As I wrote in a post just 45 minutes prior to my first Crossfit WOD, I was very nervous about what I was walking into.
As I Was Worried Would Happen…I Got My Ass Kicked
Believe me when I say – it was much more difficult than I had every imagined it would be. It was absolute torture, to be honest. On paper the “Baseline” workout didn’t sound so bad. In reality, it literally kicked my ass. Before I get to the actual workout, here’s what happened -
I showed up at my local Crossfit affiliate, Crossfit King of Prussia (which is actually in Bridgeport). The place was much bigger and nicer than I expected. I was expecting a dilapidated garage. This place is an old warehouse that has been converted to a “box” quite nicely, and they have just about every piece of Crossfit equipment you could imagine – from kettlebells, sleds, monkey bars, wall balls, rowers, olympic weights (bumper style), etc. Apparently also a very nice locker room/showers too, but I didn’t go in there.
So I show up about 10 minutes early. They have me sign waivers stating that I wouldn’t sue the owners if I die, over-do it, etc. I then was directed inside to have a seat and watch the in-progress WOD (Workout of the Day) for a few minutes and the coach would come and get me. So I go in and sit down and start watching the roughly 25 participants in the WOD as it was coming to a close. They were doing some sort of grueling (or so it appeared) kettlebell workout where it was done in rounds. People of all shapes/sizes. Most of them in their 20’s, many maybe early 30’s. A couple of older folks.
I was nervous going in but once I saw they were using the heavy kettlebells, and then watching them doing olympic lifts (to exhaustion – they made full use of the ‘bumper’ plates, throwing them down after each set). It was pretty impressive but made me even more worried about being able to keep up.
Meeting the Trainer
Before long a muscle-bound dude comes up and introduces himself. Nice enough fellow. Says he is waiting on one other newbie and they would start in a minute. The other newbie shows up, and the trainer has us go into the front part of the gym (more like a ‘foyer’ area), to a side room that has an old kitchen table/chairs, rocking chairs, couches. Looked like a college hangout pad. He begins to tell us the history of Crossfit, what they do there, etc. I knew most of it but listened intently. He asked us what questions we had as we went along. The other guy didn’t say much at all.
I asked one question – “Do you have a portable defibrilator on site?” He said yes, they do, and they recently went through training on how to use it.
He asked us why we were there, what our goals were. The other newbie, a younger fellow (early 20’s) started talking about how he wanted to push himself harder when the trainer noticed his shirt and said, “You participated in the CMC eh?” Turns out the “CMC” is some sort of paramilitary workout thing that happened this past weekend. One of those self-torture for fun workout events, like a “Mud Run” or something like that. This guy was in very good shape and said he just wanted to see what Crossfit was about.
I kept quiet and just told them that I was looking to get into shape and left it at that. The majority of people there, I believe, are Paleo (or Zone or Primal) dieters to some degree, which is part of the appeal to me – to meet and chat with folks who are into real health. But I didn’t want to take up time blabbing about diet. I was on edge for the workout.
There was another guy who showed up to chat with us. He had been doing Crossfit for about 6 months and gushed about it. Seemed like a nice enough fellow and he stuck around to assist.
At that point, the trainer said, “I see you guys came dressed to workout. Let’s go!” We then got about 10 minutes of instruction on the “Baseline WOD”, which consisted of:
- 500m Row
- 40 Air Squats
- 30 Full-Range Situps (these were unlike any other situps I’ve ever done – you had to touch your hands to the floor, behind your head, and then to the floor past your toes, for each rep)
- 20 push-ups
- 10 pull-ups
The workout would be timed, and the results posted up on a humongous whiteboard on the wall. The theory is that, over time, I would do it again to see how much I improve after doing Crossfit for awhile.
I knew I would have trouble with the pull-ups for sure, but I was somewhat confident anyway. The trainer said he would scale the workout to our needs as we go.
Ignorance is bliss! I was in for pain and didn’t know it…
The reality is the workout wouldn’t have been that bad if not for:
- It was timed. And lots of people I noticed were watching us.
- It was setup as a competition – I was basically competing, in a friendly way, but competing nonetheless, with a 24 year old fitness fan who was there for kicks.
Next thing I know, the instruction is done and the guy tells us to go get on the row machines (incidentally, they were the only ‘machines’ in the place). He then grabs a stopwatch and yells, “3 – 2 – 1 – GO!” and we’re off. We were both rowing our asses off, at a good pace. I quickly passed 100 meters and thought, “Piece of cake. I’m not even breathing heavy!” At 250m I was starting to get a bit winded and could feel the left side of my hip tweaking a bit. I pushed through and maintained the same pace. We got off the rowing machines at right about the same time (2 minutes), though the other guy got out of the straps a bit faster than I.
