Practice What You Suck At: November’s Suckfest

“Thanks for working on things that you’re not good at!”  

This was the “goodbye” I got after Saturday morning’s CrossFit class.  Some people might find that statement a bit unnerving, like I’m being heavily critiqued in a negative light, but that isn’t my mindset.  I’m become accustomed to the scrutiny that comes with my hobbies from a young age, beginning with playing flute competitively at the age of 11 — if I’m not looking to become a better version of myself, what am I doing?

Thankfully, I’ve been relatively successful at everything I’ve attempted in my life and the things I really like seem to come naturally to me.  Conquering the marathon and landing the infamous BQ aside (damn injuries), I haven’t met a goal large enough where the struggle made me take a step back and recognize I’m struggling, or at least that was what I thought…

“Of course I know how to squat!” I thought to myself the first time I found myself at CrossFit.  If you came to any of my group exercise classes, we were always squatting; if your form was poor, you’d know it.  I’d look in every mirror in that room and check my form to ensure I was providing a good example for everyone to follow.  “Chest up, chest up, chest up!  Weight in your heels, not in your toes!”  I’d yell out to everyone like a drill sergeant.  Of course I knew how to squat and I always demonstrated a perfect squat.

“Thanks for working on things that you’re not good at!”
Want to know what I was working on?  Squats.

Yup.

Squat to Parallel MemeThe past couple of weeks I’ve been working on perfecting my squat.  It’s not a matter of how heavy, but keeping proper form without any weight.  That’s a challenge in itself because you don’t have the resistance to push against, but you really learn how ineffective your squat is when you try to complete movements with multiple parts, like thrusters, and just don’t have the oomph necessary and not for a lack of upper body strength.

The basic problem is I’m not getting low enough, not low enough like ass to the grass, but not even close to parallel.  Breaking that down even further, I’m not getting low enough because my torso leans forward and my weight isn’t in my heels or midfoot.

Last week I was practicing squats facing a wall, toes touching it, with a skinny PVC pip held overhead.  Being this close to the wall prevents me from leaning forward and forces my weight to remain in my heels.  The more I practice, the more I realize there’s something in my left hip/groin region preventing me from getting any lower in the squat –“Another injury? No, it can’t be. What’s wrong with me?”  It wasn’t until this week’s class on Tuesday that everything clicked.

Tuesday’s class worked on back squats.  “Great, more squats!  I suck at these!” I said as we got a Big Boy (20kg) barbell ready (typically I use the Baby Barbell [10 kg]).  Without plates, I began warming up with one of the coaches by my side critiquing each squat.   Watch your knees, your right knee is collapsing.  Bring your hands closer together on the bar.  Squeeze your butt cheeks as hard as you can on the way up!  

After ten reps, we added 10lb plates on each side and continued.  Squat lower.  Okay, keep the weight in your heels.  Try it again, just a little lower.  Squu-ee-ee-eeze!  I studied what my partner was doing during his sets and then we added another 10lb plate to each side. (Arrghh, what, are you sure, Coach?  Yes?  Oh boy.)  I successfully completed four reps, but my squats were much shallower than the first two sets.  My partner continued adding plates while I practiced some air squats aside, still struggling.

At this point, I held onto the bar in the rack and squatted as low as I could – no issues with my range of motion here.  Then we saw my bright, fun Saucony Mirages with a nice 4mm drop.  While these aren’t THE reason for leaning forward, they certainly don’t help.  I took off my sneakers and practiced more air squats with better success, but I still felt like something was preventing me from going lower.  Then the click happened.  I was trying to hip hinge in the middle of my squat.  I was already committed to squatting when I decided to stick my butt back and bring it lower, which is exactly when my right knee wanted to collapse, my chest leaned forward, and I began to feel the struggle of the weight.  Clickclickclick!

Serious SquatsWe moved back to the rack for two more sets, one with 20lbs on each side, and the last with just 10lbs.  Coach helped stabilize me during the squats so I could feel where I need to go and begin to trust myself.  Each time I thought about the hip hinge, then committing to the squat, which helped immediately with the weight in my feet issues and torso problems.  Having my feet firmly on the floor was such a help too, but I’m still not fully trusting myself that I can actually go lower and get back up.  Hey first Big Struggle, nice to meet you.

I don’t like to workout for the ambiguous term of “staying in shape”.  I’m not subjective girl.  Maybe it’s from my days of creating lesson plans or my competitive nature, but I need solid objectives to thrive.  I will forever be striving to run faster, to run farther, to do both at the same time, to complete Fran as prescribed, so on and so forth until the day I die.  Running is my thing, I love it and I don’t struggle with the goals I reasonably set for my fitness levels.  CrossFit is not my thing, I love it, and I struggle with everything, even at the basic level.

This month, my struggle is a proper squat.  Who knows what next month will bring?

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Brittany

Just a 20-something homegrown Buffalo sports loving, distance running, gin drinking kind of girl.

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