My first year of CrossFit, and what comes next

One year ago today I stepped in to a CrossFit box for the first time. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a bit nervous. Everything I heard or had seen online about CrossFit made it seem like an extreme sport. What I found instead was a group of people very similar to myself who were interested in getting healthy.

On this first anniversary, I wanted to take some time to look back on my first year as a CrossFit junkie and talk about some of the things that have helped to hook me in.

Foundations

First night at CrossFit

First night at CrossFit

Most, if not all, CrossFit boxes will have anybody who is brand new to CrossFit go through a set of classes that are geared toward showing you the wide variety of movements and how to perform them. More importantly for us newbies, they show you how to scale the movements so that you can perform an easier version until you build up the strength or skill needed to perform the full movement. A great example of this for me was sit-ups. During our second foundations class we were supposed to do sit-ups, and I couldn't even do one. We scaled it back by wrapping a resistance band around the base of the rig and I would hold on to it as I laid back and it would provide assistance for my to get back up to the seated position.

Each of the foundations classes kicked my ass, but I was hooked. I told myself that I would get better at the movements and weight lifting and then things would get easier. Ha! I may have gotten better at the movements and I can certainly lift a LOT more weight, but I was dead wrong about that whole getting easier thing. Crossfit is as tough today as it was that first day. Just in different ways. And I wouldn't change it for the world.

The Little Wins

After wrapping up foundations I started attending regular classes 3 or 4 days a week. It didn't take too long before I stopped feeling like a complete fish out of water. Before CrossFit it had been a LONG time since I had done anything this physical. Just getting in to the habit of doing it on a regular basis was a challenge. But with that regularity I started to see some initial improvements. I could do a few sit-ups, I could do a pull-up with one-less band, I could perform a squat-snatch, I could do a couple double-unders in a row.

Each of these little wins spurred my on to want to get the next little win. And the next one. And the next.

One of the first goals that I was looking forward to reaching was being able to complete my first WOD as RX. (in CrossFit terms, to do a WOD as RX means to perform the workout exactly as it's prescribed without scaling any of the movements). That day finally happened on November 23rd when we did a workout that included 110 squats and 110 push-ups and took just over 10 minutes to complete.

I then RX'd the workouts on the 24th and 25th and felt like I was really on to something. But, of course that just turned out to be a lucky set of 3 days and RX days would be a rare treat for quite a while.

Stats

I've always love stats. In CrossFit, we keep track of everything. The workout we did, the weight we used, the number of rounds we completed, how much time a workout took… all of it. and I love it.

My deadlift stats

My deadlift stats

I quickly found a few iPhone apps (Pocked WOD, My WOD are my faves) and started tracking everything. When I started going to a new CrossFit box and found that they used a system called Wodify, holy crap, I was in love! The coach enters all the workouts in to the system, and at the end of class you simply type in your scores. It tracks everything for you, including your improvements over time when you do a benchmark workout multiple times, or your weight lifting totals.

Having access to all this data is extremely helpful. When the coach says to do a lift at 70% of your max weight, no need to remember what your max weight is and what the calculation would be. Wodify has you covered.

Being able to look back an entire year, or even just the past couple months and see the improvements is extremely inspiring.

Competitiveness

On our first night at CrossFit, our instructor said that eventually we would get to a point where we would come in and look at the whiteboard to see how others had done on the workout earlier in the day and that we'd start finding people who we would compete with. I remember thinking to myself, “nah, that's not why I'm here. I'm just here to workout and get in shape.”

Oh, how wrong I was.

175# Power Clean 8/11/15

175# Power Clean
8/11/15

I have always been competitive, so I don't know what made me think CrossFit would be any different. I will say that the #1 person I'm in competition with is myself. Having access to all the stats in Wodify lets me know what I've done in the past and what it's going to take to beat that score. But that's not to say that there aren't people in the gym I like to see how I stack up against. One guy may be faster, another is stronger, another has more cardio (ok, they all have more cardio than I do), etc. It is fun to look at a workout, see how they did and then try to catch them.

I consistently finish at the back of the pack on a regular basis on workouts that require a lot of cardio or stamina. I'm 100% ok with that. I'm getting better. I'm getting stronger. I will eventually catch up. Eventually.

Community

Part of the CrossFit Embody family

Part of the CrossFit Embody family

If you know me at all, you know that I am a huge fan of community. I've been entrenched in the WordPress community for the better part of a decade, and one of the things that I love about that community is their willingness to give freely of their time and knowledge in order to help others succeed.

With CrossFit there's a saying that the workout isn't finished until the last person is done. As that person who's holding up the group from being able to clean up and go home, I can tell you first hand that it can be an extremely emotional release when you finish that last rep and collapse in exhaustion while the rest of the group is cheering you on.

Family

My wife and I had been walking a 5-7 miles per day a few days each week. And when I signed up for CrossFit, she did, too. It means so much to me that I have been able to work out with her on a regular basis for the past year. There isn't a men's class and a women's class. No classes based on skill levels. We get to go to the same classes and endure the same workouts and we both scale them appropriately for our levels. I love it.

