I’ve been doing Crossfit at Crossfit Merge now for about two and a half months, since mid April. It’s two short blocks from my apartment, and every time I walk to a class I feel a low-grade dread as I wonder how I’m going to fail or be humiliated.
Yesterday I was introduced to the GHD, the Glute-Hamstring Developer. Imagine feeding yourself feet-first into a giant pasta roller, your face toward the floor. Go into the pasta roller until it’s halfway up your quads, and from there, SUPPORTED BY YOUR QUADS, hip extensions: you straighten your back and then raise and lower your chest. It was terrifying, and I told the coach I was going to tip the apparatus forward, where I would fall on my face and break both my legs at the upper thigh. Coach said if that happened he’d let me go home early.
In between sets of hip extensions on the GHD, we were supposed to do “banded good-mornings” where you stand on a rubber band, squat down and hook it around your shoulders, and then use your glutes to stand up straight. I was pretty sure that the band was going to snap and fly sideways and flay my coach alive. Coach said if that happened he’d let me go home early.
So when I started doing crossfit, people that hadn’t done it themselves exhorted me not to do it; they said it’s a cult that forces you to injure yourself. One friend said it’s just a fad, our generation’s jazzercize. Two other friends have done crossfit; one who left because he kept injuring himself, and another who left because of injury but misses it terribly.
One of my friends, K, said that she went to the crossfit by my house, and she liked it a lot, that it was a different workout every day, and she wasn’t sure why she didn’t do it anymore. She said the atmosphere was very positive, and that it’s appropriate for all levels, and that it was right by my house.
So that’s when I signed up for Crossfit Merge; almost everybody warned me against end it, but K likes it and it was by my house. I signed up because it was by my house.
After the first intro class I was dizzy for over an hour, and all that first week I had to throw myself into chairs like Betty Davis, since I was too sore to lower myself with control. Sitting down on to the toilet was the worst, and I wished my bathroom had the big handrails like in the wheelchair-access bathroom stalls. I messaged positive K and asked her if she was this sore after her first week of Crossfit Merge, and she said Crossfit Merge? No, the place I went to was All About You Fitness, right by your house.
Once I realized I had failed to join the place K was so positive about, I thought about switching over, but by then I was already liking Crossfit Merge. They are teaching me new exercises, looking out for my safety, and are encouraging and motivating without being drill sergeants. If someone has an injury or is too inexperienced to do an exercise safely, they are quick to offer a scaled-down version of the exercise, an appropriate alternative.
It’s impressive, actually, how fast they offer you a scaled-down alternative when you ask for one, and that’s one of the key reasons why this is a good program for me. I need a good coach in the room because there’s just too much technical knowledge involved in exercise for me to carry around in my head; it is a lot to remember. Just yesterday it dawned on me that a power clean = a deadlift + a hang clean. Is that right? I DON’T KNOW. My brain is full of French relative pronouns and Italian irregular past participles. I don’t know the weightlifting moves; the coach knows. Ask coach.
By the way, I noticed on my first day that the coaches all look like they’re wearing that fake superhero armor; the men and the women. Except it’s not armor, it’s their muscles, with no help from the fabric. I don’t want to be overly creepy about that, but I do feel like I made it in life when these kids with movie star physiques are paid to be kind to me.
Just a quick note about squatting: there’s a lot of squatting involved in crossfit, and it turns out that I have a substantial cultural advantage in my ability to squat. We work on squat position occasionally, and I’m able to go heels flat, full planting-rice right away, it’s a relaxed position for me, you might as well give me laundry to sort while I’m down there. My coach said once, “That’s a deep squat, JP,” and I was like, “guh, this is how Filipinos wait for the bus.” I’ll smoke a cigarette in that position. The only thing is, squatting is a tense position in weight lifting; my Ilocana massage therapist warned me not to go all they way to “picking sweet potatoes” because then I’d be working harder to lift those weights.
I have a lot of silly stories and brilliant thoughts about crossfit now, but I know it can be off-putting to prosthelatize for the injury cult. Suffice it to say, that I like Crossfit, for all the same reasons that I hate going to a regular gym–I didn’t get into that here but if you want to know, ask me in the comments.
If you want to join a crossfit box, read the Yelp reviews and look for comments that talk about how safety-oriented, and how kind the coaches are. Coaches that make you feel bad or let you get injured don’t get your money. Expect to be debilitatingly sore the first week, and if you’re as out of shape as I was, dizzy for an hour after the first workout. If you want to know more, just ask me in the comments, because oh, I’ll talk about it…