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People sometimes shudder and give me an uneasy look when I tell them that I went straight from a long period of no exercise to speak of to doing Crossfit three or four times a week. Crossfit has a reputation for being intense and brutal.
Consider a conversation I had with a Crossfitter in Portland, Oregon. He was telling me how strenuous and challenging Crossfit workouts were for him when he first started. I asked him what he had been doing before he started doing Crossfit. “Oh,” he said, “Mostly I was running marathons.” Yes, he did say marathons, plural.
I should probably explain how it is that I wound up joining Crossfit. Back when we lived in Kansas City, we had awesome neighbors, Jen and Erin, who were the two most in-shape people I had ever met. It seemed like every time I saw them they were leaving for a bike ride or coming back from a run. One day they told me that they had started doing Crossfit. I had never heard of it and had no idea what it was. But over the next several months, every time I saw them it was evident there was a physical transformation taking place. They went from generally in-shape to super-athletic and strong. I had an awareness that this thing they were doing was changing them.
Fast-forward to July, 2014. My family and I had just moved to North Carolina. We decided to take a break from the summer heat and go for a walk in the air-conditioned climes of University Mall. We were walking through the mall and we saw Crossfit Chapel Hall, located between an upscale food store and a hair salon. “Isn’t that what our neighbors did?” I asked my wife. “I guess they have Crossfit in North Carolina, too. I wonder what it’s like inside. Hold on a second, I’m going to check it out.”
I walked in and immediately was spotted by a guy with both arms sleeved in tattoos who was hoisting a barbell with an obscene amount of weight on it onto his shoulders. (I have to confess that when I walked in the door I wasn’t even sure that the object he was lifting was called a barbell. Were barbells the long ones or were those dumbbells?) He came over to me and as he introduced himself, the only thing I could think was, “Holy crap! His biceps are thicker than my thighs.”
I am pretty sure our conversation went like this:
“Can I help you?” said the guy with giant arms who turned out to be Jason, the owner of the gym.
Attempting not to stare at his arms, I answered, “I just moved to town and I once knew somebody who did Crossfit in Kansas City.”
“Um, okay… are you interested in doing Crossfit?”
At this point I realized that this was a possible outcome, which I didn’t think I had fully realized until then. “I’m not sure,” I stammered.
“Well, the first step is to come to class and try it out.”
“Can I come back tomorrow?”
“Or, you could come to a class this afternoon.”
Slightly panicked, I responded, “No, I’ll come tomorrow.”
When I left that day I was unsure if I was going to come back the next day.
The next day, July 21, 2014, I went to my first Crossfit workout and signed up to come back the following day for my first on-ramp orientation class where I would begin to learn the form for the various lifts and moves they’d have us do.
When I woke up on July 22, it seemed like every single muscle in my body ached. Quads, abs, glutes, biceps, and muscles I didn’t even know I had much less the names of. I limped into the gym that afternoon for my first orientation session.
And, here’s the thing, I kept going back. For the past year, the past 52 weeks, I’ve gone to Crossfit at least three or four times per week, every single week. Every. Single. Week. That means I’ve gotten far more exercise in the past year than I had in the previous eleven years combined.
I kept coming back. I came back when it was sticky and hot outside. I came back when a snowstorm had shut down the town. I came back sore and stiff. I came back after a workout had left me gasping for breath. I came back after workouts that left me overwhelmed with tears of frustration. I even kept coming back after literally walking out on workouts that seemed impossible. I kept coming back.
Click here to read the next post: The Cult(ure) of Crossfit