The Beginning of the End of the Old Me

As I write this post I am still trying to compose myself and stop my legs from alternately shaking & hurting.  My body feels like it went through a 12-round prize fight, then was tossed into a commercial dryer, to tumble and bump for hours!   This morning I went to the newly started CrossFit gym in my local town and I had no idea what I was “signing up” for.  Let me rewind the “clock” a few hours earlier…

Jon Cragle Pre-Crossfit 2012So, my son, a college football player, and I are going to the newly started CrossFit gym’s “Open House” shortly.  I have seen & heard a little about CrossFit, but always dismissed it as either to specialized or extreme to fit my needs.  I agreed to go, since my son  wanted a place to do his off-season workouts over Winter Break.  I figured I might do a little lifting & then just watch. I should preface the rest of this entry with a little more background information.  I was an athlete in high school and continued to work out after my first few years of college.  I wasn’t a “gym rat”, but I could run with younger guys in athletic contests.  Unfortunately, time, work, marriage, divorce and other life events became excuses for not working out or staying healthy.  I ballooned up to my heaviest weight of 242 pounds (see picture to the right) and wearing almost size 40 pants.  I had a knee that I had accepted wouldn’t let me squat down without buckling, along with aches & pains from simply “being old” is what I was told.  My cholesterol numbers were sky-rocketing and despite not “looking unhealthy” I was on a bad path with my health.  The result of this was a general uncaring attitude about how I dressed or even basic self-care began to wane.  In essence I was on the road to a heart attack or other serious health issues, not to mention not feeling good about myself.  I was virtually alone and feeling like that was “just how it was going to be” for the rest of my time here on Earth.

When we arrived at the gym I noticed that the only “equipment” was a set of rowers, otherwise it was “bare”.  Matt Lovelady, the head trainer, who I know from the other fitness place I work at, greeted us.  We filled out a little paperwork and then he talked briefly about CrossFit and his background & philosophy.   “Enough talk” he said, “let’s take you through a warmup and then a 10-minute W.O.D”. (“workout of the day” I would learn later).  

We did some stretching and then some stretches and mobility work with a PVC pipe called “pass-thrus”.   At first, I thought this was silly, that was until I realized how tight my shoulders were and this would definitely help.  In fact, Matt told us that shoulder mobility is critical for much of the lifting and work we would do in CrossFit and was the reason many people struggled with them.  We moved through some other stretches that made me realize this wasn’t going to be an easy workout after-all.  Soon we were ready to do the W.O.D., which consisted of:

3 rounds of:

  • 400 meter row
  • 20 box jumps (on a 15 inch set of plates)
  • 25 kettle-bell swings with a 26lb kettle bell
  •  There was a 12 minute time cap

 We started off the rowing and within 250 meters I was already winded, and by the end of the first 400 meters I was gasping for air.   We moved to the jumps, which was a height I’d not done in quite awhile.  I worked through them and then the kettle bell swings came and at the end of the 25 my arms burned.  Back to the rowing and again within 250 meters I was almost hyperventilating, but somehow I fought through, albeit with some breakes.  I dragged myself to the box jump area and Matt (Lovelady) started coaching me “one at a time, then step down, one at a time” he said.  I got through them, but could barely breathe when it came to the kettlebell swings.  As this point, I wasn’t so sure about coming to CrossFit or not, rather I simply wanted to survive.   Somehow I did one rep at a time, despite not really remember a whole lot except I just didn’t want to fall down or puke.   I headed over to the rowing area and I felt like I had no energy, but I started to pull.  They weren’t big pulls, or even necessarily “medium pulls”.   I was just trying to keep moving, but 250 meters came and I “lost my air”.  I had to stop and try to breathe and by the time I gathered myself the 12-minute time limit was over.   I didn’t get to the third set of box jumps or kettle bell swings, yet I wasn’t focused on that, rather I was just trying not to throw-up or fall over from exhaustion.   It took me the entire day to recover to a semi-normal state and all I wanted to do was sleep.

My son was excited about continuing his “Winter workouts” at the CrossFit gym, before he headed back to college.  I told him we would sign-up for January and then I’d need to see if I was going to continue.    We did sign-up and thus began a journey of fitness, family, fun, community, & learning.

This blog was born out of a desire to share my experiences with CrossFit an its impact on my life and others.   The entries are of my own creation and any errors are strictly my own.  Thanks for reading this and join me on this unexpected & exciting trip!