CrossFit: A Workout, A Methodology, A Lifestyle

The fear of the unknown is a limiting factor in all humans. Why would we do something new or set out for new discoveries when the traditional ways are efficient enough. The worst thing we can do as human beings is to be complacent and accept the status quo. Try that new restaurant, go skydiving, become spontaneous. CrossFit is the embodiment of challenging the status quo and carries an atmosphere of expect the unexpected, be prepared for anything and everything. CrossFit is a strength and conditioning programming, placing emphasis on, “constantly varied functional movements executed at high intensity” (CrossFit Journal 3/2004). Functional movements consist of movements that one may encounter in daily activities such as: picking up a bag of mulch, carrying decorations down from the attic, or walking down the stairs (to name just a few). They are thrown into workouts with varying requirements in order to test work capacity under stress. From the hero workout-of-the-days to the benchmark Girl WODs, CrosFit has proven to be as predictable as a twister in the Mid-west…with the same outcome after one finishes a WOD. As the 10th CrossFit Games wrapped up last month in Carson, California, it has marked the long and steady rise of CrossFit that had begun with a few “fire breathers” and a need for a more rigorous workout regimen.

CrossFit has been under fire for its “dangerous” workouts and thus is seen as a joke among those in the fitness world. To this I respond that these characters are simply ignoring what CrossFit is truly about. The first thing I learned when I walked into the doors of CrossFit Jungle Gym was that technique is the most important thing that an athlete should know and practice. Technique is preached at many CrossFit boxes around the world, though there are a small percentage that do not place as much emphasis on technique (this is what those outside the CrossFit community focus on and use to describe all CrossFitters). Not everybody can be perfect. I can go to any traditional global gym with rows of useless machines and witness at least five people using a piece of equipment wrong. Needless to say, do not attack CrossFit due to a few bad eggs. The argument for bad technique can be flipped to cover bodybuilders and traditional gym attendees alike.

With that being said, I have been on both sides of the CrossFit debate. I began training for high school football using traditional ways of moving from one movement to another after completing 3-4 sets of 10 reps. CrossFit was introduced to me during my Sophomore year of high school in the form of the CrossFit Football programming. At first I thought it was a joke and complained during every workout in order to get out of doing each WOD. It was not until I had a minor fight with my football coach that I realized this CrossFit thing was proven to work as long as I put my head into it. It was a mentality that I applied to sports and received several accolades in Football and academics that allowed me to play this past season of college football at Gettysburg College. I had the opportunity to start several games as a freshman guard/center only to realized that the atmosphere was not one in which I did not share a similar mindset. I decided to retire from football and that is when I wholeheartedly joined the CrossFit bandwagon.

I thought I had known everything there was to know about CrossFit after watching many videos and performing many WOD’s from February to May of this year. I assumed wrong. With my first summer away from college in full gear, I had to find a way to spend my time instead of just wasting my summer away. This was when I reached out to Brian and Vanessa at CrossFit Jungle Gym, asking them if I can partake in an internship to gain the experience of coaching individuals in proper technique while simultaneously advancing my abilities as an athlete. Any notion of having mastered movements on my own were casted out the door on my very first workout in the box which consisted of medicine ball cleans, kettlebell snatches, and muscle-ups (a movement I had to scale down to jumping muscle ups). I was humbled at how much I still did not know about the technique behind movements and the preventive measures that can be taken in order to ensure safe progressions through each movement. Brian took me under his wing and taught me what I have found to be the most important point of CrossFit, the concept of bracing your body in order to safely move through a movement and properly lift a weight. It is something I, as well as the coaches at CrossFit Jungle Gym, reinforce everyday no matter how seasoned the athlete.

Another aspect that I had the opportunity to witness was the effect that the CrossFit community has on an athlete’s performance. WOD’s, no matter how simple or complex they may seem, have the ability to bring together athletes together. As each athlete hustles to gain one more rep, there is always somebody else there to cheer you on. It is a defining factor of CrossFit, and the largest difference between traditional weight training and CrossFit. Yes, there are competitions between fellow CrossFitters. But what is more important than beating somebody in a WOD, is personally doing the best that you can on a WOD. One example would be the CrossFit Open’s 16.5 workout; consisting of thrusters at ninety-five pounds and burpees with the rep scheme of 21-18-15-12-9-6-3. Mat Fraser beat CrossFit’s 2015 Fittest Man on Earth, Ben Smith, yet Ben Smith was not demoralized by this outcome. He had beaten his previous time on this workout and the CrossFit community had cheered him on all the way to this new PR. The difference between performing a WOD on your own and when you are in the presence of fellow fire breathers is astronomical. When your mind tells you to quit, the community gathers around you to push you through the next ten reps.

As the summer comes to a close, and thus the end to my internship, the hours of work and learning that I have gained are the building blocks for something bigger. The accomplishments that Brian and Vanessa have sewn up into the seams of CrossFit Jungle Gym are something to marvel at and admire heading into the same line of work. CrossFit Jungle Gym has come a long way from three pieces of equipment and a park basketball court to a two-bay garage that is ideal for a CrossFit box. But it is important to remember the baby steps to get to that end result. Looking back at my own progress through the first year and half of college, I have experienced the roller coaster that is life. It took some personal battles, exploring various career opportunities, and making choices to benefit the long-term plan instead of the short-term in order to gain access to the current track that I am on. I hope to continue to explore the world of fitness and further my education in Nutrition and Exercise Science at Rowan University. However, I hope to keep in touch with my CrossFit Jungle Gym family as we both continue to grow in body, mind, and spirit.

My last tangent comes in the form of observations from my continuing journey. While physical fitness is important, people often overlook the other aspects that need to be held in check. Don’t be too caught up in life to stop and take a deep breath; be grateful for what you have in life and to have the opportunity to wake up in the morning and see the sun shine in the windows. Hear the birds chirping in a nearby tree. However, you have to get out of bed and seize each opportunity that life gets you. Carpe Diem! One of my favorite quotes to live by is one in the late Chris Moore’s philosophy book, Get Change. He reiterates a song lyric, “Life is what happens when you are busy making plans.” Whether you’re planning on how to attack a WOD or making plans with friends and family for the weekend, do not skip over the process to get to that moment. Cherish each moment you get in this life (we only have one life), go out there and live life to the fullest. I recently went hiking on Mount Tammany at the Delaware Water Gap and was able to digest that song quote. My hike was a lot like life, sometimes you’re so focused on finding your footing and looking down that you miss the beautiful scenery all around you. Also, the path gets rough and you get so tired that your mind wants to quit. But if you quit you miss out on that beautiful lookout at the top of the mountain. Do not let the mind trick you into finishing the battle early. Buckle down, live your life to its full potential, and do not sell yourself short of glory.


Joe Pavlovsky



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