They say your first time is never that good, but I beg to differ.
(Calm down, Dad, I’m talking about CrossFit.)
Earlier this week, I headed out to my first-ever CrossFit class. Two of my friends from college are regulars at Three Pillars Fitness & Wellness in Sacramento, and they invited me to come try a class with them (thanks, Ashley and Ben!)…and naturally, a class at 0530 was the only one that worked well with my schedule. After watching bits and pieces from the CrossFit Games the past couple years, as well as hearing my friends who do CrossFit talk about it, I was a little intimidated going into it. Ashley had reassured me that her box had a laid back vibe and everyone was really encouraging, but I still panicked a little. (It’s what I do.)
Luckily, it turned out my worry was for nothing. After Ashley introducted me to Ted, the owner and head coach of Three Pillars, he immediately asked about my exercise background and injuries and did a squat form assessment. He showed me how important core bracing is in order to achieve perfect form with a squat, and I was even able to learn how to fix my “butt-wink.” Trust me, that alone would have made the morning a success. From there, he sent us into the warm up, during which I watched Ashley like a hawk, tried to get my muscles warmed, and prayed that I would survive whatever was coming. After the warm up came the “midsection,” which was the strength portion of the class. The lift we were to practice that day was the sumo deadlift high-pull. Since I’d never done that before, Ted took me aside and taught me proper form using a kettlebell before sending me and my ‘bell on our merry way to practice the lift along with the cool kids. Then came the WOD, or as I call it, “the part where people sometimes puke.” The WOD for the day was a metcon (metabolic conditioning) consisting of 4 rounds of 10 ground-to-overhead (power clean into a push press/jerk) // 15 wall balls // 20 lateral bar hops. Once again, Ted taught me how to properly execute the movements while everyone else got set up, and then a timer was started and the madness began. Even though I was only using 12.5LB dumbbells (instead of a loaded Oly bar; Rx for women was 65LBs) and a 14LB ball, my shoulders were burning and I was a hot mess of sweat when I finished. I was impressed at how painful those 7 minutes and 15 seconds were, even thought I was not using the Rx’d weight. I reckon that’s part of CrossFit’s charm – a little time, a lot of work, and a helluva lot of sweat.
After the WOD was done, I took advantage of the opportunity to mess around and practice handstands. (There was so much open space at the box, yall. You couldn’t help but want to play!) I also got to practice some toes-to-bar with Ashley, and Ted was generous enough to teach me how to properly do them. He also attempted to teach me how to kip – which, unbeknownst to me, is the first progression to a full muscle-up – but I was a fairly disappointing student in that regard. I apparently need more shoulder strength and better mobility in order to perfect that (and the lack of grip strength in my little panda paws sure doesn’t help things), but I already knew that my shoulders and general mobility are subpar. What I really loved about this class was that it was not at all intimidating like I had expected. Too often I’ve seen CrossFit promoted – be it in media or word of mouth – and the grueling nature of the workouts is touted as its greatest virtue. While brutal workouts are great, they’re not what most folks need day in and day out. For most people who are new to CrossFit, or new to working out in general, I’d wager that an atmosphere of encouragement and excitement will be much more inviting and conducive to habit-setting…and that’s exactly what I found at the Three Pillars box. Of course, some of that might have been from the fact that I was happy to be working out with old friends, but there was more to it than just that. The other thing that stuck out to me was how the coach emphasized form above all else. Part of the intimidation-factor for CrossFit comes from its reputation for sloppy form and a priority on pushing more weight/reps no matter how much it costs your form. (Whether that reputation is deserved is a conversation for another day…) I really appreciated that Ted helped me with my squat form right off the bat, and that he had me focusing on form over weight during the WOD. I’d much prefer to have a coach who advocates for his athletes’ safety than one who pushes them to set PR’s at any cost.
So, bottom line: Would I go back? Maybe!
I’d like to go back, because I enjoyed the challenge of the WOD and the cammaraderie, and I’d love to keep progressing towards a proper muscle-up. At the same time, I know I can’t afford a membership at a gym, much less a CrossFit box. So for now, I’ll stick to enjoying the occassional WOD as a treat when I can drop in at a friend’s box and make the most of my home-gym and all the bodyweight workouts I’ve come to love lately.
My advice for anyone thinking about trying CrossFit: Find a box with a quality coach, leave your pride at the door, and go for it.
And in case you’re wondering, the sunrise on the way home was more than worth the 0400 wake-up call.