Back to Crossfit

I’m not sure how it happened but around May of 2014, I stopped doing Crossfit. Not that I had lost interest in training, the methodology or the people at the gym. I guess I just needed a break and try some new things, and new things that turned out to be old things, like starting badminton again.

Over the past couple of months I’ve been struggling with some minor injuries and aches here and there, and training hasn’t been going the way I’d like it to. So I decided to add Crossfit back in, to make sure I have some strength work on the schedule too.

The box I used to go to relocated further from the city and going there wasn’t very practical for me. Meanwhile, a box had opened up right around the corner from our office (which is a 5 minute bike ride from home, so still very close by). I emailed the owner, jumped in on a class and enrolled right away.

So far, I’m really happy to be back at it. And it’ cool to see that I’ve still got some of the movements (squats and deadlifts for days) while other movements seem to be lost forever (medicine ball to the face, 4 times in a workout :)). Good times.

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Back on court

This weekend marked the end of the 2014-2015 badminton season for our 1st and 3rd Men’s teams, both of which I’m a member of.

Yep, I’m playing badminton again. Let’s back things up for a couple of years. I’d been playing badminton for years when I left school, got a job and moved out of my parents house. I kept playing occasionally and tried to find a new club here in Leuven, but with so much new stuff going on (I also got my degree in evening school during those years) badminton moved to the background and eventually I stopped playing all together.

The only things I did that was badminton related was volunteering at the Yonex Belgian International every year. And for the last couple of years, when the tournament had come and gone I got an itch to start playing again. And this year, things  finally stuck and I joined a club and started playing again.

And you can be damn sure that was right decision. Not only am I really enjoying being back on court and I’m almost playing at my old level again, the people on my team(s) are great. They’re exactly the right mix between competitiveness and having fun. Because winning it great and all, but if we’re not having fun than what’s the point right? 🙂

★ Put your name on the board.

Why you should join the Crossfit Games Open in 2014

The 2014 Crossfit Games season starts in just under 2 weeks and if you’re new (or relatively new) to Crossfit you probably think you have no business what so ever entering the competition. Well, you’re wrong. Because this is the Open.

The Crossfit Games Open is a world wide competition that anybody can sign up for (last year, almost 140,000 people competed in the Open). The competition consists of 5 work-outs, to be completed over a periode of 5 weeks. Workouts will be announced on Thursday evening (the first one on February 27th) and athletes have until Monday 5PM of the following week to complete the workout. That process repeats itself for 5 weeks. And everybody does the same workouts: you, me, Rich Froning (Crossfit Games champion in 2013 and 2012), we all go through the same thing. The top 3 athletes from each country then move on to the regional level (but that’s not what this post post is about so let’s move on).

What are the workouts going to be? Nobody knows. (it’s ok if you get a little nervous at this point) The first workout is usually something nearly everybody will be able to do (eg: burpees and snatches starting with a relatively low weight), the second week gets harder, and so on… Even though you might not be able to do all the weights or movements, let alone place somewhere in the top half on the leaderboard for your country, you should still sign up. Because the Open brings out what we (or I in this case) love so much about Crossfit: the challenge of attempting something you’re not sure you can do. Give it a shot, put your name on the board.

And you might not make it past the second workout. That’s ok, you can scale it after that. It also gives you a good reference point to see how your skills stack up and what you need to work on (can’t do double unders yet? Or muscle ups? Or those heavy snatches?).

“But I’m not ready”, “I’m not a competitor”, “I only just started”, … I’ve heard these a couple of times over the last 2 weeks and while that might all be true, you should still give it a shot. Because it’s fun, it brings together the community, and it means giving it everything you’ve got.

That’s what you’re here for right?

★ London Marathon 2013

London is one my favorite cities in the world and to be able run the marathon there has been one of my dreams for a long time now. Not anymore. I did it.

Here's the full story.

First off, you don't just enter the London marathon. It's sort of a lottery system, you enter your application and a couple of months later you get notified on wether or not you made the cut (there's different rules for UK runners and foreign runners, not important here). I had entered myself in 2012 and did not get selected then. This year, I didn't want to leave it up to chance. I found out that the marathon organization gives out numbers to a couple of travel agencies (one in most EU countries). So I contacted the Belgian travel agency well before they started taking applications (which was August 15th, 2012). It was a bit more expensive than I had originally thought but that's because you had to book the total package (eurostar + other transport + hotel + marathon race number). But I went for it anyway. (Spoiler: happy I did)

Because the entire trip was arrange and booked by the travel agency, it was sort of a group-trip as well. Nothing against that, just a little weird when you're used to travelling on your own.

