Competition and Community: Brick New York’s Friday Night Lights

I really debated doing the Crossfit Games Open this year. It was such an awesome, challenging experience last year that I just didn’t think that this year could be nearly as good. Last year, I’d just started Crossfit, didn’t really know many people and expected very little of from my performance. During last year’s Open I made friends, managed to get a few moves I’d never been able to do before and over all, just fell in love with the Brick New York community.

Hang Cleans at Brick NYCWhen the Open came up again this year, my life was in a little bit of flux. I hadn’t been able to be as consistent with my training and I just wasn’t sure I needed to do it again. The thing is, I really LOVED Brick’s Friday Night Lights last year and I couldn’t imagine not going. They put up heats every Friday night during the Open, there’s a DJ, and the Brick Community gets together and just supports each other. I knew I would go and if I was going to go, I knew I’d hate not being able to play. So…I signed up for the Open.  For the last 5 weeks, the Open took over my fitness life. Knowing that new workouts would be coming each week, every other class was planned in preparation for it and to not jack myself up before Friday night hit. It got a little ridiculous.

Wall Balls at Brick NYC

For the first time this year, the Open had a Scaled Division.  The workout would be announced, then scaled options would be given for people who couldn’t do the RX (prescribed) version. This change meant that Crossfit Games could be a little more aggressive with the WODs since everyone would still be able to do it, even if that week the workout started with Muscle Ups (comically out of my league) or Chest to Bar. Each week, I would wait and hope that it would be a workout that I didn’t have to scale.  For 4 weeks straight, I had to face the fact that Scaled was the only option for me. It would have been staight-up depressing if it weren’t for the fact that every single week, it didn’t really matter. The Friday Night Lights crew cheered and rooted everyone on, no matter what version of the workout you did. It was 5 weeks of support about wherever you are in your CrossFit performance, not just support for the top athletes of the Brick Community. I yelled myself hoarse for 5 weeks, hung out with amazing friends and tried my hardest. That really is what the Open for me is all about.

Rowing at Brick NYC

The final workout was one that I could RX, although slowly. The workout was a 27 calorie row/ 27 Thruster, 21 cal row/21 Thruster, 15, then 9 round… for time. For women, the RX weight was 65lbs and I knew I had to try it. So I did. It was hard and I dug down deep to keep chipping away at it. My friends beside me cheered and kept me going. That night, due to the heats, there was a time cap and about midway through, I knew I was going to run up against it. But I kept going. I was the very last one going when time was called and for a brief second was so sad about not being able to finish it. It was then that I heard my friends yelling at me and telling me how proud they were that I tried it and I remembered that I was too. It wasn’t a sad thing that I got to the final round in the RX version, it was a fucking awesome thing. So, for my final score of the 2015 Open, I got a 0 and I couldn’t be prouder of it.

15point5

At the end of the month, when the pain of it eases out of my memory, I’ll do 15.5 again and finish it… no matter how long it takes, not for a score but so that I know for next year, because for sure, I’ll be doing the Open at Brick’s Friday Night Lights again.

photos by: Katie Rowan for Brick New York

Training With The “World’s Fittest Woman”: Camille LeBlanc-Bazinet Showing Us How It’s Done At EVF Performance

When I heard that Camille LeBlanc-Bazinet, 2014’s CrossFit champ, would be doing a few days of training at EVF Performance, I knew I had to go. The fact that I hadn’t actually done a CrossFit class since I sprained my ring finger 6 weeks ago? A slight wrinkle but not a complete deterrent because I just can’t say no to the chance to workout with the greats.

Camille LeBlanc-BaznekCamille is tiny height-wise but ridiculously ripped – I mean she is the newly crowned “2014 World’s Fittest Woman.”  The class I was supposed to take was the final of the evening and they were running late – “Cami”, as they call her, likes to talk! The best part about that was that we got to watch the WOD that was ahead of us – and for me to snap a picture of Cami in action because I promptly forgot as soon as we were up. The first part of the night was hearing how she went from newbie to Champ in 5 years… which is just insane to me. Cami’s point: have a goal, then break it up into short and long term sections. Of course it doesn’t hurt that she had innate talent but I do think that breaking bigger goals down into pieces is a really good plan. The thing that I really needed to hear (and work on) is the idea that you have to work on your weakness, because your strength will still be there. Whatever that strength happens to be, it will still be there if you spend time on your weakness. All that happens is that you get balanced and more importantly, get better all around.

FBS - Camille Leblanc-Bazinet Demo

Although Cami was obviously the draw to the event, her husband, Dave Lispson, was there to coach too. Dave is one of the CrossFit Headquarters Level 1 coaches and was such an amazing resource for us to get to experience during the skill drills. He might not be the champ but he was awesome, concerned, helpful and thorough. The fact that he’s helping to train the next generation of CrossFit coaches I think is a very good thing. The section was exactly what I needed – a long, detailed breakdown of the clean and all of its various forms. We spent a long time with the PVC pipe and as we did it, Cami and Dave made their way through the room correcting us all. It was awesome to get tips from some of the best, who were both shockingly engrossed in helping us all get better.

FBS Camille Leblanc-Bazinet coachingThe tip that resonated hard with me was exactly how far back I was supposed to push my hips in any clean that started from the ground. Dave said it to me a LOT until I finally got that what I needed to feel – your hamstrings should be on fire before you go. “Push your knees back” really needs to be my mantra. It didn’t matter where people were (I was one of the worst, out of practice and sloppy) both of them were just in it when they were in front of us. We progressed to the bar, then weights, and in each round they were right there. As Cami said at the end, it doesn’t matter if you are throwing up huge weight, it matters if you are doing your best – whatever that is.

