CrossFit: The Embrace By Elysia Whisler
Today, 15 November 2013, is my one-year-anniversary of joining CrossFit Woodbridge. My journey’s different than what I’ve read in the media lately. I wasn’t a Couch-to-5k story. I wasn’t some elite athlete looking for an edge. When I first walked into CFW, I was running 30-50 miles a week, I had a few marathons under my belt, and I was a prize-winning, competitive Irish dancer. I was pretty flexible, I ate healthy, and I had a good engine. I wasn’t unfit.
But I wasn’t CrossFit. I didn’t even know what CrossFit was. When I went to CFW on Bring a Friend Day, with my longtime pal, Rachel-Rae, my only expectation was strength training. I walked into the box and saw: 1) an old-school gym, devoid of fluff, glitz, or machines; 2) the gym owner — a visibly fit dude who exuded a calm, disciplined energy and had a good sense of humor; and, 3) a dog.
Wait. What? A dog?
Cool gym, cool coach, cool dog. The doors were open and the sun was shining. This looked like the perfect venue to get that strength training I needed to supplement my running.
So I had my first WOD. I know what you think I’m going to say. This is the part where I say I learned just how unfit I actually was, that I got my ass handed to me on a platter, that I felt muscles I never knew I had …
But that isn’t really how it went for me. Don’t get me wrong, it was hard, but my first experience at CFW was less like torture and more like, well … you know that feeling you get when you first fall in love? That sick, sudden, stupid, painful, smack-you-in-the-face, breathtaking, juvenile, head over heels kind of love?
Yeah. That. That’s how I felt after my first WOD at CFW. That’s how I felt the day I discovered box jumps and barbells. I had never in my life touched weightlifting, had, in fact, never wanted to – until the day I did thrusters with Rachel-Rae. They weren’t even good thrusters. I used the 30# bar, with no plates. Dan had to keep fixing my elbows and squats, but he never once made me feel as weak and unskilled as I was. In fact, he, and the gym, made me feel strong. When we finished the WOD, there were all these people around, cheering.
Wait. What? People? Cheering?
Independent and introverted, I’d never been big on attention, especially while I was flinging sweat around. I’d loathed “group work” since high school. But, somehow, this was different. For the first time, working with other people made me feel energized instead of drained. Something, in the space of twenty minutes, had united me with the bar, the box, and my own possibilities.
I dreamt about thrusters that night. And box jumps. And that white board, with the WOD scrawled on it. So I went back. Then again, and again. I’d always get a little sick feeling in my stomach before I went, but I went anyway. I started running less, and going to CFW more. Soon, running supplemented my CF, rather than the other way around. Something had seriously changed.
Some call it an “addiction,” “a cult,” “the Kool-Aid.” I prefer to call it “the embrace” because addictions, cults and Kool Aid suck. But hugs are awesome. Every relationship starts with a good hug. And that, I realized, was what was different about CrossFit. It’s not just exercise. It’s a relationship. A relationship with fitness, a relationship with community, a relationship with yourself. Before, I was a runner. Now, I was a … see how it sounds stupid to say “a CrossFitter?” That’s because it’s too big for that.
If I need proof, all I have to do is check the facts. So I checked my journal. (Yes. I did keep a journal from Day 1. I’m a wee bit organized – just ask Dan about the poker chips).
Last year, on 15 November, we did a chipper type WOD that involved rope climbs, lunges, and several movements with the kettlebell. Below are actual quotes:
Then: “Rope Climbs – scaled, lowered self to floor and back up. OMG. Forearms!!!”
Now: “8 Legit Rope Climbs in a 20 min. AMRAP of Run 400, 2 climbs, 20 push ups.”
Then: “10 Front Rack Lunges (per leg) – pink bar w/10# plates = 35#. Ugh!”
Now: “10×14 75# Front Rack Walking Lunges – extra work, after the WOD.”
Then: “25 KB swings, 20#. Dan said do ‘Russian’ swings, just to eye level. He had to keep fixing my hips but never got irritated. I’m scared of the kettlebell. I hate it.”
Now: “35# KB Swing Challenge by Nick – Score: 105 straight, with no rest or pause.”
Then: “Can’t do double unders. Not sure I ever will.”
Now: “Today Dan challenged me to a double under contest. I strung together 123!”
Here’s some more cold, hard science:
~“My overhead squat was so bad, Lloyd made me use a PVC pipe for the WOD. After I said, ‘Lloyd, my OH squat was so bad I should have to run a lap around the building as punishment.’ He said, ‘Yes, ma’am. You should.’’
~“After 10 reps, a really buff lady came over and told me that the ball actually has to touch the wall, not just sail past the red line. Lloyd overheard and no-repped me. I had to start all over. I. Hate. Wall balls. (But I love Lloyd, he’s sweet even when he no reps you). I hope we do them again soon so I can get better.”
~”Nick guessed I weigh 95#. OMG.” A year later: “Nick guessed I weigh 105#. OMG.
Ok, this wouldn’t be a story without talking about a big, non-CF benchmark. Last year I ran the MCM 10k. I did the same this year. I didn’t train. In fact, I haven’t been running much at all outside of CF WODS. I arrived late and was stuck in the back, so I lost crucial time trying to get around slower runners for at least 2 miles. Yet, I still beat last year’s time – and came in 40th out of 600 for my age division. (That’s good, right?)
So. There it is. CrossFit has obviously made me stronger, fitter, faster, and happier. I still have tons of work to do, but I hope I always have tons of work to do. I hope I always want to work at this relationship.
Pistol Work for the remaining time. *This should be welcomed for those of you who did today’s workout.
Last Classics WOD is tonight at 7:30pm. Regular class WILL go on!!