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What should you do to maximize your CrossFit experience: Intro

By Dirk Gessler

Now that you have decided CrossFit is for you, I wanted to share a few things I have learned over the years that will help you get the most out of your WOD. Each of these points is important and deserves some consideration, so stay tuned for more in depth information on each point in subsequent articles.

Let’s face it, CrossFit is a commitment in both in time and money.  You may as well get the most out of it, so to be sure you are taking full advantage of your time at the box by remembering the following.

Show up on time.  This is self explanatory but more important than most people understand.

Be ready to work out.  This seems to be obvious but I can’t possibly count the number of times I have been tripped up by it or see it trip others up.

Be rested.  Easily the most important item on this list.

Consume the right and enough nutrients.  Extremely important, second only to getting enough rest.

Stick to a schedule.  Commit to a workout schedule and stick to it.

Bring the correct attitude.  Don’t defeat yourself before you even show up.

I will go into each of these in more depth over the next several articles.  Start thinking about these now to insure you get the most out of your time in CrossFit.

What’s Holding You Back?

Written by Nikole Gessler

We are all afraid of something. Probably many things. And some fear is a good thing, but don’t let it cripple you.

The most common things I hear when I tell people they should try CrossFit are:

I need to lose some weight first.
Let me get in a little bit better shape first.
It’s too expensive.
I don’t have time.
I have kids with me all day.
I don’t know enough about CrossFit.

And I’ll even let you in on a little secret. I have said all of those myself. But I am going to call bullshit on all those excuses right now. Change is hard. Trust me, I know. At one point in my life I weighed 215 pounds. I am 6’ tall, so as everyone used to like to tell me, “I carried the weight well.” I said all those things because it was easier to stay the same than it was to change.

I did lose 40 pounds and gain muscle mass, and a big part of that was eating clean, working out and eventually CrossFit. So when it came time for me to face some of my fears and go forward with starting my own CrossFit box, I have been very conscientious about those initial excuses I had myself. We at CrossFit Recursive are trying very hard to make sure there are no barriers to entry. No excuses.

You need to lose some weight? Fantastic – CrossFit is a fabulous way to do that. Losing weight, getting toned/fit, and gaining muscles mass are the 3 main reasons people start working out. We all want to look in the mirror and be proud of what we see. CrossFit can help you get there. We can provide nutritional advice, help with supplements, direction for the best recovery, plus moral support through the fantastic community that CrossFit creates. You won’t ever be on your journey alone.

You need to get in shape? So that you can get in shape? CrossFit is HOW you get in shape. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never stepped into a gym before or never laid hands on a barbell, we will guide you safely every step of the way. We even offer two options for you when starting out to make sure you are comfortable.

The first is a boot camp or lite style class offering called CrossFit Base. There you will still be doing CrossFit workouts, but the barbell work will be light and only in the skill portion of the class. None of the actual workouts will involve the barbell, but you will use your body weight and some other small ancillary tools. Trust me, you will still sweat.

The second thing we do is offer a Foundations Class for everyone new to CrossFit. There you will learn everything you need to know to safely do all the CrossFit movements. Classes are kept very small to get you a lot of individualized attention. We want to make sure you are comfortable and get the most of your time with us.

It’s too expensive? Yes, CrossFit costs more than the 24 hour gym down the street. But, at CrossFit, you will never be stuck on a treadmill reading a magazine while listening to music and watching re-runs of How I Met Your Mother. Each hour long class is instructor lead from start to finish. Classes are kept smaller so you get the attention you need. You develop a sense of community as you work out with people, you bond over the struggles you’ve gone through together. You can’t get that anywhere else. Consider the cost of personal training, which runs anywhere from $20 – $80+ an hour, while the cost of CrossFit typically works out to be less than $7.50/class. And, it is also worth noting that many Flexible Spending Accounts will cover gym/fitness memberships.

