Flashback: Level 1

October 2008

It’s 7:45 A.M. on a Saturday, and I hesitantly walked into the Blauer Tactical Training Center in Virginia Beach. Rock music was blasting and everyone seemed much more awake than I felt…and they looked like amazing athletes. I wasn’t really sure what I was getting myself into…

I tried a few CrossFit workouts in August and I loved them. (I didn’t completely understand CrossFit programming or the atmosphere yet, but I knew I liked this new CrossFit thing.) I had heard that the certification was awesome, more than worth the money, and that it would be beneficial even though I was *brand* new to Crossfit. But walking
into that gym, where 100 or so other attendees were ready to workout so early on a Saturday morning, I started to doubt my decision. Could I just sneak back out? Hmm…

The certification was about 20 hours worth of information and training over the weekend. Adrian Bozman, Pat Sherwood, and other trainers lectured on topics like the basic theory behind CrossFit, the 9 fundamental movements, nutrition, programming, etc.

If you haven’t heard about CrossFit yet, it’s “Constantly varied, functional movements executed at high intensity.” That sounds fine, but what does that mean? With CrossFit, you won’t be doing dumbbell curls, seated flys, or pretty much anything with a machine (except rowing and GHD sit ups). Instead, you’ll be doing things like squats, pull ups, sit ups, deadlifts, rope climbs, handstand pushups, and more.

Intimidated? (I definitely was!) It may sound intimidating, but CrossFit is extremely scalable. If you walked into a CrossFit box (gym) today, the trainers would teach you the movements needed for the workout, and then you would probably perform a scaled (less repetitions, less weight, shorter distance, etc.) workout. You won’t just be thrown into a workout that you have no idea how to do, or one that seems impossible for a beginner (like Murph).

We were taught the 9 fundamental movements – squat, front squat, overhead squat, press, push press, push jerk, deadlift, sumo deadlift high pull, and medball clean. (Demonstrations for all of these movements are available on the CrossFit website, and many more instructional videos are available on YouTube.) After a trainer demonstrated a
movement (and explained it very thoroughly), we broke into smaller groups where one of the trainers worked on form. (We did this in a circle; the trainer would go through technique again, and then invite someone from the group to be in the middle of the circle so others could make any suggestions or give technique cues.) These small sessions were SO helpful. I thought I knew how to do a perfect air squat – it seems so easy, you just…squat, right? Just send your butt back, and squat. But there are so many pieces of the technique, so many cues that can help you (or those you train).

Our first workout of the weekend (yes, after a bunch of technique work) was Tabata: squats. Tabata means you perform the movement for 20 seconds, rest for 10 seconds, and repeat another seven times. The workout is only four minutes?! Yes, surprisingly deceiving. To make it even more challenging, we did bottom-to-bottom, which means
that for the 10 seconds of rest, instead of standing and resting, we stayed in the bottom of the squat. (No time to shake out those legs.)

Our second workout of the weekend was at the end of the first day: Fight Gone Bad.
There are five different stations:
Wall ball, where you squat holding a 10-20 pound ball, and then as you stand up you throw the ball up in the air to reach a target on the wall, then catch it and do it again…
Sumo deadlift high-pull
Box jump, where you jump up onto (or step up onto) a box
Push press
Row (on a rowing machine)

The workout works like this: you perform the first movement for a minute, then proceed to the next movement for a minute, etc. After the first five-minute round, you rest for one minute, and then perform another five-minute
round. Do this for three rounds. Every repetition is counted and every calorie on the rower.

It’s an intimidating workout, yes, but the CrossFit atmosphere is so…inspiring and encouraging. During the second round when I was getting more tired and losing steam, people I had just met were cheering me on, encouraging me to do one more repetition, and then one more, and then one more. I was even more exhausted during the third round, and just kept telling myself it’s the last round, after this I get to go home, shower, and sleep. I’ll admit, without the cheers of encouragement, I probably wouldn’t have continued the workout, or I would have taken a
few breaks here.

Summary of the weekend: CrossFit is tough, and maybe not for everyone. I may or may not send friends and family a bunch of articles on CrossFit (over the course of a few weeks or months) until they finally give in and try it. But those weeks and months of annoying them = completely worth it once they try it and like it. Ok, not all of them like it, some think it’s crazy and don’t see how anyone could ever think a workout is fun.

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