“What is CrossFit?”
“Constantly-varied functional movement performed at high intensities across broad time and modal domains”
(insert crickets chirping)
This is the usual dialogue I have with someone when they ask me about me and exercising. After the cricket chirping stops and the long pause ceases, I (unfortunately) lead them to the internet. When someone Google’s CrossFit they’ll be directed to the main website, the CrossFit Games website and a multitude of links that discuss the latest ‘controversy’ concerning all-things CrossFit. It shows the CrossFit elite and some of the top level performances from the CrossFit community.
After all that I still haven’t quite conveyed what CrossFit really is.
To say CrossFit is an exercise program or regime would severely short change it’s definition.
To say CrossFit is a ‘cult’ would be a harsh but semi-valid explanation.
To say CrossFit is a community would be a great start in adequately defining what CrossFit ‘is’.
What is CrossFit to me? I thought I’d give you a brief overview of my journey with CrossFit first. I’ve been actively participating in CrossFit since October of 2011, after I observed from the sidleines for years. I was hesitant from the very beginning because it looked so scarily difficult. I remember watching the old videos, as well as reading up on the ‘workout of the day’ (WOD). Even though I considered myself not ‘out of shape’.. that stuff was intimidating.
In October of 2011 I took the plunge because I got tired of wondering if I could do it. I mean, was it really that hard, and was there really something to there non-traditional methods?
Like many others, after that first workout left me lying on my back gasping for air… I was hooked. I wanted more. Just from a purely physical perspective, I wanted to know why such a seemingly easy workout crushed me.
It was random. It was quick. It was challenging. And I learned something new everyday about the way I moved, my strengths and my weaknesses. I got better each day, and before I knew it my level of fitness was worlds apart from what it used to be.
I did that for roughly two years on my own with a couple guys in a local gym. It wasn’t the official CrossFit gym, called a box. I wasn’t coached by anyone holding a CrossFit level 1 certification. It was me, my curiosity and the internet. In that first year, I spend countless hours surfing the web, consuming as much information as I could to teach myself proper technique, learning new skills and improving my performance.
Last year my family moved. I had done my research, and eventually took a second plunge by entering the doors of CrossFit affiliated gym (box).
My world changed again. For the first time I understood what CrossFit was. It was more than just exercising. CrossFit was a community in it’s truest sense. But calling it a community just scratched the surface. It was an invitation for a multitude of opportunities to improve your life and improve the lives of others.
Through the medium of improving our fitness, we meet, greet, befriend and slowly rely on the people we workout with. I know, a crazy thought, but it’s the truth.
The members of your box become some of your closest friends because of what CrossFit does to you and your life. We laugh and we joke about it, but the WODs we do on a daily basis suck almost all the time. Every time we step foot into the box, the workout simply crushes you physically in some way. The part that no one explains to you is the mental toughness you develop, which is purely by accident in most cases.
Your first experiences at CrossFit are always the same, it’s intimidating. No matter what level of fitness you have, there is always some aspect of CrossFit that challenges you. You learn a new movement, lift a weight that is heavier than your expected abilities, you run farther, you push faster, you jump higher, etc. You begin to do things you could never do before. You’re personal records (PR) for physical accomplishments start to flow.
All the while, your fellow gym members are cheering you on. In fact, you have strangers who are screaming and cheering you on as if they’ve known you all your life.
The weird thing is you start viewing them that way, because of shared misery. Like gladiators on the battlefield, there is this unspoken level of respect amongst fellow gym members because you know they walked through the same fire you walked through with that WOD. They suffered too. They suffer with you, they celebrated with you and you with them.
Over time, what used to be intimidating becomes just another obstacle you want to conquer. That weird fear you used to have of the unknown isn’t there as often as it used to be. Heck, that weird fear might be all together gone. All because you are a CrossFitter. You’re of course not invincible, but you sometimes feel that way. You know what it’s like to be defeated, time and time again, but now when you are defeated it invigorates you. Instead of slumping down in a pool of self-pity, you’re motivated to try again. You want to be better. You want to do better. You do all this because you were never alone when you started. While the battle we wage is for us to fight with our own singular human body, there is comfort, strength and a bit of hubris in knowing we are a part of something much bigger. In a weird sort of way you are equally competing against yourself and your friends, but the competition is simply to make each other better… not to win (although winning can bring bragging rights sometimes).
Through these physical challenges I have learned to navigate my mind through the physical and emotional trials of everyday life a little bit better. I’m more confident. I’m not scared to try new things.
Through CrossFit’s amazing community I have learned the value of support, both giving and receiving. As a community we not only can relate to each others struggle, but we have developed a sense of pride for one another. That pride shines through each and every workout, especially when we are cheering louder and longer for the person who finishes last, not first.
What is CrossFit?:
It’s a place where we support one another in our day to day lives.
It’s a place where we learn the value of digging in a little bit and working hard.
It’s a place where we share our failures, empathize shared struggle and overly-celebrate others accomplishments.
It’s a place where we learn to conquer fear.
It’s a place where we defeat self-doubt.
It’s a place where we learn about persistence.
It’s a place where we discover what we are truly capable of completing, both physically and mentally.
It’s a place we go that reminds us there are good people out there who are truly genuine and giving.
It’s a place we call a community.
Oh, and it’s a place where we improve our level of fitness.
Why do I CrossFit? Because it made me a better person.