Jumping into the Unknown with Sean Robinson
Written by Michele Vieux & Invictus Member Sean Robinson

Call it “luck” or fate, Sean Robinson started his CrossFit journey just three weeks before the 2019 CrossFit Open began, not knowing what was in store for him but excited for the possibilities.

He has always been pretty active in life, racing bicycles (road races) competitively in his 20’s, running around with the kids.

The class he regularly attends at our Sorrento Valley location has people who have been doing CrossFit for years alongside people like Sean, who had no clue what they were getting themselves into when, on the Wednesday before the Open, Coach Tricia asked the class who was doing to participate.

Sean, being the open-minded adventurer that he is, was the ONLY person to raise his hand. But once you get to know him, you understand that’s how he lives his life. He has such a positive and strong mindset around jumping into something he doesn’t know and stepping outside of a box, instead of being confined to it.

“You can do so many more things in life when you do. Life is pretty boring living in a box. You have to take chances in life – sometimes you may succeed and sometimes you might not. Pushing yourself out of comfort zone is healthy for the mind and can be healthy for the body.”

This is only one example of the mantra that rules his life. Even with his job, he left a safe and secure, 20-year career in the public sector, including a guaranteed pension, to run a national non-profit. He could have been comfortable for the rest of his life in the public sector but realized that he had other opportunities and adventures to take that he wouldn’t get if he hadn’t made the switch.

To him, the best parts, and opportunities he now has that he wouldn’t if he hadn’t taken the step to join Invictus are: 1) Competing with himself which gives him more energy; 2) Not letting himself become complacent because he’s always learning new moves; and 3) For fun and excitement and the unknown of what he’ll be doing each day.

That’s his mindset around jumping into something he doesn’t know. That’s how he lives his life. So what’s it like to use this mindset and attack the 2019 Open as a newbie to the sport? Sean had a unique perspective and some hilarious thoughts throughout the month as he attacked each week with humility and enthusiasm.

Sean on 19.1

I drove to FNL nervous as hell and I didn’t know anyone. I was assigned to Heat 2 so I had the chance to watch the first heat in which many of the athletes had been doing this a while, and thought, “oh no!” – looked at them knowing they’d been doing it a while and thought – oh no!

Even though Coach Tricia told me not to blow my load in the first round, having never experienced this atmosphere before, I didn’t quite understand what she meant and thought i just gotta keep going! I finished the first round in 2:03 and managed 3.5 rounds in the remaining 13 minutes.

It was a learning experience and what I learned was this:
Everyone is an individual in this and they have to know their own body.
People were saying “great job” and “you should be proud – the Invictus family is awesome!

Sean on 19.2

After finishing 19.1, I was excited to see what 19.2 was going to be all about and prayed that I had performed some of the skills during my first 3 weeks. Thursday came and it was 25 toes to bar, 50 Dubs and squat cleans. Well this time to the plate I was batting zero as I have not done any of the exercises and told myself this round was going to be scaled, 25 knees to chest, 50 single jump rope and squat cleans. Unfortunately, I was not able to participate in Friday Nights Lights at my own Box in Sorrento Valley on 3/1/2019 because I was out of town. So I spent all weekend watching videos and talking to my friend and fellow Crossfitter from Michigan, on how to do this squat clean.

The videos and tutorials had me feeling ok about the squat clean, although I knew this was going to be the hardest part for me. Monday morning comes, I head to the gym and was excited to put into action all the things I learned over the weekend, that is until I started practicing the squat clean. I sucked. Trying to keep my body aligned, pushing back my knees, lifting the weight then thrusting my hips upwards to get the weight up to my shoulders and then squatting proved to be quite challenging. My coach, Aush, was helping and trying to put me in the right position so I kept practicing.

Well I could have practiced the whole damn day, it is just something that I was not going to learn in 20 minutes, so I said let’s go for it. The timer was started and had no issues with the knees to chest nor did I have any issues with the jump rope. Then came to the squat cleans and that is where all my problems began and died. I did get the prescribed 15 done for the first round at 95 lbs, although it felt like it took me 20 minutes. Then back to the knees to chest then jump rope then back to that damn squat clean, now with 115 lbs. got the first one up but lost it during the squat. I really wanted one and I did just as the 8 minute clock rang.

A couple of take-aways I learned:
– Do Friday Night Lights – you will get a better score
– Do the best you can even if you have never done the exercise
– Bring on 19.3, I will do better

Sean on 19.3

Let me first start off by saying doing two Open workouts in the same week is quite challenging and actually not the brightest move I’ve ever made.

I completed 19.2 on Monday, and that really took a lot out of me having never done a squat clean and my legs and back were a bit sore. As my typical Thursday night goes, 10 minutes before the live Open announcement, I call my buddy from Michigan, and we watch the live stream together. It is kind of nice to hear his perspective as he has been doing CrossFit for a number of years and I am completing my first month.

