CrossFit Chronicles: Edition 13, the day of PR's

It's been a long time since I had an edition of the CrossFit Chronicles.

Believe me, not for lack of anything going on, because PLENTY has been going on, I just didn't want all of you to get bored reading about how amazing CrossFit is, how it changed my life, how I think everyone should do it, etc, etc, etc. Wink

But today, today I feel the need to share.

Last night our head coach, lead programmer, master of all things CrossFit, posted something very important, reminding all of us of the reasons he programs the way he does. I'll share it with you all here:

Your En Fuego Coaching Team believes in and follows, slow/smart progressions. I know there are some of you that feel you need to be left flat on your back gasping for air after every workout or that you should go after a new 1 rep max at every opportunity on a strength lift (even if the programming states "moderately heavy"), but there's a huge problem with that. It usually leads to a stagnant plateau or worse yet an injury. My goals with our programming is to provide a progressive training stimulus, to expose you to many strength and conditioning variables at varying intensities/loads/time domains, to make sure you all are safe and recover appropriately, and lastly (but just as important I believe) keeping our training fun and interesting. Responsible and intelligent programming isn't always "sexy" to us CrossFitters. We enjoy the challenge of tackling "Murph", trying to PR our "Fran" time, or attempting to Deadlift a certain goal weight. Trust me I enjoy all of these things too! There's a time and place for WODs like that though (tomorrow maybe?!?! hint, hint... Total #2). Don't be fooled into thinking that you always have to "go big or go home". Embrace the small steps and the ability to continue moving steadily and safely forward.

That was his prologue to this article here, and please READ IT!!

Nobody Says It, But This Is the Greatest Weightlifting Lesson I've Learned
- James Clear

You'll never walk into the gym and hear someone say, "You should do something easy today."

But after 10 years of training, I think embracing slow and easy gains is one of the most important lessons I've learned.

In fact, this lesson applies to most things in life. And it comes down to the difference between progress and achievement.

Let me explain...

The Difference Between Progress and Achievement

Our society is obsessed with achievement. This is especially true in the gym.

I'm just as guilty of this as anyone else. Last week, a guy at my gym clean and jerked 325 pounds and made it look easy. My first question to him was, "What's your max?"

I didn't say, "How is your training going?" or "Have you been making progress recently?" but rather, "What is the absolute maximum weight you can do?"

My question was all about what he could achieve, not how he has progressed.

And you'll find that mentality everywhere. Nobody is going to celebrate you for going up 1 pound per week. Everybody wants you to try for 10 more pounds right now.

Here's the problem: A focus on achievement in the here and now usually comes at the expense of slower, more consistent progress. Achievement is so ingrained in our culture that we often ignore progress. (Of course, focusing on progress would ultimately lead to higher achievement, but it's easy to dismiss that fact when you want to set a new PR today.)

I'm still learning to embrace this principle myself, but I'm getting better at it. And here's what I've learned about training for slow progress rather than immediate achievement.

1. Slow Gains Add Up Really Fast

Here's the thing about taking it slow: It adds up really fast.

Here's an example...

I want you to go into the gym this week, pick your favorite lift (squats for example), and lift 1 pound more than you did last week. You are not allowed to do 2 pounds more. Only 1 pound.

Do you think you could do that? Most people would be like, "Of course. That's easy." And they're right.

But here's the funny thing: If you do that every week, then you're going to add 50 pounds to your lifts in the next year. Stick with that for two years and you're lifting 100 pounds more.

How many people do you know who are lifting 100 pounds more than they were two years ago? I don't know many. Most people are so obsessed with squeaking out an extra 10 pounds this week that they never find the patience to make slower (but greater) long-term gains.

It all comes down to the power of average speed. The next two years are going to come and go. The time will pass anyway. Might as well be climbing the whole time.

2. Slow Gains Help You Handle Intensity Later On

For some reason, we think that starting easy and going up slowly is a waste of our time. It's not.

When you start with easy weights (and I think this is especially important in the beginning), you build the capacity to do work. If you're getting back in the gym after a long layoff, then I think that at least the first month of lifting should be easy.

For some reason, society has convinced us that if your heart rate isn't above 150 beats per minute and you don't feel gassed at the end of your workout, then you haven't done yourself any good. I disagree. If you actually add a little weight each week and don't miss workouts, then it will get hard enough, fast enough. Trust me.

Build a foundation of strength with easy workouts and a lot of volume. Do 1,000 reps over the next few months and let your body learn how to move through space. Slowly go up each week. By this time next year, you'll be able to handle the heavy weights with ease.

3. Slow Gains Foster Recovery

The body has an amazing ability to adapt -- if you give it time to do so.

When you place a stimulus on the body, it will either find a way to handle it or die. In the case of weightlifting, your body will build muscle and bone tissue, and you'll gradually become stronger. Small, consistent gains give the body just enough stress to grow and just enough time to recover.

But if you try to push the body too far, too fast, then it will find a different way to adapt. Namely, inflammation, injury, and stress. You might be able to add 10 pounds per week for a few weeks, but pretty soon it will catch up to you and you'll be sitting on the couch trying to get healthy.

