Dipping A Toe Into CrossFit
I have a friend that recently started going back to a CrossFit gym. His goals are admirable and attainable, and he’s using social media as his accountability partner. This gym has a “friend Friday” policy that allows you to invite someone to try the gym at no cost. So much good is going on in those first three sentences. Here’s where the needle scratches off the record.
It has been quite some time since my membership to the gym has lapsed. I’ve been lying to myself that intermittent 5Ks and a few jogs around the neighborhood have been enough for my fitness maintenance. Truth is, I know I need a gym community to inflate my motivation and keep the fire burning. It’s not that I’m not a self starter, it’s more that I’m too freakin social. So I call up Rudy to see if it’s cool I tag along for friend day.
We just had an unusual snowstorm, businesses reduced production, grocers were wiped clean of essentials, newscasts advised everyone to stay put if possible. By this Friday most of the harm was over and the rhythms were balancing back to normal. Rudy wasn’t planning on gym day, my call changed his mind. The universe shifted.
The gym is in an industrial area, long buildings with nameless roll-up doors and a handful of sandwich board signs presumably to comfort any newcomers that whatever place they are looking for is just up ahead. I found the door that was designated CF by the sweat stained handprint sliding down and to the right like you’d expect on the promo poster from a B-grade slasher flick that features unnecessary nudity.
It was quickly explained to me that the purpose of friend Friday is to do a together work out. One goal to work towards together. Then a clipboard full of warnings, declarations, emergency contacts, funeral arrangements, next of kin registration and do not resuscitate agreements had to be signed and initialed. Trisha was behind the desk and was actually smiling. I honestly thought she was being friendly.
I changed into appropriate clothing met Rudy in front of the daily plan board. He told me that we will obviously modify the plan and kind of sort of do our thing but let’s get the warmup going. Warm up was a mix of the row machine, push-ups, sit-ups, back extensions (picture laying face down on the ground and pretending to get your 1 inch wiener 3 inches in the padded floor, no hands) and pull ups.
After the warm up we go see Trish for the days program. Turns out, we aren’t going to be modifying much! Start by running with weight outside, come in and one partner will do kettle bell swings, deadlift to overhead thingamabobs, and burpees. The other partner will throw a medicine ball up at a target that’s roughly a hundred feet high. We are done when we’ve combined 150 hits on that target or 20 minutes have passed. Seems quick and easy, right?
First off, let me explain this partnership, neither of us are slouches by any stretch of the imagination, but we definitely have distinct differences in our genetic code. Rudy is a tall, big man with long strong legs and I am a short squat fella, quick and competitive, I will push myself to keep up no matter what. I thought. Basically what I’m saying here is: if we were playing to our strengths, I would most likely take all the pull-ups and pass the buck on throwing a heavy ball up at a target I couldn’t reach with a ladder, I’m the runner, he’s the lifter, so on and so on.
I am committed to being a good partner and don’t want to interfere with anyone’s goals, so I not only declare that I’m comfortable with the heavy kettle bell and medicine ball, I also believe it. We set up the barbell with some light weights (this is one smart decision finally) and then find a sandbag to run with and watch the clock.
I’m truly grateful that this gym is in an industrial part of town. I have been poking fun at crossfitters for years specifically for what I’m about to do, run down the street dragging a cinder block like a junkyard Doberman.
The clock hits :00 and we’re on our way. This is good, I actually enjoy running and have been considering running with a weight vest for the extra training benefit. We run at a pace that allows us to converse and I am getting the needed fellowship I came here looking for. There’s a cone marking the turn around point, it came pretty quick and boom, we’re heading back to the gym.
Once in the door, I head to the medicine ball while Rudy does the 3 other torture techniques. There’s a trick to throwing a big ass ball up in the air and I don’t know that trick. But what I lack in knowledge, I make up for in grit. By the time I have missed the target 3 times in a row, I hear a voice advising me to get low. I assume it was Trisha but it might have been lil’ Jon, the world may never know. When I responded “OKAY” it was definitely my inner lil’Jon. It helped, and I’m hitting the target again. I counted the misses though, maybe that’s cheating or maybe it’s learning. But they counted to me!
My pace was on point, this is going to be a breeze! I was already planning on the trash talk on my friends who are religious CrossFit cultists.
