RJ, Miss BeFit and Clark

The first snow of winter 2011 has barely had a chance to stick and already we are reaching for the creamy soup-filled bread bowls, rather than the summer-light fruit salads. We wrap up in our down comforters instead of getting up before work for an early workout. It’s so easy to want to pack on a few pounds to stay warm this winter.

But, this season is a landmark one for Miss BeFit, Denver. This is the year I will be learning how to snowboard, and as Bob as my witness (Rugrats, anyone?), I will do anything in my power to make sure I’m as fit as can be when I hit the slopes. Face first, probably.

Luckily, my friend Clark has been talking up his coaching gig at CrossFit LoDo on 24th and Blake, and a brand new workout was exactly what I needed to get my ass off the couch. While Clark and I confirmed the deets the day before, I said, “I’m thinking you’ll be enthusiastic about my insisting on making this an ‘80s workout?”

“If you think I won’t wear leg warmers, you are dead wrong,” Clark replied.

When I met up with Clark (who was in full ‘80s garb, with sweatband, electric blue leg warmers and v-neck), he led me around the side of the building to where the garage door was open and music was blasting from within. We walked straight into the workout space, which was strewn with kettlebells of various weights and sets of rings hung at eye level. Pull up bars ran in parallel lines across the whole ceiling, a digital clock with glowing orange numbers flashed from the opposite wall of the door and jump ropes swung slightly in the chilly wind drifting through the garage.

Clark walked me through the rest of the gym, which was small in a cozy, rather than claustrophobic way. There was a bench press in the corner, which Clark said was barely used, and a row machine in the middle of the floor, but otherwise the space was filled with big tires that are taken outside and flipped, logs with handles wedged into them for lifting and smaller tires with 100-yard ropes tied to them for dragging.

RJ, another CrossFit coach and a friend of Clark’s showed up at that point.

“That’s a huge apple you’ve got there,” I said.

He took another bite and then looked down at the fruit. “Thanks,” he said, before reaching into his bag and pulling out the smallest pair of white shorts there ever was and an orange sweatband.

Clark took me through the workout while we waited for RJ to suit up. We were to do the “Helen” workout, which consisted of three timed cycles of three exercises. Easy enough. That meant for each cycle, we do one 400-meter run, twenty-one kettlebell swings and twelve pull-ups. Ugh, pull-ups. The idea of the workout, as well as for any CrossFit workout, is to strive for the “prescribed” workout. It’s unrealistic to walk into the gym and just knock out a “Helen”, or whatever the WOD (CrossFit jargon for Workout of the Day) is without any problems or challenges. The beauty of it is that it’s always changing. Every day the website is updated with a new workout. Even the coaches don’t know what they’ll be coaching the next day. I wouldn’t do the “Helen” every day, or even every other day. Three times a year is sufficient, and progress is tracked by comparing my “Helen” in January with the same workout in July, which will have improved with the constant challenge a fresh workout brings. The “prescribed” workout, then, is to shave time off your 400-meters, work your way up to a fifty-three-pound kettlebell for men, thirty-five-pound for women and twelve kipping (a somewhat controversial version of the pull-up that uses momentum, as well as brute strength) pull-ups.

RJ beasting the row machine, pre-workout

After we decided on a twenty-pound kettlbell for me, and a gigantic rubberband was attached to the pull-up bar to aid my noodle arms, Clark introduced me to Georgia Maxey, the owner of CrossFit LoDo as well as the brand new CrossFit LoHi, who was going to join the three of us for our WOD. By this time, RJ was ready to go in his super small shorts and black mullet wig. Clark and RJ slipped on their Wayfarers, I tightened my side-pony, and we were ready to get physical.

The first cycle went smoothly, except for when RJ was 100 yards ahead of me and I couldn’t stop laughing at his flapping mullet. After the first set of damn pull-ups, which I split into two sets, my arms were pretty fire-y, especially with Georgia kipping-ing like a gazelle, or something. By the second cycle of kettlebells, my thighs were shaking and I just barely got through those pull-ups. During the third cycle, the freezing air was getting to me and my chest and ears burned. I took a second to rest before the last kettlebells, and then talked myself into the last set of pull-ups. By now, Clark was shirtless, RJ’s wig was sticking to his face and Georgia dropped lightly to the ground while I rubberband-ed my foot in pull-up prep. I cranked out three pull-ups and then struggled with the fourth before I took a rest. My arms were shaking. Three more, and I almost collapsed right out of my rubberband. Clark, RJ and Georgia stood around me, whooping and cheering while I did two more. I straightened my sweatband and then grabbed on for one solid pull-up, one questionable one, and then I struggled for probably ten full seconds on that last mother eff-ing pull-up before getting my chin an inch or so higher and we all agreed that was enough. The whole thing was done in thirteen minutes.

We all bumped fists and took some pictures (“There better be pictures for this,” said RJ. “I didn’t dress like this for shits and giggles.”) and then we peaced out. The frosty air that had been so biting an hour before felt good on my toasty cheeks, and I could already feel a tightness in my legs and biceps. If I keep this up, I’ll be swooping down those slopes like a pro in no time. Or else I’ll be sliding down on my ass, brand new strong muscles and all.