CrossFit: A Perspective

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Photo: CrossFit Ion

My CrossFit journey began back in June. I had heard about it before, here and there, but my sneakers had yet to enter a "Box" prior to that day. I signed up for a month-long Foundations course to get my feet wet. Not all CrossFit studios offer such courses, but mine requires this intro prior to allowing people to take the regular classes. I get why. CrossFit is no joke and injuries can certainly result without proper instruction.

It sucked. It was the hardest, most frustrating thing I've ever done physically. I wanted a shake up and, well, I got one. My hands were blistered, my knees were bruised, and sitting or standing felt impossible some weeks. But I did it. Week one I could barely hang from the bar. By week two I could not only hang on for longer periods, I had begun swinging from it. I took 3 regular classes the week prior to leaving for vacation... and managed my first "kip" on the last day. It felt good.

My local CrossFit "Box"
For those who aren't familiar, I'll try and describe it. I think of CrossFit as a very back to basics workout. When first walking into the studio, I wondered what in the heck I was going to do (but could instantly tell it was going to be unpleasant). There are no machines. Instead, you use your own body or free weights. Lots of push ups, jumping on and off of things (like the boxes shown above), pull ups, running, and Olympic weight lifting moves. There are many acronyms to become familiar with and the moves come with quite a learning curve. During a given hour-long session there is a warmup, strength training, then the Workout of the Day (WOD). The WOD can be for total time, number of reps in a given time, etc. While the WODs don't typically last longer than 20 minutes, I feel as if I've worked out for hours. In most instances, total muscle fatigue occurs. Fortunately, things are scaled depending on your athletic ability (although all levels are hard) and a system of resistance bands are used to aid in certain moves (pull ups, military push ups, etc.).

Kiddo practicing his (assisted) pushup after class one day.
When we got back from vacation I wanted to get right back into it. Unfortunately, my emails went unanswered and August nearly came and went. Over that time I decided CrossFit probably wasn't for me and began mentally writing it off.  Then a note arrived in my inbox, along with the sincerest of apologies for not seeing my email. I was urged to come back. I attended the last Foundations class in August just to re-wet my feet. I loved it. Despite feeling nervous all day about the progress and strength I had undoubtedly lost, I did great. I could still hang from the bar (and swing a little). My time for the WOD was excellent. I felt a renewed interest.

I notice results very quickly and am satisfyingly sore after every workout, proof that I'm working just about every muscle fiber in my body. I've never had that before. Not only is it good for me physically, I find a mental release that is unrivaled by most other workouts. Jogging on the treadmill for a half hour certainly centers me, but CrossFit requires utter and complete focus. There's no thinking about my to-do list or life's worries. I leave feeling calm and freed... and the feeling lasts. It's a perspective changer.

Last Friday's workout

Here's the rub: I'm not sure it's a sustainable workout for me, for a variety of reasons. Because it's class-based, and only offered certain times on certain days, full time work and a family will make it hard to maintain a 3+ class per week schedule in the future. The monthly cost of membership is high, so missing classes is not an option for me. I also worry that the incredible intensity of the workouts could lead to eventual burnout.

Another thing I struggle with is the atmosphere. I'm a novice. I want to lose weight (as told through better-fitting pants) and feel strong. While I have a propensity to gain weight effortlessly, I am very muscular. My body tends to adapt to workouts quickly, and therefore plateaus easily. CrossFit is effective because it tackles my issues and plays on my strengths. It includes weight lifting and cardio in one hour-long session and I never worry about plateauing because the intensity is high and no two workouts are the same. I look forward to feeling improvement and seeing faster times on the board. I compete with myself with the end goal of health and happiness. However, CrossFit is intrinsically competitive. I avoid the evening classes because of this. They are more crowded and mostly full of athletes. There is chest-thumping, grunting, and the oh so nerve rattling drop of 100+ pound weighted bars on the concrete floor over and over again. That's not why I'm there, and am easily intimidated and turned off. When among a group of conditioned CrossFitters, it is also harder to get the attention of the instructors when I need help with a move or deciphering what an acronym means. I know they want beginners to feel welcome, but we often do not. One day I hope to be able to do unassisted pull ups. But that's not where I am now. Nor will I ever fit into the uber-competitive environment.

This is a rather lengthy explanation of where I am at, right now, and what CrossFit looks like to a non-athlete. I was never the naturally athletic, sports-playing kind, even as a kid, and I struggle to stay with a fitness program. I need to reach regular milestones in order to maintain motivation. I want to lose a handful (or five) of chunk. So for now, while life permits, I'm sticking with it. I signed up for a one month (3 day/week) membership. I'm committed to giving this month all I've got. At the end, I'll reevaluate. Perhaps I will feel called to the new kickboxing studio in town. Perhaps I'll turn Kiddo's youth membership at the Y into a family membership and try some of their classes (of which there are dozens). Perhaps I'll decide that CrossFit is what I've been looking for all along.


  1. Hi Sarah! There's a bunch of your posts that I want to reply to but I haven't had the chance to sit down and write lately... but I just quickly wanted to let you know that after reading this post last night, I went looking for cross training boxes in my area and found a few. So who knows, I might be joining as well, thanks to you! :-)



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