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Monday
May282012

After One Month of CrossFit - Key Learnings

I've been a part of the Crossfit world (or "cult" if you ask some) for just over a month now, having officially joined Crossfit Dilworth a few short weeks ago.  In that time, many of you who read this blog have had questions about Crossfit, and hopefully I've been able to address a few of them.

With that said, I'd like to cover some of the key learnings I've had in my first month of Crossfit, as well as attack a few of the misconceptions that also exist.

 

1 - It exposes your weaknesses.

Despite having completed four half-marathons, I am NOT a good endurance athlete. I played football and ran track in college, so my attributes are more in-line with that sort of athleticism (plyometric explosion, short bursts of energy, Olympic lifting).  On several WODs, for the first round or two I would be fine. Whether it was burpees, box jumps, kipping pullups, or even cleans, I would sail through easily for the first few rounds or minutes. The tough part was looking up at the clock and seeing 10-12 minutes left on a 15:00 AMRAP.

My weakness has been endurance with a focus of not running out of gas early on in each WOD. Crossfit has exposed that, and shown me where my area of focus lies moving forward.

For someone else, they may have loads of endurance however they simply lack explosive or general strength. Another person may struggle to manipulate their bodyweight on a pullup bar. If you're an athlete, odds are that you are strong in some area, but probably weak in some other. Whatever the case may be, Crossfit will expose it.

 

2 - Crossfit gyms are minimalist.

The first time I walked into Crossfit Charlotte, I remember feeling overwhelmed and initially out-of-place. The music was loud, there was lots of loud thunderous talking, barbells and bumper plates were clanging everywhere, it was a shock to the system. Then I remembered that I used to LOVE this type of environment. My high school weight room was just like this. I had become soft and watered-down by fancy fitness facilities with climate-controlled temperatures, tons of vanity mirrors, ceiling fans, and fancy TVs everywhere.

Five minutes into my time at the Crossfit Charlotte facility reminded me of why I fell in love with training in the first place. It wasn't fancy, but it's not supposed to be. Sometimes fancy is bad, and less is more. Crossfit gyms are about function not fashion. They're not about comfort. Actually if your gym feels "comfortable" then I would question just how hard you are actually working while there.

 

3 - Crossfitters are encouraging.

I forgot all their names, but the Crossfitters that I met during my first WOD blew me away with how nice  they all were. The vibe was so welcoming and encouraging, that made a lasting impression.

While on a business trip to San Diego, I looked up a gym called Crossfit Mission Gorge. Using the GPS device (I still made a couple wrong turns) I found the gym location and walked in hoping to join for the one day walk-in fee. The coach was extremely nice and treated me like a guest (in the good sense).

My home gym, Crossfit Dilworth has the same vibe.  Our toughest WODs bring out the team atmosphere for which Crossfit has become famous. Even the most intense workout fiends that would normally scare people off, shock you with their encouraging attitudes towards others, particularly anyone they notice who may be struggling through the closing stages of that workout.

I have been floored with the balance of intense competitive nature with team-oriented behavior I have seen at virtually every Crossfit gym I've either visited, or heard about through close friends.

For those of us grown-ups who miss the camaraderie from playing on teams in high school and/or college that simply isn't achieved through running groups or fitness classes - Crossfit offers the closest facsimile that I've ever seen.

 

4 - It truly is scalable.

One of the biggest misconceptions is that the same weight that Person A is lifting, will be mandatory for Person B.  A good Crossfit coach instructs (or sometimes mandates) people to drop weights down from the prescribed load to an amount that allows the person to finish the WOD while maintaining proper form and technique, which obviously decreases injury risk as well.

 

5  - There is a twisted pleasure in the struggle.

I mentioned earlier that if a person's workouts are "comfortable", then I would challenge just how hard that  person is working. I would challenge how much that person is pushing his or herself to improve. Any improvement (physical in this case) comes with a degree of struggle. Doing the same elliptical or treadmill workout for 6 months consecutive will almost certainly result in a plateau and stalled improvement. 

The more I become familiar with Crossfit, I feel as though it is not about "being the best". It's about being YOUR best.

Whatever you are going to attempt in life, why not try to be your best at it? Why not try to become the best version of YOU that you can be at that one given thing?  But the road to your best begins with steps. Those steps involve improving every time out, every WOD, little by little.

It means five pounds more on your dead lift.

It means finally getting your chin over the bar on your kipping pullups.

It means you get through 10 burpees without gasping for air, when last month you were tired after three.

The bricks laid by focusing on improving yourself at one thing, little by little build a foundation. Eventually you will look back and marvel at what you have built.  The journey becomes the entire point of it all.  You begin to see the pleasure in the struggle.

CrossFit Games competitor Miranda Oldroyd put this into words beautifully with her blog post (link below) capturing her thoughts and feelings when spirits were low during a poor showing at Regionals. Her writing not only applies to Crossfit, or other fitness endeavors, but frankly applies to any walk of life that requires a mix of hard work and persistence over time.

"I could chose to be sad or to fight....I chose to FIGHT."