The decision to take up CrossFit (CF) was not taken lightly. For one, it is expensive and if I was going to do this, I needed to decide what was important to me. Paying $200 + a month and only going 1 or 2 times a week is not money well spent. I analyzed my training and my goals and knew if I wanted to advance, I was going to have to make some changes.
I spent a good part of 2017 prioritizing strength training but I knew if I wanted to get to the next level, I wasn’t going to be able to go it alone.
After experiencing SLSC during their open house, I knew this place was a good fit for me. Most important, I knew the coaches knew their stuff. Further, a friend knew the owner and spoke very highly of him… since this friend was not strength training inclined, I knew his high praise was not something he would give easily.
Before I could chicken out, I booked the intro appointment. I knew my upper body strength was lacking but I also knew that, for the most part, my form wasn’t TOO terrible. My squat, however, was a totally different story.
See, for the vast majority of fitness journey, I have been fortunate in that I am able to see and mimic fairly well. I am not in anyway saying I am perfect but I do a decent job. I also research exercises to teach myself the muscles I am supposed to be hitting to ensure while doing the movement that I am at least doing hitting the right muscles… if I am feeling it in completely different muscles, I am probably doing something wrong.
CF has some staple movements in a lot of their workouts: The Press, Squat & Deadlift. There are the two olympic lifts: Snatch and Clean as well. I knew next to nothing to about how to perform a snatch or clean but had my eye on them and wanted to learn. I could press and deadlift decently to. The squat however… yea…. not pretty.
At my intro appt, the coach asked what he should know about me to which I responded with “I am a smartass” (those that know me understand this response – those that don’t… its the truth). He chuckled and said asked if he should put that in my file, I said it wouldn’t be a bad idea. But then we started to discuss my background with movement and I told him, point blank, my squat is terrible. Less than 30 minutes later he confirmed that I was correct (though very politely).
I made it through the intro appointment and 4 required “elements” classes and started taking classes.
Of course, just my luck (meant seriously and sarcastically), I started classes while Squat was one of the main lifts that we were focusing on during the strength portion of classes.
SLSC class formats were always comprised of a warm-up, a strength session (though every once in a while we skipped strength so we could do a longer METCON), followed by the workout of the day (WOD).
Since I was committing to this being my main form of working out, I was committed to 4-5 days a week (running and bike commuting when I was able as well). The first several weeks every single coach told me I need to work on my squat to the point of joking that I needed to get printed on my tank tops, “Yes, I know my squat needs work.”
This was frustrating, to say the least but not because I was being criticized but because I was so bad at this movement. Well… Squats and jumping rope. Go figure….
I was honest with the coaches and told them that I knew I sucked at squatting but that was why I was there. There were LOTS of modifications in those first several weeks while the coaches worked with me to get my form better even if it meant using the trainer bar.
Eventually I started to improve on the squat (and jumping rope) and I was getting stronger on the other lifts.
Deadlifting is one movement I have always loved (any and all variations). I remember the first time failing on that lift because I tried to lift 135 (which would have been a PR) and I could get it to budge off the floor. A couple of months later, I was able to nail that weight for more reps (BTW).
I was getting stronger and I was getting better at all the lifts. I was also introduced to a slew of new lifts/workouts and I was in love.
Except for box jumps… It is a right of passage in CF to nail your shins in box jumps. But heaven forbid I do that just once… nope, I had to go big. I nailed BOTH my shins badly TWICE in one workout (and proceeded to do step ups for the rest of that workout). A few days later (when box jumps appeared in the workout again), I did it again but this time it was a bruise on a bruise and it was even more painful. Well… that was the end of box jumping for me. My shins needed to heal and then I had such a severe case of PTSD from them (which I am still not over BTW) that I stopped doing box jumps.
Throughout that first year, SLSC offered several special classes/training sessions to focus on certain lifts/elements often found in the sport. I took advantage when I could.
Then, a little over a year after my first class, I felt pain in my shoulder. Given where the pain was and how the pain felt, I assumed it was a slight delt strain which I sorta worked through. After taking a solid 3 weeks off (due to just a crazy 3 weeks where life happened) and returning, the pain came back almost immediately during warm up. It was time to admit that this was not a mild delt strain and was actually an injury.
Not a stranger to injuries, I did what I always did and started physical therapy. Forced to put CF on hold and cease any and all upper body strength work, I returned to running and focused BIG time on lower body strength work. I wasn’t able to do anything involving a barbell (putting one across my back to back squat hurt my shoulder) so I was back at my old gym using machines. There were lots of lunges and leg pressing during this time.
Once my shoulder was feeling better, I was cleared to start lifting upper body again but some movements still didn’t feel good. I did what I could and avoid the movements that didn’t feel good.
I was in physical therapy for 5 months and even had to start seeing a chiro/massage therapist… The muscles in my shoulder/upper back were NOT happy and didn’t want to play together nicely in the sandbox… so-to-speak.
Eventually I was cleared for all movements again. I decided to spend a month in the gym trying to get some of my strength and focus on the rehab movements in the hopes that I would be in a better place when returning to CF.
Well… returning to CF didn’t go as planned. My should still could not handle some movements… Barbell snatch was a hard no and so was any sort of pull-up variation.
I was disappointed.
Over the next several months, there were lots of modifications or avoiding certain workouts because they were too shoulder intensive. My shoulder just felt off and I knew something was still wrong.
I kept the massage therapist and chiro on the payroll figuring it was good monthly maintenance given the amount I workout… plus I had met my deductible by March 1st so it was free for the rest of the year :-p
Eventually, my chiro recommended a MRI. The diagnosis ended up being bursitis and tendonitis in one of my rotator cuff tendons… which solved the mystery of why some movements hurt and some felt fine.
I made the decision to move forward with the suggested treatment of a cortisone shot and some rest. I decided to take a solid month off.
I used the time to evaluate my situation. I had started to miss running. I lost a lot of strength. Despite loving SLSC and the people, the workouts were starting to leave me feeling disappointed more often than not. I had lost a good years worth of hard work with the injury and it bothered me. Plus I just didn’t trust my shoulder to continue a lot of the work in CF. I knew the coaches could modify for me and I actually did reach out to the owner to discuss some permanent modifications for me which he helped with and I took his advice. But I also felt bad taking that extra time away from the other members in class (no one expressed frustration… but I still felt bad). I found I was avoiding the workouts that had moves that, to me, were questionable.
I wasn’t working out as often as I used to and I didn’t like it.
Not able to deny what was going on any longer, I made the decision to stop CF. I decided I would try to get back into running and would continue to lift but would do moves I knew my shoulder could handle at the volume I knew was ok until I felt more confident in my shoulder.
This was not a decision I made lightly and it was difficult. I had found a wonderfully supportive community. The people are AMAZING. The coaches are AMAZING.
I just didn’t trust my body anymore.