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History Geek

Leslie, aka the Tiger, pulls 203 for 5 at a bodyweight of 115#. That's strong.

Yep, that’s me.  History geek.  Bachelor of Arts, grad school, high school teacher (that’s where I met Kyle), museum exhibition writer and researcher—history, history, history, and more history.  Lots of teetering bookcases stuffed with enough money spent at Logos and other bookstores to buy a semi-luxury car.  More history.

And one of the things I like about CrossFit is the history involved with the WODs.  While going over a WOD in a recent class, one of the members asked if I had made it up.  I answered no, and proceeded to explain the history of the WOD.  He remarked how funny it was that a workout could have a history.

In the early days of CrossFit, when Coach Glassman trained just a few people (Garth, Eva, Jason) out of Spa Fitness, there weren’t any named or benchmark WODs.  When he moved to Claudio’s (jujutsu academy), he had a small dedicated space and some future WODs such as Fran started to make appearances.  But most of his trainees, those in the C3 class (this is where I first trained CrossFit along with a handful of other jujutsu guys, like Dave L who is at CFSC), never saw them.  Besides, Fran was a different looking girl than now and unnamed to boot.  The kipping pullup was just in its infancy and most WODs had deadhang pullups.  Or jumping pullups.  Coach liked jumping pullups, both on a bar and a rope, probably because deadhang pullups slowed down a workout too much.

With the advent of the website in 2003, workouts began to be standardized and named.  The early girls–Fran, Jackie, Helen, Cindy, and others–were all born in some form around these times.  Also about this time came WODs such as the Tabata triplets and Fight Gone Bad.  The newer girls–Annie, Kelly, Nicole, Lynne–didn’t appear for a number of years.  The first Hero, to my recollection, was Murph and it was solo for a long time.  Now, hero WODs are sadly common. You can see early and unnamed versions of the benchmark girls with an interesting and informative browse through the main site archives, especially the first year.

The history of a WOD is more than just its birthday.  It is fun to know how much WOD times have improved.  How much better CrossFitters are now.  Helen was the original CrossFit Challenge.  I remember when Greg A broke 8 minutes on Helen.  Wow, I thought that was untouchable.  Back then a decent time was sub 10 minutes and Greg himself didn’t break 9 when the Challenge was first introduced.  I remember banging down the UCSC track, the fastest Helen course in Santa Cruz, trying to break that 10 minute barrier.  And then OPT went sub 7, by barely a second, but it was still sub 7.  Now Mikko does Fat Helen (2 pood swings and chest-to-bar pullups) in 7 forty or so.  Heck, even I ended up a couple minutes below 10.

But, there are workouts with histories much older than CrossFit itself, older than probably every CrossFitter.  The Super Squat program that I did with Greg A in our pre-CrossFit days (because it was so effective and fun, well you know what I mean by fun, we are doing it again now) has been around since the early part of the 20th century.  A good eighty years ago, people like Mark Berry were writing about the program and its effectiveness.  And they got it from other, even earlier, lifters.

I like knowing where something has been, who developed it, and what its journeys and permutations have been.  Go ahead; call me a history geek, I don’t mind at all.

Thoughts? Please post to Comments.

Thanks to Garth and Greg for background info.


Hang Squat Clean

1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1


10, 9, 8…2, 1

Deadlift 70% 1RM

Ring Dips


  1. Sanders

    Wow Sam. What an informative read! I always like to hear stories from people I know that were a part of the original CrossFit program. It has become a global sensation in such a short span of time. Amazing!

    CrossFit has changed immensely in the last three years that I have been around. I have trained in a lot of gyms, with many trainers, but I have to emphasize what a special creation CF West is. I am still on an accelerated learning cycle. You, Joc, Kyle, and Ed have really helped me continue to push my potential. (Heck even Cliff has helped!) Solid Olympic Lifting is within my reach now.

    Thanks again for all you do. West truly is home.

  2. leslie h

    Whoa, history geek – I enjoyed the history lesson too. And I only pulled 3 times, not 5, and am still quite sore to show for it! And thanks for always trimming my weight by a few #s! (Except for the time you put your toe on the scale so that it looked like I gained 30 lbs.) I look forward to the next class…

  3. samrad

    Sorry Leslie, my mistake. I thought it was 5 reps. Still, you have the eye of the tiger and it shows.

    Yeah Eric, it was fun being a part of the original CrossFit, I wish I hadn’t taken the time off that I did. Still, I guess it was for the best as CrossFit changed in those years and I liked it a lot more when I went back. Or maybe I changed. Probably both.

  4. Jocelyn

    Hey nerdy nerd, great post. The history and evolution of CrossFit in general as well as CrossFit West Santa Cruz is always fun to draw inspiration from. It’s also fun to think about the history of each athlete who’s come through here. Everyones got a pretty cool story. Thanks for the cool write up.

  5. Megan McNamara

    Wow, Sam…who knew you ever went into Logos? :-) I loved reading your WOD history, although it was kind of hard to scroll down because I have these two huge matching bruises on my posterior forearms from where the KBs hit them over and over and over again yesterday. Several inquiries already about whether everything is okay in my home life…so thanks for that.

    And GO LESLIE!!!!! I am so impressed!

    xox Megan

  6. Jocelyn that’s exactly what I was thinking as I read this post. The history of each incredible athlete we have at our gym. What made all of you walk through the doors (or door) of our gym? whatever it was I’m so glad you’re all down there each day and I hope you all stay FOREVER :)

  7. BTW: Tiger is a rock star!!

  8. Amber

    Sam, you know I love your posts. It’s great how you are able to make history relevant in a more personal way. It had never occurred to me that the WODS have a history. It really makes one feel more connected to the larger phenomenon that is Crossfit, and the amazing athletes who have steadily refined it along with themelves. I’ll have to remember that next time, through the haze of pain.

  9. Thanks for the post & comments history geek (s),

    CFWSC may have an answer to these questions then:

    Is crossfit a revolution in finess and physical preparation history?

    Also how do you foresee crossfit evolving in the future?

  10. Jenny D

    Very cool post!

  11. Rachel

    Hello from Belize!!!

    Managed to find a fellow crossfiter from Utah. We did a little run/pushup/sit up workout together.

    Can’t wait to get back to CFWSC!! Miss you guys :)

  12. Rachel, No Burpees? !! :]


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