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Originally published Friday, March 15, 2013 at 11:00 AM

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CrossFit? Columnist is all in

Nicole Tsong has high hopes for visible abs in her future.

Special to The Seattle Times

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To find a CrossFit in your neighborhood, see

Rocket CrossFit

5720 Rainier Ave. S., Seattle

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I WAS SUSPICIOUS of the enthusiasm. People who do CrossFit talk about it in rapturous tones. They blather on about how sore they are. They use terminology foreign to us normal folk.

Then one of my friends turned. She wasn't just in; she was all in. She wanted me to do it, too.

I looked into our neighborhood place, Rocket CrossFit in Hillman City. Newcomers must take the Blast-Off series. That's 12 classes, three times a week for one month at $150. Most CrossFit gyms — it feels like every Seattle neighborhood has one these days — require some kind of intro series to teach you the exercises and keep you safe during the rigorous workouts.

That seemed like an awful lot of CrossFit.

I was lured by the idea of a new fitness community five minutes from home. I love pushing my body in new ways, and the combination of rigorous workouts and an outgoing, encouraging culture sounded like a jump-start in all ways. At least for one expensive month.

The first day our trainer, Jenelle, eased us in. We learned proper squats, push-ups and pullups assisted by a stretchy band. We did a timed workout — a CrossFit staple — with a 200-meter sprint followed by three rounds of squats, push-ups and ring rows, finishing with another sprint. I was breathing hard, but it was mostly fun. We recorded our times in our journals and left.

We didn't do all that much. But I walked out of the gym energized. I was excited for the next workout. I liked the people in my class. Maybe it was endorphins or an adrenaline buzz, but I almost skipped to my car.

One class in and I was One of Them.

The workouts kept getting longer. The combination of cardio with strength training is brutal, even when the cardio is a short 200-meter sprint. Cardio is not my strength, and by the third round of sprinting, rowing or jump rope combined with pullups, squats or lunges, I'm gasping for air.

Then we had a workout without traditional cardio. Yes! I thought. This will be my salvation. Five rounds later of throwing a medicine ball at the wall, plus push-ups and pullups, and I was on the floor again, panting.

I hadn't done the truly scary workouts yet. The idea of throwing a medicine ball at the wall 150 times, known as Karen, sounds terrifying. There have been a lot of articles about how CrossFit throws you in too hard, too fast. But during the Blast-Off, despite aching hips and hamstrings, and workouts that got progressively harder, I never felt overwhelmed.

Plus my competitive side — never that far below the surface — also had a heyday with the timed workouts. I wanted to win, every time.

I love that the workout changes every day. I love having an encouraging trainer keeping an eye on form. I love collapsing in a heap with a bunch of other people exhausted from the same thing. I can feel myself getting stronger. I've heard there could be visible abs in my future. Give it a year, the trainers say, and then write about CrossFit. I can't wait.

Nicole Tsong teaches yoga at studios around Seattle. Read her blog at Email: Benjamin Benschneider is a Pacific NW magazine staff photographer.

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