On Tuesday evening, March 19, 2013 I was introduced to CrossFit. It wasn’t in a CrossFit Gym, otherwise known as a “Box”. It was at Retro Fitness in Edison, NJ. I had spoken to the head trainer a few days earlier telling her I was interested in CrossFit. But my interest was more along the lines of wanting to try it out, as opposed to outright joining up. As it turns out, two of the trainers at my gym (a boyfriend and girlfriend pair) were avid CrossFitters and were willing to give me a free 30-minute session, replicating a CrossFit-styled workout, and from there I could decide if I wanted to continue that approach over a series of paid sessions with them. The goal I had in mind was becoming CrossFit ready within 8 weeks and then joining a box. But first, I had to make it through the initial session to see if this was really for me.
The first thing my trainers showed me was a lift called a Barbell Clean. A Barbell Clean is essentially lifting the bar off of the ground and then doing an explosive lower body and shrug movement that will bring the bar to a racked position across your shoulders and at the same time, you drop into a deep squatting position. If it sounds a bit complicated, it’s because it is. But being able to Clean is a fundamental component of CrossFit since many of the lifts are Olympic- style and frankly speaking, you got to be able to get the weight you are going to lift off of the ground buddy. I went over the mechanics and motions of this lift, using an unweighted Olympic Barbell, for a few awkward minutes. Of course I didn’t figure out how to do it, but I at least got my first lesson on how to do it.
With just over 20 minutes left my trainers wanted to get right into the actual workout. My workout would consist of 20 Kettlebell Sumo High Pulls, 20 Kettlebell Thrusters, and 20 Burpees done AMRAP style (as many rounds as possible). I was familiar with these exercises so I didn’t need any instruction and would have a full 20 minutes to exercise.
Ten minutes later, I had completed only one round and was sitting on the floor telling them that I could not do any more. I got through the Sumo High Pulls rather quickly but struggled about halfway through the set of Thrusters, and was dragging ass throughout the Burpees set. They offered to cut the repetitions in half and I reluctantly agreed to continue. In my heart, I truly wanted to keep going but I was physically destroyed. After finishing round 2, which ended up taking about as long as round 1 even with there being less reps, my trainers gave me a concerned look asking if I thought this was the sort of thing I would want to do. And I think they were both surprised when I told them absolutely. Despite the pain, the dizziness, and the nausea I knew that I was going to give this my all.
I have always been an active person and even during the lazier times in my life I have always been in “decent” shape. I may not have always been in fighting shape, but I wasn’t going to fail a physical at the doctor’s office or end up broken if I had to a day of hard physical work. Throughout my life I ran sporadically, and even sometimes regularly. I’m obviously outdoorsy and spend a good deal of time hiking, rock and ice climbing. I had been in the Army, done martial arts, and for a period of about 3 years in my late 20’s I was dedicated to boxing and during that time was in the best shape of my life. But around age 30, when I got engaged, married, bought a house, and my son was born, life slowed down and my activity level slowed down as well. I didn’t become inactive, but was definitely a lot less active and while not overweight I was carrying a few more pounds than I was used to.
As I approach my mid-30s, and see how most people my age are beginning to soften up, I knew now would be the time to make the lifestyle changes necessary to stay healthy, look young, feel good, and maintain athletic ability. I know that as a man gets older, it’s harder to build and maintain muscle so implementing weight-training (something I never really got into) would be very important at this stage of my life. But I didn’t want to come into the gym and just lift weights. The activities I did throughout my life were all “active”. I knew that I would have to keep that element of sport involved in order to keep myself from getting bored. I had my impressions about CrossFit being high-intensity and very sport-like. When I found out that a huge element of CrossFit is weight-training, including Olympic-style lifting, I knew that this would match perfectly with my existing exercise personality.
It’s been about eight weeks since my first CrossFit workout and my strength and cardio fitness has improved dramatically. I found out I could squat more than my own body weight and nearly bench press that amount. My running pace and distance has increased, Thrusters are my specialty and I can finally get through sets of Burpees without flopping like a fish (but NOBODY will ever love doing Burpees). Every week I’ve done 2-3 CrossFit workouts, 1-2 distance runs, and would often include an “active rest day” on the weekend where I would go hiking or rock climbing. Now today, Tuesday, May 14, 2013 I can finally say I am ready for my first ever visit and workout at a CrossFit Box.