Monthly Archives: May 2013

Day 25: “Hi, My name is Shawn and I’m a CrossFitter”

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This is it.

My final post for my “adventure in to CrossFit”.

I’m hesitant to call this post a “finale to my CrossFit journey” because CrossFit and I are not breaking up. We are only getting started.

For the past month, I have grown to love the community training in the box, treating them like how they have treated me. Like a family. Without them, Fire City would just be a soulless place, an empty shell. One may not be a firm believer of this sport, but one cannot deny the strong community that CrossFit produces.

From the moment I stepped in to the box, I could feel that Fire City is the kind of place, like my favourite cafe (The Plain, in case you are wondering), that I could spend all my time in. Granted, I have not yet been to other boxes. But for a newcomer like to me to step in to a place like Fire City, where the learnings of CrossFit was not forced down my throat, but slowly introduced to me, is a testament to what kind of a box Fire City is.

A box is also only as good as it’s coaches. But what is a coach? The definition of coach from the Merriam-Webster dictionary is “one who instructs or trains players in the fundamentals of a sport”. I believe that a coach not only needs to do that, but also needs to understand his charges physically and mentally. He knows when you are ready to add on weight to your barbell, when is the right time to teach you kipping and finding the right opportunity to encourage you to break a mental barrier.

Coach Sam is all that. He is not only my coach, but my friend and my brother too. Despite scolding and nagging in training, he is also ever ready to sit down and listen to my problems. His greatest asset as a coach is his smile. Because whenever he sees someone getting frustrated over a technique, he will smile and teach the technique to the person. At that moment, the person’s frustration will be erased and he or she will be eager to give the technique a go again. I am therefore eternally grateful for this opportunity that Coach Sam gave me to try CrossFit.

What’s next for me? I will definitely be staying and training in Fire City for the foreseeable future because I have truly fallen in love with this sport. It took me 6 long years, but I’m glad that I have found my true love.

I know some people still have reservations about CrossFit. They are afraid that CrossFit is too “hardcore” for them, that they are not fit enough for CrossFit. Fear not, because Fire City is not a hell hole where you come to be tortured. The main objective here is for you to train hard and have fun at the same time. So come, join us. You may just find out things about yourself that you didn’t know, both physically and mentally. Check out our website and feel free to drop in any time. If I see you, I will be sure to go up to you and say: “Hi, My name is Shawn and I’m a CrossFitter. Welcome to the box”.

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For further reading on CrossFit, check out:

That 5ft Kid

Words With Lisbeth

CrossFit Journal

 

 

 

 

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Monstrous Arms & Other Stuff

This post is a hat tip to Melanie’s post, “Monstrous Calves & Other Things”.

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I have monstrous arms.

After doing push ups during PE lessons in school one day. I was amazed to see my arms growing bigger. This event served as a catalyst for me to enter and explore the world of fitness. But having big arms has been both a blessing and a bane for me. A blessing because I look good (not ashamed to admit this) and I have an advantage whenever a task at hand calls for arm power.

A bane, because everytime I meet someone new, they immediately assume that I’m a bodybuilder or I’m a superhero (for real), who can do everything and anything in this world. When I entered the army during my National Service, I was constantly asked to do certain things just because I have “big arms” . Nothing wrong with that, but this perception of me caused me to place huge stress of myself and I would feel lousy every time I failed to do a task.

I was also more conscious about my body because questions like “Why do you only train your arms” were put forward to me, which gave me the mindset that I had to grow “bigger” so that people will stop focusing on my arms. That fitness was all about being big and buff. I will start getting defensive and try to change the topic.

Till I started training in CrossFit.

After training in this sport for close to a month and being humbled in training on more than one occasion, I have come to the realisation that being big doesn’t mean that you are fit. And in CrossFit, ( to borrow a phrase from the Melanie’s post and please pardon my language), “nobody gives a fuck about how you look”. Nobody judges me in training. When I use a lighter weight to get my form right, my coach doesn’t insist that I use a heavier weight because I’m “strong and have big arms”.

Now you know why I love CrossFit?

Because for the first time since I started my fitness journey, I have truly found a place where people around me are more focus on fitness, instead of a normal, regular gym where people are more focused on training a specific body part just to look good (no offense to bodybuilders). My mindset has also changed. I have stopped caring on how “big” or how “buff” I need or want to be. Now when people ask me why are my arms so big and why the rest of my body are not as big, I will smile and tell them it’s a blessing from God and how He used this blessing to bring me to a place where people celebrate strength, and not aesthetics.