A few months back our box held a fundraiser for Autism Awareness. My daughter bought two raffle tickets and ended up winning a free month of CrossFit classes. At the end of that month we asked if she wanted to continue. She enthusiastically answered YES and has been attending classes with us ever since.

Working out with my wife has been great and was only made better by having our daughter join us.

Being an Inspiration

Typically when talking about myself, I do so in a self depreciating way, so this one is a little weird for me. But stick with me here…

I like to talk about things I'm in to. For this past year, that topic has frequently been CrossFit. If you follow me on social media or hang out with me at all, you already know this. I don't know if anybody has out-and-out complained about it, but it has certainly been mentioned that I talk about it a lot. But here's the thing, and it's important: I do not care what you think.

OK, that may have come off a little harsh. Let me explain.

In March of this year I was at a conference for work when somebody I know and respect greatly came up to me and thanked me for being the inspiration he needed to start working out again. He had seen my posts about working out and had seen my weight loss progress and it caused him to set aside time to get up and do the same.

He wasn't the first person to have told me that. I had already heard it a few times before from a few other friends. But because of my self depreciating ways, I didn't really take it to heart. Maybe I wasn't yet ready to hear it. Maybe I didn't quite grasp the gravity of it. Whatever the case, on that day, in that moment, it struck me how deep a connection had been made.

What's next?

My first year of CrossFit has seen some pretty drastic changes in my life. I've lost 40 pounds, I've dropped pants sizes & shirt sizes, I lift more than I thought I ever could, I'm healthier than I have been in years. Decades, even. So it would be pretty simple to put together a list of workout times or weights for specific lifts that I'd like to reach by this time next year. But really, those are simply points on a map that will get crossed off in due time. No, for this post, my thoughts on what's next are bigger than that and have more to do with the future rather than my next PR.

Here are my goals for the next 12 months.

1) Learn all I can
No, I don't just mean I want to learn how to do a muscle-up (although, I do want that) or record a better Fran time (that would be nice, too). I mean I want to learn about things like exercise physiology, energy systems, programming, technical aspects of lifts, kinesiology & nutrition.

2) Complete and pass the CrossFit Level 1 Certificate Course
This one, I realize is a bit of a bullet point that may seem like one of those points on a map I was talking about before. But I see this as a step toward something much longer term; coaching.

I'm not going to list coaching as a goal for this year because it is unlikely I'd be ready for it. There is a ton to learn and practice and that's going to take a lot of time. So it may not be in the cards for this coming year, but it's definitely on my road map.

A quick thank you or two

It would be wrong not to thank a few people for everything they've done to help me along this past year.

Chris, thanks for not killing me every time I buy some new piece of equipment for the house that largely goes unused since I'm at the gym 6 days a week. OK, that and for all the encouragement. Love you, babe.

John, Russ, Jeff, Mike, Kim and all the other coaches I've had the opportunity to learn from at CrossFit boxes I've dropped in to, thank you for all you've taught me. I know I still have much more to learn.

My friends and fellow athletes at CrossFit Embody, thank you for being an inspiration. Seeing your hard work inspires me each and every day.

Scott, thank you for introducing me to CrossFit. And for being the one person on the planet who's scores I get the most enjoyment out of beating. Even though I know it means you're heading to your back yard to try and record a better score. (Did I mention my latest Fran time? Get to work, buddy.)

 

5 Comments

  1. Kiko Doran on August 12, 2015 at 10:27 am

    Reading that sounds exactly like my experience with BJJ. Finding something that challenged me to take my fitness serious was important for my overall health improvements. I wish I had found it younger but I’ve been able to pass it on to my 15 year old daughter and I believe it is the best tool/gift I can give her for lifelong happiness.

    Congrats on finding your thing! You seem to have been “reborn” in the last year.

    • John on August 12, 2015 at 10:34 am

      Thanks, Kiko!

      It’s funny you mention wishing you found it earlier. That’s something I was thinking about the other day. I think there’s a lot to the timing of when things happen. I don’t know if I would have had the same experience with CrossFit had I found it several years ago. I found it at a time when I NEEDED it.

      Being able to share the passion for the sport with your daughter makes it even that much better, doesn’t it?

      • Kiko Doran on August 12, 2015 at 11:54 am

        I agree with the right time/place thinking. I need to struggle with fitness for a few years to appreciate what it brought to my life. Having played competitive sports year round as a kid, I was able to continue those pursuits in the military, but after separating from the Air Force I lost those outlets being presented right in front of me. I had to let myself get severely out of shape before I could appreciate what something like BJJ could bring to me. To say it’s just fitness and competition is not doing it justice. Just like when you are squatting for a PR, you are 100% focused on the task at hand. BJJ gives me the same outlet to let all the stresses of the day go and be 100% focused on something. It’s not too different from meditation in those ways.

        Yes sharing BJJ with my daughter really does make it more special. I see so many parents dropping their kids off at the gym. It means more for me to walk the walk I encourage her to walk. When I skip the gym, she holds me accountable. It’s really a win all around.

  2. Luwana on August 13, 2015 at 11:33 am

    Great job! Great post! Very inspirational!

    • John on August 13, 2015 at 11:49 am

      Thanks, Luwana!

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