Ahh, crossfit. The “sport” I once heard described as “making people incontinent with exhaustion.” It goes a little something like this.
And that’s if you’re doing it right. I’m a relatively new convert, having started in May. I’m not sure what percentage of the whole schtick I actually buy in to, but I do find myself enjoying it in a way I haven’t enjoyed exercise since…ever.
People who take up crossfit tend to get quasi-religious about it, and I have to admit I am starting to understand it more and more.
But there’s a couple of things I wish I had known before I got started. So I’m writing them all down here for you, fellow recent converts/those considering trying it/people who just want to laugh at me because I’m another weirdo talking about crossfit.
1.The lack of facilities
If, like me, your idea of a gym is one with white walls, muted music, fluffy towels for hire, soap dispensers, shiny machinery, air-conditioning and on-hand masseurs, well…it’s not like that. Your “box” might be an abandoned warehouse between two strip clubs and the methadone clinic, accessed only by a flight of crumbling, suspiciously urine-scented concrete steps. And yes, I did just describe where I go.
There’s maaaaaybe a toilet with some clapboard walls around it, always short of paper. A cold water tap masquerading as a shower because there’s a cheap plastic curtain in front of it. Some kind of bouncy black stuff on the floor that comes away in crumbs whenever you get down on it. I must have washed half a kilo of it from between my breasts and buttcrack. I literally don’t know what it is, but they’re going to have to plumb my bathroom for it when they need to re-floor.
This primitive set-up seems to be part of the whole crossfit ethos. The workouts and skills are supposed to be rough, back-to-basics stuff that improve your functional fitness. The shit you need to run after a brontosaurus, pull yourself back from the edge of a precipice, and fight for the last donut in the store.
2. The acronyms.
So. many. fucking. acronyms. (SMFA)
“Ok, we’re going to do our WoD!” Your ridiculously buff trainer will scream. “It’s an EMOM and we’re backing it up with an AMRAP. I wanna see some strict T2B! Rx on the board. Right, let’s DO this!”
YEAH! *air punch*…Wait, what?
I guess it doesn’t help for me that the class is held entirely in German, a language I am still struggling to master. I’ll have zoned out for a second while trying to remain conscious (during the warmup), and all of a sudden people are scrambling around, grabbing equipment and getting into position.
But there are websites where you can learn this before you start, and if your trainers are good, they will usually run through everything once to make sure it’s all clear.
Also, most of the workouts are named after women. I believe this is primarily so that men can have a little chuckle saying they “did Elizabeth this morning.” Apparently the joke never got old, so here we are. And the music is often overtly sexist. Again, this may be a German lack of lyrical awareness, but I am often lifting weights to songs about “bitches”, “sluts” and “getting fucked up”.
Whatever. I just roll with it.
Get used to hearing “men’s height” and “women’s height”, “men’s weight” and “women’s weight”. It’s not sexist, its just practical. And you can always say fuck you and get the heavy stuff if you’re at that level.
3. The unco-ordination
I have fallen sideways trying to squat while holding an EMPTY bar over my head. I have tripped myself up during warmups with the PVC imitation weight bar. I have confidently started on a box jump and landed on my knees seconds later, confused. I have boldly stepped up to the rings to try and “skin the cat” only to find my traitorous arms won’t even hold their own body weight off the floor, let alone toss it gymnastically through time and space.
I am well aware this may just be my problem. I find it hard enough to make it to the bathroom unscathed let alone get through a workout with equipment obstacles. But! I have spotted plenty of other people struggling too.
How box jumps SHOULD look.
But it’s ok. Go with it. Everyone looks like a spazz doing something. I have one trainer who kills absolutely every exercise but cannot for the life of himself do an L-sit.
4. The douche-baggery
Our box kindly separates the more “advanced” crossfitters from the mere mortals who are only able to complete a one-hour torture session. Never the twain shall meet, but these guys (there are girls too, but it’s majority male) sometimes inadvertently cross my path. They never say hello. They are there every mother-fucking day. They are ridiculously buff. They strut. They drop their weights from a great height (just like the documentary above) with loud grunts. Some of them smoke before a class – I am not even kidding – as if to prove that they aren’t even trying here. I try to stay away from them as much as possible. Just be prepared to feel ridiculed if they ever stray into your session and watch a workout. They’re the “real” crossfitters, yo. The rest of you are just at summer camp – even if you are experiencing actual angina.
5. The camaraderie
Sounds like BS. But I have been clapped home on my last godforsaken run around the block by a group of people who finished a good 5 minutes ago, and I can’t tell you how motivating it was. I discovered a previously untapped little energy source. If I’d been alone, or they’d ignored me, I’d definitely have walked instead. Or possibly stopped off for some fries.
I’ve had someone count out the reps for me, when we did a workout that consisted only of 100 burpees. I’m sure she’d rather have collapsed in a sweaty heap on the floor but she chose to motivate me instead. I’ve had people run over and lower the weight bar from my arms when I’m struggling. People give me tips on how I can improve my form. And there is always a solid round of hand-slapping after each workout. I thought this was so cringe-worthy when I first saw it. Now I celebrate every one one of those hand slaps as a little signs of friendship, encouragement and enduring an extremely traumatic event together.
People always want to make fun of crossfit: “How do you know when someone does crossfit? Wait 5 minutes and they’ll tell you.” But I think we tell people because half the time we actually cannot believe we survived the workout. I am pushing myself harder than I ever have before.
I feel myself getting stronger, I notice that I can run for longer, and I’m definitely getting leaner. I feel calmer in the head. I watch what I put into my body more. But I am still usually last, frequently convinced that I should call myself an ambulance, and often about to collapse.
Lots of people want to tell me crossfit is dangerous and bad for your body. If you work out somewhere with good, qualified coaches who host small groups and check everyone’s form before letting them pick up an actual weight, you’re going to be fine. And every single exercise is scaled to your level. Can’t do a pull-up? Fine, grab a band and bounce yourself up. Still not working? Fine, rack up a weight bar, sit on the ground and pull yourself up to that, using your legs.
I am not naturally a majorly competitive person, but I think that can also be a source of danger. There’s a proudly displayed “Puke Bucket” in every class for those people who can push themselves to that stage, and everyone is encouraged to write down their completion times and weights after each WoD (Ok, I’m just going to give you this one. It’s “Workout of the Day”).
Full disclosure, I have once thrown up at crossfit (actually outside the class, on a jog around the block, and into a shrub which I now fancy is thriving). But I am pretty sure that had more to do with the family-sized bag of corn chips I had stupidly scoffed before class than anything else.
In short, if you respect your own limits, don’t try and prove anything, and pretend you’re working out alone (at least until someone comes over and points out your knees are knocking during squats), then it’s pretty satifsying to see how far you can push yourself, and how your body changes.
Also, this. By my favourite musician ever of all time. The inimitable Ryan Adams.