Welcome to the dark side

Speed day

Speed day

When I was a kid I lived in a neighborhood with lots of little boys, and no girls. I was determined to be tough enough to hang with the boys — to ride my bike as fast, to get as banged up, to never wear a dress.

I like to wear dresses these days, but some things haven’t changed. I want to be able to hang with the guys. Only now it’s the guys in the gym that can carry some 600 pounds on a yoke and can squat so much weight the barbell curves around their shoulders from the weight of the plates. I’d never want to give up my workouts with the badass Crossfit girls, but sometimes a shot of testosterone by proxy is just what a powerlifter in training needs.

I finished my first 4-week phase of training for the next meet yesterday with a workout in the morning. After seeing Dr. Kyle for some help with a shoulder I’ve overworked, I went straight to my first Dark Side workout in the afternoon.

This program is Ryan and Waylon’s project — the dark side of Derby City CrossFit is:

a version of the max effort/dynamic effort method made famous by Louie Simmons at Westside Barbell, as well as Olympic lifting and Strongman elements (atlas stones, farmers carries, etc.) to elevate absolute strength and power. In addition to this powerlifting backbone, our athletes perform basic gymnastic techniques as assistance exercises to increase stability as well as mobility. Conditioning is a key component to any well rounded athlete. The Dark Side’s athletes do sprints (hill, band, weighted), sled pull or truck pull sprints, sledgehammers, battling ropes, or whatever we can think of. Conditioning is done to a level that the athlete can be in the greatest shape possible, without sacrificing gains in strength.

And this is my new training program.

I resisted it at first. I didn’t like the idea of quitting my neatly planned workout program Ben had designed. I liked knowing exactly what I’d be doing every day each week. I liked knowing how to do everything. I didn’t need Ben’s help to do my workouts, only some feedback or spotting from time to time. I felt very self-sufficient doing my squats, deadlifts and benches plus assistance work. This new program throws everything topsy turvy. I won’t know what I’m doing until the workout appears on the blog. I don’t know what half the things even are, and the others – designed for strong men – are way beyond my capability.  I didn’t like it.

But coach said it would make me strong, and that’s what I’m here to do. I’m not here to be in a comfortable workout rut. So I resigned myself to it.

And then I went to my first workout. Ryan, Waylon and Ben had an open session Friday afternoon. And I absolutely &$%#ing loved it. LOVED it.

We did speed day, which works on being explosive, and on intramuscular coordination. No slow, deliberate squats here. With great chains draped from the barbell, we squatted a short distance onto a box and fired back up as quickly as possible. Music thundered, the chains crashed against the floor, and my blood pounded as we took rapid turns completing 10 sets of 2 squats.

I wasn’t nearly as quick as the guys, but for my first time think I did fairly respectably. My favorite moment of the day was when we were warming up and I tried a single rep with the chains. I started, like the guys, with 65% of my one-rep max. “That looked pretty easy for her,” Ryan told Ben. “I think she needs more weight.” I’m an addict — the words ‘more weight’ make me smile like a kid with a pass to a toy store.

The workout went on to benches with chains, which I had to skip because of my shoulder, but I watched and learned, making mental notes about how to guys positioned themselves and got firmly in place, backs super arched, before taking the weight. And then yoke carries. To the guys’ amusement I was too short to carry the thing, so we rigged up the safety bar with some weights for me to carry.  They pushed themselves to the max with great roars, carrying hundreds of pounds, while I ponderously made my way with 95 pounds on the bar down the gym and back.

Some gyms have special workout rooms just for the ladies. I, for one, will take my gym with its ear-splitting music, testosterone-laden atmosphere and baddest of the badass workouts any day.



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