Well, I didn’t really join a cult, but some might perceive it is as one. I’m simply making it a point to put it on my calendar and go every day to CrossFit. CrossFit 413 to be exact. The 413 is for Philippians 4:13.
A few translations are:
“Christ gives me the strength to face anything.” CEV (Contemporary English Version)
“I have the strength to face all conditions by the power that Christ gives me.” GNT (Good News Translation)
“Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am.” MSG (The Message)
“I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” NASB (New American Standard Bible)
I’ve worked out before. I thought I’ve been in good shape at times. Muscles aren’t necessarily a measure for fitness though. I’ve worked out in air conditioned gyms. I’ve had a personal trainer who was amazing and helped me literally get back on my feet after a bad motorcycle crash in 2008. After a year of personal training though, I sort of plateaued. With working long hours, lots of travel and plenty of comfort food, I sort of undid the hard work I did in 2010. Then in 2011, I maybe did 20 pushups all year.
Fast forward to June 25, 2012 where my life changed for the better. I began a 4-night “Elements” class required to join my CrossFit gym. In those 4 sessions you learn lots of the proper techniques and terminology of the lifts, moves and exercises used in CrossFit. After getting through these first 4 nights, I was able to choose from many workout times offered every day throughout the week. It’s been an incredible month of working out in this new way. I’ve been totally out of my comfort zone. I’ve challenged myself like never before.
During the introductory week, they really emphasize your diet and exercise. One thing that stuck with me was when our coach said “You can’t out-train a bad diet”. Going into this I thought I’d start eating “healthy” again. I mean, why not, right? If you’re gonna put in all that hard work, you should try to eat better. Unfortunately for most people (including me) “eating healthy” has meant trying to eat less of what I love. Maybe switching to diet soda instead of my precious Coke and Mountain Dew. It usually means ordering the wheat toast at the restaurant. Since I’ve done a lot of that in the past and it hasn’t really worked for me, I decided to go Paleo.
Eating a paleo style diet as much as possible these last 4 weeks, plus doing the CrossFit workouts, I’ve seen dramatic results with big boosts in energy, a more balanced mood, better sleep and I’m down 12 pounds. I realize I’m building muscle and shredding fat, so I’m not putting a huge emphasis on the numbers on the scale, but 12 pounds in 4 weeks?! That’s pretty cool.
CrossFit gyms are typically “boxes” and definitely nothing fancy. There are no leather couches to lounge on or walls of TVs streaming daytime television. Big fans take the place of air conditioning and the big overhead doors are open to help circulate the air*. (*note: in July in Arkansas, that air has been in the triple digits! I workout in 100+ degree weather in the afternoons and sweat like a fiend – and love it).
The equipment and gear we use includes kettle bells, wooden boxes to jump on, weighted medicine balls to throw high up over a 10ft red line painted on the wall, jump ropes (for “dubs” or double-unders which I haven’t got the hang of yet), barbells & weights for olympic style lifting, monkey bars and rings for pull-ups and muscle ups. And the coolest thing… no one is walking around with headphones in their ears. This is a very relational environment. You partner up with someone and actually encourage each other through their 8-20 minutes of torturous hell called a WOD (workout of the day). I say “torturous hell” in an affectionate way. Many talk about the love/hate feelings for the workouts and it’s true.
The PEOPLE at CrossFit are the best thing about all of this. There are some people like me – new to it all or just a few months in and not in shape. There are some who’ve been doing this for a few years. Some are in the military and 20-something. Lots of very stunningly fit people – but no ego or attitude. Everyone is so supportive and encouraging. Last week I was struggling through a few final pushups on a timed round. My arms were shaking and I couldn’t even manage the full push up at the end. My knees on the ground and sweat pouring from my face, a few guys got down on their hands and knees right up in my face telling me I could do it. “C’mon David – just 2 more! You can do this!” Wow. That’s what we need for working out and life in general. During another workout I was nearing the end of my 4th round of a workout that included a 400 meter run at the end. My partner came out and ran the last 400 meters with me (this is after he had already done his workout before me). I can’t describe how that made me feel. He didn’t have to do that. He ran the last 400 meters with me as I grunted and spewed and could barely pick up one foot after the other to keep it going. I wanted to stop. I wanted to walk. I kept going though, because he was there running with me.
After doing the workout, most everyone collapses on the floor for a brief moment to recuperate and catch their breath. Then, there’s lots of fist bumps and “Good Job!” & “Way to go!” filtering throughout the room. Encouraging. Inspiring. Motivating. Community.
I joke about the “cult” thing. But, I have been drinking the “kool-aid” and it’s pretty tasty. I’ve found another tribe that I love being a part of. If you’ve never experienced CrossFit or had a positive workout experience that’s challenging for your spirit, mind and body, I highly recommend it. Find a box near you and see what happens.
I guarantee you’ll be better for it.