7 things I learned from a CrossFit trainer

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to interview Dan Murdock of Cooperstown CrossFit for my intern project with the Cooperstown Chamber of Commerce. I’ve been learning about CrossFit since last fall, but yesterday was my first time stepping into an actual CrossFit box (that’s what they call their gym). What I took from the interview spanned the range of life lessons and basic facts.

1. CrossFit focuses on practicality.

Will you ever do a bicep curl outside of the gym? Unless you have dumbbells at home, probably not. A CrossFit workout will never have you use your muscles in ways you wouldn’t use them in everyday life. Many of the workouts use bodyweight exercises — pull-ups, push-ups, squats, etc. — that work several muscles at the same time. The reasoning?

“You’re going to have to pick yourself up at some point,” Murdock said.

It reminded me of the scene in Batman Begins, when Alfred is trying to move a flaming beam off of Bruce Wayne:

“What is the point of all those push-ups if you can’t even lift a bloody log?”

2. “Only perfect practice makes perfect.” 

Meaning if your form isn’t right, it doesn’t matter how much you’re lifting or how quickly you’re completing reps. Before upping the ante, make sure you’re doing the exercise correctly.

Squats: make sure your knees stay behind your toes, and keep your shoulders back.

Push-Ups: don’t let your head hang, and be sure to get the full range of motion.

Pull-Ups: keep your shoulders back, and don’t swing your legs.

3. Many factors impact your physical performance.

Murdock showed me a couple of his CrossFitters’ journals. They keep track not only of their times, weights, and PRs, but also their diets, hours of sleep, and moods. One CrossFitter, a member of Cooperstown Hawkeyes baseball team, will crush a workout one day and, late to bed because of away games, barely finish the next day’s workout. Keeping track of different factors gives CrossFitters an idea of why they succeed or fail at their workouts.

4. You can have a routine without getting bored.

Every day, Murdock designs a workout from warm-up to cool-down. It’s a routine: CrossFitters show up, do the warm-up, work through the strength and/or skill sections, do the WOD (workout of the day), and then do the cool-down. But every day, the workout is different. The warm-up, strength, and skill sections are all designed to prepare you for the WOD. And the WOD doesn’t repeat often. Boredom won’t happen — even though you’re in a box.

5. Ego can be more helpful than modesty.

Ego not in a macho way, but in the sense that you expect a lot of yourself and then you strive to meet those expectations. As fellow CrossFitters see you throw yourself at new challenges, they encourage you and proceed to challenge themselves similarly. Their attitudes are influenced by your attitude and . . .

6. Your attitude is influenced by the attitudes of those around you.

No man is an island. As much as we like to think we’re independent of all that’s around us, we’re actually hugely impacted by those who surround us. This is true in exercise — whatever regimen you ascribe to — and it’s true in the rest of life.

7. CrossFit changes lives.

Cooperstown CrossFit offers a 20% discount for active and retired military, and a number have joined. Murdock teared up when he talked about one in particular, who came back from Iraq and was “in a really bad place.” By joining CrossFit, this veteran gained a community that cares about and challenges him. The attitudes of those around him helped lift his attitude toward life.

Yesterday, I interviewed a CrossFit trainer. It was awesome.

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