Wednesday, December 24, 2008

CrossFit Level 1 Certification Course

Mon 22nd December

This past weekend my wife Sarah and I were in Charlotte participating in our first CrossFit certification course. 

Firstly lets backtrack. I discovered CrossFit about 6 months ago while looking for some alternative training following my first kettlebell meet in Michigan last August. I wanted to take a little time off training the k-bells following the rigorous training build up to the meet so that I wouldn't get burnt out. I had heard of CrossFit, but never really looked into it previously. I was immediately surprised upon studying their website at how freely they offered information. This was definitely a new concept and something I had never seen before. I was intrigued so I studied the site......a lot. The more I read the journals and watched the training videos the more impressed I became with coach Glassman, his CrossFit coaches and their program. I wanted in. 

Then came my first CrossFit workout. Now I consider myself to be a top tier athlete, I have played basketball at a national level (high school), rugby at a international level (college) and I am now climbing the ladder in the sport of kettlebell lifting. So when I read that CrossFitters are the fittest people on the planet, being the competitor I am I thought well we'll just have to see about that? Anyone who has done a CrossFit workout as prescribed at full tilt (high intensity-threshold) will know that the sessions are always extremely intense and will smoke you if done correctly. However, at first glance on paper some CF workouts don't always appear that difficult. As most discover assuming their going to be easy is a big mistake! 

My first CF workout was "Cindy" which is:

As many rounds as possible in 20 minutes of:

-5x pull-ups
-10x push-ups
-15x air-squats

I went in knowing that CF athletes had hit upwards in the number of 20 rounds on this workout so my goal was to hit 20 or more. Lets just say things didn't go as planned. I didn't even make it 20 minutes, I was roasted after 15! I don't even remember how many rounds I got but it certainly wasn't 20. This was a huge wake up call for me, maybe I wasn't as fit as I thought. After a little soul searching I came to the realization that I am an extremely fit individual, I'm just wasn't presently fit by CrossFit standards which means I am lacking in certain area's under their definition of fitness which includes: cardio/respiratory, endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, power, coordination, agility, balance, and accuracy. Put simply the CF goal is to "improve their athletes work capacity across broad time and modal domains." So it was clear to me what had to happen. I had to attack the CF WODS (workouts of the day) head on until I was fit for CF and thats what I did. 

After a month or so following the main site WOD's, much muscle soreness, in depth study of the CF Journals and video lectures as well as buying into the CF diet prescription (the zone diet) I was a different animal. I went from surviving the workouts to thriving in them and posting good times and numbers (i've now hit 22 rounds, going the full 20 minute on the "Cindy" workout), dropped 10 pounds-which wasn't planned or needed, but I wasn't worried because I was lighter, but stronger and fitter than ever before. An unexpected bonus was when I returned to my kettlebell lifting regimen my rack position was vastly improved at this lighter body-weight and instantly began posting bigger numbers! I have been in this business for many years and consistently worked out since the age of sixteen trying all different methods of training, but never before had a experienced such a rapid and astounding increase in my level of fitness. I was sold!

Next I began introducing the CF training methods to my clients in a gradual manner, firstly the movements and then as they became more proficient I started increase the intensity level. Again I saw clear and measurable improvements in my clients performance even though I wasn't sure they liked the fact that their workouts were gradually getting tougher and that they were constantly be timed! Sorry Guys, but it's for your own good! Check out some of the wreckage from recent workout's below, it's not pretty!!

Jumping forward a little I saw on the CF website that there was to be a certification course hosted at the CrossFit Charlotte facility. I wasn't going to miss this opportunity, I immediately signed up both myself and my wife Sarah. 

So December 19th came and Sarah and I headed to Charlotte CrossFit for our first CrossFit experience.

It was cool walking into an actual CrossFit facility for the first time, it was just as I had imagined it would be-wide open, no frills, nothing but free weights, kettlebells, pull-up bars, rings, med balls, rowers, GHD's and so on. Everything you ever need for kick ass Constantly Varied, High Intensity, Functional Movement workouts! 

We didn't realize how big the cert was going to be going in, but as it turns out there were about 70 participants. As we settled into our seats it was cool to see that a lot of the coaches I have become familiar with watching on the CF journal website were in attendance to instruct us. It was a little intimidating at first, Sarah and I seemed to be the only ones there not coming from a CrossFit affiliate, but I wasn't worried I was just keen to see what the CF coaches had to offer and also to hit my first workout to see how I would measure up against these hardcore CrossFitters!

The Coaches were great and the lectures informative and practical coaching sessions offered some useful application strategies. I like the CF method of instruction, its pretty regimented, almost like being in the military. They circled us up in groups and drilled each movement over and over until they were satisfied. This was a little more in your face than my current method of coaching, but I liked it and it is definitely effective! To top off the great instruction and well prepared movement progressions each coach I worked with was full of personality and passionate about what they were teaching, which I believe is a hugely beneficial trait to possess if you wish to be a good and successful trainer.

Out of respect for the CrossFit program I don't feel I should give away details about the actual course content, but to anyone who is interested in improving as a coach or trainer this is definitely a worthwhile investment. I have been a trainer for over 8 years done numerous certifications and I still walked away a lot wiser!