Hard, Hard, Hurt vs. Slow, Slow, Never Stop

If you want to get in shape, to get stronger, and to reach your full potential, then what is the most important thing of all?

Answer: not missing workouts.

There is nothing more important than building the habit of getting in the gym and not missing workouts. Stop trying to make up for the fact that you're inconsistent by going harder when you're there. Long-term progress doesn't work that way. Instead, train yourself to not miss workouts and slowly add weight.

At the end of the day, it comes down to this: Are you just trying to put up a big number right now? Or are you really in this for the long haul?

Most people train in this cycle: hard, hard, hard, hurt.

I'd rather go slow, slow, slow, never stop.


I read that and it immediately hit home for me. My philosophy since beginning this fitness lifestyle has been to go slow, slow, slow, never stop! Fitness (for me) needs to be something that I can do FOR LIFE. If I go hard, hard, hard, I am going to get hurt.

And to quote Sweet Brown,

Walking into CrossFit En Fuego this morning I knew we would have on our white board something related to a PR. Coach Pete left clues in the post, Coach Jen posted this

So I was pretty excited. 

Then I saw the whiteboard.

And my heart jumped a little bit! 3 different PR's could be set today! Wow! Exciting!!!

Coach Pete explained how the workout would go. If we already knew what our previous PR was, then as soon as we hit a new PR we were to STOP, unless we had permission from him and he was watching to make sure that proper form, etc., was kept! This was not a hard, hard, hard, hurt workout. So maybe the PR was only by 5 pounds, it's still a PR.

We divided up into groups of 3-4 and I worked with my gals Joan, Karin, and Jen. We all thought we might be around the same PR weight, so there wouldn't need to be too much shifting of adding/taking away weights. We warmed up and off we went.

First up was the clean.

And I PR'd, as did all my girls. So proud of them! And as you can see, we are all very similar in strength for this lift. My previous PR was 80#, so an increase of 10#

Next up was the bench press. If you watch that video link (and it's not from my gym) you will notice that there is some improper form going on. The hips should not be lifting up off the bench. Undecided

And yes, we all hit new PR's. I tried 90# and failed. I got it up about 3/4 of the way but just didn't have any drive left in me to get it up all the way. That's okay. I still PR'd by 10#

And lastly we had the overhead squat. All 4 of us went into this lift thinking we'd "be lucky" if we did 45#

I think you can see that we ALL exceeded that by a pretty significant margin. Surprised GO US!! I attempted 75# but had to bail out at the bottom. First time I ever had to bail out of a lift like that. Fell on my butt. LOL.

After all 3 PR's were completed, we totaled them up and shared them on the backside of the whiteboard. These scores will remain on the board until we do this again, which might be in a year or so.

This WOD took us a long time, but all of us had the time, so there was no pressure to hurry through, we just cheered each other on, gave support and encouragement. laughed, and had a great time seeing how strong we had all become!

Including warmup (which included a 400m run that I RAN!!) this WOD took us 1:41!! But in that time I burned 566 calories and I was very happy. Happy to see all the progress I have made, happy to see all the progress my friends have made, and happy that I have such amazing coaches that truly care about us.

Life is good.

And all this strength training should surely have me prepared to compete with my girls in the Spartan Sprint which is coming to Tampa on February 15th!!

What's something you've done recently that has made you proud?? Have you ever done a Spartan race??


There has been a blog post floating around Facebook this week, and my CrossFit En Fuego coach posted it last night and even though I had already read it, I took a deeper look at it, and at myself.

Since starting CrossFit, I haven't been to any other box. When we went on vacation, I thought I might be able to visit a box in Asheville, but I didn't. I did some traveling WOD's instead and of course, lots of hiking.

Like the woman who writes the blog Fat CrossFitter, I am larger than your average gym rat. I have a lot of extra skin that makes me look bigger than I am. People might not even be able to look at me and know that I workout as much as I do, and that I eat a clean diet. Of course the people that I workout with on a daily basis and my real life friends and family know that I am strong, fit, and committed, but would a group of strangers be able to tell how hard I work??

I decided that I would conduct my own social experiment. Was I real crossfitter? Could I do a WOD at a different box??

I contacted another local box CrossFit14 through Facebook and asked if I could come and take a class on Wednesday. They said yes, of course, they 'd love to have me, and we left it at that. They had no idea who I was, what I've been through, and what I do on a daily basis.

It was a bit eerie dropping in on another box. The box owner (sorry, didn't get your name!) didn't look up at me as she passed me the paperwork and said "have you ever done CrossFit before?" and then she glanced up at me, and said "oh of course you have, I love your shirt."  Tongue Out Haha! I had worn my butterfly tee from Life as Rx. I guess if I do this experiment again I'll have to make sure to NOT wear CrossFit clothing.

I went to take a look at the white board and noticed that we'd be doing a Hero WOD: Wood.

Wood is named after Australian Army Sergeant Brett Wood, 32, of Ferntree Gully, Victoria. He was assigned to the 2nd Commando Regiment, based in Sydney, New South Wales, and he died on May 23, 2011, in Helmand province, Afghanistan, after insurgents attacked him with an improvised explosive device. I'm not sure of the 400/10/10/10 but I'm sure that they mean something.

