5 Not-So-Obvious Reasons Why You Should Try Crossfit

Alas, my marathon mission has been temporarily stalled due to (surprise surprise) injury. I was towards the end of a 4 x 400m sprint session when something in my foot went ‘pop’. Not good.

So it turns out my ankle was pretty jammed up. My trusty myotherapist gave it some manipulation and ‘released’ it, but the tendons under the arch are still sore 10 days on. And of course, it had to happen the week before my first ‘tester’ fun run for 2013, the 11km Salomon Trail Series Race 1, which I had to pull out of. As frustrated as I am, I’m trying not to stress that I’m losing training time. After all, it’s smarter to make a proper recovery than to push through and risk more serious injury. In the meantime, I’m still lifting heavy sh*t at Crossfit. Which brings me to the topic of this post.

If you don’t know what Crossfit is, just google it or check out the Crossfit-U website. I’m not going to rant too much about the known benefits, but in a nutshell: it vastly improves your strength, agility, flexibility, power, speed, stamina, accuracy, balance, endurance and coordination. And if that still doesn’t interest you, “looking good naked” is another widely promoted side effect. But I have discovered a few other interesting perks that they don’t mention in the promotional material…

#1. Battle scars

Since beginning Crossfit in March this year, not only have I been in a near perpetual state of muscle soreness, but I have also been inflicted with callouses and blisters on my hands, scrapes on my shins and a suspicious-looking bruise on my collarbone. (Horrified when I see it in the mirror at work, I ask a trusty colleague: “Does this look like a hickey??” She replies: “Nah, it just looks like you’ve been beat up.” Phew.) Anyway, as much as these physical inflictions may not sound like fun, they serve as a reminder of the difficult physical (and mental) challenges I overcame to get them. My hands are blistering from smashing out 55 pullups. The scrapes on my shins mean I’m deadlifting with proper technique. And that inappropriate bruise on my neck? It taught me the valuable lesson to make sure the bar lands on my shoulders and not my neck the next time I’m pressing 35kg over my head!

Oh my poor lil' hands...
Oh my poor lil’ hands…

#2. Lifting heavy sh*t gets a whole lot easier

Need to move an esky that’s already full of ice and beer? No problems, you can just deadlift that thing (and with perfect technique too, may I add!). When travelling, impress all your friends by overhead-pressing a snowboard bag or heavy suitcase on to a car roof or luggage rack. This is especially useful for girls without a handy strongman travel buddy. And I’ve found that instead of being a chore (“Oh man, now I have to move this bloody thing!”), lifting heavy sh*t becomes a challenge (“Ok, let’s see if I can hoist this 25kg bag of ridiculously-oversized tent poles from the ground into the car…”) Oddly enough, it even happens with people. My grandmother mentioned she “only weighs 45kg”, which actually prompted me to jump up and scoop her out of her chair. I piggy-backed my sister across a shallow river, and decided to test out a set of 5 squats before I put her down. And I’ve seen one of our fellow Crossfit ninjas, Matt, squat his partner Arlee after a few drinks at the pub. So I know I’m not the only one!

#3. You get very good at being punctual

There is nothing like the threat of burpees  to get you to the box on time. I don’t know what the punishment for lateness is at other Crossfit gyms, but at Crossfit-U it’s 10 burpees (quite possible the most-despised movement in the Crossfit artillery) for every minute you’re late.

And if you don’t show up to a class? You could be sentenced to Tabata squats (20 secs of squats, 10 secs of rest, repeat x 8) at the end of the session, in front of everyone else who is lying in luxury on the floor doing stretches, or made to walk around the block carrying a 24kg kettle bell in each hand. Either way, you will experience a new World Of Pain. So it pays to be on time!

#4. It makes you stand up straight

I actually think I’ve grown about an inch from improved posture. Everything we do in Crossfit focuses on keeping your midline stable, back braced and shoulders back. Not only does this make it easier to lift heavy weights, but it’s also extremely important for preventing injury. Now when I’m sitting at work I find myself pulling my shoulders back, keeping my head upright and my core tight (ok, there are definitely times when I lapse back to my former slouchy self, but I am a lot more aware of the position of my body, and I’m quick to pull myself back to good posture).

And finally…

#5. It gives you something to talk to your colleagues about apart from the weather

Tell me if your morning banter with colleagues goes something like this:

“Morning, how’s it going?”
“Yeah, good. You?”
“Yeah, not too bad. Cold this morning, wasn’t it?”
“Yeah, I know. And it looks like it’s gonna rain later.”

Ok, I know we’re Melbournians and it’s in our DNA to talk about the weather, but really, wouldn’t it be nice to mix up the usual banalities exchanged at the coffee machine?  I have colleagues asking me now: “How’s Crossfit going?” and I can happily tell them “Yeah great! Last night I did 76 burpees in 7 minutes!” (They’re either really impressed or look at me like I’m mad). Just a tip: to avoid alienating yourself from future social interactions, try not to pepper your reply with Crossfit-speak, eg: “Yeah great! I PR’d my clean and smashed through 8 rounds in the 12 minute AMRAP WOD. Tomorrow I’m going to RX Helen!” You will definitely get a blank look and possibly a concerned call from Human Resources.

So what are you waiting for? Go check out a box  and start your loathe/hate affair with burpees!

(PS. That last story is not true, I promise. As if I could RX Helen…)