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An Anniversary – my first year of CrossFit

Yesterday marked the one year anniversary of my first CrossFit on-ramp session. Sure, I had some exposure to CrossFit and the workout from earlier and had even tried to do some on my own at the fire station. I have to admit that I was somewhat nervous when the first session started. After all, I had no idea how I would cope and survive.

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While the first four weeks of the on-ramp were times of sweaty exertion in the classes and suffering from muscle fatigue and pain in the times between, I very quickly knew that I was hooked. I have never been one to embrace routine or enjoy safety in doing what I know. The reason why I work in IT is that I love the challenge of creating something new and continuously learning. CrossFit is a fitness paradigm that very well fits my interest in continuous learning and skill progression.

So, what have I gained during my first year?

  • First of all, I’ve learned even at almost 40 my body is very ready to learn new skills and tricks and it is still very much capable of getting in better shape. I can honestly say that I am now in the best shape that I have ever been.
  • I have lost 14 kg of weight since I started, but gained muscle mass even despite the weight loss. By every count my body is now in the healthy range and I have surpassed what I ever dreamt could be my weight. The last time I probably was at this weight was before I stopped growing.
  • I have made PRs (personal records) in every thing I’ve tried, and broken my PRs several times during the year.
  • Most importantly, I have truly learned how to enjoy physical activity and moving. So much so, that I crave it if I take too long a break from physical exertion.

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As any true geek, in addition to going to classes I have immersed myself in the world of CrossFit by reading about in online. Partly to learn new skills (hello YouTube) and partly to study nutrition, my body, understand programming etc. What struck me quickly from reading articles from around the world was the emphasis on community. I never would have thought it possible, but there is a strong community at our box as well. Even among us strong and silent Finns. And of course, doing a grinding WOD is always easier when there are others experiencing exactly the same around you.

What happens at the box should stay at the box…

What happens at the box should stay at the box…

My very first exposure (as I have previously written) was with Fran (21-15-9 of 43kg thrusters and pull-ups). Fran is infamous in the community for very good reason. Whatever your skill-level is, it is a burner. The first time I tried it a year and a half ago, I could barely complete three thrusters and three pull-ups. I finally had the courage to try it out right after new years. My time? 9:10, thanks for asking. At least it was under my goal and I managed to do it RX’d.

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I already know from my reading that typically the first year is easy since almost every time at the box leads to a new PR and the second (or following) year is harder because progress is slower. I have set many a goal for myself, most of them cautiously realistic and doable. I also know myself well enough to know that as long as I feel progress even if I do not reach my goals I will not be devastated. Stagnation is what I fear and at the time age should not be a limiting factor to my progress.

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As for my goals? Well, by the beginning of June I should be able to deadlift two times my bodyweight (BW), squat 1.5xBW, and move my body weight from ground to overhead. Skillwise I should have double unders quite well mastered by then as well as managing at least one muscle-up. Once we get to summer lets see what else will be added to my goals for the year. Most of all, I want to keep enjoying moving as much as I do now and continue staying injury free.

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So, those are some of the thoughts I have had after my first year of CrossFit. And how did I celebrate my anniversary? By going to the box and doing a WOD, of course. :)

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Disclaimer: At the time that I started I had no idea that the gym I go to was not an official affiliate. Finland had a conflicting licensing issue and only in the end of 2014 was it resolved to CrossFit Inc’s benefit and the gym I go to is no longer in any way licensed to use the term CrossFit in their marketing. But as an athlete I will continue to claim CrossFit as my sport wherever I do the workouts: at home, the fire station or any other gym. And honestly, even if our city had an official affiliate (which we don’t at the moment) – our current coach is excellent in coaching weightlifting as he has competed in powerlifting at a high level.

young flatcoated retriever in the trees

Dark and gloomy December

We haven’t seen the sun for weeks, so it has been quite gloomy and dark. Meaning that the black jobs have mainly been blobs of black in photographs.

P.S. This was timed to come out on Dec 1, but I managed to botch the timing so post-dated it now.

Live fire exercise – video

I really did try to get more footage from our live fire exercise than I finally ended up getting. The reason is quite simple: our first attack was into such a hot fire that the GoPro case melted enough to leave the start/stop button inoperable. And since I’m not one to take my phone with me into that amount of heat, I had no way of starting and stopping the recordings. So the only helmet cam footage is from when I went into the smoke during our first attack.

Trust me, although it goes dark as soon as we enter the building, it was hot and smoky for the next three minutes until we put out the fire and started venting. But the video is also a realistic version of what it really looks like when fire fighters enter a burning structure. The high visibility and pretty flames you see on TV and in movies are fiction.

P.S. You can see what my helmet and GoPro looked like after the first attack on Instagram. Although note that I’d already cleaned up the lens to make sure the case was still usable.

Flames from a house fire during a controlled burn

Live fire exercise 8.11.2014

This has been a peculiar year as we’ve had the opportunity to have two live fire exercises followed by controlled burns of the buildings once we are done exercising. The house this time was a traditional post-war single family home that often has livable areas in the basement and top floor but they could be initially left unfinished.

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We only used the ground floor during our exercise since the second floor was much too open to burn in a controlled fashion. The basement was left untouched due to safety concerns.

Door covered in soot from the fire

firegfighters entering smoky room

I also had a GoPro attached to my helmet, but our first attack (in which I was participating and not photographing) was so hot that my helmet and the GoPro housing took quite a bit of damage. The fact that it was so hot also meant that I got about five seconds of usable footage before the world went dark from smoke. If nothing else, that footage can serve as an excellent example of what the reality of entering a burning building is like when compared to what is seen in movies and TV.

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flames in a burning building

Flames from a house fire during a controlled burn

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After the fire has been put out

Springs in a mattress after the fire has been put out. Although I have always known how dangerous most mattresses are in fires, watching a mattress burn from the time it was lit until it was engulfed in flames reminded me how dangerous they really are. A picture of the mattress in flames as well as other pictures from our live fire exercise coming tomorrow.