I’ll be honest, I really had to psych myself up to go to my first CrossFit class. I always research anything new before I try it, and everything I read or watched about CrossFit told me that it was going to be quite the challenge. It’s not that I’m afraid of a little sweat - I’ve competed in marathons and Half Ironman distance triathlons – but Googling “CrossFit” had yielded an image gallery of rock-hard bodies that required some serious strength workouts to achieve.
I made my way to CrossFit Prowess in Seekonk, which despite just recently opening in April, has already developed a loyal following. Owner Jason Harrington believes this is directly related to the addictive nature of CrossFit and the fast results his members achieve: “I know if I provide the best service I can, my athletes will be walking billboards. They get hooked and want to tell everyone about it,” he says. (Incidentally, Jason looks like he stepped right out of my Google image search, so he can count himself among his walking advertisements.)
I could tell right away that this wasn’t going to be a typical gym workout. In fact, to use the correct lingo, it wasn’t even taking place in a gym. A CrossFit facility is called a “box” because it’s typically in an open warehouse-style space with an industrial feel. There are no cardio machines lined up in a row or any exercise apparatus that isolates just one muscle group. A box consists of rubber mats on the ground and equipment like pull-up bars, kettlebells, medicine balls, barbells, dumbbells, gymnastic rings, tires and climbing ropes. It’s a pretty back-to-basics facility, but the classes are anything but ordinary. There’s a different workout each day (called the Workout of the Day, or WOD for short) and it is based on some or all of the three modalities of CrossFit: weightlifting, gymnastics movements and metabolic conditioning.
I was the only first-timer in class, but I didn’t feel intimidated. The WOD was clearly listed on a large white-board on the wall, so I knew what to expect, and the seven other CrossFitters instantly made me feel like part of the group as we went through the warm-up exercises. Jason spent a good deal of time making sure we all had the correct form for our “thrusters,” a move that combines a front squat and overhead press, which we ended up doing a lot of that day. Then it was time for the main event – the WOD. Many CrossFit workouts are named after women, and ours was “Fran.” Fran put us through 21 thrusters, 21 pull-ups, 15 thrusters, 15 pull-ups, 9 thrusters, 9 pull-ups – as fast as we could. All CrossFit workouts are timed so that participants can gauge their progress over time and set goals for themselves, either by completing a WOD quicker than before or adding weight to make it more challenging.
I’m competitive by nature, so I was definitely keeping an eye on how I measured up to the other women in class, but seeing that some of them could complete the workout faster than me, or with heavier weight, encouraged me rather than discouraged me. I was happy with how I did, but I knew I could challenge myself more. As Jason says, it’s in our human na- ture to want to compete. Training in small, tight-knit groups makes people work harder and fosters an atmosphere of friendly competition. I left the box that day ready to compete again – yes, against my new CrossFit friends, but more importantly, against myself.