Thursday, June 11, 2009

    I could not lift my arms to the keyboard to write this blog. In fact, I would have made my brother lift them for me, but he wanted me to pay him to do so. Needless to say, I don't think my chest, biceps, triceps, back, and quads have been this sore simultaneously as they are now. Last workout was fantastic. If we incorporated something that worked the forearm, I probably wouldn't be able to move my fingers enough to type. Gregg, don't get any ideas.

    As I mentioned in a previous blog, Gregg, and the Guerrilla Fit community, extended me an invitation to their Thursday night bash. Agony isn't all you can share at Crossfit Montclair. Guerrilla Fit's news letter indicated that a band, "Dirt," a member of which is a Crossfitter himself, would be present in addition to a plethora of food and drink of all kinds and of course, the ever-dedicated Crossfit compadres. It sounded like good fun. I was definitely going.

    But fun and games weren't my only motive. Gregg challenged me. He e-mailed me informing me that a number of his finest Crossfitters would be performing a workout in front of the entire party attendance... could I handle it? I never turn down a challenge. My response? "Hell yes." 

    I had a good feeling. No, it was great. Luckily, Gregg informed me in advance that my public workout would be with the esteemed "Fran." Fran isn't the hot chick that Jason, "Rhabdo" might have implied on one of his blog comments, she is a workout. No, she's more than that. Far more than that. Fran is infamous: the sheer mentioning of her name strikes fear in Crossfit hearts. As Gregg put it to me, "Fran has cult-like notoriety in Crossfit circles." In the Crossfit world, all you are is your last score on Fran. I can't really explain this to the regular civilian, but hypothetically speaking; if there was a way to quantify your value on Earth into one number... well, in Crossfit, that's your time on Fran.

    So why on Earth did I feel great? Well, despite Mickey's heroics, I couldn't imagine her lifting 95 pounds over her head that many times. After all, she couldn't weigh much more than 95 pounds herself. Sure, she'd blaze through the pull-ups, but come time for thrusters... I grinned menacingly just thinking about it. 

   Crossfit Montclair was absolutely bustling with activity when I arrived. The sheer attendance was mind boggling. After seeing what must have been in excess of one hundred Crossfit supporters, it was hard to believe that Gregg had only started Guerrilla Fitness two years ago. Crossfitters and their wives, husbands, children, and fans convened over six foot submarine sandwiches, wine, and sure enough, a good workout.  

21-15-9 #95 Thrusters and Pull-ups"

    The White board was particularly intimidating today. The sheer simplicity of its contents made me shiver with nerves. To complete Fran, you have to do 21 thrusters at 95 lbs followed by 21 pull-ups, then 15 thrusters followed by 15 pull-ups, and finally 9 thrusters followed by 9 pull-ups. While your initial reaction to the workout might be "what makes this special?" consider that Gregg has a Crossfit disciple who manages the entire feat in under two minutes... and I would be working out next to him.

    As I contemplated the struggle I would inevitably face, my attention was jolted by a site that floored me: Mickey. She wasn't adorned in her usually "Guerrilla Fit" t-shirt. She was dressed in civilian garb, with a cute rug-rat draped over each arm. My spirits sank. I felt empty. My will was gone. She wouldn't be participating tonight. I was going to war with no enemy! Too bummed to engage in much of a conversation with Mickey, I continued over to the rest of the participating Crossfitters, and lifelessly loaded my barbell.

    "Fran" was going to be crowded. Not only did the band members and spectators take up a significant amount of room, but there were around twenty Crossfitters who were geared up and ready to go. I squeezed in between the charismatic, tattoo-adorned Rob and another female warrior who was rumored to rival Mickey. While I didn't think an equal to Mickey existed, in this "Caitlin" character, I found a new purpose in the night. With Mickey spectating, I set out to make the best of my workout and send her a message that I was done playing games. I pledged to beat, no, destroy my female opponents. After a brief stretch, I was standing over my bar and ready to go. "Ready? GO!" Gregg yelled over a microphone. We were off.

