Thinking outside the box: When CrossFit becomes a lifestyle

image1As blood rushed to my head, toddler feet walked into view across my ceiling of grass. My 2-year-old crouched, cocked his head and tried to make eye contact with me, his upside-down mom working a handstand against the fence.

“Buddy, come over here,” my husband said. “Mama’s… doing… something…”

To say the least, the CrossFit Kool-Aid is strong and I’ve been drinking it heavily. (How many trademark violations can I get in one sentence?) I was hooked from my first WOD – a partner version of Fight Gone Bad I remember vividly (“A sumo deadlift… huh?”).

After a few stints at “globo-gyms” and having two kids in two years, getting into a CrossFit box was like finding religion. Not only was I getting to scratch my itch to compete, I am now doing way more than racking up miles on the dreadmill: I’m throwing balls, jumping on boxes, swinging from bars, skipping rope and, yes, doing upside-down push-ups. As adults paying for a fitness program, we call these “skills.” But 15, 20, 25 years ago, we just called it playing. It was part of our daily lives. We did these things for the hell of it.

Now with that youthful fire lit, I’m not just “playing” for an hour a day at the box – functional fitness is the soundtrack running in the background of every movement I make.

Functional play

I’m pulled back to the box day after day partly because I’ve learned to do some cool things there I couldn’t have anywhere else. They’re novel movements and, if you have great programming, the combinations of Olympic lifting and gymnastics keep WODs interesting. So interesting, in fact, that I walk out of the box thinking of how I might find ways to practice in the real world.

flyingboxIf you’re a CrossFitter, you can’t tell me you go to the playground with your kids (or alone, no judgement) and don’t at least knock out a few pull-ups on the monkey bars. And I know at least one of you out there sees the blank wall in their house as The Handstand Push-up Wall.

But these movements aren’t just cool party tricks.

My grocery-carrying form greatly improved after my first go at a farmer’s carry. Suddenly I was getting almost the entire haul in one trip when I learned to keep my chest up and shoulders back. And that’s not even touching on my improved grip strength.

Learning to clean (insert stupid joke here) has helped me more efficiently lift everything from cases of water to stubborn toddlers at bedtime. And now, in the midst of moving houses, I know I can go toe-to-toe with my husband when moving heavy furniture and hauling boxes around. Deadlift HYPE, right?!

A More Useful Human

Each of these actions on their own are pretty small. How much time would one more grocery trip really take? But at the end of the day, when I move all day with the good form I have drilled into me through CrossFit, I am a little fresher and my joints are a little bit better off because of it.

Yes, I’ll go out of my way to get some bonus reps in for fun – on the tree limb that looks like the perfect height for some toes-to-branch – but CrossFit embeds itself into the movements of my day-to-day life through one of its founding purposes: functional fitness.

I don’t actively think about tightening my core when I power clean my kid – I just know it’s a little easier now. Maybe I’m not running 200 meters with a bag of mulch slung over my shoulder, but I know I can make it from the truck to the flower bed with plenty of gas left for the other 12 bags.

By taking CrossFit outside of the box, life gets a little easier – and I’m better for it.