Fitness and Geek-ness; Not Mutually Exclusive

24 Apr

I’m a geek. I sometimes hate to admit it, but it is, unfortunately, the case. When I was younger, it was painfully obvious. I was tall and ridiculously skinny with a pimply face and bad hair. I played in the marching band and did math league. I mean, seriously, I don’t think it gets any more geek than that. Sports were not even a consideration. My mom will tell you I “played” soccer in like second grade and I wandered around the field staring at the sky. The only part of being fit that I worried about was being “fit into my own locker” by someone much larger than me. I finished high school in the top 10 percent of my class and went off to RIT on a partial academic scholarship, where I failed to apply myself and eventually left for a variety of reasons after a couple years. At some point between graduating from high school and leaving college, I filled out a bit. Meaning, I got bigger and broader shouldered but not really fatter. At 21 I started working at the ambulance and I had a partner who was a few years older and was getting chunkier by the day. I loved to bust Scott’s stones and remind him how fat he was. He told me to wait until I was 25 – everything changes when you hit 25. Now mind you, at this point in my life, I don’t exercise, I eat whatever I want and I never gain an ounce. Life was good. At 24 I got hired as a firefighter. I knew I would need to be fit in better shape for the academy, so I came as close as I have ever come to a fitness “routine” and by the time I finished the academy I was 6’2″, 216 pounds and probably as fit as I had ever been in terms of endurance and strength. Now mind you – this should not impress you – but it makes the point of where I was in life. 3 years later, I went for my physical for work and I was 27 years old and 246 pounds. 30 pounds in 3 years – so that’s what Scott was talking about. Everything waxed and waned from there. Up and down in weight, fitter, fatter, diets, eating binges, but one thing remained consistent – I was horribly inconsistent.

I’ll spare you the details from there to today because I have ultimately covered them already in this blog, but this inconsistency was true in many areas of my life. Worse yet it is coupled with my inner geek and a touch of perfectionism. That’s not to say I am perfect – far from it – but rather that when I do something, I feel it needs to be perfect. So, if I don’t have time to make it perfect, I often have trouble getting moving on it, or staying moving on it. This leads to procrastination and and overwhelming feeling of having a LOT to do. Especially when you pair it with my inability to tell anyone no. The good news was, that all this “stuff” to do was a great excuse not to go to exercise – which I hated.

What’s interesting is that CrossFit, or more importantly the desire to fit structured class times into my day, has actually forced me to become more efficient in everyday life. One such “efficiency” is that every morning when I wake up, I check the WOD on my phone. Generally, this comes right after rolling over and turning off the alarm (also on the phone) and before any lights have been turned on or my eyes have adjusted to the light from the phone. What’s even more uncanny, is that this ritual of squinting at my iPhone to check the WOD happens daily, regardless of whether I’m heading to the gym or not. And god forbid, Chad hasn’t posted the WOD – I don’t even want to talk about it. For those of you that don’t do CrossFit, stop judging me. For those of you that do, don’t pretend you haven’t done it too.

So, this brings me to today. I awoke to find a delightful little AMRAP, that looked something like this:

20 minute AMRAP
Ascending ladder 1+1, 2+2, 3+3, 4+4 …

Ground to OH (95#)
Back Squat (95#)

If there is anything I hate more than an AMRAP, it’s an ascending ladder. But, I can do both of those movements and I can even do the both at Rx weight. The question really is, what pace can sustain for 20 minutes. This is where the geek checks in. I now spend the better part of my morning shower analyzing this WOD to death.

The goal: 100 reps of each movement. I’m a numbers guy so it doesn’t take me long to know that 200 reps in 20 minutes is about 1 every 6 seconds. This seems like a pretty aggressive pace for G2OH, but I figure I’ll make it up in the squats. A little more math tells me that 14 rounds gives me 105 reps of each for a total. So there it is – 14 rounds.

