First CrossFit WOD

11:34 Tue 19 May 2009
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I took my first Intro to CrossFit a while ago (2 Mar) and then failed to go to another for a while. Even though it really wasn’t a tough class.

Despite this lack of commitment, I quite like the philosophy of CrossFit (summarized in the “World-Class Fitness In 100 Words” section on this page), and the reading I’ve done around it suggests that it’s quite effective. So yesterday I pushed myself to go to another intro class.

The first intro class I did was focused mainly on lifting technique, and so wasn’t all that demanding physically. The one I wandered into yesterday, however, was set up to basically mirror a non-intro class, and to just do a basic CrossFit unit: the Workout of the Day, or WOD.

CrossFit focuses on daily high-intensity workouts, and the website generally provides one every day. They emphasize variety, so the workouts change fairly dramatically. The aim is to do them as quickly as possible, in part to keep the intensity level high. As far as I can tell, CrossFit emphasizes shorter bursts of high energy expenditure rather than longer periods of lower energy output—but the variety in the workouts does seem to occasionally cover “endurance” exercise.

The WOD I did yesterday was a variant of the CrossFit WOD for last Sunday, and was as follows:

  • 100 foot lunge walking, carrying a 25-pound weight.
  • 30 box jumps (I think our boxes were 24 inches high).
  • 20 pullups.

Do four rounds, for time.

Let me address the pullups first: I can’t do 20 pullups, at least not what most people would consider pullups. Apart from the underhand or overhand aspect, these are the pullup variants I’m aware of:
Strict: You start suspended from the bar (i.e. legs off the ground). You can only use arm strength to pull your chin over the bar. No swinging/kicking/arching/etc. allowed.
Freeform: You start suspended from the bar (i.e. legs off the ground). You can get your chin over the bar any way you like (as long as you’re not pushing off a nearby wall or something). This is what most people think of as a normal pullup. I might be able to do three of these, and I think my best ever was six.
Kipping: A subset of freeform, really, these are distinct in that the technique allows the practitioner to swing their body so as to do the pullups quickly, with near-constant motion. I don’t know how to do these technique-wise and probably lack the arm strength as well.
Jumping: What most people would call “cheating”—with these you can use your legs to push off the ground to help you get over the bar. The majority of my pullups yesterday were of this type.

So I started off trying freeform underhand pullups, managed a couple at a time at best, switched to underhand jumping pullups at the suggestion of an instructor, then later to overhand jumping pullups where I would start out hanging as low as possible and then would try to hold myself above the bar for a moment after getting up there.

Given that I didn’t do proper pullups, can I be said to have completed the WOD at all? Yes, because while CrossFit is competitive in the sense that you’re trying to get as good a time as possible, it’s not a strict competition except at official competition events.

Consider what would have happened if I had had to do proper freeform pullups each round: it would have taken forever. I’m honestly not sure I could do sixty pullups in an hour. Maybe not even in two hours. The pullup section of each round, for me, would have consisted of a lot of time waiting for my arms to recover enough to try another pullup, and stretching that out for a long time obviously decreases my energy output per minute. The jumping pullups, on the other hand, maintained that output intensity quite well.

This is a positive aspect of CrossFit as I understand it: the emphasis on maintaining high-energy output over time for each individual means that it’s less likely to produce the kind of embarrassing gym-class scenarios where you go in and are presented with something beyond your capabilities and simply expected to do it regardless. That approach just isn’t going to result in a high-intensity-over-time workout for you.

Instead, the approach is to just get as close as possible to whatever the WOD calls for, and keep moving (and expending energy).

Lunge walking consists of taking a big step, then bringing your rear knee to touch the ground, while also making sure that your front foot is far enough forward that your front knee doesn’t go over it, and then taking another step, and so on. We were carrying 25-pound weights, with no restrictions on how to carry them. That was tough, and I definitely had to stop a couple of times in later rounds. I alternated between carrying the weight in front of me and behind me.

The box jumps are simple enough: start in front of the box, then jump onto it so that your heels are down on it, and stand up straight, then jump back to the floor and repeat. Those weren’t too bad, but let me point out that box jumps are a hell of a lot harder after lunge walking while carrying 25 pounds.

There were a few points where I didn’t think I’d be able to make it through the WOD. At about the halfway point I started thinking that it was beyond me. Luckily short rests always brought be back enough energy to continue.

My final time was 28:45, last by a couple of minutes, but I was pretty happy to have finished at all.

So it was tough, but it was really good, and having struggled through it makes me more confident about getting into CrossFit in earnest. Hopefully I’ll start doing standard (non-intro) CrossFit within the next week or two.

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