Goshen News, Goshen, IN

March 2, 2014

WHOLE FAMILY: WODs and PRs become a healthy addiction

Goshen News

---- — For little more than a year now, I’ve been all athletic-like, involved in a sport called CrossFit. CrossFit is a workout philosophy, a modality that includes high-intensity interval training, Olympic weightlifting and functional fitness.

Those are expensive words to say we jump, squat, run, row, climb and lift heavy things. Over and over again. For time.

No, really, it’s fun.

For many of us, CrossFit becomes a hobby on steroids — amino acids, rather, as a CrossFitter wouldn’t take steroids — as we come to enjoy the thrill of growing stronger and faster. A “WOD” — what we call our workout of the day — is to us what a golf game is to a golfer, league basketball practice is to a basketball player or a daily run is to a marathon runner.

CrossFit is not your “ugh, I have to exercise” workout. We love it.

We even have official games in which athletes like me can compete against CrossFitters all over the word and the stronger and faster go to regional, national or, even, international competitions. I am, in fact, a “master’s” contestant in the 2014 CrossFit Open and, no doubt, will tell you all about my trials and sure-to-be-had errors. (“Master’s” is because of my advanced age, not my ability.)

CrossFitters love CrossFit and love to talk about it. This often annoys people. We tend to prattle on about “PRs” (personal records); cleans, snatches and deadlifts (weightlifting moves); knee socks (worn to protect shins); and how “killa” that WOD was yesterday.

CrossFit also breeds a bit of a cultish reputation — except this “cult” has no charismatic leader, and there are no weird requirements to be a member. What outside onlookers are seeing, instead, is that CrossFitters form mini communities at their gyms, which we are too cool to call gyms, so we call “boxes,” by the way.

People at each box really grow to love one another. We have to. We share too much blood, sweat, tears and the occasional emesis to remain distant. We have stories of tragedy and triumph, perseverance and limitation, and we share these with each other and allow CrossFit to be part of healing or growing. We love our coaches, who are skilled personal trainers and take us through highs and lows every day.

And, since CrossFit is more about competing against one’s self than against others, people are friendly and encouraging. I want the woman WODing next to me to do well just as much as I want to do well.

Unlike any other gym I’ve ever known, CrossFit yields meaningful human interaction and scores of life lessons. Climbing on an elliptical machine or jogging around my 3-mile block never did that for me.

CrossFit has taught me a lot about life, particularly how to tighten up and get things done. What I appreciate most about CrossFit — and you can tell many things about it wow me — is how so much of it mirrors how to tackle everyday challenges.

Most every workout I come away with yet another lesson. It might only be, “No matter what, don’t ever do THAT again,” but it’s always something.

Here are a few more:

• You’re capable of more than you think you are. Period. It’s human default to look at any given challenge and be sure you cannot handle it. But, likely, you can. There is, of course, a threshold we all have where we — for real — cannot do any more, but I have found that threshold is much higher than I believed it to be.

• “Just keep moving” is a fine approach to take. During WODs I think this. Even if I’m super slow, I make sure to move. So many things in life it would be easy to stop, quit, give up. But if you just keep moving, you’ll get there eventually. I haven’t quit a WOD yet, though I have seriously considered it.

• A certain grit is helpful in life. I have seen this to be true in childbirth. We childbirth educators like to talk about “gentle birth” and “peaceful beginnings” and play pretty videos of women sailing on the “waves” of childbirth contractions and breathing their babies out. Yeah. It works like that sometimes, but I have found the woman who turns to that little bit of “tough girl” in her does really well. CrossFit — life — is the same way. Gritty is pretty.

• Wisdom trumps determination. Even though grit and perseverance and keeping moving and all that can get the job done, you still need to be wise about resources, limitations, whatever else. A good CrossFit coach won’t let you injure yourself, for example. And you don’t “grit” your way through a broken leg. Wisdom means you know yourself and what’s going on around you and you proceed accordingly. CrossFit offers lots of opportunities to learn and practice wisdom.

One last note: CrossFit sometimes finds itself in the center of controversy. It’s too hard; it’s dangerous; it’s causing people to get sick or injured. Rubbish. Like everything else, don’t believe the headlines alone. Bad coaching injures people; stupid people injure themselves. The truth is CrossFit enjoys much more successes than failures, and sports like football and soccer cause more injuries per player.

As a homeschooler and home birther, I’m quite familiar with uneducated opinions and criticism about things that seem strange. As I say about those issues, “If you’re going to have an opinion, at least know what you’re talking about. Come, chat with me about it. Better yet, I’ll show you what we do.”

Any takers?

Goshen News columnist Stephanie Price is a wife, mother, teacher, childbirth educator, midwife’s assistant and nursing student from Elkhart. Contact her at wholefamily@goshennews.com, 269-641-7249 or on Facebook at the page “Whole Family Column by Steph Price.”