I Was Terrified of CrossFit
I’m an athlete at heart – very competitive and willing to put in the work. But I have struggled for the last 15+ years to find an effective workout and diet regime that works for me. I was a team sports girl – softball, volleyball, and basketball. Since that ended for me in high school, I’ve floundered trying to find my niche. Sure, I’ve experimented with diet and exercise here and there but because of a past history of anorexia, I’ve always proceeded with caution. I knew I needed to exercise for health reasons but how to exercise was the question. What was the most effective way to get from Point A to Point B?
First, I tried a gym membership. Gym rat, I was not…in fact, gyms pretty much gross me out. I can’t stand showering in public places, waiting for an impersonal date with a machine, and staring mindlessly at a TV as I churn out the same workout day in and day out. If I didn’t go, I felt guilty because I wasn’t using my membership but when I did go it seemed I had to do a lot more work to get the same lackluster results. I realized there was a reason they made you sign on for 2 or 3 years.
Next, I tried a personal trainer. That worked for about a month but I lost interest. I didn’t lose weight and I got bored with the same exercises rearranged over and over at an exorbitant price. I also didn’t like someone barking in my face. I started to tune out this “noise” because it rarely had to do with safety or making the movement more effective. It was merely cheerleading. I also injured my wrist (without weight lifting) during this month which made it difficult for me to perform my job as a physical therapist. The exercises themselves seemed okay but I could not relate them to real-world movements. TRX straps are all fine and dandy but unless I install a set in my bathroom, I cannot come up with a scenario where I will ever hold onto straps as I squat? The trainer seemed more interested in coming up with the latest, greatest workout craze that would make him money…not helping me.
I resorted to a self-led strength and conditioning program a few years ago…something I knew little about despite my physical therapy education. Remember, I grew up in the 80s and 90s…leg warmers, step aerobics, and food pyramid, baby. So I did what I knew – 30-45 min of cardio or strengthening alternating days 4-5 days per week. I coupled this with strict caloric intake consisting almost entirely of Diet Coke, prepackaged Lean Cuisine meals, and lowfat frozen yogurt from McDonald’s. Remember, I can DO disordered eating – restricting food intake and dropping weight come easy for me but talk about a slippery slope!
Yep. I dropped 15 pounds, got into a size 6 jeans, and got “healthy.” This should prove to folks that education doesn’t make the man. I have a freakin’ Masters degree in physical therapy and anyone in their right mind knows that what I described above is not healthy. I know that it’s not healthy but I did what most everyone does when it comes to weight loss – I took the easy route. I knew that I wanted a strong, sexy physique but had no idea how to get there. Remember, that our understanding of fitness and health is ever-changing. What someone learned 20, 10, even 5 years ago in school is outdated. Instead of relying on someone who is trying to sell you something, do your own research. I relied completely on what felt comfortable. I relied completely on what someone else told me (smart, I know).
So enters CrossFit. Something I knew little to nothing about. My husband had mentioned CrossFit years earlier and I had completely ignored him. I had also mentioned CrossFit to my trainer…who expressed his distaste of it for a myriad of reasons (all of which I’ve later found to be untrue). As a physical therapist, I had also been exposed to several patients who had been injured doing CrossFit. Needless to say, my opinion was not high.
I was terrified going to my first workout. I didn’t know what to wear, how I would stack up…or if I would survive. I thought I held my own during that gosh-awful experience but I recall the coach asking me if I wanted to sit down because I was void of color??? Despite the hard work being performed, the group seemed to be having a genuinely good time. They were supportive of each other and they were SO STRONG. The coach wasn’t just cheerleading, she was really coaching. The kind of coaching I remember – refining my movement to get better and helping me set realistic goals.
After all I’d been through with fitness and wellness both personally and with my business, I vowed to understand what CrossFit was all about before moving forward. I’d been very passive and had relied on others to educate me and I was done with that. I attended a CrossFit Level 1 training course to get a better idea of CrossFit as a workout regime, an organization, and a way of life. I’d be lying if I said that was an easy experience for me. It was not. It was humbling at best. I cried…a lot. I was mad at myself…for letting my body get in the shape it was in…but mostly for not finding CrossFit sooner. I had made so many mistakes that cost me time, money, and emotional energy both in the business and personally and all of that came bubbling to the surface during a horrible introduction to Fran. Oh, well…live and learn.
The course left me wanting more. I was impressed with the science behind the CF approach as well as the training I received. I have been to numerous physical therapy education courses that were a waste of time – this was not. The freedom to run with the basics of CF appealed to me and I found Coach Glassman’s teachings to be straight forward and easy to grasp. Quite honestly, I was impressed with the complexity that came from the simplicity of CrossFit. That sounds weird but CrossFit is, at its core, functional movement – the same functional movements we teach our physical therapy patients. These are basic movements we all need when we are 90…that is unless you plan to have suspension straps in your bathroom. The cool thing is that you can manipulate and twist these movements in varying intensities and levels to accommodate anyone.
