All’s Well in Exercise Hell
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because Jack LaLanne would want you to.
In this occasional series, OZY takes to streets and neighborhoods across the globe to ask a simple question: “How was your day?”
St. Louis, Missouri
I go to the gym for the first class of the day at 5 a.m. The 5 a.m. class is crazy. A bunch of go-hard, serious CrossFitters who like to get it in before work. Before opening a CrossFit gym I was a personal trainer for about four years, and the biggest complaint my clients were having with personal training was the overall cost. The cost for a personal trainer can range from $400 to $800 a month, which is very expensive. It was hard to ask people for basically a car payment every month to train with me two hours a week. Now it’s much easier to get a big group, keep the price low and let people get the results they want without them breaking the bank. And being able to just kind of compare yourself to other people and build a community and friendships doesn’t get as boring as just working out with a trainer or at a gym by yourself.
Everybody thinks CrossFit is complicated. But we’re doing squats, which is just you sitting down and standing up. We do presses, which is you putting stuff away, and we do dead lifts, which is you picking stuff up. They’re everyday-life movements. I know people sometimes get the impression that CrossFit is extreme, but the truth is it’s designed for the average person — that’s what I am at 37 years old, and that’s what 99.9 percent of people are. The only reason why it seems extreme is when you’re working out we push you according to your level of ability. We always want you to be at your highest intensity, your eight or nine. But your eight or nine is different from someone else’s eight or nine.
People call CrossFit a cult because, I guess, CrossFit is all about the community. We know the names of all of our members. Our members know each other. We build friendships while working out, and that in turn drives us to be even better at the gym. Also, we encourage and facilitate outside activities designed to build community and friendships, like softball teams, 5K and 10K races, happy hours and community events. So our members talk to everyone about CrossFit. They want everyone doing it because they have seen the results and the community of healthy people.
After two more classes I leave to take care of family commitments and work on my laptop doing all the things a CrossFit coach and gym owner does: programming, scheduling sessions, marketing, paperwork and paying bills. After three hours of work, I’m back at the gym to get my workout in. That’s the best part of the day for me. I do the WOD [workout of the day] that’s scheduled for the next day, and I follow that up with an additional hour of strength training, which focuses on core strength.
See, all of our movements start from core to extremities. We use a lot of multiple-joint movements that are lifestyle-common, but core work is fundamental. While we don’t sit around doing sit-ups all day, most of our exercises involve a great deal of core just to get through them, even if we preach lighter weights with higher intensity to get the best results.
At 4 p.m. I’m off again to take care of family matters, and then I head back to the gym for the 6 p.m. class and stay until about 8 o’clock at night, coaching.
You know, one of the best things to see is when someone who thinks they can’t do something accomplishes what they thought was impossible. Two exercises that are very hard for newbies are handstand push-ups or holds and rope climbs. So many people come into CrossFit and say there’s no way they could ever do that, but once you teach them the proper form they usually do it. I’d say about 80 percent of people can do it when they’re taught the right technique. To get that level of confidence after they thought it was impossible changes people. Not only for working out, but also in their everyday lives: how they respond to work, how they respond to their family and friends. The belief in themselves is the greatest thing that any coach gets out of it. You’re going to see your strong athletics get stronger, that’s a given, but to see the average person get better and accomplish something they thought they’d never do is worth its weight in gold.