I’ll never forget my first CrossFit workout. Reebok flew my husband and I out to visit their headquarters to get a sneak peak of all their newest apparel before they hit stores. Part of this exciting trip included getting a bunch of new gear and working out with some of Reebok’s CrossFit pros.
Getting new digs sounded fun to me, but working out with elite CrossFit athletes scared the bejesus out of me. I barely like to workout, much less workout out until I bleed or pass out on the floor. I had heard about those crazy CrossFitters. I had seen their bloody calluses on facebook and bruised stripes all over their legs from all their double-unders. They really seem to like pain. Me, not so much.
While I had never done a CrossFit workout before, my husband, Steve Pfiester, was very familiar with CrossFit and had just received his CrossFit Level 1 Certification. He told me the stories of how he thought he was going to die during “Fran” (I’ll explain Fran later). Anyway, unlike me, Steve was very excited to workout with the pros and give the workout everything he had.
I, on the other hand, knew it was going to be the longest workout of my life. I hate the unknown. I hate trying new things. I also hate pain, which I was pretty sure was inevitable. I also loathe being in a place where I have to compete with others. I despise the pressure, and I knew they weren’t going to tame it down for us one bit. I expect their trainers wanted to give us the gnarliest workout possible. And, they probably were not going to be happy unless someone puked – and I did not want that puking pathetic soul to be me.
While I may be strong and fit, I am no professional athlete. While, I admit, there were others in our group that seemed less fit than me, they didn’t seem the least bit worried about this workout. Maybe they were just better at hiding it. Whatever the case, my heart rate started increasing as soon as we started walking to Reebok CrossFit One, located on their headquarters’ campus. I seriously was a certified nervous wreck.
As soon as we walked in, everyone was super nice and welcoming. Of course they have to be nice at first so we wouldn’t run away before the workout began. After greeting us, they took us to the white board to discuss the workout. I knew they were dividing us up in teams and I wasn’t going to be with Steve. This frightened me even more. There went my security blanket. I now actually had to absorb what they were explaining and not look like a complete idiot. “I can do this,” I kept telling myself. However, I walked away still having no clue what they just explained to me.
The trainers spoke in some other language. It sounded like English, but they seemed to have a secret code. Even though I had been in the fitness world for more than twenty years, I felt like I had never been in a gym in my entire life. “Were they enjoying making us feel completely pathetic,” I wondered?
The trainers called everyone by the door to get the workout started. My team leader shouted out, “Does anyone like to run”? “Yes!” I said, “I love to run.” Truth is, I don’t really love to run, but I know how to run – and I expected I’d be better at running than using some of the other torture devices they had laying out for us.
I had one very brief moment of relief that I could actually do something they were asking me to do. Then they push me to the front and said, “Good, you will run for our team”. The relief went away and panic came right back. I realized I’d be racing against all the other team runners. Did I mention how much I dislike competing? Well, just in case you missed it, I really dislike competing.
The workout had a combination of everything. We did box jumps, pull-ups, overhead holds, push presses and all kinds of stuff. In the end, while I might have fought the whole process, I survived the workout. I could barely breath the whole time, but I lived. I didn’t puke and they didn’t have to bring out the AED. So, overall, it went well I guess. However, I did realize a few things about CrossFit that day.
There are things that go on during a CrossFit workout that would never fly in any other public establishment. Here are just a few things I noticed.
1. They abruptly strip their clothes off when they get hot. Seriously, this isn’t one of those things many people would complain about, but I have to admit it took me by surprise. Everyone started the workout fully clothed, but by the time the workout was over, everyone was half naked.
I know our gym members would totally freak if we let members take their shirts off during their workout. I can only imagine all the complaints I’d get about their sweat getting everywhere, not to mention the people who would be plain-out offended to see a bare chest or sports bra. Our germaphobes would be spraying down everything and I’d eventually have a riot on my hands. But, I’m not alone. Let’s face it, most places have the “no shirts, no shoes, no service” motto, probably, for a good reason.