I was up to 42 ball tosses when Rudy finished his burpees. Fatigue was peeking around the corner but hadn’t formally announced herself. We tagged over stations, so my new objective is 15 kettle bell swings, 5 ground to air lifts and 10 burpees, I think, I have a board in front of me to clarify if need be. I chose to start with the kettle bell. This sucker gained weight since we picked it out, the unit of measure is kilograms so the one we picked out was roughly 10-15 years depending on good behavior. Correct form is hump air, swing arms, moan, repeat. I’m the new guy in the corner humping and moaning with tears disguised as sweat and I caught Trish’s eye contact for a split second. She had the look Wile E. Coyote has when a new ACME box arrives. After the barbell and before the burpees, I would have totally ran into a painted tunnel.
Midway through the burpees I began to feel the reflux. This exercise got its name honestly. Like if the guy who named burpees was in charge of naming tequila we’d be taking shots of “letstradeunderwearrightnow” every Cinco de Mayo. As I jumped up, so did the contents of my stomach, but my body obeys gravity. When I was a teenager and in tip top shape, my wrestling coach would occasionally declare a practice to be hell day. We would sprint lines and stairs between high intensity interval drills and inevitably someone would vomit in the wastebasket. I was never “that guy” then and am determined not to be him now. My competitive nature drives me to look over at Rudy and the ball. He can high five the target, but it doesn’t appear any easier for him either. I finish my burpees and let him know I’m done with the set. He calls off a number, my heartbeat ringing in my ears does not allow me to comprehend. Water. I need water.
So does he, whew! The shadow of fatigue has fully embraced me. I’m wrapped up in a blanket of exhaustion like a lost adventurer in a space blanket instruction manual.
I believe the number of wall ball is at eighty something now, so I get back to it. The pace has slowed to a crawl. The ball seems to have gotten bigger, and for some reason it’s impossible to catch. Every throw returns with violence. I get low, try to explode through my legs but from afar I just know it looks like a store supplied motorized cart shopper reaching for the top shelf breakfast cereal. I see the others, keeping a pace, almost dancing through the routine, grinning, chatting, more reflux pops up. My mental blockers are strong right now. I can’t go on. There’s a moment of out-of-body experience. Your mind looks at the pathetic body below and says “yo buddy, decision time” A theme song from a random action movie clicks on. My mind returns and plays a higher vibration. I throw this stupid ball up at this stupid target and actually catch it again. Repeat.
Rudy called for the switch. I’m slightly embarrassed to inform him of the number. His response was “wow” but not the sarcastic wow I was expecting. I’m inspired. I jump over to the kettle bell and swing through the warm spot pain I feel in my right hip. Probably just a hernia, go on! I got to 6. The self talk is back and not good. I took a knee. “Get up… get UP!” I tell myself. Rudy is also slowing down. I get 5 more swings in and collapse. The Kgs must have increased to life without parole. There’s only 4 left I tell myself. And on to the barbell.
I tried a couple different techniques to go from ground to above my head, I changed my grip and experimented with width of grip. I knew these were mind games to take the focus off my inner voice. It worked. I made it through those reps relatively quickly. All that was left was the burpees. I look to the board to make sure I’m doing the correct amount of reps. The board looks like one of those 3D abstract art pieces the malls all had in the late 90s. I tried focusing behind it, then just on one letter, then stepping closer, further, cross eyed. Hey maybe they should rebrand this as crossEyeFit.
Floor. Kick back, push up. Kick up. Jump.
The rest of the set is a blur. I moved lethargically and with awful form. Not my best work. Head was down, doing it’s best to keep the steak and asparagus that was last nights dinner down too.
I look over at my buddy and he looks as wore out as I feel. “Only five to go!” He informed me. Ugh.
I meander to the ball, take a knee and ponder the life choices that got me to where I am today.
I took so long to pick up the ball, poor Rudy started swinging the kettle bell!
I got my shit together and hit the target with dramatic flair. Done
I realize I need to get back to a routine. I need to get this body prepared to keep up with children and capable of performing when called upon. I truly enjoy pushing my limits and expanding my capabilities. I love HIIT, Yoga, TRX, and such. I won’t be joining a CrossFit gym though! This is batshit crazy, my “don’t be a wuss” mentality will absolutely get me injured in this environment.