My heart was pounding like a freight train. My lungs screamed for air. Through blurred vision, I could make out twenty-five seconds left on the clock, but I still had ten more box jumps to do. My legs began to quiver as I glanced up at the quote written on the gym wall. “Breathe? You can do that when you’re done.” Four more jumps to go…“Muscles burning? That will eventually go away.” Three more to go…. “Gonna pass out? You’ll live.” Two more… “Give it everything you’ve got!” One!
So ended my introduction to CrossFit Nantucket, the is- land’s newest athletic venue to get fit—and tortured. I was always a CrossFit skeptic. This workout fad sweeping the nation seemed like fitness for lunatics, a regimen for meat- heads who picked up outrageously heavy weights, sported hideous knee socks, and mastered workouts oddly named after women. It appeared to be a dangerous cult of bacon- eating hulks.
But when Nantucket Fitness affiliated itself with CrossFit earlier this year, I decided to peer through the studio window and check out what all the fuss was about. Amidst pumping music and clanging weights, an enthusiastic instructor moved about what looked like an adult playground. Some were jumping ropes, a few were throwing medicine balls against a wall, and others were hanging from monkey bars. To my surprise, I saw that these lunatics were actually enjoying a grueling workout—and not everybody was wearing knee socks. So I decided to give it shot.
CrossFit’s appeal is its intense, short-duration workouts that continuously change. The program is designed to achieve “competence in cardiovascular and respiratory endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, power, speed, coordination, agil- ity, balance, and accuracy.” The workouts are indeed often named after women, but they are a far cry from the exercises this girl was used to doing.
CrossFit isn’t aerobics in front of a mirror or hopping on an elliptical machine to count down the calories. It’s functional fitness, tackling one challenging movement after another for a prescribed amount of time. One of the toughest workouts goes like this: twenty-two kettle bell swings, twenty-two box jumps, a four-hundred-meter run, twenty- two Burpees, and twenty-two wall- ball shots with a twenty-pound weight. This routine is repeated five times in thirty-five minutes. Work- outs like this force you beyond your comfort zone to achieve new levels of strength and conditioning.
If people first come to CrossFit for its straightforward workouts, they keep coming for the camaraderie. It is one of the few group fitness programs where you are truly supported and emboldened by your peers. When you’re in the middle of a workout, dripping with sweat and your mind and body want to quit, a fellow CrossFitter will come to your rescue and spur you on. Perhaps this is why there are so many CrossFit success stories right here on Nantucket.
For all of the positive affirmations about CrossFit, there is an equal amount of criticism. Top on the list is that high-volume, heavy- weighted movements expose a participant to injury, especially when they are in a state of fatigue. Exercise physiologists are also quick to point out that the CrossFit methodology isn’t scientifically supported (though a handful of studies have illustrated its efficacy). And then there’s the CrossFit-endorsed Paleo Diet, the protein-laden, low- carb eating plan designed to mimic the way our cavemen ancestors once ate. Despite the diet’s emphasis on whole foods, which is unquestionably beneficial, I’m fairly certain it’s still not a good idea to begin eating loads of bacon.
The bottom line is that as with just about any exercise, CrossFit is not for everyone. But if you’re willing to be mindful of your body and want a quick, high-energy workout where you will continually surprise yourself in your abilities, then consider buying some knee socks and join the lunatics at CrossFit Nantucket.