You don’t have time? I get it that we are all very busy in life with families, and jobs, and other obligations. Working out, doing something to better yourself, usually takes a back burner to life’s other obligations. We have tried to make our schedule fit your needs. We offer classes before work, over the lunch hour, and after work/evenings, plus classes on both Saturday and Sunday. We even have shower facilities so you can get ready for work at the gym. We also have a kitchen area and recovery beverages available to grab on your way out. And let’s think a little bit bigger here. We all need some time for ourselves, we need to take care of ourselves so that we can take care of others for years to come. You are worth an hour a day.

You have kids? So do we! Three of them ranging in ages from 4-12. So we know that time is scarce and money is tight and we need to work out because sometimes fast meals are what we get. We want to set good examples for our kids and that is hard. We do offer two different spaces for kids in our facility, a play room for younger kids and a study room for older ones. We know what it is like to have kids and struggle with getting to the gym. We also offer couples/family discounts so both parents can work out together while the kids play at the gym.

You don’t know enough about CrossFit? There is a lot on the internet about CrossFit, you can certainly google it to find a huge range of articles and thoughts on it. You should also visit the CrossFit main site – there is a wealth of information there. We also offer a Free Trial Class for you to come meet us, see the facilities and try a workout with us.

If you have any other legitimate excuses to not try us out, please let us know. We’d love to hear them so we can try and help you work them out. Let go of your fear, put your excuses to rest, and come give us a  try.

Is CrossFit for You?

Written by Nikole Gessler

I could be wrong, but I don’t think anyone has ever just woken up one morning and said, “Yes, CrossFit is for me. It’s the thing I want to do.” I think most people go through a period of self-doubt about this whole “CrossFit thing.” I was certainly no different.

We wonder if we are in shape enough, fit enough, strong enough, fast enough, or good enough to do this thing we see on TV and all over the internet. We wonder if we will fit in, if people will talk about how slow we are or weak we are, if we are wearing the right shoes and clothes and talking the right lingo with the AMRAPs and the OMEMs and the WODs and the Paleo and the Zone.

It is also probably safe to say that CrossFit is in fact not for everyone. And that is OK. I do think that there is a very large demographic that can take advantage of the unique fitness structure that CrossFit is based on.

See if you fit into one or more of these categories. If you do, maybe you should at least give this “CrossFit thing” an honest try.

Are you or do you have developing kids, kids with special learning needs or high school athletes?

Are you someone who is trying to lose weight or gain mass/muscle or just look good naked?

Are you an experienced athlete training in the off season or an elite athlete looking to compete?

Are you an adult fighting cognitive disabilities due to disease or accident or part of the older generation trying to keep their mobility and stay out of a nursing home?

Are you a parent who needs to make the best use of an hour away from home while getting fit and doing something good for yourself and your family?

Are you tired of spending 3 hours at the globo gym and not getting results or tired of the monotony of the treadmill?

The things we need as humans to maintain a fit, healthy, and happy lifestyle vary only by degree, not kind. Everything in CrossFit is scalable and modifiable to best fit the athletes needs, goals and abilities. It’s why the most elite athlete training for the next competition can work out next to the high schooler trying to lose weight and get off the diabetes meds who is working out next to the grandma of 12 keeping her mobility so she can carry her own groceries who is next to the soccer mom just trying to get away from the house for an hour and do something good for herself.

This is what also drives the CrossFit community in the huge way that it does. CrossFit is cross generational, doesn’t care about your gender, and isn’t phased by what level of fitness you start in. Everyone starts the class together, does some version of the workout together and ends by stretching together. You get to know people you wouldn’t in any other setting. You get to go through the vulnerability of the workouts and pushing yourself to go faster, go harder, not quit – even when you really want to. And all of these people were right beside you going through the same thing. You can’t help but form a bond with people who have been to battle with you.

So really, at the end of the day, I am just not sure that there isn’t anyone that can’t, shouldn’t or couldn’t benefit from what CrossFit has to offer. So, go ahead, give that box near you a call and schedule a free trial class and see where that leads you. If you were waiting for a sign, this is it.

