ParaWOD supports Team Impavidus at the Capital Affiliate League


By now you should know that I’m a proud member of Crossfit Impavidus in Ashburn, VA. Part of what makes the gym special is their competitive team, which is made up of a bunch of wonderful athletes who love to compete in the Capital Affiliate League, and today our team is in Fulton, MD for week 3’s competition amongst some of the other elite Crossfit gyms in the DC Metro region. If you’re in the area today (11830 W Market Pl, Fulton, MD 20759) head on over and check it out!

ParaWOD signs up for the Working Wounded 2015 Games


Let us call this a personal experiment.

If you’re like my family and me, you have spent a lot of time on Youtube and ESPN watching the Crossfit Games over the years. As the Games have gained in notoriety, their competitiveness and visual appeal has translated into a highly enjoyable experience where you not only get to witness the competition but observe athletes who can serve as models for your own workouts.

You may have even watched a few of my video clips here, where I’ve attempted to model some of the adaptations for workouts that my coaches from both Crossfit Nassau and Crossfit Impavidus have helped develop. What you may not know, but are about to learn, is that Impavidus helps out with an organization called the Crossroads Adaptive Athletic Alliance. From their website:

Crossroads Adaptive Athletic Alliance’s mission is to level the playing field for adaptive athletes by helping to facilitate the integration of permanently injured athletes into both the sporting community and the local community at large through sport and competitive efforts. Our most enthusiastic desire is to work as an advocate for adaptive athlete inclusion in sports and fitness worldwide.

In the same spirit as the Crossfit Games, Crossroads too has a flagship event called the Working Wounded Games, to be held November 7-8 in Lorton, VA.

It takes a lot to push the boundaries when a lot of times there is no trail blazed specifically for you. – Max Conserva

All this to say, I will be there. Not only am I preparing to go as a competitor (goodbye, bagels and pizza, hello sled pull), but I plan on working with both Impavidus and Crossroads to document the games, listen to some stories, and help provide a greater platform for athletic adaptation.

Stay tuned for more as the date approaches!

ParaWOD adaptation: From burpee to chirpee

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One of the big challenges for the adaptive athlete is to figure out how standard Crossfit movements, such as dead lifts or air squats, can be translated into an adaptive movement. One of the goals of this site has been to find that elusive bridge so that the adaptive athlete can participate in normal Crossfit classes.

In our workout session today, we came up with what I think is a great substitution for one of Crossfit’s staple movements, the burpee. For the uninitiated, this is what the standard burpee looks like:

We have tinkered in the past with using various up-and-down movements to approximate the burpee, but none have really felt right. Getting into and out of the wheelchair from the floor (or a “chair get-up”) involves the right kind of movement, but requires much more strength and muscle control than you’d want for a movement that is supposed to be primarily cardiovascular. By contrast, the dip movement is easier, but almost too easy because the entire body movement aspect is missing.

My coaches at Crossfit Impavidus may have figured out just the right mix between the two. Combining the body movement of getting into and out of the chair with the vertical aspect of the dip movement, we have the chair burpee, or “The Chirpee.” (I know I’m kind of stealing this lesser-used term from another movement; we’ll just roll with it)

Instead of straight dips, the movement begins and ends in the chair with only one dip per repetition. This transition creates both the challenge of controlling your body so you don’t move too quickly, but also a brief pause of rest so that the muscles don’t burn out too quickly. The result is a movement that has high cardiovascular potential and muscle control but without the fatigue. Even better, you can adjust the dip station height to whatever you need in order to get into a vertical position.

Once again, this movement is a great life skill for wheelchair users, since we are often challenged with getting in and out of our chairs to transfer to vehicles, restaurant booths, bathrooms, etc.

Thanks to Coaches Conan, Traci, and Mike for creating this movement, and for Coach Traci’s video handiwork!

ParaWOD post benchmark week: back on the floor, up on the ropes


Last week at ParaWOD was filled with plenty of benchmarks WOD’s and I am happy to say that I set personal records on all of them. Granted, 4 out of the 5 of them I had never even attempted before, but never the less, 5 for 5, baby!

This week it is back to the normal routine, which means learning how to do new things while working to do other things better. To get things moving forward, we added in two new movements to the normal repertoire.