     Right off the bat I was flying through the thrusters. So much so that I did a double take when I finished the set of twenty one, in second position of my heat. Well, after dropping the bar, I noticed that in the confusion of setup I managed to end up with a less than regulation sized barbell. It was far lighter than the typical 45 pound long bar. Aggravated, I weaved my way in between thrusting Crossfitters to the pull up bars. After just five pull-ups, my arms felt like jello. Despite my efforts to ingest additional protein the night before, they were still blasted from Tuesday. They simply refused to obey my determined mind. Prior to starting "Fran," I hung an assistant band on my pull up bar just in case. It swung next to me, taunting me, baiting me. I resisted the urge and labored through the twenty one pull ups albeit in poor form, and went back to the bar for sixteen thrusters. Heck, even with the smaller bar, they were getting to me. Still, I much preferred them to the pull-ups. I almost hoped the thrusters wouldn't end.

    Come the second round of pull-ups, I was sure my arms would simply fall off, and stay gripped to the pull up bar, having abandoned my body completely. After nine, I simply could not imagine finishing six more, and stared helplessly as Caitlin executed a series of perfect "kipling" pull-ups directly beside me. In front of the majority of the Crossfit community, I abandoned my pride and used the band to complete the set. The final six thrusters flew by and before I knew it I was back to my misery. I finished Fran with a set of three pull-ups followed by six sets of one. That being said, I didn't use the band on the final set; at least I finished Fran with dignity. 

    For those Crossfitters out there wondering what I'm really made of, I have a 5:37 Fran. However, I take no pride in that. Upon finishing, I jumped down from my final pull-up in disgust. Not only did I have poor pull-up form, but my thruster bar was too light. Enraged, all I could think of was the next time Fran and I would meet. I pledge to you all that when we do, I will come fresh, use the RX prescribed weight, and will beat all of you band-less. 

    Though Fran was a valuable experience in understanding Crossfit, what ensued after was far more telling of what Guerrilla Fit is all about. Finally finished with Fran, I got to stand and spectate as the second heat of Crossfitters took it on. Support from the crowd, whether or not they knew the participants, was nearly deafening, and I loved it. Not one participant went through Fran without a barrage of compliments and encouragement. Friends and family dressed in semi formal attire would set aside their wine glasses after a Crossfitter finished Fran and would drape their arms around the participant in congratulations, regardless of the sweat dripping off of the exhausted Crossfit faces.

    The community was not only incredibly well involved in the workout, whether or not they participated, but the atmosphere created was so overwhelmingly positive that I was touched, as cliche as that might sound. I smiled to myself as my eyes traveled the perimeter of the supporters, all of whom never ceased to encourage the those engaged in Fran.

    After the second heat, workouts were done, and I had the opportunity to mingle with a bunch of the Crossfit community. I asked each how they found Guerrilla Fitness and why they joined. Though nearly every one had a different story as to how they started, they almost always concluded their explanation with "and now I'm totally addicted to it. I love this place." And after thinking about it, it became obvious as to why. The clear answer is community. Obviously, the primary purpose of a workout facility is to get you fit. Crossfit not only supplies the equipment to do so, but with it the environment, and comraderie necessary to push yourself further than you ever would have been able to do alone, or at the YMCA for that matter. Whether you're competing with your Crossfit neighbors (grr, Mickey!), cheering them on, or some combination of the two as you struggle desperately through your WOD, you're becoming the best you can possibly be and pushing them to be their best as well. The question then arises; "How do you create an atmosphere like that?" and the answer isn't just in the workouts. It starts with Gregg and the trainers. It's important to understand that Crossfit is not a franchise, it's a workout methodology. Crossfit gyms are all privately owned and are only united behind the Crossfit philosophy. Gregg built Guerrilla Fitness quite literally from nothing. As people sign on and begin to see the benefits of Guerrilla Fitness, it's not difficult to see why they become incredibly loyal to the guy who founded it. "It's all about the people, Man," Gregg told me.

    Before I left that night, I asked Gregg if I could snag a Crossfit Montclair bumper sticker. "All yours, Bud," he answered. I promptly peeled off the cardboard and mounted it on the old pick up truck with pride. 

Note to newbies: My only hope is that my overly aggressive driving doesn't bring bad press! Also, Pics from the party photo's courtesy of Gregg Arsenuk and Stephen Nolan