Getting Started. Werewolves, Cavemen and the C-Word.

If you happened to see last week’s post you already know that, from the beginning, my fitness goal was inextricably tied to the werewolf species. 

This week’s post talks about what came next. Lots of people ask me how I did it. How I got to how I am today and how I keep it up without falling off the wagon. Well, it’s easy. I messed up. A lot. I’m the kind of guy that learns things the hard way. And this story is no different. I got here by making mistakes and then not making them twice.

Situation recap: Age, 34. Shorter than average. Medical history, previous emergency back surgery. Generally overweight. Thinning hair. Destination: werewolf body.

My physical therapists are the best people I’ve ever known. Because they’re the ones that convinced me that my bad back was caused from lack of exercise. Who’d have thought that not using something could cause serious injury? Turns out it’s true. Doing nothing was my first mistake.

And, so after a month of research, I found myself at the doors of unfamiliar territory. A gym. Because, I figured, where would a werewolf go for exercise? Yeah…I don’t really know, but I had to start somewhere. From the website, this gym seemed perfect. There were before-and-after pictures. That makes a place legit, by the way. And, somewhere I remember seeing a picture of people climbing ladders on a firetruck. That seemed like fun. There were tires to flip, ropes to climb and sledge hammers. Man stuff. I figured if I was going to make this work, I had to make it as fun as possible.

OK, here’s the deal. I’m a guy with a plan. I figured if I picked what looked like the toughest gym around, they’d take one look at me and turn me away. Or, I could make a half-hearted attempt and fail during the first session. It was a free trial session, after all. This was a win-win scenario. I could “try” and get in shape. If I showed up and it didn’t work out, my wife would at least give me credit for the attempt. That would buy me another month of “research.” And, so I opened the door.

If you’ve kept reading this far, thank you. If you keep reading after the next few sentences there might be something wrong with you. You’ll soon understand why family members have hidden my Facebook feed and I’ve endured not a small amount of eye-rolling. Because the next sentence contains a word I’ve learned not to use often. I decided to try CrossFit. I call it “the C-word.” Apparently, it’s a divisive expletive and I’ve probably just lost about three-quarters of the folks who were reading up to here.

But, you’re still here.

And, if you’re still here you must be desperate to learn something. So, I’m gonna keep going. I’m going to assume you don’t know very much about this global craze. When I walked through the door of that gym (they call it a “box”), I certainly didn’t. And, so I hadn’t heard about “the baseline test.” Darin, a beefy bald guy reminiscent of a very enthusiastic Mr. Clean was to be the one administering said test. And, from the very thorough waiver I was required to complete before the test I wasn’t the first overweight person to attempt it. Still, I promised not to sue the gym…sorry… “the box…” If I went into cardiac arrest, had a seizure or died. (Do all gyms have this waiver?) But, I was here for werewolf status. And werewolves had to start somewhere.

Darin started with a pep talk. I was fat and totally out of shape, he asserted. OK, so he was blunt. I could take it. “Iron sharpens iron. Butter does not sharpen butter.” I had no idea what that meant, but I was getting excited. Let’s do this. The test is easy. Well, I mean the test is simple. It was all stuff anybody can do. I’m pretty sure we must have done something like it in grade school. It’s designed to give the trainer an idea of a person’s overall fitness level. Take a look: 500 meters on a rowing machine. (should be a breeze.) 40 air squats. (basically, sit on an imaginary chair and stand back up? I got this.) 30 sit-ups. (cake.) 20 push-ups. (yawn.) 10 pull-ups. (seriously? who has ever done 10 pull-ups? Must be a mistake, but whatever. The rest sounds easy.)

After a quick run-through of the movement standards, I took the test. And, the results were immediate. Everybody handles the baseline differently. In my case, I went fast and hard all the way through the pushups. I was feeling the burn, but if this was CrossFit, I was in! When I stood up to attempt my first pull-up, the test came to an abrupt stop. Because I started dry-heaving. Now, the purpose of the bucket they placed near my station became clear. My arms went numb. I couldn’t hold the bucket. My head was spinning. Then it started pounding. Everything I had just done started kind of catching up with me. And, so I discovered my fitness level. And, I think it may have been on a negative scale. In the back of my head I remember thinking how easy the test should have been. I remember thinking eleven minutes shouldn’t feel so horrible. Maybe I wasn’t cut out for this. But, werewolves have to start somewhere.

So, I laid on the couch at the gym for another forty five minutes as Darin monitored my heart rate. I had some water and let my head clear. I realized mistakes number two and three. Underestimating real work…and overestimating my own physical ability. I hadn’t officially finished the test. I never even attempted a pull-up. But, I was done. After eleven minutes, I was beaten. And, that was nothing compared to the pain I felt for the next week. My arms ached for days. Like a deep, agonizing pain that finds its way to the furthest recesses of your bones. I walked funny. My legs just didn’t function properly. Stairs? forget it. I had been effectively convinced that I was embarrassingly weak.

So I showed up again on time a week later. And, again a couple days after that. And it got a little easier every time I came. This has been going on now for over three years. I show up, I work hard and I even cheer others on. Sometimes I get to see someone do their first baseline. And sometimes I bring them a bucket. And, occasionally I see them a week later. Those are the ones that keep coming. They keep losing the weight and getting stronger. Some of them are grandmothers. If grandmothers can do CrossFit…well, you get the picture. Some people don’t ever come back. But that’s OK. I don’t think you don’t have to do the “C-word” to get in shape. I think there are as many ways to get fit as there are people. But, really, all it takes is coming back and doing it again. Show up, work hard and come back to do it again. And, having fun helps.


By the way…that eleven minute unfinished baseline? Three years later, I can do it twice back-to-back in a lot less time than my original attempt. Without throwing up. And, now just for fun, I attempt things like in this picture. Just to see if I can. But, I figure I better document it so my kids will believe me when I tell them I could do stuff like this.     

Also, check out where it all began here:
Introducing Guy with No Shirt

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