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May 24, 2013 · 4:37 pm

Day 19: The battle cry

“Movement, intensity…” 

As you stare at the barbell in front of you, listening to the coach shout out final words of advice,  you prime yourself to enter the battlefield. It is during these final moments that you think of your strategy for the workout. As the coach’s voice starts to fade as he turns the music up, you begin to think of what you want to achieve for this WOD….

“3, 2, 1, GOOO!”

The battle cry has been sounded. The time for thinking is over. The fire under your ass has been lit. You pick up the barbell. The urge to blast through the first few reps is strong. But then you remember you already have a strategy planned out. “Stick to the strategy”, the sensible part of your mind screams at you. “No! Go fast while you are still strong! Blast through this”, your over-eager body shouts at you…

You see, doing a WOD in CrossFit is like fighting in a battlefield. Your enemies are your body and your mind. I’m still reflecting on this, but the battle cry of “3, 2, 1 GOOO!” is very effective. It primes your body and mind to handle the physical and mental aspects of the WOD. It is also very effective when you see someone who still has a long to go to complete a WOD in this position:

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The moment you shout “3, 2, 1, GOOO!” at him or her, I assure you that he or she will immediately resume the WOD. That’s the magic of the battle cry. It doubles up as an invisible smack to the ass, the spark to reignite the fire under your ass to push on with the WOD.

Does the battle cry fires you up and encourages you to push on?

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Day 16: Recovery

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After two weeks training of 6 days a week and picking myself off the floor after WODs, I decided that instead of taking only one day off every week for recovery. I will take two from now on.

I guess in my mind, I didn’t want to use “I’m so sore” as an excuse to miss training. So I got up yesterday morning and hobbled to the box despite having a sore lower back. The WOD yesterday was a Hero’s WOD, which is called “Morrison”. The exercises in the WOD was descending reps of 50,40,30,20,10 of wall balls, box jumps and ketttlebell swings.

You know the “moment” when you know your body needs a break? Well, that “moment” flashed in my mind the moment I started doing the box jumps. My lower back was screaming. I managed to hang on without giving up and finished the 10 reps of 30 kettlebell swings, which was the 3rd set.

I talked to Coach Sam after training and he told me maybe it’s because he’s starting to push me a little harder. But he left it up to my own discretion on whether to take a break from training the next day, because at the end of the day, it is my own body.

I think this extra rest day has been a long time coming. Last Saturday, after training, Coach Shawn had a chat with me. He asked me how many times I train a week and how many days I take off to recover. When I told him that I trained 6 days a week with only 1 rest day, he seemed surprised. He shared with me that over the years, he has learnt to take an extra day off. Well, I guess that was a hint to me.

I hate rest days, because it makes me feel like I’m a bum, just lazing around. But well, if that extra day is going to be beneficial to my body and training performance, then, why not?

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Day 14: The High Five

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I have probably never come across any sport where high fives are exchanged all the time. It doesn’t matter if I’m training with a complete stranger on any given day, because we will be exchanging high fives throughout the WOD.

I’m not sure why and I had my doubts initially, but exchanging high fives with fellow CrossFitters during a WOD is extremely effective to your physical and mental state. Maybe it’s because you know that you are not suffering alone.

Today, the high fives came in handy. The WOD today was 5 rounds for time of 400m run, 60 jump rope and 20 handstand push ups. The first 2 rounds were ok, but the 3rd rounds onwards, it was a struggle to run. But every time I passed my fellow CrossFitters and exchanged high fives on the run back to the box, I push on because I know that we are going through the same WOD and that they are probably as tired as me.

The solidarity in CrossFit is amazing and hard to replicate elsewhere. Next time you meet a person who is very eager to exchange high fives with you, chances are, he or she is a CrossFitter 🙂

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Day 10: “I’m only stopping when I’m dead”

It’s Day 10 of my journey in to CrossFit. I have started to notice that despite training 6 days a week, my body doesn’t feel as sore as when I was lifting heavy weights all the time. Heck, I don’t even suffer from DOMS anymore. While Coach Sam has been trying his best to torture me, he says the worst for me has yet to come. I decided to post it up on Facebook and see what my friends in the fitness world would say.

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For the uninitiated, Feng Yi Chew is the pioneer of CrossFit in Singapore. She was the one who introduced Coach Sam to the sport.

