Crossfit ® became part of my life just over a year ago. It has been one hell of a journey and it is continuing for me. During this past year, I have learned a lot, I have grown physically and mentally, but most of all I have become fit. I’m not anywhere near my fitness goals, but I am on my way. I have learned some things about Crossfit that I thought I would share here, most importantly, what people should expect when they start doing Crossfit. I should note that I do not work for a Crossfit gym or have any other relationship with them, other than being a paying member. I am just sharing my experience here on how it has changed my life for the better.
First, let me tell you my story on this Crossfit journey. I began a couple years ago weighing in at 274. This was not something I wanted, the overweight guy who started huffing and puffing running up a few stairs. You see, my father died at age 54 and was well over 300 lbs for a long time. He was also an alcoholic and due to his physical situation, he was at least a dozen meds. Back in the 80’s there was no real control over the pharmaceuticals that a patient was taking, so different doctors prescribing different medicines was a recipe for disaster. This is what we think killed him, but the weight and the prior heart problems didn’t help.
Despite knowing all of this, I swore I would not follow his path. Yet I was becoming sick from my weight and eating. I was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes and found out I had high-blood pressure. My doctor put me on several prescription medicines. This state I was in screamed at me to do something. I will not follow my father’s downward slide.
Then in 2010, my mom had a stroke. Woah, another wake-up call. She was 80 at the time and also overweight. That was a really stressful year. I knew that I needed to do something. I saw the writing on the wall. Despite my desire to not follow my dad’s path, I think that subconsciously I was thinking that my genes dictated my future.
Nonetheless, I started looking into options. Last year, while browsing the Amazon.com site, I saw the page on the Tim Ferris book: 4 Hour Body. I browsed the page and read the reviews. I didn’t buy the book, but one thing that I saw in the reviews was a review that said the book essentially boiled down to “Crossfit” and “Paleo”. I didn’t know what either of these things meant, but I filed it away in the back of my mind.
A few months later in April 2011, I was fortunate enough to go to Japan to pursue my Buddhist practice. I was chanting at a temple there and a thought hit my mind from out of nowhere: “Do Crossfit”. Okay, I guess I’ll sort out what this means when I get back to the US. When the Universe says do something, you should listen.
I came back to the US and started researching Crossfit. At the time, there were two Crossfit gyms in Burbank, CA where I live. One was out of a garage, and the other was in a small retail location on the other side of town. I decided to check out the commercial location called Crossfit Burbank.
Expectation #1 – Crossfit is NOT like a commercial gym
I walked in off the street to a large empty gym. There were no machines to be seen. Just some pull-up bars and weights. A tall fellow greeted me, introduced himself as Jack, and explained a bit about Crossfit and what they did there. He explained the different types of movements our bodies do and how by doing high-intensity, varied functional movements we can achieve outstanding results. I liked his willingness to explain things and take the time to talk through the program with me. There was absolutely zero selling going on. In fact, the attitude was almost this is what we do. Join if you want, or not. What a different experience from a commercial gym.
I have had my share of gym memberships before. Never have I left the first meeting with a feeling of not being sold a bill of goods. The one thing that I hesitated on was the membership. The terms were great! No contract, and month-to-month. But the price was substantially higher than I had paid in any commercial gym before. I quickly realized though that it was a heck of a lot cheaper than personal training, and essentially that is what you are getting. From this perspective it was a deal. You work out in small groups (no more than 10 or so people) and you get instruction on every movement and coaching as you do the workouts. I figured that for someone new to Crossfit, I’d need this help. Little did I know that everyone needs it.
Weighing the Pros/Cons, I figured with no contract, what do I have to lose (other than the weight). (I should say that Crossfit gyms are individually owned, so each has their own terms and conditions, so you should check out what is offered in your area. ) So, I joined.
Expectation #2 – You will Suck at it!
I returned the next day and started my first intro-workout. Simple things, like jumping on a 10″ box, pulling yourself up at a 45 degree angle from some rings, and doing a overhead press with an empty bar. Okay, I can do these things. Oh, did I forget to mention it was timed? That throws a whole different level of complexity into it. Do five rounds of these different movements as fast as you can safely go. I did it, and I think I tripped a couple times on the box, had horrible form on the ring-rows, and probably sucked pretty good at getting a clean overhead press.
