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So I tried CrossFit…

…and I liked it!

"The unkowns" a tough WOD that I didn't finish on veterans day.
“The unknowns” a tough WOD that I didn’t complete on Veterans day. There’s more to it that didn’t fit on the screen!

I’ve run into so many people over the past year or so who do CrossFit and not one had ever had anything bad to say about it. That said, I had the misconception that it was some crazy, unsafe workout routine where people just got hurt and threw up. About five months ago I decided to give it a shot—after all, no one had anything bad to say, so why not. At that point I was a little burnt out from my tri training, so I needed a change of pace anyways.

There are quite a few CrossFit gyms, or “boxes” as they call them, in the Cleveland area and I knew people at a few of them. I decided to try CTOWN for no other reason than it was a convenient location. They offered a free “Bootcamp” classes try it out, so one warm Saturday afternoon, I showed up and gave it a shot. I arrived about 10 minutes early while another class was wrapping up. Everyone had amazing bodies, dripping with sweat and they all looked like they were going to pass out. Loud music was playing as the coach walked around encouraging everyone to keep going. A buzzer went off and everyone had a sigh of relief. Although for a minute or two everyone looked exhausted, and many laying on the ground, they all quickly recovered and started smiling and congratulating each other on a good workout.

Then it was time for the bootcamp class. Carl, the head coach at CTOWN, rounded up the class and had us run 400m followed by some more warmup drills. After that, he showed us the bootcamp WOD (workout of the day), demonstrated the moves it involved and pointed out how do do them correctly. He spent the most amount of time on squats. I now know why—a large majority of the moves in CrossFit involve some kind of squat movement, including wall balls. If my memory is correct the WOD that day involved rowing, pushups, wall balls and air squats. It was a 20 minute AMREP (as many rounds as possible). The workout was intense, a lot of sweat was shed and I was sore the next day.

After going through their training camp (conditioning program) I’ve continued to go back regularly. What’s great about CrossFit workouts is that they are fast but intense—most WODs are under 30 minutes of work time. I no longer have a concern about the program being unsafe. They spend so much time making sure you are doing the moves right (and safe) emphasizing quality over quantity (or weight you can’t lift). The workouts are also very scalable. If you can’t do a handstand pushup, you can do a box pushup or a regular pushup and work your way up to the full move. The vibe in the gym is nothing but positive. No intimidating body builders making you feel week—just good, encouraging people.

Although I’m currently CrossFitting 4-6 times a week, I’ll probably cut back and focus more on tri-specific training around February. That said, I’ve been read a lot of research lately that talks about how short, high-intensity interval (including strength) training can improve endurance sport performance. Just last week I had my best 100y free swim time in a while—and I haven’t been swimming much in the past few months. CrossFit is, by design, broad and general making it great training for any sport, physically demanding job or just life in general.

Cool graffiti outside the gym
Cool graffiti outside the gym

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One month until race day! Where did time go?

Wow how time flies! I just realized I have less than a month to go before my first tri this summer. I finally “officlally” signed up for the Lake Metroparks Lighthouse Fairport Triathlon yesterday. I did this race last year and it was great. Clean beach, interesting bike course and spectator friendly—and the registration fee is only $20! They also have a kayak option for non-swimmers that want to try out triathlon. It’s a 500m swim, 20k bike and 5k run on July 28, 2013.

2012 Fairport Tri, Beach
2012 Fairport Tri, Beach

I think I’ve been spending too much time lifting at the gym this year and not enough time doing cardio. My recent times have been kind of slow. To be honest, I’ve had less motivation to swim/bike/run lately and more motivation to lift. It’s also summer so I want to look good.

I need to do more cardio over the next month—and somehow find the motivation to do so. I’m taking a trip to Put-In-Bay for a few days around the 4th. The place we stay is good for training because it’s on the lake so I should be able to get some open water training in. Biking on the island is a challenge. Three times around the island is about 16 miles. There’s also no gym, so I’ll be limited to body weigh strength moves.

Motivation. Needed.

Shoe in grass, Road ID
Shoe in grass, Road ID

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Bike to run pain

Now that spring is here, it’s time to start getting back into core triathlon training. The weather was awesome this past Saturday so I decided to do a bike-run brick workout, which I haven’t done in a while. The bike ride went great. I felt good and kept up a respectable speed. I finished up at home, changed into running shoes and headed to the park for a run.

The first mile went fine. I felt like I was going slow but at the one mile mark I realized I was going at a pretty good pace when the Runkeeper lady told me my pace. About a quarter mile later, that’s when it went downhill. All of a sudden I got a sharp and uncomfortable pain above my right knee (I looked it up after, the exact muscle was the vastus medialis, part of the quadriceps). It almost felt like it came out of place or something. I stopped and sat on a bench for a moment trying to work it out with my hands. I could feel a tightness in the muscle and an obvious difference from the left side. Eventually I got up and started walking around a bit. Still a little sore, I decided to cut the 5k run short and just run back to my bike.

