Last night after much anticipation and even some nervousness, the boyfriend and I put on our workout gear and headed to Crossfit Jai. We would later find out that Jai (pronounced Jay) is Sanskrit for Victory – because, as the owner TJ puts it, Crossfit is so full of victories, both small and large, that it seemed fitting to use that word in the name.
We didn’t just dive straight in to a WOD (Workout Of the Day). For these first 2 weeks, we will be part of an “Elements” class, learning how to safely execute the basic movements and learning about the concept of Crossfit. So we arrived and sat down on wooden boxes in front of a white board, along with 3 other newbies. “Crossfit,” TJ began as he jotted notes on the board with a dry erase marker, “is One, constantly varied; Two, high- intensity; Three, functional movement.” We spent the next 30 minutes going over this definition. In a nutshell: Constantly varied is pretty self-explanatory, as is high intensity. Keep things interesting and don’t stop moving. Functional movements are basically movements that are natural, basic, and move large amounts of weight over large distances in short periods of time – imagine a squat thrust vs. a calf raise. In a squat thrust, you start on the ground and end with a jump. You move your entire bodyweight, quickly, a relatively far distance. With a calf raise, you are just slowly adjusting your body by about 3-6 inches. Made sense.
The next question, “What is fitness?” We spent some time comparing different extremes of athletes – ultramarathoners vs power lifters – with CrossFit athletes. Who would win in a tree-climbing competition? What if you had to build a wall out of sandbags to keep out a flood? Even in a race or a deadlift competition, the Crossfit athlete might not come in first against a marathoner or a power lifter, but they wouldn’t come in last. So that’s the concept, to become a solid, all-around athlete, who has power but also balance and flexibility, cardio endurance but also explosiveness and strength. Made sense, too.
The last part of our first night was a squat clinic and workout. After the first few minutes of TJ explaining squats and slowly walking around to evaluate us as we practiced them, he walked back to the front of our little semi-circle and said, “Claire, can I use you as an example?” Something told me he was not going to show off my perfect squat form. And I was right. Apparently I have something called Butt-Wink, which means that when I reach the very bottom of my squat, my butt tucks under my body, probably because my hamstrings are so tight that I haven’t ever been able to touch my toes. This is dangerous because it flattens out your lower back, which adds stress. So I spent the next 5 minutes doing more squats while everyone stared at my butt. As someone whose athletic life has been framed by the things I CAN’T do – whether due to asthma, lack of coordination, or just plain getting-picked-last syndrome – it seemed fitting that I would immediately be made an example of what NOT to do. Insecurities? Check!
The night ended with 8 minutes of squats. That may not seem like a long time, but when all you are doing is squatting (20 seconds of squats in their various formats followed by 10 second “rests” which were not rests at all, but rather holding the lowest part of the squat), 8 minutes seems like a VERY long time.
I left my first night of Crossfit feeling tired, wobbly, embarrassed, and a little defeated. I have heard that it’s really common for people to leave their first WOD thinking, “I thought I was in better shape than that!” While I had no illusions of being in great shape, I at least thought that I would be able to hold my own against a room full of other newbies. It was a little rough, to be honest.
Today, however, I am feeling better. My quads are exhausted but not unusable, sore in that way that makes you feel like you accomplished something. And so far, I have been able to get over the embarrassment of having 5 strangers stare at my winking butt while I squat. Just barely.