Saturday contd., June 22
After my WOD Saturday, Gregg managed to pull a few CrossFit strings and get me into CrossFit I Certification training. For those of you who don't remember; CrossFit I Certification is basic CrossFit training. It involves learning the ins and outs of CrossFit's basic lifts, philosophy, and nutrition. CrossFit I certification is what Gregg referred to as a "gimmie," everyone who pays and takes the three day long course becomes certified. Most CrossFit I certification seekers are personal trainers and/or strength coaches who want to add a dimension of credibility to their resume.
CrossFit II certification is a different story entirely. Only a select few CrossFit trainers can boast a CrossFit II certification level (Gregg is one of them). In CrossFit II Certification training, aspiring CrossFit trainers go through a rigorous course which culminates in a test that around 60% of the class will fail and have to retake. It is anything but easy, and this is how CrossFit maintains its respectability and reputation. Gregg likened it to giving someone a black belt in Karate; if any ten year old could get a black belt, then it wouldn't mean anything. With the growing popularity of CrossFit, certification training is becoming even more difficult. Aspiring trainers beware!
Back to my day: luckily, I managed to scale the stairs up to Guerrilla Fitness: CrossFit Montclair (my legs were still completely blasted from the quarter mile lunge). I painstakingly labored around Guerrilla Fitness and observed the setting. Around sixty aspiring CrossFit I trainers were broken up into five groups and were learning perfect form from a CrossFit specialist. The certification trainers are among CrossFit's finest. They all looked the part as well. Each appeared strong, fit, and supremely confident in their orange uniform. The aspiring trainers were a very diverse group. Some were young, some were old, but all were fit. The women in particular were very fit.
Note to newbies: A major concern for women considering CrossFit is typically that they are afraid CrossFit will make them bulky. This rumor couldn't be farther from the truth. These chicks were fitness model material.
After perusing a bit, I was able to speak to Todd, the self proclaimed "flow master" of certification training. Todd was, is, and will always be a complete bro. He was very enthusiastic and knowledgeable about everything CrossFit. He gave me a brief rundown on each of his underling CrossFit certification trainers, and described what certification training entailed utilizing awe-striking bro-cabulary and CrossFit slang. He was the LL Cool J of CrossFit. His CrossFit coolness was on a new wavelength. I have so much to learn.
Todd explained that each day, CrossFit certification trainers teach the basic fundamental lifts to all those becoming certified. They then convene for a workout and a lecture, performed by "flow master" Todd. After that they broke for lunch, then did another workout and listened to another lecture. That day, I was lucky enough to listen to Todd's introductory lecture on CrossFit's definition of "fitness." I would learn that CrossFit's definition of "fitness" was a cornerstone to CrossFit philosophy.
By the time he finished his explanation it was time for the Flow Master to do his thing. Each aspiring CrossFit I trainer convened for a workout of "tabata squats."
Note to newbies: Tabata training is a workout methodolgy in which you do the maximum amount of reps you can in a given time, then rest for a given time, and repeat.
Following six rounds twenty second intervals followed by ten seconds of rest, the breathless participants gathered round the white board for his presentation. As part of being allowed into certification training, I promised to not unveil any knowledge that was not readily available to the public through other CrossFit publications. Luckily, Todd modeled his speech off of Greg Glassman (the founder of CrossFit)'s "What is Fitness" speech, so I have free reign to relay most of what Todd had to say.
Todd's speech opened with Glassman's philosophy when starting fitness. An avid fitness devotee, Glassman scrounged fitness publications of all sorts in an effort to find a good definition of "fitness." None were adequate. Most definitions focused on being purely aerobically fit. Outside Magazine deemed Mark Allen, a triathlon champion, "the fittest man on earth:" hogwash if you ask Glassman. Allen, through impressive, was an incomplete product; can you imagine him carrying any weight (no pun intended) in a competition emphasizing strength and force? No; someone truly fit needed more, which is why Glassman assembled ten characteristics of what he feels define complete and true fitness. These ten characteristics are dogma to CrossFitters of today, they are the ten commandments of CrossFit: endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, power, coordination, agility, balance, and accuracy. While Allen most definitely mastered the first two characteristics of fitness, the complete athlete is adept at all ten. Glassman much prefers decathlon legend, Simon Poelman, as the quintessential example of fitness to Allen.
After introducing CrossFit's "fitness" to the audience, Todd moved on to support the initial claim with CrossFit's second fitness standard. Todd asked the audience to imagine a hypothetical situation in which there is a hopper filled with every physically demanding task imaginable, from swimming to dead lifting. Todd conceded that should a marathon, triathlon or in the Tour de France be drawn from our CrossFit hopper, Allen would likely defeat Poelman, (though Poelman could surely hold his own) but in nearly every other activity, Poelman would "crush" Allen.
