The Lost Art of Journaling When it Comes to CrossFit

I picked up the habit of journaling years ago from my former Personal Trainer, Drew. He got me one of those little itty-bitty-tiny-hand-sized notebooks where we would write my workouts in along with the weights I did, scales and times I completed them in. It was by no means fancy, but it was efficient.  I still have that journal and am grateful for it, not just for the entertainment value . (I laugh at the scales I used or the “heavy” squat days I had). It is really easy for me to see how much I have improved since then and how much I continue to get stronger. Incidentally, my trainer had told me when I started working out with him, that he became certified as a trainer when he was in the army, which he was just coming out of.  A few years later, when I found that very same journal, I was struck by how oddly similar the workouts were to CrossFit.  I saw things like “Jackie” and “workout for time” scribbled in. It turns out Drew had been certified specifically in CrossFit (and either he neglected to mention that minor detail or he did and I just had no clue or appreciation for what that was). I discovered I was doing CrossFit well before I consciously made the decision to. At any rate, I have been journaling ever since.

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Note that was back in 2008 and at that time, I could not do any unassisted pull ups. Also note Drew’s comment about needing more depth on back squats. Today, when it comes to both pull-ups and back squats, I am crushing them!

The benefits of keeping a journal are quite obvious, yet so many of us do not do it!  It is a way to track progress, and declines as that does happen. It is a way to track benchmarks and 1 Rep Maxes (RM) and things of that nature.  When you see  a workout and the coach says, “You should be snatching about 70% of your 1 rep max,” you don’t irritate him/her by saying “Errr but I don’t know what my 1 Rep max is.” Tracking helps guide us to know how much to lift or how to scale based on our workout history.

Call me old school, but my preferred method to journal is in an actual physical one. The journal I currently am using is just a simple lined paper one. I like to have it to flip through, sometimes to go down memory lane and sometimes to check and see what I should be doing for that day’s workout.  I also journal on the app, Sugar Wod for different reasons. I use that more for the social aspects of it: to fist pump my athletes and give positive encouragement in comments.  It also automatically stores benchmarks, hero WODs and 1 RM’s making it easier to have a place to go to as reference. As I also tend to workout in the first class of the day, I would like to think my commentary and tips help the athletes in the later classes.

Regardless of your method, be sure to include details in your journal. (I found this really great quick read on journaling here with some tips and methods). I personally do not have a formal method but I always add my own commentary in it. For example, if an old injury was flaring up, I’ll mention that to explain a scale I did.  From time to time, I’ll put notes to the effect of “felt really sluggish” or “was too tired”. Or on the contrary, “holy shit, I actually did that RX”.  I even use simple smiley faces and frowns.

I strongly recommend not just tracking successes but failed attempts as well. I will note when I fail at lifts, particularly when it comes to retesting 1 RM. I want to know that maybe in November I failed at  a 140 pound squat clean so that when I retest it a few months later and succeed, I can celebrate. Also as we know, not every day is going to be our best day. We may be weaker for a given number of reasons (more info on that here). Noting reasons or “off days” keep me grounded.

It is so very and utterly essential to write down what your specific scales are when you do not go RX. I note, for instance, how many ab mats I used if any for Hand Stand Push- Ups (HSPU). Maybe I did the last workout with 1 ab mat as there was a higher rep scheme, but today when the workout calls for HSPU at less reps, I may opt to do them without an ab mat.

The same is true for so many movements, like pull ups. Back before I could do them without a band, I would track what color band i used so that I could gradually and smartly wean myself off of them, which I did successfully after just a few months.   I can’t really speak to the science of seeing written data, but I can attest to there being a compelling mental or psychological element to it.  It often helps me mentally prepare  for the work at hand. There are days where I will see the RX workout and think, “I can’t  possibly ­do the prescribed  Shoulder to Overhead  weight at 105 pounds  for 30 total reps. That is just beyond me.” Then, I will find a past journal entry where I did do that same weight in a workout.  Recalling I did it before  (even if it was absolutely miserable) motivates me to do it yet again.

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Note: I wrote a failed rep at strict press, no band for ring dips and I scaled a workout on 10/5/16 to be kettlebell swings in lieu of clean and jerks due to soreness from the flu shot. I also threw in a cute little sad face. Again, my very own albeit antiquated but efficient methodology.

For those who use or are considering using SugarWOD, I strongly recommend you treat it like your own personal journal as otherwise, it can be deceiving at face value. Rx is Rx. It’s a fair playing field in that it is a given everyone is doing the same exact workout. When you see times and scores of your fellow athletes, it is evident who went the fastest and who had the most reps. When it come to the scaled sections, it is more complex (which I also should note, it is why CrossFit is really for everyone. It demonstrates how many different ways there are to scale to your level. #shamelessplug). More details are better than none. If you use bands in ring dips, or do push-ups in lieu of HSPU or maybe you do less weight in cleans, whatever it is, include it in your notes. Again, you will want those details down the line to benchmark.  I digress a bit but I feel compelled to mention this pearl of wisdom: You may have gotten the slowest time doing a scaled workout but it is quite possible your scale was the hardest. Use discretion when you either celebrate your finish or wallow in it. Keep in mind it is not apples to apples.