We watch both Fisher (GO TEAM INVICTUS) and the other gal do 19.3 and WOW they are incredible athletes. Yes it looks rough but at least I knew how to perform the movements.

I went home that evening and was relieved with the live announcement because I had done lunges before as well as box step-up’s. I was not deterred by the HSPU because I had done them in class a couple of times and the HS walk I was practicing them this week, for whatever reason. Overall I was pretty darn stoked. I knew I was not going to get the HS walk but getting to the HSPU was the goal I set for myself.

Well Friday morning comes and I head to the gym to give these lunges with the 50lb weight over my head a shot. Now mind ya, that 50lbs is just about a 1/3 of my bodyweight so I knew it was going to be heavy but I could manage. That is until I picked up that 50lb dumbbell and said holy $hit that is heavy. I did a couple of lunges and it was at that point I said please please please let me get to the HSPU. My body was somewhat chuckling at me saying “yeah, right buddy.” I then proceeded to take that 50lb dumbbell over to the box, put it over my shoulder and did a couple step ups. OMG, I could not believe how heavy and difficult it was and that was only after doing 5-6 lunges. Now my body, more specifically my legs, were in full out laughter now thinking I was getting to the HSPU but my brain was saying you got this. After that short practice I said to myself I am going to have to give everything I got to get to the HSPU.

I arrive for FNL and it was great to see some familiar faces as we were warming up and stretching. I was giving myself extra time because my legs were still a bit sore from 19.2. The first heat goes off and the excitement is awesome. My gosh there are some incredible athletes at Invictus and I learn from you all every day. As heat one ends I position myself on the far back wall and Coach Tricia (my judge as well) said “I am going to be after you the entire time to get you to the HSPU.”

Three, Two, One GOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!

I pick up the weight and put it on my shoulder because during practice, me keeping it overhead for 200 feet was 100% out of the question, yup impossible for me at this point in my CrossFit career. I felt ok after the first 25 feet then came the turn came. My legs were burning already at this point but I’ll be damned if they were gonna win, I was getting to the HSPU. I am not 100% sure at what point my legs were so on fire that I had to stop and shake them out but I had my Coach and fellow Invicti cheering me on and I kept going. As I was lunging down my last 25 feet and I saw that box out of my right eye just staring at me saying “come on man, I’m next.”

I finish the 200 feet and get to the box. I put that 50lb dumbbell on my right shoulder and get my left foot up. Well my right foot was not nearly as responsive and said “nope, I’m cool right here, I’m not moving”. I tried a couple of times and that damn right foot would not even budge off the floor. I was not going to quit so I take a quick breather, shake out my legs and without the weight, I step up just so I knew I could. I did it, see I can do it! I then grab that 50lb damn dumbbell, through it up on my neck and powered thru to get 24 box step-up’s with the help of Coach Tricia, CJ and others cheering me on.

TIME is said aloud and that was it.

Not gonna lie I was pretty frustrated because I could not get to the HSPU. It was at this point my legs were in complete shutdown mode and what I mean is, almost not functioning. I walked, although I thought about crawling, to the side and sat on the ground as the 3rd heat began. I watched my fellow Invictus Team athletes go. You all inspire me more and more every day. am going to get there I just know it is going to take time, maybe a little more time than I thought, but that is ok.

The rest of the weekend was spent stretching and learning how to walk again.

Sean on 19.4

Thursday comes and it is the same routine, call my buddy and we watch the live stream together. The announcement is made…

Oh boy here we go again, I have only done the snatch during one of the workouts and I was not very good, ugh. Good news was I had the burpees and as far as the muscle-up, nope that was not in my arsenal. So I would be scaling 19.4 due to my inexperience on the snatch and not having the muscle-ups.

Friday morning I head to the gym to practice the snatch with my Coach and after a good hour, I felt pretty comfortable. I needed to get to the pull-ups and that is the goal I set for myself. I broke the whole 12 minutes down to the sec. I needed to complete each round in 2 minutes 55 seconds so at the conclusion of the 3rd round, I would have finished in 8 minutes and 45 seconds which would allow me 15 seconds to get one pull-up after the 3 minutes of rest. (I told you I got it down to the second.

I drove to the Downtown gym really excited and anxious that I am going to hit my goal. I go in and start my warm-up. Then the dreaded thing happens, while warming up doing the snatch, I pull a muscle in my lower back. Son of a Gun (I did say another word)!!!!! I try stretching it out and go to Coach Nick and tell him that I need some lower back stretching exercises. He stops what he is doing and helps me. I told him I had to do this and I was going to hit my goal.

Heat 1 goes off and Coach Nick is still working with me until it is my turn in Heat 2. Heat 1 ends and I find my position to begin Heat 2. Coach Tricia is my judge and Coach Nick was there watching me. I kept telling myself, I am going to do it and nothing is going to stop me.

