The many (mis)uses of weight plates

Ah, weight plates. They’re so round and weighty. You can find them at many gyms, and everyone knows how well suited they are to being loaded onto bars for squats and deadlifts and even snatches, if you’re feeling fancy. It’s almost like they were designed for it.

But Chainstore isn’t a normal gym, is it? And we’re not normal gym-goers. There’s no limit to the number of unorthodox ways we use equipment, and there’s no way these plates are going to be used for lifting alone.

box jump
With bonus potential shinjury from that rail! The fun never stops.

Box jumps! Is your concrete ledge a little too low, but you’re not yet quite springy enough to trade up for one of the higher boxes? Are you trying to increase your height in little teeny increments? Weight plates kick ass for this. You can increase the height of your target by a fraction of an inch with a five plate, or a good few inches with a 25. They’re actually pretty stable too.

stride
It doesn’t even have to be a straight line. Use your imagination. There’s NO LIMIT, people!!!!!!!!

Parkour zone full of people, but you want to work on your strides and/or plyos? Time for a game of Lava Floor. Grab a bunch of plates, space them out in the open area and go to town. Just don’t touch that floor. I’m not kidding about the lava.

door
Incidentally, when I asked Phil the Crossfit coach about the weirdest use of weight plates he has seen, it was using them for handstands (on their edges, not lying flat).  You know what you have to do, people.

“Hey guys, do you have a doorstop? We need to keep this open so people can do shuttle runs.”

“Doorstop? Yeah, we have a whole rack – I recommend the 15kg. 25kg is kind of overkill, but the 5kg is too small.”

lunge
TA DAAAAAA

Lunges, with a plate held above your head. When Crossfit does it, it looks pretty sensible. When parkour classes do it, it’s like watching a line of leafcutter ants clambering over tree branches.

box
The disadvantage of this is that you actually can’t carry a plate every where you go to label your takeoff/landing points.

Target practice. No, not with guns. Please don’t shoot the weight plates (or any other equipment. Or people. Or the walls. No shooting, please). We’re talking about takeoff and landing points here. Do you take off too far away or too close when training kongs? How about lache landings, minus the possibility of falling over painfully if you miss the target? Use a plate. It’s like drawing a bullseye on the floor, only moveable.

vault
This 10kg plate gives me a boost of about an inch, which is pretty much nothing, but I have issues, okay? Railings are hard.

And speaking of takeoff points, if you need a bit of a height boost to take off from, stack a few plates. There are teeny boxes available for this, but weight plates are more adjustable – you can start with a 20kg and drop down in increments all the way to a 5kg, which is more of a psychological crutch than an actual height adjustment.

If you’d like to improve your mobility, weight plates can be used for loaded stretching. If you don’t know what you’re doing with this, it’s probably a good idea to do some research and go slowly with it, rather than trying to slam yourself into full front splits with 50kg on your back. I can think of more embarrassing reasons to end up in A&E, but not that many. Interestingly enough, I failed to get a picture of this because pretty much nobody but Alex wants to subject themselves to it.

edge
Try not to hit anyone doing this. Seriously.

On the less practical and more ridiculous side, there is actually a Chainstore adaptation of bowls. I don’t know whose idea this was, but it wasn’t mine, so don’t go blaming me. It’s played as follows:

  1. Line yourselves up at the edge of the dance floor, with some steppers set up at the opposite end
  2. Take turns rolling plates, getting them as close to the target steppers as possible
  3. ???
  4. Fun.

Incidentally, this also works if you’re too lazy to carry your plates back for re-racking after squats.

balance
Not pictured: the moment the barbell rolled backwards and nearly took out a parkour class.

Have you ever wanted to combine rail balance with skateboarding? Who hasn’t? Well, now you can – just load up a barbell and then balance on it. I still can’t quite believe I’ve seen this done by more than one person on totally separate occasions, but apparently it’s a thing. Just try not to run over anyone’s toes. It’s not going to be pretty.

