Confessions of a Back of the Pack Crossfitter
I have never considered myself a serious athlete. I’ve been active much of my life, but mostly with more casual activities. You know the type, church softball, pick up basketball, racquetball with friends, as well as my share of time on the golf course. In the previous years, before Crossfit, I ran, lifted weights, did some exercise videos, even tried to do a milder, self programed (pretty pathetic) Crossfit like workout. I have had some more intense activities and hobbies. I am a scuba diver, I have a pretty extensive martial arts history. I have completed a marathon, and several half marathons in my life. However, they were slow, and not particularly impressive to real runners. Thankfully, my wife is quite active and most of these activities are the result of my trying to keep up with her.
About four years ago, thanks again to the influence of my wife, I took up Crossfit. I will admit, that I am not the stereotype Crossfitter. I am not ripped with muscles. I could stand to lose another 20 lbs. I am usually one of the last participants to finish a workout, and I usually have to scale down the weights I use, by quite a bit. I also refuse to push myself to the point of vomiting or pure agony, and I have no desire to compete.
So why would I want to do Crossfit? To be honest, there are plenty of reasons.
First off, It’s fun. The constant variety, makes a lot of sense, for fitness reasons, but for me, the variety also keeps things fresh and makes working out more fun.
Second reason, the intensity. Even with my refusing to go absolutely, 100% all out, the 90-95% effort I do exert, is still effective in triggering a fitness response. Even with my, now smaller, abdominal spare tire, I believe I am in the best, all around shape, of my life.
Reason number three. I have accomplished things, in the last four years, that I would have never accomplished if it weren’t for being pushed by Crossfit. I can now do 7-8 unbroken, STRICT pull ups. Most of my life I couldn’t do one. I recently strung together 31 Kipping Pull ups. I can do double unders. (Jumping rope where the rope passes under your feet two times per single jump). I know how to use kettlebells and I think I’m pretty decent at it.
Fourth reason. I can objectively see real progress. The benchmark workouts, that we do every so often, show me that I am generally improving. For example, my “Fran” time, for which I scale down the weight, has improved each of the last 4 times I’ve done it.
Fifth reason. My flexibility is improved. I’m not talking about doing the splits and bend myself in half. I’m talking about being able to go into a comfortable deep squat, and I can get into a pretty deep lunge. Generally my mobility is improving in a variety of real life practical ways. I’ve come to realize that this has been helpful whether I am moving furniture in my office, getting Christmas decorations out of my awkwardly shaped attic, or goofing around with my boys.
Reason six. I really enjoy the community of the box(Crossfit gym). In fact I think this is the major reason for Crossfit’s popularity. I have friends, I would have never had otherwise. I converse with people who range in age from their late teens, to their 60’s, and they come from all variety of professions. Oh, and that previously mentioned intensity, would be completely absent, if it weren’t for the encouragement and push the coaches and other athletes provide in the classes. I will occasionally do a workout at home, because I can’t get into a class, and I just can’t push myself the way I do, when in a group setting.
Number seven. Crossfit has been quite beneficial for my health. While I would still like to lose another 20 pounds, I can say that my weight has been more stable the last four years than it had been the previous 20. My weight would fluctuate by 30 to 40 pounds. As a Crossfitter, my weight fluctuations have been more in the 10 to 15 pound range and those weights are some of the lowest in my adult history. I do not have a six pack, but I do have some evidence of musculature that I’ve never had in my life. In fact I like to joke that I have significant dents in my fat, that I never had before. My cholesterol is within healthy levels, when it hadn’t been previously. I also have much more energy and stamina in my daily life.
Finally, it’s good for my marriage. My wife is the one who got me into Crossfit and I am very grateful. For all marriages, it is good to have some shared interests and hobbies. Crossfit is one of those for us. We have a lot of conversations and interactions around the workout we just did, are about to do, and on occasion, for team workouts, we have done together. On vacation, we will visit a local box for a workout and a t-shirt.
If I were to take the time, I could probably come up with several more reasons Crossfit is for me. I think I am an example, of a large part of the Crossfit community, that tends to be pretty quiet. We are the individuals, who are not inclined to put ourselves in dangerous situations, often associated with Crossfit. We also think these associations are unfair and/or exaggerated. We appreciate and cheer, the upper echelon athletes in our boxes(and in Crossfit as a whole) and will celebrate their accomplishments. But it doesn’t bother us, that we aren’t as accomplished as they are.
So why did I decide to write this. I frequently hear criticisms of Crossfit and tend to be defensive of it. You see, most of us believe in self responsibility and listening to our own bodies. We are driven to accomplish new personal bests, but not the point that we risk our health. We also realize that Crossfit may not be for everyone. Which is the way it should be. Getting exercise and having an appropriately supportive diet, is good for anyones health. One of the most important things that keeps people active, is that they really enjoy their chosen activity. If they enjoy running, martial arts, or the latest video craze and that activity keeps them motivated, then that is what they need to be doing. Personally, I really enjoy Crossfit, for all the reasons stated above. That is why I plan to keep doing it for years to come.