ParaWOD’s 16.1 adaptation is in the books

You completed 16.1 this past weekend, right? So did lots of seated adaptive athletes, per the outstanding website WheelWOD. If you are a wheelchair athlete (“wheelie,” per the Chef) and you aren’t familiar with WheelWOD, then it is time to get acclimated. After the official CrossFit Games Open competition workout is announced, Chris “Stouty” Stoutenburg adapts the workout to seated athletes. You may be too late to sign up for the 2016 competition, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do the workouts that he programs.

As we all know, the official 16.1 was thus:

20 minute AMRAP

  • 25-ft. overhead walking lunge (5 reps)
  • 8 burpees (8 reps)
  • 25-ft. overhead walking lunge (5 reps)
  • 8 chest-to-bar pull-ups (8 reps)

Total reps per round: 26

To adapt this workout, Stouty programmed the following:


  • 25-ft 1 Arm locked out over head wheel (25/15lb plate) (1 rep)
  • 8 chair to floor transfers (8 reps)
  • 25-ft 1 Arm locked out over head wheel (25/15lb plate) (1 rep)
  • 8 full hang pull-ups (8 reps)


  • 15ft plate drag (45/35lb plate) (1 rep)
  • 8 Med ball slams (20/10lb) (8 reps)
  • 15ft plate drag (45/35lb plate) (1 rep)
  • 8 seated pull-ups (8 reps)

Total reps per round: 18

To get an idea of the nature of the body movements, as well as how they would be judged, refer to WheelWOD’s 16.1 post here.

To add to the overall experience, my friend Coach Jason decided to get in a wheelchair and attempt the scaled workout along side me. Share in the suffering! It’s the best!

How did I do? 

I attempted the workout Rx and finished the 20 minute workout with 76 total repetitions. Two of the movements – the chair to floor transfer and the plate holds – I had never really attempted before. I do have a chair get-up incorporated into my own workout adaptation, but it always involves an elevated platform like a stool or a box to get the height I need to transfer. But straight from the floor? Never. This would be difficult.

Also, when I first started my CrossFit life, my Kiwi coach had me practice holding a kettlebell straight up (i.e. inverted, with the handle facing down toward the floor) while he pushed me around the room trying to knock me off balance. That’s the closest I ever got to this plate hold movement, but having to push myself in a straight line, that was new.

Because of the requirements on the plate hold, I knew that I would have to use my basketball chair, the only thing that would roll straight and easily and allow me to push both wheels with the same hand.

I practiced both of these movements for about 10 minutes, and I was fortunate to even get that amount of practice time, as our gym was a frenzy of activity during the opening weekend of the 2016 Open. Using my sport chair, I was confident I could do both, but knew I wouldn’t be fast doing either. As far as the strict pull-ups, I wasn’t concerned, as that is a staple of my gym’s routine programming.

As it turned out however, the biggest challenge was not in the workout, but in providing video evidence that I did it successfully. WheelWOD’s standards require that the entire workout be done in a single video shot with all movements and clock visible at all times. With the space required for this workout, combined with the sheer floor space that my gym at CrossFit Impavidus possesses, the video shots were anything but basic. And in the end, my lack of preparation in this regard ended up costing me on the leaderboard, as the judges did not have the clarity they needed to evaluate effectively. As a result, my poor video planning cost me a 15% penalty, which lowered my score to a 63.

Here are my movements:

1. Plate hold


(clip sped up slightly to see full distance)

2. Chair to floor transfer


3. Strict pull-up


As frustrating as it was to get penalized and not receive an official score that I thought was commensurate with my effort, there were plenty of lessons learned, not the least of which is that planning and preparation are important when it comes to providing video evidence.

Aside from that, the workout was still a winner for me. I challenged myself, completed two new movements in the process, and got to do a 20 minute workout with Coach Jason.

Thanks to Impavidus Gym for helping me out. I’ll do better on 16.2. Can’t wait!

ParaWod gets started with the 2016 CrossFit Open

If you’re associated with the CrossFit community, then you’re quite aware with their announcement yesterday evening of the kick-off for the 2016 season, beginning with the Open. The Open is where every athlete can enter and compete, and this year they are giving greater support and consideration for athletes to scale workouts.

If you want to watch both the announcement of the first workout, called 16.1, as well as the workout it self, you can view it here. If you want to jump straight to the workout, fast forward to about 33 minutes in.

At Impavidus Gym, like for many Crossfit boxes, we had a watch party followed by the first attempts at 16.1. Much merriment and suffering was had by all. In case you missed it, here is the 16.1 workout RX:

20 minute AMRAP

  • 25-ft. overhead walking lunge
  • 8 burpees
  • 25-ft. overhead walking lunge
  • 8 chest-to-bar pull-ups

Our gym has been knocking it out with much aplomb, and I had to get in on the action. Much to my delight, there is another guy named Chris Stoutenburg who runs a great site called WheelWOD, and he’s well ahead of me in terms of adaptation. He’s even built out his own adaptive CrossFit Open! So of course I signed up, and he will be posting his official adaptations that I will be doing for my own competition.