The Pace: I like to see the clock. Generally, it helps me to push through, and more and more I have been focused on trying to really limit my rest (when needed) to a few seconds and not let time get away from me. On a good ‘ol fashioned “for time” MetCon, I can figure out the math on the fly, but today, I don’t want to come out of the gate too quickly – this one is going to be an endurance WOD, not a sprint, and so I figure I better have some benchmarks. More math in the shower and I determine that to stay on pace, I need to finish about 7 rounds in the first 5 minutes, about 9 1/2 by the 10 minute mark and just under 12 by the 15 minute mark.

Efficiency: As a self-proclaimed geek and a numbers guy, it’s not hard to imagine that I almost always will analyze the most efficient way to complete a WOD. This was no different. Snatch will likely be faster than a clean and jerk, especially if you’ve seen how dirty my cleans are. Thanks to a single morning some time ago with Coach Chris, I’m more confident in my snatches (at least the light ones) than my cleans, despite having never really done snatches in a MetCon. Chris really is an amazing coach – I should probably have him help me with my cleans – but I’ll save that for another day. Generally I feel that dropping the bar makes me much slower, but lowering the bar seems like a waste of energy, so I will be sure to forgo the bouncy hi-temp plates for the ones that will dead drop and if I do go “one at a time” I’ll focus on quickly getting my hands back on the bar. Any rest between movements will be done after the second to last snatch for the round, so that the last can be lowered to the shoulders for squats without any unnecessary extra lifting of the bar to my shoulders. And, given the fact that we’ve been working 20 rep sets of back squats at MUCH higher weights, all squats will be unbroken, and then the bar will be bailed off the back, because moving back over-head and to the floor is a complete waste of energy.

The Real Deal:3,2,1, Go – and we’re off. 5 rounds in 2 minutes. Just ahead of the pace, and really, this doesn’t seem too bad. At the 5 minute mark I was about 6 1/2 rounds in, so just behind the pace. About 8 rounds in the amount of oxygen reaching my brain failed to allow me to remember… well… anything. Seriously, I had to check the bar because I thought someone added 20lbs while I wasn’t looking, and I had officially found the proverbial “wall”. So, how long could I maintain that pace? Apparently about 8 rounds. I pushed to finish strong, but I was half way through and my pace had slowed considerably. In the end I struggled through to finish 12 rounds even and collapsed in a sweaty pile of mush on the floor. You might note that I say I finished 12 rounds instead of 14 because I like the way it sounds much better than I finished 156 reps instead of 210.

So, why does any of this matter, you ask? I’m getting there – I promise. I set goals. Even little ones help me. Early on it was “don’t finish last” or “be able to go RX”. Very early on it was “Don’t die”. As I got better I would find someone in class that was generally a little faster than me, and my goal would be to keep up with them. It’s not about being better than “that guy”, its about being better than myself. The logic is simple: If he’s always been faster than me, and today I keep up, then the me today is faster than the me yesterday. The results are exponential, by the way, because the logic fails to account for that fact that the him today is likely faster than the him yesterday as well. My inner geek analyzing the WOD helps me set goals, and with 8 months of CrossFit under my belt, I now have a better idea of what I was capable of, which allows me to set goals that are realistic, but also just focused on me. After all, this is about changing my life.

The problem with goals is that if you let them, they can be a double-edged sword. It was painfully obvious to me today at the half-way point that I would not be reaching my goal. I could have given up, and just done what was “comfortable”. In fact, I have struggled with this in the past. “I know I can’t get another round, so I’m gonna coast”. Worse yet is the dreaded “MOD” on the whiteboard. For me, that usually sounds like “Well, I don’t have DUs/HSPUs/etc, so I’m gonna have to modify, so I might as well drop 20 pounds off the bar.” On the flip side, it can easily be argued that if you always reach your goals, then you’re not striving for enough. Meg Bell talks about “wanting to fail” for this same reason.

So the key is really two-fold. First, set goals that are realistic but challenging. It does you no good to set a goal that you already know you’re capable of. I mean – if who you are today is all you ever wanted, then good for you – do that. But if you want more, if you want to be better, if you want to change yourlife, you have to go after what you’re not sure you can get. And that’s part two – GO AFTER IT! Even when you realize you aren’t gonna get there, see how close you can come. Anything less is a defeatist attitude, and with a defeatist attitude, you’ll always end up defeated. Write that down.


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