If you’ve read my “You Can’t Run From A Bad Diet” post you know that when I wrote it, I was fairly anti coaching. You’ll also no doubt realize that the diet I was on then is marginally different from the diet I’m on now. This is to be expected. I wrote the last article 7 months ago. Things change. This will be a recurring theme. When something I am doing stops working as well as I’d like it too, I change it. If you want to read more on diet click the above link. However, if you want to know about CrossFit, and my specific experience with it, continue reading.
What is CrossFit?
CrossFit is the functional fitness exercise system created by personal trainer Greg Glassman, and popularized throughout the early and mid 2000’s. The mantra of the system is to perform varied, functional movements at high intensity. CrossFit integrates Olympic style weight lifting, gymnastics training, and cardiovascular activities such as running and rowing in addition to a healthy dose of calisthenics. Individuals who wish to own a “box” or CrossFit Gym need to take a course, and pay a franchise fee.
Each “box” is independently owned, and each owner can design the specific program they use and culture they foster (independent of the greater organization). This system means that each gym is somewhat unique, and as such your mileage may vary. That said, do your own research, and make your own decisions. People have very strong opinions about CrossFit. Some owners of those opinions, despite the passion behind them have never stepped into a box, or tried a WOD (Workout Of the Day). Try to allow yourself to come to your own conclusions.
As I elude to above, I needed a change. I spent a year working out in a rather traditional fashion. I did strength training 3 times per week by lifting weights for about an hour with 20 minutes of cardio at the end. Two days per week I did 40 minutes to an hour of cardio (typically using the elliptical machine), and on Saturdays my goal was to do something active. Sunday was my rest day. This program in addition to a mostly Paleo diet allowed me to drop 30 pounds on the scale. I was pumped. These results made me happy. I wasn’t done, but I had made an excellent start towards meeting my fitness goals. The problem was that I had stalled. I was still gaining muscle, but not quickly, and I wasn’t losing weight. Additionally, my clothes weren’t getting any looser, and I was bored.
Boredom kills motivation, and I needed to make some changes. As per usual I started with diet. I dropped some more types of carbohydrate out of my diet, and started to eat Keto. I view this diet change as temporary until I met my weight loss goals, and found the transition pretty easy. I also had a friend from High School who had been working out at a box near(ish) me, and had done a bit of reading on Functional Fitness. I figured I would give it a go, and see what happened.
My Expectations For My First CrossFit Workout
I’ve never considered myself overly coach-able. I’ve never been comfortable working out in groups, and I have never had a good experience with a personal trainer. Though I’d made good progress towards fitness I was still terribly out of shape, and by and large have a high amount of anxiety surrounding new things. All of that said, I am a firm believer that if you never take a risk you’ll never advance your goals. Basically, if you keep doing the same things you’ll get the same results. In order to progress, change is required.
Needless to say, my expectations were less than ideal. My assumption was that I would show up, be yelled at, receive dirty looks from people much fitter than myself, likely get hurt, and probably leave without having finished the workout. Seriously, I thought that this would be an unadulterated disaster. I was so convinced of how terrible it would be that it took me 3 months to ball up enough courage to even try. Wow, was I wrong.
I walked into the box early, and told the desk attendant (an exceptionally fit dude) that I was there for a free initial CrossFit class. He was super kind, and had me fill out liability stuff before letting me know that a class was just finishing up. He directed me to the right spot in the gym, and off I went. I nearly turned back no less than three times, but soldiered on reminding myself that I was a grown man, and could leave whenever I wanted too. I walked through a largely empty gym, past a really fun looking climbing wall, and down a hallway that smelled like exercise. Not the gross, stinky kind of exercise, but a place where fitness is achieved. My nerve held, and I rounded a corner to see 12 people (men and women of different ages and fitness levels) doing some of the craziest exercising I have ever seen set to some very loud music.
People were jumping onto and off of boxes, throwing themselves at the floor and jumping back up, and doing some kind of crazy thing with a barbell (that looked really heavy) where they brought the barbell up to their shoulders and threw it up over their head. They then stopped at different times, started again at different times, and did it three times before high fiving each other. As they all finished their workouts at different times they cheered each other on. I had no idea what was going on.
The coach wasn’t yelling at all. He would say things like “Two More”, “Almost There”, “Keep Going”, and “Your Doing Great”. His voice was just above a conversational tone. It was loud enough to hear over the music, but had a supportive, encouraging tone. Sometimes he would address the group as a whole, and sometimes he would address an individual. It was positively nuts. They were all clearly giving it their all, dripping with sweat, but smiling.
That workout ended, and the athletes threw high fives around before leaving. They all introduced themselves as they passed me, and the coach did as well. People began coming in for the class I was to take, and the coach introduced me to the coach of the next class. She explained that this would be super confusing because of how different it was, but that she would make sure I understood everything, and would be there to help me out. I noticed that once again, not everyone was incredibly fit. The coach introduced me to the class, everyone was excited to see me, and my anxiety began to fade.
I made it through a heavily modified version of that first workout, and was completely and irrevocably hooked. The next week I signed up for a unlimited membership.
CrossFit Has Become My Church
Since that first workout I have seen incredibly growth as an athlete. In just over a month I’m down another 16 pound bringing my total to 46 pounds lost. Let that sink in for a second, in the last month I have lost half as much weight as I lost in the prior year. The people in my box are amazing, and so supportive. I am doing CrossFit workouts 6 times per week, and my fitness level has increased astronomically. Most of the time I Rx (Do the workout without modification). I now wear a 38″ belt, an extra large (as opposed to XXL) T-Shirt, and just had to buy new pants as none of my pants fit anymore. When I go to a workout I feel physically drained, but emotionally and mentally energized. I go out of my way to make workouts. When I miss a day I am sad. My fellow athletes and coaches have become my friends. If I stopped showing up they would find out why to make sure I was okay, but they wouldn’t judge.
No one pressures me to do anything. I have never been yelled at. Everyone from the coaches to my fellow athletes seems to be earnestly interested in my success. The coaches keep a constant eye out, gently correcting my form and explaining their reasoning. The most common feedback they give me are things like: “Slow down”, “Try it with less weight.”, “Don’t hurt yourself”, “You are doing great.”, and “Keep up the good work”.
CrossFit is exercise on hard mode, it is also exercise on fun mode. When I have a bad day, I just remind myself that I will be in church soon. When I have a good day, I STILL remind myself that I will be in church soon. I am a happier person, I am a more mindful person, I am better at being a human being than I was before CrossFit. If that doesn’t constitute a “Church” then I don’t know what does.
Thanks for stopping by!
P.S. Please note that the above is my particular experience at The Mt. Washington CrossFit Box, which is located at the Evergreen Sports Center in Lisbon, NH. As all boxes are independently owned your experience elsewhere could be very different than mine.