Jim Vaglica’s Intro to CrossFit

Wall walk

Jim performs a Wall Walk

A Crossfit Competition “How hard could it be?”

I was presented with the opportunity to compete in the 2013 Nevada Police & Fire Games, held each August in Las Vegas. The competition brings in over 2000 competitors and offers more than 30 events. I love to compete and I hadn’t been to Vegas in a while so I jumped at the opportunity.

The question was, which event should I compete in? I looked over the list and right away I can eliminate all the team sports because I’m a One Man Wolf Pack. I’ve competed many times in the bench press but now my shoulder is junk and it won’t stand up to the heavy weights I’d need to train with to prepare me for the contest so that’s out. There are several shooting events I could compete in but I don’t want to deal with the hassle of bringing a firearm on a plane. I like boxing except for the whole “getting punched in the face thing.” I could put in a descent time in the 5K road race but this is Vegas in August and I hate running. Poker? Not a sport! Darts? Drinking game! Bowling? Lame! I’ve got a lot of experience in submission grappling but that brings me back to my junk shoulder and I envision my entire arm being ripped off my body, thrown though the air and sliding across the mat, and that would be embarrassing. The list was quickly dwindling but then my eyes locked on a word ‘ Crossfit!’ I’ve never done it before but I know it’s about performing a bunch of exercises, one after another, until you get tired. I also know that a lot of girls are training in Crossfit and girls are also into Pilates and Zumba so I thought “how hard could it be?”

Crossfit  here I come!

The director of the Crossfit event sent out an email stating the competition would consist of 3 WODs (Crossfit talk for Workout Of the Day) but he wouldn’t divulge what exercises would be involved until a few days prior to the event. I wasn’t really concerned because I’d been through plenty of grueling SWAT workouts preparing for competitions and in 2012 I competed in six obstacle races (Tough Mudder, Spartan, ect.) so there was no need for me to change any of my training leading up to this event.

Just prior to me leaving for Vegas the WODs were revealed. It seemed like a pretty long list of exercises but most of them I recognized. I knew that berpees would be included. Come to find out they were named after their inventor, Dr. Royal H. Berpee (As far as I’m concerned he’s a Royal-A-Hole and I’m sure he had no friends) I could only imagine what “thrusters” and “rack jerks” were but when I Googled them they were nowhere near as dirty as I envisioned. I noticed “wall climbs” on the list. I think wall climbing is a blast and even if you fall the guy holding the rope just lets you down nice a slow. This really seemed like it could be a fun day at the Crossfit “box” getting my sweat on.

The day of the competition I arrived at Sin City Crossfit at 8am and it’s already 107 degrees (but it wasn’t that bad because it was “dry heat.”) I looked over all the competitors. Most of them were pretty muscular, covered in ink and they looked like they could kick my ass. The guys looked equally scary.
The first WOD was called a Barbell Ladder. This event consisted of a barbell clean, front squat, push jerk, back squat and rack jerk. Thankfully I had guidance though this event or I may have snatched when I should have jerked. Each time you could complete the process, in less than 60 seconds, you could move up to a heavier barbell. After the fifth barbell my shoulder threw in the towel. I thought it was a wise decision considering I had a long day ahead of me.

The second WOD began with a 1000-meter sprint, out on the road in the blazing sun. By the time I got back to the box even my finger nails were sweating. We then performed as many barbell thrusters as we could fit into one minute. Then Mr. Microphone would yell “BERPEES” and we would all drop down, do a berpee, jump over the barbell, do another stupid berpee, and another, and another. We could now continue doing thrusters for another minute. This whole process went on for a full 20 minutes. At about 18 minutes I saw this poor bastard laid out on the mat to my left. He was lying in a puddle of sweat and his eyes rolled back in his head. It was clear to me he was dying. I thought, “hold on two more minutes buddy and we can walk into the light together.” Never the less, I refused to quit before time ran out and somehow I survived to see WOD number 3.

Prior to the final WOD we all had to complete something called a 70-calorie row. This is performed while sitting on one of those rowing machines where you use your whole body to repeatedly pull a handle like you’re trying to start a lawnmower that’s out of gas. I figured I could burn through 70 calories in a few seconds. Four minutes later I was gasping for air like an escaped goldfish on the kitchen counter. It seemed ridiculous that it took all that work to burn through one nacho cheese rice cake.
Finally the third WOD was before me and the end of this torture was in sight. It started with 120 jump ropes, followed by 50 push presses with a barbell. Next were 40 step overs (stepping up and then down over a two foot high box.) Then came 30 sumo deadlift high pulls, followed by five wall climbs (the wall climbs weren’t the type I had hoped for.) As it turned out I needed to start by lying on my stomach with my feet against the wall. Then I used my hands to back up as my toes walked up the wall until I was in a completely vertical handstand and my chest touched the wall. If you think that sounds like a real ball buster?  You are correct sir!

At this point in the competition both my shoulders were completely spent. I barely managed to complete one wall climb and the event time was running out. Had I managed to finish five wall climbs I would have moved on to ten power cleans but that was not going to happen.

The final buzzer sounded and the competition was over. The spectators cheered and clapped but very few competitors had any energy left for such celebration. I was a beaten man and I felt disappointed in my performance. In case you’re still wondering, “no, I didn’t win.”

In the following days I experienced the worst delayed onset muscle soreness of my lifetime. My entire upper body was so sore I felt physically ill and I couldn’t raise either hand above my head. The pain finally dissipated after a full week. Had I been a hardcore Crossfitter, who trained with these movements on a regular basis, I’m sure the DOMS would have been far less but I doubt any competitor felt like training the following day.

I’ll never forget that long day and my first experience with Crossfit but I won’t be joining my local Crossfit box just yet. While I like the challenge and camaraderie of Crossfit, I choose to structure my training based on my primary fitness goals and staying healthy.

Entering that Crossfit competition wasn’t the brightest idea I’ve ever had but one of the things I’ve learned in life is that “bad ideas usually make for good stories.”

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