Originally Posted Online: Jan. 14, 2013, 10:03 am
Last Updated: Jan. 14, 2013, 1:25 pm

The CrossFit workout seems intimidating but it's actually not

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By Lauren Ennis

Photo: McClatchy Newspapers
Whitney Horner lifts weights during a CrossFit class at CrossFitSeven on December 24, 2012, in Fort Worth, Texas.

FORT WORTH, Texas — It's that time of year when the gyms are packed with new members working on that New Year's resolution to finally get in shape, lose a few pounds or just be healthier.
I'm not big on making resolutions, but late last year I found myself growing bored with my fitness routine.
Ryan Shupe, owner and instructor at CrossFit Seven in Fort Worth, felt the same way just a few years ago. A former college and professional tennis player, Shupe dabbled in several fitness routines before his quest for something new prompted a Google search. "I think I literally searched 'insane workout' and found a video of people doing CrossFit," he said.
An insane workout — not exactly what first came to my mind when I thought about changing my routine.
I first heard about CrossFit over a year ago. I was at a local cafe and saw a woman who I guessed to be her early 40s in great shape. I felt compelled to tell her that, and ask her how she did it. Her answer: CrossFit. Three times a week for less than 30 minutes at a time, and that's it.
I thought about that conversation a lot over the next several months, though I only recently started my research. CrossFit was developed over several decades by Greg Glassman. With the main goal of creating peak fitness, CrossFit is a mixture of several sports and physical activities. As Shupe explained, "Who are the fastest runners? The 400 to 800 meter sprinters. Who are the strongest people? Weight lifters. Who are the best at building strength with their own body weight? Gymnasts. CrossFit takes the best parts of many activities and puts them together for one, effective workout."
Once I did my research, I knew I wanted to try it.
I also was terrified.
It looked really hard. The people in the videos were extremely muscular acrobats, as far as I was concerned. But I decided to attend a class on Christmas Eve at the local CrossFit Seven.
When I walked in the gym, I saw about 20 people, some waiting for instruction, others warming up on the row machines. Many looked really fit, others just looked like "normal" people. The gym itself was chilly, and it didn't have the warm, friendly vibe I'm used to at my gym. There were mats covering much of the concrete floor, kettlebells, barbells, rowing machines, wooden boxes and ropes hanging from the ceiling.
Looking around, I did my best to suppress the sense of intimidation creeping in.
Shupe was teaching the class, and right at 9 a.m. he moved to the whiteboard near the door and went over the Workout of the Day, or WOD, with two workouts — an easier one for newbies, and a more advanced one for pros.
Then, he gave me a bunny-slope version of the workout. All three options combined about five exercises to complete as quickly as possible, then repeat a few times. He finished talking and everyone got started.
After Shupe explained what my technique should look like, I began my workout. I started on the rowing machine, then moved to a nearby mat and pumped out 10 pushups. Next up were 10 squats. Then I grabbed a bar, and from a position in front of my hips, pulled it up in line with my shoulders, pressed it up over my head, then back down to shoulders and then hips, repeating for 10 reps. I finished with 20 situps, coming all the way to touch my feet each time. That was one set; I needed to repeat all of that three more times.
I had a much easier workout than everyone else, but I wasn't complaining. I was just happy I wasn't dying. I moved through my second set, which went about as smoothly as the first. When I sat down to row for my third set, I looked around. Everyone was working at their own pace, on their own exercises. This wasn't like any workout I had done before.
People were working hard, pushing themselves individually, but I could feel a sense of community.
"You probably noticed that the gym itself is not all that warm and comforting," Shupe said. "But that comes in the community you see here...After a few classes, everyone knows you by name."
My focus was pulled back to the rowing machine when a more experienced CrossFitter sat down on the machine next to me and gave me some friendly pointers. It was that encounter, Shupe's help throughout my workout and the friendliness of everyone there that made me understand the real appeal of CrossFit. It all helped make the intense, all-out workouts enjoyable.
I started to feel a little fatigued. I silently urged myself to push through. Soon I was done with my third set, and got through my fourth and final set, grateful it was the last. I finished the workout in about 16 or 17 minutes. I half expected there would be something else to do because I couldn't believe I just completed an entire workout in such a short amount of time.
As everyone finished their workouts some lingered to talk, others took off, and some continued working. I lingered for a little while. I felt good — exhausted, but good. And I was hooked.
The next day, I was a little sore. But the day after Christmas, I found myself back at CrossFit Seven.
"Most people come three times a week for CrossFit," Shupe said. "But some people, the ones that are really into it, come as often as four or five days a week."
Thinking about trying CrossFit? Go for it. But before you buy a membership, know what you're getting into and have realistic expectations.
"CrossFit isn't what you do to lose weight fast," Shupe said. "It's not a crash course. It's meant to make you as fit as possible, which doesn't mean losing 20 pounds in two weeks, or gaining 20 pounds in two weeks."
But, he said, "CrossFit is for everyone, because all the movements are scalable to fit any skill level." That means I worried for no reason before I attended the class.
"Lots of people are intimidated by CrossFit because of what they see on TV," Shupe said, "but we start each person at a level they can handle."


Check out CrossFit in the Quad-Cities

Want to give CrossFit a try? There are at least three local gyms in the Quad-Cities that offer it:

--Quad City CrossFit, 1554 52 Ave., Suite 1, Moline, and 5335 Carey Ave., Davenport. (309) 278-8029, qccrossfit.com, crossfitmoline.com.

--Core Fitness Bettendorf, 325 16th St., Bettendorf. (563) 355-3360, crossfitinvincible.com.

--CrossFit Bond, 1417 Kimberly Road, Bettendorf, (218) 202-2663, facebook.com/CrossFitbond.