10 Things All CrossFitters Should Know

When it comes to forging elite fitness, I don’t quite measure up. (Yet.) But, I’ve been attending our local box religiously for about a year and a half. During that time, I’ve overcome plenty of obstacles and put in a lot of hours to achieve the level of fitness I currently possess.

Along the way, I’ve met all walks of life – both inside and outside the box. Those for and against CrossFit. My favorite haters are the ones who say, “Oh don’t do that CrossFit stuff. You’ll hurt yourself.” Do you have any idea how often I hurt myself simply walking through my house? No lie. I’ll be on a mom mission, likely putting away clean clothes & toys and then I’m like, “Oh hey wall. Where did you come from?!” Seriously.

The thing is, CrossFit can be for everyone. But in truth, it’s not for everyone. Sure, it’s scale-able. I’ve seen all ages, weights, heights and everything in between (pregos included) do CrossFit. I highly encourage any one who’s never done it to at least give it a try before casting their judgement. That being said, there are a few things you need to be prepared for. And, for all you adventurous people who are new to the CrossFit trenches, here are 10 Things All CrossFitters Should Know.

1) CrossFit is tough. You’re tougher.

Without a doubt, CrossFit is the hardest work out regimen I’ve ever done. It will break you down physically and mentally if you let it. There WILL be times when your mind says no more and somehow your body manages to go through the motions and finish the WOD. On the other hand, there will also be times your body says, I’ve had enough & your mind says, “I didn’t come all this way for nothing. We’re finishing this thing.” You will have good days, bad days and even some great days when you manage to hit that personal record you’ve been working for. That being said, learn to love every minute of it. Know that your bad days are getting you one step closer to your good days. And those, to your great days.

2) Slow & steady wins the race. 

Sure, there’s a clock. And, you can bet your last dollar we’re pushing through every rep with hopes of setting a new PR and being faster than our last FRAN time. We’re counting reps and knocking out thrusters or pull-ups as fast as we can. But, if there’s one thing I’ve learned the hard way, it’s that slow and steady wins the race. And I’m not talking tortoise & the hare slow guys (remember the clock?). I’m talking don’t forget to breathe because otherwise you might pass out slow. We’ve all been there. Struggling to get through that last set of 9 thrusters that seemed so easy 5 minutes ago before the WOD started and we were just practicing. There’s something about that clock that makes our brains stop working. For some reason, we tend to forget the important things – like breathing & technique. For me, it’s wall ball shots. In my mind, they’re the devil. But, like one of my coaches said, you have no control over how long it takes that ball to fall back down to you. So breathe damn it. Relax. Revel in that split second of air you will be longing for in .2 seconds. Get your mind right and remember your technique. And do it again, consistently, every time you pick up a wall ball, bar bell or kettle bell.

3) You make progress. 

Period. The cool thing about CrossFit is that one day you may suck at something & the next, the heavens open up, angels sing & BAM! you’re knocking out toes to bar like a boss…..or three at a time. Bottom line: go into with the mindset that while yes, it is hard, every time you step in the box you are making progress. Some days that progress is simply managing to finish the WOD. Some days it’s RX’ing the WOD or just a portion of it. Success and progress is different for everyone. Learn to be okay with that. Runners are good at running. Weight lifters are good at lifting weights. CrossFitters are good at both – and they all take practice. Novel, right? (Thanks to my coach for this piece of genius.)

Here's me finally doing toes to bar in a competition.

Here’s me finally doing toes to bar in a competition.

4) CrossFitters need accountability.

You’ve seen the daily Facebook check-ins. You’re probably guilty of them yourself. The “I’m at the box! Look at how awesome I am.” posts. (And let’s not forget those CrossFit terms we love to use that no one outside of the box can ever hope to understand.) Oh yes, we know what people think of us. And you know what? That’s okay. You see, those posts are just an accountability measuring tool. It’s our moment to say, “Hey, I managed to make it to the box today,” & give a little shout-out to our fellow CrossFitters who did the same. Notice I didn’t say RX’d or any other badass term. You could have managed to show up with your shorts on inside out and your shirt on backwards at 5am. (True story.) But hey, you were there and you did work. You’re one step closer to that progress we’ve been talking about. The flip side to our social check-ins is that others will totally call us out for not making it to the box. (But we secretly love this.) A) They’re keeping us accountable. B) They must have missed our smiling face, right? And finally, as CrossFitters, we obsess about reps, weights, time and every other measuring tool associated with CrossFit. If we happen to put it on Facebook, we might just remember what our time was on a particular WOD because we forgot to write it in our books. (It may not seem like it to “normal” people, but there is a method to our madness.)

5) CrossFit doesn’t cause injuries. People do. 

