Melissa Davison was walking home when she stumbled upon a CrossFit facility. She signed up for a free week's worth of classes, and found why there are some people so wholly devoted to the workout.
Often I learn about new workouts through magazines, fitness websites or blogs. It’s not often I literally walk into a workout by accident. But that's how I discovered CrossFit.
I was walking down my block one day and stumbled upon a bunch of sweaty, superfit-looking people hanging out in a large garage equipped with mats, gymnastics rings, jump ropes and weights. When I got back to my apartment, I looked out the window and saw the same group sprinting out the front of the building and around the block.
After a bit of Googling, I discovered what I was witnessing was a workout called CrossFit, which is described as a strength and conditioning workout focused on 10 areas: cardiovascular/respiratory endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, power, speed, coordination, agility, balance and accuracy. I was seriously intrigued, and decided to sign up for a free week.
Walking into my first class, I quickly noticed I was the only girl in the room. Gulp. Before I had time to consider leaving, though, the CrossFit owner and instructor quickly came over and gave me a rundown of what I was to expect during the next hour: warm up, skill work, workout and stretching.
We started out with arm and hip circles followed by pushups, sit ups, inch worms, walking lunges and squats across the mat. Contrary to my vision of a typical boot camp leader, my instructor turned out to be a very nice guy who focused on correcting form. By the last set of pushups I was on my knees, which was okay as long as my nose touched the ground.
Once the warm up was out of the way, it was time to get the real workout started. The strength work began with kettlebells, which are basically huge ball weights with a triangular shaped handle. Lifting and swinging these things around was definitely a challenge, but I managed to make it through.
The main workout was a 20-minute segment that combined cardio and strength -- and the 20-minute limit is strict. We did a series of double jump-ropes, then did five sets of sit-ups starting with a set of 50 and then decreasing by 10 until all the sets were done. The winner got the honor of listing their name on the dry-erase board. Seeing those around me starting to finish really gave me the push I needed to ramp up my intensity and focus.
After stretching, I left CrossFit thinking, "That was a workout -- but it didn't kill me." My next class was a different story.
Jump roping and sit ups were one thing, but now we were doing walking lunges holding giant weights over our heads, followed by burpees. By the end of my second CrossFit class, my arms were burning so much even my water bottle felt heavy. I'd brought a friend who was a Marine to the class, and as we walked home, he said, very aptly, “My life hurts.”
All in all, I found that CrossFit offers many things that I haven’t found in other workout classes:
- Variety: As the Workout of the Day suggests, every workout is different. Some workouts are manageable and some will leave you sore for days. The constant changing of workouts not only keeps you from getting bored, but also keeps your body guessing, which is a great way to get in shape fast.
- Equipment: While I am no stranger to dumbbells and jump ropes, CrossFit had several pieces of equipment I would probably never use on my own. How often do you get to swing around on gymnastic rings or do headstand rolls across mats?
- Customization: The CrossFit instructor worked very hard to meet my strength and skill level. He modified my weights and reps, so that I would get a great workout, but wouldn’t get injured by trying to keep up with men twice my size. The workouts are also posted online in case you miss a class.
- Friendly Competition: As every class has a competition element, I was worried that people would be ultra competitive -- but the opposite was true. From my first class, I felt like I was part of the CrossFit family. My classmates jokingly warned me of the butt-kicking to come -- but also encouraged me by telling me how quickly they'd become stronger and faster. In so many classes, people barely acknowledge each other, but I found my CrossFits workouts to have a team workout mentality: we’ll get through this together, one way or another.
If you’re curious about boot camp workouts, New York City certainly has plenty to choose from, and CrossFit is a great option. It’s a challenging workout, the instructors are well-trained and defy the drill sergeant stereotypes you might expect, and you can always looking forward to something new.
MORE: A coach at CrossFit LIC explains to NBC New York why so many people are drawn to the workout. Read it here.
NBC New York's Erika Tarantal had the chance to check out a CrossFit workout last fall. Check out her report from CrossFit Hell's Kitchen here.
NYC CrossFit locations
The Black Box
25 West 26th St. http://www.CrossFitnyc.com/
109 East 50th St. http://www.CrossFitgotham.com/
CrossFit LIC (Queens)
5-26 47th Ave. http://www.CrossFitlic.com/