Holding my newborn daughter in my hands for the first time, I decided it was time for me to get fit. I didn't want to tell my kids "I can't right now, I'm too tired" -- ever again. I started working out for a couple of years with measly results. It wasn't until I started CrossFit exactly a year ago when things started happening. [quick shout to my awesome gym, CrossFit Impact]
20 pounds of fat gone + probably 5+ pounds of new muscle isn't a dramatic change on the outside. My 325-pound deadlift is half of what "real" athletes might do. But nonetheless, CrossFit has completely transformed my mindset on health, my kids' health, food, and life. "Why I can't..." has become "Why not?" CrossFit has helped me become a stronger person and a better (and more fit!) dad.
If you don't know what CrossFit is, it's a lifestyle + community + exercise program that actually gets you "fit" - in every sense of the word. It's constantly varied, functional movements executed at high intensity. Yeah, exactly, clear as mud. Check out the video below for a quick intro.
In honor of my 1-year anniversary with CrossFit, here's a few ways I love CrossFit, and a few random things I've learned along the way:
- There’s an athlete inside every one of us. The first time you set foot in a CrossFit gym, you are seen as an athlete. Doesn’t matter if you’re coordinated or not (me), doesn't matter if you were the captain of your math team (yup, I was a nerd). Being an athlete is a mindset more than it is about physical feats.
- CrossFit helped me understand what fitness is. Stop and think - how do you define fitness? How do you know you're getting there? There’s 10 aspects – agility, speed, flexibility, endurance, power, stamina, balance, accuracy, coordination, and strength. CrossFit is one of the few programs that works on it all.
- CrossFit is like Suduko – easy to learn and do, but hard to master. My 6-year-old has done scaled work-outs with me. I've been doing it a year and there's probably still 30% of the basic movements that I can't even do. Some things I'll never be able to do.
- Sometimes the “oh MAN, that hurts” moment isn’t even during the workout. It’s 30 seconds afterwards, as your body is still catching up with the hard work you just did.
- CrossFit is like love – hard to define in a sentence, but easy to see in a moment.
- CrossFit is like Florida. It’s grandma-friendly. Can you do 75 burpees in 7 minutes? I couldn’t when I first tried, but the 52-year-old grandma next to me could. I love the YouTube series "Killing the Fat Man" - CrossFit changes this midlife-crisis-dad's life so much, that his triple-bypass, can't-walk-10-steps dad gets into it and the results are amazing. Just watch episode 1.
- CrossFit is the closest thing there is to physical training for real life (and the physical rigors of parenting!). I can get down on the floor with my kids like never before (squat). Move heavy furniture (sled push). Throw heavy kids across a swimming pool (snatch). Bend down to have those beloved one-on-one, “do you understand?” parenting talks (lunge). CrossFit is all about correct positions & movements in real life – the way our body is designed to be.
- I’ve been eating all wrong my whole life. I know my friends now think I’m “one of those crazy people” on food. But eating lots of meat/veggies, some nuts/oils, a little fruit, a little starch, and no sugar has been great – I like what I eat, and I like how I feel afterwards. Less energy lulls. Less cravings. Less stomach drama.
- CrossFit has “healed” many injuries – I had a bum knee, a constantly sore back, recurring shoulder pain. The knee I got from training wrong for a marathon, the back from just bad everyday posture, and the shoulder pain from too many past afternoons in my teens believing I was Roger Clemens. All that is pretty much gone now. Because CrossFit teaches you to move in the way your body is designed to (after all, CrossFit’s founder is an engineer), the more you move right, the more aligned everything in your body becomes. I’ve learned that so many injuries and nagging joints are a result of wrong positions done repetitively (+foods that kick up inflammation). Then, other body parts overcompensate, creating this cruel vicious cycle of bad to worse form, leading to all kinds of problems, leading to throwing up your hands and conceding to inactivity.
- The workouts are extremely effective at achieving fitness. okay, I know I'm going to sound like a CrossFit snob - if you want to get fit, why spend hours and hours doing cardio? Especially when that only trains one or two aspects of the ten aspects of fitness? In fact, the workouts are effective exactly because they are short and intense. Short enough that I’ve often time squeezed a workout in while my toddler watches a short episode of Dora. Short enough that my 6-year-old will do a scaled version with me sometimes. But intense enough to turn me into a sweaty pile of hot mess on the ground afterwards.
- CrossFit people are awesome. There’s something about tackling something difficult together that brings people together. The last one to finish a workout is often cheered and encouraged the loudest (I get lots of cheers). It’s inclusive and encouraging.
- CrossFit will never be for everyone. While CrossFit is truly inclusive so many ways, the intensity and positive/team culture won’t be for everyone. I like that. People will self-select out.
- CrossFit is like Jesus. You can talk passionately about it to someone, but until they experience it for themselves, it will sound like you’re a little off. Haha.
- CrossFit keeps me on my toes. No two work-outs are exactly the same. Intentionally. This adds to the effectiveness of the workout since our bodies are extremely good at adapting. I love that moment when I walk into the gym and see the workout of the day (WOD) and say, “I wonder how THAT is going to go!” And I love the fact that any day's workout could be the hardest workout of my life.
- CrossFit has changed my body, and transformed my mind. At 37, I’m in the best shape of my life. But my mind, too. “If I can do this, why can’t I do that?”
- I’m addicted to the CrossFit Games. This annual competition to find the world’s fittest people is completely fascinating, partly because I was a part of it. I did the workouts in round 1, put up my scores, and saw how I stacked up against 70,000 other athletes. Hey, in 3 years, I’ll be 40. Masters Division, here I come. Oh, and the athletes are jaw-dropping amazing.
- I love data. I love tracking my progress through data, and seeing the progress on every aspect. Double-unders from none to 17. Benchpress from 145 to 185. 2km row from 9 minutes to 7.24. Seeing early wins motivates you to go for more.
- CrossFit has taught me about the behind-the-scenes things about getting fit. The workouts that everyone sees are essentially stimulus for growth. Recovery, hydration, sleep and eating right are actually what are causing my growth in fitness. So true for life in general.
- To get better at something, do other stuff. Yeah, it’s one of those weird truths that you’ll find in CrossFit. I’ve done a one-rep deadlift max about 4 times in the last year. Broke 200, then 250, then 300. Now I’m at 325 (about half of what other guys at the gym can do). What’s fascinating is that I haven’t been working on deadlifts in between – I’ve been doing CrossFit. Runners at my gym are finding the same thing taking one or two days off from running, doing CrossFit instead, and watching those half-marathon times go down.
The thing I love the most about CrossFit is how I feel when I'm not doing CrossFit. It's how it all transcends the gym and somehow oozes into my career, my friendships, my parenting. It's that I'm modeling to my kids the kind of fitness and care of self that I hope they will pick up on some day.
My 6-year-old came up to me this past week and said something that I'll remember for a long time, “Daddy, I’m not going to eat desserts anymore because I want to be healthy like you!”
I asked him, "Even when your little sister is eating ice cream?"
"Yup! I want to be healthy like you, Daddeeee!"
We landed on a compromise – when I eat dessert, so can he. No more desserts for me (or at least until they go to bed...)