1) See how it’s “ONE fatty’s guide” not “THE…” Everyone gets to be a special snowflake when it comes to their own lives. Just because I like doing Crossfit at my gym doesn’t mean all fat people (or all ANY people) have to like it, should like it, should do anything other than what they wanna do, etc.
2) I don’t work out to be thinner, look “good”, get “in shape”, or any of the other reasons people (especially women) are told they’re supposed to be motivated by in the gym. I work out because I like seeing what my body can do, how much weight it can lift, etc. But that’s actually all a nice side-effect — the main reason I go, and the reason I go regularly and keep dragging myself in there in the pitch blackness of winter, is because if I don’t get a certain amount of endorphins & sweat into my week, I start to unravel. Gym 2-3 times a week: Feel great! Skip for a couple weeks: Crying all the time! The gym membership is expensive; anti-depressants and doctors are moreso.
This post is for people who are curious about my experiences with CrossFit, so I can stop trying to go over all this while at various social events that are better spent talking about literally anything else.
WHAT IS CROSSFIT?
I think you can sort out the basics yourself.
YEAH BUT WHAT’S IT *LIKE*?
So here we go: Crossfit was really difficult for me at first psychologically. A lot of the stuff you do is very similar to gym class activities from middle and high school. If reading that just made your feelings wince, I’m right there with you. It was really hard to shake the idea that everyone else in the gym was making fun of me behind my back or judging me for being the slowest, the weakest, the fattest, THE WORST.
I have only ever worked out at my gym, so I can’t guarantee you a great time everywhere, but part of the underlying “deal” with Crossfit is the most relentlessly unshakable positivity I have ever encountered. Did you do well? Everyone claps for you. Did you finish last? Everyone claps for you, probably louder and harder because more people have finished their workout and thus are available for clapping. There are a *lot* of high fives at my gym. Everyone knows everyone’s name, we introduce ourselves to new/unfamiliar faces, and then we cheer for each other. “GET ON THAT BAR, COURTNEY!” is a thing I have had yelled at me across a room more than once.
WHAT ARE THE WORKOUTS LIKE?
You work out in a group — it’s sort of a combination of an exercise class and a personal trainer. The trainers are there, and they correct and guide you, they’ll help you scale down or up as you need, correct your form, and cheer loudly for you. Everyone else (sometimes a few of us, on weekends it’s like 40 damn people and kind of intense) works out around you, claps for each other, shouts encouragements, and occasionally makes nonverbal sounds as needed. (Sometimes I do kind of need to say, “gyaaaaaaah” at the kettlebell.)
The workouts themselves vary, but the important thing is: EVERYTHING can be scaled down. Which was and continues to be important for me, since I sit at a desk all day and I sit on a couch playing video games or watching TV most nights, and so I was not in any shape to be slinging weights around when I started. I could barely do a squat (I still can’t do a proper one). I couldn’t do a real pushup (still can’t). I couldn’t do a pullup (…that may never happen). And that’s okay! There’s other stuff you can do! Other people will probably scale that stuff or other stuff or whatever too! The important thing is, it’s your workout and you are destroying it. Part of that is doing stuff you can actually DO and still walk the next day.
…also you will probably not be able to walk normally the next day after your first workout. Or at least, I COULD NOT. The human body can do just about anything ONCE. Part of scaling the movements is making sure I’m doing stuff that is a challenge, but not so much of a challenge that I overdo it and can’t go back to the gym in a couple days. I’m there to be there, to see what I can do that day, and to keep coming back and keep doing things.
I KEEP HEARING ABOUT BURPEES?
A burpee is when you drop down into a pushup, stand back up, and then jump and clap your hands over your head. I think they’re slightly less brutal if you’re short? But they’re brutal. At Crossfit you do a lot of them (along with squats).
The first WoD I did at my gym involved burpees, and beforehand I said, “oh I hate burpees” and the guy next to me turned around and said, “No you LOVE burpees!” That…kind of sums of Crossfit, for me. If you’re at the gym and want to be there, why tell yourself you hate the stuff you’re going to do there? It’s easier in a way, for me, to just let myself attack the workout and like it, rather than tell myself, “ugh this is terrible” the whole time. It’s one of the few times in my day my brain is capable of being nice to myself no matter what, and I love that feeling.