2. They speak in codes and acronyms. I understand that different organizations have acronyms for different things to make communicating a little easier, but CrossFitters don’t just speak in code in the gym. They speak in code everywhere they go. It is almost like a special code they speak to let other CrossFitters know they are in the special group, and to let everyone else know they aren’t.
Though I don’t believe the purpose is to make you feel stupid, it does seem to leave everyone listening in complete confusion. Maybe it would help if CrossFit came out with a “How To Be a Friend with a CrossFitter” book. This way people could join their conversations without feeling completely lost.
3. They are constantly talking about girls. They complain about how much they hate Annie or how Mary kicked their butt. Some of the talk is downright dirty sounding. I mean, what would you think if someone asked you how fast you did Fran or hear someone compliment a friend on their snatch?
Most people don’t know that Fran is a workout and a good snatch is an Olympic lift done with food form. The whole CrossFit lingo is a bit edgy and would probably need to be modified if you wanted to talk about CrossFit in church.
4. They spend a lot of time on the ground. When a CrossFitter gets tired, they just fall down wherever they are and lay down in their pool of sweat. Can you imagine if I collapsed on aisle 3 in the grocery store? How about if I decided to fall to the ground in the middle of my golf game? Every nurse, doctor and candy striper in site would run to my aid. You just don’t see that in most public places, and if you do, someone is calling an ambulance. Floors are nasty and everyone knows you aren’t supposed to get on the floor unless you trip and fall.
CrossFitters don’t care about germs or dirt. They actually are proud when their workout ends with some face to floor time – so much so, they will be sure to take a selfie to capture their proud moment. Try that anywhere else, and the cops will ask you to leave the premises.
5. They seem to enjoy awkward moments. As if it the verbal sexual innuendos are not already edgy enough, they love to share their wild slang on clothing and social media. Is it a chance to talk dirty and get away with it, or do they just like creating awkward moments? Maybe I’m just a bit of a prude, but I think I’ll stick to wearing fitness clothing with motivational quotes on them.
6. They make up new terminology for normal gym stuff. CrossFitters don’t go to a gym, they go to a box. They don’t do a workout, they do a WOD. They call cheating kipping, which is totally acceptable during your WOD in your box. Since kipping looks a lot like someone having a seizure while attempting a pull-up, you may not want to do this in a traditional gym unless you want immediate medical attention.
Also, written workout programs are not just workout routines, they are prescriptions in the CrossFit world. While they don’t call it a prescription, they use the RX prescription term all the time. If they complete the workout as written, they say they RXed it, which means they did the workout as prescribed. What they really should tell you is that if you RX a workout, you will need an actual real prescription to manage the pain afterwards.
7. They celebrate and encourage pain. I don’t know about you, but I am never excited about throwing up. There are many things I try to avoid and throwing up is one of them. Getting blisters is not too far behind barfing. Yet, the CrossFit community seems to really love bleeding palms, puking their guts out, whipping their body with speed ropes and showing off their scrapes and bruises from box jumps and muscle ups.
The more battle wounds someone has the better, it seems. I guess if you aren’t strong enough to RX a workout, at least you can look tough if you walk away with evidence of a really good beating. But don’t worry. If you don’t get hurt working out, you can always wear a really tough shirt with a hardcore CrossFit slogan using the F-word on it so everyone knows just how tough you really are.
CrossFit isn’t the only organization or hobby to make an easy target for a rant or Saturday Night Live skit. The world of sports and fitness is full of funny slang words and silly practices – especially in the eyes of an outsider. In all honesty, I could come up with the same number of funny jokes (or more!) for the bodybuilding world too.
The truth is, as a trainer, I personally use a lot of CrossFit training principles. CrossFit, when done right, and under the right leadership, can be very safe and fun. But, when you think outside the CrossFit box, CrossFit can be downright funny.