Gandhi’s inspirational quote “Live as if you were to die tomorrow” hit me one day at the gym. Since then, I’ve been thinking about what would be the best and the worst last CrossFit workout for me. Has it ever happened to you to think about this?
In CrossFit, we train to strengthen our bodies and also our minds. We are often exposed to vigorous workouts, challenging our skills to the limit. There is no tomorrow during a workout, only the moment that the clock starts and the time cap to beat. For a lot of us, the physical stress experienced during those minutes is the cure for the mental stress accumulated during the day.
Finishing the workout by giving all you have left, gives you a feeling of calm and gratitude for the awesomeness of your body and mind. So, if tomorrow would be my last workout, I want it to be strenuous. I would like to cure my guilty conscience (of all the junk I had) and leave the gym without any feelings of regret.
…which CrossFit WOD would I do?
That’s a loaded question.
This is one of those workouts that while you read it on the whiteboard you are thinking, “this is easy, nothing to worry about”. But when you are halfway through the time cap, you are cursing, in pain and swearing that this is the last time you are doing a CrossFit workout. The coach in my gym introduced it as the Sweet Sixteen, but trust me it has a lot of healthy bitterness.
The Sweet Sixteen
- AMRAP in 16 Minutes
- 16 Alternating Dumbbell Snatches
- 16 Weighted Sit-ups
- 16 Push ups + Renegade Rows
RX: 35 lbs for women / 50 lbs for men
I think the coach was right when he said the Dumbbell Snatches were the “easiest” part of the workout. However, even alternating through the 16 reps left me without breath. And, as the coach said, since the snatch has such a large range of motion, this movement can also begin to tax your cardio. Sure you are engaging your lower body muscles (hamstrings, glutes and quads), but also your triceps, biceps, traps and core.
The continuous movement made me sweat a lot, and I was only using a 25lbs dumbbell! Yes, I was already struggling with the first part of the workout, but I liked it. The dumbbell snatch feels more safe and comfortable than the barbell snatch. I’ve been doing CrossFit for about 5 years now and I still can’t master the barbell snatch; it’s quite technical and my overhead mobility is not the best.
After the snatches, using the same dumbbell, we performed weighted sit-ups. What a burn it was! The lower back muscles were already kind of tired after the snatches, so adding 16 sit-ups while holding a dumbbell on your chest was no joke for the core and back. Normally, we perform this movement with a plate but grabbing a dumbbell makes a huge difference. The dumbbell has to be laying on your collar bone; you are cradling it into the chest and keeping your elbows bent.
While hooking your feet around the pullup rig to help compensate for the heavy weight, the idea is to be careful to not pull too much with the legs and let the abs do the job. Hooking your feet around the rig, instead of under a bench or weight, as is common, forces much of the work into the abs and hip flexors. This variation definitely challenged my midsection in a greater magnitude than the regular sit-ups. A couple days later even laughing caused me a bit of pain!
Then, the trickiest part of the workout, the push-ups and renegade rows. You are meant to do 1 push-up, followed by 1 row, and complete all 8 reps on one side before switching to the other. Wow, push-ups are already hard for me. After all these years of training, my body can handle a full push-up, so I thought I would be able to move smoothly. Silly me, I had to do sets of 4 and take a pause to shake my arms that were on fire. The combination of a plank and a dumbbell row puts a lot of pressure in the shoulders and back, without mentioning the core. Keeping a solid plank position and wrists neutral also taxes your focus and endurance.
All in all, this workout made me feel like I’ve hit my endurance plateau. I felt I had an adrenaline rush, a mix between excitement and anxiety. My heart was beating super fast, breathing was difficult and my mind was telling me to stop; but I kept going, I needed to fight this workout and not let it beat me down.
I went as far as I could, completing almost 4 rounds and what a beautiful feeling of accomplishment I experienced. I felt bright, motivated and connected with my body. I was ready to fight the next day and throw my best punch at all the obstacles in my way.
Which workout would I never do again?
Most probably you have heard your coach saying to push yourself and challenge your gym limits. And this might be in the sense that our brains decide to stop the body exercising well before its physiological limit. So, coaches motivate us to hack our own brains and shut down the voice telling us to slow down or quit during a workout.
A couple of months ago, my CrossFit gym organized a team rowing competition. The first part was to accumulate the maximum amount of meters during 4 weeks. The second part was to complete a half marathon (21,097 meters or 13.1 miles) team relay in one session. This competition was meant to be done in addition to the regular CrossFit classes.
Motivated by the competition, a lot of my gym mates were jumping in the rowing machines for a long time, hours even! One day, I decided to push myself to the limits and accumulated 2hrs of non stop rowing. The last half hour was the most terrible feeling I had while working out. I felt sick and in pain, but I thought this was normal; I thought Pukie the Clown was around. So, I kept going and pushing. I was panting and felt as if I couldn’t get enough air.
That afternoon, I couldn’t find any motivation to eat or move, my energy was gone, I felt hungover and sore. I still feel guilty for what I did to my body that day. This is definitely not how I want my last workout to be so this is not something I plan on doing again!
What would be the best workout?
The last workout has to be strenuous but still enjoyable. I want to have fun, be adventurous and risky. What I don’t want is to experience a “fitness hangover” that would make me question my very existence, purpose in life and the choices I made. I would be OK with that if my last day involved having a few drinks at my favorite bar, but on my last day I want to enjoy the endorphin buzz of a challenging workout, feel empowered and invincible. Wouldn’t you?
Final Thoughts from the Barbell Beauties
It’s easy to allow parameters in our fitness journey to become set and not to push out of our comfort zones. As athletes we have the choice to keep progressing and do our best every single day. As one of my favorite singer/songwriters says, “I’m tired of only ever trying to do what I can, the secret is to try and do the things that you can’t.”
Enjoy tomorrow. Kick some ass. YOLO
Screw the whiteboard for a day. Appreciate how lucky we are to be able to do what we love, instead of taking it for granted and bitching and moaning about pointless stuff.
Giuliana is a yoga instructor and Crossfitter from Peru who is currently living in Chiang Mai, Thailand with her Crossfit Coach (and husband) Tim.