Oh, CrossFit. The sport that everyone either loves or loves to hate on. If you’ve ever surfed YouTube in your entire life, chances are you’ve probably come across some kind of “CrossFit fail” video featuring people doing really stupid things on a pull-up bar, or with a barbell, or maybe even with a barbell on a pull-up bar (I hope not). And if you know someone who knows someone who does CrossFit, you’ve probably seen them post an excited status on social media all about their “WOD,” featuring a bunch of jargon and numbers and symbols that look like complete jibberish. I get it, man. I get it. But it’s really too bad that people judge things without trying them, because honestly, stepping into my CrossFit gym (or “box,” as the kids say) for the first time was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. #SorryNotSorry, guys… I really, really love my gym. And I want to tell you about it.
First, let’s back up, because everything is more fun with a full backstory! I’ve wanted to try CrossFit ever since a friend told me about it 5 years ago. And even though there was always something in the way, whether it was time, or money, or having specific race goals, or whatever, the little nugget of interest was always there in the back of my mind. If you’ve been following this blog for a bit, you probably know that I started following a 5/3/1 lifting regimen last year, and made substantial strength gains as a result– yay! Unfortunately, improving my conditioning was a slooooow moving process. So, I started flirting with the idea of CrossFit again, researching gyms in the area, doing the “ehhh, I dunnooooo…” dance. But when I quit my job a few months ago and suddenly found myself without a gym (my old job had a free gym on-site), I made a snap decision to give it a try. Ok…maybe not quite a “snap” decision. More like, I drove to the gym, peeked in the windows, walked back and forth in the parking lot a few times, and THEN went inside. Yeah…I might have been a little intimidated, shhh.
But from the first conversation, I knew I was in the right place. I felt immediately welcomed, and was offered the chance to not only come to the free Saturday class that’s offered every week, but to try out a regular class of my choice, any day, any time I wanted. No commitment, no pressure. The owner basically said, “we want you to want to be here.” And I really dug that. Here’s the thing — since every CrossFit gym is independently owned, the environment at each is completely unique. It’s like the difference between going to a Planet Fitness and going to a hidden little underground gym. You can work out at both, but the experiences will be different. The people at this place were really chill, and I was pleasantly surprised that I felt right at home.
What I didn’t realize about CrossFit is that it’s not just a HIIT workout. The classes start by working on either strength (squats, deadlifts, presses, etc.), or skills (handstand pushups, double-unders, muscle ups, etc.). There might be some stretching and mobility work in there, and then you typically move on to a higher intensity workout of the day. Essentially, the classes are a combination of great things like running, lifting, and swinging off of bars like a monkey, with a dash of terrible things like rowing, burpees, or wall-balls.
I’m not going to lie to you guys…I truly expected to hate it. I thought it was going to be super dangerous and that no one would have any regard for form or safety, because that’s what I’d seen online. I was completely wrong. I’m continually impressed by the knowledgeable coaches and staff at my gym, because they enforce form above everything. If someone (me) occasionally gets a little too big for their britches and tries to do something he/she (me) isn’t quite ready for, the coach will kindly tell them (me) to scale down the exercise to do it correctly. Or if my form is off and I can’t tell, the coach will quickly let me know so I can fix it. That was one of the biggest realizations for me — CrossFit isn’t inherently more dangerous than powerlifting or distance running. Yes, the workouts ask you to move weight efficiently at a rate that will challenge you. But you control the weight, you control the pace, you control your form. As with anything, it’s up to you to know and respect your own limits. I will say that I’m glad I had a lifting background when I started. Every exercise is scalable, but for me personally, it would have been hard to start from scratch.
Really, though, the thing that ultimately convinced me to join that first day (and what continues to impress me on a daily basis) were the other people I was working out with–especially the other women. Aside from being cool people, they are all SO strong! It continually blows my mind how fit these individuals are. I have so much respect for every single person who steps into my gym because they are there to WORK. And that’s super motivating to be around in those moments when you’re facing your 75th burpee, and your soul is dying a little bit inside. (Kidding. Sort of. 🙂 ) Even though we’re working, people are always joking and smiling at the same time. I laugh every day, and I genuinely look forward to going there.
So, yeah! Fast forward about four months, and we’re at the present, where I am happy, humbled, and incredibly frustrated on a daily basis. I feel like I have 8 million new goals because there are so many things I want to get better at, but all I can do is be patient and keep diligently working at things, bit by bit. One of the things I’ve enjoyed most about this journey is getting to dive into the world of Olympic lifting. The lifts are so technical and will probably take me years to get the hang of, but they’re fun. Well… clean and jerks are fun; snatches are ….hopefully going to get better someday. 😉 I’m still doing a lot of powerlifting, and am weaving in pilates and running regularly as well.
I’m sure the owners of my gym will eventually read this and be annoyed that I said all these nice things and then didn’t give the name of the actual box– sorry, guys! Stranger danger is real! If we know each other in person, hit me up and I’d be happy to recommend a great CrossFit box you can join. 🙂
Anyhow, I’ll post more about this later on, but if you’re looking for more info on CrossFit itself, here’s an unbiased write-up that took the words right out of my mouth. In the meantime, someone please help me fix my snatches.
And as always, Remember to Breathe.