At the weekend a bus-load of us girls from CrossFit Raeda took a trip round to Reebok CrossFit Reading for a day of lifting, gymnastics and generally hanging around with ladies who like to lift! I was expecting to have a fun day working out with friends and learning some tips from the elite; I wasn’t expecting to come away with three new personal bests, improved skills and a whole load of new friends!
Barbelles is a community set up by the super-strong and inspiring athletes Becky Pykett, Gina Yates and Aneta Saulichova. All three are top level CrossFit athletes in the UK – Becky and Gina have been to the CrossFit Games Meridian Regionals three times each, and Aneta reached her goal of qualifying for Regionals for the first time this year, placing 23rd in Europe.
The Barbelles Ladies Training Days were set up to bring together ladies who like to try new things to keep fit and get strong. They are typically held at the boxes where the ladies coach, Reebok CrossFit Reading (where Becky is gym manager), In2 CrossFit Farnham (head Coach Aneta), and CrossFit Leyland (where Gina coaches and is a registered dietitian).
Suitable for all abilities, the days aim to teach new skills, or develop on existing ones, encourage and motivate… and oh my word did it deliver!
Arriving at the box in Reading, our group of 12 was clearly the exception – most people turned up in small groups of two to three, or even individually. We checked in and handed in our PAR-Q forms (to say we were healthy to train) before putting our existing personal bests for the three key lifts for the day: clean, deadlift and back squat. The purpose of this, we soon found, was to enable the ladies to allocate us to groups of similar abilities – these ranged from complete beginners and those with fairly light lifts, to experienced lifters with heavy one rep maxes.
After a warm-up, which Becky warned us she’s often told is more like a WOD, we started warming up for the clean with some lifting drills and technique work and then moved on to increasing the weight and doing single heavy lifts. There were some huge numbers flying around – my friend Jo got a new PB of 85kg, and had an attempt at 87.5kg, which she got into front rack but just couldn’t quite stand up with – she’ll get it next time!
As you may know if you read my blog frequently, it’s long been a goal of mine to get a bodyweight clean. I cleaned 67.5kg in November last year, but that’s still pretty far off bodyweight for me (I usually hover around 73kg, but am about 75kg at the moment). But, after three attempts, I finally managed to clean 75kg and I couldn’t be happier! It seems like such a big milestone for me and I’m so happy to have reached it! Now I just have to jerk it…
Next up was deadlift and, again after an introduction to the techniques, we got lifting. The weights went up pretty quickly as we’d already been pulling pretty heavy weights off the floor in the clean. I think the biggest lift of the day was somewhere around 140kg! Again, I got a new PB (it must have been the amazing atmosphere of people cheering and clapping!) of 130kg. My next milestone is 150kg (double bodyweight), but I think this will be a long way off as once you get near your max potential the increases come more slowly. Maybe something for year end…?
The last of the lifting section was back squats. We don’t do back squat often in the gym, usually training front squat instead, so I didn’t really have a 1RM to work from, but I’d put up 75kg, which is my current front squat PB. Again, the weights were getting crazy high – at least three of my Raeda friends (Jo, Amy and Kelly) went in for 100kg back squat attempts, with Jo finishing on 102.5kg! I got 85kg, which I was really pleased with. I tried 90kg twice, but just couldn’t stand up with it – I definitely know leg strength is something to work on!
After we’d all established back squat one rep maxes, the girls sprung a challenge on us… as many reps as possible with 60% of our new 1RM. Everyone groaned but quickly got to work setting the bars up. The reps were going up and up and the target a constantly moving scale.
I’ve never been that great at maximal lifts, but one thing I usually am quite good at is strength endurance but when I got to 35 reps I started to feel like I didn’t have much more in me. Amazingly though, I somehow managed to finish on double that! Everyone kept shouting out new targets for me to reach: “just get to 40”, “come on, get to 45” and I took the squats one rep at a time. After finally finishing at 70 reps my legs were done for and I wondered how I’d get through the afternoon! Luckily next up was a lunch break!
After a feast of a lunch (Kelly, our resident cake-maker, had kindly made us all wraps and cookies… we’ll pretend they were protein ones!) we split off into our groups again and tackled handstands, handstand push ups and rig work, focusing on bar muscle up progressions and toes to bar. Again, the coaches were fantastic. They talked us through mastering the basics – emphasising the importance of getting it right, no matter how advanced you are – and encouraged us to push ourselves when ready.
There were girls getting their first handstand walks, RX handstand push ups, and playing around on the rig like it was a breeze – all through a couple of hours’ training. I managed to string together four or five (I was excited so lost count!) toes to bar for the first time!
It wouldn’t have been a CrossFit training day without a WOD! In teams of three, we had to hold two objects (a 10kg disc and a 12kg kettlebell) off the floor while doing:
Run round the block
45 box jumps
45 cleans (30kg)
45 shoulder to overhead (30kg)
45 burpee over bar
The objects could not touch the ground the entire duration of the WOD, so only one person could work at a time and we had to pass the objects between us before switching. It was such a fun WOD and a great demonstration of teamwork, with people who had never met before having to communicate and work together. I worked with Jo and Kerry, both from Raeda as well, and we were first to finish in 7:40.
What can I say? The whole drive home we were all absolutely buzzing. From people getting new personal bests, to getting their first rep of a new skill, or just meeting and chatting to other women who share the same interests and passions – it was just an incredible day. Becky, Gina and Aneta are lovely ladies, and SO inspiring. I can genuinely say they couldn’t have done more for us on the day – these girls know their sport, and are passionate to share it with as many people as possible!
The whole day cost just £50, which for expert coaching for six hours was brilliant value, and I would certainly go again. If you have any inclination to go, I’d definitely recommend signing up.
Keep up to date with past and future events on the Barbelles Ladies Only Training Facebook page.
Thank you to Becky, Gina and Aneta, and for hosting such a great day, and coach Annie from Raeda for organising our box trip up there!
Photos courtesy of Lucy Rakauskas Photography.