The CrossFit Games start Wednesday. I’ve followed the games for a couple of years, since watching the 2015, 2016, and 2017 Games documentary on Netflix. I’m a Mat Fraser fan girl and I have no shame in admitting it. I’ll be sneaking Games updates all week, and watching as often as I can this weekend. Maybe next year, I’ll even be there (not as a competitor – let’s not get crazy).
I have my favorites. Mat Fraser – of course – is my and basically every other person’s pick to win the men’s competition, but I do like Josh Bridges, Brent Fikowski, and Patrick Vellner. Over on the women’s side, there’s Katrín Davíðsdóttir, Brooke Wells, Kara Saunders (her quads, tho), and you can’t rule out last year’s champ, Tia-Clair Toomey. Lauren Fisher (a longshot). Camille LeBlanc-Bazinet.
Basically, the women’s field is badass and I can’t list all my favorites here.
It’s all very exciting.
Here’s the thing. Despite my close following of the CrossFit Games, two years ago, I wouldn’t be caught dead in a CrossFit box. I had just touched a barbell for the first time and discovered a whole word of fitness outside of the cushy corporate gym I was a member of. The three lifts of powerlifting – squat, deadlift, bench press – became my wheelhouse, and I got pretty good at them. I intended to stay in that wheelhouse.
Several people have asked why I joined a CrossFit box after moving to Chapel Hill. I think it’s a fair question. Powerlifting at The Gym following Westside Barbell programming made up a lot of my Instagram feed. I went from posting photos of me pulling deadlifts against bands or squatting with 100lbs of chains dangling off the bar to videos of me trying to perfect my snatch and eagerly checking the next day’s WOD before bed so I know what shoes to pack. Starting CrossFit is a big departure from the workouts I’ve done these last couple of years.
With the Games about to begin, today is a great day to answer the “Why I joined CrossFit” question.
Honestly, I didn’t think I could do CrossFit two years ago. I figured out pretty quickly that I was built for strength when I started lifting at The Gym. It was something I could do well without necessarily being well-conditioned (at the time- we got there). My numbers went up quickly, and I got more and more comfortable with the feel of a barbell in my hands. I was good at squats, good at deadlifting. Decent at benching. But CrossFit? Not something in my repertoire. I checked in on the Games, followed a couple of the athletes on Instagram, but me in a CrossFit box? Nah. I could snatch a 60lb dumbbell, but a snatch with a barbell? No. I certainly couldn’t do a pull up, handstand pushups, climb a rope…
When I started searching for a gym in Chapel Hill, I figured out pretty quickly that I wasn’t going to find a Westside Barbell gym. There were a fair few big box gyms, but the few strength gyms I found were closer to Raleigh and too far out of my radius to consider driving to four or five days a week. I knew I wouldn’t be happy at a big box gym. Some of them have “rules” around lifting heavy, and I’d gotten kind of used to the whole no air conditioning thing.
Having been to exactly one CrossFit class in my life, I joined CrossFit Local.
At first, it was the customer service, if you will, that pulled me in. Chad and Kelly, the husband and wife team who own the box, replied to my inquiring message almost right away. Chad talked to me over the phone about what they offered, they kind of equipment they had, and scheduled a time for me to come in. I more or less joined the Local crew before I had a place to live. CrossFit Local has a lot of open gym time, and initially, I figured I’d take a class or two a week and take advantage of the open gym to follow my own programming.
Plus, they have a reverse hyper. That’s not a piece of equipment most gyms have. Sold.
Then, I took a few classes and decided I really liked this whole CrossFit thing. I love working out in a group and was used to group training sessions. I didn’t want to give that up to fly solo. I loved learning new things, trying things I didn’t think I could do, being pleasantly surprised if I could do them and determined to figure out how to do them if I couldn’t. I loved the camaraderie, the support, the coaching. Good coaching – gets me every time. I got hooked pretty quickly.
And guess what?
I can do CrossFit.
It’s not always pretty. In fact, it can be downright humbling. At The Gym, I knew what was doing. I could band a bar to the floor and pull against it all day long. I could show others what to do, watch someone’s squat and tell them exactly what little thing they needed to do to fix it. My bench press wasn’t the most impressive one in the gym, but I could spot a sagging chest or bent wrist from across the room when someone else was on the bench. I wasn’t comfortable at The Gym, exactly. The nature of Westside Barbell programming doesn’t allow comfortable. But, I knew what I was doing and even when a new variation of a squat was thrown at me or a new type of bar for benching with got tossed into the mix, I didn’t rock back on my heels, but got under the bar and gave it a shot.
At CrossFit, I’m all over the board. Some days, I’m right in there, RX’ing workouts and lifting heavy stuff. Back squat days? Sign me up. Deadlifts? I’m all over it. Other days, most days, even, I feel like I’ve never touched a barbell before. My cleans are getting better by the week. Clean and jerks, I’m figuring those out. My snatch… Isn’t a disaster anymore, but it’s still not great.
And that’s just the strength stuff. I can do exactly one negative handstand push up. I have yet to connect my double unders. I’ve only made it about a fourth of the way up the rope. I’m just starting to get the hang of the kipping motion, haven’t tried to connect it to a pullup or beyond yet. My pull ups are progressing, but only if done with a supinated grip. I haven’t even attempted a muscle up, but man, do I want to.
You get the idea.
CrossFit humbles me pretty often (every class). But it also excites me. I usually stay after or get there early to do some core work, maybe work on a skill like those handstand push ups or pull ups. And the snatch. I do a lot of snatch balances and tall snatches these days. Just over here trying to be Kara Saunders with Katrín Davíðsdóttir’s hair.
Not only can I do CrossFit, I like CrossFit. A lot. I like competing with myself, pushing myself through the last few reps of a WOD, sometimes just to get it over with, other times to beat the clock. I love learning what I’m capable of. I also really love the resounding SMACK of my lifting shoes against the platform when I’m doing a snatch or a clean and jerk, and the clatter of the barbell when it hits the floor after a finished rep or WOD. Talk about satisfying.
Besides, you’re not allowed to drop your weights in powerlifting.
Joining CrossFit also introduced me to people. Meeting new people has been a priority since I moved, and you can’t meet them by sitting at home on your couch with Chipotle. You can watch a whole lot of Nailed It on Netflix, though. Just saying… You meet people at places like CrossFit. Having WODs to look forward to definitely helped ward off pangs of loneliness as I got settled in, and now I look forward to seeing my new friends at the end of a work day.
So, that’s the long and short of why I joined CrossFit. I love the challenge and the ever varied workouts. I really love the Olympic lifting. We’ll call that another thing I didn’t think I would say six months ago. Yet, here we are, dutifully trying to figure out how to snatch so maybe I can give a competition a try sometime. And I’ve met some really cool people in this new town of mine.
If you’re thinking about trying something new – CrossFit, barre, cooking class, traveling solo, whatever – just do it. Don’t psych yourself out with thoughts of limitations (me, looking in the mirror when I think about how many times I failed a 98lb snatch a couple of Saturdays because I was too in my head about it). Give it a try. You might find something you enjoy as much as I like that SMACK on the platform.