Sunday, June 17, 2012

My two-year anniversary of joining a CrossFit gym

In early 2010, my son Kevin, then a college soccer player, kept going on about this new gym he had joined, CrossFit 215, and how they were kicking his ass in all the best ways, particularly in the area of strength training. At the same time I was going to a standard-issue globo gym -- running a lot, lifting a little -- the same one I had been going to six days a week for the previous seven years. There was not any real structure or programming to my gym attendance, but it sure was regular. There also wasn't much progress in my fitness. I was in better shape than the average 47-year-old at the time, but just not feeling strong or at the top of my game. I was sore, run-down and beginning to wonder about scaling back on the constant pounding of distance running.

Then it all changed: Kevin invited me to come watch him at an in-house competition at his CrossFit gym. I did, and my mind was blown. I had two thoughts: (1) I could *never* do this, and (2) wow, I wanna do that.

So I started following (or trying to follow) main-site CrossFit programming, but at my regular gym. Two things about this were particularly comical in retrospect. First, it is just fucking *nuts* trying to do a CF WOD (workout of the day) in a globo gym. You end up running all over the place. There is no setting up the barbell near the pullup structure, for instance. The barbells are way over there, and the pullup bars are over here, and you just don't do that stuff. So you look like a spazzy freak as you sprint from spot to spot. Second, I had no real idea what I was doing. For instance, I taught myself how to clean. Jesus, *that* was a horror story of reverse-curling.

A couple months passed. I liked CF, but I knew enough about it to know that I didn't really know enough about it. I looked online for a local CF gym, thinking that a healthy dose of coaching was what I needed, and there was one and only one: inconveniently located and just not feasible for me to join for that reason.

But I kinda cyber-stalked them, comparing their WODs to the main-site ones, and learning that they did extra lifting work before their main metcon. This seemed scary, intense and, well, just really fucking hard. But I kept paying attention, and I noticed they were holding a couple of Olympic-lifting clinics. So I went.

Oh my god.... I got my ass handed to me. I was correct when I thought I needed coaching, but, wow, was it a sobering experience. Granted, I was the only non-member at the seminar, so these people all had far more training under their belts than I did. And they could not have been nicer about welcoming me in. But I was truly awful. I learned a lot, but mostly I learned about how awful I was, particularly in the area of mobility.

Here, however, is where it got interesting. For some reason, despite feeling weak, fairly humiliated and generally older than dirt, I was psyched to keep trying. And I really don't know why. I guess that somewhere amidst the reality check, I saw a glimmer of hope that I could "get" this stuff. I saw my son getting really strong. I saw men and women at that local CF gym who were just flat-out killing it. And so I redoubled my efforts, and, deciding that my globo gym was not the best setting in which to practice certain lifts, I got a barbell and weights through Craigslist and set up shop in my garage. Yeah, I was still doing some "cardio" at the globo gym, but I was lifting at home, and trying to get better at this CrossFit routine.

Then, exactly two years ago this week, I noticed something on the CrossFit main site: there was a new CF gym in our area. . It still wasn't super close by. Well, to the extent I could tell where it was exactly -- the address wasn't listed online, just the town, and it appeared to be at the owner's house -- it wasn't super close by. But, judging by the town, knew it had to be at least a *little* closer than the other one. Then I noticed that I recognized the trainer/owner's photo from my previous cyberstalking of the other CF gym. Apparently this guy Justin McGinley had set up a new CF gym from his garage. That seemed a little small/weird, from the perspective of a globo-gym member, but not terribly unusual for CrossFit. Home CF gyms were pretty popular, and I knew that some of the best affiliates began in garages. I emailed him. I got the secret address, and I was headed there.

One workout -- June 21, 2010, to be exact -- and I was hooked. Deadlifts were something I had always wanted to try for the couple months that I had been doing CF on my own, but my wife was still recovering from back surgery for a bulging disc, and, with memories of the horror of my self-taught cleans resonating in my head, I was gunshy to try them on my own or else risk heading into back surgery myself. So I was thrilled when they were part of the first workout. Justin provided a ton of great coaching that day, and I knew I was in the right place. I also knew that I *loved* deadlifts. I quit the globo gym, and joined Cross Fit Aspire, run by Justin and his wife, Alycia. It also didn't hurt that Justin was a bass player and we incessantly talked music that first day.

And those garage-gym days were a riot. Morning punk rock in the garage. Freaking out the neighbors with our barbell/kettlebell/sprinting-past-the-bus-stop antics. Double freaking out the neighbors with a costumed Halloween WOD on the front lawn. Dropping kettlebells so hard onto that front lawn that I think the divots are still there. Driveway burpees. Driveway lunges. Oh, did I mention the driveway has a bit of an uphill slant to it? Doing overhead lifts in the low-ceiling garage and having to make sure not to pulverize the garage-door opener. Learning that when the deadlifts get heavy, sometimes the "floaters" pay a visit and you do a quick blackout and mentally regroup. Whoo.... There were lots of fun lessons, and sweat and hard work.

It was really great. And then, slowly but surely, membership soared, and the gym moved to what seemed like an enormous warehouse, and then membership soared again, and the previously-enormous warehouse seemed really crowded, so the gym moved down the road to a really enormous warehouse.

And it is still a lot of fun.

See, here we are... Two years later, and my time at CFA has really been life-changing. Despite bearing down like a freight train on my 50th birthday next month, I am in way better shape than when I arrived, have gone from metabolically deranged (and not really knowing it at the time) to paleo/primal eater/advocate (and, yeah, annoyingly opinionated blogger), and I still have so much to learn. My overhead lifts still suck; deadlifts are still my favorite thing to do in a gym. I am still trying to work through, over and around mobility issues. I do not yet have muscle-ups or double-unders, and who knows if I ever will. But my squat mobility is thousands of times better than when I arrived. And I am still "pretty fast for an old guy." And I love it. It is a great community, full of supportive amazing people. My wife Jamie joined CFA in 2010 less than two months after me and has become one of the strongest women at the gym. And membership keeps growing; the "community" feel does too (Friday night grilling!) and it has never been more fun.

And, really... I cannot believe I belonged to a globo gym as long as I did. Thanks for two great years, Justin and Alycia. That is a hell of a gym you have going there.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

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