A Beginner's Journey to Class at CFSL – Part 3: The Second Session

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unnamedOh wall balls. How we love to hate you! Do you remember the frustration of trying to hit those silly red targets with an inexplicably heavy, awkwardly large ball, not once, not twice, but 75 TIMES?! (And asking your coach if they’re sure the ball only weighs 3 / 6 / 9 kg?) Our newcomer Rob speaks of his annoyance with the bloody things, followed by his great epiphany…

Another Saturday morning meant back down to Battersea to complete the first fifth of the training required before even considering graduating to classes.  The box was in full swing, so Ozzie whisked us to our training room, battling against the gale-force winds, wheeling a rowing machine along the outdoor passageway.

We began with a warm up of rowing, goblet squats, wall climbs and press ups. Rowing seems unique in how quickly it tires me out, but I somehow boshed through the two sets of 300m more quickly and comfortably than before. Wall climbs were a new experience: moving backwards up a wall from a press up to a fully vertical handstand position. It brought back memories of school gymnastics.

After some more limbering up, we began to test our shoulder strength, working out close to our 3 rep maxes for the strict press and the push press.  I began to regret having trained shoulders the previous morning, and quickly realised it’s perhaps not the wisest thing to be keeping up my old ineffective gym routine while going through the sessions.

We fought hard to keep proper form and lift the weights above our heads with each rep, which often resulted in no remaining concentration for re-racking the bar, so Ozzie remained on standby to keep us in check.

Front squats were the other crucial part of session two. Again, getting the form right was the focus before adding any weight.  And in doing so, we unearthed a pretty big chink in my armour: a lack of mobility meant that I could barely get the bar into the correct position, resting on my upturned fingertips across the front of my shoulders with my triceps raised to parallel with the floor. Emma proceeded to work out her range with weights while I was consigned to the dowel to try and loosen things up. My body simply didn’t seem able to replicate the motion Ozzie was demonstrating.

My frustration was compounded when we tried adding weight. Getting into position led to such soreness in my wrists that I didn’t even feel I could attempt the squat. We had to take the weights right down until the position was comfortable.  It was enlightening to know my previous technique would only have led to further problems with more weight.  In some ways I was glad to find something to work on, as this gives me a focus towards getting better and fitter and moving properly, but it was also unnerving to realise that previous activity in my own gym had brought on the inflexibility that was now impeding my progress with CrossFit.

This meant I probably wasn’t in the best frame of mind for the workout. A slight sense of defeat had set in. I can’t remember which mundane lady’s name had been assigned to this one – it might have been Fran or Karen. Essentially it involved throwing a medicine ball at a red spot unfeasibly high above you, catching it on its return and squatting again to launch it straight back up.  Seventy five times.

Neither throwing nor catching have ever been strongpoints for me. I blame the fact nobody realised I was shortsighted till I was fourteen, but even aside from that excuse, I’m just rubbish at it. We got started and my ball was soon all over the place. I luckily had the reflexes to move my head each time I was at risk of a ball sandwich in the face, though Emma’s ball did catch me a couple of times. On-lookers had appalled expressions on their faces as I battled through. Ozzie offered to downgrade me to a lighter ball, but stubbornness had set in. The hardest part wasn’t the number of times, or the actual technique, but repeating that technique well more than three times in a row. Ozzie explained this was conditioning the body to move better, so I concluded that I was definitely starting from a low base.

Feeling a bit beaten up, I barely scraped home my seventy-fifth throw within the allocated time. I was on the edge of irritation and worried I was falling out of love with something I had been so excited about. My palms were bruised and I have dropped almost everything I have picked up ever since. Nevertheless, I’ve found a broom in the flat and have been using it to stretch my arms so I can improve my front squat. The whole point of doing this was to get better, so it’s probably good to realise early on that it was never going to be easy. I want to do CrossFit precisely for the epic beasting it offers in addition to the functionality you get from its programming, rather than absent-mindedly bicep curling and calf raising in an un-atmospheric chain gym and ending up looking and feeling the same years later.  So I need to get used to finding my limits and then smashing through them, which means I will chalk my lacklustre performance down to being part of the transition.

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