CrossFit: Meet the Girls

CrossFit is interesting to say the least. The workouts are intense and always varied. Just like Forrest Gump's mama said "CrossFit life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're going to get."

The designing and crafting of CrossFit WOD's (workout of the day) is something that is of primary concern to a CrossFit coach. Factors like "impact, motivation, perception, recovery, and timing combine with decades of experience seasoned by luck and intuition to create our daily fare. Though the process by which we engineer our workouts is largely rational, the finished product is often seemingly infused with qualities more commonly associated with art than exercise like symmetry, theme, or character. It is in this sense that we have in the past referred to “the choreography of exertion” in describing the best of workout design. When everything goes right the finished product comes alive in a blend of elegance, simplicity, form, and impact (Glassman 2003).

To the onlooker (and heck even to me sometimes!!) the WOD's seem to have no rhyme or reason, but there is a definite method to the madness, and a part of that is measuring progress.

Progress can be determined in many ways. My primary way of determining progress is through the Benchmark WOD's, often referred to as "The Girls."

Benchmark WODS are not repeated often (usually every 4-12 months) and are an excellent way to ensure that I am meeting my fitness goals. This allows me to track my progress, while still not falling into a routine.  Almost of these workouts are timed, so the objective is to complete the exercises as fast as possible while maintaining safe and proper form.

Since I am still quite the newbie when it comes to CrossFit, I have only done a small handful of The Girls. I've done Helen (twice, with a noticeable improvement), Annie, Diane, Fran, and just this week I added Grace and Lynne to my list, though I had no idea that I'd be adding them. That's another thing about CrossFit, you don't know what you are going to do until you walk in the box. Unless you have friends who take pictures of the whiteboard and post them to Facebook (guilty!!) but I do the 9am class, and it appears that none of the 5:15am CrossFitters post the WOD! ;) Not that it would change my mind in the least, but sometimes knowing in advance does help with clothing choices. Wink But I digress....


Having ripped open my hands last week, I knew I'd be struggling this week with a lot of the moves we do in CrossFit. Sure, I could have used that as an excuse to take time off and let my hands heal, or maybe even switch things up and do all cardio (BORING!!), but I also knew that if I put it out there that I was hurt and I needed help, that people would help me. That's one big thing I've learned along this journey. PEOPLE WANT TO HELP, THEY JUST NEED TO KNOW HOW THEY CAN HELP YOU!

So I went in to CrossFit En Fuego on Monday morning, sore, taped up and nervous. I looked at the board and saw the Monday WOD and cringed a little bit.

3 rounds, each round lasting one minute. Rowing (ouch, my hands!) ball slams (do-able) box jump (do-able) kettlebell swings (ouch, my hands!!) and double unders. 2 out of 5 moves I knew I would not be able to do without risking further injury to my poor hands. All it took was me going to Coach Pete and saying "I need help, I can't row or do kettlebells, but I can use the airdyne so how about I do that instead of rowing?" He gave me the a-okay on that, and then he had to think for a few seconds on an alternate exercise for me to do instead of kettlebell swings and he came up with wallballs. Perfect. Workout completed.

Tuesday rolls around and I walk in and see this on the whiteboard.

Skill Review: The Clean & Jerk

- 30 Clean & Jerks For Time
* Rx = (135/95)
* Scaled = (115/75)

100 Sit-Ups
* Not for time, BUT done briskly.

Hello Grace. We've never met before.

And I know I'm in trouble with my hands. But there is NO WAY IN HELL that I am skipping a Benchmark Girl WOD. No way. So I suck it up. I scale the weight, all the way down to 55lbs, tape up my hands and go for it.

And I rip. On the inner part of both my thumbs.

But I finished. I think I might have finished last, but I don't give a rat's ass about where I finish, just that I finish. It took me 7:19 and I had to stop A LOT to blow on my hands, shake them out, but I got it done. And afterwards treated myself to a full-body massage by Debbie Forbes.

It was blissful....

Wednesday. I walk in surprised to see another Girl that I don't know!! Hello Lynne!

I buddy up with two great ladies (hi Karin and Jenn) and have a chat with Coach Jen (CJ) and Coach Pete about my hands. I've got them slathered in lotion, band-aided, and taped, but I still know pull-ups are going to be painful. CJ advises me to change my grip, add an extra band, and do strict pull-ups, no kipping. I take her advice to Coach Pete and he gets me all set up on the bar, checks my hand placement, etc., and then my group starts!!

