Yesterday morning, I was alarmed to find that I couldn’t lift my arms high enough to wash my own hair in the shower. This morning, I can barely hobble down the stairs to get breakfast started. Everything hurts. My entire body is screaming “Lie down. DON’T MOVE!!!”.
No, it’s not some awful neurodegenerative disorder. It’s…well, um….okay, I went to my first ever Crossfit session on Saturday. And ohmyGod it hurts!
Crossfit seems to be everywhere here – if you’re not driving past a roadside sign advertising one local gym or another, then you’re receiving emails about the latest CrossFit GroupOn or Living Social deal. And if you dare to follow Bob Harper on Twitter for more than 5 minutes, you can’t help but enjoy be subjected to Crossfit hash-tagged Twitpics like these:
Eyes on the kettlebells, ladies, the kettlebells!
Hey, if it’s good enough to have even the Biggest Loser king completely obsessed, then it’s definitely got me sitting up and taking notice!
A few friends asked, in response to my moaning and groaning on Facebook, what on earth CrossFit is. Well, the official blurb is here. But, in a nutshell, it’s the latest craze to sweep the (sporting) nation. It’s a strength and conditioning program, which uses bodyweight exercises like squats, push-ups, pull-ups (nope, I can’t do them, either), running, rowing, jumping, burpees, etc.
I hate burpees. I’m just throwing that out there.
There’s also basic gymnastics like ring work, handstands and jump rope work, and of course the actual weightlifting stuff – kettlebells, dumbbells, barbells, tyres (or tires, if you prefer), sandbags and more. The WODs (workout of the day) change every day (I’ve no idea how many of them there are in total, but I’m pretty sure it’s limitless), and you are encouraged to do at least 3 a week to see real results (though the real Crossfit Crazies seem to do 6 days, with 1 day rest a week).
Although it might not sound like it, it is scalable to anyone’s fitness level, age and ability – as evidenced by my presence there. I had a baby 4 months ago (and still have the jelly belly to prove it), I eat far too many of my daughter’s leftover sandwiches and Goldfish Crackers, and I haven’t lifted a kettlebell for almost exactly a year. I’m really quite ashamed of myself for letting go of all the fitness I worked so hard to build up as part of the marathon training in 2011.
So, clearly having had enough of me harping on about all the things I really need to do to shift the baby weight and get fit again, but never actually getting off my lazy bum, my friend’s husband railroaded coaxed me into joining him for his Saturday morning workout at CrossFit Fuse in Redmond. To say I was nervous as we drove towards our 9am session would be quite the understatement. I was bricking it! Google “CrossFit”, and you come across countless images like these:
It’s intimidating, right? “Forging elite fitness”? “No more excuses”? Cripes! It looks so very serious, more like military fitness or bootcamp, rather than nice happy, clappy group Zumba or Jazzercise classes! There’s no way I’m going to enjoy this. No way!
But, there was no getting out of it, so I figured it’s one hour of my life. One hour and it will all be over…
Driving up to a warehouse in the middle of an industrial estate to find tyres stacked up outside (which you know they’re going to make you flip / drag/ lift at some point), metal pull-up bars inside, and a group of about ten muscle-bound earlybirds lifting barbells and doing overhead squats when you arrive doesn’t do anything to reduce the intimidation levels!
So yes, it was scary. It got even scarier when half a dozen beautiful, slim and muscular (meaning they were toned and you could actually see their muscle definition, not that they looked like androgynous Madonna clones!) women arrived and started doing their warm up exercises on the floor. I felt very much out of my depth, and wondered if anyone would notice if I slipped out the door and headed back to my nice cosy bed….
But then a couple of older women arrived. And then Kim, one of the trainers, came and took me aside. She said she would help me through. She showed me how to do jumping pull-ups, when everyone else was doing the real thing. She talked me through the warm ups, and helped me with my kettlebell technique. She didn’t make me feel dumb, unfit or fat. She made me feel welcome.
So first, the warm-up. 200m jog, 10 push-ups, 10 pull-ups, 10 sit-ups, then another 200m run. (I think. My memory is a little hazy). Straightforward enough, though it felt more like a workout than a warm-up to me! And, of course, dumbass that I am, I thought you had to repeat (because that’s what CrossFit is all about, right?). So I’m there on the floor doing my second round of 10 push-ups, while everyone stands around wondering what the hell I’m doing, and waiting for the next instruction. D’oh! Then I felt stupid. But, hey, I was being stupid, fair enough.
We were then told to get into pairs for the WOD. Today’s punishment was a round of 7 kettlebell overhead swings, 7 burpees, and a 50m run. 9 minutes AMRAP. Or “as many rounds as possible”.
The dreaded whiteboard
The point of getting into pairs was for one partner to work out, while the other counted reps and gave encouragement. They do say that you should only ever be competing against yourself at CrossFit, not paying attention to anyone else. And actually, it’s amazing, you really are completely unaware of what everyone else is doing. You just keep battling through, eyes on the countdown clock at the front of the room, and your partner yelling “come on, you can do this”, as they oh-so-subtly switch your kettlebell for a lighter one while you’re out for your 50m run (thanks, Dan!).
I even got a high five and a “Good job, Kerstin!” from Kim after completing my second round of burpees. Cheesy as it sounds, it really does make you feel so much better, like “Yes, I can do this!”.
I managed 5 rounds in 9 minutes. Not groundbreaking. Not top of the board (in fact, bottom of the board). But not embarrassing either – I wasn’t the only 5. Not that it matters, because you’re only competing against yourself.
Time for a 5 minute break / collapse on the floor, and then onto round 2! The choice of a 1 mile run, or a 2000m row. Given that my legs were pure jelly by this point, I figured I had better opt for the row. 2km is quite a long way, I soon found out – 10 minutes continuous rowing in fact. Well, 10:52 if you’re an unfit slowbie like me! Maybe next time I’ll go for the run. Next time? NEXT TIME, she says?
Well, yes. It hurts. It’s not “fun”, in the same way as a Pump it Up or Step Class might be, and it does feel pretty serious. But sometimes you really need to get serious to get results. As one website I came across put it:
“Dear women everywhere….lifting weights will make you beautiful. Your strength and confidence will arouse onlookers of both sexes, and your butt will be a shining beacon of hope to women who have not yet seen the light. And if anyone messes with you, you can break them”.
Yay – where do I sign up?
After my first session, I completely understand where the CrossFit crazies are coming from. I did one workout, and came away feeling on top of the world. Once I stopped shaking, that is. I may have been the slowest on the whiteboard that day, but, strangely, it wasn’t at all demotivating. The opposite, in fact – all I could think was “Well, I’m sure I can do better. I will do better…next time!”. Even all those beautiful women, and muscly guys didn’t make me feel bad about myself, as they normally would while I’m worrying about how much my butt is wobbling on the gym treadmill. They were so friendly, so focused, and such a great example of what you can achieve with the right workout!
So yes, you Crossfit Crazies, you – I’m sold. Now excuse me while I go put my kidney on eBay to raise the funds for my membership…