Why do I tell you what I do? Because I have been where you are.
by Coach Ryan Woods
I have been asked by a lot of people lately questions along the lines of how long I have been doing CrossFit for, how good of shape I was in before starting CrossFit, what I did to get so good (I use that word very cautiously) at CrossFit, and if they will ever get better at it. The following is my journey since August 31, 2010 when I first stepped foot into a CrossFit gym as well as explanations of why I tell you what I do in the gym on a daily basis.
1. Leave your ego at the door
I thought I was some tough, in shape, bad ass college kid who would show up and show all these people that CrossFit really wasn’t that hard. My first workout is almost the exact same workout that everybody who has gone through CrossFit NYC’s elements classes has done: TABATA Something Else. Easy, 16 minutes of work, just my “skinny” bodyweight, and I would be ready for my real workout afterwards. My score was as follows: 0 pull-ups, 2 push-ups, 6 sit-ups, and 0 squats (due to lack of range of motion). I did ten pull-ups in the first part of the workout. 5, 3, 1, 1. The remainder of the rounds I hung lifeless from the bar pulling as hard as I could, not budging. I worked on squats a little bit before the workout to see how low I could get down. I attempted a 45 pound back squat and nearly fell down, literally. My range of motion keeping my heels on the ground was about 6 inches down in my squat. Do you know what it’s like to not be able to squat all the way down properly? I did. And still do. It is ugly, but I can get down now. Leave your ego at the door.
2. Keep showing up, no matter what the workout is
My tenth CrossFit workout ever was “Murph”. To this day, it is the longest workout I have ever done. 59:59; I puked 4 times. What did I learn from this workout? I can do any workout thrown at me. I would not have shown up if I thought that was the workout. My coach (very intelligently) did not tell me I was doing that workout until I showed up at the gym and was warmed up. I did 33 rounds of 3 pullups, 6 worm pushups, and 9 half ROM squats (and a final round of 1-2-3 to complete the workout). I puked halfway through the pull-ups, pushups, and squats. I also puked three times on the final run which took me around 15 minutes. This experience taught me that even if it takes me just under an hour, that is only 1/24th of my day and I can suffer to better myself. Keep showing up, no matter what the workout is.
3. Write your stuff down
I have every workout I have ever done logged in my phone. As I write this, that number is 460. I have every PR, every scaling, and every time for the workouts I have done. While this is beneficial to know what weights to use in a workout in the future and what times to beat, having my log is much more rewarding than that. I can see that on November 2, 2010 I PR’d my front squat for the first time at 135 pounds. On April 20th 2010 I front squatted 300 pounds. I know that my first “Grace” was 7:58, my first “Fran” was 7:49, and my first “Helen” was 15:00. All of those are my first time doing them prescribed. They are now down to 4:27, 3:28, and 8:04 respectively. Not terribly happy about “Grace” still, but cutting my time nearly in half is something I am very proud of. Write your stuff down.
4. Celebrate the little victories
I started doing handstand pushups with 2 AbMats under my head and didn’t even tough them. With my first stellar “Diane” time of 13:37 doing 155 pound deadlifts and two AbMats, I could only have gotten better. As I kept coming and kept working on the things I sucked at, those AbMats disappeared. Everybody wants to learn how to do muscle-ups fresh out of elements. It took me exactly 9 months and 24 days to my first muscle-up. I could do (a few) strict pull-ups and dips when I first started CrossFit. There is no rush to doing muscle-ups. But when you get it, make sure it is on camera or at least hold the top long enough for somebody to get a picture of it. I remember the first time I saw one of my abs in my life. Unfortunately I was sick and vomiting in the sink from bad sushi (grass fed paleo sushi of course). However, I coughed while I happened to be looking in the mirror and I saw a vague outline of an upper left abdominal muscle. Needless to say, I was walking around for the next week lifting my shirt up coughing so my friends could see my ab. That tiny little thing made all the hard work worth it. Celebrate the little victories.
5. Do the ones you are scared of
Everybody has a workout that scares the hell out of them, or at least one they will never do again. I’m not talking about “Fran”, but some random seemingly harmless workout that absolutely crushed their soul, which will never be the same. Mine was 10-1 squat cleans (155#), and 1-10KB swings (70#). Sounded innocent on paper, but 27:57 later I finally finished. I was laying on the ground between REPS, not sets, but reps. I wanted to quit, but my coach didn’t let me. I got more out of that workout that any other workout I have ever done. It was a huge mental victory and someday I will be back to tackle it again. Do the ones you are scared of.
6. Make it more than a workout, make it meaningful
My beautiful baby daughter was born on December 28, 2010. I had been in the hospital for 2 days without a workout and needed a break from it all. Ali had just gone through labor and the least I could do was a workout that might somehow resemble the amount of pain she went through. Two rounds in, I cried. 91 reps into a workout which had 343 reps. Literally, tears and cry breaths. I don’t know why it happened, but I will always have a special place in my heart for that workout. Yes I got crushed, yes I scaled, but yes I finished. Make it more than a workout, make it meaningful.
7. It gets better
Moral of the story, I have been where you are. I know what it feels like to have those days when all you want to do is quit. I know your hands hurt. I know its hard. I know you want to do_______________________. It will come with time. All you have to do is show up. There is no magic programming, rep scheme, warm-up from a European country, or Life as RX shirt (except maybe the Puking Unicorn) that will speed along the process anymore than you coming 3-5 days a week, working hard for that hour, and eating well for the other 23 hours. I am definitely not an elite athlete and it is not unrealistic for any single person to significantly change their life and achieve goals way beyond what they see as possible for themselves. It gets better.