This is one of the girls that is NOT timed. Thank goodness because after the FIRST round my shoulders and chest and heck, even my arms were shaking. Lynne is NO JOKE. How I managed to knock out 5 sets with some pretty decent numbers, I'll never know, but having 2 wonderful women there to cheer me on and Coach Pete there on my pull-ups saying "there you go Jenny" sure had something to do with it!

It seriously took everything I had to get through that last round. But I did it. And I didn't hurt my hands. I took a nice recovery by walking 2 miles with another CrossFit friend, Joan.



Benchmark WOD's are important.  Next time I do these girls I'll remember that I had hurt hands and I still got them done like a champ!Laughing

How do YOU measure your fitness progress??  If you do CrossFit which girl is your favorite?


Source: Glassman, Greg. "Benchmark Workouts." CrossFit Journal. 13 (2003): 1-5. Print. <>.

CrossFit Chronicles: Edition 12

In this edition of the CrossFit Chronicles, I'm going to talk about CrossFit Hand Care.

When I first started CrossFit 5 months ago the thought of needing anything special for my hands never even crossed my mind. But after my first workout, I started to think differently. I didn't hurt my hands, but using the Kettlebells and "the rig" for pull-ups and knees to elbows did show me that I would be using parts of my hand in ways that I wasn't used to. I had a pair of Reebok gloves that I used for Body Pump, so I brought those along and wore them on occasion. I observed several women in my box who had some pretty gnarly tears on their hands and while I didn't necessarily want the tears, I also didn't want to be "the one" that wore gloves. Besides that, the gloves made my hands very sweaty and I was losing my grip on the bar and kettlebells and I didn't want injury from dropping something on my head or falling off the rig. Gradually the gloves started being left more often in my purse, and then eventually they stayed at home.

And then I got my first tear. It wasn't a big tear, but it hurt. It stung; especially after my WOD when I came home to clean the kitchen and then the horror of my first post-rip shower.

One of the girls in my box made me a pair of grips from athletic tape, and those worked really well. Until my son got a hold of them. Yell And I'm sure she'd make me another pair if I asked, I just didn't want to ask. So I sucked it up and continued to let my hands get hard and calloused.

There is a great little video on You Tube on how to make your own tape grips, so I'm going to attempt to make my own pair!

My next battle scar came from a barbell, and grips wouldn't have helped that anyway.

And then a few months went by and I ripped again in nearly the same place as my original tear, but on the opposite hand. And you can see on the palm of the hand that I am beginning to have something "happen." Something that I probably should have addressed at that time.

This one stung quite a bit. I brought the gloves back out and allowed the tear to heal and have been relatively rip free over the last month.

Until Friday. Friday's WOD had us doing 70 Knees to Elbows (10 sets of 7) and I ripped. On both of my hands. It was during the 9th round.  I have a love affair with chalk, so I chalked up, gritted my teeth, and finished the last round.

I came home, trimmed off the skin, and grimaced through a shower, cleaning my kitchen, and making chicken stir-fry for dinner.

I woke up this morning and my hand looked like this. It hurts. It is so sore.

The point of me showing you all these pictures, and telling you of my battle scars is not to show you how much of a bad-ass I am, how I LIVE WITH FIRE. Oh no. Not at all. If anything, I'm the opposite of a bad-ass.

I've learned that I should have been working on my hands, gradually building up calluses to the point where the skin on my palms and fingers are tough and thick -- but smooth.  

What I should have done after I  noticed that calluses were first starting to thicken was to file them down! And thinking back to my very first tear, my box buddy Chris did tell me to smooth them down. But did I listen?? NO.  The goal is have a consistent, smooth palm surface, without noticeable ridges or fluctuating thicknesses of skin. Because I didn't smooth them down, I ended up with a raised, rough callus and it blistered and tore away from the surrounding skin, ripping open my hands and making a bloody mess. A general rule of thumb: If you can pinch a raised edge of the callus, it needs to be filed down. Constant vigilance and regular hand care is key to preventing tears.

Yesterday I used a pumice stone to sand down the raised rough calluses on the top inside part of my hand at the spot where I got my first tear.

As one CrossFit Journal article put it:

Ideally, your entire palm surface should be one thick callus with no bumps or ridges in any one particular area. In order to do this, groom your hands always after a hot shower or bath (this allows the calluses to swell up). While the calluses are still “swollen,” I take a double-edged razor and very carefully shave the dead callus bumps down a little at a time until the bumps are about even with the thickness of the rest of the hand. With my younger students, I simply ask them to get a callus stone (you can buy one at any drug store), and gently sand the callus down even with the rest of the skin. Remember, whenever you groom or shave your calluses, don’t overdo it, since you don’t want to go too deep into your skin. Always leave enough thick skin so to facilitate your workout the following day. The goal is to maintain an even and consistent thickness of hard skin throughout the entire palm.