Three, Two, One and I was off. I did seven unbroken snatches let it drop then finished the next three. On to the burpees and get the 12 done. My heart is racing in excitement that I got the first round done and listening to my fellow Invictus Family cheering me on. I get to the next set of snatches and I broke them up into sets of two until I got to the required ten. Then onto the burpees, I keep hearing the cheering and that is pushing me even more. Thank goodness I could not see the clock, I just kept going. Round three of the snatches, they were all over the map. Some singles some doubles and I know did the last three unbroken. I needed to be finished no later than 8 minutes 45 seconds. The final set of burpees, I am gasping for air but kept pushing. I had no idea of the time. I jump over for my final burpee and I ask Coach Tricia what is my time and she says I finished in 7 minutes 16 seconds. If I could have gotten more air in my lungs I would have screamed out loud. I was SO stoked!!!!!! I had 1 minute and 44 seconds to get one pull-up. I knew I could do that.

10 minutes 16 seconds I jump to the bar and do a strict pull-up. There is one, I reached my goal now lets get some more. have never kipped, but somehow somewhere I figured it out and got 2 kipping pull-ups. At the 12-minute mark, I had completed 7 pull-ups!! I was on cloud nine, I exceeded my goal I had set for myself.

As I walked from my position to the other room, I needed to stretch my lower back because now it was really hurting. I am doing everything I knew how and then Patrick Horn, the Invictus soft tissue massage therapist took me on his table to help out. He worked on me for a good 20 minutes and created some relief but it was jacked.

Over all I am stoked with 19.4. I beat the goal I set for myself and even though I did get injured, the Invictus Family was there not only to cheer me on but was there for support. Joining this gym has been the best decision for my health. Now I am going to keep stretching and hope to goodness that it feels better to do 19.5 on Friday. Whether it be Friday or Monday when I do 19.5, I will be there for Friday Night Lights to cheer on my Invictus Family.

Sean on 19.5

After 19.4 I went to my chiro and had Patrick work on my lower back all week. Although I went to the gym every day, I only did two workouts (scaled of course) and spent the rest of the days stretching my back. It was rough but it has been a recurring thing with my lower back. I was doing everything I could to be able to do 19.5 and complete the Open.

Thursday comes around and it was the same routine, call my buddy inMichigan and we watch the live announcement together.

Son of a #$%#%$, I said to myself. I did not know how my back would be able to handle the thrusters and that is the first time that the thought entered my mind that I may not be able to finish the Open. I went home that night, and without weight, mimicked the thruster movement and it was just too much. I was frustrated and disappointed because even though I was brand new to the sport I really wanted to finish.

After a sleepless night, I get up and head to the gym and tell Coach Tricia and Coach Aush that I will not be able to finish the Open. They were both great keeping me positive on what I had accomplished. I get it, but it is just my mindset that when I start something I finish and unfortunately my body was not going to cooperate. Throughout the day, I just kept telling myself “Hey this is one workout out of the next 1000 you will be doing. Just get stronger and get ready for October”.

That helped a lot and used that as my inner-self motivator.

Having gone through 19.1 – 19.4 and receiving all the encouragement and cheers from all of the Invictus Family, there was no way I was going to miss FNL. I was going to go and cheer them on. The atmosphere in the Downtown gym was awesome and I was so happy I went. Everyone who competed did an amazing job and even though I did not compete, I learned from watching you. The final heat was set with the pro’s going and I cannot say enough about them – Nuno, Lauren, Eric, Chantel, etc. were incredible. You truly are all amazing and thank you for all the inspiration you have given me.

Sean on Invictus, CrossFit and the Open

I have to say my experience in doing my first Open was filled with joy, excitement, frustration, disappointment, sense of accomplishment, pain but more than anything else was the new friends that I made. I knew that I was part of the Invictus Family and the support was incredible.

I really have to thank the people who help me get through my first Open. (sorry I don’t know their last names) Coach Tricia, Coach Aush, CJ, CJ’s Mom, Sarah, Coach Nick, Lalo, Darren, Ryan, Patrick, you Michele, and of course Libby because without her, I would not have joined Invictus and been able to share my story and everyone who went to FNL’s to cheer on all the athletes.

I am six weeks into CrossFit and I am hooked. For anyone who has given CrossFit a thought, do it! It does not matter how old you are or what kind of shape you are in – the coaches at Invictus will help you, guide you, push you, and support you. Sure some of the workouts are a little rough and challenging but at the end of the day you can look back at the day and have a great sense of accomplishment. As I said earlier, I am a six-week newbie who is almost 49 years old and just started CrossFit and almost completed my first Open. Every day I am getting stronger and I am taking care of something that I cannot replace, my body.

The best decision I ever made was marrying my wife Tonda, but health wise was joining CrossFit Invictus. Again I thank you all for the support and for those who I have not met I look forward to meeting you. Rest assured I will be out there in October.

Sean

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