My wife was on my case about my “growing stomach”, and to make matters worse, and even my friends even were pointing it out. I knew I had to do something to get back in shape, but what was the question. It’s not that I was horribly fat, but at 6’ 1”, I was getting close to 200 pounds and that was the heaviest I had ever been. No matter how many times, I told myself I had to do something, I wasn’t doing anything about it and kept making excuses because of a “lack of time”. I hated tradition gyms, hated running (thanks to a high school track coach), and I knew I had to be motivated by someone to get my butt in gear on a regular basis. Simply put: I knew I knew I could not do it alone.
Like most of us, my youth was filled with sports and activities. I had always considered myself an athlete, but as life moved on, I stopped being active and grew to watch my kids being the athletes.
In early 2013 I saw my age creeping to 49 and I started looking hard at what I should do. I didn’t know much, if anything, about Crossfit. While I had heard about it, I didn’t know anyone who had actually participated in it. Every once in a while I would drive home a different way and kept passing a sign for a Crossfit gym (or Box as they are called). And then one day, I saw a Facebook post by a friend of a friend who had joined a local Box and loved it. And that was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
Like every other typical guy, I did 30 seconds of research and decided what was best for me and called Crossfit North Alpharetta (CFNA). I booked an introduction class and waited to begin the path to the new and improved me. The following Saturday, I met with Heather, one of the owners of CFNA; she shared with us what Crossfit was about and what we should expect. She discussed the natural movements of each workout, the Olympic lifting, cardio and diet as well. She then put us through a “light workout”.
I just about died.
Once I caught my breath, Heather suggested that if we decide to join, that we should only come in two days a week and start slowly. She told us that many people (mostly men) jumped in headfirst and that they were quick to burn out and walk away. I listened to her advice, and after recovering from my workout, I joined CFNA and started going two days a week.
When I initially told people I was doing Crossfit, I found that people were in one of two camps:
1) It was too hard and everyone always got hurt
2) It was a cult.
Both were probably true to some extent.
Crossfit has been and still is, one of the hardest things I have ever done. I am pushed to do things I never thought I could do and certainly pushed to do more than I did yesterday. But, and there is a big BUT, I have never been pushed to do more than I should do. Never been pushed to go so far that I would get hurt or permanently injured. It was truly up to me to determine what I could, or could not do.
Now, did I get hurt? Yes I did. But I can’t blame that on Crossfit. While I knew there were risks, I believe that the risks of doing nothing (think sitting on a sofa) were far greater than showing up and putting effort into an activity. I could have just as easily gone for a walk around the block with my dog and broken my ankle because I stepped off the curb wrong. If you think about it this way, ask yourself: what sport or activity is completely injury free? I can’t think of one. Running? Swimming? Bicycling? Do it with passion and do it regularly, you are bound to get injured at some point. But I firmly believe, now and before Crossfit, that the stronger you are, the less you will get hurt.
As I started my new quest, I found that every class has a qualified coach leading it, some are better than others, but all of them quickly learn your limits and modified the workout for you. Either by reducing the weight recommendation, or had you do a similar movement to achieve the same type of workout. In the end, I realized that the only person I could blame was myself if I got injured.
Over the last 17 months, I have pulled my calf muscle twice, stained my quad muscles I don’t know how many times and had to go to a physical therapist. And to top it all off, I had a double hernia operation last month. Can I blame Crossfit? Sure, I guess I could. But the truth is that 20 years of basic non-activity was more harmful than anything I have done over the last year. Did I go beyond my capability? Probably. But again, that was me pushing myself and not one else.
And to the 2nd point I always hear, is it a cult? I guess it would depend on your definition. Are people passionate about Crossfit? Without question! But I am not so sure that they are more passionate than people who play golf or tennis. Do people live eat and breath Crossfit? Yep, some do; but so do people who play golf or tennis. Do people talk about it non-stop? Sure, some do, but again,….. (see above).
Just like other activities or passions, Crossfit brings together people of similar interests. They do things together, work out together and become friends outside of the gym (Box); they form a community. Is that a cult? Not in my book.
More than anything, people I think are somewhat surprised to learn some of the facts about Crossfit:
Crossfit has every type of person that you can imagine; different sizes, ages, tall, short, male, female etc. I am not the oldest at my Box, but I am close. Nor am I even close to being the strongest; and I am OK with that.
Each day, a workout is put up on the website, in Crossfit lingo, it’s called a WOD (Workout of the Day). The WOD will have a warm up, a workout and then mobility. And every day, regardless of the Box you go to, they post the results. What I have learned is to seek someone who has a similar skillset to myself and compare myself to that person. Do I look at the youngest and fastest? Sure. But I care more about beating my own previous records and the other person who I am similar to then anything else.
With 3 kids, a full time job, and a wife who owns her own dental practice, how can I do 5 days a week (yes I increased my workouts over the year)? It is not easy (my friends call me nuts); but I get up at 4:30 AM and head to the Box. By 6:40, I am back home, making sandwiches and putting the kids on the bus. Never missing a beat. Granted, having to get up at 4:30am, I need to go to bed about the same time as my kids.
So what is the upside and downside?
Upside is easy: I have lost 22 pounds and my body fat is at 16.1%. I am told that the optimal body fat percentage for my age (49) is 18.3%. 16.1% puts me at the 83rd percentile of males at similar ages. I wish I knew what my body fat was when I started, but truth be told, I was scared to find that out. I am stronger now then I have been, in maybe forever. I am more flexible and able to do things that I only dreamed of just a few short months ago. And most of all, my wife was really happy!
Downside: I guess it depends on your perspective. The sarcastic answer is that I have had to buy lots of new clothes. I have lost 3 to 4” in my waist. My shirt size has gone from a large to a medium and most of my suits had to be altered by at least two sizes. I am proud of how I look. And my wife is as well.
But the real answer to the downside is injuries. I have gotten hurt. Most of it was my own fault as I have said; pushing myself beyond my limits at the time or not doing stretching and/or mobility when I knew I needed to.
I recognize that Crossfit is not for everyone. But it works for me. It got me off my butt and off the sofa. I am in better shape than I have been in years. I am more motivated with more energy than I have felt in I don’t know how long.
So what do I suggest? Try Crossfit, you may like it. As I travel for my job I have visited lots of other Boxes. I have found that all Boxes are not created equal. If you look for a Crossfit, ask your friends for some suggestions, look online, check out their Facebook Page; Talk to their coaches and try a class. Find what you think will fit for you. If you don’t, I get it. But at a minimum, do something. Go outside, walk, run, ride. Get your blood pumping.
You won’t regret it, I promise.