Having started CrossFit for the first time about one year ago I figured it’d be fun to reflect on how far I’d come in that time.
Progression staff came to HGST to introduce us programmer/engineer-types to CrossFit, a new benefit our company was going to provide to all its employees. After a short discussion on some general concepts and terminology they set up a 5 minute timer with a short, body-weight WOD: 3 rounds of 10 air squats, 10 burpees, and 10 ABMAT sit-ups.
I failed miserably.
I was not able to complete it within the 5 minute time limit. Not only that, I was pretty much unable to stand afterward; my thighs had hit the wall somewhere during the second round of burpees.
Walking, if you could call it that, back to my office I was amazed at how humbling a simple sounding workout like that was. Could I really be that out of shape? Back at my desk I was feeling queasy… fairly queasy… really fairly queasy… from a 5 minute callisthenic workout.
I used to work out 5 days a week or more when I moved to Rochester, and for many hours a day. Granted I hadn’t done that in over 10 years. It was one of the first things I cut back on as I began working longer and longer hours, got married, had kids, and generally explored life. I was still able to do everything I wanted to do so no harm, right?
I wasn’t fat, was I? Sure, my jeans size had increased over the years, but that happens to everyone and I was far from overweight. Lots of people would tell me how I was a skinny looking person. Well sure, I’ve always had a high metabolism. So yeah, I was totally not overweight.
(6’0″, 217lbs… pshaw)
Working out was something I should have been doing, though, and I knew this. I’d hazard to guess pretty much everyone does. But repeated instances of a thrown-out back made it all the more difficult to find time to heal and still get everything done I needed to do for the family, work, friends, and myself. Random aches and pains would come and go at most in-opportune times. Life was getting less and less fun as I got older and older. Again, this is something we hear all the time. I didn’t expect my life to necessarily be any different. Perhaps I was cursed with poor musculature or biomechanics that predisposed me to pain and injury, particularly when I throw my back out just by reaching across a table for something or picking up my four year old son.
On the other hand, my wife was nearly religious when it came to her running. I should probably do something. It was high time I tried working out again. I made a MWF 6:30p CrossFit schedule a priority. I visited the CFP box, which was at that time located in a space behind a Slumberland furniture store, taking up some of what used to be loading docks. I couldn’t even find the front door at first, but eventually I saw the CFP sign on the same door as an MMA studio. Walking in any preconceived notion I had about what I’d find at a CrossFit gym went right out the window: black rubber flooring, bull’s -eyes 10 feet up the walls, music blaring, and people literally throwing loaded barbells around the place…
“Umm… is this okay? Are you guys supposed to be doing stuff like this?”
The look of confusion must have been fairly plain on my face; Shawn strode over and helped me learn what to expect, what to bring, and when and where to be for my first HGST CrossFit intro session. Driving home from CFP I was excited about going, until I remembered how hard that 5 minute near-vomit experience had been.
The day had arrived. The hour was upon us. We were a group of roughly 15 HGSTers, ready to join the ranks of elite fitness. Shawn was taking us through a warm-up routine, consisting of basic bodyweight movements: lunges, inch-worms, bear crawls, etc. After inch-worming to one end of the room we were instructed to run back.
I failed miserably.
After nearly falling on the floor Shawn instructed me to sit the rest of the warm-up out and to roll out my quads. I sat in the corner with a short bar that I would roll across the tops of my legs.
“Sit out the rest of the warm-up? This is so embarrassing. I can’t even make it through the warm-up! You legs are useless! What wimpy pieces of programmer veal… so disappointing.”
Subsequent CrossFit sessions were no easier, but there was progress. I was able to complete the warm-ups without looking like a complete buffoon or being told to sit in the corner. They were still hard, and it was nearly everything I had to be able to complete them, but I did it.
At this point the WODs were total extra credit. I scaled everything about as much as I possibly could and was still unable to complete AFAP WODs under the time limits. AMRAPs were my friend. I could at least “complete” those and have a score.
Workout after workout I was dead last. Regardless of progress, which was coming relatively rapidly since fitness-wise I had a lot of low-hanging fruit, repeatedly being “last” weighs on your mind and spirit. But then one day something amazing happened.
The WOD was an AFAP which included 400m running, box jumps, and maybe some wall-balls in there, too (it was a while ago and before I started logging my workouts). It started out pretty much like the rest of the WODs up to that point: fine until my legs ran out of glycolic juice, at which point everything became a Herculean effort. Running became slow (slower? It was already slow when my legs were fresh). Wall balls were broken into twos or threes. Box jumps became a hazardous act of either faith that your feet would make it onto the box or contrition that if they didn’t you’d wind up in some horrible messy broken heap on the floor and would no longer have to endure the pain.
Finally I made it to the last round of running. As I slowly hobbled down the stairs to do the out-and-back 400m run the last of the rest of the class was passing me on their way back into the gym. To this I had become accustomed. My slow plodding run allowed me to at least continue running the whole way. Here’s where something new happened. About 100 feet from reaching the door the rest of the class was running out again… did they add another round? Did I miscount? Did I really have to do another one after this?!!! When they reached me they filed in beside me and cheered me into the gym. They cheered me all the way through the remainder of the workout. They helped me complete my first AFAP, under the time limit. I collapsed. The others congratulated me and put my gear away for me. By the time the cool down was complete my muscles decided they had enough, took their ball, and went home. My spirit, however, was soaring. The 35 year old walking to his car on a pair of wet noodles for legs wouldn’t… couldn’t stop smiling.
Eventually the introductory classes ended and we folded in with the rest of the CFP community, and I felt no less love there than I had come to know in the intro sessions. At some point I stopped being consistently “last.” If I found time during or especially after a WOD to cheer others on I would, a kindness which was returned many times over by friends, acquaintances, and strangers alike.
It was awesome. I had never experienced the combination of group accountability and support like this in a fitness program. You worked harder, pushed yourself, pushed others, made new friends, and achieved new goals. The new community of people focused on health, which helped me set new goals for my own health. My lifestyle improved radically.
Instead of being in a downward spiral of dysfunction and disease I was experiencing a compounding improvement in quality of life. The way I ate, my quality of sleep, energy levels, mood… it all improved. I no longer had any aches or pains when I rolled out of bed in the morning. I improved the biomechanics of my movement, further reducing the risk of injury for even the littlest things, like picking up your son. I lost weight… a lot of weight. Weight I didn’t know was just waiting to come off. Improving my diet and exercise routine over the past year I lost 40lbs and 6 inches from my waist (it was an expensive year for jeans). I’m actually slowly gaining weight now but it’s not from fat. New muscles are popping out here and there and I’m in no way dreading summer at the pool. On top of that I competed in my first CrossFit Open competition, something I would have never even considered doing a year ago. Not only did I compete, I had fun doing so.
A few more reflections… I had attended a PR Challenge at CFP during July, 2013. My best numbers there were a 115lb snatch and a 105lb clean and jerk. Nine months later my snatch PR is 135lbs and the clean and jerk is 170lbs. Nothing earth-shattering but I am easily in the best shape of my life now, even more so than when I worked out all week long for multiple hours a day. More importantly my quality of life is higher and I’m better prepared for whatever life throws at me.
What a difference a year can make. Thank you CFP and to everyone in the CFP community!