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CrossFit Challenge Week 5: Strength Test

So, I’m awesome at counting.

For my week 3 post I put in my week 4 workout. We’re actually into week 5 of the challenge and I don’t have a week 4 post. Oops! I’m just going to leave the hole and pretend no one noticed!

Okay, on to week 5 then.

Welcome to Strength Week. 

I’m not sure if there is a plan behind the WODs each week but they seem to go in a nice pattern. Some weeks are more endurance oriented. Some weeks are more strength oriented. I will be picking Katie’s brain in a future article on what goes into organizing the WODs. There is probably a physical benefit to having a theme each week but I like the mental aspect of having some idea what’s coming up in the week. It doesn’t do anything but I just like knowing.


For Tuesday’s WOD, Back Squats were up first. Way back when, when I actually went to a gym, I did a few backsquats. I often worked out alone so I never did many of them. I certainly never worked up to my one rep max, preferring to stick with lower weight and higher reps. I was excited to see what I could do with a squat and this WOD was all about working up to your one rep max. First we had to complete the Buy-In.


Hand-stand attempts – This week’s Buy-in included 5 handstand attempts. Every time I try I can hold it for longer but it’s the standard dilemma with handstands, you need to push farther than what feels comfortable and be able to balance the whole time. A couple times I almost went over but managed to turn out of it and come back down onto my feet to the side. Before the class I checked out Jim’s Handstand article at Beast Skills to see about some pointers. I’m not sure much sank in.

L-sit Holds

L-sit holds are a move on the gymnast rings  holding your body off the ground and then pulling your legs up in front of you so your body and legs make an “L” shape. Simple right? No exactly that easy in practice. Holding myself up with the rings isn’t too hard, getting my legs up in front of my is really tough. You need the flexibility to be able to bring your legs up that high and then the strength to hold the weight there for 20 seconds. I can do about a 45 degree L-sit hold.

CTB & Strict Chin-Up

I thought Chin-ups were hard. Chest to Bars are even harder. They’re Chin-ups on steroids. The move is to pull your body up like a chin-up but you have to do it far enough and fast enough to get your chest right up to the bar or higher than it. Then follow those up with some Strict Chin-ups, which are chin-ups with no hip movement. Straight up and down. Swinging yourself up onto the bar with a hip movement is called a kipping pull-up or chin-up.

Back squats

Ok, Buy-In’s done. On to the WOD. Heavy back squats.We started with the bar on the rack and warmed up with the bar, then some lighter weight. I worked my way up to about 215 as a starting place for the workout. We needed some room to work up to our one rep max. I’ve not been in a gym in a long time and had no idea what to even start with on the back squat. I made it to 215 pounds and decided to from there

.My squats went 215/225/235/245/255. I may have been able to do a bit more than 255 if I really pushed it but that was about all I could give that day.

Heavy back squats weren’t the only fun thing in the WOD that day. To finish off we had 3 rounds of strict chin-ups to failure. I managed to struggle through sets of 13, 9 and 6 up to the bar. Part of me felt that I could have done one more one each of that set if I had just focused and really pushed through. The other part says, “Are you kidding? Your muscles were exploding.”

Teamwork and Encouragement

I was really excited to see a lot of encouragement going on for the chin-ups. We had to do them one at a time so everyone got to rest and watch the other people working out. I’ve seen a lot of encouragement in some CrossFit competition photos. Everyone standing around was pushing the last few people to finish off to finish strong. It makes a big difference to have people egging you on to get that one last rep in when you just aren’t feeling it. Even if you give up yourself, no one else will let you.

All our squats were with a partner as well. No one had exactly the same weight so every set we had to change the weights for the other person to go. Heavy squats are really tough when you’re not sure if you will be able to come up again. 255 pounds is a lot of weight to be stuck under or be 90% of the way through squatting but not be able to finish. It’s nice to have some spotters around.

