees, and I especially hate them after 140 reps of other stuff! Of the four of us, I was the slowest by 57 seconds, but that was mostly because I struggled with the sit-ups. I have little core strength, but I now have a time to aim at if I ever want to improve on that particular little workout in the future.

After that short workout, we got down to learning the nine fundamental weightlifting moves (is that the right word for them?) that form the basis of most CrossFit workouts. I’m not going to go into them in great detail here or it will be a very long blog post. Suffice it to say that it involves squatting, squatting with a bar over your head, lifting the bar off the ground, lifting the bar to your chest in a couple of different ways, and lifting the bar over your head in a couple of different ways. You get the idea.

We did this for what seemed like ages, including a 30-minute OMEM (on the minute, every minute) workout involving all nine fundamentals. By about halfway through my quads had gone, and I had to scale back and slow down. Towards the end, my biceps had gone south too. A well-deserved break followed this madness, and then it was on to the non-weightlifting stuff.

Kettle-ball swings, wall balls (squatting, and then throwing the ball up the wall as you come out of it – ow!), box jumps, pull-ups, and toe-to-bars. I could do the Kettle-balls and wall balls, but I had nothing left in my legs for jumping on a 21-inch high box, and I certainly couldn’t do many pull-ups. Remember, this was about three hours into a four-hour session and I am very unfit. I’ve got plenty of time to work on it.

After all that, the evil bastard had a mini-WOD (workout of the day for us) to do. At this point the other guy bailed, having previously said to me that he didn’t think he was going to do this final workout. This left me with two reasonably/very fit girls to kick my arse, which they proceeded to do over a series of box jumps, wall balls and kettle-ball swings, interspersed with a 200m run which I didn’t do, as I could hardly support myself on my poor thighs at that point. But I pushed through with the other stuff, replacing jumping on the box with stepping up. I couldn’t just give up like the other guy apparently had, could I? As my workout finished before the girls, I gave them some encouragement on their last few reps, and I think even the dance instructor was flagging by the end.

After four hours of intense work, it was over except for some pretty full-on warm-down stretches which pulled me even further apart just for good measure. And then I tried to drive the car home; I could hardly turn the steering wheel, my arms hurt so much. And then I almost fell down the stairs, due to complete quad failure. And now I can’t get up from this chair.

So what have I learned today?

I am grossly unfit.
Your body cries, “Enough!” way sooner than you think it will.
I need to work on my Power Clean technique (arms mostly).
I need a bloody long bath to soak my poor muscles.

I am never going back. Not really. I fucking love it.

See you next week!

A little background

So, why have I directed you towards this rather bland-looking blog? Well, it’s a place for me to document my forthcoming efforts to not only lose weight, but to become properly fit, and get myself into shape. I’ve been going on about losing weight on Twitter for a while now; it’s one thing changing your diet, but that doesn’t make you fit or toned.

I’ve been a member of gyms before, but I found a common theme – they’ll take your money and then leave you to your own devices. You can pay extra for a personal trainer, but I’ve always thought of them as a false economy. So you end up going along, running on a treadmill, rowing 500 metres, doing some stretching, and then you think, “Is this working?” “Am I doing it right?” “Where’s the guy who did my induction? I need to ask him. Oh, he’s on holiday for three weeks.”

I always felt as if I was on my own at the gym, along with just about everyone else, lost in our own little worlds, staring blankly at Sky News above our heads. As a result, when I felt the willpower dropping away it was easy to just stop going, and cancelling my membership. And have you TRIED cancelling a Virgin Active gym membership when purchased through a third party?!

So, another year, another “I’m going to get properly fit this year” spiel, followed by eight months of not actually getting properly fit. Also, my weight has slowly been growing since I met my wife in 2006. Back then I was a 32 waist, and around 12 stone something. I had a belly (and still do), but that was the legacy of fried breakfasts, Wetherspoons, and getting drunk most weekends between 1995 and 2001. I’ve always been very self-conscious of it, holding it in when around people, wearing clothes that don’t make it stand out, and so on.

And then I was made aware of CrossFit. I stumbled across a blog post about it, and then I remembered that one of my Twitter followers does it herself. So I started asking her about it, and very quickly realised that it’s nothing like “normal” gyms. The workouts are group affairs, with emphasis on technique, not speed. There is a lot of weightlifting involved, and they make you do handstands (with press-ups)! I don’t remember doing either of those at Virgin. It was all I could do to find a spare treadmill.

I was intrigued, and so I looked to see if there was a CrossFit local to me. As it happens, they’re everywhere, and my nearest one is a 6000 square-foot industrial unit on the other side of town. A couple of emails later, and I’d signed myself up for a four-hour induction course this Saturday.

What have I let myself in for? I’ll let you know …