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Thoughts on CrossFit from A Woman's Perspective - Part One

From an outsider’s perspective, CrossFit can be intimidating – particularly among females.  I figured it was important to give a few of the ladies I train with at CrossFit Dilworth, a chance to express their thoughts on the sport, as well as the impact it has had on both their fitness, and lives overall. 

This is the first portion of what will hopefully be a series of testimonials to come…





As a female, what does CrossFit mean to you?

"To me, CrossFit is challenging, intense, intimidating, painful, exhausting, nauseating, exciting, empowering, and exhilarating. It's not just a workout...it's a lifestyle, it's a community, it's a support group, it's an extended family.

It's nerve racking and panic when learning the day's WOD, yelling and bitching while doing it, and then wondering what torture tomorrow's WOD will bring because you can't wait to get back and do it all over again."


How has CrossFit changed the way you approach your fitness?

"CrossFit is a commitment and it's a passion. It gives me the desire to push myself to the limit and to do more and do better. I feel guilty if I leave the gym knowing I somehow could've done more, whether if it was an extra few reps or a few seconds faster.

 I was a competitive athlete up until college and have remained physically active since. CrossFit has changed the way I work out for the better and has provided more changes in my body than years of previous exercise programs. I can deadlift 250lbs, press 150lbs over my head (which I never had a desire to do until I started CrossFit), and I am strong... but I am not bulky or manly looking (so ladies do not fear!)"

What would you say to other women who may be scared of, or intimidated by CrossFit?

"For any female on the fence, give it a shot. It's the most fun you'll have while working out and you'll meet some of the best people and make some of the greatest friends...especially if you come to CrossFit Dilworth!"





As a female, what does CrossFit mean to you?


"CrossFit is not only one of the most effective fitness programs, but also a way of life (not to sound too corny or anything...). For me, CrossFit started out as an awesome workout, but has grown to be the hub of my community and friends.


The best part: CrossFit is the vehicle to reach my definition of personal success. CrossFit is like having a second job - but one that you are overly passionate about and give your all to on a daily basis. It’s wonderfully rewarding, but can also be painfully frustrating.

Some days you feel like you are on top of the world, and other days you feel like the world is coming down on you. Like all other walks of life, there are good days and there are bad. But each day is new and you get to continue to work on your personal goals towards achieving things you never would have thought you could have done 6 months ago.


I believe CrossFit touches everybody who tries it, in different ways. For some, it’s simply a workout. For others, it’s a way of life. Many find camaraderie in the tough workouts, and friendship in the after hour parties. A few find CrossFit to inspire a new career as a coach. For me, CrossFit meant something much different when I started to now. Before it was just a tough workout. Now It has become a road to community and friendship. Above all, it is empowering and inspiring especially as a female athlete."

How has CrossFit changed the way you approach your fitness?


"Crossfit has definitely changed the way I approach fitness. Before CrossFit, you could call me the generic old "cardio queen". I ran alot, would do some light dumbbell circuits here and there, but no structured programs and definitely no heavy weights - because, as many girls complain, I didnt want to get "bulky". I could lose weight easily this way, but I had no tone and no definition in my physique. But as I began Crossfit and learned more and more about it, I realized i had been doing it wrong all along.


The key to fitness is not to spend hours upon hours in the globo gym on the treadmill, stairstepper, or elliptical... The key is to lift HEAVY. I had never truly seen the type of transformation that I have seen in females' physiques until I joined Crossfit. Women that say they are scared of getting "bulky" do not understand that they will absolutely NOT get bulky with Crossfit unless they are eating a certain way and taking tons of supplements.


So to say that my approach to fitness has changed after discovering Crossfit would be a huge understatement. I am a strong believer in short, high intensity workouts now over long, slow endurance based workouts (that I did as a former cardio queen). Fitness can be defined in many ways and varies largely for most people, but I truly believe CrossFit is one of the most effective forms of fitness out today."


What would you say to other women who may be scared of, or intimidated by CrossFit?


"YOLO. No just kidding.

 For those ladies that may be intimidated by Crossfit, I would say to just jump in there and give it a try before you judge it. You can never truly understand something until you experience it for yourself, so why not try it out? What is the worst thing that could happen? I know at first it is very scary and intimidating- people throwing around barbells, all chalked up and dirty, yelling profanities, loud music and super ripped guys/girls sweating through their clothes. But when it comes down to it, you are only doing it for yourself.


 Crossfit is an amazing fitness program, and regardless of intentions when you first walk in that door, it will leave you breathless and sore for a few days. I will say that women specifically should ease into it, especially if you aren't currently working out at an advanced level. Crossfit is great for everybody and will not only give you a great workout, but will help you build muscle that will in turn burn fat (if that is your goal). You will NOT become bulky.


