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CrossFit: Crossing Over to the Dark Side

Friday, March 1st, 2013

crossfit-crossing-over-to-the-dark-side-01Andrew, my fiancé, often initiates our most serious conversations via email, or Facebook, so I was a bit worried when I saw a message from him pop-up in my Facebook notifications shortly after the New Year. With some hesitation I opened the message and found an invitation to join CrossFit with him. It turns out my worry was well deserved.
You see I do not climb during the winter months. The suffering through the cold, climbing at obscure walls that happen to get a few rays of sun, and the short days just don’t add up to much fun for me. Instead I go skiing, take the dog on a walk, or read a good book. I believe that both my body and mind need this little break from climbing, and so far it’s worked pretty well.
But, as Andrew so kindly points out from time to time, not climbing also means I don’t get a ton of exercise in the winter and become “and unbearable person to be around”.
“CrossFit will be perfect for us,” he argues. “It only takes an hour and I hear you get your butt kicked.”
I of course told him there was no way I’d be joining CrossFit. I don’t want to turn into a huge muscle woman who can squat 4x her body weight and has the quads to prove it. Besides I’d probably get hurt. Not to mention the fact that I would completely suck at it and be a total embarrassment to both Andrew and myself. Nope, I would not go to CrossFit! That’s that.
This is the point where Andrew pulled out his trump card. He said the one thing that would guilt me into doing something I already knew I hated… the truth.
crossfit-crossing-over-to-the-dark-side-02“You cannot come home from work every night to sit on the couch and watch House Hunters while eating potato chips,” he demanded. “It’s just unacceptable.” And here I was thinking that was a perfectly lovely way to pass a cold, dark evening.
Ouch! The truth stings!
A few days later I reluctantly I got dressed in all of my favorite prAna workout clothes and headed to my first “Elements” class. I figured that if I was going to make an embarrassment of myself, I should at least look good doing it.
Luckily they don’t just let you start CrossFit. No, you have to go through a two-week introductory course to teach you the basic motions and make sure you don’t throw your back out on your very first power snatch. In this way, you are slightly guarded from making a fool of yourself because everyone else is also new to this whole thing. They also make it really expensive, so you have to go or else you’ll be wasting all of that money.
Before that first class I vowed to myself that I wouldn’t push it too hard. I’d just go get a good workout, make Andrew happy, and return to my post on the couch. What I didn’t count on was the timer and the requirement to record your results in plain view of everyone. Each workout consists of either trying to do as many reps of whatever you’re doing in an allotted amount of time, or trying to complete a list of actions as quickly as possible. You then write your results on the white board.
I was a gymnast for twelve years before becoming a climber. During that time a sense of competitiveness was ingrained so deeply into my being that I’ve spent the last fifteen years trying to pretend it doesn’t exist. The thing is, this competitiveness isn’t always geared towards other people. It’s really just me against me. So when someone tells me to give 100%, be it at climbing or yoga or anything else, I have to do it. I can’t help myself. So if the trainer says, “give it everything you’ve got,” all of a sudden I’m doing just that whether I want to or not.
crossfit-crossing-over-to-the-dark-side-03In gymnastics you get a score for each of your routines at a competition. That score is put onto a long pole and then shown to everyone at the competition. When a low score gets flashed everyone in the gym feels sorry for that person, knowing they either screwed up their routine or they don’t really belong competing at that level. I always worried a little bit about what the other people in the gym would think of my scores, but more than that I knew what my scores meant about my performance. I knew that when my score was below the level I knew it could be that I could have tried harder and done better. I rarely felt competitive toward the other gymnasts, but when I saw someone score higher than me I instantly knew that I was capable of more and spent the next few weeks of my life trying to prove it to myself.
In CrossFit, you have to record your score for each workout. It’s there on the white board for everyone to see. They even post it on the Internet at the end of the day. While I no longer worry about what other people will think of my score, I sure do notice those score that are higher than mine, and I know that more is possible.
Combine those two things, someone standing there demanding I give my all and then holding me accountable by having me record my score for all to see, and you’ve found the exact way to make me try harder than I ever thought I could. By all accounts this should make me hate CrossFit.
We’ve been doing CrossFit for almost two months now. I can’t quite explain how it happened, but I don’t hate it, in fact I’m completely obsessed with it. I get excited to see what ridiculous workout they’ve concocted for us and how sore it’s going to make me the following day. I don’t even mind squatting weights, although I still hope to never have quads to prove it.
I’ve accepted that CrossFit preys on the parts of me I love to hate and hate to love, my competitiveness with myself and my inability to hold back when I know I have more to give. But I’m pretty sure that’s what makes it the most butt-kicking workout I’ve ever done. Plus it only takes an hour!
I’m just not sure it’s going to help my climbing. I guess I’ll find out as soon as the temperatures rise and the rock dries out.
~ Jen Vennon, prAna Ambassador
Photos by Vince Shimp at Roaring Fork CrossFit
Learn more about Jen