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Originally published Friday, February 28, 2014 at 11:13 AM

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CrossFit 1 year later: stronger, slimmer, more supported

After being doubtful at first, Fit for Life columnist Nicole Tsong now loves going to the gym. And she looks forward to making progress in her second year of CrossFit.


Special to The Seattle Times

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Mckenzie Sheaffer, left, and Dave Shepherd do a weightlifting snatch exercise... ... MORE

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A year ago pre-CrossFit, I had no interest in barbells. I certainly couldn’t do a pullup, nor was I close. The only familiar exercise I saw listed for workouts was a handstand.

I joined Rocket CrossFit in Hillman City in January 2013, on a lark. I wanted a new fitness community close to home, and I wanted to push myself physically. A friend promised me I would be in the best shape of my life doing 7-to-10-minute workouts.

I did some research. CrossFit workouts change every day, focusing on different kinds of strength and cardio training in a timed workout that can range from 5 minutes to 45 minutes, though they tend toward short and fast.

I was skeptical of my friend’s claims, but CrossFit seemed like a fun challenge. The gym was five minutes from home. I signed up.

A year later, I’m in the best shape of my life. I can do not one but two pullups. I’ve done more 400-meter sprints than I care to remember. I think it’s normal to heave medicine balls at the wall, and just as normal to heave barbells overhead in snatches and cleans. I like barbell workouts, which means I like weightlifting. Wait, what?

I often end workouts flat on my back on the dirty gym floor, gasping for breath. I constantly declare workouts the hardest I’ve ever done. I keep going back.

You get strong fast in CrossFit, especially if you go from never lifting weights to lifting three to four times a week. We keep journals at the gym, and I’m always amazed by my progress. I’ve learned a lot more about my body and what it means to be functionally fit, using it for what it was built for, ranging from squats to pullups.

The ever-changing workouts also mean you face exercises you may not like, which I mostly dutifully take on. I can’t for the life of me do more than one double-under while jumping rope. I despise the choice between a 5K run and a 5K row. Burpees will be the death of me.

It helps to have others suffer alongside you. It’s also motivating. The trainers at Rocket write times and weights for everyone on the whiteboard and post it at night on Facebook. I often wait impatiently for the day’s scores, and zoom in to see how the competition did.

I struggled for a stretch with the balance between pushing myself and overextending my body. My competitiveness got the best of me over the summer, and I tweaked my shoulder. When my body doesn’t feel 100 percent, I take it seriously when a trainer recommends scaling back, and I embrace modified workouts, which are still plenty tough.

My body also changed. Early on, I worried all the weight lifting would make me bulky. Instead, I got more defined. I slimmed down around my waist and, yes, I saw my abs for the first time ever. I did a Paleo food challenge at the gym, where I cut dairy, grains, sugar and alcohol for a month, and felt incredibly strong and healthy.

I’ve seen people of all shapes, sizes and fitness levels come in and get fit and strong. I have gotten to know a bunch of cool people who I run into in my neighborhood. I’m always excited to see who will be at the gym that day. I’m sure other CrossFits are good. I am convinced mine is the best.

In one short year, Rocket CrossFit has shocked me by becoming a staple in my life. I love going to the gym. I love pushing my body in new ways. I’m curious to see what another year will bring.

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



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