Category Archives: Health

CrossFit with a cause

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Since our offices are so near each other, Joshua and I decided to meet for lunch today. We really hit it off because we are similar in many ways. We both do CrossFit, we work in the digital world and are brothers in Christ.

Even though Joshua does CrossFit, he doesn’t have a box to train in. Instead, he and a group of friends train out of the Singapore Weightlifting Federation (SWF). They call themselves Mobilus. As the founder of the group and a Level 1 certified trainer, he does the programming of the WOD around the equipment that SWF has. It isn’t easy for them, but they are tightly knit bunch. As you already know, this is the magic of CrossFit. It brings strangers from all walks of life together.

I asked Joshua what’s stopping him from starting up a box. He explained that they are happy where they are right now and starting a box is not their priority at the moment. Instead, the immediate priority that Joshua and the rest of the group have at the moment is, “Humanitarian Fitness”, which is also Mobilus’ motto.

The group has started a  “Mission Of The Month (MOM)” project, where they come together to WOD and raise funds for humanitarian projects. This month, they are raising funds for a much needed water purification tank for the seaside Sri Lankan village of Mullaitivu.

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I’m really impressed with the vision Joshua has for Mobilus and CrossFit in general. This is proof that anyone can reproduce the workouts CrossFit has, but no one can reproduce the community that CrossFit produces. Also, as a fellow brother in Christ, this reminds me of the mission trips that I go on. As Jesus said, “the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few”. What a way for Joshua to do God’s work and spread his love for CrossFit at the same time.

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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 3: Embracing pain and breaking mental boundaries

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What do you do when you are in terrible pain?

Hurting from the last set of pull up that you just did and still have another round of 21 pull ups to go?

I decided to talk about pain today because in CrossFit, as most of the Workout of the day (WOD) engages most of your muscles in your body to work at the same time, your body will fatigue faster.  Which also means that you will have to dig in to your inner reserves to find that last ounce of strength, that final burst of energy to complete that last rep of the exercise or the last round of the WOD.

Today’s WOD sounded manageable. 3 rounds of 50 air squats, 21 pull ups, 21 ring dips and 10 hang cleans. Before Coach Sam shouted go and started the timer, I was already going through the “game plan” in my head. I will break up the reps and it will be smooth sailing for me, right? Well, it wasn’t as simple as I thought it would be.

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I was really ambitious and thought I could break up the reps for my pull ups to 2 sets of 10 and 11. It was fine for the first round. But when I reached the second round, I was feeling the strain and the sore in my lats. By the last round, I was really struggling in pulling myself up. I was feeling faint, really exhausted and feeling like I was going to vomit.

Now, at this point of time I really wanted to quit. The thought that this was only my second day in CrossFit kept running in my head. I had nothing to lose if I quit because I was so new to this sport. But as I dropped down from doing 2 reps of pull up, with my hands on my hips, taking in really deep breaths, I started to realise that this is what CrossFit is all about. You cannot only be physically tough, you must be mentally tough as well. And it applies in life as well. Do you quit when the going gets tough? Or do you find ways to improve your situation so that you can keep on pressing forward?

As that realisation drawn on me, I decided that this will be the mindset that I will adopt for the rest of my journey in CrossFit. It doesn’t matter if I’m the last to finish and have the slowest timing. I will be damned if I quit and give up. So I took a deep breath, shake away the lactic acid in my arms, jumped up and pulled away as hard as I could. When I finished all 3 rounds, I collapsed in a heap like the first picture shown above. There’s something satisfying about finishing a WOD and feeling like you are going to die. It’s proof that you didn’t give up under pressure. Instead, you hunkered down and push through the pain barrier.

Moving on to the breaking mental boundaries part of my post.

I have never tried gymnastics before. Which is also why I have never attempted doing a back flip, wall crawl or a handstand push up. Because I have this fear that I will break a bone or two.

So when I looked at the warm-up, my heart sank. Because it called for 3 rounds of 10 reps of wall crawl. I just looked at Coach Sam and went: “I can’t do wall crawl”.

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Coach Sam just smiled at me and said: “I will show you”. Now, before I go on, I just want to comment on Coach Sam’s teaching style. There’s something unique about the his teaching style, from what I have observed so far. He will explain and show you the technique of the moves you need to do but he will not go in to details. Because once you start doing the moves, you will slowly find out what the details are after making mistakes after mistakes. It’s a learning process that I enjoy, because you only learn when you make mistakes.

Anyway, back to the wall crawls. I was skeptical when all Coach Sam said was “Just use your legs and hands to push yourself up” because I thought I will definitely fall. But I decided to step out of my comfort zone and my mental barrier of breaking my bones and tried the wall crawls. It turned out to be not as hard as I thought it would be.

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I guess it’s really impossible till you try. I broke one mental boundary today. Will I break more? I’m as excited as you to find out 🙂

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