Chipped Beef on Toast

Written by Dirk Gessler

When I was growing up my brother and I loved chipped beef on toast.  For the uninitiated among us, chipped beef on toast is composed of small thin chunks of beef in a white cream sauce poured over a slice or two of toast.  What’s not to love?  For the nutritionally uneducated it has everything you need for a meal.  You have your meat group and your carb group.  What else is there?

We asked for it all the time.  My dad hated it.  He called it SoS (shit on a shingle).  I didn’t understand why he didn’t like it until I joined the Navy.  It turns out that the military cooks only knew how to make a few different meals, and SoS was at the top of that list.  Apparently it was equally acceptable to make it for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.  In order to make a good meal it appeared as if there were only two checkboxes to fill when meal planning.  Does it have meat? Check.  Does it have carbs?  Check.  Done and done.  SoS fit the bill nicely, and its easy to make in large batches.  It didn’t take long for me to understand my dad’s dislike of the “meal,” and that was long before I had even heard of Paleo.

What does all this have to do with CrossFit or even fitness at all?  I have point, just bear with me.  In CrossFit there is a type of WOD called a chipper.  Generally a chipper is composed of a large number of one or more exercises strung together to form a long, exhausting workout.  Depending on who you talk to, it’s called a chipper because you have to chip away at it to finish or because you feel like you went through a wood chipper when you finally do finish.

Creating these beauties is simplicity itself.  You take a bunch of exercises that suck, pick a large number of reps, and slap them all together.  It is really that easy, or at least that’s what people think.  You add a 3-2-1 go and twenty to thirty (or more) minutes later everyone is exhausted and covered in sweat.  Clearly they had a good workout, right?   Once they can finally move again everyone claps the coach on the back as they limp/crawl/shuffle out of the gym and says “Great WOD coach!”  Everyone is happy right?  What’s the problem?

The problem is that chippers are the equivalent of shit on a shingle.  They are easy to create and apply to large groups of people whenever you want.  They take almost no time, and even less thought, to create, and everyone seems to love them, at least for awhile.  Unfortunately many people in this world have been conditioned to believe that a workout has to be long and exhausting to be effective.  CrossFit teaches us otherwise.  The bulk of our WODs should be short and brutal.  We should endeavor to keep athletes in the anaerobic zone as much as possible.  I find this happens with lower rep schemes in the 6 – 14 minute time domains depending on the exercises chosen.  If the athlete has to stop and catch their breath every few reps they are moving into the aerobic zone far too much to have the desired intensity effect.

Does this mean we should never program a chipper?  It certainly doesn’t.  We just need to remember that chippers are another tool in our kit.  They are a tool to use sparingly.  Here is where the analogy breaks down; SoS should never be in your tool kit.  You shouldn’t serve it to anyone…ever!


How to Pick the Right Box for You

Written by Nikole Gessler

Picking the right CrossFit Affiliate to become part of is as important as picking your spouse. OK, maybe not really quite that important, but it is definitely more important than picking what kind of dressing to have on your salad at lunch. It falls somewhere in between that spectrum of important stuff. But, you will be spending several hours a week at your most vulnerable state of being while working out and sweating and maybe even occasionally puking with these people. Blood, sweat and tears for sure. Be sure to pick the right one for you.

All CrossFit gyms should welcome you to try a free trial class. Go to a few in your area to get a feel for what each of them is like. Each affiliate is different and will certainly have a different vibe, hopefully one that works for you.

Class Schedule – if you work 9-5 you need an affiliate that offers early morning, evening and weekend classes. If you are a stay at home parent, or work from home, you may prefer daytime or lunch time classes. Be sure the schedule works for when you are able and most motivated to be working out. Also keep in mind that most affiliates will try and accommodate you if you have a request for a certain class time, just be sure you are able to attend class on a regular basis if they set up a class time at your request.

