I’ve become a big-time convert to and advocate of CrossFit since beginning last fall, loving the workouts, the results, and meeting so many great people who are as into it as I am. But it’s all been based on DCCF. I wondered what it was like elsewhere. So when my husband Brian and I planned a weekend trip to see his family in Michigan, I immediately looked for a CrossFit gym. 810 CrossFit had just moved from a home garage to a warehouse facility a week before we’d be up, so I contacted the owner to see about visiting. He quickly sent me a warm welcome and invitation to come to a Saturday morning class.
Finding the building was the first task — Brian insisted on driving me (how cute that though I’ve traveled to Africa by myself he didn’t want me driving myself there) and it took a few turn-arounds a finally a phone call to find the unmarked warehouse building. CrossFit was behind door #2. Liz, who owns the gym along with her husband Joe, welcomed me into the stone-cold warehouse space. Two ropes hung from the high ceiling, a few rowing machines stood along the back flag-adorned wall, medicine balls lined a few shelves, and the weights were stacked under a set of stairs to a loft. A timer, some boxes and a small heater completed the space. I liked it immediately.
I’d be working out under Coach Liz, and with two members – another girl, and a guy. Coach Joe, who actually works for CrossFit headquarters training other coaches, was out leading a certification class. We warmed up on the rower — the one thing I complain about at our gym, but obviously I couldn’t whine about it as a guest! Next I tried something new — air squats with my hands loosely wrapped around a dowel rod. This was good practice for keeping my chest up. Then some dislocates and air squats with the rod overhead. Once warmed up we settled on a program. Liz was planning the Diane (21-15-9 deadlifts and handstand pushups), but I couldn’t deadlift after doing it the day before, and certainly not at prescribed weight for women of 145. That’s only 10 pounds less than my one rep max!
We settled on kettlebell swings for me. I elected to do 20 lbs, not wanting to overdo it on a workout that’s in addition to my powerlifting program. None of us were ready for handstand push-ups so I got a quick lesson on box push-ups before we started. I couldn’t believe how something that looked so easy when the other girl — a gymnast — did them, could feel like the ninth level of hell once I tried. Liz showed me medicine ball cleans, but learned quickly what Ben knows all too well. A series of movements requiring coordination does not come easily to me. “Close,” she said, “almost …” but I couldn’t quite nail them. No matter. As soon as she saw me start my my box push-ups she dropped the cleans from the workout.
I went in hoping to represent DCCF — and the kettlebells were fine. Liz said she wanted to see intensity since I wasn’t going for heavy, and I gave that. Then I climbed onto the box and (is there a way to do this elegantly and without bruising your knees)? lowered into position. This made push-ups feel like recess play. I was to do 21 of these on the first round? I don’t quit on my workouts at home, but if this had been in the familiar surroundings of my own gym, I might have laughed and asked Ben “seriously, what do you really want me to do?”
But I couldn’t come into a new gym and wimp out, so I lowered my weight on increasingly trembly, rubbery arms, and pushed myself back up. I wasn’t even nearly in the correct position of a 90 degree angle, but it was still unbelievably difficult. I made it through the first 21 with several stops. My work-out partner on the next box stopped a few times too “Shake it out!” Liz said. I crumpled onto the floor after every few reps, clambering up to start again when my pride overcame my need to lie on the floor. I eeked out #19, #20, and got down for 21 but my spaghetti arms just couldn’t raise my weight. I collapsed onto the floor. “How many was that?” Liz asked. “20 and a half” I replied. “Get back up there!” she said, “finish it, you can do it!” Could I? Somehow I did.
The kettlebell that felt like a small paperweight on the first round seemed like several cinderblocks now, but there was no slowing down, not with Liz by my side, demanding intensity. We were on 15 reps now, and I got through the push-ups in 3 rounds, only because Liz crouched by my head shouting encouragement.With every time I lowered myself it felt like I weighed 20 more pounds pushing myself back up. Again I toppled off the box to try to recover for a few moments after each few, but I couldn’t come up here and make DCCFers look like pansies, so I climbed back up when I only wanted to lie on the cold floor, ignoring the bruises blooming on my knees.
I got through the final nine kettlebell swings and girded myself for the final gauntlet with the box. I didn’t know how my arms could even have an ounce of strength left but I was so close to the end I couldn’t give up now. I grinded through five, collapsed, and climbed up for the final four. I thought of all the work I’d done the last few months — chin-ups, bench presses, push-ups, dips — ‘you can do this’ I thought, ‘echoed by Liz still yelling encouragement. by my side. And I did. I wish I could have felt like a triumphant away team, but I’d only made it by the skin of my teeth, and not even in the optimal form. But I’d survived it and completed it, and for me at that moment, that was something to be proud of. I’d come in somewhere new where they didn’t know how little I could do five months ago, and completed a killer workout. I’ll take that.
And I hope next time we’re up here to have a chance to go back and see what else I can do.