This week marks three months since I began the most intense workout regimen of my entire life, CrossFit.
What led to me beginning CrossFit was a realization that, if left to my own devices, I would never push myself hard enough to truly make the changes I needed to in order to get in shape. Occasional jogs and going through the chest-and-biceps motions of a traditional gym simply weren’t going to get it done. I also knew that there was no shot that I’d be able to stick to a diet if it didn’t coincide with something more offensive, like physical training of some sort that demanded I take in more nutrients and less garbage.
And so on July 21st, at 258 pounds and sick of seeing my giant moon-face on TV everyday, I walked into the CrossFit Lighthouse in Wantagh, Long Island and submitted to a long-overdue comeuppance. I marched my Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man-frame into a firefight I wasn’t truly prepared for. It’s 90 days later and I still have a long way to go to get back to the old me. But I’m happy to report that for the first time in years I feel like I’m back in control and can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Every day I get closer.
For those who are thinking about trying CrossFit and rewriting their own futures, below are the first ten things that will happen.
1. You will find out how truly out of shape you are. It is likely that your first few sessions at a CrossFit gym will consist of stretching and basic instruction. You will likely sweat like a pig and require numerous breaks to catch your breath even during this relatively easy phase. This is because you are engaging and stretching muscles that have been dormant for years. You will also be sucking at the air for every molecule of oxygen you can get. It will be a week or two before your lungs are really open, prepare to gasp like a newborn taking its very first breath.
2. You will realize how fat you and other regular people are compared to real athletes. This is because your certified instructors will have the physiques of comic book superheroes. You will weigh 40% more than them but they will be somewhere between 50 and 150% stronger than you. It will make no sense that such “little” guys and girls are that much more powerful than you; it’ll be rather disorienting, especially if you’re a big guy like me who thought he was “strong” walking in. The instructors are not huge or freakishly jacked like traditional body builders, but I wouldn’t want to bet against them in any contests of strength. The idea is to be able to lift heavy weights but in as efficient a manner as possible, and then to be able to run a mile while the old school body builder huffs and puffs behind you. And you, big guy, are not strong. You are fat and incidentally may be able to lift some weight up. You will learn about real strength very soon.
3. You will begin learning the lingo and using it without feeling like a dork:
- WOD or Workout of the Day: This is the combination of exercises, prescribed weights and time allotment that will be the law of the land from the first class to the last. Typically a WOD will consist of one gymnastic move (pull-ups, ring rows, sit-ups etc), one aspect of cardio (rowing, running, jumping rope etc) and one Olympic power-lifting maneuver (back squats, clean & jerks, dead lifts, push-presses etc).
- RX: When one does the prescribed amount of weight and reps, one is said to have RX’d (as in, he or she followed the prescription).
- Box: CrossFit centers are not called gyms, they’re called “boxes” and many of them resemble just that. Typically they’ll be in warehouse-like spaces with cement walls, exposed rafters criss-crossing the ceiling and nought but a black mat covering the length of the floors. There are no smoothie bars or aerobics studios in one’s peripheral vision, just the iron bar you’ll hang from, the weights you’ll thrust up above your head and the ground you’ll drip your perspiration and occasional tears into until you feel as though you’ve become a part of the place. This is your box. There are thousands of CrossFit boxes across the country, but this one is yours.
4. Your friends and family will start Googling the term CrossFit and giving you warnings. “Oh, you’re doing that Cross thing, I think I just read something about that…” They will come across a rare disorder wherein people push themselves past the exhaustion point until their muscle fibers begin to break down and slip through the bloodstream into their kidneys. They will also come across stories about injuries and the like associated with CrossFit search terms. The reality is that these types of injuries can and do occur with any kind of training if taken too far and under the wrong type of supervision. You are equally likely to be injured while ice skating, lifting weights alone, horseback riding, surfing or doing any other type of strenuous activity if you are engaging recklessly and not taking the proper precautions. I would also note that there is an ongoing fear-mongering campaign being waged by the traditional fitness clubs and gyms. They see the proliferation of the CrossFit movement across the country as a massive threat to their membership rolls. There is no possible way that a guy doing his usual leisurely circuit around the same 12 or 15 machines in a gym is ever going to get the intensity of a workout at a CrossFit box.
5. You will get insanely good at counting. Everything in CrossFit is about reps. 20 clean & jerks followed by 10 box-jumps topped off with 30 sit-ups, then repeat five times and compete for time. Think about the counting, the counting down, the mental division of large quantities of reps into small, more manageable-seeming blocks. “Okay, let me get five more then take a breath and then just three more and then only two sets left until I’m three fifth’s of the way through the five rounds.” This is the kind of conversation you’re carrying on with yourself in the heat of the W.O.D. and you’ll become very proficient at counting backward as well – “seven more…six, five more, c’mon, four…” Whatever it takes to get you through.
6. You’ll begin to respect endurance and stamina. When you’re a kid, your idea of strength revolves around… Read More