Finding Your Strength In CrossFit

| Fitness

kettlebell red

When I first heard about CrossFit, I thought the people who do it were absolutely nuts. Only a crazy person would do a one-mile run, followed by 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups and 300 squats—and then another one-mile run. And what good is a workout that lasts only 10 minutes? The whole thing made little sense to me—until I started doing it myself.

While looking for a new challenge, I stumbled across the CrossFit homepage. All of their workouts (or WODs, which stands for workout of the day) are posted. Some focused on just strength, while others were purely based on cardiovascular activity. Others were a combination of both. So, I decided to write one down and do it on my own at the gym. From that moment on, I was hooked.

I never worked as intensely or lifted as heavy—and in such a short period of time. I decided to try a demo class at a local CrossFit box (they are called boxes as opposed to gyms). In the eight-and-a-half minutes that the workout lasted, I managed to burn nearly 200 calories. If that is not a sign of quality over quantity, I do not know what is. My fear of CrossFit was completely gone.

But, if you feel like I did before trying it firsthand—scared, unsure, intimidated or just confused—here are 14 reasons why you should not feel that way at all:

The CrossFit people you see in magazines and on television are not what you will see when you go. There is only one Rich Froning and Annie Thorisdottir (champions of the CrossFit games). You will not walk into a CrossFit box and find that everyone has massive muscles or can do unexplained feats of strength. Just like a regular gym, the CrossFit community is made up of all shapes and sizes with varying levels of fitness.

woman using trx

The workouts, although tough, are always scalable. If you cannot do an exercise for any reason, you can modify the exercise, use a lower weight or do something else. You will always be provided with options. So if you cannot do a pull-up, for example, there is a band to assist you or you can do a TRX row.

The only competition is the one with yourself. People who CrossFit are always looking to improve their time, their strength and/or their speed. What they are not looking to do is beat you. Many of the workouts are timed so the goal is to improve your time the next time you do the same workout (which can be several weeks or months later). The same goes for lifting weights. CrossFitters are always trying to hit new PRs (personal records) in terms of how much weight they use for a given exercise. They are never trying to compete with you.

No one gets left behind. One of the greatest moments I had doing CrossFit was just the other day when five out of the six of us completed the workout and one woman was still finishing hers. We all cheered her on, encouraged her to keep going and shouted words of encouragement like “you got this” or “you are almost there." The point was that none of us left until she was all done.

You get constant help and guidance. Many of the exercises require a lot of precision and skill and a good trainer will help you with that. On my last visit, I could not master a certain advanced move and was told repeatedly what to do to fix it. It was humbling to see that even a seasoned instructor can be thrown off her game by one exercise, but it was extremely helpful and I appreciated having someone there to correct me and show me the right way to do it.

The workouts are a mystery, but that is a good thing. Unlike a kickboxing class or spin class, you do not know what you will be doing that day when you walk into a CrossFit session. For some, this can be a bit nerve-racking not knowing what to expect, but look at it this way—if you did know, there is a good chance you may decide it is too hard and skip it. Once you arrive, there is no turning back, but you will always get a great workout no matter what.

People will be impressed. There is a bit of a stigma around CrossFit. And if you begin telling people that you do it, you are going to get some raised eyebrows. No one has to know that you just started or that you have not quite mastered a pull-up. But you are most likely doing something that they are too timid to do themselves so they will be very impressed that you have the guts to do it.

woman push up on weights

Your ability to do the exercises and workouts is going to amaze you. I never thought I could do one hundred kettlebell swings, use a 55-pound bar for shoulder presses nor do countless burpees without losing my lunch. But guess what? I did all of that and so can you. CrossFit’s mentality is to push you as much as possible so that you reach goals you never thought you could and do things you only wish you could. And you will be pleasantly surprised by just how much you can actually do.

Completing a WOD is like winning the lottery. These workouts are not for the faint of heart. The level of intensity is very high so when you actually get through one, no matter how ugly it may have been, you literally feel like you just won the biggest prize in the world. The smile on your face, the disbelief in your head that you actually did it leaves you with a feeling that is almost indescribable.

You become part of a very tight-knit community. Upon my very first CrossFit class, I was immediately greeted and getting fist pumps from the regulars. After class, they all gave me more fist pumps followed by some “good job” praise. I realized that these people are all very supportive of each other.

The way you look at yourself will change. After you begin doing CrossFit on a regular basis, you will quickly see your body transforming and by that, I mean muscles popping out, tummy’s tightening and shoulders getting broader. All that hard work does pay off in big ways.

No one will ever question your commitment to exercise. It is easy to say that you work out, but when you say you CrossFit, people know you mean business. And since most people do it several days a week, there will be no doubt in anyone’s mind that you are truly committed to getting strong and being healthy.

woman with kettlebell

It becomes an addiction that you never want to quit. Some addictions are very bad for you, but not this one. As tough and intense as the workouts are, once you have completed a handful of them, you cannot wait to do more. The adrenaline rush you get when you set a new PR or master a new lift leaves you with an almost euphoric feeling that you never want to stop.

No one will ever judge you. People do CrossFit for many different reasons. So why you are there does not matter to anyone who is also there. You will not be sized up, made fun of or sneered at if you cannot do something or look odd trying to do something new. The only mantra that CrossFit has is that you come to work your hardest and give it one-hundred percent. Basically—check your egos, inhibitions and judgments at the door.

Having gotten some friends to try CrossFit, I can tell you that they are absolutely hooked. One of them just hit a new PR for deadlifts and was ecstatic—as she should be. It is that feeling of accomplishment and knowing that you worked so hard for it is why CrossFit has become such a popular way to exercise. It proves to you that you can do what you once thought was impossible to do.

See if your local CrossFit box offers free demo classes. This is a great way to get a feel for it without committing to it just yet (as it can be pricey). Make sure, however, that the trainers are paying attention and making sure your form is correct. You can also take one of the many WODs that are posted on any CrossFit affiliate website and do it on your own. Be warned—while they often look easy, doing them is not. And you can pick one that meets your goals whether it is greater cardiovascular endurance or improving your strength. There is a WOD for whatever you want. I promise that once you get through your first one, not only will you feel great, but you will want to keep going and setting new PRs as often as you can!