It hurts so good

How CrossFit changed my life: This humbling, hunk-making system is no cult, no P90X

How CrossFit changed my life: This humbling, hunk-making system is no cult, no P90X

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CrossFit has me in the best shape of my life. Courtesy of Greg Scheinman
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You'll lift weights and more weights in CrossFit. Courtesy of Greg Scheinman
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In CrossFit, you join a workout group or "Box." Courtesy of Greg Scheinman
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CrossFit has pushed me to do things and compete in events I wouldn't ordinarily do. Courtesy of Greg Scheinman
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Editor's note: This is the first part of a three-part series on the phenomenon of CrossFit with the road to The CrossFit Games running through Houston.

I hurt. My hamstrings are sore, my lower back is tight, my shoulder is tweaked and my calves tighten up when I walk down my stairs. The palms of my hands are a combination of calluses and blisters.

I love feeling this way. At 38 years old, I am in the best shape of my life.

Two years ago I was introduced to CrossFit. At the time, I thought I was fit. I wasn’t. Now, I know fit. I can define fit and I can recognize fit.

Let me first say that CrossFit is not my life. I am not a trainer. I don’t do this for a living. I have no scientific background or fitness industry experience and no certificate stating that I know anything more than anyone else. I’m simply a guy working to balance a career, family, responsibilities, health, kids, etc ... and my experience with CrossFit has helped me in each of these areas.

So what is CrossFit?

On its website, CrossFit is described as “A strength and conditioning system built on constantly varied, if not randomized, functional movements executed at high intensity.” By definition this is accurate, however it doesn’t begin to cover all that CrossFit is.

For those not familiar with CrossFit, classes take place in “Affiliate” gyms. There are several in Houston and Austin. Training is not one on one. Classes consist of people of all levels.

Elite athletes train right along side soccer moms as each workout is scalable to level and ability. My “box”, as CrossFit affiliates are called, is my third favorite place in town just below my house and my office. OK scratch that, it’s my second favorite place.

Inside there are no excuses, no fancy machines, no mirrors, no BS. We run, we jump, we lift and we sweat. We work ... hard. There is weight. Lots of weight.

You will move it and learn how to move it properly. You will inevitably want to lift more of it. You will want to jump higher. You will want to go faster.

Workouts are called “WODs,” short for Workout of The Day. They have names. Some are named after women: “Cindy,” “Fran” and “Helen”. Others are named after heroes: “Daniel,” “Murph,” “Griff,” soldiers, police officers and firefighters who have been lost in the line of duty. They all consist of a variety of different movements combining time, repetitions, skill and weight.

They are always different. You will never beat them. If you work hard, they will never beat you. You will leave it all on the floor feeling completely drained yet exhilarated.

CrossFit is humbling. There will always be someone who will be better, stronger, faster than you. You will like these people. You will appreciate just how hard they work and what they are achieving. There will be people who are slower and lift less than you. You will like these people even more. They are working even harder than you and in time may catch you and perhaps even pass you.

CrossFit is a community. It is not a cult, despite some amusing Internet chatter to the contrary. CrossFit is not exclusive. It is actually one of the most universally inclusive activities I’ve ever been a part of. CrossFit is not for everyone. Yet anyone who is willing to work hard will be accepted and supported regardless of age, skill level, body type or gender.

CrossFit will not make women look like power lifters. Crossfit will not make men look like power lifters. Crossfit will simply make you look, feel and perform at your best. CrossFit is not P90X and it certainly isn’t a 30-minute poolside stiletto and bikini workout. CrossFit will make you confident, not arrogant.

If you come in confident, you will be humbled. If you come in arrogant, you will really be humbled.

CrossFit is competitive. Workouts are sport. You will consistently strive to be more efficient, more effective and to achieve your personal best. This has helped me more outside “the box” than just about anything else.

I have become better at managing my time, setting goals and believing that with hard work, consistency and determination there will be progress and positive results. There are no shortcuts. I write down my results both good and bad along with my goals.

I make to-do lists and I actually DO them. In the past year I’ve challenged myself to do things I never would’ve tried before CrossFit including 5Ks, 10Ks The MetroDash, Warrior Dash, Tough Mudder and multiple local and regional CrossFit competitions.

And here’s the kicker, CrossFit is fun! I like that it’s become a small part of my identity. I enjoy training at a CrossFit Gym. I feel uncomfortable at “globo-gyms” now. I’ve made CrossFit friends. I visit CrossFit websites.

I’m constantly in search of the best shoes to CrossFit in (Inov-8’s by the way); nutritional advice (Paleo or not?); how to stay mobile and flexible? (check out mobilitywod.com); CrossFit T-shirts to purchase (sicfit.com and lifeasrx.com have some great ones); CrossFit competitions to enter; adventure races to try; and new challenges to “test” my fitness.

CrossFit will continue to grow in popularity. It will have its supporters and its detractors. You know what side I’m on.

This year, Houston will host the South Central Regional Qualifier for the CrossFit Games. The qualifier will be held June 17 to 19 at the Oakland Farm & Ranch. Three men, three women and three teams (of three men and three women) will qualify to go to the CrossFit Games where they will compete for the title of Fittest On Earth at the Home Depot Center in LA in July with $1 million in prize money on the line, courtesy of Reebok.

Greg Scheinman is a writer, host of PROFILE with Greg Scheinman, which ran on PBS Ch. 8, and an associate at Insgroup, Inc, where he specializes in risk management and insurance services for middle market businesses.