Living La Vida Crossfit

(I have to thank one of my favorite bloggers, Charlotte at The Great Fitness experiment, whose post on CrossFit, inspired me to get off my butt and write this post that has been percolating in my head for a week.)

The countdown begins.  Before it ends I hear “Athletes Ready”, and I look around before realizing that the coach is talking to me.   My WOD (Workout of the Day) has begun and for the next 15-50 minutes I will push myself completing prescribed exercises, trying to move a little faster, lift a little more and push myself a little harder than the workout before.

If you had told me seven months ago that I would be a devoted CrossFitter, I would have been the first to laugh.  My husband had just started doing CrossFit and was singing its praises and trying to get me to go.  And I would demur, “It looks too hard…. I’ll just hurt myself… I would miss the elliptical… I’m not fit enough to doCrossfit and people would laugh at me”.

Then my husband participated in a “Throw down” which was a group CrossFit competition at the box.   I came to the throw down with the kids to take photos, and provide moral support. There I saw a variety of people, from the very buff to the chubby, women who babies less than 3 months ago, and a woman in her 60’s, all competing in different events.  And even though it was a competition, everyone cheered everyone else on.

(Little did I know that 3 months later, I would be competing in a Thrown Down.  Yes, me, Maryrose, the girl who turned ditchng PE in High School into a “Cat Ate My Gymsuit” type art form.)

I was intrigued, and signed up for the trial class at CrossFit Synergistics.  And got my butt kicked.  But I like a challenge and there were women at the trial class in the same shape as me, so I signed up for the Foundations Class, something our box insists on to make sure that you know how to do the moves frequently used in Crossfit.  And everyone who wants to work out there goes, from a true newbie like me, to my husband who has long lifted weights and was a NSCA certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist.

I do not look like what you might think a typical crossfitter looks like.  I am a little overweight, but not as much as when I started.  I use bands to help me do pull ups, but the bands are getting progressively smaller.  I went from not being able to do a single real (non-knee) push up, to being able to do 15 in a row.

These small gains, steadily made while being cheered on by my coaches and the other athletes in the box are what keeps me coming back.  When I first started working out, every WOD scared me.  Now, I look at even the toughest WOD and figure out the best way to scale it to work within my fitness limitations, but still give me room to grow.  If I am unsure about scaling, the coaches are always there to provide suggestions and a gentle push in the right direction.

People talk about Crossfit being a cultish activity, and while that may have some merit, that can be said of the die-hard Zumba, turbo kick, or boot camp devotee.  We fall in love with our exercises for many reasons.  For me, it’s because Crossfit works for me.

I have also tried the Paleo diet.  There is a lot of dissent among the Paleo people about the use of dairy, but I enjoy my greek yogurt & butter.  Even Robb Wolfe, who is considered one of the top authorities on Paleo Eating and Crossfit believes that to get 95% of the benefits of Paleo, you only need to eat 85% Paleo.  I would say that I shoot for the 85% and am probably in the 70-75% range most days.

And with doing the Paleo I learned things.  I learned that if I eat a bowl of pasta I don’t feel well, so instead of pasta several times a week, a small serving is an occasional treat.  I’ve learned that I if I limit my dairy, my stomach feels better, and that I really enjoy sweet potatoes.

I have read the complaints about Crossfit/Paleo, but I really think that most of them can apply to any workout/diet.   Anything taken to excess is bad.

Is CrossFit hard?  Absolutely, but I am so much more satisfied after a 15 minute WOD than after spending 45 minutes on the elliptical, than hitting the bagel store next to the gym and wondering why I was still fat.

I know my limits.   I have worked out in boxes in MA, NYC and Maryland, and every place I went, I was pushed to do my best, but at the ends of the day, the limits I set for myself on movements, weights, repetitions or assistance, (bands, knee push ups) were respected by the coaches and other athletes.

It’s the people who work out with no respect for their limits and do not listen to their body and rest when their body says to rest and makes the modifications to fit in with their bodies needs that are asking for trouble.

If you want to learn more about Crossfit, choosing a box, and the frequency with which you work out, I recommend the website of my former box.

Today I am 10X the athlete I was back in February when I wandered in for my introductory class, and next February I expect to be 10X the athlete I am today.  The gains will be steady, the gains will be slow, but thanks to the support of my husband, the coaches and the other athletes, the gains will be there.



By the way, I’ll be at BlogHer’12.  I am hoping to meet bloggers from the Fitness World and many others there!  If you are going, please leave a note in the comments.