How to CrossFit in a Parking Lot, Or Why the Clean Beats the Squat

Does Covid limit your CrossFit experience? Your local box was probably closed for awhile.

Social distancing meant that I was off CrossFit for 10 weeks. My local box offered Zoom classes, but I dropped in for only a few. Don’t get me wrong–it’s a great idea, but I just always found myself in the middle of something, like a drawing or piano or just mentally exhausted from All The Things.

The Saturday morning sun sure beats the work week afternoons. Our July 4th WOD — Tommy Mac, That’s a A LOT of burpees.

Making a Habit

I have only so much decision energy in me each day. Every decision point is tiring. I’ve discovered this as I age. When I was 20, 30, even 40, I could just decide and do. Now, I have to set myself up for success by reducing decision points each day.

Going to the box is easier, because my only real decision is to get in the car. My bag is always there, and I’m already dressed for exercise each day. I just drive there and then do what everyone else is doing. It’s a gestalt social experience I didn’t feel on Zoom. I let the herd mentality work for me in this instance LOL.

Still, I am doing something a bit different from most of the members, which limits social interaction. I’m working out almost entirely outside in the parking lot.

Inside, they social distance and limit class size, so I don’t mind going in to get equipment. But I don’t want to be huffing and puffing and dripping sweat near 10 other bodies for an hour. And most of the members are youngish, so more likely to be asymptomatic.

But the Weather!

Iowa in July is no joke. We’ve had heat warnings and little shade, but I really like working out outside. In fact, I like it better than being inside the box. Here’s why.

We do the same work outs in the parking lot that they do in the box. That means having substitutes and modifiers.

The back squats, front squats, bench presses, and other movements that rely on racks and benches are different for us. My limitation is not the mass I can move from the rack but from ground. In other words, I’m doing a lot of cleans every day. Every bar I use, I have to get from the ground first, so my weight limitation is my clean not my squat.

Some people may find that undesirable. I mean, I’m now squatting about half of what I used to do. But I see this as a fun challenge. I’m more self contained–I use less equipment–and I like the frequency of skill work and full-body movements. This article compares the value of squats vs cleans. Each has its place…but getting the most bang for your buck in an exercise? That’s squat cleans.

Why Cleans?

Strangely, I hate front squats. But I love squat cleans. I never claimed to be rational. They feel more real-world meaningful to me. My squat clean is ok, but I have a long way to go, so how wonderful I get so much more practice!

My clean is improving. They’re a focus on speed, athleticism, and explosive power. As a trainer I saw it all the time…my older clients were often stronger than younger clients. It wasn’t strength that was an issue for them. What they were losing was speed and neuromuscular efficiency. My focus for them was usually strength-speed and skill work.

I also get plenty of farmer carries! I noticed this at the work out yesterday as I carried out 6 different weight bumpers and kettle bells. I’m walking bumpers, bars, dumbbells, and kettle bells about 100 meters multiple times throughout the hour.

Sure, there are a few exercises that are just out for me if I don’t go inside: pull ups, rope climbs, GHD situps. Coaches help me substitute for the same stimulus, and I’m good with that.

It’s easy to think of these as CrossFit limitations during Covid, but I’m coming to see the advantages. What happens when the weather turns cold? If you think a blustery fall or an icy winter is worse than the humid Iowa summer, you don’t know Iowa very well. The only limitation is slipperiness. I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.