This is an addendum to the Crossfit post I wrote over here, since apparently there were a few people who thought I talked too little about Crossfit. I’ll do it in FAQ format in an effort to keep my answers focused.
How is Crossfit different than a traditional gym? I’ve said that Crossfit feels like the opposite of going to a gym to me, and I think they key word is “isolation.”
First of all “isolation” in the sense that at the traditional gym the exercises are meant to separate cardio from strength, biceps from quadriceps; there’s a machine that’s just for pecs. In language learning terms, it’s like flash cards: one skill, again and again.
Second, there’s “isolation” in the sense that in a traditional gym, I feel alone. That’s awesome when I want to hide my fat rolls and lack of strength, but less awesome when I’m bored and I don’t know what to do, so I quit and go home. It’s not just doing flash cards, it’s doing flash cards at the library.
To me, isolation is boring, unrealistic, and unsustainable.
Why does Crossfit feel like “the opposite of a traditional gym” to me? The key word is “integration.” I’m doing very few moves that isolate muscles and more moves that try to integrate everything; upper and lower, strength and heart rate. Burpees, thrusters, farmers carries, muscle ups; things that feel accomplishy. You know, accomplishy, rather than endless and monotonous.
Another sense of “integration” is that I’m there with people. I’m there with coaches, coaches who I’m comfortable working with, who know me personally, and who can offer me a huge variety of exercises at different strength levels so that I don’t have to keep that information in my head, I can just do it. I’m there with classmates who encourage me and who don’t seem to give a single crap about my fat rolls or my lack of strength; people with weight, strength, health, and injury histories of their own. It feels, frankly, they way I want my Spanish classes to feel, where community and cooperation are much more important that individual achievement and competition.
What was wrong with my traditional gym experience? For years I thought I wanted free access to a traditional gym where I could go any time I wanted, so I could go when it was empty, and no one would have to witness my fat rolls and lack of strength. I would go and do the eliptical trainer for a few minutes, watching a rerun of the Golden Girls on TV, and then do the freeweights or circuit machines that I remembered from 8th grade PE. I had this kind of access in New York because there was a gym in my building. When I moved back to Seattle, I joined a gym and paid $40 per month. When I moved to LA, I picked an another apartment building with a gym.
The problem with this traditional gym plan is that I never talked to anyone, always did the same workout, never learned anything new, got bored with what I was doing, and didn’t want to go; it was a horrible chore to make a habit of going.
For crossfit, it’s different: it’s a different workout every day, I’m learning new moves and new skills, and I don’t mind going. I have a habit of going. I sass the coaches and sometimes cuss them out, and they keep teaching me new things and being encouraging. I haven’t done a handstand pushup yet, or toes-to-bar, or climbed the rope, but nobody’s yelling at me or making me feel bad about it; I’ll just start at Level 1 and stay there until I’m strong enough for Level 2… Maybe it will take years to reach Level 3 or Rx, but who cares? That’s the attitude my crossfit coaches have; I keep improving over time and they keep getting paid. Everybody’s happy.