Moving on, Todd then touched upon CrossFit's third fitness standard, a more scientific approach to explaining fitness. To summarize, in all physical activity there are three types of "metabolic engines:" phosphagenic, glycolytic, and oxidative. To spare you more scientific jargon, phosphagenic dominates short, highly intense activity (a 40m sprint). Glycolytic dominates activity that is moderately in duration and intensity (an 800m run). Finally, Oxidative dominates long activities with minimal intensity (think marathon running). CrossFit discourages excessive training in one type of metabolic engine, and emphasizes training in all three. Over-training in any one of these pathways is what Glassman considers the most common mistake in fitness training.
Todd then explained CrossFitness in anther analogy. He drew a semi-circle with "sickness" at one end, and "fitness" at the opposite end. In the middle was "wellness." Todd explained that the more fit you are, the farther away you are from being sick. CrossFit advocates fitness for this reason: to buffer you from sickness. If you are a terrific CrossFit athlete, the chances of you having heart failure are slim to none. Compare that to if you were the average, donut eating Joe who watches Blue Collar Comedy instead of doing "Fran." For Joe, the chances of heart failure are much higher. Should something terrible happen to you, it will undoubtedly benefit you to be fit.
Note to newbies: In case you don't remember Fran, it is the workout prescribing 21-16-9 reps of thrusters and pull-ups.
So how does CrossFit do this? Through a combination of Olympic style weightlifting and throwing, gymnastics, and metabolic conditioning all while maintaining a healthy diet. In CrossFit, as you have seen throughout my experience, you will never face the same workout twice. Some will involve high reps some low, some heavy weight, some light, some with no rest, some with a lot. Routine is the enemy. The great divide between strength and cardio training seen in conventional fitness training is crossed with the intent of creating the complete athlete. Ideally, you'll be ready for anything. You will have both the Eastern European power lifter and the Kenyan marathon runner trembling with fear.
I thoroughly enjoyed Todd's presentation. It was interesting and thought provoking. As I left Guerrilla Fitness, both positive and negative thoughts about CrossFit seesawed in my mind.
As a multi-sport athlete the idea of CrossFitness is very attractive. I would love to have train in an environment that would help me improve my performance in each (and every) sport. However, when comparing CrossFit athletes with specific athletes, CrossFitters are the first to admit that they will lose to an athlete at that athlete's respective exercise. Though you will be able to compete with both your marathon running buddy and your weight lifting buddy, both will beat you. CrossFit rectifies this by saying that you can beat the weight lifter at marathon running and the marathoner at weight lifting, but who cares? You're not winning anything. In fact, your cultivating a loser's mentality. Beating someone in something that that individual has no pride in and doesn't care about is easy. Isn't it petty to take solace in doing just that?
But then consider this; granted, they're going to beat you in their respective exercises, but if some new sport comes along that you're all foreign to, incorporating both aerobic and anaerobic exercise, more likely than not, you're going to smoke both of them. CrossFit athletes are ready for anything. An appropriate hypothetical example of the CrossFit's effectiveness might be what would happen if a CrossFitter, the body builder, and the marathon runner were all dropped in the wilderness and had to fend for themselves. The CrossFitter can both lift a heavy rock to make shelter and run away from a pursuing wolf pack. He or she is the most fit for survival. That's what CrossFit is about: functional fitness rather than specialization.
Note to newbies: I lied slightly about a CrossFitter's reaction to a wolf pack stalking them. If you are as CrossFit as Jason Rhabdo Kaplan, instead of running from them, you turn and annihilate them, then cook each and every wolf over a hot fire. I pity da wolf that hunts Rhabdo.
After further thinking it occurred to me that CrossFit is incredibly valuable to sport specific athletes. It is a well known fact that training your weaknesses is imperative in order to improve sport performance. As an athlete who has partaken in both strength and endurance training, I know from experience that I absolutely hate training my weaknesses. It lowers your confidence and makes you feel inferior and weak. Nothing feels worse than when you finish a forty yard dash only to look down at your stopwatch to see a time that's cringe worthy, I know from experience. Simply put; it's not fun, and because of this most athletes stop training their weaknesses altogether. Well, CrossFit trains your weaknesses and IS fun. How? An exercise that may be a weakness of yours will likely be partnered by one that is a strength (ex. bear crawling and running for me). This way training a weakness is somewhat bearable. This is incredibly important to any athlete pursuing improvement.
Next workout: Monday, June 24