In December 2012, I’d just turned 61 and decided that it was time for both the Reeboks and me to make a comeback. I hadn’t followed a consistent workout program for thirty years and a recent visit to the doctor’s convinced me that it was time to tackle high cholesterol (not the good kind), poor posture and middle-age spread with renewed determination.
But the idea of lifting those heavy blocks of weights all by my lonely self strapped in a Nautilus machine no longer held the same appeal as when it was a new and trending system.
There was too, the option of having a personal trainer come to my home but in this era of social media, I wanted to be part of a community of like-minded people while getting laser targeted one-on-one coaching.
Lately, I was noticing a lot of CrossFit ads that appeared to be specifically targeted for the elite athlete where even women had six pack abs and could lift more than what they weighed with one arm. The grunge look that seemed to be the CrossFit trademark reminded me of the traditional guys’ weight lifting gyms where the musky smell of sweat was permanently embedded in the very air you inhaled.
“Hmm, think I’ll pass.”
I let a few months go by and still couldn’t find any gym or coach in my town that inspired me enough to sign up. Then one day I noticed that there was a CrossFit gym in my town and I mustered up the courage to call Sarah, one of the owners at www.crossfitchilliwack.com. A young voice answered the phone and assured me that their “box” was geared towards everyone and my age was not important. She invited me to a couple of free lessons with other newbies to get an introduction to the program.
The “box” is your bare bones gym start up. There are no Venetian statues, water fountains or mellow music greeting you when you enter. I have to say, the minute I walked into this garage-like, very high ceilinged room, images of high school flashed through my mind. The hanging ropes, medicine balls (I don’t think I’d even HELD one since high school), and bars with more ropes and rings hanging from them sent waves of fear and apprehension through me.
“Oh no, I never COULD shimmy up a rope. I think I’m getting in over my head.”
The urge to bolt out the door was kept in check by my stronger desire to just hang in there and see where this adventure would take me.
I met Sarah’s husband, Joel who introduced us to the concept behind Crossfit. It was started in 2002 by an athlete named Greg Glassman in California who created a website where he kept a tally of his workout performance. And then, it went really viral! Not only is the system used by the police, military, elite athletes and martial arts competitors, but it’s also used by amputees including soldiers returning from Iraq, Baby Boomers, seniors and children. There are 4400 affiliated “boxes” in the US alone and many more in the rest of the world.
My anxiety started to subside.
“Hmm, so maybe it’s possible I CAN eventually tackle this rope after all!”
CrossFit basically duplicates the motions of real life. The daily workouts or WODs last about 20 minutes and consist of a combination of movements such as rowing, sprinting, sit ups, pushups, kettle bells and dumbbells to name a few.
CrossFit advocates participating regularly in short and intense functional movements that focus on strength and conditioning. In a way, you’re training like a sprinter because this is where you will get the best bang for the buck. You train your body to go all out so no energy is being conserved as in a regular workout program. The time saving in this approach is phenomenal.
The CrossFit philosophy is “to pursue physical well-being and cardiovascular fitness in an encouraging environment” two to three times a week. The program is scalable so it’s suitable for seniors as well as for beginners and even cage fighters. As strength and experience increase you work your way up the scalability ladder. http://www.crossfit.com/
CrossFit addresses 10 main physical fitness skills:
After our introductory class, Joel had us stretching while we chatted. Statistics indicate that most of the falls that occur with seniors are women who fall off the toilet seat. Once this happens, they typically end up with a broken hip and confined to a wheelchair. That’s why one of the main positions that’s emphasized is the squat. Not only do you need to do a technically correct squat when lifting weights but you need to do squats and other functional exercises to maintain the quality of life that you want.
Most people can’t squat with ease. And many struggle to pick the grand baby off the floor. We are living longer than our parents but the quality of say, the last ten years of our life is questionable. We are overweight, out of shape and will succumb to diseases very early on. Our ability to perform daily activities is seriously compromised by bodies that have not been maintained.
“If you don’t use it, you lose it.”
We carry out regular maintenance for our teeth, skin and even our vehicles. We push our bodies like we drive our cars. Responsible car owners will maintain their vehicles religiously following their owner’s manual. Our bodies don’t come with a manual attached. Most people just drive their bodies until the red light comes on indicating something has gone wrong. The road to recovery becomes a lot more difficult when we’re this far gone.
“All human beings should be able to perform basic maintenance on themselves.” – Dr. Kelly Starrett
The environment at CrossFit is non-judgmental and you get lots of one on one support. It doesn’t matter what shape you’re in and whether you’re wearing vintage Reeboks or the latest Vibram toe shoes. There will be a qualified coach like Sarah or Joel Tobin http://crossfitchilliwack.com to give you the road map to your new journey.
The days are numbered for my vintage Reebok black leather shoes. The ballerina look clearly won’t cut the mustard in a CrossFit “box”. They had their day and now they look forlornly “blue” on my feet. It’s time for the Reeboks to live in respectable retirement and for me to make way for a racier pair of shoes that I can design myself at:
CrossFit has teamed up with Reebok and they have a new line of ergonomically engineered footwear at Reebok CrossFit so for those who still want to look good in this “back-to-basics-box”, it’s not a problem.
If you want to learn more, go to a CrossFit “box” near you. It’s free for the first couple of workouts. Come see what thinking “inside the box” is like for a change.
Kelly Starette also has an informative series on mobility at:
Warning: CrossFit is addictive. Be prepared to succumb to its allure.