Why do I tell you what I do? Because I have been where you are.

Why do I tell you what I do? Because I have been where you are.
by Coach Ryan Woods

I have been asked by a lot of people lately questions along the lines of how long I have been doing CrossFit for, how good of shape I was in before starting CrossFit, what I did to get so good (I use that word very cautiously) at CrossFit, and if they will ever get better at it. The following is my journey since August 31, 2010 when I first stepped foot into a CrossFit gym as well as explanations of why I tell you what I do in the gym on a daily basis.

1. Leave your ego at the door

I thought I was some tough, in shape, bad ass college kid who would show up and show all these people that CrossFit really wasn’t that hard. My first workout is almost the exact same workout that everybody who has gone through CrossFit NYC’s elements classes has done: TABATA Something Else. Easy, 16 minutes of work, just my “skinny” bodyweight, and I would be ready for my real workout afterwards. My score was as follows: 0 pull-ups, 2 push-ups, 6 sit-ups, and 0 squats (due to lack of range of motion). I did ten pull-ups in the first part of the workout. 5, 3, 1, 1. The remainder of the rounds I hung lifeless from the bar pulling as hard as I could, not budging. I worked on squats a little bit before the workout to see how low I could get down. I attempted a 45 pound back squat and nearly fell down, literally. My range of motion keeping my heels on the ground was about 6 inches down in my squat. Do you know what it’s like to not be able to squat all the way down properly? I did. And still do. It is ugly, but I can get down now. Leave your ego at the door.

2. Keep showing up, no matter what the workout is

My tenth CrossFit workout ever was “Murph”. To this day, it is the longest workout I have ever done. 59:59; I puked 4 times. What did I learn from this workout? I can do any workout thrown at me. I would not have shown up if I thought that was the workout. My coach (very intelligently) did not tell me I was doing that workout until I showed up at the gym and was warmed up. I did 33 rounds of 3 pullups, 6 worm pushups, and 9 half ROM squats (and a final round of 1-2-3 to complete the workout). I puked halfway through the pull-ups, pushups, and squats. I also puked three times on the final run which took me around 15 minutes. This experience taught me that even if it takes me just under an hour, that is only 1/24th of my day and I can suffer to better myself. Keep showing up, no matter what the workout is.

3. Write your stuff down

I have every workout I have ever done logged in my phone. As I write this, that number is 460. I have every PR, every scaling, and every time for the workouts I have done. While this is beneficial to know what weights to use in a workout in the future and what times to beat, having my log is much more rewarding than that. I can see that on November 2, 2010 I PR’d my front squat for the first time at 135 pounds. On April 20th 2010 I front squatted 300 pounds. I know that my first “Grace” was 7:58, my first “Fran” was 7:49, and my first “Helen” was 15:00. All of those are my first time doing them prescribed. They are now down to 4:27, 3:28, and 8:04 respectively. Not terribly happy about “Grace” still, but cutting my time nearly in half is something I am very proud of. Write your stuff down.


4. Celebrate the little victories

I started doing handstand pushups with 2 AbMats under my head and didn’t even tough them. With my first stellar “Diane” time of 13:37 doing 155 pound deadlifts and two AbMats, I could only have gotten better. As I kept coming and kept working on the things I sucked at, those AbMats disappeared. Everybody wants to learn how to do muscle-ups fresh out of elements. It took me exactly 9 months and 24 days to my first muscle-up. I could do (a few) strict pull-ups and dips when I first started CrossFit. There is no rush to doing muscle-ups. But when you get it, make sure it is on camera or at least hold the top long enough for somebody to get a picture of it. I remember the first time I saw one of my abs in my life. Unfortunately I was sick and vomiting in the sink from bad sushi (grass fed paleo sushi of course). However, I coughed while I happened to be looking in the mirror and I saw a vague outline of an upper left abdominal muscle. Needless to say, I was walking around for the next week lifting my shirt up coughing so my friends could see my ab. That tiny little thing made all the hard work worth it. Celebrate the little victories.

