Grizzly Way 131104 (Uphill Battle)
I’m going to warn you now – this will not be a trivial post, nor, I’m sorry to say, will it be very pleasant; so if you’re not much for reading or honest truth, I would turn back now, or at least get out your skimming glasses…
First things first, being injured does nothing for an already sour mood, this time last year, I was like a kid 3 days before Christmas, shaking presents, annoying my parents, planning how I’d spend Christmas day, envisioning the glory of the moments to come. (I’m referencing HOA here in case you weren’t following). I don’t think my emotional/mental state could be much farther from the opposite this year. It’s been a tumultuous 8 weeks or so, lots of downs, a couple ups, but mostly down. Now, fighting back from this shoulder issue, on a weird gymnastics cycle where it feels like my strength has all but vanished, and on a team with at least 2 people who’d rather be in the scaled division – there seems little to get excited about. I’m seriously not trying to have a pity party here, I’m simply trying to lay things out the way I’m experiencing them…honestly.
This last two weeks or so of sally-storm-cloud-ing that I’ve been doing, has given me a lot of time to reflect. The thing about Crossfit, or should I say competitive exercise, because what I do I don’t think falls into what 99% of Crossfit is; is that you have to sacrifice a lot to find success, whether your time frame is 5 years, or 12 months, there’s always a sacrifice. Granted if you take 5 years, you’re much more free to develop slowly, and leave more time to do other things, compressing it down to a 12 month time frame simply ramps up the volume you have to squeeze in. All things equal, there’s still a lot of time you need to spend sleeping, mobilizing, getting coached, eating, etc to make it all work. I’m comfortable with this, I’ve made my peace with it a long time ago; but always underlying my peace was an expectation. The expectation of excellence, that these habits, this dedication, these resources, the opportunity cost of which is nearly immeasurable – not only in monetary value, but in time as well. It’s this expectation of excellence that is currently “not jiving” with the current state of things, as I see them.
So what’s to be done? What’s the message here? Well, the point behind all of this is to be doing something you enjoy. Whether it’s regular Crossfit, or competitive exercise, if you’re not having fun, you’re doomed. Which brings me to an uncomfortable cross-roads of brutal honesty. I couldn’t give two shits about competitive exercise, I don’t really do it because it’s fun, that is to say, the act of “Fran” we’ll say, is not fun. I do this because I enjoy excelling. In school, in life, even now in Crossfit; the part I enjoy is excelling. I like being better. I understand this probably isn’t a popular stance, and it might lose me some friends, but I have to be honest here. The very nature of being better, also implies a downside, a “worse” category into which I have to place others. There are no good days without the shitty ones, similarly; I cannot excel without also having someone to beat. You can post as many fancy Pinterest quotes of “you vs. you” or “better than yesterday” that’s all well and good, but that’s not what gets me out of bed in the morning. Sorry, it’s just not how I’m wired.
This is the schism that we (I say we, as a community of Crossfitters, competitive exercisers, or whatever else you want to call us) have created. There’s a dissonance that we have to resolve internally, as great as Crossfit can be on a individual level, if your goal is competition, then you cannot escape the inescapable. The drive to compare yourself to others is ever-present. Whether it’s the open, a non-Regional qualifier (OC Throwdown, Granite Games, Great Lakes Invitational, etc), or just walking around the gym. It must be done, and to ignore it, to train all year and never once think “Can I beat this person when the time comes?” in my mind is setting yourself up for failure. The decision then evolves to whether or not you’re okay with this dissonance, and how you can still find “fun” or “enjoyment” doing something inherently confrontational and abrasive. Can competitive exercise be fun if all you do is lose? Can you still have fun coming in last place? Are you okay sacrificing every ounce of effort you’ve put in to some third independent variable, the performance of others?
This is where my head is lately. As I shed my innocence day by day in the gym, the reality of things sinks in deeper and deeper. My fate is not in my own hands, I can give 100% everyday, do everything right, and still find no success, reach no goals, get left proverbially with “nothing”. I won’t lie, this is awful discouraging, but as I’ve said before, I’d rather persevere in spite of the truth, than fail in blissful ignorance. So I’ll keep going, I’ll keep doing what I’m doing, but from here on out, I have to recognize that what I do isn’t “Crossfit,” and I have to be okay with that moving forwards. Likewise, if excelling is what I find most enjoyable about this, can I find a way to do that outside the framework of me versus others? I think I can. I think it will be very difficult, but if I’m going to find my way to Regionals this or any other year, it’s a change that needs to be made.
And I didn’t even touch on the fact that I’m 6’2″…
This could potentially interest no one after the huge rant you just got through – but let’s have an honest conversation about height in Crossfit for a second. If you ever took physics in high school, you’ll know that the formula for work, is force x distance. So – if you hold force equal, e.g. the force required to move…say a 365# back squat, and change only the distance, then it’s pretty apparent that taller athletes, quite simply are required to do more work, for no greater reward. Below I give you a histogram of the heigh (in inches) of all the top 10 regional finishers from last year (all 100 of them). While the correlation between finishing rank and height is fairly weak (.09 or so), it’s pretty easy to see that people who do well at regionals tend to fall somewhere at 6′ or below.
