If you’re looking for a crossfit gym that is encouraging, welcoming, and to grow as an athlete, this is NOT the place for you. The lack of professionalism and high pretention is horrifying. I strongly do not encourage CFers to try this place out.
– Crsytal M., Yelper and CrossFit aficionado
No, this post isn’t about Gym Jones.
Today, on the button, marks 365 full days with Outlaw Crossfit in Alexandria. Or as I like to call it, “where people who hate themselves go to hate themselves even more”. I thought about making a reflective post about my trials and tribulations of the past year – the successes, the failures, the in betweens. Then I realized that this past year sucked, so I decided to write about why Outlaw CrossFit is a terrible place and why you probably would never want to go there.
You will learn to love the squat
Some people go to church on Sundays. I, instead, go to the Church of Squat, meeting on Tuesdays. Every Tuesday, rain or shine, for the entire year, you will back squat at Outlaw Crossfit. You will learn very well the difference between high-bar and low-bar and you will damn sure learn to bounce out of the bottom. At my previous gyms, I remember when we back squatted – that day. We threw some 45’s on the bar, moved it up and down, then went on to a grueling metcon of 400m repeats and 16kg chest-level kettlebell swings. Do you understand how much heavy back squatting sucks? Because you will if you come here. What kind of pscyho programs 6 straight weeks of 20RMs for the general population? When you walk in and a mom is grinding through a 20-rep set, making you look like a bitch, you will wish you never came here.
YOU WILL LEARN TO LOVE THE SQUAT
Oh it’s Wednesday, we must be done squatting for the week, right? Fuck that. Remember Monday? We squatted then too. Tuesday isn’t ‘squat day’, it’s just ‘heavy back squat day’. Every other day of the week you will use your legs and it will hurt. Mondays will probably be squat snatches, Wednesday squat cleans, Friday deadlifts…how the fuck are you supposed to get strong if you’re using your legs every day? What happened to back and bis/chest and tris? You will have to do heavy clean and jerks for a lifting segment, then heavy thrusters for the metcon. I signed up thinking ‘Thruster’ was always with 95# on the bar. Imagine my dismay when I started seeing 115#, 135#, 155#…how heavy does it need to be?! I just SQUATTED for christ’s sake. My legs are dead. And they will be dead, and you will kill them more, week after week. Sure, I can recover fast enough now that it isn’t even an issue but this shit is HARD. Nobody should be doing it.
You will have to become a proficient lifter
I remember my first lesson on how to squat clean. It involved Rudy yelling, “SQUAT!” while I attempted shitty power clean after shitty power clean for that day’s work. If you stay here, you will not be able to avoid snatching or cleaning. If fact, you will have to learn all sorts of ‘advanced cues’ and improve at analyzing lifts. You must learn what a first, second and third pull is; you will learn how to sweep your knees back; you will definitely learn how to load your hamstrings. You might find yourself on YouTube night after night, watching endless clips of world class lifters, trying to figure out how to make yourself better. You will absolutely look like a dumbass some days as you fail lift after lift. You will not talk much about triple extension. You will not do medball cleans (thank goodness). You will wonder if it’s ‘too advanced’, then see person after person nailing reps with a barbell in one hand and a baconator in the other. You won’t always improve by putting more weight on the bar – you will improve by moving it better. Take a look below at the dogshit that used to pass for my clean and jerk last summer. I could write a term paper on all the faults in this lift but I’ve got a batch of paleo brownies in the oven and you haven’t got the time to read it. Then take a look at just 20 pounds more a few months later. Sure it’s only 20# increase but how can you quantify the improvement in movement? You can’t. If I had a video of a recent clean, the lift has changed even more and it actually looks like I know what the fuck is supposed to happen.
You will get used to doing weird shit all the time in the name of fitness
Want to piss off a room full of people? Program 3 x 30 Kettlebell Snatches (each arm) at the heaviest possible weight. Every week is a new exercise in prescribed misery. Yes, you will get stronger, but at the expense of suffering. Want to know fear? Try building up to a 1RM non-heaving snatch balance for the first time. I can’t even list all of the bizarre movements that have now become normal. 3 position snatches, first pulls into hang cleans, behind the neck presses, handstand walks – all of it bollocks. Everybody knows high rep sit-ups is the way to superior core stability. Anything else is frightening and unenjoyable.
You will learn to love ALL the ‘X Rep Maxes’
Everybody hollers for their 1RM – it’s the sexiest number because it’s the biggest, right? The fuck outta here. What’s more impressive than 205# snatch PR? Hitting that shit for a double or a triple. Everybody’s a badass until ‘Isabel’ shows up. When prescribed weight is ‘heaviest possible’, you will begin to learn the value of a 2RM, 3RM, 5RM. Something as simple as a 3×5 push press – should be heavy, right? Wrong. Should be terrible. ‘Heaviest possible’ means you should be doing some serious soul searching by that third rep. By the fourth, you’re wondering how you got into this mess and thinking maybe you can make it through the door before the barbell hits the floor and everyone realizes you punked out. By the fifth, you’re cursing yourself that you still have two sets left and you’re already on your second Vita-Coco. You will learn that properly programmed, 45 seconds of work can be as mentally taxing as any 20 minute metcon. Why would you do this to yourself?
You will not spend lots of time on light, low-skill movements unless you suck at them
If you’re looking to do Barbara once a week you better just keep on driving because you won’t find it here. Outlaw will force you to develop strength through weighted movement (the barbell, dummy) because – surprise! – that will eventually carry over into success with everything else. How do you get a better wall ball? Get a better thruster. How do you get better HSPUs? Jerks and presses. What if the RX weight is too heavy in the metcon? You suck it up. You will spend that time doing your own personal strength workout while the rest of the class reminds you how slow you are. On the other hand, if there is a low-skill goat that comes up in a metcon, that will be your time to work on it. Suck at double unders? Looks like it’s 20 minutes of jump rope practice for you. Can’t quite ‘get’ overhead squats? You will spend the next 20 minutes ‘getting them’, and however many more workouts it takes until you’re there. Outlaw’s theory of scaling is different than many other gyms. Sure, it will eventually get you strong and capable, but you will leave pissed off for the day and without the epic short term gains everybody knows lead to success.
There are a few things I’m happy about.
1) No slam-balls. I don’t care what Robb Wolf wrote, stop programming these. Just…stop.
2) No air conditioning. This is clearly in the wrong list but I needed at least two things under this header. If I owned hell and Outlaw Crossfit, I would rent Outlaw and workout in hell for the summer.
By now you should have a pretty good idea of why Outlaw isn’t right for you, or anyone. Will you get stronger? Sure. Will you enjoy your stay? Probably not.
What isn’t obvious is this gym, despite all its shortcomings, is just like any other family I’ve ever been a part of – strangely supportive, consistently dysfunctional and oddly comforting once you get used to the routine. I owe it as much to every member there as I do any coach that I’ve succeeded in the past year.
Without realizing it was my anniversary, today I hit a 185# snatch. And it was a legit, non-ugly lift. When I walked in a year ago I could snatch, on a good day, 85# with a form that loosely resembled a pile of spaghetti in a dumpster. We did Nancy my first week and I took 25 minutes to make it through 30 overhead squats. That’s a ONE HUNDRED POUND INCREASE in 12 months. You know what it would take for me to get 185# overhead a year ago? Two friends, twenty feet of rope and a pulley. At 235#, I’ve also had an even 100# increase for my C&J.
Of course I didn’t 185# on video. So here’s one of 175# a while back. And here’s to another year in that pit of a room, 12 more months of misery, improving all the while.