On to the air squats. I had just done 50 of these at a hotel gym while in Florida a few weeks ago, so I thought it would be cake. It was tough because they insisted that I go really low – it was explained that, at the bottom of the squat, I should be able to put a marble on my knee and it would roll down to my hip. I’m just not flexible so it was a struggle at first to get low enough, but after about 10 the trainer yelled out that I was getting lower as I loosened up, and had good form. 50 air squats down. The last 10 were a struggle but I pushed through. On to the situps.
I haven’t done situps in a while. These situps were actually surprisingly easy due to the full-range form. They even encouraged us to use our arms to ‘swing’ forward to get momentum. Had the situps not been sandwiched between the 500m row, the 40 squats, and the remaining stuff, they would have been a breeze. But the last 15 or so were pretty tough. I was pretty spent, but pushed through. The other guy got done a few seconds before me and moved on to the push-ups.
I knew I would have trouble with the upper-body stuff. I knocked out the first 10 push-ups but was so winded/drained after that it took seemingly forever to get through the next 3. The trainer had to get down with me and do some with me – 3 at a time. For the last 3 or 4 he told me to do them from my knees, which I hated doing but had no choice. He warned us before we started that we might need to do that. I did.
The final leg of this baseline WOD was 10 pull-ups. Grueling. I ran over to the monkey bars, jumped up, and knocked out 3 pull-ups fairly quickly. Then I hit the wall. Was spent. The trainer saw that and grabbed one of the assist bands (the thinnest one) and rigged it up onto on my feet. That helped and I was about to pump out 3 more, then another 3 or 4 more. Then I was done….no strength left whatsoever. He had his assistant rig up a bigger assist band while I was knocking out the last couple on the skinny band – he knew I wouldn’t last. I struggled through the last handful of pull-ups using the big assist band.
I jumped down and he said I finished in 9:33. That was a very grueling 10 minutes, I can assure you. I literally was dizzy after, my heart pounding harder than it ever has. A couple of weeks ago I ran a 5k for the first time and I assure you that I would rather do a 6.5k before going through that WOD at that pace again. I was so dizzy that I couldn’t see straight. The other guy said he was hurting bad, but he seemed like he could function. Me, I was in a daze. I looked like the guy in this video:
With the workout done, the trainer congratulated us and told us to come outside through this open side door so we could get some air. I had to sit down and lean against the wall I was so out of it. SPENT. The trainer congratulated us and said that we did the 500m row in under 2 minutes, which is a good time even for experienced Crossfitters. He said he was going to tell us to slow down and pace ourselves but held back.
He then walked us over the humongous whiteboard and wrote our names and times on there. I quickly scanned the list to compare. The times ranged from between 3 minutes (amazing) to 20 minutes. He said the elite folks were in that 3 minute range. I was happy with my time but to be honest at that point I was more concerned with not passing out – I was still dizzy and out of breath.
The trainer and his assistant told us we could stick around to watch the next WOD if we like but otherwise the Intro session was done, and they hoped to see us back.
The other newbie quickly left. I got the sense he was just there for a free workout, to maybe test himself. He did.
I started looking for a place in the gym to literally lay down and get my bearings and try to recover. But the 7:30 WOD was starting and the place was pretty crowded, with barbells flying all over. The only place to rest was sitting on benches and I didn’t want to do that so I started walking to the exit. The trainer said, “Mark – you sticking around to do the workout again?” with a chuckle. I didn’t think it was too funny at the time : ( I left and got in my car and drove home as quickly as I could, all the while worried I would pass out, sweating like a pig, breathing very hard.
Got home and was still in a bad way. Laid down on the couch and it took another 15 minutes to recover. That’s when it hit me – beside the workout, I hadn’t eaten much today. And I had *nothing* to eat, so I ran over to the grocery store and grabbed some Dark Chocolate Almond Milk, some Coconut Milk, and a sweet potato. Loaded up to get some energy into my body and I was fine after that. Fortunately, I’m not very sore – a little in my lower body but I’ll survive.
So, will I sign up for the “Fundamentals” course that starts this week? Or is this a once and done thing? I want to sleep and decide in the morning, but as of right now my thinking is….Hell Yeah! While that was the most grueling/intense workout ever, and I believe it was shorter than most Crossfit workouts, I am intrigued. I’ve done “Spin” classes, etc. and those were a joke compared to this. Yeah, I was sweating and breathing hard in those globo-gym classes but nothing like this.
The Fundamentals class is where they teach the olympic lifts and all the other stuff (burpees, kettlebell swings, plyometrics, etc.). While it is very expensive (IMO), at worst I’ll finish it knowing how to do that stuff on my own. At best, I won’t be so beaten down after the workouts and will find them as fun/exhilarating as most of the other people there seemed to think it was. I’ll keep you posted.