Saturday, April 21, 2012

To climb steep hills requires a slow pace at first. ~William Shakespeare

Spartan Shape-Up, Day 276:

Sitting here sipping a blackberry protein shake, dirt under my nails, a pleasant fatigue in my muscles and a smile on my face, I have to tell you about today's WOD, BlogLand.

When I rolled over this morning to check out what today's WOD would be, I was met with a little bit of confusion. On the website for Green Mountain CrossFit at The Confluence, the description was thus:
"FitPark WOD..... 
Complete Seven Functional Movements That You Won't Experience Inside The Gym
*For Time: 
*Bring work gloves if you have them and an adventurous spirit."

Hmm... and what does THAT mean, I wondered. Since this will be my first Spring/Summer at CrossFit, I've had really limited (and by limited, I mean one time) exposure to their FitPark (outdoor WOD space). I had absolutely no idea what this may entail. But, I DID have an adventurous spirit, a desire to get sweaty, and the general feeling that I could tackle whatever they threw at me (with modifications, maybe...). I donned my workout gear and off I went.

Milling around, waiting for the class to begin, I speculated with some of the other victims (hehe) about what the various tasks could be. There was a lot of "stuff" out. Ohhhh my. My T-Rex arms quivered in fear of what they might have to try to do today. My legs have had a couple days off, so they were feeling strong and ready to get to work.

Our fearless (creative!) leader today, Alan explained our WOD to us, while grouping us into waves (for start times. You just can't set 20 people loose on a course!)... After paying careful attention to his helpful hints and notes on form, I formulated a strategy in my head. It was a tiny obstacle race! I thought of it as great prep for my impending Spartan Race (15 days!!!!! AHH!!), to see how my body did with "non-standard" challenges.

And so the waves began. I actually ended up in the last wave going through the course, so I had the advantage (?) of the longest warm up time. Warm-ups consisted of hula-hooping, some time on the rowers and skiers. Basically, the goal was to keep your body moving and getting the muscles warm for your looming effort to come. Let me just note that this was the first time I had hula-hooped since.... uhm.... I was probably about 8. Maybe. Hula-hooping has *never* been my forte, but I seemed to figure it out today. While hula-hooping may have been traditionally viewed as a little girls' sport, I would like to give kudos to the several guys who OWNED the hula hoop today! (you totally kicked my butt.)

As I was getting 'on deck' for my wave, I did have a momentary 3rd person view of the scene in front of me... It was amazing. And I wondered what the "normal" (think pink 5# dumbbells and ellipticals) gym on the other side of the hill would think of this. hehehe...

It was go time!
My first challenge was the Prowler Push. For those who don't know, the Prowler is a weighted sled that you push. It looks like this:

It sort of has skis for feet to help with "steering", but pretty much, you're just pushing this bad boy across the parking lot. Things to consider: You have the drag of the metal on the asphalt. And the push back to the line is UPHILL. Yes. Alan decided we should do this in a sloping parking lot... so your experience (or at least mine), went like this... grab the women's prescribed weight (Yeah! I did the whole WOD as prescribed!), engage my hips and legs and start pushing. "Oh... this isn't so bad. What's the big deal?" I picked up the pace a little bit. My legs were still feeling pretty good with this. Must be all the running hills and sprints and such. The first length was no problemo. Pivot that thing around and settle in to push it back to the line. A few steps in my legs are getting a little tired, but still working... "Wait... is this UPHILL?" .... then pretty much the only thoughts I had were "uuugnngghhhh.... arrrrghhhh... rawwwrrrrr....".  I would like to report that I did successfully push that thing both lengths at a good pace, without having to stop. Go go Gadget, Thunder Thighs!

Finishing that obstacle, I just had to jog myself over to the next. One step, two steps... UHMMmm.... Jello Legs. Yep. They weren't quite ready to trot me over to the next thing. Clearly THAT was the tricky part of the Prowler Push that they don't mention...trying to walk away from it! But, as the Spartan community is fond of saying, "If you can't run, you walk!!"

Onto our next task: 50 sledgehammer hits to a giant tire. It was very nice to keep my legs still for that few minutes. This was a good "recovery" station for me. I just focused on keeping up a consistent rhythm and letting my legs recover a bit, while my upper body did some work. .... 48...49... 50. Next!

Following that, we had a Weighted Palette Pull. This was just a big palette, with something like 45-50# of sandbags on it, with a big loop of rope. You stepped in this rope, got it up around your chest/shoulders and leaned into it. Pull down a length of dirt and grass, turn around and come back. Seems simple enough, right? Yeah. Do this, then tell me how simple it is. However, it was right about this point that I began really appreciating the power and muscle in my lower half. I may be mostly useless with the t-rex arms, but as I put my legs to work in this pull, I reminded myself that there are still things I do well.

Now in a full sweat, I trotted over (my legs were back to mostly functional...) to The Farmers Walk. The farmers walk consisted of two big buckets 2/3 of the way full with dirt/sand. You had to pick up both buckets and walk a course with them. Seeing as how Alan seems to be a Master Torture Developer, our course to carry these buckets involved a long loop that included a very significant set of stairs. Yes. Stairs. 2 big buckets of sand, up a flight of stairs. Yes, I was having fun. This was a little trickier, only because the buckets have those thin, plastic handles. It was mind over matter here, if you could get over the discomfort in your hands, while you did this. The weight wasn't an issue for me, but I was fighting the urge to put them down.