Not going to go in to the full history. The conversation was about how I’m not being given the real dose of CrossFit yet. As I would later explained myself, I wasn’t trying to say that CrossFit is too easy for me. It’s probably just my love for it that makes me want more of it. I believe and trust in Coach Sam’s programming and the training methodology that he stands for. And I think Coach Sam is getting fed up that I keep saying he’s not pushing me hard enough. Because he posted a video after I completed today’s WOD with a warning to be careful with what I wish for. Hehe.

Anyway, today’s WOD was 5 rounds of 21 box jumps and 15 deadlifts of my body weight. Halfway through the box jumps, I wanted to give up. It came to a point where I was just screaming at myself to push through. And then, my mind started to fill up with thoughts like”I’m not stopping till I’m dead”. It’s a place I have never entered before in my mind. It was this dark place where I ignore the pain I was feeling in my body and keep going. This is what I looked like during the WOD and how I collapsed on the ground after I was done:

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CrossFit is really a mental game as well as a physical game. When your body is ready to give up, it’s up to your mind to keep you in the game. As long as your mind hold firm, you will be able to keep going. Yes, CrossFit may look tough. But nothing worth having, comes easy. If you want real and true fitness, CrossFit is the sport you should be in.

Which brings me to my next point. Since I started writing about my CrossFit journey, numerous people, strangers and friends have been asking me about CrossFit and how it’s like.

I’m happy to take time out to explain to them, but I also make it crystal clear to them that this is not a cheap sport. The reason why it’s expensive is because, you pay for world-class teaching. It’s as simple as that. Now, I understand that money is important and hard to come by. Look, we are in Singapore, one of the most expensive cities in the world.

What really pisses me off and gets on my nerves is some people who are willing to blow $300 on a new pair of jeans or on a new gadget every other month, are also the ones who exclaimed loudly that CrossFit is expensive when I told them about the price. These are the same people who wants to make a difference to their body, but are unwilling to spend the money where it matters. Isn’t that amazing?

The bottom line is, yes, CrossFit is expensive. But I assure you that you get what you paid for. After all, when you put in the effort, you get the results.

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Day 7: Of bruised shins, minor achievements and hydration

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I bruised my shins so much when I train deadlifts for my powerlifting competition, that I decided to buy deadlifting socks. So when I realised that my shins were getting bruised when learning hip drive and the first pull for snatch, I decided that my socks would come in handy again. After all, most pro-CrossFitters wear long socks.

But today as I was learning about the first pull again during CrossFit class, I started to realised that my knees were starting to get bruised as well. I’m not one to whine, because I feel that bruises are inevitable because when you do any movement with the Olympic bar, the bar has to be close to your body as possible, hence the bruises. Well, a little sacrifice for proper form doesn’t hurt eh?

After a week of CrossFit training, I have some minor achievements to announce. Nothing significant to shout about, but little things like these are motivation for me to get in to the box every single day and train my ass off.

Anyway, as Coach Sam put us through paces of learning hip drive and first pull, I realised that I was sub-conciously shooting my knees out to meet the bar as I slide it up from my shins. Before that, I had to keep reminding myself to shoot my knees out. I guess it’s all about muscle memory.

Next minor achievement was during today’s WOD. It was a 12 min AMRAP of 5 handstand push ups, 10 toes to bar and 15 box jumps. I MANAGED TO DO THE 5 HANDSTAND PUSH UPS. Ok, sorry for shouting. I’m so excited because for a person like me who has never done a handstand in my life, to do a push up while being upside down is a big leap of faith. In fact, I did 25 reps since I managed to complete 5 rounds of the WOD. Which brings me to my next minor achievement.

Every WOD, I aim to go 1 more round. So during this WOD, I decided to do what Coach Sam has been trying hard to teach me. That is, to pace myself. I usually only manage to last for 4 rounds. But I managed to complete 1 more round for this WOD. There, another minor achievement.

I’m going to end this post by touching on hydration. I have started to notice that halfway through my the 3rd or the 4th round of a WOD, I will start to feel extremely thirsty to the point that I have no saliva to swallow.  This is the point where my body starts to slow down and I will have to take a quick pause to go drink some water, hence, wasting a huge amount of time if the WOD is AMRAP.

Well, today I happened to chance on this article by Eric Velazquez, which was published in The Box magazine. It talked about how dehydration affects CrossFitters during WOD and how stopping to drink water is a time-wasting tactic. This article touches on everything that I have described above.

I would love to hear from novice and experienced CrossFitters on their tactics for hydrating before a WOD or what do they do to prevent dehydration during a WOD. Feel free to leave your comments below!

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