I started to hear the word "CrossFit" about five years ago. I didn't know much about it except the workouts were grueling and it involved equipment that you wouldn't find at your traditional gym.
CrossFit also maintains a website where you can find workouts and watch demonstration videos. I was able to find some workouts that didn't require equipment and I tried them out in my backyard. They were short, but intense, and it was a nice change compared to long distance running.
Then in December, my husband and I decided to buy each other a month of CrossFit as our Christmas gifts to each other. It might seem like an odd gift but we had been considering trying it out for a while and this seemed like a good time to try something new. We were one month removed from a half marathon and it was one month before I needed to start training for a spring marathon.
I started my CrossFit prep courses on Monday, December 16, the day after my 31st birthday. (Most boxes require you take a prep course to learn the basics before moving on to the group classes.) The format of the classes included a warm up, stretching, learning one of the techniques (power cleans, kettle bell swings, etc) and then completing a workout.
Now, let's talk about that workout. In a whirlwind of rowing, squats, push ups, sit ups and pull ups I found myself gasping for air and my mind racing with thoughts.
"I thought I was in shape. I'm not. I thought I pushed myself. I don't."
This was the reality I faced after a workout that lasted all of nine minutes. A nine minute workout! How on earth did a nine minute workout make me feel this out of shape? I've ran for four hours at a time, yet this nine minute workout clearly whipped my butt.
On Tuesday (Day 2) of our course we worked on a push press and box jumps. I had never done a push press before so it felt awkward. I had done box jumps before, so they were familiar but still difficult.
After Wednesday (Day 3) I made the following notes:
"Can't say it was easier, but didn't feel like I was going to pass out. Deadlifts took a lot of concentrating since I've never done it before. Burpees were easier. I've had some practice with those."
Thursday (Day 4) was our final day of prep courses.
"Hardest workout yet. Haven't felt like that in years. Thought power clean would be hard, but felt like a break compared to wall balls and burpees. Finally a graduate. Wasn't sure I would make it."
On Friday we decided to jump right in to our first group class.
"Survived my 1st group class at 5:30 AM. Almost lost my breakfast. Oh wait, I didn't eat breakfast before class. Workout consisted of jumping lunges and hang squat cleans."
I had survived my first week and the benefits were starting to show. When I got dressed for work on Friday, I moved my belt down a loop. I also noticed the reoccurring pain in my left hip from long hours of sitting at work was gone. My low back was strong. And the recent pain in my left shoulder was also gone.
I started to realize that even though I had developed good cardiovascular health through running, I had done so at the expense of ignoring strength and flexibility. Functional movements also became easier: picking up a full laundry basket and carrying my laptop.
I also realized that I can greatly benefit from having someone or a group to motivate me. You may think you are working hard, but until you have someone standing over you, telling you to go faster, you're probably not working to your potential. It's hard to maintain that kind of intensity on your own. During each workout I had the following thought, "I'm not going to make it." Then in a few seconds, that thought passed and I would go on to push myself further than I thought possible. It's been an eye opening experience.
I'm still in my first month of CrossFit, so I'm very much a newbie. I have been seeing some progress. I also get really frustrated. Some movements are familiar to me and some seem very awkward. Some days I think I fare pretty well and some days I get my butt handed to me. That makes it challenging and that's why I keep going back. I'm excited to see what CrossFit has in store for me.
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