Y'know, I had harbored pipe dreams of becoming a lean, mean, flippin', twistin' gymnastics machine after attending the CrossFit Gymnastics Certification. Well, obviously, that wasn't going to happen in two days, but day 2 of the CrossFit Gymnastics Certification proved to be yet another excellent day of learning and drilling (honestly, could I ever have expected anything but?).
It was pretty gray and gloomy outside when I left the hostel where I had spent the night (hey, you can't beat $40/night lodging in Boston, can you?), and trekked the one-and-a-half miles to CrossFit Boston. I got there at 8:30 a.m., in time to knock out an easy 6-K on the Concept 2 rower to warm myself up for the day ahead.
We began promptly at 9:00 a.m. (actually, 8:00 a.m. according to the clock at the gym, which had mysteriously wound itself back an hour -- kind of odd since it had been just fine the day before). Gillian led us through the paces with a dynamic warmup. I'll have to post more about the warmups we did during the gymnastics cert sometime -- I was introduced to many novel exercises and I think they'll be immensely useful as part of future warmups.
We then went straight into forward roll basics (Tucker: "Keep your chin tucked to your chest! Make like a doodlebug!), and spent a fair bit of time practicing our rolls on gymnastic mats to ensure that we weren't impacting the ground headfirst but rather cushioning the landing by using our upper backs. Forward rolls are very basic, but a useful tool, for instance as an exit strategy when you've overbalanced on a handstand, or when you take a nasty spill, or something.
Believe it or not, as elementary as they might seem, forward rolls were something that scared the shit out of me when I was nine years old and had my first taste of gymnastics during physical education class in primary school. I remember never ever working up the courage to do them (yes, I fully admit to being quite the bumbling, unathletic wuss as a child) in class. I was convinced that I was going to break my neck in the process -- you see, my PE teacher never told us to make like doodlebugs, and so a lot of the kids ended up driving the tops of their heads into the ground when attempting the rolls. But I also remember going back home and vowing that somehow I needed to summon up the courage to perform a forward roll. And what better place to try than the kingsized bed in the master bedroom back home, all bouncy with cushioned springs? I finally did get my first forward roll there (and an assortment of other miscellaneous tumbling tricks that probably won't ever cut it in the real gymnastics world, but were fun for a kid like me). Anyway, back to the gymnastics cert.
We then went on to practice handstands after demos by Gillian and instruction from Tucker. I finally understood what it felt like to be in the "hollow body position" with active shoulders while in a handstand. I don't have a problem with handstands against a wall -- I can stay inverted for pretty long periods of time -- but it was useful to know the exact position that I ought to be in while upside down (i.e. no overarching of the back, no flexed feet, etc.), since it's not exactly the most intuitive thing to be upside down on your hands. Using the drills and cues that Tucker prescribed, there were marked improvements in practically everyone's handstands by the end of the day. As always, the only way to get better at something is to work at it, and so it looks as though I'll be spending more time on my hands from now on.
I was especially thankful for the demonstration on how to use the Jumpstretch (or any other rubber resistance band, for that matter) bands to facilitate gymnastic training. By looping and hooking a band over the top of a pullup bar, and running a thinner band through it, a neat device (kind of like a shoulder harness, almost), could be fashioned to help people achieve full range of motion on their handstand pushups.
Tucker also discussed using the bands to help people achieve full ROM ring dips (place the ends of the band directly under your hands and then grab the rings such that the bands are sandwiched tightly between the heels of your palms and the rings, jump to support, and have someone pull the band directly under your knees and into position -- you can then perform supported ring dips in this manner). This method could also be applied towards iron cross training, where you gradually move your hands (with locked-out elbows) to the sides, in hope of achieving a final position where your arms end up parallel to the ground.
