“It’s a strange paradox, but I feel less pressure at CrossFit than I did doing Flex a few weeks ago.”
I think the best way to describe the way I feel right now is confused. Very confused.
CrossFit is a very, very weird ‘sport’, if you can call it sport. Before CrossFit, I was terrified. After CrossFit, I was exhilarated.
Our Office Manager Jill booked us a one-hour Beginner’s CrossFit session for 9 am. If gymtimidation is a real thing, at CrossFit gyms it’s 10x more intense.
This must be what the home of a sadomasochist looks like. No windows, no mirrors, weird ropes with rings hanging from the ceiling, and I swear the red on the walls is the blood of people who died doing this.
Oh this is going to be fun.
The guys who lead our CrossFit session are called Albin and Max – both have more strength in their little fingers than I have in my entire body. The first thing they get us to do is to go around the group saying our names and talking about our experience with exercise. It went something like this:
Colleague 1: “I cycle every day”
Colleague 2: “I do a lot of strength training”
Colleague 3: “I’ve run a few marathons”
Me: “This is my third workout this year. I’m probably going to die doing it…”
Next, they introduce us to CrossFit, breaking it down into three phrases:
In other words: You won’t get bored doing it, the movements you use are actually useful in non-CrossFit environments, and it’s hard work.
Then we do a warm-up, which I also like to call a “break-down”, because when I start I feel like a normal person, and when it’s over all I want is to sit down (which we don’t get to do until the very end by the way).
Technique was up next, and technique is incredibly important as it’s all about your form when you’re doing CrossFit. We start with the ‘Air Squat’, where you stand tall with feet apart and arms raised above your head; then slowly, leading with your butt, push your body down into a squat, making sure you don’t lean forward as you squat. Simple enough right? We then move to the wall and facing it, attempt the squat again to fine-tune our form.
From the ‘Air Squat’ we move on to ‘Wall Balls’. This exercise involves taking a weighted ball in your hands (I think mine was 4 kg) and facing a wall, pushing down into a squat (leading with your butt remember), and finally pushing up out of the squat to launch the ball into the air. We learn how to hold the ball and where to push up from (your legs not your arms).
Last in the technique phase, we’re taught the ‘Kettlebell Swing’. Once again we start in a squat-like position, with legs apart, then holding the kettlebell with both hands, we bring it between our legs and then essentially thrust with our hips and thighs to launch our arms up over our heads.
Tired yet? I know I was.
Then the hardest part. A 12-minute long MetCon (metabolic conditioning) with AMRAP (as many reps as possible). This was the drill:
8 kettlebell swings > 3 shuttle runs > 8 wall balls > 3 shuttle runs
As many times as possible in 12 minutes. Kill me.
They said 6 reps is a decent effort. I set a more realistic expectation of 2 reps before passing out.
KILL ME KILL ME KILL ME KILL ME
Do I need to go into detail about how it was? I was already tired from the break-down and technique phases. 12 minutes with music pumping, and my heart in my throat were going to be ROUGH.
Halfway through my second rep I notice my legs are shaking. Not, ‘oh my legs are a little shaky’ but actually rocking side-to-side. Like a rocking chair on Speed. And my breathing is weird. You know how it is when you cry and you can hardly breathe because you’re crying so hard? Like that. Hyperventilated breathing. Right then and there I feel like giving up. I’m pretty much thinking ‘I’ll call it quits now, it’s okay, this isn’t worth dying over.’
But somehow I keep going. I don’t know how. I’m a shaky, breathy mess. I am evaporating, there is so much sweat pouring out of my body; and my shuttle runs are more like light jogs where I try to catch air, but somehow I keep going. Maybe it’s the music. Maybe it’s them yelling at all of us to keep going and hold tempo. I don’t know, what it is, but it works. I’m tired and with each rep I’m slower, but I keep going anyway.
And then finally the 12 minutes are up and they tell us we can sit down.
And then Albin and Max walk around giving us high-fives and telling us how awesome we are. And I’m barely breathing but I feel like a rockstar.
6 reps in 12 minutes. I did it. And I’m awesome. I am awesome. I AM AWESOME.
I would do it again. I would do it again tomorrow. Okay maybe not tomorrow, because my body is crazy sore. It feels like I have thighs are weights, I’ve discovered muscles in my neck, and my arms are heavy, but I’d still do it again.
The sense of accomplishment after a session is unlike any other exercise I’ve ever done. I feel strong, I feel worked, but I don’t feel awful. And even though the space is intimidating, the actual workout isn’t. In fact the best thing about the MetCon was knowing I could do things at my own pace. It’s a strange paradox, but I feel less pressure at CrossFit than I did doing Flex a few weeks ago. With CrossFit here’s no need to try and keep up and worry you’re going to mess up and fall behind, because everyone is doing things in their own rhythm, doing as much as they can in the time that we have. And because there are no mirrors, there’s no need to worry about how stupid you look. There’s no anxiety about not knowing what to do or how to do it, as the coaches demonstrate everything and keep an eye on technique.
It’s easy even though it’s hard.
It’s fun even though it really rough.
I never thought I’d say this, but I think CrossFit is perfect.
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