This weekend I attended CrossFit Gymnastics Training. Two full days of body mechanics and movements and learning the art and sport that is gymnastics. I signed up for the cert. to challenge myself. There is no part of my body or experience with gymnastics that says this will come easy to you. I was that kid who could not complete a handstand and dropped early from the monkey bars. Upper body strength was never a forte. I accepted it an early age and stopped challenging the notion.
The Friday night before the Cert I came home after a very busy work week to an empty fridge and a dog that needed walking and a house that needed cleaning. I was feeling tired, over-committed and like I just wanted to be left to be. The idea that I had to get up and attend class for the next two days, on a Saturday and Sunday, was not settling well. I was feeling possessive of my free time as it was feeling in short supply.
Saturday morning the sun was out, coffee was made, the air was crisp on the drive into ACF. I walked into a room and introduced and put on a name tag. Lead by Kevin Montoya and Tim Muenkel, our CrossFit Gymnastics course began with a brief lecture and review of some drawings on the white board.
‘What is CrossFit Gymnastics?’ Kevin asked us.
The class murmured.
‘Right!’ Kevin said. ‘CrossFit Gymnastics is Body Weight Movement.’
He drew the CrossFit Hierarchy of an Athlete on the white board and then started to fill in the gaps. ‘Where do you think Gymnastics lands in the Hierarchy?’ he asked.
Crickets from the sleepy crowd.
‘That’s right,’ he continued. ‘The answer might surprise you. Gymnastics lands in the middle.’
‘Why do we do Gymnastics?’ Kevin continued, ‘because it’s one of the most important foundations of CrossFit.’ Then in capital letters he wrote, ‘You can only maximize one category if you have laid the foundation before it.’
I looked at his drawing and started to reconsider my CrossFit career. I work hard on the nutrition and the met cons and who doesn’t love sexy weightlifting but the one component I’ve continually tried to ignore, Gymnastics, was staring down at me and it had something to say: Gymnastics is a foundation. Gymnastics lands in the middle of the Hierarchy and unless you face it and embrace it, all your lovely weightlifting will eventually stall.
Kevin sounded the battle-cry, ‘Ladies and gentleman to the bar.’ The crowd began to move towards the pull up bar and rings. The kid inside of me that couldn’t swing from the monkey bars or kick-up into a cart-wheel started to moan, I can’t do this. I stared at Kevin’s stick figures swinging upside-down from rings and thought, there’s no way.
Ball Up. Pass Through. Skin the Cat. Um, sure.
There’s much more to the Gymnastics Cert than learning movements that you can practice on your own. It’s a complete and total How To: how to coach the movements, how to scale the movements, how to guide the athlete through the different options and one of the biggest takeaways, how to properly spot an athlete. Quite simply, spotting means love. To Spot is To Love. When done properly spotting keeps the athlete safe and it helps an athlete build confidence.
I learned the beauty of a good team of spotters during one of the first movements of the day, the Ball Up and progression to the Pass Thru. To my right and to my left I had two fellow athletes.
‘Are you ready?’ Carmen asked.
‘I can’t do this,’ I said.
‘Yes you can,’ Lindsay replied.
I looked at them both and they confidently looked back at me and patiently waited for me to stand in place and get ready to go to work. Ready. Ball Up. Doodle Bug! The room started to turn around me and before I knew it I was upside down on the rings. I was passing thru. I was skinning the cat.
I yelped – partially from being startled but mostly from pure joy. This is the work of good spotters. They make you feel safe because you are safe. A good spotter gives you confidence. A good spotter empowers you to do the movement and makes you want to do it again.
The remainder of the weekend progressed much like this with Kevin drawing stick figures in pretty green and pink on the white board and the class studying the figures and then getting to work.
Most times when I studied each of the drawings I secretly thought to myself, there’s no way, and then I’d regroup with my team and we’d start to move. Together, we collaborated, encouraged, created a safe place and tackled the movements in front of us – each and every one. At one point I was even on top of the rings in a Muscle Up and staring down at the triple-wide. The view is so pretty from up here, I thought.
The weekend not only taught me to look at Gymnastics from a completely different perspective, it also helped me to see the real importance of learning your body and knowing its capacity and testing its strength in new ways all based on the simplicity of its own weight. There were no barbells and no bumpers and I walked away Sunday evening more sore than in recent memory. It was a new and different deep tissue kind of sore. It was comforting. It was empowering.