Monday, March 19, 2012

Bye-Bye Crossfit Birdie!

I quit Crossfit 6 weeks ago.

Yep. I did it.

Why the hell did you DO that?

A combination of reasons led me to this.

First, I was stuck. I've basically been at a plateau at Crossfit for the last three years. My max lifts never got better, WOD times were always similar.

Also, my knees hurt. Between the box jumps I couldn't do because the impact from landing hurt my knees to the running I wouldn't do because it makes my knees hurt, to warm-ups and WOD movements that moved too quickly to allow me to get to a deep squat.  Jumping rope hurt my knees, so I would jump as low as possible to the ground while getting the rope under me.  Double-unders were a pipe dream ("Just jump higher!"). I couldn't hold a plank the way the trainers wanted me to (with arms fully extended so my hands are on the floor like the upright position of a pushup) - because - guess what - it hurt my knees.  Some trainers who weren't as familiar with me and my idiosyncracies gave me a hard time, or asked repeatedly why I was rowing instead of running if there wasn't anything visibly wrong with me.

At home, whenever Daniel would accidentally bump my knee, I would howl in pain and retreat.

The orthopedic surgeon I went to in order to get some answers about my knees told me, "Keep lifting weights. Don't do stupid shit [like running and jumping]".

More reasons? My homeopathist did a hair analysis, and his interpretation showed that my adrenal glands were fatigued, among other things (like various heavy metal accumulations in my body). His words I paraphrase as, "You need to change something. You need to work out less."

Beyond this, I present anecdotal family evidence. My sister - gorgeous, former Olympic-level gymnast and professional ballet dancer, now cardiac anesthesiologist sister - wrenched her shoulder at her Crossfit gym doing either a pullup or a muscle-up about 6 weeks ago, if not earlier, and has been afraid to inflame it further since then, so she's been back to running with the dog.  My dad chugged along at Crossfit for a couple of years himself, but his scoliosis proved painful enough that he stopped going and reverted back to a gym with machines, and LO his back feels immensely better now that he's not box-jumping / jumping rope / impacting his body. 

So, the words of my homeopathist were ringing in my ears. WORK OUT LESS. That doesn't sound very reassuring, especially for someone who doesn't want to be fat. His interpretation also showed that I don't process carbohydrates, which he thinks is a root cause for why it is so hard for me to lose weight, yet I am a champ at gaining weight as soon as I stop the intense activity.

The light at the end of the tunnel has, so far, presented itself in my Rolfer. I've been seeing him for over a year, getting body work primarily to address my knock-knees. He kept urging me, as the months went on, to consider stopping Crossfit and coming to his gym.  That I would get stronger without 'doing stupid shit'.

The Rolfer's gym is next to his home in Seattle. It is one part shanty, one part garage. It has a propane heat lamp for helping to mitigate the numbing feel of icy barbells. Whiteboards line one wall, with workouts listed on them.  He focuses on powerlifting and kettlebells, with the workouts having a side benefit of working to leave you breathless. No time limits ("The goal is to survive!"). A poster hangs on one wall, emphasizing the Ten Most Important Things in his gym. Below it's header, it lists the numbers 1-10 and "TECHNIQUE" written in ten different fonts, with "Get the picture?" below that.

A typical warmup starts with some sort of farmer's walk (holding kettlebells while you walk) down to the corner and back, which is slightly downhill as you head out and the uphill return is more challenging.

Workouts take longer - typically 90 minutes. My squats are deeper than ever and only getting better. My weights are down while I start back at Ground Zero relearning everything. Kettlebell swings are better now that I am not using my arms to hoist the bell. I can actually do a legitimate Turkish get-up with a kettlebell, instead of a modified squat-thing.  The other night, I was doing pullups and he asked me to have a hollow body position.  I huffed indignantly and told him that's what I had done originally until the CF coaches had asked for a neutral spine position. Turns out my gymnastics coach from when I was younger was right!!

As far as my body, I have to admit that my knees feel so much better than before. They are still sore and occasionally tight, but I don't get up from a table after not being able to move my legs for an hour and reassess my ability to stand without help like an arthritic senior citizen.


Note: I am not vilifying Crossfit. I think, for a lot of people, they are a great solution and can provide a great fitness level. I love the community the gym I attended has built up, and I miss seeing my friends there and commiserating over workouts at 6 AM. However, I believe that in the end, they did not work FOR ME.

I also believe that the training certs for coaches do not seem to be protracted enough to include a lot of physiology, anatomy, and being aware of technique. I mean, they can't. They are in expansion mode and gyms want the cache of being part of the Crossfit umbrella of affiliates. The coaches at my dad's gym were particularly bad at correcting poor technique.  And a lot of people can get away with poor technique. They are young and strong enough to overcome poor technique, and when they injure themselves, they heal quickly. But what about people who want to remain fit but aren't going to 'walk it off'?  The coaches at the gym I attended were fairly cognizant of different clients' needs, but the classes were too big to really get individual attention and troubleshoot problems early on instead of letting them progress into bad lifts and, hey, plateaued individuals.


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