The WOD was pretty straightforward a seven minute partner cycle of 5 Squat Cleans while your partner did burpees – evil but straightforward. The score? Your total burpees. My partner was focused on a good score, so I sucked it up and listened to her plan. To get a good score, 75+, we had to do at least 5 burpees for every 5 cleans. It sucked ass but at the end, we’d done a 106 – totally solid.

Here is the thing…I expected a good workout and it was. I knew I’d learn something and I did. The thing that floored me though, was how much I LIKED her. She was sweet, kind and effacing- while still knowing that she is a complete badass. That is an absolutely amazing, special thing. After we’d all peeled ourselves off the floor and told our score we did pictures – because seriously, if you are going to work out with the Champ, you really DO need a picture.

Camille Leblanc-Bazinet and FBS

The Crossfit Open: Friday Night Lights at Brick NYC Made Me Believe…

When the CrossFit Open was first announced at Brick NYC, I completely discounted it. Having watched the Open on ESPN, I knew the kind of amazing athletes that compete and didn’t really see a reason for joining the competition even if it only cost $20. I’ve been doing CrossFit for only a few months, a few times a week and have always been a scaling champ when it comes to the Daily Workouts. I was sure I had no business doing the competition. Then Heidi Jones, one of Brick’s awesome head coaches, told me in no uncertain terms “You will be sorry if you don’t. The Open is an amazing, exciting experience and you HAVE to do it. You will do things you never thought you could do.” When she said that to me, I smiled, nodded and internally rolled my eyes, imagining how comically inadequate I just knew I would be at those Open workouts but I went home and signed up that night. Here is the thing, Heidi wasn’t wrong, but I was.

They told us before the Open started that Brick started Friday Night Lights in LA and made it an event and that was going to happen here in NY too. I didn’t get how awesome that was going to be. Brick shuts down on Friday nights during the Open, setting up heats for their athletes to compete in while a DJ’s cranking up the vibe and making it a full-out, happening event. People come to watch, everyone cheers each other on and the athletes
competing work HARD, pushed on by all of that unwavering support.

14.4 Heidi Coaching SSM

The first workout, 14.1 was a 30 Double Unders/10 Overhead press combo. I’d never gotten one Double Under in class and thought the idea of getting 30 was ridiculous. I told Heidi this before my round and she told me to try her rope. That very first Open night, I got60 Double Unders– and completed 2 full rounds. I walked out that night giddy, having knocked out one of the CrossFit moves “I’d never be able to do.” Then, 14.2 was an Over Head Squat/ Chest to Bar combo. That night, I spent the evening desperately trying for the Chest to Bar but never got it. I had some amazing coaching from Erica and the effort and belief that I might make it made that night feel like a win. 14.3 was a Deadlift Ladder/box-jump combo. I was in the last round of people, the only girl, and as soon as I started, Heidi moved into my line of vision and coached me through every single rep. That night, I managed to get all the way to the 155lb round and lifted it 16 times. I walked out that night feeling like a total badass.

14.4 FBS Rowing SSM

When 14.4 was announced, I laughed out loud. A 14 minute AMRAP (As-Many-Rounds-As-Possible) workout referred to as a “Chipper” was a 60 calorie row, 50 toes to bar, 40 wall balls, 30 hang cleans and 20 muscle ups. The idea is that you have to fully complete each movement before going on to the next. I knew I had the rowing part down, everything else? Not a chance in hell. In class, I’ve never even gotten one Toes to Bar. Not one single time, not even close. I went early to cheer people on. This was a workout for all super badass awesome athletes at Brick and after three weeks of being at every FNL event, they truly felt like family. I yelled loudly for a couple of hours and ignored the fact that my heat was coming up. Between rounds, we all talked about the craziness of the 14.4. I would just laugh and say “Well after that row, I am just going to be hanging on that bar for the next 10 minutes, Toes To Bars is so not in my bag of tricks.” When it was finally my turn, I hopped on the rower and Heidi came to judge my attempt. She asked me how I felt about Toes to Bar and I said the same thing I’d been saying all night. Her response? Well, that is going to change tonight. We are going to get you your first one.” She was just so VERY sure, that I just nodded and said ok. It’s a little hard for me not to believe her when she tells me anything. The row flew by and then at the bar, I tried and with each attempt, Heidi would go over where I was going wrong in the movement and I would try again. It seemed like it was never going to happen.

14.4 FBS T2B 2 SSM

14.4 FBS T2B Contact SSM

Then after what seemed like a very long time, suddenly it all started to come together. I got close a couple of times and each time she’d tell what to focus on and say “now get back up there.” Then it happened. I swung two times and pulled my abs in like I was doing the hardest situp in my life and my feet made contact. Heidi let out a huge holler and I came down from it. I saw across the way all the people I’d spent the evening rooting with suddenly rooting and hollering for me. It was a huge accomplishment for me and it was celebrated as loudly as people celebrated the amazing athletes who completed the whole workout.

14.4 FBS T2B 3 SSM

The awesome thing I’ve found in CrossFit is that when you try and finally get something, even if it is something small, it is a cause for celebration – everyone there with you remembers that first time they got that thing that was eluding them and KNOWS how hard you worked to get it. Before the Open, I would always choose to scale the workouts but I’ve come out of it knowing that I have so much more in me. Heidi was so right, during the Open, you do things you never thought you could do. That alone was worth the $20 (and more) – I did belong there; we all did.

After spending every week at FNL, I’m glad that the Open is wrapping up but I can’t wait to see where I am at next year when it comes around again…

Videos and photos by Eric Stafford from Stafford Sports Media