After I got going, the pain was completely gone; until I climbed a big hill. The pain was back, only this time it was on both sides. I tried to keep going as I only had about a quarter mile to go but I couldn’t. I had to stop again and manually massage my legs. Eventually the pain went away and I finished. The rest of the day and even the next day (as I’m writing) just a slight soreness remains.

I’m not sure if I hurt myself or if my body just needs to be re-conditioned for that bike to run transition. I’ll work it out with a roller this evening on the couch and maybe use some KT tape. Hopefully the next time it won’t happen.

Roller & KT Tape
Roller & KT Tape

On another note, I have decided not to kick-off the tri season with three weeks dedicated to each sport (one sport per week) as I had previously planned. After thinking it over, I think it would be a bad idea as it would mean two weeks of not doing each sport. Instead, I’m going to gradually decrease strength training over the next month from 3-4 workouts per week to eventually 1-2 workouts per week and increase cardio (swim/bike/run).

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Why triathlon? Why fitness?

Explain triathlon, or any endurance sport for that matter, to someone who isn’t familiar and they will probably say something like “you do that volunteerily?” Yes, conventional wisdom says pushing your body to its limits is kinda crazy. So why do we crazy people do it?

Health
Probably the most obvious reason for anyone to keep in shape is to be healthy. A recent study found that just 75 minutes of moderate exercise per week can add two years to your life (PLoS Medicine as published in Men’s Health). See also countless studies that find that fit people are less likely to have health issues.

It’s a challenge
With anything in life, if you don’t challenge yourself, you’re likely to become bored, stagnant and depressed. Challenges & goals don’t need to be crazy. In fact, if they aren’t attainable, you’re less likely to achieve them and therefore could be discouraged to challenge yourself in the future. In a race, I take each person in front of me as a challenge—one at a time. I don’t worry about the competitor two spots ahead of me, just the one in front of me. I say to myself, your goal is to pass that one person. And when I do, then the goal changes to pass the next person. This kind of mentality is not only good for athletic competition, but in every day life as well. If you’re an intern, you’re not likely to become CEO and skip everything in between. I’m not saying that one shouldn’t have big goals, just that there needs to be smaller goals along the way. It makes the big goal seem more attainable.

Getting ready to swim. Just prior to the start of the 2012 Cleveland Triathlon
Getting ready to swim. Just prior to the start of the 2012 Cleveland Triathlon.

Stress relief
For me, nothing relieves stress better than an intense workout. If I’m stressed at work, I don’t take it out on my co-workers, friends or family. I take it out at the gym, pool or on the road. It helps distract me from what I’m doing elsewhere and focus on something else for a while. I think part of the reason this works so well for me is that gym time is also off-the-grid time for me. I use to use my iPhone as my iPod but then I just ended up replying to emails and texts in between sets (so life was still with me). My non-connect iPod shuffle was one of the best pieces of gear I’ve purchased in a while (it’s also waterproof so I can swim with it!). It’s also nice to get outside and be with nature every once and a while. I love spending a few minutes just sitting on the beach after a run on a nice day. It’s time to reflect on the workout, what went well, what wasn’t so good and make a mental note for next time.

I feel that this “break from life” actually helps me to be better at my job and life in general. Once I go back to work, I feel refreshed and focused with a clean mental state—opposed to being over-worked, stressed and un-focused.

The view after a run on the beach
The view after a run on the beach.

It’s a drug that makes you feel good
Along with stress relief, a good workout just makes you feel good. According to WebMD, “Endorphins … trigger a positive feeling in the body, similar to that of morphine.” They go on to say that “Regular exercise has been proven to reduce stress, ward off anxiety and feelings of depression, boost self-esteme [and] improve sleep.”

Once exercise is a regular part of your life, it’s hard to stop. It’s addictive. A couple years ago I had a minor surgery that prevented me from working out in any capacity for about a week and at full capacity for over a month. That first week, especially, all I wanted to do was get off the couch and do something physical. I felt jittery and on edge. Just like withdraw from an illegal street drug—but this is a good drug!

Confidence
Fit people generally walk a little taller with more “swagger,” as a recent article in Men’s Health points out (partially because they have a stronger core). Being comfortable in your body helps build confidence. Reduced stress and endorphins also contribute to higher confidence.

 

I’m not trying to say that everyone needs to be crazy like triathletes and marathon runners, but if you aren’t active now, try adding a little physical activity to your life.

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Hello!

I’m an amateur triathlete in Cleveland, Ohio. I competed in my first super-sprint distance tri in 2009. Months prior, I saw triathlon on tv and said to myself “I’m up for that challenge…” then did it. Aside from being a (very slow) high-school cross country runner, I have no prior experience.

This blog will be somewhat of at training diary for me. I plan to post at least once a week about my progress, gear I try etc.

More about me: went to Girard High School (Girard, Ohio), Kent State University (Kent, Ohio), work in marketing, love EDM (electronic dance music), a little obsessed with technology (especially anything Apple related) & have a 10+ year relationship with SeanSkiSez

Cleveland Triathlon 2012
Cleveland Triathlon 2012

 

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