Hi friends! It’s been awhile. I’ll be honest, I was mostly buried in school, the end of the semester bit hard but I finished my last final a week ago now so I really don’t have an excuse anymore. I’ve written and re-written this post a couple of times, scribbled notes in chalk, had ideas in the middle of an airdyne sprint, yeah I’m weird. Usually the posts I have to think the most about are the ones that end up teaching me the most. Mostly, I wanted to be sure this was still something productive, something that drove me forward. Then I realized, as much as I’ve grown from this weird practice of writing down my thoughts for the internet to see, this was never for me directly. I started doing this because I wanted to share what I’d learned with like minded people who might benefit from it. That’s still the goal, so here I am doing it some more.
I titled this post “The Dream” because I feel like competitive exercise has reached a really interesting point. Crossfit started like most great things, in a garage, as some guys idea of something that would be a little different, that would go against what most people were doing at the time, it might even be a little weird. It was pure, and well intentioned, and drew a lot of people in. The same way the idea of America drew a lot of adventurous people in. This might feel like a stretch but let’s work it out. America started as a pretty pure idea, freedom, a new start, a different way of doing things, we all know the story. This is a powerful message, it applies broadly, and gives every person a hope, a dream to aspire towards. In the same breath Crossfit suddenly turned anyone with a garage and some basic equipment into an athlete, regardless of whether or not they really were one. With the start of the Games, random people who were mildly good at exercise became names within the community. Similarly, the people willing to fight for the dream of our country became names we study today. For the record I’m not comparing the founding fathers to Chris Spealler, it’s just an interesting analogy to me, I promise this is going somewhere.
Where was I, oh yeah, the middle years. There was a stretch in the early days of Crossfit, say 2010 until… 2012 where Crossfit could’ve gone a number of different directions, some wise partnerships and good choices brought it into homes and saw exponential growth, but we all know how that story goes. So to could America have ended up a hundred different places, gone a number of different directions, but found its way through its infancy and shaped itself. Where am I going with this? Well I think Crossfit has ended up in a very similar place to where our nation has ended up. There’s a very clearly defined bottom, social welfare and safety nets and the like; as well as a very clearly defined top, yachts, islands, bank account in countries that barely exist, etc. Similarly, Crossfit has it’s stars, the names that show up at the Games year after year, that flood our news feeds and Instagrams. Likewise, it’s not hard to walk into a gym and pick out the guys who just picked it up, no judgements here, but its clearly defined. What I really want to talk about, and where I’ve been leading this whole time, is the middle. There is a very poorly defined middle class of Crossfit. What do you do in the middle? Do you work harder and try and make it to the top? Will you get there? Is it worth it? I can’t answer these questions for you, but its where I’ve found myself lately. After the Open this year, more so than last year, I was lost in the middle. Last year the decision was easy, I didn’t have school or anything else to worry about, it was just another Open and would lead to another year of training. This year has been entirely different, there’s only so many hours in the day, and each one I spend training has to come from something else. At some point you start to wonder where this time is going. I’ve touched on this before, but I’ve never really admitted to being as lost as I was. Maybe I didn’t know. Given all the changes in my training, my programing, my diet, I think its fairly easy to see now, looking back, I was grasping for something. The irony is that what I was looking for isn’t something tangible. What I needed, and what I still need, is a level of acceptance, the realization that this sport has grown beyond my capacity to chase that dream. A measure of comfort with being in the middle somewhere.
I’m not sure why it’s so hard for me to do. Obviously there are literally tens of thousands of people who treat competitive exercise as a hobby, a hobby they’re good at, even that they excel at, but don’t go to regionals, or the Games, and are plenty happy with that. Maybe one day I will be. I imagine it has to do with being satisfied with other aspects. Finishing my first year of school has put a little of that into perspective, though not much if I’m honest. It’s important to be fulfilled with your life, especially if competitive exercise isn’t your primary ambition. Now we’re pretty far off base though, I imagine this is something everyone needs to figure out for themselves, not read on the internet somewhere. Maybe one day I’ll get this figured out.
In the time since my last post I’ve changed a lot of things. First big change is that I signed up with the RPStrength/Renaissance Periodization folks and got myself a diet coach, I was doing okay, but wanted that last 10%, plus my weird scientific mind couldn’t resist having that figured out. I’m on my 2nd week of it now, so far so good, its interesting to see the subtle changes they’ve made. I’m excited for the next 10 weeks or so. Second, I switched programs again, I’m no longer doing Conjugate and now do CJ Martin’s Crossfit Invictus competitors blog programming. Conjugate was great, and it was fun, but its was too fun, I’m good at the slow grindy strength, I needed to attack my weaknesses more actively than Conjugate allowed. It left me with too much to work on in the other sessions of the week. I also picked up Dusty Hyland’s SkillWod to work on gymnastics, so far the muscle up work has been amazing, the ctb is okay but my butterfly needs work, the HSPU day is rough mostly cause it falls on a particularly bad day of the week for me. I’ve also gotten back to something I used to do a lot of and let lapse during the open, my Assault Bike work. When I was with Mike I’d do Airdyne pieces twice a week in the AM’s, I’ve added that back in on the two rest days of the week, Thursday and Sunday; Thursday is a longer slower endurance focused session, and Sunday is straight interval work. If you’re following along at home, that’s Invictus 5 days a week in the mornings, SkillWod 3 days a week in the PM, Assault bike work 2 days a week, which leaves me Tuesday PM for whatever I feel like. The whatever I feel like session is something I’ve been missing, the opportunity to have fun with Crossfit again, do things that make me happy. Find some joy again.
That leaves one final thing to talk about. Adrenal Fatigue. The funny thing about stress is that your body can’t tell the difference between studying for finals, getting it’s ass kicked in the gym, even a giant cup of coffee, or any of 100 other things that stresses us out. It’s all just adrenals, cortisol, epinephrine, all that none sense. Well it’s not none sense, it catches up. I found that out the hard way. I skipped over a lot of the details here, if you’re curious Wikipedia has a great page on adrenal function, and about 10 billion other topics. The basics are that if you hit a ton of stress, caffeine, lack of sleep, and intense training – without recovery, without wind down, you can only go so long. For me it lasted about 3 weeks, between end of school and finals, doing doubles, drinking tons of coffee, it didn’t happen. There was no wind down. When you finish a large coffee then go take a nap, that should be the first sign. When it really hit me was when I was lightheaded lifting 60%, couldn’t hit the sets and reps anymore. I was falling apart from the inside out. First step, I took the rest of the week off of training, I slept, I ate well, I kept caffeine to a single glass of iced coffee in the mornings. Second step, support the adrenals, I found an adrenal support supplement recommended by Bobby Maximum, the head of programming for Gym Jones. Third step, wind down. 30 minutes before bed I turn off the screens, I do my RomWod and I try and relax. Find some calm for the day. So far so good, I’m not hitting any maximal weights, but conditioning has felt good, still a little lightheaded from time to time, but I’m sleeping as much as I can before school starts again in 3 weeks.
Covered a lot of bases there, but hopefully I’ll keep things a little more regular in the coming months. That’s the goal at least. Happy hump day internet friends. I realize the pictures really had nothing to do with what I wrote, but they’re the only ones I got for now. Really excited to be playing with the Marc Pro Plus this month.