CrossFit Workout

Yesterday was my third personal training session with Dave at CrossFit. I told him I felt that I hadn’t done enough last time, when we focused almost entirely on front squats. He said strength training can be more mentally tiring than physically. I guessed that was why I felt tired and crabby last time, later in the evening, even though I paradoxically felt like I didn’t work out. I couldn’t tell if I was crabby because I was worn out or because I was not worn out enough.
I asked Dave if a strength workout like my last one burns a lot of calories. I had a feeling it didn’t. Dave said that although some strength-training devotees claim that it burns a ton of calories by building additional muscle, in fact that effect is pretty small, so a strength training workout doesn’t meet that particular goal of mine. He believes in the major athletic benefits of strength training, though, and tries to make sure everybody does a strength workout once a week. That’s fine with me as long as plenty of other workouts are more intense and leave me tired. He said not to worry, that I’d be working hard this time.
My workout was to do three rounds of the following three drills as fast as I could: sprint a lap around the outside of the building, about 440 yards; do 50 wall-ball throws; and do 20 medicine-ball crunches.
I ran off to circle the building, not having tried to run faster than a jog in longer than I can remember, and by the time I turned the first corner I wanted to walk. I wish I could see a graph of my speed dropping, but it would be depressing. How come I can tolerate high-speed jumping rope longer than running? I guess it’s mostly about practice. So I pretty much hated the run, and I staggered back into the gym all out of breath and off balance. On the bright side, maybe since my running is so bad, I’ll improve fast.
Next came wall-ball, a multiple-focused challenge similar to some drills at Cappy’s (the boxing gym). By multiple focused, I mean that it was aerobic, a little plyometric, required flexibility and agility, and taxed lower- and upper-body muscles. It consists of this: squat (weight on heels) and pick up the medicine ball; explode (more or less) out of the squat by thrusting hips forward; straighten arms upward and use leg-power to fling ball at wall several feet overhead; catch ball and continue back down into squat. Repeat.
I moved on after 50 wall-balls to the medicine-ball crunches: do a crunch, bounce the ball off the wall, catch it, and go back down for another crunch. Doing 20 crunches and no other abdominals work felt like a joke, to be honest. It was tiring but much too short. At Cappy’s we routinely do 200 or more crunches in sets of 25 of many different kinds, with good technique always emphasized.
Run, wall-ball, crunches, start over. Run—painful. Fifty wall-ball—fun and tiring. Twenty medicine-ball crunches—what, that’s all? Third time around: run around the building. I don’t think I went any faster than a jog this time. Wall-ball and crunches—tiring, but no problem. Done.
My whole workout, three rounds, took 22 minutes. Again comparing this to Cappy’s, at Cappy’s we’d still have almost 40 minutes remaining in the workout, some stations very challenging (moving and punching with a partner holding a pad), some moderate (speed bag). I know I can get a lot faster at all of this, but what will that lead to—twelve-minute workouts? I hope instead to add in many other things so that I can work out for close to an hour as I’m used to doing.
Next I clamored to try a rope climb. Tom and I had gone to CrossFit on Saturday to watch their competition, the CrossFit Championship, and we were struck by how much more easily people could climb the rope if they used their feet properly. Dave showed me how to do that. Before I knew it I was a third of the way up and my upper body was fatigued. I wanted to climb higher just to see if I could, but I was more worried about burning my hands and my bare legs on the way down, so I stopped there and slowly let myself down. Controlling the descent meant doing it more slowly than the climb, which made it seem more difficult. I wanted to try again but I decided I was too tired.
It’s gratifying to do reasonably well at some of the new drills I’m learning. I also feel ambivalent, because I’m going to CrossFit looking for a harder challenge.
I’m not saying (yet) that I don’t believe I’ll get that. Based on what I see on the CrossFit websites about their exercises and results, and based on what Dave and Nick have said, I think the challenge will get as intense as I like. I should be able to work out longer if I want to as well, if I’m not satisfied with their version of a “short but intense” workout philosophy. I’m accustomed to “kind of long but intense,” from Cappy’s one-hour classes.
Based on my own very limited CrossFit experience so far, Cappy’s is a much more effective workout with the exception that it doesn’t offer pure strength training. Does weight training make CrossFit worth the money? By itself, it wouldn’t. I need that plus lots of variety and intensity. I’m reserving judgment because, for now, my goal should be to learn the drills I’ll need when I start doing their daily whiteboard-posted workouts. These sessions are supposed to enable me to work out more independently starting next week. That’s what Dave says. I believe him, but I’m impatient to work harder as long as I’m spending the time and money to go up there.
My intention isn’t to compare gyms and say one is better than the other. But it’s natural and helpful to me to compare my experiences and how I benefit, both because it’s an ongoing learning process and because gym dollars are limited.
Wall-ball and rope climbing video demos linked here.