Let’s be honest, Crossfit intimidated the hell out of me. Snatches, cleans, handstand pushups, people flinging their legs and bodies over and around pull-up bars: I had no idea what many of these words meant, much less imagining my spastically-uncoordinated body doing any of them.
However, my initial fear was outweighed by my frustration with my exercise routine. I was burned out of the gym; the routines became monotonous, uninspiring and sheer drudgery. I am more like the guy who enjoys working out by playing outside: swimming in lakes, alpine skiing through trees, backpacking/hiking in the mountains, running around the Emerald Necklace, and road biking the rolling hills of rural Connecticut. But I needed something more portable and efficient than that on a weekly basis, so I tentatively went to my first Crossfit class. I modified everything significantly, accepted my limitations with humility, and it still kicked my ass. Hard. I hadn’t felt my body pushed to that kind of limit for years.
But, man, when I pushed through the exhaustion and soreness, the post workout dopamine high was absolutely epic! I had to have more of that. It was the perfect blend of personal training (which I couldn’t justify financially) and group exercise classes. And what I didn’t expect was the great community that came along with this package: engaged, attentive, friendly, and non-judgmental coaches; fellow Crossfitters who were just as kind and encouraging (and, given that I was often the last one finishing, that made all the difference). Admittedly, I prejudged Crossfit as a bit too “Bro-dude-man” for my personality. But JP Crossfit was all of the intense and demanding workouts I needed with a twist of granola, intellectual, socially-conscious “JP-ness” that made this nerdy social worker feel at home.
My mantra for my first several months at Crossfit was twofold: (1) don’t injure yourself; (2) just effing finish (with whatever modifications and whatever time you need). Folks would lap me two or three times in AMRAPs, and regularly cheer me on as I was the last to finish each workout. My Olympic lifts felt like I was a monkey on methamphetamine. No matter. I was here for my lifetime fitness, not for prizes. And, slowly, I noticed my strength, power, and endurance improve to the point that I was doing most workouts as prescribed alongside some gratifying Personal Records.
Without really paying attention, I also began to get unexpected PRs in life – my bike commute to my office suddenly began to get faster, moving large, heavy objects up the stairs to my condo became much easier, and I started to unintentionally shave several minutes off my weekend runs. During road races, I discovered that I had this sudden wellspring of power and speed when I would sprint to the finish, oftentimes allowing me to pass several people in the last hundred yards. This was a new phenomenon for me.
The coaches at JP Crossfit had given me a lot of feedback about my foot placement/leg and knee alignment problems during lifts, and gave me some great tips on building my foot arch strength and properly aligning my gait while moving weight and while simply walking. I had worn corrective orthotics on my feet 100% of the time since I was six years old – I am naturally flat-footed. After working on the pointers given to me by Logan, Jade, and Chris, I successfully experimented with being “orthotics-free” while going through daily routine. I also began to run short sprints and runs in Crossfit workouts without them, and without issue. I was floored.
Based on these serendipitous changes, I felt inspired to drudge up a discarded dream of mine: to run a marathon. I had attempted to train for them in the past, but I would always get successive shin and foot injuries that would sideline me, despite following several professional training guides for the amateur marathoner. After my last failed attempt in 2011, I just figured my body was not built to do one. I let it go.
This time, I decided to train for a marathon by creating my own training program: do my ONE long run a week, and do Crossfit 4-5 times a week in place of all my short runs. The Crossfit coaches all knew of my plans, and gave me pointers and ideas along the way to modify or think of each Crossfit workout a bit differently to fit my goal. As I increased my running mileage, I noticed that my body held up well, and I recovered from my long runs much faster than before. My long runs progressed into the sixteen and eighteen mile range, and I continued to feel great, post-run. Usually at this point in training, I would have had a number of shin splints and a few episodes of fascia pain in my feet. I did not experience a single injury. I completed my first marathon on a rather hilly course (more than 1200 feet in total elevation gain over the course) in October of 2014. No injuries. I felt great. The day after the marathon, I was sore, but fully functional. I couldn’t believe it; I had actually achieved my goal!
Just one month later, I seized the opportunity to register for the Boston Marathon. I decided to try out this new training regimen again – this time, add snow, ice and the worst winter Boston had faced in years to the mixture. I did all of my long runs outside, and I ritually did Crossfit 4-5 times a week.
As I turned the last corner onto Boylston Street on Marathon Monday, amidst the wall of sound from celebratory spectators, and, having comfortably increased my speed for the last two miles, I sprinted like mad past several other runners and across the finish line in Copley Square. Through the sensation of adrenaline coursing through me, after shaving five minutes from my previous marathon time, I realized that I had, again, completed another marathon with no injuries. Two marathons completed in six months. And, my body felt strong and healthy – albeit cold from the miserable weather.
Thanks to the amazing coaching at JP Crossfit (Logan, Jade and Chris – you have helped me like no other coaches have!), and the fantastic community of fellow Crossfitters who pushed me to work harder during workouts, encouraged me when I was frustrated (which was every time we did any kind of Oly lifting), and supported me from the sidelines of the Boston Marathon, I was able to achieve a goal twice in six months that I had previously thought was impossible. I can’t find words to adequately express my gratitude and amazement. Who would’ve thought that, I, the guy haplessly dangling from six different bands from the pull-up structure like Pinocchio during my 1st week at Crossfit, would come this far in a year and a half? I would never have believed it either!