While I've bragged about my arsenal of gym memberships, there has always been a workout even I have avoided: high intensity interval training with big ole weights, commonly known as Crossfit. It wasn't a fear of gaining bulky muscles or inconvenient class times that kept me away; I was flat out intimidated.
While my love-hate relationship with exercise is well documented, I by no means consider myself an expert. So the idea of walking into a gym full of people performing complex movements with barbells loaded down with rubber plates totaling the equivalent of my post-holidays weight had me sweating. But that is sort of the point, right?
So I tackled my fear and enrolled in Fourth Street Crossfit's Crossfit 101: a month-long intensive designed to introduce even the most apprehensive to the gym. And now that I've participated in Crossfit, I'm totally allowed to talk all about it (I think that may be the first rule of Crossfit, actually).
While crossing the threshold on a chilly Day 1, my fears were not immediately quelled. The gym is well-stocked with the aforementioned rubber weights, kettle bells, boxes for jumping, and even rowing machines (see inset photo; I’ll let you speculate what the buckets are for). The padded floor was littered with members performing their warmups as just-the-type-of-music-you'd-imagine-playing blared through overhead speakers. I met my other brave classmates and the instructor for the evening, Forrest, as we went over the format of the class: learn a few functional movements, practice and then complete a small workout, employing what we learned. We started with the very basics: air squats, pushups and sit ups. Forrest explained that building a base of good form when moving would serve us well as the movements became more complicated and weight bearing.
And that they did.
Every class, which met three times a week at 7:30pm, built upon the previously learned skill as we moved through deadlifts, thrusters and cleans (terminology is key; see right for a list of helpful acronyms to keep in your back pocket.) While learning, we used lightweight PVC pipes to practice the movements before incorporating barbells. After a few classes and patient expert instruction from Forrest and other trainers, I became more comfortable and decided to kick it up a notch: attend the open gym held every Saturday at 10am.
What I found most amazing about the workout was not the amount of active calories my Apple Watch tracked (though, it was a close second) but rather the variety of weekend warriors I shared the gym with: ages ranging from college students to senior women with their daughters. Even a few kids made an appearance, but lucky for them, they were able to take advantage of FSCF's children's area while their parents got their WOD on. While Crossfit may seem extreme (and for some incredible athletes that participate, it certainly is), safety while performing the exercises is of utmost importance to all the trainers.
While I'll never get used to the sound of weights dropping to the floor (I jumped every time), after completing four weeks of personal instruction, I feel confident enough to employ some of the fancier lifts with a little more weight than a PVC pipe (I'll make my own playlist, though).
Crash Course in Crossfit Lingo
WOD - WORKOUT OF THE DAY
Because the idea of muscle confusion involves variety, every day you’ll find a different WOD, each with its own adorable (aka, misleading) name. Women’s names are common, but you’ll also find “Hero” WODs, meant to be performed with even more intensity than normal, to honor our fallen heros.
EMOM - EVERY MINUTE ON THE MINUTE
Every minute, strength movements are juxtaposed with rest periods, the duration of which is dictated by how long it takes to perform said movement.
AMRAP - AS MANY REPS AS POSSIBLE
Unlike the aforementioned EMOMs, AMRAPS are timed workouts, with the goal being to complete as many rounds as quickly (and safely) as possible. Thanks to my my natural competitiveness, the aftermath of AMRAP workouts allowed me to appreciate just how soft the padded floors were during recovery.
Tabata intervals are a form of high intensity internal training (HIIT) named for its creator Japanese scientist Dr. Izumi Tabata. Exercises are performed for 20 seconds at a time, followed by 10 seconds of rest.