My fears about CF causing injury were eased. Yes, you can definitely get injured doing CF. You can also get injured tying your shoes. Does that mean you should stop tying your shoes? CrossFit is meant to be delivered in a small group setting under the watchful eyes of experienced coaches – if this is what you are doing, your chance of injury is minimal. If you are stupid and do something your body is incapable of doing, you will get injured. If your coaches are stupid and lack programming knowledge, you will get injured. If your coaches do not correct your technique and demand excellence, you will get injured. But can this not be said of any sport??? I’ve seen way more runners and baseball players on my caseload this year for injuries than I have CrossFitters. Beyond this, I’ve seen WAY MORE patients for conditions related to deconditioning and obesity than I have sports injuries combined. Bottom line, be active but don’t be stupid.
Beyond getting hooked, I’ve realized that I’ve never actually worked out before now;-) I used to think that the 20-lap warmup my basketball coach had us do every night before practice was excessive. I had no idea what challenging was before CF. The beauty in it though is that I left my workout this morning feeling that I gave everything I had – this workout took me 22 min, 24 sec to complete whereas it took another athlete just over 11 min. I didn’t feel defeated, I felt empowered that I did 15 of the 50 repetitions with the prescribed weight – way more than I’ve ever done previously. I wasn’t competing with the other athlete (although his pace was inspiring) – I was competing with me.
I feel so blessed to be a part of CrossFit Conversion and the CrossFit community as a whole. The CrossFit world can be scary and intimidating because it’s an unknown to those who haven’t tried it…not because it’s really scary and intimidating. The way CrossFitters dress. The stacks of weights and tractor tires. The sweat. The noises. The lingo. All of these things add up to a very unnerving and scary experience until one day you find yourself asking about snatch technique and how to master your kipping pull-up.
I accepted that it was not going to feel comfortable right out of the starting gate. But comfort was what I was trying to avoid, right? Comfort is what gave me Elastigirl belly skin dang it. I have found that it is in the most uncomfortable of settings that we grow the most. And so it goes…I was primed for change. Asking questions eased my nerves. At CrossFit Conversion, I was surrounded by experienced, passionate folks so I never hesitated to ask, “How do I do this?” or “What does HSPU stand for?” I started to make up my own abbreviations, so now in addition to OHS, PP, DU, and KBS…I talk about my TTEB (teeny tiny elbow bends) and PRWOPP (personal record without peeing pants). Humor does help when you are going through life change.
I cannot emphasize the life change side of CrossFit enough. I look forward to seeing the next workout (WOD) posted and determining if I can do it as prescribed (RX). I want to learn more and push myself more every day. I want to coach but realize that I have a lot to gain in terms of experience before I feel comfortable stepping into such an important role. In my work, I’ve found myself teaching my patients to squat the CF way. For the first time since 6th grade, I’ve stopped weighing myself multiple times per day. I’ve actually gained weight doing CrossFit and after some initial grumbling, I’ve gotten over it. Remember those 15 pounds I lost a few years back? Well, 10 of them are back in the form of muscle. My clothes are fitting me differently though and I definitely look better in a bikini. The most notable thing for me is that I’m focusing more on what I can accomplish physically in the gym (box) than the number on the scale. I can make myself skinny – but skinny for me means losing some of the capabilities I’ve gained in the box and I’m unwilling to do that. My husband, a non-athlete has also grown to love CrossFit. He’s overhauled his diet and is at the box 3-4 days a week. For the first time in our married life, I feel like we are going to be healthy as a family.
So what about results? Pictures say it all so I’ve included some before and after pics. My results have been obtained with some moderate diet changes (which is my next area to focus on), no supplementation, and no PhotoShopping…hehe. Beyond the changes in my physique, I’ve learned to do double unders (couldn’t do 1 when I started and now I can do 25 in a row). I can string 4 kipping pull-ups together (couldn’t even get close when I started). My deadlift has increased by 50# and I’m working hard on those dang handstand push-ups!!! I started working out seriously the week of September 19, 2012, which means I just passed the 13-week mark. Starting out, I was able to workout 3 days per week but in the last month I’ve tried my best to get in 4-5 workouts per week. This is a stretch for me with running a business and having 3 kids but I’m doing my best.
When I talk to anyone about CrossFit, I refer to it as “uncomfortable fitness.” That sounds awful but I have never been more sore than I was the first 3-4 weeks of CF. It hurt to laugh, to roll over in bed, to sit on the toilet, to smile even. But that got better with time and now I struggle with knowing how far to push myself without sacrificing form. Sure, I’ve had aches and pains but I’ve found that as my strength improves, I notice my old ACL repair and wonky shoulder less and less. I’ve never felt stronger, more confident, or more energetic than I do now at the age of 35.
I never see myself doing anything other than CrossFit so it’s only onwards and upwards from here! I never want to forget how hard it was to start though…