Saturday, April 20th 2012

Up bright and early and up to Brussels South, where the entire group (85 people in total, not all runners) met at the Eurostar gate. Checked in, read a book, had a drink and at 8:52 we left for London. Once we arrived we all moved to the bus (going through St. Pancras International on a busy morning with 85 people takes some time). We got onto our busses and from there we drove to the Marathon Expo at the ExCel convension center. Here we picked up our bid number and our timing chip and we had on hour to looking around to do some shopping. (I got me a TriggerPoint Massage ball and some Union Jack branded RockTape)

Back on the bus and to the hotel. I stayed at the Bloomsbury Holiday Inn, near Russel Square. We collected our keys, dropped of the bags in the room and then I headed off on my own (the group was going to walk from the hotel to finish, which was at the mall, but I'd seen all those places before so I didn't join them). I toped up my Oyster card and jumped on the underground, first stop: Nude Espresso on Soho square for some coffee and cake. Then, up to Tapped & Packed, more coffee (both are very close to the Totemham Court Road tube station). More walking around in the sun (the weather was absolutely smashing, tshirt and sunglasses for the better part of the afternoon), went to St. Pauls, walked the millenium bridge, Thames side, etc?

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Back at the hotel by 19:30. Checked all my running gear put it all in the bag we received with our number. That bag had our number on it and it was to only thing we were allowed to take to starting area (we'd deposit the bag before starting and pick it back up afterwards). With everything packed, I took a hot bath (yes, the room had a bath) and went to bed around 21:30.

Sunday, April 21th (Race day)

Breakast at 6 in the morning, on the bus to Greenwich by 6:45. – wait, that sounds rediciously early? – Yes, it was. The start was planned for ? 10:00. But we had to be this early because the bus we were on had to be in and out of the area before they closed off the roads for the race. So, at 7:20 we arrived at Greenwich park and we headed to our starting zone (All of us were in the Blue zone).

Note on the starting zone and boxes

The London marathon has 3 starting zones for non-elite runners: Red, Green and Blue. All 3 zones are divided into "boxes" that indicate the pace and the target time of the runner. All 3 zones start at the same time but follow different routes until they converge on each other somewhere between 3 and 5km. This is done because otherwise there'd such a massive amount of people packed together that you probably wouldn't be able to run for the first 5km. By separating the zones, the crowd has tined out enough by the time they joined again.

With over 2 hours of waiting to go, a couple of us found a place in the sun and exchanged marathon stories. Time flew by and before we knew it, it was time to get changed and drop of our bags. A final gear check (food, water, music, chip) and we headed to our respective starting boxes. 20 minutes to go. Right before the start, there was 30 seconds of silence for the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing last week (30 seconds at the elite start and 30 seconds at our start). And then we were off, short spurts of running mixed with walking for the first couple of hundred meters until we cleared the boxes and turned onto the street towards the official start.

The weather was great, the sun was out in full force and around the 7km mark I was a little worried about getting a heat stroke as I wasn't wearing a cap or a hat (who'd have though the weather was gonna be this nice, probably the first sunny weekend we've had this year). Just made sure I kept drinking enough, got to stay hydrated. 15km, feeling good, not sure what pace I was at but just kept going.

Just before 20km, we made a right turn and there it was, Tower Bridge. The entire course had been packed with the people cheering us on but running across Tower Bridge, man, amazing.

Around 25km both my feet started to hurt really bad and I had to slow down. As I walked past a water station (drinking and running at the same this is not something I'm good at), the 3h45m pace-team passed me so I was well ahead of pace. From 18 to 20 miles I stayed with the 3h56m pace-team but they didn't run at a very consistent pace (speeding up and slowing down quite a lot) and at the 21 mile marker I had to let them go as well. By then the 2 blisters I had on both my feet had brusted and the pain in the feet got worse (and you feel that pain every time your foot hits the ground, tough but had to keep going).

This is where I want to say thank you to all the people who came out to cheer us one. Literally every meter of sidewalk along the course, on both sides, was packed with at least 2 rows of people. Holding signs, handing out candy and small pieces of fruit for the runners (first time I've seen that during a marathon). At mile 21 there was a lady with a huge sign that said "Finishing is your only fucking option". Damn right. Onwards.

Mile 24 and 25, running with the Thames on our left, surrounded by a mass of people, just passed 4 hours. Turn right at Big Ben, an even bigger crowd here. No 26 mile banner, just one that said "600 meters". 400. 200. Turning right onto the roundabout in from off Buckingham Palace, I stay left and got out of the pack. Another small turn onto the Mall and the finish line was straight ahead. Sprinted, all out, balls to wall as they say. Finished. 4 hourse, 8 minutes and 33 seconds. Bam.

The only thing that slowed me down were the blisters and considering that the farthest I'd run in training was 17km (that probably explaines the blisters), I'm very, very happy with my time.