Back to beginner

For Thursday’s WOD I really had to focus on getting my technique down and not think about trying to go heavy. We were doing Snatch Pulls and Squat Snatches. Snatch Pulls were the first part of the Squat Snatch. Both required good technique to lift heavy weight and not get hurt.

The WOD was to start with a warm-up weight and then workup to our one rep max for your Squat Snatch. The Snatch Pull was just as a warmup to the Squat Snatch and to work on our form. I worked up to 75 pounds which I was a bit disappointed in. Apparently I have a lot of work to do with opening up my shoulders and getting the mobility in them to let me get into a low squat with the bar over my head.

Technique is important

Not being able to do much weight with the squat snatch was a bit of an eye-opener for me and I’m sure there will be more. Technique is so important with many of these heavy lifts and there’s no point in pushing your weight until you get the technique down. There’s so much risk of injury there when the technique isn’t right. Mentally the technique workouts are tough. My muscles weren’t very tired after the Squat Snatch workout but my mind was done. I was having trouble putting all the pieces together and keeping things straight in my head. I have a lot to look forward to after I get the technique down though. There’s lots of work to get the technique down and then pushing the weight as high as I can get it. For now I’m limited to work on my technique but with a bit of focus that will change quickly.

400m Timed Run

At the beginning of the month Katie timed us all on a 400 metre run. We’ve run all month in our workouts and during the rest of the week so it was time to see how we did.I have to admit that I knew my first run was slower than what I’d normally do. I hadn’t been doing CrossFit long so I didn’t push myself too hard. We did it at the beginning of our workout so we were fresh but I didn’t want to leave all my energy on the road after running, I needed something left for the workout.My first 400 metre run clocked in at 1:49. My second at 1:19.  I pushed hard for the second run. Adam was right on my tail! I couldn’t slow down a millisecond and let him beat me. He put up a good fight and we crossed the line pretty much the same time for a photo finish.

Hiking the Juan De Fuca

Part of allure for CrossFit for me has been the positive benefit I hope it will bring to my hiking, skiing and mountain biking. I tend not to train much during the week and it shows when I head out on a weekend adventure. If I’ve been training, adventures feel good. If I haven’t, I’m sucking wind. Training is more work but nothing makes an adventure feel better than powering through a steep section riding or ripping up some fresh powder skiing because of the extra fitness I’ve got.

I hiked half the Juan De Fuca trail last weekend and tested out my 4 weeks of CrossFit so far. We hiked from the 11 km from Sombrio Beach to Payzant Creek the first day and the 7 km to Botanical Beach the second. An easy weekend with a lot of time laying around on the rocks in the sun. The perfect small test of my recent CrossFit results.

I had full gear for 2 nights of camping and hiking with water, filter, food, sleeping bag, mat, and stove. I had some lighter versions of what I usually carry because it was such a warm weekend like my Exped AirMat and my MontBell DownHugger #3 sleeping bag. Even with the lighter gear, I’m usually feeling pretty tight after 11km of up and down coastal hiking. Up over a ridge, down into a creek, up over a ridge, down into a creek, with lots of tall stairs and roots in between. Every step of the way felt energetic and strong. I had lots of energy left over once we made camp at Payzant to wander the rocks on the beach in search of some beautiful photos. I have to say having a stable deep squat position is very handy for taking photographs!

This winter’s ski touring trips will be the ultimate test of the usefulness of CrossFit for human-powered outdoor sports. Slogging through wet powder uphill for hours to turn around and rip down a hill dodging trees while maintaining the ability to stop makes my legs muscles and lungs scream like no other. I’ll report on that result as soon as I can.

Your Comments

If anyone else has had great results from CrossFit, I’d love to hear them! And completely unrelated, what’s everyone up to for their last summer trips? I’ve got a few short hikes and mountain bikes coming up and possibly a good weekender for the end of September. Oh, and waiting for it to snow so I can ski tour. Is it time to ski yet?!

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