Boston is a wonderful city to live in as an adult. It has a culture of great dining and bars, it unashamedly celebrates its sports teams, and it has nightly music and club venues. I have lived in Boston for almost seven years now, and I have enjoyed it perhaps a bit too much.
It can be very challenging to balance a life of hard work and partying and still maintain your health around here. It wasn’t long before the combination of aging and the lifestyle of being a young adult in Boston started to really catch up with me. I desperately tried to combat the slipping of my fitness by attending traditional gyms, but they didn’t work well for me. When I did go, I really didn’t know what I should be doing. I had done some research and devised a schedule of warming up with a jog on a treadmill or elliptical, followed by machine based leg or arm days. I never felt like I was pushing myself. I always felt like the gym was a chore. I always had excuses that kept me from some part of my routine. I was never impressed with the results that I was getting from curls and bench presses and similar exercises.
I took up golf. Did you know you can burn about 2700 calories walking 18 holes of golf? Plus its great fun; you spend the day in the sun with friends, smoke cigars and drink beers. I drank a lot of beers. Maybe more than a thousand calories of beers every golf outing. If I’m being totally honest, golf for me wasn’t really about fitness, it was about just having a nice time. So I took up tennis too. At first I didn’t have anyone to play tennis with and I had no idea what I was doing. I went to a high school near my office that had a wall designed for practicing tennis and spent about an hour just trying to figure out how the mechanics of the sport worked. A nice man approached me, explained that I had no idea what I was doing, and offered to coach me. It was my first experience with a personal coach, and it wasn’t nearly as awkward as I had imagined. Even though I trained with my tennis coach three times a week and made great improvement in my tennis skills, I didn’t notice my fitness improving.
In October of 2015 the nets came down at the local tennis court I played at. Some friends and I started playing indoors, but found it to be expensive. I decided that if I was going to spend so much money on health and exercise, that I was determined to finally get something out of it. I had heard about CrossFit before and I very apprehensively decided to give it a try. I had heard that people often hurt themselves doing CrossFit, so I made sure to look for a gym that focused on safety and form. I read some reviews about CrossFit Somerville that seemed encouraging, so I called them up and signed up for free trial class.
I was so intimidated. I thought I was going to walk into this gym and see seven The Mountain types and be the only person in terrible shape with no idea what was going on. I had accepted that I was going to very thoroughly embarrass myself, but I was wrong. Yes, the trainers and some of the members are absolutely super heroes. Some of the members seemed to hover up and down like a humming bird while the jump-rope effortlessly whipped under them an indecipherable number of times every time they jumped. Some of the members struggled to just barely do the requisite number of double-unders that the work out called for. Some of the members, like me, couldn’t get a single double-under. I don’t know why it hadn’t occurred to me before, but of course the members of the gym represented a perfect gradient of fitness. No one, not even the most incredible athletes at the gym, ever made me feel like I didn’t belong there for even a moment.
I started attending twice a week, and for the first few weeks I could barely move the days after my workouts. I would check my heart rate monitor and watch it spike above 190bpm. After some of the workouts I could feel my heart beating in my face. In just a few weeks I could tell that I was feeling healthier. I went up to three times a week, then four, then five. Now it has been over a year and the people in my life are noticing that I look fitter. My shoulders and thighs are noticeably bigger, my flabbiest parts are getting firmer. I still have a long way to go to reach my own personal fitness goals, but I can tell that I am heading in the right direction. Last week I smashed two different personal records at the gym. My blood pressure is down. I feel level headed and centered.
There are a few things I wish somebody had told me before I signed up for my first class.
You should never be ashamed of taking that first step toward fitness. The culture at CrossFit Somerville is especially welcoming, and you are not the first out of shape person to join the gym. You won’t be the last either.
CrossFit classes are usually structured like this: first we have a warm up and stretches, then we focus on the technique and form of the strength workout, next we do the strength workout, and finally we do a metabolic “workout of the day.” They call it a WOD.
The strength workouts are almost always complexes, meaning they use lots of muscle groups, instead of focusing on a single muscle group. They vary a lot, so you probably won’t do the exact same strength exercise twice in a month or more. The variety keeps your body from plateauing, and builds strength in your entire body instead of just your biceps and pectorals like you would from curls and bench presses on a machine at your more traditional gym.
All of the WODs have an Rx version which is intended to be very challenging for the top athletes of the gym. All of the movements will be scaled by the trainer in difficulty to a level that is challenging, but accomplishable for you, regardless of your fitness level or any injuries.
Listen to the trainers, they probably know your body better than you do! Some WOD movements can be misleadingly challenging. It often feels like you can do a particular movement all day, but by the end of the WOD you can barely drag even a single more rep of that movement out.
Give it a try, if its not for you, find another way to be healthy. I suspect though, that you will find CrossFit an exciting and fun way to build the body you want to live in.