My coworker Andrew has a little joke. “How do you know someone does CrossFit?
“Because they tell you.”
It reminded me of a saying from when people used to do “est” seminars, and noisily proselytize about them.
“What’s the different between an asshole and an esthole?
“Asshole’s still got his 400 dollars.”
My spouse, sons and coworkers have drunk the CrossFit KoolAid. CrossFit, if you don’t know, is a high-intensity conditioning program of gymnastics, sprinting, rowing and much else, such as carrying around strange objects. Also, of devotion.
The first time my older son, Teddy, went, he threw up, audibly gagging in the bathroom. The staff gave him some Coke to sip, sitting quietly on a bench. Upon returning home, he, who plays high-school football and runs track, whispered, still gray-faced, “I thought I’d be in better shape for it.”
I pick up my younger son, Roy, after a session at the CrossFit center, and he says, “Mom, you should do it. They love old athletes. I mean, people who … like… used to be pros.”
I step inside and the smiling instructors’ eyes light up,
“You should do it,” says nice, ripped John.
“Why would I want to throw up? “
“Oh,” he says, waving dismissively, “that was just Teddy. He pushes it.”
At work, Ashley and Shannon talk near daily about their workouts, WODs and other critical components.
When burly Ashley told me how sore she was from the previous day’s session, she said, “I know you’re sick of CrossFit,” but then went right ahead in describing the previous day’s workout: “We did 15 pull-ups, 15 box jumps, 15 burpees, 15 sit-ups, 14 pull ups, 14 box jumps, 14 burpees, 14 sit-ups, 13 pull ups, 13 burpees, 13 box jumps, 13 sit-ups. …And so on, all the way to one of each. Total, that's 120 pull-ups, box jumps, burpees and sit-ups!”
Her partner, Jeremy, tells me softly, “I hate CrossFit.”
I fetch Roy again, and he says, emerging, “Mom, all those people in there are one-upping you.”
Another day, he tries this tactic: “You couldn’t do it,” he says, shaking his head regretfully. “You’re strong, but…”
Through CrossFit, my kids know Mike, a young guy who works at the local grocery store. One day as I use my City Market card, he says, “You saved $30,” adding with glowing eyes, “That’s another week of Cross Fit!”
I used to love Will Gadd. Many years ago he was my teenage intern, sleeping uncomplainingly in his pickup truck in the dead of an Aspen winter. (I convinced him to stay in an old paint closet at my house for a night or two during that year’s Arctic Express.) Two years ago, all grown up and a conquering hero, he came to the Redstone Winterfest, stayed at my house, stood in the kitchen one night and told my rapt spouse and sons (while I gazed about, daydreaming) about CrossFit.
Now they have talked their friends into going. Teddy wants to do a CrossFit team comp. I will say this, my spouse – another Mike, whom we’ll call Mike B – being a jack-of-all-mountain trades, climbed little this past year, but when he did, he climbed pretty well, and attributes it to … you guessed it.
I find him and Roy at night looking at CrossFit videos. They show me pictures on the local CrossFit website of my friend Tyler lying in a pool of his own sweat, looking up dazedly. “Yeah, Tyler was hurtin’,” they say with strange conviviality.
Then, as if I didn’t already spend a fortune at the grocery store, the boys came from CrossFit declaring they want to eat the Paleo diet. Meaning, in general terms, fresh fruits and vegetables, which is great, and meats, which is OK – but essentially not pasta, breads or even potatoes. What parent doesn’t know that potatoes are how you can afford to fill up the starving teenage boys who greet you daily with, “What’s for dinner?”
The low point was when I served up burritos, a quick and healthy family staple, and Roy said, recoiling, “I don’t want to eat legumes!”
Teddy threw up again the other night at CrossFit, came home laughing about it.
Last night they all talked again at the table about CrossFit, Mike concluding with a serious expression, “I really need to work on my overhead squats.”
At one point I was almost tempted to try it, thinking the pullups and other exercises might be good for, and natural to, a climber. But then I went hiking up the local Red Hill with a friend and her friend, who steamed ahead set-faced. While I could keep up, barely, I could also barely speak a word. And I realized that what I like is combining exercise with seeing friends, and hiking at a “talking pace.”
One of the things I love in climbing, and one of the reasons it is a great sport to write about, is that you and your partner communicate. I couldn’t talk to my friends half as well if I was throwing up.