Testimonial… And a Great Read for Newbies!

A reflection on my experiences after 1 year at CrossFit Waterloo:

As I look back at my first year at CrossFit Waterloo, I am thrilled with the results and am more excited now then I was the first day I walked into the box (gym). I feel better than ever, I perform at a higher level in all sport I participate in and my body is starting to look like that of a Greek god… Ok, ok, maybe I am going a little too far on the last point, but I have never looked this good before. I still look forward to every class and the unique challenges that the CrossFit Waterloo team deliver on a daily basis. That being said, I have found the CrossFit experience to be dynamic over time.

I will breakdown my experiences in the coming paragraphs, but let’s talk about the CrossFit Waterloo staff and my impression of the team, The most active coaches in the box are the owners, Eddie and Chris. These guys, along with the rest of the staff, embody the word coach. A good coach is constantly looking to improve you as an individual which includes pointing out your weaknesses and offering assistance on how to improve in these areas. A coach also needs to recognize your strengths and constantly measure and verify that those strengths are improving along with your weaknesses. This is the foundation of how I perceive Chris and Eddie run their box. Proper form and execution are the top priority for the staff at CrossFit Waterloo. Make no mistake, the intensity is high in this box, you will sweat during your warm up, but you will also be executing it in a safe method.
The evolution of my experiences has surprised me. I technically didn’t even sign up for my first class, my friend signed me up and pressured me to come, so I came just to stop my friends constant hounding. I remember that day very clearly, it was a cold November evening and I walked in and met Eddie. The box lacked all the basic machines, equipment, saunas and vending machines I am used to in most gyms. On the other hand it was filled with people who looked incredible and were working extremely hard. I had imagined it was going to look like an aerobics class on steroids, but it was different, the members were crushing it. Needless to say I was intimidated. I walked into that class thinking I was in pretty good shape. I was a runner and former triathlete. I supplemented my running and biking with a few days of resistance training in a normal gym. My first elements class we worked on deadlifts and box jumps. We walked up to a 12 inch box and the Coach showed me how to jump onto a box properly. I remember walking up to that box and wondering how in the heck I was going to jump with both feet and land on a box 1 foot high, yea, embarrassing, I know… To my surprise I was able to do it and eventually moved up to the 20 inch box for the day. Two things I realized after that class. One: I was not a well rounded athlete and really should never have called myself fit. Yes, I was good at running, but that was about it. The second thing I realized was that I could do things with my body that I never imagined being able to do, I just needed a little guidance. With a good coach, it will not take much time to explain how to move your body in new ways. The hardest part is then building the muscle and endurance to be able to repeat it multiple times correctly.

The first few months were great, but not easy. I remember being so sore I didn’t think I would be able to get out of bed. I seriously hurt everywhere, but I kept going and I always used recommended progressions and scaling. I never tried to lift heavy weights in these first months. For me, there was no need to, I was sore from moving my body in all the new ways. I also remember feeling almost embarrassed because of how little I could do relative to the rest of the members. I now realize that everyone comes in with weaknesses and that everyone who puts the time in will improve quicker than they can imagine. The feeling of embarrassment is only temporary and will soon be replaced with confidence as you improve. If there is any advice that I would give to new crossfitters it is to swallow your pride and realize that every time you walk out of that box, you will be stronger then when you walked in. What you don’t realize is that the newest members are sometimes the most inspiring guys to watch at CrossFit because the determination and emotion is so raw. I also had to ask a lot of questions, I didn’t understand the lingo, the abbreviations or the acronyms. It didn’t really matter, the coaches worked me through it. It is key to remember that in the first few months, you may not feel like you are improving because of the large variation in exercises and weights you use. Take the advice of the coaches and use a log book. You can use it to reflect and you will be surprised at how much you can do over the course a couple months. My body didn’t change much visually in this first few months, I noticed small changes, but most of the changes that were happening were in groups of muscles I had never used or targeted through traditional weight lifting.

From months three to six the experienced changed. I was now comfortable with many of the movements and started see real changes in my body. At this point, I started to care less about how I looked, and more about how I could perform better. I started to realize that all the corrections the coaches were giving me were really starting to help. I could clean with low weight and it felt good. I could do hand stand pushups, I could crank out box jumps, I could do more push-ups and pull ups then I had ever done in my life. I started setting goals before the workouts and pushed to achieve them. My body felt good, I was still sore after every workout, but it was not near as painful as the first few months, or I just started get used to it. My Olympic weightlifting was still very rough and to be honest, I didn’t look forward to the workouts that incorporated them, but I always showed up and worked on them. At the end of six months, I really felt like I was crossfitter and was just starting to look like one. I had to buy new pants, I had to buy new belts, My shirts were tight on top and loose everywhere else. Looking better was never really a big goal of mine when I started, but I was feeling good.

Right at the end of my six months, one of my fears came to reality. I was doing a workout that incorporated box jumps and I was doing box jumps in the rebound fashion. This is the most efficient way to do them, but it is also risky if you don’t do them right and I got complacent. When coming down off the box I landed a little off with my left foot and felt a sharp pain in the back of my calf and down to the back of my foot. I finished the workout, but used step downs instead. The next day I was in a lot of pain so I got it checked out and I found out I had a partial tear in my Achilles tendon. A full tear would have been catastrophic, but even a partial tear looked like I would have to take a break from most CrossFit activities based on the doctors recommendations. I was pretty depressed when I got the news, summer had just started and I was under the assumption that my progress was going to stop. I sent a note to Chris and Eddie and explained the situation but asked if I could still keep coming and if the staff could work me through the recovery. The response was more detailed then what my doctors had given me pointing me to recovery methods, exercises and tools to recover properly. They made it clear that the entire staff would be able to scale everything to keep my progress going and assist in recovery. I never missed a workout due to that injury, every coach modified the workout to prevent me from further injury. Let me make it clear that they did not make the workouts easier, they just made them different… I saw my numbers improve over those months and my achilles is better than ever. This is when I was sure that the staff at CrossFit Waterloo were good. Not only can coach healthy individuals, but they can take injured members and work around the injury and improve their overall fitness. When injuries like this happened before I was a member at CrossFit Waterloo, I would have been sidelined for months and it would have taken me months after the recover to get back to where I was.

Months 9 to months 12 were yet again different. I was healthy, I was able to perform almost every movement safely, but my ability to perform all movements with the prescribed weight was lacking. I found that I was ok with the high rep, low weight or body weight movements, but any time I loaded up the weight my performance would collapse. It was time to start going heavy and getting uncomfortable with the amount of weight I was using in my workouts. The work outs are more grueling, I find myself in a state of exhaustion like I have never felt before but my performance improved. Here is the great thing about the staff at CFW: Through all my challenges and my own attempts at working on my weaknesses, the staff have constantly provided me what feedback and recommendations that have consistently made improvements. Let me take a moment to talk more about this. If you do not take criticism well, you will not do well at CrossFit. I think some people feel like the staff is nagging on them as they consistently point out areas that need improvement, but this is exactly what you need. You need to thank them for investing the energy into trying to make you better.

If you are thinking about starting CrossFit, don’t read much on the internet about it, come experience it and make your own, well informed decision. Make CrossFit Waterloo one of the boxes you try out and I bet that you will find that it is the best in the area for anyone interested in a high touch point box.

Paul P

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