The Basics: What is CrossFit?

March 23, 2016

A long time ago, in a land far away, I found myself disenchanted with the Jazzercise class I went to once. I did yoga once a week. That was good, got me moving. Didn't get me too sweaty. Then, I went to Spin Class. That was cool, I liked it. Pretty predictable every class. But still I felt accomplished and not so bad about all the Ritter Sport chocolate bars I was keen to eating while living in Germany. The faraway land was Germany. My husband, Matt, and I were stationed there when he was in the Marine Corps. This was about 8 years ago. In human lifespan terms? A while ago. In CrossFit lifetime terms? Ancient. 

 

See, back when I learned about CrossFit, someone told you about it. I mean told you about it because they were pumped about it. Not like, saw it on ESPN, developed an opinion, and then shared those opinions with you about it. That someone was my husband, Matt. He said, "I want to try a CrossFit workout with you. I did it when I was in Sergeant's Course. It was really cool." Me: "Okay." 3 rounds of a 400 meter run, 30 wallball shots, and 30 pull ups later, I questioned my life. "Why do I feel like I want to die? I thought I was in good shape! I've been spinning and running 5 times a week! I can't get up. Why can't I get up? I need to do this again."

 

So I went to CrossFit.com, where I became extremely confused...

"What's Deadlift 1-1-1-1-1?"

 

So I went on to the next one: 

"Angie"

For time:
100 Pull-ups
100 Push-ups
100 Sit-ups
100 Squats

 

Well, I couldn't do pull ups, but I knew I could use the Gravitron. That's this machine:

 

 

And I watched a couple videos: 

 

And when I did this at our gym on base, I was basically asked to stop.

 

One, I'm a little girl, so" I'd better be careful."

 

Two, "You're hogging this Gravitron that nobody ever uses. So, please move on with your workout."

 

Three, "What are you doing, anyway?" 

 

Me: "CrossFit." 

 

Gym Manager: "What's CrossFit?"

 

Me in my head: "Yeah, I don't know. What am I doing?" Me in real life: "Oh, just this thing I'm following online."

 

All I knew is that it made me want to do it more because it made me feel like I'd really worked hard. After a few months, I began to see and feel results that nothing had ever given me before. Keep in mind, I have no real athletic background. But after about a year, I had obsessively trained CrossFit. Kind of. Only metcons because I was afraid of weight. I had figured out how to do kipping pull ups, muscle ups, and handstand push ups just from these YouTube videos. I found another Level 2 trainer who lived nearby and she became my hero, as a mother of three who crushed me in everything. I'd dabbled in deadlift. And basically hadn't touched the Oly lifts. When I did overhead squat it was with a 15 pound body bar. After a while, I wanted to do the whole thing, and figure out this lifting stuff. So I went to a Level 1 Certification and got my Training Manual. 

 

CrossFit defines CrossFit as: "Constantly varied, functional movements, executed at high intensity." 

 

Constantly varied: Always different modalities and time domains, that include metabolic conditioning, gymnastics, weightlifting/throwing, and sport.

 

Functional movement: Multi-joint, core to extremity.

 

High intensity: Intensity is power, measured by load, distance, and time. (Work capacity=moving large loads over long distances quickly.) 

 

What I came to learn, was that this was a methodology that was centered on quality of life. That the whole purpose of it was to keep people functioning at greater capacities over long periods of time, or to increase their GPP (General Physical Preparedness.) In the CrossFit community, you used to often hear, "Prepare for the known and unknowable."

 

Preparedness for life, really. And it was genius. I really did have a terrible squat and couldn't do much with my own bodyweight before CrossFit. If I ever did find myself in a life threatening situation, I didn't have much capacity to survive. I mean, I wasn't going to Jazzercise or Yoga my way out of a burning building. 

 

I learned how to pick things up. Simple things, like my backpack, groceries, and laundry.

 

I learned how to be explosive when moving, I could feel my body reaching bigger potential when we skied or went hiking. 

 

I learned how to throw. I learned how to jump. I learned how to climb a rope. These are all things I had not really done outside of childhood. (And as a child, I was really more booky than sporty.) These are basic skills the human body, at one time in human history, had to develop for basic survival. I found myself being introduced to my own body for the first time in my life. 

 

And then there were other things. Like muscles. Being a girl with muscles. Or being a girl that could lift heavy in a gym full of dudes. These were all scary things to me. It took time for me to own them fully. I was pretty alone in the early days, and it sounds silly, but it would take a lot of new found courage to set up a barbell in the gym by myself. On top of being fitter, I found some confidence that I didn't know was there before, and hadn't needed.

 

This is my favorite image from the CrossFit Training Manual, that is available to anyone. I highly recommend you read it, if you haven't. 

 

"There is another aspect to the CrossFit brand of fitness that is of great interest and immense value to us. We have observed that nearly every measurable value of health can be placed on a continuum that ranges from sickness to wellness to fitness. See table below. Though tougher to measure, we would even add mental health to this observation. Depression is clearly mitigated by proper diet and exercise, i.e., genuine fitness."

 

 

Given the statistical situation of our country, where the leading cause of death still remains heart disease, CrossFit addresses the whole person: mental and physical wellness. To avoid sickness in our culture is hard to do. The CrossFit brand's roots are in turning that around, and into making people function optimally so they can stay independent as long as possible. Independent from disease, medication, injury, nursing homes and even death in emergent situations.

 

Almost 8 years later, I've CrossFitted through a bunch of competitions, 1 and 3/4 pregnancies, in good times and bad times, in my twenties, and now in my thirties. It's made me better. It's not who I am. It doesn't define me. But it has equipped me to be a survivor in a world full of disease and sickness. It's taught me to swim upstream against all the downstream of terrible food, lack of movement, and general disconnect from our own selves. I'll never really know, but maybe it's given my husband and I more years to live, or more years to enjoy with our children as we all grow and age. This is why I started CrossFit, and this is why I will continue to CrossFit!

 

 

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