5. Do the ones you are scared of

Everybody has a workout that scares the hell out of them, or at least one they will never do again. I’m not talking about “Fran”, but some random seemingly harmless workout that absolutely crushed their soul, which will never be the same. Mine was 10-1 squat cleans (155#), and 1-10KB swings (70#). Sounded innocent on paper, but 27:57 later I finally finished. I was laying on the ground between REPS, not sets, but reps. I wanted to quit, but my coach didn’t let me. I got more out of that workout that any other workout I have ever done. It was a huge mental victory and someday I will be back to tackle it again. Do the ones you are scared of.

6. Make it more than a workout, make it meaningful

My beautiful baby daughter was born on December 28, 2010. I had been in the hospital for 2 days without a workout and needed a break from it all. Ali had just gone through labor and the least I could do was a workout that might somehow resemble the amount of pain she went through. Two rounds in, I cried. 91 reps into a workout which had 343 reps. Literally, tears and cry breaths. I don’t know why it happened, but I will always have a special place in my heart for that workout. Yes I got crushed, yes I scaled, but yes I finished. Make it more than a workout, make it meaningful.

7. It gets better

Moral of the story, I have been where you are. I know what it feels like to have those days when all you want to do is quit. I know your hands hurt. I know its hard. I know you want to do_______________________. It will come with time. All you have to do is show up. There is no magic programming, rep scheme, warm-up from a European country, or Life as RX shirt (except maybe the Puking Unicorn) that will speed along the process anymore than you coming 3-5 days a week, working hard for that hour, and eating well for the other 23 hours. I am definitely not an elite athlete and it is not unrealistic for any single person to significantly change their life and achieve goals way beyond what they see as possible for themselves. It gets better.

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  • Mai

    This is such an inspiring and beautifully written post, Coach Ryan! Also, thanks for being an awesome Elements coach — you definitely got me hooked!

    • Amanda Long

      Totally agree – you were an awesome elements Coach and definitely got me drinking the crossfit koolaid!

  • Aaron Segal

    Moral of the story: don’t eat bad sushi

  • Daniel

    Great read.

    Funny you mention getting a pic of your first muscle up. I asked you for advice on them last week, you gave me a few tips and turned around, and then I got my first one. Did two more after class but nobody saw. A little victory I guess.

  • http://www.facebook.com/heidee.tabudlong Heidee Tabudlong

    Quite an inspiring read. Thank you!

  • Eddie

    My first WOD at CrossFit NYC was “Grab My Balls”, 5 x 2min on, 2min off of partner wall ball burpees. Coach Ryan was my partner and his words will forever be on my mind during any grinding WOD…”Don’t think, just do!”.

  • Krishna

    Hi Coach Ryan, Inspiring article.
    Whats the app (shown in your blog) that you used for logging your performances?

    • RyanCWoods

      Search WOD and it is the one with the purple clock that is called WOD and has the name Kasey Marshall in it or something like that

  • http://www.facebook.com/leienming Andrew Louie

    Love the article! My first WOD was J.T. I could not lift my arms afterwards. I can vouch for everything you say here because I am on the same path. I come in as often as I can, and I try really hard to do every WOD Rx, even if it takes me 2x – 3x longer than everyone else.

    Thanks for sharing Coach Ryan!

  • Nelson

    Thanks for sharing Coach Ryan. Your article inspires me to take my mind to a happy place when the WODs seem impossible.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jrlevin Jonathan Reid Levin

    Thanks for the inspiration!!!

  • Mary

    Thank you for sharing, this was a great read and very inspiring!

  • michelle_gr

    Thanks Ryan for this!

  • Jeff K

    Great blog – very inspiring. Thanks for sharing. I remember I did my first WOD at a Crossfit gym in San Diego. I couldn’t lift my arms for 8 days, I was even scheduled for an X-ray. Once I regained control of my arms I was totally hooked.

  • vikkikatz

    Awesome article–and makes it very clear why you are such a good Elements coach :) Thanks for getting me hooked! I also want to know what the app is that you use–looks like there are a million of them.

  • RyanCWoods

    Moral of the story is TO eat bad sushi. Thank you all for your support and a special shout out to my elementals who actually keep coming back after all the sh*t I give you :)

  • Brittany B

    awesome story. thanks ryan!!!