During lunch, I had the privilege of working out alongside Gillian and Sam (another cool lady and awesome athlete from CrossFit Boston). We did "Elizabeth", the workout that had been posted on the CrossFit main site for that day. For the record, "Elizabeth" consists of 21-15-9 reps of full squat cleans (Rx'd weight for women: 85#), and ring dips. "Elizabeth" is a relatively quick and dirty workout, much like "Fran". Well, when you're in the company of such firebreathers, you know they're going to kick it up a notch, and so we decided to use 95# for the FS cleans instead. Going head-to-head with these two on one of the famed "lady WODs" was probably one of the best moments of my trip. I really busted my ass on this workout trying to keep up with Gillian, who was knocking out the ring dips effortlessly (she made it look way too easy, in my opinion). She finished in 6 minutes and something, 6:13 I think, and I came in at 7:42, which I was extremely pleased with (who wouldn't be? Only a minute and a half behind Gillian!). Sam finished in 14 minutes -- all around, an awesome effort by everyone.
After lunch, we busted out the paralletes and worked on achieving extreme ROM on handstand pushups. Getting EROM on HSPUs definitely isn't easy, and something I need to work on. The extra distance makes a considerable difference. Working the standing press will probably help too, much as I dislike shoulder-pressing.
The parallettes also came in handy for timed L-sits and V-sits. Those really fire up your quads because of the muscular tension necessary to lock your body into position. Sucky, but necessary (much like many of the other movements found in CrossFit). Gillian also demonstrated the L-sit into handstand. Impressive stuff right there, and something I wish I'll be able to do one day!
Towards the end of the day, Tucker fielded questions from the crowd and discussed programming in further detail. Listening to him speak, I gained a better understanding of how to work gymnastic training into CrossFit instruction and daily workouts. I think a lot of people are averse to gymnastic training because of the element of difficulty. Admittedly, it is difficult -- those feats of strength that gymnasts perform are by no means easy -- but after learning how those could be scaled in a way such that they would become accessible to the masses (for instance, using the bands as a means of assistance), gymnastic training is an extremely valuable part of any fitness program.
I enjoyed the CrossFit Gymnastics cert tremendously. It was a blast hanging with Tucker and his crew (awesome coaches -- Gillian, Melissa, Keith, and John). I also got the opportunity to meet friends that I hadn't seen in a while, like Jen Conlin of Potomac CrossFit and also get acquainted with many other cool individuals, among them Tim from Bay State CrossFit and Alex of "The Hopper Deck" fame (bought a Hopper Deck from Alex and am loving it... everyone should definitely check it out!). And of course, luxuriate in the presence of all the big CrossFit names whom I talked about in my earlier post... haha!
This cert was by far one of the most worthwhile investments for me and I'm glad I managed to attend it. It's not cheap by any means ($595.00 for two days, or 16 hours, of coaching), but every penny was justified. If you can find a cert near your location, that definitely helps.
Alternatively, you can do what I did and attempt to cut costs in all other areas. I'm a member of Spirit Airlines' $9.00 fare club which you can join for a nominal fee (I believe you might even get the first year free), and snagged a roundtrip ticket from Detroit to New York City and back for $9.00 each way. I kid you not, $9.00. My roundtrip ticket came up to $39.00 total after factoring in taxes and fees ($21.00). Talk about an awesome deal (well, my flight did get delayed coming back in from NYC due to inclement weather, and I did end up in the second to last row in the plane, squashed right by the window, but I'm not about to complain for $9.00). I stayed with a friend in NYC, took an overnight Greyhound bus down to Boston for $27.00, spent Saturday night in a hostel for forty bucks, and took one of the dodgy NYC-Boston buses that operate from New York's Chinatown back for $15.00 on Sunday evening. So, yeah, pretty economical!
Notes from Day 2 of the CF Gymnastics Cert (again, courtesy of Coach Jeff Tucker):
Forward roll – and its importance
Spotting – Controlled kick up - Controlled falling
Handstands – how to lunge and kick up to your spot
Body position, hands, hollow body, active shoulders
Wall support – kicking up – walking up
HSPU – Hand Stand Push Ups
Power Bands harness – self spotting technique
L-sit and progression
L-sit into HS
Push Ups and the EROM
HSPU – EROM
All photos courtesy of Keith Wittenstein (thanks, Keith!) from CrossFit Virtuosity.