The weekend was quite an intense and exhausting experience. The coupling of numerous lectures split up by practical instruction and movement drills was taxing in itself. This was topped off with what the coaches liked to call our "little treats" (a CrossFit Workout) at the end of every morning and afternoon session was a recipe for unparalleled muscle soreness as the weekend materialized. 

I'll just tell you about my least and most favorite workouts. The worst for me was the shortest one that we did. The 'Tabata Squat' workout. I've done tabata's in the past, but they had an added little twist for us. This was to be what they call 'double bottom tabata's!' For those of you who are unfamiliar with the tabata method its simply 20 secs of all out effort followed by 10 secs of rest repeated continuously for 8 intervals (4 mins). Sounds easy huh, try it you'll be surprised! 

So what's a double bottom tabata I hear you ask? Well...I shall tell you. The only difference is that you're "10 secs rest" is spent at the bottom in a isometric squat (hips below knees, hands and chest as high as they can go, with a perfectly maintained lumbar curve), sounds like good times eh? Well let me tell you it sucks big time! My legs didn't recover the whole weekend after that. This workout is only effective however if you go all out every time, it is a lot easier if you pace yourself, so if you try it-go balls to the wall! For an example of pace, on my first interval I hit 23 squats and my lowest number was 15. 

My favorite workout was the famous "Fran"! The coaches joked with us all day about doing this workout, but no one believed it would actually happen. Then at end of day one when everyone was smoked both physically and mentally from their efforts, the quads still quivering from tabata's, the coaches decided we had earned our final "treat" of the day and that would be:

21-15-9 reps for time of:
-Thrusters @ 95#

One of the things I love about CrossFit is that its working out, but it's unique. Each workout is a competition in itself - against the others hitting the WOD, against the clock and most importantly against yourself. How far can you push your limits? How long can you maintain your technique at your threshold of intensity in order to achieve your optimal performance?How strong mentally are you? It's unbelievable the way you feel before hitting a WOD, its just like when I was playing rugby at the high point in my career, the feelings you get before walking out in front of a packed crowd. That feeling of nervous anticipation, like your going to throw up or pass out. It feels as if time stands still for a moment, its terrible and yet wonderful at the same time, but it's precisely that feeling that lets you know you ready! 

This experience was awesome for me, never before had I hit a workout in this kind of atmosphere before, with so many die hards all around me ready to give it their all - blood, sweat and tears to the finish, it was unreal! The actual workout is kind of hazy to me I just remember 3-2-1-go and I went! I blew through the first 21 thrusters and pull-ups with ease then it was time to go to work! I think I hit one break in the set of 15 thrusters and broke the pull-ups into 3x 5. The final round was rough, just got through the 9 thrusters and it was 9 pull-ups to finish, this was where I fell apart. I think I hit maybe 5, then had to do the rest in singles. I actually hit about 12 pull-ups in this round but Mike (CF coach) gave me 3 no counts for not getting my chin completely over the bar, which was right on his part and I thank him for it (keeping me honest). It sucked for me nonetheless and cost me on time., but that shows room for improvement. I finished in 5:24 which I was really happy with. I had only done Fran once before and my time was I believe 8 minutes, so a huge improvement and I believe I had the 4th or 5th fastest male time overall.

If you wish, you can check out my workout on You Tube, my channel is: theedgefc.

Below is me roasted as can be following my new PR on Fran. Notice the lack of shirt. If you have seen any CF videos you'll have notice it is very rare that guys doing CF workouts wear shirts. I don't know exactly why this is, maybe they don't want to mess up their T's, they want to be lighter for their pull-ups or they are trying not to sweat, I don't know... but it seems to be a trend forming. So before the workout I saw loads of the fella's started de-shirting and I turned to Sarah and said "I have to go shirtless!" She was like "No!" I said "I'm in a CF gym with 70 other people about to hit Fran as hard as I possibly can! I may never have be in a situation like this again, I'm gonna experience it to it's max! The shirts coming off!" 

In summary, This was an awesome experience! I would encourage anyone who is serious about their training and that of their clientelle to seriously consider attending a CrossFit certification, it's very worthwhile. I've been a trainer for a long time, hold many certifications and have attended many seminars, but without a doubt for me personally CrossFit program, seminars and coaching methods are second to none, especially with regard to their methodology, application and program design.....I could go on.  

I would like to give special thanks to all the CF coaches that provided top quality lectures and great practical coaching especially Chuck for spending time to discuss program design with me, Andy for coaching me to my first muscle-up within 15 minutes and also to the head coaches Pat and Nicole for putting on such a well organized program, seventy people is a lot to deal with, it was impressive how smoothly things ran-awesome job guys.

"The Magic is in the Movements!"

Finally, I would like to say congrats to all the newly certified CF coaches for enduring this challenging weekend and giving it your all in each and every workout! I would especially like to say how proud I am of my beautiful wife Sarah for doing such an awesome job at the certification. Sarah you are becoming quite an athlete and your going to make an excellent trainer! I love you sweetheart and I am so thankful I got to share this experience with you.

 Look out world Sarah G. is "Certified" and your workout is her warm-up!

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