Tuesday, November 7th, 2017: CrossFit felt like familyNovember 6, 2017
10 pass throughs
10 figure 8’s
10 jump squats
15 air squats
10 back squats
10 front squats
“Stay on It”
15/12 cal row
20 air squats
** each movement on its own minute
CrossFit felt like family
Courtesy of Crossfit Queen Street Jan Murphy with his CrossFit group members and CrossFit Queen Street co-owner Storm Patterson, far left, following a CrossFit workout on Monday.
Prior to Monday, I assumed the mere utterance of that word would elicit one of two reactions: you’d shudder, maybe roll your eyes and move on with your day or you’d fist pump and sing the praises of the high-intensity fitness model.
I won’t lie. Prior to stepping inside CrossFit Queen Street, I was in the shuddering camp. Sure, I’d seen some marvellous transitions in fitness among some of my friends on social media. One person I knew dropped more than 100 pounds in a year and literally looks like a different person. Still others are in the best shape of their lives. And, if you spend time around high-level athletes like I do around World Wrestling Entertainment stars, CrossFit is a common form of training.
But to me, I always had an excuse: my knees couldn’t endure it; I’m too heavy for all of that high-level fitness. Blah, blah, blah.
A former Whig-Standard colleague, Mike Onesi, reached out to me upon reading about my latest fitness endeavour and suggested I should come for a CrossFit class. I (reluctantly) agreed. I could spend all day making up reasons why I didn’t think it would be for me, but the hard truth is I’ve gotten lazy in recent times and it looked like a lot of work. And it was.
At the invitation of CrossFit Queen Street co-owner Storm Patterson, who runs the facility in the basement of the Queen Street United Church along with business partner Callum Owen, I set off to experience CrossFit firsthand.
As with anything I do for the first time, I was part excited, part nervous, self-conscious and completely unsure what to expect. But my mantra has always been to push my boundaries of comfort, and this would not be an exception.
I walked in the doors, down the steps to the front desk. Off to the right, an employee was writing on a white board. To my right was the hub of the fitness area. My peripheral vision picked up a few people moving around, working out. I looked to my right, only to spot Kingston’s version of Captain America and Thor, shirtless, bodies chiselled like Greek God statues, flying through high-intensity moments.
My first thought was, “wow, what I wouldn’t give for that physique.” I even managed a quick Facebook status update in lighthearted humour informing the public that I’d located actor Chris Hemsworth, who plays Thor in Marvel’s movie franchise, doing CrossFit in Kingston. My second thought was I was way out of my league.
I was greeted and I asked if I could speak with Patterson. Yep, you guessed it. He was Thor! Patterson introduced himself, gave me a quick rundown of the plan and told me where I could change. A few others were milling around at that point.
After changing into my workout clothes, I encountered Onesi, who offered words of encouragement and advice, assuring me that Patterson would be modifying my workout given that it was my first time. The workout for this session, by the way, was entitled Fight Gone Bad, and involved three rounds of one-minute, exercises at five stations. For the non-beginners, that would be wall balls, sumo deadlift high pulls, 20-inch box jumps, push presses and rowing. Each round would be followed by a one-minute rest period, then the next round would begin. We would partner up for the workout. Having witnessed this workout happening around me, I will attest to its rigorousness, but also applaud Patterson for his coaching and every member who tackled it for their ferociousness and determination.
But before any of this, Patterson gathered the group and had us sit. He made an announcement or two and introduced the group to yours truly, even insisting that members volunteer to ask me three questions to break the ice. I must admit, it helped me assimilate into the group instantly.
From there, it was into warmup. Patterson gave us instructions on the warmup and set the group in motion, pulling me aside to explain what my modified workout would be. He explained that he wanted me to get the experience of CrossFit but not overdo it on my first day. For me, I’d be doing seated squats, then deadlifts, 12-inch box steps, push presses and finishing with rowing.
After a warmup that I can only describe as more intense than many of my best workouts in recent months, Onesi and I partnered off and set up in preparation for showtime.