Can height sometimes be advantageous? Absolutely, otherwise you’d see a much tighter correlation, and I’m sure the programming makes a huge difference. The more movements either “below parallel” or with an overhead emphasis – where shorter limbs become advantageous the more thew skew. Similarly, the more rowing, walking, running, or anything where moving weight a longer distance with each effort is advantageous (think walking lunges, rowing, rope climbs, even wall balls to some extent) the skew goes the other direction. My point here is that of all 80 or so potential programming movements, I solid 70% of them at least favor or bear no advantage to the taller athlete. Further, the mobility requirements of the taller athlete are much greater than an “average” or even “shorter” athlete. So not only do taller athletes get no credit for the extra work they have to do, there is also no metric to even compare their mobility or the time it took to obtain.
So if you’re reading this, and you’re over 6′ tall, and you’re thinking about competitive exercise, I would urge you to think very carefully about how extra work you feel like doing, because there will be a lot of it. Take the “100’s” workout from Regionals
100 Wall Balls
100 Chest-to-bar pull-ups
100 DB Snatches
Then we’ll take two athletes, one 5’9″ and one 6’2″ e.g. Rich Froning and I. Wall balls are neutral, the extra range squatting is overcome by the extra range I get throwing. Chest to bars favor a shorter limb’d athlete who can reach his chest to the bar with less work, we’ll advantage Rich. Similarly on pistols, less work for Rich, more work for Dan. Again on the snatches, longer limbs, means greater distance, means more work. So if we take the 300 reps, and multiply by the 5″ difference between the two of us – that’s 1500 inches of extra distance I need to cover, 125 feet. That’s a lot of extra work, to generate the same force over. My point here is, even if physiologically I was as good as Rich, genetics, ATP, muscle density, capacity, CP battery, literally everything other than height – I would still never beat him at this workout; never.
That’s a cold reality. So while the correlation between height and placement at the regional level is a weak one, I imagine you’ll start to see that emerge more strongly, especially if you break it down workout by workout. You’ll start to see some workouts strongly favoring shorter athletes, and at best, some that score neutral. Short of a rowing, running, rope climb, walking lunge, workout, you’d be hard pressed to find one that universally favors the taller athlete the same way. Food for thought.
Airdyne 40:40 (work:rest) x 16 sets, record calories per set
16, 16, 17, 17, 17, 17, 17, 18, 18, 18, 17, 18, 17, 18, 17, 17
A1: 3RM Ring Dip; tempo 22X1
B1: 2RM COVP Pullup
72×2 (77×1) supinated grip
D1: Chin Over Bar Hanging L-Sit (hands facing face) x 10 sec; rest 20 sec
D2: 8 Perfect Pushups; rest 20 sec
AMRAP 60 sec:
Wall Ball Shots (20#) Sub rowing
rest 3 min between rounds
311, 324, 322, 322, 321, 320
rest 5 min, then:
Worked to 50 in 16:34
Yesterday was a pretty typical Monday, I won’t spend too long re-hashing training. We added 2 intervals to my Airdyne work, same progression we have been in the past. Nothing new there, minus the fact that I spent a considerable amount of time in the “Maximum” category, which I usually try and avoid. Though I suppose if you’re going to do Airdyne sprints maybe the low end of the “Maximum” isn’t so bad.
The rest of the day was back to the same old gymnastics grind. I really don’t enjoy this very much. And it’s not even so much that it’s things I’m bad at, it’s just not exciting. When you compare snatching or cleaning to ring dips and pull ups, they are simply apple and orange by nature. And I naturally gravitate towards one over the other. Perhaps this stuff would get more interesting if I felt I was making progress, but really the day-to-day grind of it makes it nearly impossible to know if I’m even getting better. At best things just feel a little better. Mentally I just want to work on butterfly pullups, like that’s literally the only thing on my mind, and I’m not really drawing the connection between that and anything we’re doing, and so I hate it.
The second conditioning for the day wasn’t really meant to be traditional “conditioning” since we did the Airdyne AM work. Though I was able to tolerate supinated (hands facing face) grip pull-ups yesterday (which is a good sign), I still couldn’t do pronated grip, or anything overhead with a barbell, or wall balls. Mike told me to sub rowing intervals for the wall balls if it bothered me, so that’s what I did. I rowed roughly a 1:30 pace for all of these, all out would’ve been closer to 1:20, so a solid 90% effort across in my head. Double unders are slowly improving, I was able to get to 50 this time before I capped myself, a solid progression over failing at the 40’s, I could’ve started to work back down knowing I could complete it. One Saturday when I have a little more time I’ll actually go start to finish and feel this bitch out.
MFS | 8 – 3 – 2