WHAT’S A “WOD”?
There’s a lot of lingo to learn, some of it Crossfit-specific, some of it more general weight lifting jargon. Crossfit focuses on the Olympic lifts, the clean & jerk and the snatch. There are a bajillion variants on those: the power clean, the squat snatch, the hang squat clean…plus variants on the jerk, like the press, the push press, the split press…lots of words! I think the last month or so is when I’ve finally stopped having to ask EVERY TIME what the lifting series we’re doing that day translates into. Muscle memory takes time, it’s a lot to pick up and memorize, and it just takes a while.
The “WoD” is the Workout of the Day. (Yes, it’s pronounced “wad”…once you start talking to people about your snatch, you kind of get past the double-entendre giggling.) An hour-long Crossfit session is only maybe 15 minutes of “workout” (sometimes as little as 7 minutes). My gym’s routine is warmup -> skill or strength work -> WoD. The WoD is a set of movements that you do in series, sometimes as a set number of rounds, sometimes as many rounds as possible (an “amrap” if you will). It’s nice because even if the WoD is a bunch of movements that I don’t feel particularly good at, I can tough it out because it’s only 9 minutes or whatever.
Some days, the warmup is the hardest part. Some days I overdo it on the strength work and have to play it safe on my weights for the WoD. I listen to my body and make decisions based on what I think I can do, not what I wish I could do.
SOMEONE TOLD ME THERE WERE SPECIAL SHOES.
If you go try out a free workout at a Crossfit gym, don’t wear normal workout shoes. Typical athletic shoes have a lot of padding, especially around the heel, which means your foot isn’t flat and it’s resting on foam. You want to lift weights while standing on concrete, not a foam mattress. Converse Chuck Taylors are a popular choice, as a Vibram Five-Fingers. (I’ve done both, I prefer the Five-Fingers for traction and balance but they’re more expensive.) There are Crossfit-specific shoes, and lifting shoes, and as with all things if you want to spend more money there is someone who’ll let you do that, BUT. Really just some cheap flat sneakers like the Chucks should treat you okay.
DON’T YOU ALL EAT WEIRD?
So the stuff covered above basically encapsulates, “Courtney doing Crossfit, months 1-6.” I wore appropriate footwear, I did my (scaled) movements and weights, I learned the lingo. In October, I decided to try out eating “Paleo”.
Lots of people who do Crossfit choose to follow that diet. Lots of people who do Crossfit choose not to. I continue to (mostly) adhere to it, because because it has resolved some pretty painful digestive health issues I was having.
Also, I’m privileged enough to have access to and funds for local farm shares for vegetables and meat, so Paleo is really easy and relatively inexpensive for me compared to how I was eating beforehand. That’s definitely not the case for lots of people, for lots of reasons. I think one of the reasons so many Crossfitters can be found online being shitty and obdurate about How Much Better Paleo Is And If You Don’t Eat That Way You’re Deficient is because Crossfit is itself a really expensive hobby and sometimes rich people forget that not everyone else is rich.
The downside of the Paleo/Crossfit overlap is that while I never have to worry about someone talking to me about losing weight at my gym, they do talk to me sometimes about their diet. There was definitely some fat-shaming promotion around the gym’s 30-Day Paleo Challenge that I participated in…which is weird, since nothing about Crossfit or Paleo is what I would consider a weight-loss plan. (I gained 10 pounds over the first month of Crossfit because muscles are heavy and Paleo is very direct about using delicious, delicious fats when cooking.)
THIS SOUNDS LIKE A CULT.
“Yeah, but it’s a GOOD cult!” is the in-jokey response, which you can probably buy on a t-shirt somewhere. But yes, a hyper-friendly group of people with special food, special shoes, and weird special words that makes you pay money to spend time with them; it’s not an unfair assessment. It’s a cult I happen to like being in, but again, I wouldn’t blame anyone for staying far, far away.
SO WHAT DOES YOUR BODY LOOK LIKE NOW?
I think you have missed the point of this post and need to go fuck yourself immediately!