Jack explained that although we do all of these things as children, we lose the skill and coordination in adulthood and have to relearn these things. I really did have to re-learn these things. With time, you get better and your coordination gets good enough that you can move up in both box height and in weight that you can lift. But it takes time. One thing great about Crossfit is that you do the same movements as everyone else, but they are scaled to your ability.
Expectation #3 – You will find Support
Since you are working out with a group of people, and the workouts (or WODs – Workout of the Day) are scheduled at a specific time during the day, you begin to meet the same people over and over again. You form a camaraderie and find that they are learning how not to suck just the same as you are. Some people are skilled and strong, others are just beginning. But together you all do the ever changing workout routines together.
Since joining, I have made quite a few friends and have even resumed my favorite sport which I played in college, racquetball, with one of my Crossfit buddies. You meet people from all over who are all there to improve themselves. This in itself is encouraging.
Even more though, Crossfit is the first gym I have ever seen where the last person to finish is cheered and encouraged, and ultimately applauded by they people who got to the finish before you.
Additionally, you find common experiences with people on the Internet. I am amazed at the various people who are now posting online about their Crossfit experiences. I have even found a few co-workers across the country who are also doing Crossfit. We have become virtual Crossfit buddies.
Expectation #4 – You will continue to be Challenged
Crossfit is not easy. It is meant to be hard. There are days where you do not want to go. You find every excuse to not go. But if you have a strong commitment to success, you overcome these obsticles. Even during the workout, you find yourself wanting to quit. “Just stop doing the exercise, you can rest.” I can’t tell you how many times my inner voice says that. But I redetermine myself to just keep going. I finish in a puddle of sweat on the floor, the most comfortable floor you will ever rest on by the way. Within a couple minutes though, I am up, recording my workout and doing my finishing exercises.
I don’t know why it works the way it does, but the constantly varied movements keeps you engaged. You never know what you are getting into, but when you do it, you find that you can and it is the overcoming the challenge that I think is the most addictive part. Each day you attend a WOD, you are challenged both physically and mentally, but you find a way within yourself to overcome the challenge. Keep in mind that the workouts are scaled to your ability, but they are still not easy. They are tough. But you become tougher than the workouts.
Expectation #5 – You will Grow and Succeed
If you commit to regularly attending the Crossfit WODs and doing the weekly weight training, you find that you start to see changes in your body and your abilities. Don’t get me wrong, the WODs are always challenging and generally suck, but you are no longer making mistakes. You are learning. You are finding out that you can do things, you didn’t think you could do. I was unable to do any pull-ups when I started. I am now able to do multiple sets of 10 pull-ups (okay with a rubber band assist, but I am continuing to get stronger). I have lost 25 lbs so far in the past year doing Crossfit. I may have been able to do more, but my diet consistency needs continual improvement.
I am now learning and doing a Paleo diet. I have learned that it is important to eat for health. Food is powerful medicine and that you can change your health through your habits. I am currently reading The Blood Sugar Solution: The UltraHealthy Program for Losing Weight, Preventing Disease, and Feeling Great Now!I’d recommend it for anyone who wants to get back into health.
I am seeing results in weight loss, but also in general shape. I am getting abs that I have never felt/seen before. I have definition in my arms and legs that I have never had in my life.
In January I finally did the prescribed WOD level. I was elated! I now know that I can do the men’s standard on certain workouts. This is a far cry from when I started last May.
Best of all, I have reduced the meds I am taking to a single pill and I expect to be done with that pill soon enough. I know now that my genes do not dictate my future, only my present actions create the future effects. Here are some other benefits I have seen:
- Improved focus
- Better sleep
- Feeling more alive
- Alertness (no longer walking around in a fog)
- Improved stamina
- Positive outlook
… and all sorts of other things that escape me right now.
Bottom line, if you are looking to get into Fitness, try out Crossfit. If you think it is too much for you, go ahead and ride a hamster-mill at your commercial gym. But whatever you do, do something!