The fascinating part of the entire CrossFit experience was learning the history of CrossFit, Patterson and Owen’s history, that there are CrossFit competitions, and meeting the others in the class that day, who included the mother of a Queen’s University student who called the facility to see if she could come for some CrossFit before heading back east. The family atmosphere that started with Patterson trickled down through the group and was evident before and after the workout. I’m sure it was there during, but everyone was so focused on exceeding their goals that it was all business.
With that, it was CrossFit time. Patterson again reminded me that it wasn’t volume he was looking for from me, but getting through the workout and getting my sweat on. There would be no trouble there.
Onesi started, performing his first minute of wall balls. As the minute approached, it was my turn. I began my seated squats. Other than a week earlier in my last workout, squats and I haven’t exactly been getting to know each other of late. I got through the first minute relatively pain free. Mild burning would be the best way to describe it.
It was onto deadlift. Again, not a lot of trouble here as I had only the bar, which weighs 45 pounds. By the end of that round, my breathing was picking up. Step-ups were next. I pushed through those, my breathing increasing with each one. By the time I reached push presses, again with just the 45-pound bar, I knew I was working out. One minute later, it was onto the rower. I rowed until the end of Round 1.
I scanned the room for my water, my mouth dry from heavy breathing, grabbed it, swigged back what I could and prepared for Round 2.
And off I went.
Round 2 was noticeably more difficult than Round 1. Patterson continued to encourage me, guide me and remind me that I wasn’t to overdo it. (If I’m being completely honest, I likely could have taken a little weight on a couple of the exercises and survived.)
The squats were at least twice as difficult. Deadlifts I got through, but noticed my sweat was now dripping onto the floor beneath me. By step-ups, my cardio was again kicked into high gear. Push presses remained no trouble, but the minute of rowing pushed my lungs and cardio into high gear. Again, I needed water. This time I feared my breathing wouldn’t settle down in the 60 seconds to prepare for Round 3. I’d now been working out for 10 of 12 minutes at a pretty intense pace.
Round 3 began. Watching Onesi crush his wall balls for the third time was impressive. I looked around at how hard everyone was working, listening to great encouragement from Patterson, who was helping people with form, reminding them they were down to the last few sessions.
My legs shook as I squatted this time. I forced my way through 17 of them, down significantly this round. Even the deadlift was a bit labourious this round. Again, sweat dripped at a faster pace from my face to the ground.
Step-ups were a challenge. I was panting at this stage. Push presses gave me just enough of a chance to catch my breath for the last round of rowing, which would be the most intense. Patterson was yelling words of encouragement for us to push through, as hard as we could, counting down our remaining time every five to 10 seconds.
It was over!
I was bent over, gasping for breath, sweating profusely. I’d survived CrossFit. Well, a modified version of it, at least. And to be completely honest, I enjoyed it. I liked the family/team environment, the challenge of doing it with a partner and with others at the same time, the challenge of the CrossFit itself and the rewarding feeling I had when I got through it.
People began fist bumping and congratulating each other on a job well done. And it didn’t feel out of place at all, given how Patterson started the session by making it feel like a team atmosphere. Many people came over and extended their fists and congratulations to me. I did the same back.
Patterson gathered us around once again and we chatted briefly before posing for the accompanying group shot, and my foray into CrossFit was complete.
Patterson later explained the commitment, the costs, the training options and everything a membership at CrossFit Queen Street encompasses and took me on a tour of the rest of the facility.
Going in, I partly feared CrossFit and wasn’t sure it would be something I could get into.
Walking out, I knew it wasn’t the last I’d seen of it.
CrossFit Queen Street is located at 221 Queen St. For information, go online to www.crossfitqueenstreet.com.
Next week, I’m headed to Reflections Training Studio.
Jan Murphy is the news and features editor at The Kingston Whig-Standard. If you have a workout or fitness challenge you’d like him to try, whatever that may be, email him at email@example.com.