June 18, 2014 by jmflamm
CrossFit Day One
I first began hearing about Crossfit years ago. I remember Bob Harper on The Biggest Loser raving about how it’s changed his entire approach to fitness. I had been interested for awhile. I remember watching part of the “CrossFit Games” that they have annually. Everyone looked so good. A few friends of mine even suggested that I try it out, because of the experience they had. Everything was positive.
Then I decided that I was going to do it and all I could find to read about it was negative:
There were stories of injury, cult-like followings, and bad form in weight lifting. It seemed to me like maybe I shouldn’t try Crossfit after all.
Another thing keeping me from trying was the price. Crossfit gyms are pretty pricey, at least for my income bracket. Last month, however, I came across a Groupon offering it for just $49 for one month unlimited classes or $79 for two months unlimited classes.
That took away that barrier.
Another barrier I had made up my mind about was that I wasn’t fit enough to do Crossfit. If you watch the videos, the things they do seem pretty crazy and the people do them seem in damn good shape. Then I started talking to other friends about it and they told me how there is a good mix of people that do it at their gym and that they thought I could handle it.
Another barrier stripped.
So, what about this injury thing? I started to think about it and I can definitely see where the injuries could occur. They do a lot of back work (deadlifts, snatches, etc) and people do that stuff wrong all the time. I wasn’t even for sure that I did them right at this point. I think in any exercise program or class you are going to have people overestimate themselves and try to do things they shouldn’t be doing. Whether that’s Crossfit or a box gym… that stuff happens.
What if I went into it cautiously? What if I decided to give it a shot and made a promise to myself to be smart about it. What if joining a cult is really what I need in life? (That last part I just made up, I never thought that).
Another reason I decided to join is because I thought it would be great for my younger brother to do. I had just started working on a program with his nutrition and he needed a new exercise program. He’s in better physical shape than I am and he strives on competition. The classes are set up to compete against yourself as well as other people. This is another reason some are against CrossFit. So, I decided to join and someday maybe bring my brother along with me.
My first day I was super nervous. It just happened last night (upon writing this). I had a meeting that let out an hour before the class started and I didn’t want to drive all the way home and back, so I went to a local brewery to read “Race to the Top” a free ebook by the Personal Trainer Development Center and have a Schlafly hefeweizen beer. It’s a lighter beer so if I puked it up during class at least it wouldn’t be so awful.
The class was about eight of us and I immediately noticed something that set me at ease… most of these people were in worst physical shape than me. I don’t mean that to dis them. It was just true. I remember looking and thinking “what the hell are these people even doing here?” They were clearly going to struggle with this and unless they really watched what they did, could end up hurt. Maybe that’s why the negative press lately? More and more people are willing to try it because they’ve been hearing about it for years. The average age and physical condition a person is in when they try it is obviously going to go up and down (Respectively) when you start appealing to more and more people like that. The average person that does Crossfit a few years ago has changed compared to the average now.
The class was in a big room where there were squares marked off for each of us to have our own station. Each station had a big rack that held bench press, a barbell, extra weights, and rings attached to ropes. The first set of classes, this gym called “Ramp Up” classes. They are specifically designed for smaller groups to learn the fundamentals for real Crossfit classes. I thought this was a great idea and it seems to me a much safer idea than just throwing someone in a class expecting them to know what good deadlift form was.
We went through a basic workout that an hour long class would go through. The warmup, which involved burpees, planks, and stretches. The strength section of the workout which involved deadlifts, bench press, and ring rows. The ABCs of the snatch (not the anatomical part). Then finally, we got a taste of the famous WOD (workout of the day) which today, for us, was jumprope and situps tabata style.
The warmup was cool because it stretched the back a lot. Knowing about all the back exercises it was comforting to go through this first. The strength section was a constant stream of sets of 5s over and over again for 15 minutes. So, I’d do five deadlifts, five benchpress, and five ring rows then repeat over and over for 15 minutes. The instructor walked around making sure people were doing it correctly and with good form. He corrected a few members, which again was awesome. I was a bit surprised of the compliments he paid me for my good form. Guess I have been doing them correctly.
Insecure truth time: I wore shorts, even though I knew I shouldn’t because when you deadlift with proper form the bar should scrape your shin… well, I scraped the hell out of my shins. So, why the hell would I wear shorts when I knew I shouldn’t? Because of my insecurity about being too “big” for the class, I wanted to show off the part of me that was a lot of muscle; my legs. I have some pretty mean calves. Well, if I had worn pants, no one would’ve seen that. Therefore, they may have judged me more harshly. Of course, none of that effing matters… but that’s how I thought going into it. When I saw the others that were in the class I silently reprimanded my ego. I wish I had worn pants. Wear pants to Crossfit everyone. Don’t be dumb.
After the strength came the ABCs (basics) of snatch. This is probably the most popular Crossfit move. They take the barbell with weights and yank it (snatch it) over their head and then down into a squat. I was surprised at how bad at this I was. When I went through the steps slowly I was able to do well. But, when it came time to go full speed I wasn’t bringing the bar into my hips enough. Which results in using upper body to pull the bar up instead of momentum from your legs.
This is probably why people get hurt.
Knowing this, I continued to work on my form. We were also using a very light “technique” bar to do this part. Which again, kudos to them for setting us up to not get hurt. I still don’t feel great about my technique, but now that I know the steps I can work on it on my own.
After the snatch learnin’ we went to our WOD (workout of the day). The WOD has kind of become the thing for Crossfit. It’s usually a workout that complements the daily activities and its supposed to be pretty tough. I think ours was dumbed down a bit (a good thing) for our first days. Tabata style means a high intensity workout that consists of 20 seconds of work and 10 seconds of rest, usually over a period of time like 8 minutes. Like I said, our WOD was jump ropes and sit ups. We were told to count continuous reps (so, if I do 45 jump ropes in 20 seconds, the next 20 second workout with situps I need to start with 46. Then continue to add them all together. I did 244 total). It was also over a 5 minute time frame.
This was a good workout for me and the rest of class. I definitely felt the pain of the competition when the guy next to me told me he had done 50 jump ropes in the first 20 seconds compared to my 35. I felt the twinge of “I want to beat you” after that. PS, I didn’t beat him.
After we were done the instructor asked us how many reps we had. I had finished in the middle of the class. Which again struck my competitive nerve.
Overall, I was pretty happy with my experience and didn’t worry too much about the number of reps or additional weight I added because I wanted to really utilize these classes for my form and to gather where things could go wrong down the line.
I’m not interested in injuring myself and I wanted to make sure it was safe. So far so good. It was a good workout, even if it was dumbed down and I am looking forward to the next class. I don’t plan on joining the movement (or cult) and I probably won’t become a paleo eater (most Crossfitters follow paleo diet), but I do enjoy a good workout and at least a mild sense of competition. More than likely, when my two month unlimited access is done, so am I, with Crossfit.
But, I’m glad I’m trying it out myself instead of simply reading about what others have to say and wondering if I could even do it. I now know I can and I get to see how much it will help me.