My journey in Crossfit started about seven years ago. I was 33 (so for those of you with graduate degrees that means I am now 40) and felt I was in pretty decent shape. I played basketball a couple of hours a week, beach volleyball a couple hours a week and tennis once a week. I would get into 24 hour fitness maybe once every couple of weeks for 10 minutes on the treadmill and then a set or two of bicep curls, and shoulder flys before I was over it and bailed. Does this sound familiar to any of you? So when my 6 month pregnant wife, who was working out with a trainer at the time, invited me to join her for a workout I thought ‘no problem…this should be mellow’. Half way through some circuit training, which my wife was crushing, I was nauseous and light headed and quit. The rose colored glasses through which I viewed my fitness had been shattered. Not only was I a solid 15-20 pounds overweight but also we were about to have our second child and I wasn’t getting any younger. I knew from that night that I needed to get into better shape so I promptly did nothing about it.
After Benjamin was born, my wife was introduced to Crossfit at Gravitas by some good friends of ours who were members at the time. She went through a 6 week introductory program and was hooked. As the 6 weeks were winding down, she said I should try it. Perhaps this was her subtle way of hinting that she had already lost most of the ‘baby weight’ and I was probably still heading in the wrong direction. Whatever the motivation was, I took her recommendation and went to a class.
What a strange and intimidating hour that was. The ‘warm up’ was a frickin’ workout and just because it was called a warm up didn’t mean that’s what it was. What had I gotten myself into?
I don’t recall what the first workout was though I remember there were pull-ups in the workout. These were, and kind of still are, my nemesis. I had the biggest band possible and was instructed to not kip (whatever the hell that meant) but to keep my body still and do a strict pull-up. It was a STRUGGLE for 3 with a ginormous band. I was too tired to be embarrassed. The coach was shouting encouragement at me and members of the class were encouraging me by name…”keep it up Bret!”. I looked to the pull-up bar across from me, and a pregnant woman was hammering out sets of ten. Holy. Crap. These people are insane!
I finished the workout last by a good bit and without judgement members came up to me with a knowing look and congratulated me with a fist bump or a high five. It didn’t matter that I was last. I finished. I was in a heap on the floor, sweating from places one doesn’t normally sweat (my shins people, keep it PG) but I finished. I felt like hell…but I finished. There was a strange sense of accomplishment. I got my ass handed to me and was strangely fine with it.
I meandered through the first couple of months like this. I was getting into the gym a couple of times a week. I was sore but made sure I kept going. I couldn’t look at the workouts online because I knew I would cherry pick ones that looked easier (i.e. ones that didn’t have movements in them that I hated…pull-ups, wall balls, any Olympic lifting, burpees, burpee box jumps, burpee anything). And then it happened. I started noticing progress. I started understanding all the jargon and abbreviations. A barbell didn’t feel totally foreign in my hands. I started cheering for the new people in class. The bands for pull-ups gradually got smaller. A few of the extra pounds came off. I started watching YouTube videos on some of the Olympic lifts. The more I went to the gym, the more I wanted to go to the gym. There was an intense positive feedback loop and habits were formed around health and fitness; habits I had only ever developed around sport and had never developed for the gym. These are habits that remain today.
The intra-gym competition is part of what has held my interest for so long. For those of you that may not know, I am just a slightly competitive person. Seeing my name on the whiteboard along with everyone else’s from the day is a huge motivator for me. Having this competition makes me forget that I’m at the gym. It’s no longer this chore that I have to do or worse yet that I should be doing but an activity that I want to do. My goals surrounding my fitness are continuously vacillating from skill acquisition to strength to cardiovascular endurance and back. I am, no doubt, in the best shape of my life. This just scratches the surface of the impact that Crossfit and the community at Gravitas specifically has had on my life individually and our family’s life collectively…though that is a topic for another blog.
Until then… I’ll see you at the gym,