This is another in a series of personal reflections penned by Elite Athletic Development / CrossFit Arlington Heights / CrossFit Axis athletes about the mental, physical and emotional changes experienced since joining our health & fitness community. The following reflection was originally posted by new EAD / CFAH athlete Amy H on her blog as Honey Badgers Hate Burpees. Keep up the great work, Amy — we look forward to your continued success!
Have a story you’d like to share? Email your reflection to firstname.lastname@example.org … we look forward to hearing from you!
Less than 24 hours after I wrote this post about how gym class was and is the worst thing ever in the history of things, I signed up for gym class.
Yeah. Back story: round about January or so, I was feeling like crap. I wasn’t sleeping well, I was tired all the time, I felt out of shape, full of stress and generally blah. Plus my pants were getting too tight and I sure as hell wasn’t going to buy new bigger pants. Thanks to the amazing moderate temperatures and lack of snow of the Best Winter Ever™, I started walking on my lunch breaks. Then I added a morning walk, too. And by April or so, the walks weren’t quite enough anymore. I was feeling better, but I still wanted to get into better shape. I knew I wasn’t the healthiest me I could be. I joined (well, rejoined – I was a member there a few years ago) a gym and added my least hated cardio, the stationary bike, into my routine a few days a week. That was pretty awesome for a month or so and then I hit a wall. Not literally. It’s a stationary bike. Although if anyone could manage to hit a wall on a stationary bike, it would probably be uncoordinated, out of shape me. Anyway, I’d slave away for 40 minutes on the bike almost every day (in addition to my daily walks) and I wasn’t seeing any results. Not in the mirror, not on the scale, not in my pants (That’s What She Said) and not in the way I felt. So I decided to add some strength training. I started adding in some dumbbell work and putzed around on a few of the weight machines. This helped a little, although I struggled a lot with selecting how much weight I should be using. But still, that stupid wall would not budge. I tried adding in more variety to confuse my muscles or something like that. Enter yoga and ballet. Next, I turned to interval training. Even though every fiber of my being screamed NOOOOOOOOO DON’T DO IT!!!!!!, I slashed my cardio workout in half. Instead of 40 sweaty boring, butt numbing minutes on the bike riding between levels 2-5 or so, I turned to HIIT. I started a routine of 30-45 seconds of biking at the highest intensity I could muster without dying (usually around level 12) and then 15-20 seconds of rest (rest for me was biking at level 2-3). Lather, rinse and repeat for 15-20 minutes. This was very difficult for me, because everything I had always been taught and believe was that cardio was all about calorie blasting, and the only way to accomplish that was to spend at least 30-40 minutes per session. Incredibly, I saw huge results quickly. I felt better, I slept better and when I did go back for my old skool 40 minute ride, I found myself hanging out at higher intensities. I was hovering between levels 5 and 7 instead of 2 to 5. This made me stop and wonder what else I knew for sure was right was actually maybe misguided. Or even wrong.
Enter CrossFit. I first learned about CrossFit from my current workout hero, Jamie. She’s a rock star. For realz. Jamie did cardio forever, and while she really enjoyed running, I think she was hitting that wall that I would eventually find. But CrossFit didn’t just open a door in that wall, it obliterated it. At first I was totally in denial. “That might have worked for her, but there’s no way I could do that.” “I’m too out of shape to start CrossFit. Jamie was a long distance runner. I’m a sloth.” “I’m sure cardio will eventually work for me.”
Sidebar: I do not believe cardio is bad. I still walk almost every single day. Mostly for stress relief, but it keeps me moving. And I still occasionally make a trip to the gym to blast some miles on the bike. There’s something satisfying about seeing those miles add up on the bike and having proof I accomplished something during my workout. And if I hadn’t started walking and then moved to the bike and tried yoga and ballet, I would have never attempted CrossFit. And even if I did attempt it, I would have ran to my car during the warm up never to return again. There is a little bit of snobbery in the CrossFit world, and they tend to look down on the person I was. When I go back to my traditional gym, I don’t judge (or try my best not to judge) what anyone else is doing. Unless you’ve stationary biked 100 miles in someone’s gym shoes, you don’t know who they are, where they have come from or what their goals are. Worry about your own workout and leave your judgy pants in the locker room.