Class Offerings – CrossFit WODs are certainly the mainstay of why you are going to a CrossFit box, but other ancillary classes may be of interest to you as well. And many can even improve your CF workouts. Many places offer a Strength program, Olympic Lifting Classes, Mobility, Yoga and the like. If these are things of interest to you, be sure they are offered at the box. Also check out how those classes are paid for. Do you pay for them even if you have no interest in going? Is there a special price for those classes? Also consider if the affiliate offers Open Gym time and Personal Training, those are 2 things that may be of great interest and very useful for you going forward. This is your time (and money) make sure you are getting the best value for both.

Programming – CrossFit programming is designed to be constantly varied, that is NOT the same thing as random. Ask the Coaches/Owners how they do their programming, ask them the purpose of each workout they do, they should be able to tell you. They should have daily, weekly, monthly and longer term goals for their athletes. An affiliate and a Coach that can tell you the goal time and weight of each workout every day to best help you modify and to reach your goals is invaluable. Workouts don’t have to be fancy, complicated or long to be effective. Find an affiliate that really understands that.

Child Care – if you have children, this can be a big deal. Does the box have a safe place for kids to play while you work out? Do they offer kids programs? If you have kids, your life is busy already, you don’t need another excuse to not get that WOD in today. If child care can be an excuse for you to not work out, look for a place that offers some sort of child care while you work out. The kids can have fun meeting new friends at the same time you are.

Free Trial Class – every affiliate should offer a free trial class so you can check out their facilities, meet their Coaching staff, get a feel of their community and answer any other questions you may have.

On-Ramp/Elements/Foundations Class – If you are new to CrossFit, be sure they offer some time of program to get you acclimated to all the movements and standards and CF terms. CF is such a great workout program because it takes the best of endurance and gymnastics and Olympic lifting and body movements and kettlebells and power lifting and then rolls it all into one. These movements are technical and should be taught to be done with care to avoid injury, to make sure you get the most of each movement and to keep everyone in the gym safe. A good starter program will be the basis for the rest of your CF experiences.

Coaching Staff – are they qualified, do they seem to care about your goals and needs, do they take the time to get to know you and learn how to best work with you, are they knowledgeable? An alphabet soup of letters after their name doesn’t neccessarily make them qualified and knowledgeable. And it certainly doesn’t give someone people skills. You need someone that is at the very least CrossFit Level 1 Certified, of course, but you are going to be taking a lot of direction from your Coaches, you need to make sure they jive with your own personality and are taking the time to get to know you and help you in the best way possible. Look for a box that sits down with you when you start, gets to know you, asks about your goals, asks about where you are now and where you want to be. CF athletes are not made from cookie cutters, make sure you are getting what you need.

Location – while it may not be everything, it is certainly something to consider. Is it near your home or work? Is it easy for you to get to on your daily route?

The Way They Make You Feel/Community – this is a huge part of CF, people very quickly become a community. When you step in the door, are you greeted? Do people come up and introduce themselves? Were you made aware ahead of time what to wear and bring and what to expect when you got there? Are the other athletes having fun? Do you feel like part of the group? Are these the type of people you want to be around each day?

Very lastly, Price. Yes, A CF gym is going to cost more than a Globo-Gym. You get what you pay for and what you pay for with CF is small group classes, individualized attention and knowledgeable coaching. You get to know the people you work out with on a regular basis. No one in a CF gym puts in their ear buds and reads a magazine while walking on the treadmill. You get an instructor lead warm-up, mobility, skill and strength work and then the workout of the day, followed by some stretching. You get advice on recovery, nutrition, and supplements. You get people that notice when you don’t show up to the gym that day. You get people that cheer you on during the workout. You get people that cheer the loudest for the last one finished that day. You get to be with people that don’t care that you were the last one done, but do care that you were better than yesterday. You get people that don’t care how slow you were, but that you did every rep and finished even when you thought you couldn’t. You get community. And that, my friends, is priceless.

CF is certainly growing at a rapid rate. There should be a few options in your area to choose the CrossFit community that is best for you.

