“Karen,” we’ll meet again!

Karen-designstyle-badge-m“Karen” is a deceptively simple CrossFit workout. 150 wall balls. That’s it. The rx, or recommended, weight for women is 14 lbs. I modified that to 10 and still found it hard when I did it yesterday.

What’s a “wall ball”? Here’s a good explanation from Muscle and Fitness:

Done right, wall balls are a great all-around conditioning movement. Start with your feet shoulder-width apart, your shoulders pulled back and down, and a medicine ball held at chest height with your elbows under the ball.

When you descend into the wall ball squat, the idea is to get proper depth the same way you would with a back squat. Keep your weight over your heels with your knees tracking your toes, and aim to lower the crease of your hips below your knees. Make sure to hold the ball at chest height throughout the downward movement, as letting it dip will cause you to round your back and shift your weight forward. Drive through your heels on the way up, using hip action to throw the ball into the wall. Catch it on the rebound, squat again, and repeat for reps.

Why women’s names? Why “Karen”? I talked about “the girls” in my post about thing s I like about CrossFit and things I’m less keen about:

An answer to the girls’ names for workouts: “Many have asked, “Why are the workouts named after girls?” Coach Glassman, the founder and President of CrossFit explained it best. “I want to explain the workout once and then give it a name. I thought that anything that left you flat on your back, looking up at the sky asking ‘what just happened to me?’ deserved a female’s name. Workouts are just like storms, they wreak havoc on towns.”” Hmmmm.

I don’t like that explanation but I do like the idea of naming the workouts. After awhile you know what Fran is and you can easily keep track of your time/reps etc. And in terms of involving women, CrossFit does really well. And of course they’d be other problems if they all had tough, manly names too.

London CrossFit Coach Dave Henry had some words of wisdom about “Karen”: The worst thing you can do, he said, was go at it like a hero for the first 30 and then collapse. That’s the most common mistake. He must have seen me climbing hills on my bike. “Attack and die” seems to be my strategy! That’s why I’m good at short, steep climbs. No pesky shifting and spinning for me, just fast up and over. It’s also why I’m dreadful at long, slow climbs. So I knew what my temptation would be with a 150 wall balls. Instead, Dave suggested we do sets of 5. He also said that when we rested, just lean into the wall with the ball. Don’t put it on the ground. That’s like the best piece of burpee advice I’ve gotten. Speedy, at CrossFit Dunedin, told us that if you’re breaking burpees up into chunks to never rest standing up, always rest on the ground. Smart. You have to get up again anyway. May as well do another burpee. I followed Dave’s advice for the first half and again at the end. In the middle I opted for sets of 10 because starting again after taking a break seemed painful.

My time was 11:41. The speedsters in our group seemed to come in around 9 and I was in the middle, I think. I look at the whiteboard but I don’t obsess and I don’t let comparisons ruin my workout.

One challenge for me with wall balls is my glasses. I’ve had two CrossFit injuries. One was when I missed catching the medicine ball and it came down crashing into my face. Ouch. My glasses cut the bridge of my nose and twisted out of shape. Luckily, they were an easy fix. And my nose healed.  So now I do wall balls without them. Blurry but safe. (The other injury involved box jumps. I still have the scar.)

I’ll do it again. I hope next time to use the 14 b ball. My plan is to practice with the heavier ball during warm ups.

This guy looks to have good form though I don’t look forward to burpee wall balls!

13 thoughts on ““Karen,” we’ll meet again!

  1. 11:41 is a great time!! Last year in the Open was the first (and only) time I’ve done Karen. We had 12 minutes to do Karen, 90 DUs, 30 MUs, on AMRAP (obviously only the real pros finished the MUs and started over on a second Karen). I was only at about 120-something when the 12 minutes were up. Damn it, Karen! I should re-test again, since it’s been about a year. But sub-12 would be my goal. So nice job!

    Also, did you get the wall-ball lung? When it hurts to cough or laugh because your throat is a bit raw from breathing so heavy? And you taste blood a bit? I’ve been a cardio doing athlete my whole life, but only wall balls and rowing have ever made me breath that hard!

  2. I am hoping to use the “Girl” WODs vs. the “Hero” WODS (which are all men, even though I’m sure there are plenty of women who are military or firefighting heroes deserving of being honoured in a sweaty awesome fashion) as a point of entry for a paper during my Masters.

    As for “Karen,” I’ve only met her once as a part of 13.3 last year – 150 wall balls (20/14), 90 double unders, 30 muscle ups (AMRAP 12 Minutes). I made it through the wall balls and the double unders and stared at the rings for a few minutes thinking about how I hoped by next year I’d be doing muscle ups. I’m still working on the progressions but I actually don’t mind wall balls so I’m hoping we get a dose of them this year in the Open!

    Good tips about resting on the wall with the ball — makes a huge difference! The days I wear my glasses to the gym (usually because I don’t think about it) are the worst–they fall off of me all the time and I can’t see my own hand in front of me without ’em! Thank goodness for contacts.

      1. I hadn’t read that one — even with contacts I worry about triathlons and like you with Warrior Dash, Tough Mudder was a source of anxiety! I wear dailies even though they cost more because I have a knack for losing them in the middle of the day. I packed a spare pare of contacts in my bra for TM. Weird? Yes. Better safe than sorry? Definitely! I have lost them on rides on my bike before and the backup I keep in my saddle pouch is a lifesaver.

      1. (It won’t let me respond to 3rd-level comments)

        I think the Crossfit website has them all. I guess maybe there’s only 1? I could have sworn there were more!

  3. Thanks for looking into why the WOD’s are all called after women’s names, I have often wondered at that. Glassman’s explanation is characteristically awful. Glassman is basically a loud and proud neo con. I always find it best to ignore him and enjoy crossfit like he doesn’t exist.

  4. UGHHH.. We did a repeat of last year’s Open workout that STARTS with 150 wall balls the other day. I HATE wall balls. I feel no matter how much we do them or how many times I work on them, I am not making improvements. Sill no-rep a ton and just die a little bit inside each time the ball falls or misses the target. I finally RXed it for the first time at 11:57, but that wasn’t without misery.

    I love the tip that you gave there about resting on the wall. I am going to keep that in mind!!

    Great burpee advice, too.. I would only also add to keep moving. Even if you have to crawl to get on the ground and stand up, just don’t stop moving.

  5. I cannot even wrap my mind around 150 wall balls o_O
    In my Ultimate Conditioning class taught by a CrossFit competitor/trainer the longest we have done them is for 2 min and then repeated as part of a circuit. Our weight options are 10 or 20 pounds as the Y has some but not all the weight increments of CrossFit equipment. I will definitely try the resting leaning against the wall. I already rest in the down during burpees because why wouldn’t you lie on the floor for a breath before hauling yourself back up? I’m happy to learn my instincts are actually the better way to do that 🙂

    Good luck next time with Karen.

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