20 meters past the finish line, staggering and swaying left to right, an official urge me to get out of the way. I stood aside and turned to see what was up: a guy had just proposed to his girlfriend moments after they both crossed the finishline, a crowd had gathered around them (myself included, I had to get out of the way because I was in front of the camera filming the moment). She said yes off course and things got very emotional after that 🙂

I walked on, got my timing chip removed and collected my medal and my bag and then I made my way (slowly and not very steadily) to the overseas runners area, where the travel agency had set up a meeting point. That's also where I met up with my mom and my sister, who had come over to London for the day to cheer me on. Together we made our way to a first aid tent to get my blisters checked out. There was no qeueu (big surprise there) and I was in & out (and patched up) in 5 minutes. Then we walked over to Covent Garden where we ate something and headed back to the hotel after that. My mom and sis had to catch the train back to Brussels they couldn't stay long, we said our goodbyes and I headed to my room for a long hot bath. Exhausted and too tired to eat, I decided to have a quick bite to eat at the hotel bar. By 21:00 I could barely keep my eyes (I'd been up since 5:30) and turned in.

Monday, April 22th

Woke up around 6:30 (seems early but that ment 9 hours of sleep so that's not too bad), snoozed and dozed off again. Got up at 7:40, packed the rest of my things, checked out (left my luggage wit the bellboy) and had breakfast. I sat with our trip-organizer, a 72 year old man called Wilfried. Looking at him, you'd say he's 60 max. He attributes that to the 36 marathons he ran throughtout his life and by always being surrounded by active people. An interesting and passionate man.

After breakfast I headed into the city for some coffee. First stop: Nude Espresso on Brick Lane. Had a couple of espressos and starting writing this post. Meanwhile it's just before noon and I've move to "Look Mum, No Hands", a rather famous (in the coffee-lovers crowd at least :)) bike shop/coffee bar for lunch.

We meet back at the hotel at 16:45 and take the bus back to St. Pancras. We should be back in Brussels around 21:00.

Epilogue

This has been an amazing expierence and defenitly the most beautiful marathon I've run so far. The atmosphere on the course amongst the runners, the people beside the course cheering us on, the beautiful weather, ? And off course: London.

Thank you all for the support, both virtual and in person.

Jan

★ Confessions of a Crossfit newbie

After the Amsterdam marathon in October, I stayed quite active and ran 2/3 times/week regularly. But with winter approaching fast and with snow and ice on the horizon, (safely) running outdoors will soon no longer be an option. In my preparations for the 2011 Stockholm marathon, I joined a gym for 3 months and ran on a treadmill. I wasn’t going to do that this time. This year, I have a different plan.

As with most of the crazy sports ideas in my life the past 3 years, Pieter has something to do with this. He started doing Crossfit in the beginning of 2012 and was (and still is) very happy doing it. I hadn’t really looked into it much but I knew there was a Crossfit box in Leuven, so after Amsterdam I sent them an email to ask if I could come and try out for a week.

Before my first session, I considered myself to be in relative good shape (I had finished a marathon a month earlier).
No dice. Try doing a pull up when the only sport you’ve done for the past 5 years is running. Ain’t gonna happen.

Let’s back it up for a minute: what is Crossfit? Let’s check wikipedia for that:

CrossFit describes its strength and conditioning program as ?constantly varied, high intensity, functional movement,” with the stated goal of improving fitness (and therefore general physical preparedness), which it defines as “work capacity across broad time and modal domains.” Workouts are typically short?20 minutes or less?and intense, demanding all-out physical exertion. They combine movements such as sprinting, rowing, jumping rope, climbing rope, flipping tires, weightlifting, carrying heavy objects, and many bodyweight exercises; equipment used includes barbells, dumbbells, gymnastics rings, pull-up bars, kettlebells, medicine balls, and boxes for box jumps.


Wikipedia Crossfit page

No fancy gym equipment, no electric machines. 4 walls, a roof (or: a box), a bunch of weights, barbells, a couple of pull-up bars and you’re set.

Everyone in the group (usually around 10 people) goes through the same exercises and movements and finishes the session with the same workout. But off course, not everyone can lift the same weight or finish every movement 100% as described. You can adapt the movement and the workout to your abilities but it has to stay challenging. What’s important is that you keep moving, even if you’re tired and/or sore, you finish the workout.

When you feel like starting Crossfit, you’ll probably have google’ed it and ended up watching videos on youtube (like the one bellow) and you’ll be feeling (a bit) overwhelmed. I was too (and still am when I see the WOD (= Workout of the day) some days)

The thing is, you shouldn’t be afraid to be the slowest or the smallest in the group. It’s not about beating the other people there, it’s about getting better, getting fitter and beating yourself. And you may not be the strongest in box but you’re still beating everyone that’s still on the couch. Instead, look at this one:

So if you’ve thought about giving Crossfit a shot, let this be the extra push in the back you needed to get you out there.