1) Sled Pulling

At least half of Crossfit-style workouts involve pulling (hey-o!), but the pulling movement and the muscle groups involved frequently change. For this workout, we wanted to work on a horizontal pulling motion.

To accomplish this, ordinarily the coach can set up a weighted sled with a rope connected to it, and you simply pull the sled toward yourself. Easy, right?

It is not so easy when you can’t use your legs to brace yourself. Instead, you might end up pulling yourself right onto the floor, instead of pulling the weight toward yourself. To prevent this unfortunate event from happening, my coach set up a pull-up rig for me waste-high, and then I slid underneath the bar, which essentially turned into a metal seat belt. This video captures what it looks like:

It is not an entirely comfortable position, since the bar is jamming itself right into your stomach, but for short reps, it is tolerable.

2) Rope Climbing

A rope climb is also a pulling motion, but vertical rather than horizontal. There is also an element of risk in the rope climb, because if you’re actually pulling yourself off the floor, a) you had better make sure your grip is strong enough to support your weight; and b) your strength had better hold up just as much on the way down as on the way up. Protect yourself from a hard fall by using a crash mat underneath, so if you lose your grip, the fall will be well-cushioned.

For starters, get used to the feeling of your rip and your body weight (much different than a pull-up) by lying flat on your back and then pulling yourself up into a sitting position, followed by a controlled lowering back down to the mat.

As you progress in building up your strength and body control, you can begin to bring your entire body off the mat. Once again, make sure you know exactly how high on the rope you can go so that you have enough strength left for a controlled descent.

Both of these pulling exercises serve as basic life skills. Being able to pull and pick up heavy things are a part of life, and of course being able to get into and out of elevated seats (trucks, park rides, etc) are a quality of life that you want to always retain.

Many thanks to Coach Traci at Crossfit Impavidus for her innovative workouts and great camera work!

ParaWOD Benchmark #5: Cindy takes a bite of me


We have reached the end of Benchmark Week at Crossfit Impavidus, and we end it on a doozy. The entire week, we have focused on speed with limited repetitions:

  1. Fran (4:46)
  2. Annie (11:11)
  3. Jeremy (5:55)
  4. Elizabeth (4:39)

But not for #5. This one goes for 20 minutes, as many rounds as possible (AMRAP).


Complete as many rounds in 20 minutes as you can of:
5 Pull-ups
10 Push-ups
15 Air Squats

While I had trouble finding what the record is exactly for this workout, the Internet tells me that it is somewhere in the vicinity of 38 or 39 rounds, which means that the record holder is cycling through this sequence twice nearly every minute. I figured that setting my sights on one cycle per minute would be a good place to start, since I’ve never tried this one before.

The adaptation for Cindy is straightforward, but we need to figure out a replacement for the air squats. Medicine ball crunches are my typical go-to for this adaptation since they can be done quickly.

5 Pull-ups = Pull-ups, and yes we do it strict
10 Push-ups = Push-ups with raised legs for maximum depth
15 Air Squats = medicine ball crunches (14lbs)

More importantly however, the challenge for the adaptive athlete is to be able to go from one movement to the next quickly so there is minimal downtime. Once you have spent some time getting comfortable with the movements that Crossfit requires, the transition is the element that warrants the most attention.

I solved this problem for Cindy by doing everything from the floor. We set up a stacked mat below a barbell on the rig. The bar would be the pull-up bar and I would attempt the pull-ups from a sitting position on the mat. After the pull-ups, I could easily transition to push-ups with my knees raised on the mat, and then finally pivot again to my back to do the crunches.

(Side note – one small thing I do for these types of workouts is I take off my sneakers. It prevents my feet from getting caught and stuck while I slide around from position to position.)

Here is a video that we took to demonstrate how we created a self-contained station that allows for this fast transition from one movement to another:

I finished this benchmark attempt at 17 rounds + 5 + 10, falling short of my 20 round goal but having a better understanding of the workout. I believe that the one mistake I made that held me back is that I should have used a lighter medicine ball (10lbs) because the air squat movement isn’t about moving weight, but full range of motion. By mid-rounds, I definitely felt like I was moving weight, not simply moving myself, and this movement slowed me down.

Also, my 10 year old daughter knocked out 18 full rounds, so I definitely have something to shoot for!

Great benchmark week at Crossfit Impavidus. Now, let’s do better!