I first heard of CrossFit in the summer of 2005. I think. Mostly details from a decade ago are sort of fuzzy, and when it comes to hearing about workouts and things one should do to gain muscle and tone, you can basically categorize that under every day. Lose weight with the cheesecake diet. Look great this summer bouncing on a beach ball for 10 minutes! Want killer abs? Follow these three tips that are vastly different from last month’s seven tips that promised the same thing.
So, yeah. July of 2005 is a pretty good guess.
I should be upfront and mention that this isn’t a post about CrossFit. Not entirely. This isn’t a post about working out either, but the large majority of the post will discuss that. Today is my last day working at a pretty great place, a place I’ve been for 17 years and am leaving voluntarily to do other things. Still computers. I won’t scare you and say you’ll be seeing me blogging fulltime. If there was a paycheck attached to taking goofy pictures of my GI Joe figures and posting them on the web, you’d probably see me doing that fulltime, but for the moment the dream of capitalizing on nostalgia and Hasbro is a distant one. Maybe the world is a better place for it. Admittedly, though, the world is a little less colorful without it.
Some people change jobs quite frequently. It’s just a job after all. Sometimes it becomes a way of life. When I first started, I was an intern and a sophomore in college. A lot has changed since October of ’98. In those 17 years, I’ve gotten married; witnessed the birth of my daughter; quit smoking; lost both my grandma and uncle on my mom’s side; lost two uncles and my grandma on my dad’s side; lost many good friends; graduated college; saw the Mets
win two World Series make two World Series; bought a house; started a blog; published a few short stories; wrote considerably more unpublishable ones; become an uncle to two fantastic nieces and a nephew; started about 100 different projects with various levels of completion and success; learned basic home owner type stuff like unclogging drains; etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. A summary of one’s life is fairly impressive when written out like that, but not listed anywhere above, in all those 17 years there’s not one mention of changing jobs.
What does any of this have to do with CrossFit? Or, more importantly, what does CrossFit have to do with 17 years of employment?
Interesting that you should ask.
I first heard of CrossFit from a couple of coworkers. It was early in the morning, and I was about ready to begin my workout in the gym located on-site. The two of them were bouncing between exercises, almost in a haphazard way as near as I could tell, and after watching them do whatever it was they were doing I finally had to ask. Typically I’m not one to ask these things. I don’t care. I rarely talk to people in the gym, and I hate it when people bother me. I like to be left alone to do my thing and go on about my day. I’m not exactly anti-social, but I do like my personal time in the gym. In this instance, curiosity got the better of me. Ron, a guy I barely knew at the time, told me about a few of CrossFit’s principles, explained a few of the workouts, and then recommended I visit the website. That’s what it was at the time. A website. In the larger cities I’m sure there were affiliated gyms, but mostly it was website with crazy looking workouts and exercises I had never heard of. In those days, doing CrossFit was akin to connecting to Prodigy on a 9600 baud dial-up modem and checking poetry message boards for 90s equivalent likes.
I thought Ron and Lucas were crazy. Honestly, it sounded less than appealing. The website looked like it had been created by some kid in a garage. There were pictures of guys in BDUs, carrying logs or some random object, and all the workouts looked geared towards military or service personnel. I didn’t know what a muscle up was. I’d never performed a snatch. There was no logical reason to take 20 minutes and perform an unspecified number of rounds doing five rep max deadlifts and a rope climb. It was ridiculous. If there was an appeal it was that the workouts were vastly different than the standard bench press, squat, and recumbent bike workouts that were the staple of any respectable workout plan. What, there’s not a day dedicated to back and biceps? Well, this is just silly. You guys can have at it. I’m going to run on the treadmill.
It was probably a week later that I decided to give one of the workouts a try. I was curious. It wouldn’t be the main part of my workout. I didn’t feel like running or riding the bike, so I figured I’d find something that could elevate my heart rate a bit and be done with it. Most of the workouts on the site included exercises that I’d either never heard of or didn’t feel comfortable doing in volume. Seriously, I was supposed to do power cleans at 135 pounds for 10 reps at a time? I didn’t even know how to do one power clean, much less rep those things out. After some searching, I stumbled on one that looked fairly easy.
