Steel Yourself

Wall balls.


Strict press.

It’s taken a little awhile to figure it out, to really shake things out, but those three things are my absolute most-hated CrossFit elements.

Strict press is upsetting because it’s a lift where I should be able to lift more above my head, given my other shoulder-to-overhead motions, but my raw upper-body strength is lagging. It’s so sad, holding a measly 75# just below my chin, body shaking, knowing full well I’ve put forty more pounds over my head in other movements. But take the legs away, and all I’m left with are these “pretty arms”–my arms which are showing more and more definition, but which haven’t convinced me they do more than look pretty. I haven’t strict pressed much lately, either, so whenever it does come around, it feels like I haven’t improved. Need more days in the gym where I run through a quick 3×10 or spend part of an open gym session on strength. Maybe some fractional plates, too, would help. Either way, ugh. Strict press.

Double-unders (i.e., passing a jump rope under yourself twice during one jump) are–as Coach K always said–all neurological. I haven’t quite cracked the code on these. I can skip between alternating single-unders and double-unders fairly easily, but as soon as I try to link doubles together, my form falls apart, I rush my jumps, and then I crack myself with my own rope. (Tonight, it caught on my shoe and hit me in the lip. Not a great thing when you’ve got a slick speed rope from Momentum.) I try to practice these for a few minutes every time I step in the gym, but IT’S NOT ENOUGH. I almost cried watching a bunch of newbies bust out their unbroken double-unders the other night while I kept catching the rope and whipping myself and failing over and over and over AND OVER. Jump higher! Wrists looser! Arms forward more! I make one adjustment and screw something else up, I swear. Oh double-unders! Why do you foresake me?! The day I get double-unders, I will post about it on every, single, no-good social media outlet out there.

But no matter how much I hate double-unders because of my uncoordination and my mental blocks, there is one element that remains my most hated:

Wall balls.

For the uninitiated, wall balls are a move where an athlete squats and then tosses a big medicine ball at a target, catches the ball and transitions into a squat, and then throws the ball at the target again. Over and over. Men usually utilize a 20lb. ball, and women usually utilize a 14lb. ball. The target often remains 10′ for both genders’ standards, although women sometimes are prescribed to shoot at a 9′ target in a given WOD. At HEL, part of the Basic skill test was 25 unbroken wall ball shots at a 10′ target with the appropriate weight. I never passed that part (along with pull-ups, but pull-ups are pull-ups, so whatever; they get a free pass today). The two times I attempted the skill, I was no-repped by maybe the second or third rep. Why? Well, a couple of things. For one, my system is imbalanced. My legs are fairly powerful, but my upper body (core and arms) are lagging behind, so even with the energy transfer, I’m still working way harder than I should to get the ball launched.

Oh, and of course, I’m 5’1″, well below average height for my sex. To make up for my systematic imbalance and my height, I have to jump the wall ball shots nearly every time. As you can imagine, though, those weighted jumping squats burn out the legs rather quickly. I don’t have really great endurance through the burning suck yet, so I usually have to rest. Ergo, 25 unbroken shots is a lot to ask. 25 unbroken shots at 10′ target feels impossible. I’ve never wanted to kick tall people in the shins more than when I’m stationed next to a 6-foot-infinite giant during wall balls.

I did 13.3 (the third workout in 2013’s CrossFit Open) on Monday. 13.3 is an AMRAP12 consisting of 150 wall ball shots (and for women in this WOD, it’s a 9′ target), 90 double-unders (RUDE), and 30 muscle-ups. Oh, fantastic! Two of my most hated moves and one more element that I cannot do at all. Period. Google “CrossFit Muscle Up” if you must know. Last year, I completed only 86 wall balls. This year, at the 12-minute mark, I had completed 126 wall ball shots, and continued until I hit 150, since 150 wall ball shots is a benchmark WOD in and of itself (called “Karen”). It “only” took 14:59.

That time means it took nearly twice as long for me to complete, if you’re comparing my score to other people who are about my skill level in other elements. Wall balls are not just physically taxing because of my imbalance and my height, but they break me down mentally. Mental fortitude falls apart for me during wall balls (and, as it turns out, double-unders and V-ups). Even with a 9′ target, one foot shorter than I normally aim for, every shot felt like the world of CrossFit and that stupid medicine ball were laughing at me, taunting me. One, two, three, drop the ball, walk away from the wall, and try not to think about how many reps are left: that was my strategy for Monday night. Pretty awful when you’re looking at such a large number to begin with. It feels as if no matter how perfect my form, no matter how heavy I can squat and how heavy I can press, that ball will barely reach that target. And it will barely reach that target now even with a big ol’ jump out of the squat.

They feel, in one word, impossible.

These things all feel impossible.

So that’s why these are my new priorities. These are my greatest weaknesses, and currently, I’m letting them get to me. I’m letting them take away the joy I’m feeling from PRing my back squat, getting rope climbs down consistently, feeling more comfortable in the elements of the snatch, etc. etc. and so forth and so on. I’ve done so much in the past year and a half! And these three things will not be what keeps me from progressing. I can’t let them.

If I can break through these walls*… well, I don’t know what will happen if I can do it. There’s only one way to find out, right?

My new CrossFit motto.

My new CrossFit motto.

* like a wrecking ball!

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