Another thing - Crossfit can be modified for everyone, according to your level of comfort and/or any past injuries or sensitive areas. There are always ways to scale a workout, so do not ever feel like you can't do something. So to women who may be scared or intimidated, just give it a try before you completely blow it off! You may just end up falling in love...."



Weight Loss All-Stars: Preston Thomas

Next in the line of inspiring stories coming out of CrossFit Dilworth - Preston Thomas outlines his story  that is typical of so many Americans, except for the fact he decided to do something about it.


1 - What was your weight at your heaviest?

205lbs. I am only 5’9.5

2 - Describe yourself back then.

It was the end of my junior year of college when I started to put on weight and it just ballooned through senior year and right up until I graduated law school. I had terrible eating habits. I ate massive amounts of calorie-laden food.

My favorite was Japanese drowned in shrimp sauce with at least 4-5 glasses of sweet tea. That occurred on a regular basis.

I exercised sporadically and never did any cardio. In law school, I went to class, studied, and ate. No real activity ever during those 2.5 years.



3 - Where did you start when you first decided to lose weight?

It was right after I finished law school. No job, studying for the bar. At first, the only thing I did was cut my portions in half. I ate all the same foods I was eating before, just half…sometimes a little less. My health obsessed/mildly crazy girlfriend (now my wife) educated me on calories and portion sizes. Apparently I was eating enough for 3 grown men at each meal.



4 - What were the 1-2 biggest keys in transforming yourself from then to now?

1. Diet – I lost 35 pounds in about 3 months just by changing diet. This was before I started a regular exercise program. I wasn’t “fat” any more and was getting a ton of compliments but I still wasn’t where I wanted to be.

2. Exercise – When I first started a consistent exercise program, it was your basic cardio and strength routine. 30-60 minutes of cardio and 3-4 days of strength training.




5 - Approximately how long did it take for the weight to come off?

It took about 6-9 months to reach 155, my goal weight. That is what I weighed my senior year of high school.



6 - What is your current weight?

145 pounds



7 - What role did CrossFit play in helping you reach your current weight?


CrossFit didn’t necessarily help with weight loss, it helped with changing my body composition. I was  strong and in shape and looked fine, but CrossFit plus switching to a majority Paleo diet really decreased my body fat percentage.

Within 2 months of starting CrossFit, I had more changes in my body than 8 months doing my old routine.



8 - Any advice for people out there that think transforming their body is next to impossible?

Once you put your mind to it, it can be easy. Stay prayed up on it and commit yourself mentally to diet and exercise. It really is 100% mental. It isn’t immediate and it takes work. Know that and keep with it.
A strong support system is also really key.

Having supporting family and friends played a large role in my weight loss journey, plus the coaches and people at CrossFit Dilworth who make you WANT to be in the gym, getting better each day.



Weight Loss All-Stars: Sebastian Ekberg

Some of the most popular content on this site has been weight loss transformation stories.  Those that have enjoyed that content have a lot to look forward to in the next few weeks as I have quite a few amazing weight loss stories to share from regular everyday people.

Several of my teammates and coaches from CrossFit Dilworth have experienced tremendous weight loss over the past couple years, and leading off is one of the most inspirational body transformation stories I've seen - Sebastian Ekberg.

I PROMISE the Before and After pictures are legimiately the same guy.



1 - What was your weight at your heaviest?



2 - Describe yourself back then (age/stage of life, eating habits, level of workouts vs inactivity).

I was 21 and in college. With the stress of school I pretty much let myself go, I really didn't care about eating healthy and I felt that were always watching what they were eating were not enjoying life.

I've always been an active person so I surfed a lot and would go to the gym to lift once a month or so. There were a lot of sports and activities that I wanted to do but I really wasn't able to due to my weight (Windsurfing etc).

When I would play sports with my friends I would always be exhausted very quickly and could barely run a mile. I think I actually feared that one day someone would make me run more than a mile, I dont really know what situation that would arise in but I generally stayed away from any physical activity that would last more than 20 minutes.



 3 - When you first decided to lose weight, where did you start?

I had tried several different diets before (weight watchers, atkins, etc) and had lost some weight but then gained it back.

My decision to lose weight occurred when I hit my own "rock bottom". I was on the Super Bowl special of  "Man vs. Food" and during the course of 3 hours I at an entire cake, several burgers, A Katz NY Deli Rueben, about 30 wings, and a 2 foot long cuban sandwich. I slept amazing that night, best food coma ever. The next morning I woke up and said to myself, "ok, mabye it wont hurt to lose 10lbs."

 4 - What were the 1-2 biggest keys in transforming yourself from then to now? (diet change, lifestyle change, workouts/CrossFit, etc)

The 2 biggest changes I made early on that resulted in the weight loss were:

Diet change:No Soda, ever. Switching all of my refined carbs to whole grains, no more white bread, rice, pasta etc.

