Yesterday, with the encouragement of my buddy Jordan and recent interviewees Brandi and Adam, I went to the Peachtree CrossFit Gym here in Atlanta for my first ass-kicking. For those of you who don’t know, CrossFit is a type of gym/crazy lifestyle where you have a specific exercise routine every day that you try to finish (with perfect form) as quickly as possible. Each day the routine is different, mixing in different exercises, building different muscles, and pushing your body to its limit in practically every way.
Although I have been weight training for quite a while, I know my endurance was crap before even getting there. Considering my routine was going to be a mixture of strength building, running, and endurance, I knew I was in trouble. Oh well, everybody likes a challenge, right?
Yesterday afternoon I showed up at the CrossFit gym: a big open room in the basement of a large warehouse type building. I walked in and immediately saw people drenched in sweat, curled over, and some were even lying on the floor. Yikes. I then met Liz, my trainer for the afternoon. With a big smile, she told me that I need to sign a waiver in case I die during the workout. The dying part was a joke, the waiver was not. This is serious stuff we’re talking here. After a light 400M jog, 10 sit ups, 10 push ups, and some stretching, I’m given my assignment for the day. I have to do three rounds as quickly as possible of the following
- 400M run
- 21 kettlebell swings (with a 35 pound weight, although the routine actually calls for a 55 pound weight)
- 12 pull ups (from a dead hang)
It sounded tough, but nothing I couldn’t handle. I hadn’t done kettle bell swings before, but I can do pull ups and I can run, so I figured I’d be okay. I’m going to give you a rough estimate of the minute by minute breakdown of how things went:
00:00 - And I’m off! I start a light jog down the road behind the gym to a red G painted on the ground which is exactly 200M away from the gym.
01:30 – I finish my first 400M in around 90 seconds, and I’m already winded. Ruh roh Shaggy.
02:30 – I crank out my 21 reps of kettle bell swings, which are surprisingly difficult. I make a mental note to go home and learn how to utilize my hips more. I also make a mental note that I’m only on the 2nd part of the first round of this damn routine.
02:40 – Time to crank out some pull ups. I actually felt good about the pull ups going into this because I can generally do a lot of them. However, after running 400M and doing 21 swings I’m already gassed. Apparently Crossfit preaches a specific type of pull up called a kip up which uses momentum, but I don’t know how to do it, so I stick with my dead hang and chug through my first set of 12.
4:00 – 10:00 – I get through round 2 somehow. I don’t remember much of it, except for the puddle of sweat underneath me and the beginning of some delirium. I’ve been exercising for only 10 minutes and I’m already ready to pass out. Endurance fail.
10:01 – I begin round 3 with my 400M “run.” I use the term “run” loosely, because I’m pretty sure at this point I’m doing that run/jog thing that is actually slower than walking. I’m an idiot and I’m clearly not thinking straight, but I start to ask myself what Buzz Lightyear would do in this situation. “Never give up, never surrender.” Yup, I start thinking about Pixar movies. That’s normal.
11:00 – As I hit the halfway point on my jog, I’m so exhausted and delirious that I see Jesus.
11:01 - Turns out “Jesus” was just a bearded homeless man peeing in the bushes. My bad.
12:20 - I have no concept of time anymore. I feel like I’ve been exercising for an hour. My legs are exhausted, my head hurts, I’m kind of hungry, sweaty, tired, but damnit I’m gonna finish this thing.
15:00 - I j lust finished my last set of kettle bell swings and I’m dying. OH GOD still 12 more pull ups.
15:15 - Liz looks at me and goes “It’s okay to swear, if that helps.” I smile politely, and continue cursing to my cursing to myself on the inside. At this point, Ramstein’s “Du Hast” comes over the speakers (slightly different than the god-awful techno that plays at my current gym).
15:30 – The first 5 pull ups come easy. My arms decide to stop working on the 6th. F*** you arms!
16:00 - I break the rest of it into 3 sets of 2 pull ups and one final pull up. I briefly consider letting out a war cry but I figure nothing would actually come out.
18:48 - I’m done. “18 minutes and 48 seconds. Not bad! A lot of people don’t even get through the workout on their first try,” says Liz. This makes me feel better. “This is the wall of records here at the gym. The fastest guy to complete this workout was 8 minutes and 37 seconds, with a 55lb kettle bell.” This makes me feel worse.
At this point, I noticed a “Pukie List” for all the people who have lost their lunch from pushing themselves too hard. I laugh and say, “Well I didn’t set any records, but at least I stayed off the Pukie List!” Like clockwork, my stomach decided that this was a jackass comment and wanted to make me pay for it. Fearing the worst, I politely excused myself to go wander around outside the gym, trying to take deep breaths and not puke while simultaneously looking for a nice bush to puke on in case it does happen. After one near-reversal I regain composure, drink the rest of my water, and stumble back into the gym.
After thanking Liz for pushing me to my limits, I vow to never exercise again. I remember getting in my car and thinking that was the worst thing ever and one of the stupidest ideas I’ve ever had. And then I got home…and suddenly I wanted to know what the next workout would be, and if I could get through that one too without puking. And then I wanted to know how fast I’d have to complete it to end up on the Wall of Records. Suddenly the concept of putting myself through hell again sounded like a fantastic idea. What happened to me!?
Let me set the record straight: Crossfit members are nuts. There’s no doubt about it. Anybody who puts themselves so that level of torture, on purpose, on a daily basis has to be crazy. And yet, I totally get it. These people push themselves way outside of their comfort zone, past any self-imposed limit, and then show up and do it all over again the next day. They do it because they know they can, because they have a group of people going through Hell with them, because they want to know how strong and fast they can be. It’s awesome.
Now, Crossfit isn’t for everybody. I bet a lot of people walk out of that gym after a free trial session and say “never again,” and then they go back to the way things were, which is fine. I’m sure the other limiting factor is the cost of the membership (which is quite expensive). I understand the reason for the price, but my funds are so tight right now that I just can’t afford it. Luckily Crossfit.com lists all of its daily routines and challenges on their site, so I can continue to train on my own at my gym (without the competition and positive encouragement from my peers). I guess I’ll see how much I can push myself on my own.
Crossfit and Liz – thanks for kicking my ass. I hated it the entire time, and I can’t wait to do it all over again soon.
NF Readers – If you’re looking for a challenge, find a CrossFit gym in your area and go for your 1st time free. Find out what you’re made of, and see if it’s right for you. If you’re a member of one, or you’ve tried out a Crossfit workout, I’d love to hear your stories in the comments.