OK, back on track. I watched Jamie’s journey through CrossFit and was in complete awe. Not that she wasn’t fantastic before CrossFit, but now she’s even more confident, stronger and all around amazing. I started to do some research on CrossFit. Mostly Googling things like, “can fat people do CrossFit?” or “will CrossFit kill me?” and trying to convince myself that CrossFit wasn’t exactly like gym class, even though I knew it totally was. Or worse. I discovered an official CrossFit box (that’s what they call their gyms. boxes. heheheheh. they said boxes) less than half a mile from home. Dammit. And they have a sort of “intro to CrossFit” training course. Dammit. And it started the next week. DAMMIT. I signed up. I tried not to throw up. I walked away. And then I ran back to my computer to send a panicked email to the owner about my concerns that I just did the stupidest thing ever. I explained a little bit about my journey, my fitness level, my goals and my concern that I might be in over my head or hold back the training class. I got a lovely response back reassuring me that everything would be fine, and that motivation is the #1 thing they look for in new athletes. And then I teared up a little bit because no one in my entire life ever had referred to me as an athlete. I felt a billion times better and started
dreading looking forward to the first class.
Back story over. Now on to what this post was supposed to be:
What I Have Learned After My First Two Weeks of CrossFit
- I am weaker than I thought. I used to tell people, “I’m really pushing it at the gym. I’m dripping with sweat when I get off the bike.” “Level TWELVE.” But these workouts kick my ass. HARD. And then they wait for me to get up and they kick it again.
- But I am also soooo much stronger than I thought. These workouts don’t kill me. I kill them. And I come back for more.
- I would like to find whoever invented burpees and punch them in the genitals
- I can run. My biggest fear going into CrossFit was the running. I have always had knee pain when I attempt to run, and I was going to walk in and let them know I couldn’t run. But before I knew it, we were off on our first warm-up, running around the building. And my knees didn’t blow up. I didn’t die. I was a little sore, but I didn’t get hurt and now I’m even running a few laps as a warm up when I go back to my traditional gym. Who’d a thunk it?
- I can jump.
- I have the upper body strength of a T Rex.
- But I have legs of steel.
- It really, truly, absolutely is OK and in fact, perhaps 100% necessary to throw out your scale. And to eat enough to fuel hard workouts. I’m a few days away from feeling confident enough to obliterate all traces of calorie counting, weight tracking, faux-health apps from my iPhone.
maybe sort of kindaan athlete.
I love my box (seriously, though, do I have to call it that? CrossFit gym. I love my CrossFit gym*). They are perfect. There are amazing people doing amazing things that inspire me and give me hope that one day I can look at the workout they are doing without feeling nauseous. They push me to push myself and accomplish more in a workout than I ever thought would be possible. But they also keep me safe and modify/scale things down for me when necessary. And don’t make me feel like a loser for having a scaled workout. And while I was addicted to logging miles on the bike, there are so many other ways to view accomplishments and track progress and growth. These workouts usually take just about everything I have, so at the end, I’m not always left with that satisfaction of a job well done. Although the high fives and encouragement from the coaches, classmates and others at the box help a lot. But while I might not be able to bike to Atlanta (one of the ways I used to motivate myself to bike was to track miles and plot my way along a course to Atlanta, where my fiancé resides), progress is just as evident through CrossFit. On our very first day, we did a workout for time. It kicked my ass. I couldn’t even complete the whole thing. It involved a 250m run followed by 20 reps of: squats, sit ups, push ups, jumping pull ups and wall balls followed by another 250m run. You can see how this might terrify my non-running, T Rex armed self. By the time I got to the jumping pull ups and wall balls, I was clearly looking close enough to death that our coach told me I only needed to do 10 reps of them. I was too relieved to even feel a tiny bit guilty or inferior for not doing the whole thing. We met three times a week for two weeks. On the sixth class, we repeated that day 1 workout. Not only did I knock 38 seconds off my time, but I also did all the reps of all the exercises. Suck on THAT, bike to Atlanta.
*I am in absolutely no way paid or otherwise compensated for mentioning Elite Athletic Development. In fact, I’m a little worried they might read this and make me do extra burpees. Ha!