Please note: ^This is not me.
Last night, I completed my first CrossFit on-ramp training module. 6 classes over a 2 week period, with each class featuring instruction on the basic series of exercises involved in CrossFit and ending with a WOD – or Workout Of the Day, as they call it. The exercises taught ranged from the simple (jumprope) to the complex (power snatch), and my grasp of each exercise ranged from embarrassing (jumprope) to rather impressive (power snatch). After finishing this initial on-ramp schedule, you are free to join in any WOD that your box (CrossSpeak for “gym” – you’ll see a lot of CrossSpeak) offers, as long as your account is current.
What is CrossFit?
CrossFit is a cult disguised as an exercise regiment. Like most cults, it relies upon confusion of its members; unlike most cults, that confusion is not cranial, but muscular. The idea is that by rotating WODs (you know what that is by now, right?), your muscles never get used to an exercise, and will continue to show gains over longer periods of time with fewer plateaus. This strategy actually serves to benefit more seasoned athletes, while CrossFit is primarily marketed to newbies (as all gyms are). Regardless, CrossFit evangelists will assure you that if you just stick with it, you will see a transformation in your body and life.
Of course, this is true of almost any workout regiment, but CrossFit also – again, because it is a cult – has a strong internal affirmation culture. In just my 6 classes, I received a ton of praise, encouragement, and friendliness. You not only want to finish your WOD, but you want to come back for another one tomorrow. I’m a bit of a life cheerleader myself, so I like this. Introverts may find it slightly off-putting, but introverts find everything off-putting, so no biggie.
My on-ramp training took place at CrossFit Edwardsville. From what I can tell, it seems to be a fairly standard box – a big, open room, with some squat racks in the middle, and various weight, bars, and apparati (is that even a word?) tucked neatly against the wall. The owner/operators, Greg and Caroline, are immediately likable people, and they have their cute baby around most of the time to boot (read: in addition, not to physically kick). They are both filled with the type of optimipositivity (that is definitely not a word) that you want out of your training instructors.
6 classes, 2 weeks: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and repeat. After the first week’s trifecta is over on Thursday, you get a long break until your next class on Monday, and you’ll need it. I’ve been sporting your average used-to-be-somewhat-athletic-but-drank-too-much-beer-in-my-20s-and-now-I’m-paying-for-it body that a lot of people start exercise programs with, and I was in pain by Wednesday. CrossFit prides itself on scaling down exercises so that it can appeal to all levels. My friend’s mother has been doing CrossFit for months, and it is her first time working out – she’s in her 60s. Every person is unique, and I found that some exercises required very little scaling down, and some required almost comical levels of assistance (how many bands can I use to assist my pull-ups? I’ll take that many).
The on-ramp is designed to teach you proper form in all of the basic exercises of CrossFit. Each session consists of roughly 60 minutes of instruction, then a 15 minute WOD, give or take. The schedule at CrossFit Edwardsville was as follows:
- Monday: Squats
- Tuesday: Presses
- Thursday: Deadlift & Pull-ups
- Monday: Clean
- Tuesday: Rows, jumprope, handstand pushups
- Thursday: Snatch
I personally think I did reasonably well at squats, deadlift, clean, and snatch. I struggled with presses and rows. I was embarrassed at pull-ups, jumprope, and handstand pushups. Yes, I was surprised at that as well. When was the last time you jumped rope? For me, it was over 2 decades ago, and the mechanics were practically foreign to me. I watched some instructional videos provided by Coach Greg for the Clean and Snatch (please hold the teenager jokes) and that is probably why I did a decent job at them. By the end of each class, I can confidently say that I grasped the basics of each and every exercise. I had problems with back rounding when reaching for a barbell on the floor, and some problems with form that will need to be corrected over time, but that is to be expected.
At the end of each daily training, you do a WOD. Your coach would design your WOD based on how you performed that day, as it was based on the skills you had just learned. Make no mistake – the WOD is designed to kick your butt in little time, usually 10 minutes or less. My hardest WODs might have been my first and last – first because it was a new concept for me, and last because Coach Greg had me do a CHIPPER of the following: 15 power snatches, 15 push presses, 15 front squats, 15 power cleans, 15 pushups, 15 sit-ups, 15 pull-ups (modified to rings for my weak body), and 15 burpees. Everyone hates burpees, and I was no exception.
My Subjective Review
Overall, I liked CrossFit, and I would consider myself a kool-aid drinker at the moment. In fact, while I could easily take the weekend off and start the regular WODs on Monday, I’m going to go to one tomorrow morning, because I want to. I was lucky that I had no other people in my on-ramp classes, so I received very personal instruction (to the point where I could tell the coaches were bored sometimes – I don’t blame them, they are used to larger class sizes). I’m now interested in meeting other cult members and participating in cult ceremonies – sorry, WODs, with them. I’ve been reading for years that barbell training is some of the best training you can do for overall strength, and CrossFit places a huge emphasis on this. My coaches, Greg and Edwin, were both personable, skilled, and attentive to my development on each exercise. They never made me feel like I was pushing too far, but they also didn’t let me settle for less than I could really do.
I have 1 more month out here in Edwardsville, so I want to make the most of it. Newbies can usually see significant gains on their PRs (personal records) in the first couple of months, just because you are finally using all those muscles that have been atrophying while watch Survivorman and eating potato chips for the last decade. I’ll more than likely be WODing at the box 3-4 times/week for the next month, and then I’ll post another review after I’ve delved deeper into it.
There is nothing wrong with buying into a cult, as long as it helps better you as a person and doesn’t require you to murder your family. I’m ok with outsiders making fun of CrossFit members, because on the inside it is all warm and fuzzy. If I join a cult and become a better, stronger person in mind and body and have a couple of friends poke fun at me for it, I’m cool with that.
See you at 9am, WODites.
My initial rating: 4.5 Wacos out of 5.