Frankly, I’m tired of hearing that CrossFit is bad for you and causes injuries. CrossFit is still a relatively new sport. It’s easy for people to raise flags when it comes to new things. And even easier for them to place blame on a particular sport instead of the athletes themselves. And truthfully, I could write an entire rant about people and their lack of accountability in today’s society. Instead, I’ll just say this: It’s your body. Take care of it. Let’s face it, no one is going to look out for you the way you can look out for you. If your body hurts, listen. If something doesn’t feel right, talk to a coach. There are movement standards for a reason. Learn them. Live them. Love them. Ultimately, it’s up to you to do the movements safely and correctly. With the abundance of CrossFit resources available online or from a coach at a local box, there’s really no excuse for you to be doing things wrong. That being said, rest assured that the only way you’re going to eventually get it right is practice. Don’t expect that because someone showed you the right way, you’re mind and body just accept that input and produce the right output. Be willing to put in the work to get it right – every time you step into the box.

6) It’s addictive. 

Okay, maybe someone did warn me of this. I just didn’t listen. I mean, how can punishment be addictive? But ask any of us, and we’ll all tell you the same. Nothing quite compares to that feeling when you finally hit that PR you’ve been working so hard for – be it double unders, RX’ing a named WOD or conquering your snatch. It’s what keeps us going back for more.

My first time doing clean and jerk in a competition.

My first time doing clean and jerk in a competition.

7) Technique is everything.

This ties into the whole CrossFit not causing injuries thing. When your coach is going over technique, listen. A good coach will break it down for you step by step. If you’re still not getting what you need, look online or ask around. It’s a close community. I can guarantee you’re going to find that one coach who’s passionate about you learning it right because he or she cares about your safety and success. The safety aspect aside, technique exists to make your life easier. Ask anyone that has ever done a clean incorrectly and then turned around and done it correctly. The weight feels lighter, right? There’s a reason! When it comes to technique, don’t forget that little jewel called breathing. Simple though it may be, this is a big one for me personally. With each movement, learn the proper time to breathe. For example, when doing squats, we’re taught to exhale on the way up. When it comes to technique, the bottom line is that small things are a big deal.

8) CrossFit is an evil mix of punishment and reward. 

You just killed the last three WODs and have proven yourself worthy of the top 5 teams? Good for you! As a reward, here’s more punishment. Check out this hellacious 4th finals WOD you have to do now. (Disclaimer: I haven’t made it to the top 5 teams of a competition – yet.) The thing is, CrossFitters get that punishment = reward. We don’t bust our asses at the box everyday with hopes of “maybe” making it onto the podium. We do it because we know that the only way to get to that reward is through punishment. Lots and lots of punishment.

I'm still working on conquering the peg wall, but I'm getting there.

I’m still working on conquering the peg wall, but I’m getting there.

9) CrossFitters aren’t vain. We’re excited. 

What may sound like bragging to someone else, is just excitement to us. Let’s face it, we never think we can do as much as we really can. So when we do, hell yes we are going to celebrate! We’ve been working for months on pull-ups or double unders and one day, we can magically do them? You can bet we’re going to shout it from the rooftops. Or when you lift 2-3 times your body weight because you’re a beast? Yep, if you don’t tell someone first, you can bet we’re going to do it for you. Because we’re proud of you dang it.

10) We’re family. 

I can’t think of any other sport where athletes are genuinely rooting for their competition to hit their goal. That max deadlift you’re working on pulling? We’re here with you every step of the way, cheering you on & ready to congratulate you when you lift it – even if it means you knocked us down a rank in the competition. Can you imagine if opposing football teams applauded when the other team caught the winning touchdown? Blasphemy! But that’s how the CrossFit family works. You’re struggling? We’re here and you got this.

My Spartan Journey: I Lived

My Spartan journey began in March of 2012 at The Gusher 5K. (You guys may remember Iram Leon who won The Gusher Marathon earlier this year & is also a recent Spartan finisher.) Having never run more than a mile in my life – if that – I signed up to run my first 5K at The Gusher since our office had a participating team. As it tends to do, life got in the way & I never prepared for the run. And, as luck would have it, a team member from our office ended up having to back out at the last minute leaving an open spot on the team. Genuinely thinking of backing out myself, I convinced my husband to join our team as a walker. Having had back surgery 3 months prior, I knew I was asking a lot of him, but I also knew it would be my “easy way out.” He would start the race running – that’s the stubborn man he is – but, I was convinced there was no way he would run the entire 5K. Which, of course, meant I’d “have” to walk the rest of it with him to show my support. *cough, cough*

Race day came and I was petrified. As we took off among the horde of people and my legs began to hurt almost instantly, it became clear there was no way I was finishing that race running. With only a ½ mile down, I looked over at my husband who was calmly running along and looked for some sign of him slowing down. Zero chance. (Must have been all those years in the Army paying off.) So, I continued to plod along trying to decide if I could somehow fake an injury. As we approached the 1 mile marker, I began to tell myself I just had to make it to the mile marker and then I could walk. (After all, that in itself was an accomplishment for me.) The mile marker came and went. My husband continued to run. Oh how I hated (and adored) that man. So we ran. And ran. And ran. As I crossed the finish line for my very first 5K, I felt like I had just run a marathon – mentally and physically. I was ecstatic! It was in that moment that a thought crossed my mind, “What if.” I hadn’t prepared and yet, I had finished my task. What if I had actually trained? What if I could really do this?

