There’s something special about the named workouts in Crossfit, a certain special amount of pain!
I had the “opportunity” to do Fran last week for the first time. Fran is: 21 Thrusters (with a 40kg bar), 21 pull ups, 15 Thrusters, 15 pull ups, 9 Thrusters, 9 pull ups. Doesn’t sound to hard does it? I am reasonably good with Thrusters as they work to my strengths, and I know I can do 21 pull ups in one set, so I was quite looking forward to it. I’ve seen one of the coaches, Mark, do Fran in a blistering 3 minutes 17 seconds, and was keen to see how far behind him I would be.
This is the video of Mark doing that time it at the Crossfit Manchester grand opening, Mark is on the left with the longer hair:
Even amongst the named crossfit exercises, Fran however has a special reputation as being particularly fierce. Think about it, an exercise routine that can be done in just 3 minutes (if you’re really good), and yet that is your total exercise requirement for the entire day! That’s an astonishing statement, and should really have given me warning, but here’s the thing about Crossfit, the anticipation never seems quite so bad as actually doing it.
It all started fairly well, I was hoping for the first set of Thrusters unbroken, which I just managed. 15 Thrusters straight off the bat, pausing for a few seconds whilst still holding the bar at 15 and 18. Then however, the pull ups were a lot harder than I thought, and I had to do 21 is 3 sets.
After that, it all went down hill, I just can’t explain how badly Thrusters take it out of you. Typical to Crossfits philosophy is the whole body exercise, and Thrusters certainly do that. Follow that with Kipping Pull-ups (the body swinging type, distinctly not the static hang body builder pull ups) which are designed again as a full body exercise, and it becomes constant 100% full body effort. And beleive me, when you’re at maximum output, 3 minutes is a long time. Imagine asking a 100m sprinter, who’s used to sprinting for 11 seconds at max output, to try to maintain max pace for 3 minutes, then you are starting to understand what Fran does to you.
Anyway, my time eventually was a respectable 7:24 which I was a bit disappointed at to be honest as I’d hoped for sub 5 mins, worse though was I spent pretty much a full 20 minutes lying on the floor recovering before I could stand up and function as a member of the human race again.
Now for Barbara, which is completely at the other end of the spectrum to Fran. Barbara is 5 rounds of:
- 20 Pull ups
- 30 Press ups (push ups for the Americans reading)
- 40 Sit ups
- 50 Squats
- 3 mins rest
So in total (and I’m always getting told off for doing this) the total number of reps are:
- 100 Pull ups
- 150 Press ups
- 200 Sit ups
- 250 Squats
Ouch! It’s also a marathon when compared to Fran, in fact the 3 minute rests at the end of each round just make things worse, as there’s no excuse not to work as fast as you can each round, cos you know a rest is coming. Karl, one of the Crossfit Manchester coaches, has been saying for a while and now I beleive him: “Learn to fear the Crossfit exercise routines with built in rests!” And he is sooo right.
I would say that most Crossfit routines are on average 15-20 minutes long, but Barbara took me a whopping 54:10 ! I know I’m bad at body weight exercises, as I’m still carrying extra weight round, I reckon probably a stone (14 pounds) in fat that I could still do with losing, and my fast becoming fairly bulky frame seems to do better on strength than endurance. And this is shown up by once again, me having the slowest time in the whole gym for that day (most were in the 40-45 min range).
It is all hard of course, but the press ups particularly so. It’s not that you get tired or out of breath so much (though you do) it just becomes a fundamental lack of strength and your muscles just refuse to do a simple thing: push your body up off the floor! This is something only a few seconds rest can fix.
The whole point of Crossfit, is it’s a functionally varied exercise regime, that builds on your strengths and exposes your weaknesses. I’m not going to improve on mostly body weight crossfit exercises by not doing them am I? And it’s fun and interesting in part because of that variation. In 6 months of doing Crossfit 3-5 times a week, I have done Fran once, and Barbara once, and it will likely be months and months before I do them again, at which point I shall be looking back here to check my times for improvement.