The Beginning…

Written by Dirk Gessler

It all started innocently enough. My friend Dave kept telling me about this awesome workout program he was using called CrossFit. I resisted for awhile. I was quite happy with my progress in the Couch 2 5K program. At that point I was able to run about 5 minutes at a time without wishing I was dead. After about 30 seconds I was certainly wishing I was not running anymore, but at least death wasn’t one of my current desires.

Dave was persistent though, in a way only a former MMA fighter can be. He stopped by my house one day and told me we were going to the gym. He said it in a way that didn’t really leave room for argument. I had done a tiny bit of research on the whole CrossFit thing he kept talking about and I knew enough to know it was scalable. With that little bit of respite, I tried desperately to assuage my fears as I grabbed my workout clothes and headed out the door with him.

We got to the gym and I tried one last time to head to the treadmills. He wasn’t buying it. He told me I needed to warm up to do the WOD off the “main site” (whatever that meant). He set up a little circuit of different movements that included some rowing. He told me I was supposed to row 500 meters and aim for less then 2 minutes. I finished the 1st sweating profusely, I was a little bit shaky, and I definitely wanted to puke (in my defense it was really hot in the room and I had no clue about how to eat for actual workouts).

I persevered though and I finished the third round of his pushup, medball, row circuit and proudly told him I was done! I was drenched in sweat and my vision was a little fuzzy but I felt good. I certainly felt like I accomplished more than my roughly 20 minutes of running would have. He smiled at me and said the most horrible thing possible: “Good, now we can start the workout!” I wanted to pass out. “Yea right, “I told him, “let’s go grab a beer.” He laughed and pointed me over to the corner where he had moved a few of these box things next to some pull up bars.

“Maybe this wont be so bad,” I thought. I mean after all my breath wasn’t coming in ragged gasps anymore. He told me the actual workout consisted of 3 movements done in 5 rounds. He said it was:

5 rounds
10 Wall climbs
15 Toes to Bar
20 Box jumps (24”)

He quickly showed me how to perform the movements. They all looked simple enough I thought. How bad can it be? He also told me since I was just starting out I should do:

5 Rounds
5 Wall climbs
10 Toes to bar
15 Box jumps (20”)

Even better, lower numbers and a smaller box…I can do this; I mean I can do anything! Without much fanfare he told me to get started and keep track of my time. I came out of the gate strong, pacing myself never was (and still isn’t) my strong suit. I rolled through the first round pretty quick. I am sure my toes to bar didn’t make any of the standards, and my wall climbs were pretty weak too, but I kept going.

By the second round I knew I was in trouble. I was fondly remembering when my breath was coming in gasps, at least then I could breath. My field of vision was narrowing. Thoughts of throwing up were long gone, that would take way too much energy, energy I certainly didn’t have to spare. The few times I took the massive amount of energy required to glance over at Dave I took some solace in the fact that he didn’t seem to be faring any better.

The puddle of sweat under my wall climb spot grew into a lake and then finally a raging ocean. I stopped trying to wipe the sweat off my face because I ran out of dry spots on my shirt to wipe it. My grip started to fail on the toes to bar. I swear Dave kept increasing the height of my box when I wasn’t looking. By the end I am positive that I was doing 55” box jumps!

Finally, 37 minutes later, I finished. I don’t know how long I spent sprawled on the ground in a panting, sweating, drooling pile. Long enough to start relishing the crazy stares I was getting from people as they walked by to grab their dumbbells to do their curls. I was hooked; I wanted more of this euphoric feeling of exhaustion and accomplishment. When I got around to standing up under my own power, Dave smiled and asked if I still wanted to get that beer. I feebly shook my head no as we headed off to the locker room.

I resolved to start looking into the CrossFit thing seriously. The next morning I resolved to look into this CrossFit thing more seriously right after I could move again. I have never been so sore. Every single part of my body was in full out rebellion. I few days later walking wasn’t nearly as painful and a few days after that I was the one dragging equipment around in the gym to optimize my workout.