Our next obstacle was the Chain Drag. This was a big 'ol chain set up - I think it would be like the chains you put on a car tire with studs on it, for traction in the snow... except it was tractor-tire sized. It was probably 10 ft (?) long, and pretty heavy. Plus, it's made to help with *traction*. What this means is that it does not SLIDE easily over the grass. You are pulling for all you're worth. I elected to do this one walking backwards, to give my hamstrings a little bit of a break. I did have a little giggle to myself, at this point. Yep, MY workout included dragging a giant chain. Clearly this is where I belong... no endless time on a treadmill to be found here!!

We were in the homestretch at this point. Only two more obstacles.  I ran up the little hill (YEAH legs.) and had to wait my turn to get on to the next task. When the explanation of this one was given, I wasn't sure I was going to be able to do it as assigned (I thought I'd have to modify it), but I settled down to tackle it anyway. Weighted Plank Rope Pull.  Here's how it went:
Get down into plank position, on your elbows. Reach out with one arm and drag in this (endless!) rope with a 25# sandbag on the end of it. When you got to the sand bag, pick it up, run it back to the start position, come back, wipe sweat that is dripping into your eyeballs, settle down and do it with the other arm. Yep, planking (hello, core!) while using your arm/shoulder/back to haul in this sandbag.
As I said, originally I was skeptical that I'd be able to do this (hold the plank) the whole time, without having to drop to a knee. However, when pushing for a good finish time, and shoulder to shoulder with other people - who doesn't love a little friendly competition? - I found I was focused on hauling that rope in as fast as possible, not on whether I "could" plank or not. I just did it. Plus, I must admit, having our local women's badass, Cady (who Qualified for the CrossFit Regions, thus far, I think!) at the far end of the ropes, yelling encouragement, certainly kept the intensity going.

Finally, the last event... and the one I was dreading the most: Walking Lunges with a 25# Sandbag Overhead. You see, I have taken on this challenge before (last weekend, it was with a weight plate, instead of a sandbag). I know I can do it, but I also know it's REAL ugly, as my arms tire quickly. I can handle the lunges no problem, but my arms just struggle to keep the weight locked out over head. Nonetheless, it was the last obstacle, I was making good time, and certainly, there would be no quitting or copping out on weight now. I'd done it ALL at the prescribed weight (even feeling like I could've gone heavier) on all the other obstacles, I certainly wasn't going to let this last obstacle reduce that victory. EFF you, Overhead Lunges!!!

With that battle mindset at the forefront of my brain, I grabbed my sandbag, did I clean push press over head and set out (added challenge: uneven terrain. This was no flat soccer field, people!). As my shoulders started to burn and I wanted to put that bag down, I just kept telling myself to one or two more steps. Push push. Screaming shoulders. ONE more step. I won't lie, BlogLand, there were definitely breaks that I needed to stop and lower that bag to my chest for a moment. I tried to keep those as short as possible (just 2-3 breaths), before push-pressing that thing over my head again and resuming. I could feel the people behind me coming up on me, so I pushed a little harder. I find when I am starting to tire a bit, tapping into the competition (no matter how friendly) helps me to go a little harder.

... the last 12 feet or so were evil. Mind over matter, I told myself. Cady was again, right at the end, doling out tips and encouragement to get me over the finish line. "Two more steps! Keep it going!!" and I fought the urge to drop that bag.

The most satisfying moment of the day was taking that last lunge step across the finish line, arms angry but still overhead, and dropping that sandbag, with a triumphant call of "TIME!!!"

16:20 (including maybe an extra 30 sec or a minute waiting for my turn on one or two of the obstacles). I BEASTED this WOD, BlogLand. I'm pretty happy with this. AND - most importantly - I had a lot of fun doing it. I think sometimes we forget how to get dirty, play hard and lift heavy. As kids, we did this stuff (well, not quite *this* stuff, but...) for FUN. As adults, we try and stick ourselves on stationary bikes, or endless hours on ellipticals, logging endless miles going nowhere, as we chase our ideal body shapes.

I have discovered in the last year of Change, that it's not about that. It's about being healthy and fit and strong, whatever that means to you, and however my body turns out at the end. Yes, I have giant, bulging quads at the moment. This may not be the "long, lean muscle" that Cosmo or Glamour wants the 20 something population to build to look good in a skirt.... but you know what, I can run 8 miles, deadlift your Dad and squat my body weight. To me, that sounds a whole lot more functional and useful than being able to do 4 million reps with a tiny dumbbell, because you don't want to build "bulk".

My body is building all-around fitness, rather than specific fitness. For instance, what did the planking with weighted rope drag do today? Oh, you mean other than work every muscle in my body?
I have determined that's why I love CrossFit, as a portion of my varied training program. I feel more healthy and fit overall (which comes in handy, like last weekend, when I pulled a stump out of my yard), than just trying to look good in jeans (which, incidentally, are a bit tricky to find when you have treetrunk legs. Ladies you know what I'm talking about).

With that, BlogLand, I shall leave you for a well-earned shower. I just realized I have a haze of dirt all over me from where the dust stuck to the sweat (yum. I know.). I'm gross-tastic.

As a mantra for today, I think I shall leave you all with my favorite video. You are Powerful BEYOND MEASURE:

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