They look like they should be the most basic, boring pieces of equipment in the building, but there’s a lot of potential in these rubbery black discs. Strength, flexibility, technical skills and a bit of silliness – the very essence of Chainstore.

The Art of Chainstore

People don’t just lift weights and jump around in here. We’re a creative bunch, and if you’re going to have chalk and whiteboards around the place, you’re going to end up with an art gallery.

brach

Ah, dinosaurs. Does anyone NOT like dinosaurs? Of course not. They’re awesome. And the only thing better than a dinosaur is a dinosaur that knows how to brachiate. Rock on, Brachiatosaurus.

cow

It’s not just Crossfit 1864 who can have a whiteboard. I don’t know why someone has drawn this delightful and helpfully labelled cow in amongst the weekly challenges and inspirational quotes, but here it is. Please also note the Challenge of the Week stick figure illustrations. That’s just what I looked like when I did the basic version (I’m going for intermediate tomorrow, okay?)

sidefoot

I’m glad you liked my workout. I did try pretty hard but I… I don’t know if I chocolated the sidefoot. I don’t know what that means. Is it a good thing? A bad thing? OH GOD I JUST DON’T KNOW, CROSSFIT. I JUST DON’T KNOW.

hands

Ah, memories. We created this spontaneous handprint art measuring our vertical jumps in Power 101. It’s not every gym that lets you chalkily high-five the wall. I have to admit that without some context, this looks a little bit Blair Witch Project. I’m not sure whether the question written below is from someone confused by the hands or an amateur philosopher.

wall

This masterpiece was created by Georgia, who clearly has way too much time on her hands, and was pretty quickly destroyed by cat leaps and wall runs. While it lasted, though, it was absolutely glorious.

By the way, if you’re planning to create an epic chalk artwork, it’s definitely a good idea to use your own chalk rather than the expensive hand chalk bought by someone else for specific training purposes. Really, really don’t do that. Just thought I’d mention that. Not looking at anyone in particular or any piece of art specifically. Okay? Okay.

smile

Whiteboard magnet emoticons. We need more of this in our lives.

pkgen

And finally, this brilliant rendition of the logo that’s been on this wall since day one. Looking a little scuffed there at the bottom, but still holding strong.

Injury lessons

A few months ago, I injured my shoulder. All my friends know about it, because I complain about it every five minutes or so. Sometimes I look at them with sad puppy-dog eyes when they’re doing handstands or muscle ups or wall runs, which I am sure isn’t at all incredibly irritating.

This isn’t the first time I’ve been injured. I tried parkour back in about 2010, and hurt my shoulder then. It put me out of training for a year or so. When I tried again, I ruptured my abdominal wall (yes, really). That put me out again for well over a year, and was an all-round horrible experience. I think I came close to a mental breakdown. I restarted parkour in October 2013, and lasted until this summer before my shoulder was wrecked again.

I’m a really slow learner. It’s taken this many injuries to actually get my head around the fact that it doesn’t have to stop me from training.

Every time I’ve been injured before now, I’ve made a few serious errors (besides getting injured in the first place). Error number one was not working around the problem. With an injured shoulder, there were plenty of things I could have been doing. With the abdominal tear it was a little different, but let’s focus on the shoulder, since that is what I’m dealing with right now.

I can’t go to parkour classes, because I feel like I’m going to be in the way. I can’t do anything that relies on climbing actions, pulling or swinging. Hell, even regular old pushups are out. Coaches are really good about coming up with alternate activities, but I feel bad about taking up that much brain space. Also, I feel very tempted to push things too far in a class environment. I have issues, okay?

I also can’t go climbing. This is major social activity number two for me, and was quite a blow. I used to love going to the climbing wall with friends on a Friday night. Clawing my way up colourful handholds on a weirdly-shaped wall while loud dubstep plays in the background was pretty much my version of clubbing, and that’s gone.