Journaling takes minimal time when you keep up with it daily or even weekly. Make it a part of your workout routine and that will prevent you from feeling burdened by it. It is a great tool for CrossFitters (and other athletes might I add). Think of journaling much the same as you do performance reviews at work. It is a way to set goals, track them and measure them regularly. For journaling to be effective, it needs to be much more than just logging for the sake of it. I had a conversation about this with one of my coaches at Concourse CrossFit, Ricky Sandoval. If you just write it down for the sake of writing it down, it is not really serving any purpose. It would be like counting calories for the sake of it without using it to actually tweak your diet or evaluate food choices.  There is power in knowledge, and having a workout log history can only help you in constantly progressing.

If this has encouraged you to journal, please comment and let me know how you are loving it! (Or hating it but I am confident that will not happen).

 

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CrossFit is So Much More than Workouts and Meatheads

You all know I love CrossFit. Many of you think I am a bit coo coo for cocoa puffs about it. Many of you are intrigued by it. Many of you wish I would stop writing and posting about it. Many of you share my obsession with it. Many of you wish I would stop obsessing about it. The thing is though, CrossFit does so much for me beyond a workout. It is a mentality both in and out of the box. I did a Google search for “CrossFit inspiration” and so many memes popped up that immediately resonated with me. I want to share some of these with you as they really speak to why I, and so many others, CrossFit.

“I want to inspire people. I want someone to look at me and say ‘because of you I didn’t give up.’” There is something about working out in the company of others. I know when I used to do my own solo thing at a gym, I often would cheat myself out of really pushing my limits. I did not even know what I was capable of as I worked out in a bubble.  I doubt I ever would have attempted even doing a pull-up or back squat more than 100 pounds. I had no inspiration to do it. I wanted to be fit and healthy, but I never really appreciated all the awesome, motivating shit fit people do. I got a taste of it when I had personal trainers and found running groups to hit the pavement with. Being around CrossFitters has turned me onto fitness on a whole other level. I have mad respect for athletes of all shapes and sizes because I now truly appreciate how hard it could be. I push myself now so much more than I ever have because of this community who motivate me to work hard. I also would like to think I do the same for other people. Think of how easy it is for someone who goes to a global gym or somewhere that they do not know anyone else working out. Think of how easy and how often it happens that people get discouraged and never go back. With CrossFit, we all have the potential to say a few inspiring, encouraging words to someone to make them want to come back. Working out does not have to be only a self-fulfilling kind of thing.  Make it about others too and what you can do for them.

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“Act like a lady. Lift like a boss.” For someone like myself who is petite, I never want to be perceived as fragile. Sure I appreciate chivalry and manners when it comes to things like holding the door open for me, but I sure as hell never want assistance getting my luggage off the carousel or down from the overhead because someone perceives it to be too heavy for me. There is a balance for me between being feminine (I do love make-up, nails and dresses) and not being delicate or helpless.

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CrossFit has made it cool for women to be able to lift heavy and not feel the need to hide it. CrossFit has become an accepted outlet for women to lift like a boss, and more importantly, has enabled us to feel proud of all the muscles we have to show for it. There is so much more acceptance for different body types, and I truly believe CrossFit has played a part in that. Fitness is not just about aspiring to be skinny anymore (and nothing against anyone who is). CrossFit is a showcase for strength (strong is the new sexy as we all know). I know I work damn hard for every muscle I have and so when I see that in anyone else, I have such respect for them. Gains require so much discipline, tenacity and an appetite for constant improvement.muscles.jpg

 

“It always seems impossible until it’s done.” CrossFit brings accountability to everyone who sets foot in the box. (Yeah there are some who sandbag but then they wouldn’t fall into this category of doing the seemingly impossible). For most of us, it means doing those last few reps even if we feel like we have nothing left to give. It may mean it takes a few minutes longer than everyone else to finish the WOD. It may mean throwing a few extra pounds onto the barbell even if it causes us intense anxiety. CrossFit is a constant battle between doing what is comfortable and what sucks. Personally, I am elated and humbled every time I do something that seems scary to me (which is almost every day). 95 pound thrusters in a workout is not something I ever expected or strove to do. It sounds scary and impossible, yet I have done it many times. Doing the “impossible” is what keeps so many of us going. It has taught to us to expect the unexpected. It teaches us to not underestimate ourselves, and that is something that extends far beyond the box.

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CrossFit has taught me so much about myself and others, and I truly believe it has helped me in my personal life as well as professional. ( I have to refrain in meetings to not make CrossFit analogies  to my team as relevant as they are!) Think about your interactions, outside of a box or a gym even. How many times do you  witness people giving up before trying? Or how many times do you see people underestimate themselves? Or perhaps you watch a colleague get steamrolled because they have allowed others to perceive them as weak?  I swear, if people treated countless scenarios the same way they would tackle a hard workout, they may see different results. So whether or not CrossFit is your thing, please, embrace the mentality it offers as it translates in all we do in life. CrossFit builds strength, resolve, and courage in us not just at the box, but in all that we do. Crush life the same way you crush a workout. And on that note, I truly wish you a happy new year. Now, go get it 2017.