You’ve most likely seen the Games on ESPN. Terms like AMRAP and EMOM are pretty common nowadays, which speaks to how popular CrossFit has become. If you’ve seen these workouts on television, then you know that easy and WOD have never crossed paths before in the same sentence. The ones that look the easiest are typically the ones that leave you feeling the worst. Also, if you’re at all familiar with these workouts, I won’t insult you by explaining how CrossFit names its workouts. You probably know this. If you don’t, then it’s easy enough to look these facts up. I stumbled on a workout named Cindy.
I could do this one. I was fit. I’d finish this thing and call it a day.
Those of you that have done this workout know that it’s not easy. Not if you try. There wasn’t a lot of information on CrossFit at the time, on Cindy as a workout, or really anyone that I could ask so I approached it like it was standard circuit training, even going so far as to do real squats instead of body weight squats. I wasn’t making a statement. I wasn’t trying to show Greg Glassman what was what. I really didn’t know any better. It didn’t matter. I started this workout full of hope and promise and ended as a winded, sweaty mess. It was brutal. I think, in total, that I completed seven rounds but it might have been nine. I can’t recall. Seven sounds too low, even with me repping 15 squats at 135 pounds. Okay, it was 2 plates on the Smith machine, which after you account for the assistance provided by the track, gravity, and the forced path probably equaled out to body weight squats.
This stuff was legit.
I was a guy who ran twice a week, lifted a couple times a week, and did some other cardio one other day. I was in pretty good shape. Nothing wiped me out like this crazy workout.
I wasn’t ready to commit 100%, but I was a believer that it was no joke.
In all my times working out, the only other times I had a moment of complete WTH where I felt somehow helpless but exhilarated all at once was when I first started hitting a heavy bag (still an insane workout) and when I bought my first pair of Olympic rings. My buddy Wayne came over that afternoon and we tried simple things like dips on them. I think I knocked out two before I called it a day. Sometimes you know things are going to change for you right when you do them, and the afternoon I completed Cindy was one of those.
I didn’t join an affiliate. I incorporated the workouts into my own, remaining on the fringes while I did my own thing. It was my own way of keeping my independence while reaping the physical rewards.
Years have gone by since then, and I’ve done many workouts. I’ve read many articles on fitness and have believed many “truths” at one time or another. I’ve gone from primarily running and lifting occasionally to primarily lifting and running occasionally. I perform Olympic lifts regularly, squat at least twice a week, and follow things like Competitors Training and Outlaw Way and other sites dedicated to turning people like me into Games athletes. I’m not in their class. I never will be. I enjoy the workouts and am always challenged by them, but there’s no way I’ll ever compete in anything.
I even joined an affiliate about a year back, though getting me in the door is always a challenge. If you’re ever in the Martinsburg area, stop into Lat 39. I’ve known the owners for nearly 1/2 my life, went to their wedding as they were at mine, and even watched Big Trouble in Little China with them. They’re good people is what I’m saying, so why not stop in and say hi.
Still, you might ask, why is this at all important?
Where I work(ed) there’s this tradition that when people leave they typically send an email where they extend kind regards and contact information. Not everyone does it, but it’s not uncommon. This isn’t my style. I don’t want to say goodbye to all of these people after 17 years because after seeing the same people for so many years they become more like a family than acquaintances. What if I leave someone off my list? My mind was a jumble of emotions all day, so trying to compose an email while thinking of whom to send it to was beyond my abilities. Writing a blog post, however, is easier for some reason.
CrossFit is important because this morning was my last day, and I commemorated the occasion by performing Cindy one more time. It probably won’t be the last time I do it. I’m sure of that. This is an ending in one sense, but I’m not retiring the workout. I won’t be maudlin here. It was my way of saying goodbye to everyone—even if they didn’t know it—and getting on with my life. It didn’t even have to be CrossFit. It could have been random workout X. Earlier in the week, I ran on the treadmill at work for the last time and had the best run I’d had in years. That wasn’t closure. Today was closure. I don’t know why.
I’d like to say I nailed it. I’d like to say that I set a new PR. Life doesn’t work out like that however. Oddly enough, I completed 17 rounds plus my pull-ups. You can’t even make this stuff up. Somewhere around the eighth or ninth round I knew was going to be in the 17 round range. This isn’t a PR. I’m well below the mark that I set a few years back. As always, the pushups got me.
So, for 17 years and some change I completed 17 rounds and some reps. I didn’t consciously slow down to hit those marks, but I probably lagged behind each round long enough to orchestrate things.
If you’re going for closure, make it symbolic as well.
“No horseshit, Jack.”