Most weightlifting is out. Clean and jerk? Yeah, not a good idea. Snatch? You can got to be kidding me. This was gutting, because I had just become hooked on it and started to make gains, and suddenly I’m out for probably several months.

The psychological impact is worse than the actual injury. This isn’t the same for everyone, I know. People have injuries far more serious and debilitating than anything I’ve ever experienced, and handle them far more calmly than me. I’m not suggesting that if all your limbs fall off, you should cheer the hell up and stop whining. But in my case, injury hurts me mentally more than physically.

I’m one of those people who needs to be physically active to be happy. It’s pretty common knowledge by now that exercise has a positive influence on mental health and well-being, and there’s a dark side to that. If I go from an active lifestyle to an inactive one, I fall into depression that seems so deep that it’s frightening. The whole world seems to slow down. Everything seems oddly flat. Sometimes when people talk, it feels like they’re far away. I wouldn’t even describe myself as feeling sad – it’s like not feeling at all. Even thinking about it gives me the shivers.

I couldn’t face that again. So this time, I sat myself down and came up with a list of things I could continue to work on, including backsquat, precisions, footwork, strides, box jumps and some simple vaults. That’s a reasonable list. Looking at these activities, I could even set goals. Many of them are also areas I’m quite weak on, so there was room for actual progress. Given the choice between limited progress on rail balances versus several months of crushing depression, I’m going to opt for the progress. Your mileage may vary, but if you’d prefer the depression, you’re really weird. What the hell is wrong with you? If you are broken, don’t let yourself fall into inactivity. Work out what you can safely do, with professional help if needed, and get to it.

I think it’s pretty well known that not being able to train, or being severely limited, has a psychological impact. However, I don’t often see the social withdrawal mentioned. Now, maybe I’m just kind of sad, but an awful lot of my friendships revolve around training. Not all, but a lot. Even back when I first hurt myself and stopped, the regular classes and jams I was going to had become my social life, despite how shy I probably sometimes seemed.

Every time I have been injured until now, I have done something really stupid. I stopped talking to the people I had been training with. I let myself feel cut off. Not only did this make me miss everyone, but it got to a stage where I felt like if I went back, people would be angry at me because I had quit so easily. This time, I did one really simple thing instead. I asked if anyone would do balancing with me, or have a go at slackline, or precisions. It was a bit of a long shot, but I didn’t want to cut myself off again. And someone said yes, he would like to do that. And then so did some others. And they did it. And I’m still not recovered enough for classes. And they’re still hanging around with me and doing stuff.

I love you guys. Just saying.

Because I was still training (although not classes) and doing stuff, I came across other people in the same boat. Many of them had more serious rehab to do than I did. Some were recovering from surgery. Just seeing other people doing rehabilitation, and knowing that it wasn’t just me going through periods of frustration and unhappiness and excitement at little bits of progress and boredom with the grind of it, is amazing. So don’t break your friendships when you’re broken. Try reaching out instead.

Speaking of rehab, I am also seeing a physiotherapist. You know how people are always saying that you need to do rehab and prehab and mobility and all that boring, serious-sounding stuff? Well, looking at my cycle of getting into training, wrecking myself before checking myself, being miserable and then getting back into training to repeat the process, it slowly dawned on me that perhaps there was some truth to that, and that maybe some professional assistance wouldn’t go amiss – I had always dismissed the idea because I thought physiotherapy was for serious athletes, and I didn’t make that grade. Don’t make that mistake. Injuries won’t leave you alone because you’re not a “proper athlete,” so don’t hold back on seeing a professional. In fact, it turned out that without serious work on my shoulder position and rotator cuff, I was heading down the road of serious and permanent dysfunction and injury.

Injuries aren’t fun, but if you are going to train a lot then at some point, they’re probably going to happen. It’s not going to be sunshine and roses, but it doesn’t have to be the end of the world either. Stick with people, get the right help, do your rehab and it’ll all be okay. Honest.