It was thanksgiving weekend 2012. I was visiting my girlfriend (now fiancé) and she wanted me to come workout at her CrossFit gym. A little background on me: I’ve been a lifelong athlete. I played 4 varsity sports in high school, men’s intercollegiate club volleyball, I’m a 12 handicap golfer, I mountain bike, snowboard, and have been lifting weights a few times per week since 10th grade.
This is all to say that coming into Brazen Athletics (CrossFit Link), I felt pretty prepared to get in a workout of the day (WOD).
I was wrong!
I finished dead last in that first WOD. It was one of those where you have multiple rounds of 4 different movements for time. I remember everyone coming around me cheering me on as I finished up. At the time I was wishing everyone would ignore my ineptitude and anguish. My lungs burned, my legs ached. What the heck had I gotten into?
A little while later I visited the gym again, this time as an onlooker/cheerleader. The members were competing in “The Open.” If you’re unfamiliar, this is a competition that anyone can enter, as long as they complete the weekly workouts in an authorized facility. It’s also the qualifier for regional competitions that ultimately determine who gets to go to the CrossFit Games.
It was this experience, watching and cheering on the members that got me hooked. It all felt like a team, a family supporting each other to achieve their best. Pushing each other to the brink of exhaustion. It was crazy and loud and beautiful.
I wanted in.
Since this time of year everyone is making lists, here are:
5 lessons I’ve Learned in My First Year of CrossFit
- The ‘Right’ Box is All About the Right People – I’ve been to a number of gyms (called ‘boxes’ in CrossFit) over the past year. Brazen spoiled me as my intro to CrossFit. In my opinion, the key to CrossFit isn’t the workouts (although – see point #3). The key is the people. The coaches. The members. The support. The family. I know one of the knocks on CrossFit is the sort of ‘cult’ feel it can have. Whatever. To me, it feels like family. A family of odd balls and contrarians. The kind of family that’s trying to kick life in the butt and get better together everyday. The kind of family that has “Change Your Thoughts, Change Your World” painted on the wall and emblazoned on their hearts. Shout out to Limitless BigJ and Link for creating such an amazing place.
- Check Your Pride Before You Fall – When I started, I couldn’t overhead squat a PVC pipe properly. Meanwhile, the girl next to me was crushing out reps of 115#. I know another criticism of CrossFit is that it supposedly has a high rate of injury. As a doctor and athlete, I have a pretty unique perspective on all of this. First, I can’t afford to be hurt. I use my body as a means to earn a living. Second, no activity (or inactivity) is without risk. What I learned pretty quickly is that if I let my ego dictate my intensity or load, I was more likely to hurt something. My coaches and I emphasized proper form and technique over intensity and load, and I have remained un-injured this year while still improving every area of my fitness. Don’t let your pride in a class setting get in the way of improving yourself by suffering a serious injury. For more in limiting injury risk – check out this blog post.
- The Proof is in the Programming – Earlier, I said the people at CrossFit are more important than the WOD programming. I stand by that. However, the programming is extremely important too. The thought process that should go into programming weeks, months and even years of workouts is vital to membership success. By success I mean improving movements, fitness, and progressing while limiting injury risk. I went to one box to check it out and their intro class (for all non-members) was one of the worst WODs I’ve ever done or seen. We all got absolutely crushed by multiple rounds of 200 yard lunges. Real nice first impression doofus.
- Help – One of the best things I did early on in my CrossFit journey was to ask for help. Even though I have a pretty high level of understanding of how the body is supposed to move, I couldn’t see all of the things I needed to work on without help. There’s only so much coaching that can happen in the middle of a WOD. Take advantage of one-on-one coaching. If you’re serious about getting better, pony up for a few sessions with a coach you trust. Also, get some video taken of your baseline movements and be okay with them analyzing and helping you.
- Thrive, Not Just Survive – I’ve put on a healthy 15 pounds this past year and I’ve never been stronger. My functional movement has improved significantly. I’ve found things to work on I never knew about. Most importantly, my passion for exercise has been rekindled. Before CrossFit, I had hit a really pathetic plateau and wasn’t progressing. Now I have tons of new and challenging movements and goals to work toward.
I have no delusions of being on ESPN, but I’ve found an awesome box, with amazingly talented coaches and supportive members who are all working to get better. Better at CrossFit, yes, but better at life.
And that’s the most important lesson I’ve learned in my first year of CrossFit.
Yours in Health,
I’d love for you to take advantage of special launch pricing and a subscriber only coupon for my video rehab program – The Full Body Fix.