My husband, Ryan, & I after our first Spartan in Burnet, TX.

My husband, Ryan, & I after our first Spartan in Burnet, TX.

Fast forward 2 months and I found myself standing at the starting line of my first Spartan – the Sprint in Burnet, TX. Once again, I felt like I had made a very bad decision agreeing to endure such torture. The race started and I trudged along the course. My husband was with me every step of the way helping me over the walls, talking me through the running. I managed to only have to do burpees twice – the rope climb and the spear throw. Covered in mud from head to toe and completely exhausted, we crossed the finish line. As they placed a Spartan medal around my neck, I decided I could most definitely do this.

My husband and I agreed we wanted to go after the coveted Trifecta medal. We began to train and prepare by participating in as many races, bike rides and runs as we could. We even completed our first Tough Mudder and joined a local CrossFit box (shout-out to CrossFit Bridge City). We often joked that these races and training were our marriage counseling. (How true that turned out to be!)

We completed our 2nd Spartan – the Beast – in Glen Rose, TX that December. The day after returning home, I began to experience severe chest pain. Within a week, I found myself hospitalized and diagnosed with two pulmonary embolisms, commonly known as PEs – or blood clots in the lungs. The remedy? Blood thinners for a minimum of 6 months with the possibility of being on them permanently if they determined I had a blood clotting disorder.

Ryan & I jumping the fire to finish the Spartan Beast in Glen Rose, TX together.

Ryan & I jumping the fire to finish the Spartan Beast in Glen Rose, TX together.

As I lay in my hospital bed, the doctor tried to reiterate how much of a “big deal” my situation was. (Not being familiar with PEs, I didn’t grasp why they were acting like I was dying.) All the doctors and nurses seemed to say was, “It’s a really big deal.” Finally, the doctor decided to shoot straight with me. With a sincere look of concern on his face, he said, “You had two chronic PEs. One in the right that was completely blocking the artery and the left almost completely blocking the artery. We’re lucky we caught it. That’s usually fatal.” Later that afternoon, they sent in the hospital chaplain to discuss my will. (Let me just say from experience that nothing quite brings your life into perspective like the words fatal and will.)

These people are crazy! I am SO not dying today – I found myself screaming inside. What about my children? My husband? What about everything I haven’t gotten to do yet? “Can I still do obstacle racing?” I asked. With a look of surprise on his face, the doctor replied, “Well, I wouldn’t go climbing through barbed wire or anything.” Uncontrollably, the tears flowed. The idea of waiting my entire life to finally discover I loved something only to have it ripped away was devastating. Maybe I was dying. My husband stayed by my side, reassuring me that we would get through this together. And, get through it we did.

With only a month off from CrossFit and adjusting to life on my trusty blood thinners, I returned to the local box and began to push harder than before. In the beginning, every time I struggled to breathe, I experienced anxiety. In time, I began to distinguish the difference between the PEs causing me problems and me just getting my butt kicked by the WOD. But, with overwhelming support from my fellow CrossFitters and my husband and with my children as inspiration, I began to set personal records. Every day I grew stronger and more fit. Every day I got one day closer to that 6 month mark of required blood thinners.

My inspiration, Bryce (8) & Kade (4).

My inspiration, Bryce (8) & Kade (4).

Some days, reality liked to slap me a little harder than others. Like the morning I received a text from my co-worker telling me her sister’s husband died from a PE and that I’m “the only person she knows who’s survived it.” Or when we got the call that my husband’s great uncle had passed away from a PE. No one knows why God does things the way He does, or what His plan is for us. All I know, is that it wasn’t my time to die. For the time being, I still get to wake up next my husband and kiss my children goodnight. And for that, I am very grateful.

What feels like a million vials of blood later, we still don’t have an answer. The doctors have a few leads, but nothing solid. For now, I’m free of Coumadin and clear to conquer what I set out to do over a year ago – get the Spartan Trifecta medal. My husband and I are signed up for the Spartan Sprint in Kiln, MS. I have no doubt that when I find myself standing at the starting line, I’ll experience fear and anxiety. But I also know one thing for certain. I will finish the race. I will add another Spartan medal to my collection. And one day very soon, that will be the Trifecta medal.

Until then…..AROO!