Sweat Seattle: Does WOD = “Workout of Death”?

Imperial CrossFit

Talk about a killer workout! Ba dum dum. WOD, in fact, is actually a CrossFit abbreve for “Workout of the Day” – a phrase I became all too familiar with when I entered the box one Monday night to find out what the craze is all about. (Box is CrossFit lingo for gym.)

Imperial CrossFit
Mid-burpee? Or push-up?

Even if you’re not into fitness, you’ve probably heard of CrossFit. Everyone from celebrities, athletes, military veterans and moms – yes, moms, lots of moms – have been seeking out their nearest box to lose weight, enjoy the thrill of encouraging competition and join the community. Have you heard of “The Biggest Loser” on NBC? Even Bob the trainer is drinking the CrossFit Kool-Aid. And now you can even watch the CrossFit Games on ESPN. Oh yeah, the craze is official.

I remember when CrossFit initially made a bleep on my radar. It was 2011 and a friend of mine posted a photo on Facebook of his hands which were bleeding from calluses that had ripped open with the caption, “Evidence of my PR today!” Huh? First of all, I was grossed out that I had just looked at this photo and secondly, I was so confused why someone would be so proud to be bleeding that much – and for what?

Imperial CrossFit
Remember the rope climb from gym class in high school?

I understood the sense of accomplishment with PR’ing (fitness speak personal record) but for what exactly did my friend PR in? Marathon running had been my jam for a year at that point and I had striven for PRs in my finish times, but it had never given me bloody hands! Intrigued, I finally asked and he said it was all because of CrossFit. CrossFit? Did he mean cross training? I immediately Googled the word only to come upon images of muscle men and people who were passed out on various box floors. It seemed unreal. I wanted to learn more so … I sent my husband. My excuse: it seemed like much more of a “man” exercise.

He went to a class and came home exasperated. He had always been fit but he was in awe of what he saw at the box and even more, disappointed that he had pushed himself too hard and ended up outside the box puking into the bushes. Apparently there is a name for this at CrossFit … Pukey the Clown. Interestingly enough, that didn’t stop him. He went back. Again and again and again. I didn’t know if he was proving something to me or to himself but soon enough two years passed with him going every other night and I watched as he became stronger, more confident and even more health-conscious. He also received a new nickname for whatever reason: Scuba Steve. And all that time, he kept asking me to try it with him. He promised there were a lot of other women who went to the box and it wasn’t as brutal as it seemed. But I just didn’t know. I’m barely 5’3” and 107 pounds. How was I supposed to be able to lift weights and swing those big ball things with handles (what I now know to be kettle bells) and whatever else was involved based on the Google images results I saw?

Imperial CrossFitFlash forward to this Monday night when he finally convinced me to see what it was like for myself. I needed to do something different after having torn my calf muscle training for several marathons last year so it just seemed right that I enter the box. The nothing-like-my-regular-gym, non-fussy, non-extravagant-but-as-it-should-be AstroTurf and rubber-floored box. Inside Imperial CrossFit, a box in a suburb just south of Seattle, I saw people doing what looked like a grueling workout involving giant tires. They were trying to beat the clock (and later, I came to realize to beat their personal records) which I could hear beeping every now and then behind the blare of pump-you-up music. Some people were strewn about the floor in pools of sweat, seemingly gasping for breath like fish out of water. I was anxious.

I can’t even remember what the WOD was that night. It might’ve been Fran? Or Annie? Or Cindy? Or one of the many other CrossFit benchmark workouts named after girls. All I know is I was hurling a medicine ball 10 feet up a wall in between doing what seemed like a million squats, sit-ups, push-ups (on my knees) and pull-ups (with the help of a band). Everything was scaled to each person’s fitness level. By the time I finished I was out of breath and light-headed. And then came the high-fives.

The adrenaline kicked in and I was proud. Even beaming a bit – behind the sweat of course. Sure, it was challenging but I did it! And I did it because of those high-fives. Because of the shouts of encouragement as I had pushed myself to do just … one … more … pull-up. And because of this CrossFit community. THIS is what CrossFit is really all about. Some gyms claim to have CrossFit classes and there are even workout apps that are CrossFit-oriented. But don’t be fooled. True CrossFit comes with a community — natch — a family. On a technical note, it also comes with the proper form coaching that is important so you can be effective without injuring yourself. After just one WOD I had been adopted into this family – with the multiple Facebook friend requests and paleo picnic event invites to prove it.

Still weary? Try it for yourself. CrossFit isn’t just for fitness fanatics or seasoned athletes or as some like to think, masochists. Nor is it just for people who are interested in body-building as the muscle-man images I had seen years ago might have suggested. It can be. But it doesn’t have to be. It’s for anyone of all shapes and sizes. Anyone who is even a bit curious about what goes on inside the world of the warehouse-like boxes.

Imperial CrossFit
The Imperial CrossFit family

What CrossFit is really like:

THE WHOS

Who can participate: Anyone of any age and any fitness level. From the complete beginner to the advanced athlete. CrossFit is unique in its universal scalability. There were two 10 year-old girls and at least five or six women in their 40s+ in my class who effectively whooped me. I didn’t have anything on them!

THE WHATS

What is it: Typically a 60 minute total body program that builds strength and conditioning through extremely varied and challenging workouts. It usually begins with a dynamic warm up followed by skill or strength practice, the WOD and then a cool down with stretching – all done together as a group.

What it will cost you: Depends on the box. Most boxes will let you attend your first class free. Monthly memberships thereafter usually range anywhere from $100 and up. That might seem steeper than your average gym membership but keep in mind this is basically like 1:1 personal training.

What to wear: Workout wear; including proper footwear. You can find CrossFit-branded wear (from Reebok) in sports stores but you really don’t need anything special.

What to bring: A WATER BOTTLE. You’ll need it. And a positive attitude.

THE WHERES

Where is it: Locations are literally all over Seattle. There are probably more than a dozen boxes within a five-mile radius from you. Click here to see. Choosing a box isn’t like choosing a regular gym. The coaches and atmosphere should make you feel comfortable. Ensure that the coaches also have their certifications. I tried it out at Imperial CrossFit which is south of Seattle and even if it’s not the closest to me, I’ll continue to go there because I believe in the environment that they’ve cultivated.

Where you’ll feel the burn the next day: If you can feel or even lift your limbs the next day, kudos to you.

THE WHENS

When can you go: Class schedules vary by box. First-timers may be required to come on a specific day so you’ll want to check ahead.

THE WHYS

Why you should try it: Everyone and your mom has been talking about it, so why not see what it’s really like for yourself? You’ll finally be able to understand what people mean when they say WOD, AMRAP, PR, RX, EMOM and more! Plus, it’s not scary. It’s not. CrossFit promotes community with a setting of support and camaraderie. You’ll be inspired by the other members who will root you through the workouts.

Why it’s worth it: CrossFit is designed to give you maximum results in no time, which is probably why it’s become so popular with new moms who are trying to bounce back from the baby weight.

Imperial CrossFit | 702 W Meeker Street, Kent | (206) 234–8076