While I’m off enjoying sun, sand and drinks in Florida, Chelsea over at Pittsburgh City Girl is taking over for the day. She’s talking cross-training through Cross-Fit. Thanks Chelsea!
Crossfit: It’s Not What You Think
Crossfit. You either love it or hate. You hear the horror stories about injuries, bad coaching and a crazy lifestyle, but that is only one side. I’ve been lucky to find a completely different side that has helped change aspects of my life and how I approach my workouts.
I don’t drink the Kool-Aid. Crossfit is not my life. It’s a nice supplement to being a runner. I first walked into a crossfit box 16 months ago and was scared out of mind. At the time I had just run my third half marathon and considered myself to be in good shape. After my first 60 minute introduction class, I quickly realized how much out of shape I was. I thought to myself as they explained the WOD (Workout of the Day), that these coaches were crazy. I immediately regretted signing up for this crazy thing, but I stuck with it and after 8 intro classes to crossfit, I graduated and was able to join the general classes.
I initially joined crossfit at the advice of several friends and seeing how it helped them become better overall athletes. I figured I would get stronger and maybe get faster, but I didn’t realize everything else I would gain throughout my journey with crossfit.
When I first started (and let’s be honest, even to this day), I was slow. I was one of the last to finish the WODs. At first I could barely lift the bar and even when I started adding weight, it wasn’t much. There would be days where I would see the WOD posted and just laugh. No way could I do 100 burpees. You want me to do a Muscle Up? I just kept thinking these people are crazy. Really, it was only me who was crazy.
Over time, the coaches proved me wrong. I would go to class 2-3 days a week and it would be a nice change to running every day. What I love most about crossfit is that every class is different, whereas running is always the same. Parts of my body that I didn’t know could hurt, did hurt. This made me challenge myself to a degree I hadn’t challenged myself since college rowing.
The biggest difference I saw in myself though was confidence. I stood taller and smiled a little big more. You might say it’s not just because of crossfit, but I’ll argue against you on that one. I used to be pretty negative and say I couldn’t do this or couldn’t do that and over time, I begin to instead say let’s give it a shot. I didn’t start off negative. I started out with confidence to at least try. Sure, I failed a lot, but by going in with a positive attitude, I got further than I would by saying no from the start. I remember my first kipping pull up. For months I would try and try and fail every time, but every day I would be in the box, I would get up on the pull up bar and try. The night I got it, I dropped down from the box and did a victory lap. Sure, it’s not a big deal to some, but I did my first pull up and I was so proud!
I also got fast. For me, it was super-fast. Right before I joined, my half marathon PR was 2:26:28. After 7 months of crossfit, I ran half marathon number four in 2:15:00! I shaved nearly a full minute off my average pace. I also ran my first sub-30minute 5k just 3 months after starting. I wasn’t seeing those time differences by just running and cross training on the elliptical.
Hitting the erg, my old favorite friend from college, helped build my endurance and translated to my faster race splits.
By varying up my workouts, I didn’t tire the same muscles out day after day. I would get some hard work outs in, but I stayed fresh and could recover quickly. I also hit “the wall” a lot later in a run. And when I did hit that wall, I relied on the confidence I had to break through the wall and continue on. Before, I’d quit. I’d give up on myself. Not now.
Through this whole process, I also gained a new family. If you belong to a gym like Planet Fitness, you might walk in, work out and walk out. That’s not how it goes with crossfit. It’s a family atmosphere. You get to know everyone and hold each other accountable. If I don’t show up for a few days or yikes, for weeks, they call me out on it. They also push you. If someone notices you are struggling and it’s still mid workout, you’ll hear a big “Get it done, girl” or “you got this” echoing through the box. It might not be much, but it’s enough to get you one more rep or push to get a 5lb PR.
So, maybe you’re intrigued? Do you want to give crossfit a go? Here are 5 helpful hints on getting started:
1) Take the time and research local boxes in your area. Tell the coaches/owners what you want to get out of crossfit and ask them about how they run their programs. Be honest. Don’t be ashamed if you just starting a workout program. Crossfit truly is FOR EVERYONE at EVERY FITNESS LEVEL.
2) Find a place that takes the time to teach you the fundamentals of crossfit, the movements & how to prepare your body. Generally 4-8 introduction classes are ideal. If there is a box that just throws you into a regular class, skip it.
3) Scale. Just because the WOD might have 20 deadlifts at 185lbs, doesn’t mean you have to do just that. Do what you think your body allows. If you can’t do a muscle up yet, go for ring dips. Still unsteady on ring drips? Go to ring rows.
4) Don’t be scared. You aren’t going to be the fastest on day 1 and you might not be the fastest on day 100, but that isn’t what it’s about. Go in with a positive attitude and you’ll begin to see the rewards.
5) Jump in and join the family. Get to know other members of the box as that will push you to show up and go to class on the days you don’t want to. It will also help you feel more comfortable as you begin something new.
I know and understand crossfit can be a heated topic. If you have any questions about my journey, your own journey or want to bounce ideas about how it can help you, please contact me at PittsburghCityGirl.com.