I decided that I would do the "fitness" option of this WOD, and instead of running, I would row. I really hate running. I had just done burpee box jumps yesterday, and on Saturday I did Sumo High Pulls at the Diablo Games, so I was feeling pretty confident.

We did our group warm-up and then set up our stations. We had to work in pairs with one person starting at a different point than the other so that there would be enough space for everyone. My friend Larisa works out at CF14, and she was also going to do the fitness WOD so we decided to work out together.

Hero WOD's are never easy and then to be out of my own environment, I was a bit freaked out. Could I do it? Would I finish? Would I make a total and complete ass of myself and fail miserably?  But I pushed all those thoughts out of my mind and instead heard the voices of all my En Fuego coaches in my head reminding me to pull my shoulders back, drop my butt down, get those knees out the way, and I did a few quick thrusters just to try out the weight. I didn't realize someone was watching me. As I set the bar down this man comes up to me (turns out he is a CF14 coach) and says "wow, your form is really great, where are you visiting us from?" I thanked him for the kind words and told him that I was local, just in for a visit.

So now I had 2 CF14 coaches recognize that I was a CrossFitter. One from my outfit, another from my form. My confidence was building. And 3, 2, 1, GO!

I started off on the rower. I was surprised that they didn't ask me to row further than 400m, but you know what...I did anyway. Wink I did a 500m row, because that's what Coach Pete would have had me do (or he might have told me to "suck it up" and run Tongue Out) And I wasn't about to sandbag it just because I wasn't at my normal box.

So I went for it. And when I put my name on the board I realized I had finished FIRST.

In retrospect, I could have gone heavier on the thrusters and sumo high pulls, but whatever. I didn't even know where they kept their weights at and I was working with a partner so I couldn't have added weight on the bar without messing up her WOD. But I kept moving, and moving fast. I did take the FULL one minute recovery (a 50 burpee penalty was threatened if anyone was caught not taking the rest break) between sets. My heart rate max hit 97% and I burned 514 calories.

I ran some errands, came home and had this message from CrossFit 14:

"Hi Jenny, thanks for dropping in at our box this morning, we appreciate you pushing through the Hero WOD with us. You did great and your form was excellent! You are welcome to come back anytime."

I still hadn't told them exactly who I was but I replied with this: "Thank you! I love Hero WODs!!  Thanks again for allowing me to visit. I'll be doing a blog post shortly and can forward you the post when I'm finished. I blog here:"

Again, I still haven't told them that I workout.

They reply with this:
"WOW! Congratulations on your 212 lbs. weight loss, that's incredible! I had no idea you've lost that much weight, you move very well like a seasoned CrossFitter and kudos to your En Fuego Coaches because your form is excellent. Your story is very inspiring and I love that you are blogging about your journey because there are so many others out there who are struggling and probably terrified to try CrossFit. I'm sure you've inspired many people to take control of their health, fitness, and nutrition and congratulations on your success."


I woke up this morning wondering if was a REAL Crossfitter. Could I do a WOD outside my comfort zone??  Now I have NO doubt. I AM A CROSSFITTER!!

Thanks again to CrossFit 14 for allowing me to workout with you today, and many many many thanks to my amazing En Fuego coaches who have taught me so much!



Push Away the Screen: Firebreathers in Training

We are an active family. Our kids participate with us on our cycle rides, they often come with me on local 5K runs, and they LOVE to swim, and when we hiked through the North Carolina mountains, they were encouraging to each other and to us. It is nice to see that all our hard work to Push Away the Screen is working!

They're also CrossFit Kids. My box CrossFit En Fuego offers CrossFit Kids classes on MWF mornings at 9am (this is the under 7 group) and at 9:30 (for kids 7 and older.) During the school year the time changes to 5pm and 5:30pm.

Recently my trio were sent a care package by the amazing people over at Firebreathers in Training. Each kid was sent a super cute t-shirt, a sticker, a bracelet and this personalized letter addressed to all 3. The kids loved it and I loved the message that Carrie was trying to instill in the kids! So encouraging!

 Ronin LOVES his T-Rex HATES Wallballs shirt. He wears it often! It's so soft, I wish I had one!

 Here he is showing me how strong he is getting!!

Ella is a natural athlete. She's strong, she doesn't give up, and with those long legs, she loves to jump. Her shirt "What's Your Max Box Jump?" is so totally fitting for her!

She even likes to practice her CrossFit Kids skills at the park!

They also sent Haley a very nice tank-top, but she's going through a funny phase right now where she didn't want to be photographed working out, so I don't have any pictures of her. But her shirt is just as nice as Ella and Ronin's. Did I mention how soft they are??

Firebreathers in Training wants to help you Push Away the Screen by offering one lucky reader of this blog a gift pack for your CrossFit Kid! Your child can pick out a shirt of their choice, and will also be sent a bracelet and vinyl sticker!

It's easy to enter through Rafflecopter!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway