Wednesday, September 25, 2013

One Man's Journey Into "CrossFit"

Guest Post By JR


I've always been athletic; captain of my high school hockey team, briefly played in college, and at age almost-34 I still manage to strap on the skates. I've been put through workouts on a regular basis by a former Navy SEAL who had both knees replaced and would still throw 500 lbs on the squat rack and make it look like child's play. I'm no a stranger to the weight room. I've also done some stints as a bouncer, I run regularly and I've participated in "mud runs".

Using and improving my physical fitness has always been a passion of mine. I find it a stress-reliever, energy-booster and confidence-improver. So when a friend of mine invited me to join a CrossFit-like training class I jumped at the opportunity to try something new.

I incorporate full body circuit training into my routine already, so I entered my first class with the mindset that "this can't be too bad." Five minutes into our "warm up" I was breathing heavy, dripping sweat, looking at my watch and scanning for exits. 

"Dan" (the gentleman who invited me to join), my best friend, my most fierce competitor and former teammate, looked at me and asked, "Having fun yet?" And due to my lungs having met their full capacity, the only response I could muster was a firmly extended middle finger. 

Once we were properly warmed up, we hit the weights. Power moves; Rack Pulls, Dead Lifts, Standing Presses etc. Minimal rest with focus on form and control yet demanding your total body move with speed and power. 

Now I was feeling more comfortable. My competitive streak kicked in. Some of the movements may have been a tad foreign, but I was adjusting and overcoming...and damn it if I wasn't lifting things up and putting them down. I felt good.

With the lifting done, we transitioned to circuit training. There were numerous exercises after the other, after the other, after the other.

Rest a little...then repeat.

Box Jumps, Planks, Russian Twists, Tire Flips exercise, however, stands out amongst the rest....Prowlers.

What most folks (including myself) would consider a Medieval torture device, is embraced by the fitness community as a machine that demands strength, power and endurance all at the same time. 

Picture a metal triangle, each side approximately 2 feet long, with metal "skis" on the bottom of each corner all pointing in the same direction and on 2 corners of this triangle polls extend upward about 2.5-3 feet vertically. These are used to push the Prowler. Add dumbbells in order to increase weight and resistance, and attach ropes/grips so you can pull it instead of push it etc.

This portion of the circuit required us to push the Prowler 30 yards out on an AstroTurf-type surface, turn it around and push it back 30 yards. Not bad.....oh wait.....we have to do it THREE TIMES!!! That's 180 yards total with 6 total starts from a standstill. I managed to finish that circuit and as I lay on my back gasping for air the trainer asked me what I thought of the Prowlers. My response verbatim: "We're renaming those...fuck Prowlers...those are now called Devil Fuckers." Chuckles amid gasping ensues.

These workouts are typical amongst our group. After enduring a brutal Friday workout, we reconvened on Monday (classes are usually Mon-Wed-Fri) and the trainer asked us how we were feeling. My response: "Fuck you...I haven't been able to sit on a solid surface in 3 days without wincing in pain." His rebuttal: "Mission accomplished."

The class I participate in is primarily police officers, a NYC firefighter, and me. I'm an air traffic controller, former pilot, hockey that as "aggressive and competitive by nature." We regularly run into members of the NY Rangers, NY Islanders and even a small cadre of UFC fighters who use this gym on a regular basis. It's a class-wide competition from start to finish. It's common for us to end the class on a competitive note. For example - Plank with a 45 pound plate on your back for as long as you can - last man planking wins.

These workouts can be intense, but don't be automatically turned off. My class may not be for you, but there is a class out there that fits your needs/requirements. CrossFit-like training is for everybody. Just like with any form of exercise you can adjust the intensity to fit your needs/requirements. There are classes or groups for beginners to professionals. It is a relatively short, full body, phenomenal workout. Note that I don't say "lifting" or "cardio." I don't mention either specifically because it encompasses all aspects of physical activity into a 50 minute experience that you should at least try once.

I'm 6 weeks into this experience and I feel lighter, leaner and stronger. I've lost pounds, I've been doing less cardio in my own workouts and yet I've maintained, if not increased, size and strength at the same time. For the first time in a long time I've been consistently sore the day after workouts. On average I make 2 classes a week with at least 2 gym visits of my own per week. I also try to run at least once a week and I play hockey once a week so I was hesitant at first about incorporating this into my routine. Now that I have, I have zero regrets. The change of pace keeps my body on its toes. At the end of the day I'm left feeling used and of my favorite feelings.

*   *   *

JR is a husband, father and air traffic controller from Long Island but is still clinging to his New England roots, primarily the real version of clam chowder and the proper way to say "scallops".


  1. "scanning for exits" That made me crack up. I don't know if I'm ready for that world of hurt but the fact it cut down your own cardio time is certainly enticing as it's the fact someone who is very fit found it effective. Great post.

    1. Some people actually like to feel the way the guy in the last photo looks. Go figure. But it does make you consider doing something other than being on a treadmill for an hour!


Popular Posts