Boy on Girls (or a Guys take on CrossFit benchmark wods)

Hey!  Exciting news!  You may remember way back when,  my friend Denis (that’s not a typo.  He spells his name like that)  did a guest post. Well, while Amanda takes her hiatus, we hope to hear from more folks:  friends on the winding path of fitness, friends who cook yummy food, friends who just have s*** to say.  Hmmmm, not sure that I have that many friends.   . . .

Anyway, today’s guest post is colleague, friend, and fellow CrossFit enthusiast, Matt. And with no further ado, ladies and gentleman:

 Boy on Girls

One of the things I like about CrossFit is that all the workouts are tracked and measured. At the end of the WOD (workout of the day) you enter your scores (usually either a time or a rep count). I like to see how I stack up against others who have done that workout. I look at the best times as something to strive for (knowing I am never going to get near some of them) and I look at others (usually people closer to my own age who I identify with nicknames like “Old Chip”. What does that say about me?) who I consider to be about my same level of fitness and then see how I did versus them on a given day.

tumblr_m4swyaaqw01qg1vd7When we do benchmark workouts like the “Girls,” Grace or Fran, (21-15-9 reps of 95 lbs thrusters and pull-ups) I’m anxious to see how I do compared to my previous times. These benchmark workouts also make me a little nervous. Since I have done them before I have vivid memories of “the suck.” The suck is basically how much pain it caused, like when you are done, you are like, well, that really sucked. I am also a little scared, not just of the suck, but about not improving. Going backwards in a benchmark workout ruins my entire day.

For example, I’ve done FRAN 7 times and have seen myself progress from doing 75 lb thrusters with banded pull-ups to the recommended 95 lb thruster and regular pull-ups.

The first time I RX’ed FRAN, I did it in 7:35, which was 30 seconds faster than the time before when I had used 10 lbs less. My next Fran was 6:37 and I was pumped to be making so much progress. Which makes what happened the last time so upsetting. Feeling like I was ready to break the 6 minute barrier, I went out really fast and felt like I was maintaining a decent pace, when I finished my last pull-up and looked at the clock and it read 6:47, I was disgusted. I was ten seconds SLOWER, WTF? Call the Cops!

I was in a lousy mood all day, but at least I had been provided with some good feedback. Besides just getting better at thrusters and pull-ups, I need to think about my strategy. My first sets in the round of 21 were too long, I need to break them up and leave some more gas in my tank so I don’t die in that round of 15. One day, my strategy might be to go “balls out” the entire time, like this guy doing Fran. One of our coaches used that phrase today, “balls out”  and it started quite the conversation about how that term came to be a thing, but that is a post for another day or maybe even another blog.

Which brings us to today and the WOD Grace. One definition of “grace” is “simple elegance or refinement of movement.” In CrossFit Grace means 30 Clean and Jerks for time at 135 lbs for men, 95 lbs for women. When you watch some people do Grace, like this guy, I am sure you do see some simple elegance. My movements are nowhere near this refined, but that is OK because I am competing against myself, or more precisely “Past Me” from May 29, 2015 which is the last time I did Grace before today.

Back in May, I scaled the weight from 135 down to 115 pounds and finished my 30th rep at 3:36. Today I upped the weight to 125 and finished in 3:52. So I was 16 seconds slower but I think the increase in weight more than makes up for that, so I am feeling pretty good.

A quick note about scaling. A WOD like Grace is one that makes CrossFit haters say CrossFit is dangerous. The argument being, a clean and jerk is a fairly complex movement and doing 30 of them for time is a recipe for getting hurt. I think that is why it is so important for the individual to know themselves and check their ego at the door. I can clean and Jerk about 200 pounds for 1 rep, so I could have put 135 pounds on the bar and finished this workout, but this workout is designed to be done fast and with good form and I felt like 125 was the right weight for me. Just like you wouldn’t go try and run a marathon without putting in the work, you shouldn’t try and RX some workout without laying the proper foundation.

When you look at my Grace Performance over time, you would notice that my first 4 attempts were at 115, I didn’t up the weight until I felt like I could keep up a good pace and keep good form.


I like having this record, makes me feel good to see that I got faster each time. Yeah for me!. It also motivates me, now I am already thinking about “Future Me” who is about ready to RX this WOD for the first time.

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