I know you what you’re thinking: You’re thinking of trying CrossFit.
Maybe you drive by your local CrossFit affiliate on your way to work. Maybe you’ve seen friends post online about joining the CrossFit Open. But you’ve been too busy, too old, too out of shape, too insert-reason-here to walk into a gym or join the largest fitness competition on Earth.
But I’ll tell you what you’ll find if you do.
If you walk into Kettle Moraine CrossFit in Slinger, Wisconsin, on a Friday night during the Open, you’ll find a room brimming with athletes of all ages and shapes. Caution tape will designate workout lanes and cheering areas, and music will be pumping. A family dressed like superheroes might walk by.
You’ll see athletes making themselves better. Some of them will look just like you: moms in their 40s, grandpas in their 60s, sleep-deprived college students, teens and everyone in between.
“We’ve got a gentlemen who’s (in his) 60s or 70s … and he’s doing the same WOD right next to an elite-looking athlete,” said Dave Hora, husband to affiliate owner Robynn Hora.
At this point, you might grab a beverage off the potluck table and settle in to watch the action. Whichever lane you choose, you’ll see someone doing something awesome.
You might see someone like Jenna Cook of 13 Stripes CrossFit in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
When Cook started CrossFit in January 2018, she was 30 lb. overweight and couldn’t do a box jump, lift very much or run very far. Yet just a few weeks later, she competed in the Open—gym friends said she’d have fun.
But as she began Open Workout 18.2, she wasn’t sure she could do it.
“I've never wanted to stop doing something so badly in my life,” the 26-year-old said of the ascending ladder of dumbbell squats and bar-facing burpees.
Halfway through, she traded her 35-lb. dumbbells for a pair of 20s. She fought tears in the last round of burpees. That’s when her friend Casey flopped to the floor beside her to motivate her through the final reps.
“Keep moving. Don’t slow down. You’re almost there,” Cook quoted her friend as saying.
“It was just such a good feeling for somebody to be like, ‘You can do this. Keep going,’ because that's something that I had never really experienced before,” she said. “I was always the last kid picked in gym class, you know?”
Or you might see someone like Joe Carey, a 74-year-old retired electrician from CrossFit Cape Coral in Florida.
Two years ago, Carey phoned the affiliate and read owner Nick Habich a summary of his medical history: knee replacement, back surgery, neck surgery, degeneration of spinal fascia, arthritis and more.
“And he said, ‘Come on down,'" Carey recalled.
Coaches helped Carey modify workouts to meet his needs. He did burpees to a box and swapped barbells for dumbbells. Soon, Carey’s limitations didn’t seem so significant.
“I can open up jars and tops,” he said. “I was just on a cruise, and people had me open up their water bottles for them.”
Recently, Carey climbed more than a hundred flights of stairs to reach the top of Machu Picchu.
“I can go on trips. I can walk up stairs. (CrossFit) enables me at 74 to do what I want to do,” he said. “That's the real thing that it does—compared to my (peer) group around me, I can do what I want.”
And Carey wanted to do the 2018 Open.
He took his dumbbell snatches from the top of a box, and he squatted to a box during his wall-ball shots.
“Everything was scaled for me to be able to do it and still feel like I was competing,” he said.
The best part? The camaraderie.
“I've never seen a place that was more welcoming. … Out-of-shape people coming are treated just the same as the best athletes in the gym.”
No matter the athlete, the sideline will look the same: filled with fans. Among them will be the very trainers who helped them reach new levels of health, fitness and confidence.
“We do develop really strong relationships with a lot of our clients here,” said Kelly Marble, a Kettle Moraine CrossFit coach. “Some people are at a point where they can't even do a push-up ... and suddenly they're able to make these amazing PRs, and seeing that happen after working with them and coaching them is such an emotional, overwhelming, amazing thing.”
After the very last athlete’s been cheered through the final rep, you might join the crowd for post-workout libations to celebrate first pull-ups, first box jumps, and improvements in health and happiness.
And you’ll know you’re involved in something special.
Said Hora: “It’s everyday people that have everyday jobs that come here and try to improve their health and be a part of something, too.”