However, in the meantime, I couldn’t let my box-mates have all the fun, so I programmed my own workout while I wait for “Stouty.”

Here is what I did as I waited for WheelWOD’s 16.1:

  1. Walking lunge = 5 stations, 5 yards apart for the 25 yards. At each station, 2 kettlebells. Clean & press at each station before moving on. (5 reps)
  2. 8 Burpees = 8 chirpees (8 reps)
  3. 5 kettlebell stations back (5 reps)
  4. 8 C2B pull-ups = 8 strict pull-ups (8 reps)

Total reps per round: 26

Final results: 6 rounds + 1 = 157 total reps

Tune in next time as I take on Stouty’s adapted 16.1 workout!

ParaWOD: how to clean it and jerk it, big wheelie style


It has been a while since my last post here at ParaWOD, but I assure you it is not because I haven’t been working out; rather, it has more to do with the fact that the workouts have mostly involved things I’ve already written about, and in this space I’m more concerned about adapting new ideas and new movements.

One of the movements that is a clear challenge for wheelchair users is Olympic lifting. Dead lifts, snatch, power cleans, and clean & jerk are all movements that require some thought into modification. To be sure, you can always switch from barbells to kettlebells and do it one arm at a time, and that’s great. However, there is something distinctive about moving the barbell that has impact on the totality of your body strength, balance, and core stability, so we encourage it whenever possible.

The biggest challenge comes out of the clean movement which, if you watch the normal movement, you can see that we don’t have the ability to do about 75% of what is going on. There is simply no approximation for getting the drive and mobility that comes from the legs and lower back. Furthermore, if you lack control over your abdominal muscles, as is the case with me, that weight is going to tend to pull you forward, instead of you pulling the weight back and up.

What I’ve been working on with my coaches at Crossfit Impavidus is to start the bar from boxes that are approximately level with my legs in a seated position. Rolling the bar forward on the box, I then use my extended arms, shoulders, and what control I have over my torso to reverse the tension and pull the bar back toward my waist, which goes right into an upward pulling motion.

Here is my attempt at a reasonably heavy for me weight of 55lbs:

The natural tendency, especially with lighter weights, is to use an overhand curling motion to get the weight up to your chin. However, this is not the clean movement we want; instead, the bar needs to come up the chest and into the shelf your shoulders make when your elbows go up. This shelf gives you a moment to pause, check your grip, and then ‘jerk’ the weight, or press it over your head, which should be the easiest part of the entire combination.

The biggest encouragement I can offer to you is that these combinations of body movements are the hardest for anyone to master, regardless of adaptability/scalability. You have to train your muscle memory to work in a specific sequence, even if you’re strong enough to power up the weight with just your arms. Practice the pulling movement again and again, working to pull as hard and as high as possible so that the weight goes up and you can naturally curl your elbows underneath. Getting the movement right will ultimately allow you to master the heavier weights, as well as make your Crossfit classmates envious of your wheelchair-bound power-lifting effervescence. Which is nice.

Many thanks to Impavidus coach Doug for his training!

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

Screen Shot 2015-08-07 at 11.51.37 PM

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!

ParaWOD Benchmark #4: Elizabeth


We’re nearing the end of Benchmark Week at Crossfit Impavidus, and today’s benchmark was another new one for me, but very adaptable.


21-15-9 reps of:
Clean 135 pounds
Ring dips

For this workout, the clean movement is going to be the most difficult for someone who is sitting down. I’ve written in the past that you can accomplish this with kettlebells, either one arm at a time or with both. Another adaptation we can do is with the barbell, starting with it resting on your knees and pulling it up in the clean motion until you can bring your elbows underneath. This is a new movement for me, but I wanted to stick as close to the RX workout as possible.

21-15-9 reps of:
Clean 135 pounds = barbell clean (33lbs)
Ring dips = ring dips, and yes, we do it strict

The clean is going to be a challenging motion with the bar if you lack core muscle control, as I do. As the weight increases, consider either a torso strap or having a spotter hold you in place. Also consider that since the weight is starting on your knees to be careful not to load it up too heavily. Instead, consider placing the weight on boxes to keep your knees free from damage.

Here is my motion-in-progress, as I learn how to get used to this movement. The key for me is to keep the bar as close to the torso as possible in a pulling motion, getting it as high as possible before pivoting the elbows underneath. The tendency will be to just want to flip it up in an inverted curling position, but that’s not the motion we want.

To get a better look at what the clean motion looks like by someone much stronger and more advanced than I, watch Zach Ruhl’s clean + press movement to see how he gets the bar into position.

For the ring dips, if you can get up into position out of the chair, you will experience the most benefit of the ring movement because of how the rings force you to activate all of your stabilizer muscles. If this motion is too difficult, a dip station or matador is an easy replacement.

I finished the workout in 4:39, a solid starting benchmark, but next time, the weight must go up!

Thanks to Coach Lori for her video work!