Through additional research I also learned that my love affair with chalk might also be contributing to the tears on my hands. Apparently a lot of chalk and frequent hand washing sucks the moisture right out of your hands, and dry hands can become easily ripped hands. Lotion needs to become my new best friend.

I've spent today keeping my hands covered in antibiotic ointment, a blister band-aid and then lightly taped to make sure that the band-aid stays in place. I'm hoping that by Monday my hands will be healed enough that I can return to CrossFit En Fuego for my WOD.

And gloves. I'll also be wearing my gloves while these tears continue to heal. I don't believe that rips and tears have to be a part of being a  CrossFit athlete and over the next few weeks I'll be doing research to explore how I can grip the equipment better to prevent rips and tears. See, I also have like freakishly small hands. My kids hands are nearly as big as mine, so I wonder if my small hand size has me gripping the bars at awkward positions.

This is a GREAT article on blisters, ripping, tearing, grip and so much more!

Have you ever had a tear from working out? What did you do to prevent it from happening again? Do you wear gloves? If so, what type? Do your hands sweat in them? What about chalk? Do you love chalk as much as I do?

Having a TV Crew in Your House!

I had TV cameras and a crew in my house in November 2011 when I filmed a segment for the Rachael Ray show.

It seemed to go pretty quickly and my mom and husband were here acting as "baby wranglers" so it really wasn't all that difficult or challenging. True, I had just home (literally, I was home for 25 minutes before Rachael Ray's people showed up!!) after spending a week in Beverly Hills working on the 2012 Believe Campaign with Jennifer Hudson, so my endorphins were still flying pretty high, so that might also have something to do with how great I was feeling!

This week I had a TV Crew and TV cameras in my house again. This time we were filming a series of news promos for our local CBS Affiliate Channel 10 News.

They were scheduled to be here at 10:30am, and it was expected to last 3 hours. I had an engagement that evening to attend a cocktail party for Bethenney Frankel, and needed to be ready to leave the house by 5:15pm, so I figured I had plenty of time.

The crew arrived and immediately began setting up!

And then I got a quick peek at their agenda. It was long. And filming was going to take place in multiple rooms of the house. My bedroom, my bed, my bathroom, the kitchen, the kids bedrooms, my living room. Multiple scenes in multiple rooms. I don't have a big house, and they had big equipment, and I have a big dog. Tongue Out To say this was a challenging experience is an understatement!! But we made it work!!

We shot my bedroom and bathroom scenes first. This took like 2 hours. Surprised  It was funny! I had to put on my nightgown and pretend to be waking up, turning on my bedroom light, hitting the alarm clock, then getting out of bed, going in to the bathroom, brushing my hair like I was getting ready for work. What made this take so long? A lot of it had to do with the lighting. Our bedroom is very dark (blackout curtains, dark tinted sliding glass doors) and so they had a lot of things they needed to do to make it do-able. And then nearly the opposite in my bathroom! My bathroom is very light.

After the bed/bath scenes I had to change out of my PJ's and dress in business professional attire. This was a bit of stretch for me since I normally wear workout clothing ALL THE TIME! Wink But I found something suitable (no pun intended) and off I went to make pancakes, coffee, and get my little munchkins ready for their scenes! The kitchen scenes took another 2 or so hours. We were quickly off our 3 hour schedule! All this hard work made Matthew very sleepy!

My girls normally L.O.V.E pancakes. It's their favorite food. But after having to do so many takes of them eating pancakes, I started to hear moans of "NO MORE PANCAKES" and they resorted to taking "baby bites." It was pretty comical.

Ronin played along for one quick scene but got quickly bored and spent the afternoon playing with his little friend up the street.

After the kitchen we moved in to the girls' bedroom scenes! This moved pretty quickly!

Then it was time to film me watching the traffic and weather on TV. This is where my acting skills came in to play. Or should I say lack of acting skills! This took some time. Then came the girls and I walking in and out of the house, the girls waiting at the bus stop, and me driving to work! Whew!! We wrapped up at 4:45pm!! Just a little behind schedule Wink

You can see the first three promos here:

30 second promo:

15 second promo:

15 second promo:


Overall, this was a SUPER COOL experience and I would do it again in a heartbeat, though it did make me realize what it must be like to film a reality show. Wozers!!

Thanks to my friends over at News Channel 10 for coming in to my house and working so well with us!

Have you ever had a TV Crew in your house?? What for?? How did it go?? Leave me a link in the comments so I can go and check you out!!