Rx for Life

May 02, 2016

I have been known to be a “gym rat”. I love to work out (except running, I hate running). It has always been a stress reliever, and health has always been a priority in my life.  It wasn’t until one of my best friends introduced me to CrossFit that WHY I work out changed. It changed from merely wanting to be healthy and maintain a healthy lifestyle to the desire to excel at functional movements to produce power and strength so that I am better prepared for the physical challenges of the unknown and unknowable.  The Crossfit prescription, “constantly varied, high-intensity, functional movement”, is a program with both breadth and depth that better prepares you for random physical challenges. I know that I used to get tired of doing the same thing or what I was comfortable with whenever I was at the gym.  The CrossFit prescription is at odds with the fixed, predictable, and routine regimens. Beyond the workouts themselves, I find the methodology intriguing and aligns very well with my scientific mind and continuous self-improvement.

As a social scientist, I love the methodology that drives CrossFit because it is very empirical.  The important facets about safety, efficacy, and efficiency is supported by measurable, observable, and repeatable data, and depends on full disclosure of methods, results, and criticisms.  The implementation of the prescription is quite simply, a sport. It’s what CrossFit calls the “sport of fitness.”  It harnesses the natural camaraderie, competition, and fun of a game or sport that yields an intensity that cannot be matched by other means.  We use whiteboards or chalk on our floors as scoreboards, keeping accurate scores and records, running a clock, and precisely defining the rules and standards for performance. In so doing,  it not only motivates unprecedented output but derives both relative and absolute metrics during every workout. This data has important value well beyond motivation. We start with baselines and we have benchmarks that measure our progress and identify areas where we need improvement. We may think we’ve mastered a skill or technique, and then we realize there’s another new skill to learn, another technique to be more efficient. I have been drinking the CrossFit kool-aide for three and a half years now, and I continue to learn new skills and movements.

As a sociologist, I find the sense of community in CrossFit quite unique. The classes are group classes – something I was not very fond of prior to CrossFit; however, it is purely social. Everyone gets to know one another; there is coaching and not always just from the class coach but your fellow CrossFitters. You compare workout results and discuss additional programming, nutrition, and/or upcoming competitions.  These conversations rarely occur at your typical Planet Fitness or YMCA. In fact, rarely do people speak to each other except the occasional question, “are you done using this machine?” At CrossFit you know names, life stories … you know the people, they are family.

In the CrossFit community, you provide support. The social norm is that people stay behind after they have finished their workout to provide moral and verbal support until the last CrossFitter is finished.  It is well known that the cheers are loudest for the last finisher than the one who finishes first. The importance of social support is that it provides motivation. When we’re tired and struggling to complete the workout, we begin to doubt our ability to finish, or we simply want to give up (I have felt this many times). When we have people encouraging us and cheering us on, it gives us the belief that we can do it, and it pushes us to finish one more rep, and then another, and another.  Many times, without that encouragement I know that I would not have put so much effort to doing what was needed to finish.

CrossFitters always come together when facing tough workouts, we push each other to perform better and faster than ever before.  I have learned to be comfortable with the physical uncomfortableness, and have further developed a mental toughness that applies to more than just the immediate workout. At my gym, CrossFit Norfolk, we are encouraged to push ourselves to new limits, to push ourselves to be better than we were the day before, and to push ourselves beyond what we think is possible, leaving our egos at the door… this is a prescription that surpasses a gym workout. It is a prescription I have adopted for my daily life.

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