Exercise: The first month all I did was walk on the incline treadmill for half an hour each day. I tried to make sure that I always burned 600 calories a day, incline walking will do that at 350. The most important thing was reminding myself to stay consistent, dont show up to the gym training like its a "Rocky" montage if youre not going to go back the next day to do it again. I scaled back my workouts to make sure that I didnt get burned out and stayed consistent, as my body started changing I increased the intensity to accommodate.

My biggest point to make would be that weight loss is 90% psychological, you absolutely have to change your mentality of how you view your life. I used to only look at food and think about what it was going to taste like, now I look at it as what is it going to do for me.



 5 -  Approximately how long did it take for the weight to come off?

3 months. Its kind of extreme, sometimes people think I starved myself but my plate was always full haha. I just made sure to eat filling foods that were fiber and protein rich.



6 - What is your current weight?




 7 - What role did CrossFit play in helping you reach your current weight?

When I started Crossfit I was running a lot. I weighed about 218 but wasn't really that athletic. Crossfit helped add on muscle mass that I was missing and it made me look at fitness a whole new way.

I used to go to the gym to stay in shape so it was kind of a chore. I now look forward to go WOD everyday because of the amazing community that CrossFit has and how everyone is like minded in their pursuit of better fitness.





 8 - Any advice for people out there that think transforming their body is next to impossible?

Always set short term goals, small victories add up. Don't think about losing 100lbs, focus on short term goals of 5lbs at a time and make sure to track it. I would always tell myself, "ok I lost 5lbs, lets see if I can lose another 5". I still have my weight tracking written down in a journal.



When It's Good To Be The Worst

Most of us enjoy being comfortable. I'd venture to say an equal amount of us enjoy being "the best", or at-least good at certain things.  A great question to ask however when comfortable or one of the best is,  "am I actually improving myself?"

Unless you are a freak of nature (in which case, my blog really won't teach you anything), improvement does not happen in stages or environments where one is comfortable or even proficient. 

Improvement occurs along the path of discomfort. 

People cannot be afraid of putting themselves in environments where they may mess up, or "fail".   Not to continue making everything about Crossfit...but this next anecdote involves Crossfit (sorry Crossfit Haters).

This past weekend I entered my first-ever Crossfit event.  The Crossfit for Hope event is a charity fundraiser to benefit St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital. Participants (and their affiliate gym) raise donation funds for the right to participate.  As I've covered previously, these environments can be very intimidating upon first walking in. Thankfully I'm a part of a tremendous gym that has a great team-oriented mentality.  We had more than a dozen members there, cheering each other on during our respective heats. Shot of me trying to recover before the final round, thanks to encouragement from Brendan, one of the teammates at my CrossFit gym.

Having only been doing CrossFit for close to six weeks, I am reminded daily that I have a LONG way to go  before I can hang with the "big dogs". Fairly consistently I am in the bottom 25% of the group when it comes to WOD times or rounds achieved. During the Hope WOD this past weekend I only improved my score by two points (from 191 to 193) and definitely ran out of gas during the 2nd round of 3. 

 I am not a person who enjoys being "bad" at anything (especially competitive sports), so you can imagine what a beating Crossfit gives my ego on almost a daily basis. There's actually a bit of embarrassment that comes with being one of the final people to finish a tough WOD while the fitter members cheer you on and encourage your effort (only because I'd rather be the fit one encouraging everybody else).

So you might ask, why do you even put yourself through this stuff?

Why even do Crossfit if you're so bad at it?

If you ask that question, then you're respectfully missing the whole point. It's BECAUSE I'm bad at Crossfit that I keep coming back for more. I love the fact that it shows me where my athletic deficiencies are. I love the fact that on a daily basis I find something else that needs lots of hard work and improvement.

I'm not the only one.  On a Sunday "Open Gym" session we have several girls who have struggled with their Olympic lifts, showing up to throw barbells around with the guys. They're not afraid to tackle their weak points. They're not intimidated by barbells and bumper plates, they attack them head on, even during a "free" day when they could easily have been on the couch or out at the lake. They chose to come in do work with the guys, and fight the fight to better themselves.

The point is this - don't be afraid to dive into the disciplines that normally scare you away. The road to improvement will have bumps along the way.

There will be setbacks.

You will have days when you want to hide your face in embarrassment, or crawl into a hole, or burst into tears.

If that's what you need to do in-order to overcome whatever emotions surface as you struggle with being one of the "worst", don't be ashamed.

Just keep coming back for more next time.

You climb a mountain one step at a time, and you improve yourself one workout at a time, one exercise at a time.

Don't be afraid of being one of the worst, embrace it. It will be that much more satisfying when you look back after a while and are amazed at how far you've come.


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."