A 3-month, personal CrossFit challange kicks off

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First Posted: 12/7/2014

Everyone has heard something about CrossFit. Good, bad or indifferent, one can’t ignore the constant presence the sport has made. The Arts and Entertainment staff of the Times Leader and Weekender set out to challenge themselves on a three-month CrossFit adventure.

Sarah Haase: CrossFit. Everyone knows someone who’s tried it and probably bragged about it on some form of social media.

It’s a workout regiment not geared for the weak minded.

Four members of the Times Leader’s A&E team decided to see what the hype and hate was all about. We decided give it a try.

One Friday morning around 7:45, four of us met at CrossFit Scranton. I am a newbie who had no idea what to expect. We walked into the garage-turned-gym and I thought, “This looks like a torture chamber.”

Ropes and straps hung from bars attached to the ceiling. Rings dangled, weights were ominously stacked, lifting bars stood against the wall. There were no TVs, no treadmills and no purple hand chairs (a Planet Fitness reference for those less familiar with the gym world.)

Reality set in — this was going to be a self motivated workout. Great.

Samantha Stanich: I was skeptic. I was annoyed with everyone posting how great CrossFit is on Facebook. I play sports. I don’t go to the gym and work out. I want there to be a winner.

When I walked into the gym with my co-workers all I was thinking was “try not to make a fool of yourself.” Don’t trip.

Everyone already knew each other and the workouts. We were fresh meat and to top it off, one of the trainers said, “No one ever does their first day on a Friday because it is one of the hardest days.”

Jeric Foulds: Like Samantha, I too was annoyed with daily Facebook check-ins at the gym by friends ready to sink their teeth into another round of CrossFit. I was uneducated and had virtually no idea what CrossFit was or what the workout entailed. I had little interest in learning.

I agreed to check it out because I was joining with three colleagues. I figured with their help I’d have a better success rate than my countless cancelled gym memberships I pursued by myself.

Justin Adam Brown: I used to be one of those people posting on Facebook about how great my CrossFit workout was. Once you complete an experience so intense and sweat-producing, you want everyone to know. Last year, I spent four months as a devoted CrossFit Scranton member. I would attend five days a week. I’d be sore and hating life, but I always found myself going back for more. In a few months, I started gaining some noticeable definition in my arms and I lost more than 30 pounds. I was more confident going to the gym and had more endurance to run long distances. I went from being out of breath running to my car to running seven miles a day.

Life happened, and before I knew it I had stopped going. I put back on the lost pounds.

When we decided to embark on this CrossFit endeavor, I thought I found the perfect time to start up again.

I was nervous about how my body would react not being in the same shape.

Sarah Haase: Our WOD, or workout of the day, for Friday consisted of “10 full snatches, 50 bar hops and a 400 meter run.”

Three sets. Did I forget to mention that?

The other athletes began “building their bar,” adding weight one 10-pounder after another. A snatch is a squat holding the weighted bar.

A bar hop was jumping side to side over the same bar we squatted with. We ran outside for the 400 meters.

Samantha Stanich: I may have played college tennis and appear to have upper arm strength, but I really don’t. Building the bar was intimidating. I didn’t want to do it but I thought, “hey, I’m already out of my comfort zone, might as well take it all the way.” By ‘all the way’, I mean I added 20 pounds to my bar.

Sarah Haase: I was handed, or maybe I chose, a PVC pipe weighing in at about 30 ounces. I opted to focus on technique instead of weight since the last time I touched one of these bars was in 2004 with my college softball team.

The running part was awful, but when Jeric, my running buddy, and I eventually made it back to the gym, we had to do everything a second time with no rest.

Instructor Tommy Casey, who is also the gym’s owner, encouraged us with each step. He told us to scale the workout so we could complete a set, run 200 meters instead.

That’s what Jeric and I did. We completed the WOD, at our own pace and slightly scaled back, but we completed it.

The more experienced athletes encouraged us, supported us and congratulated us when we finished.

Justin Adam Brown: Everyone is different. “Sesame Street” taught us that and so does CrossFit. I feel the most encouraging thing to know is that you are encouraged to go at your own pace. It’s not a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of efficiency at CrossFit. The stronger you become, the less you eventually have to scale back.

Jeric Foulds: It becomes a pretty intense reality check when you realize you can barely jump back and forth over a bar 50 times. To follow that with running 400 meters was dreadful. Knowing we had several rounds of this, I had little hope I would make it through the first class.

Like Sarah, I made it through with motivation from instructors, the other athletes and a slightly scaled back routine.

Samantha Stanich: The snatches were the hardest part. I am not used to lifting weights especially over my head. However, everyone was encouraging. Telling me I was doing well and to keep pushing myself.

The team aspect came to play. Cheering each other and wanting others to do better. That’s why I played sports.

Sarah Haase: My lungs hurt. My head hurt. My arms, legs, chest and knees hurt. My fingernails may have even hurt but for some reason I wasn’t ready to throw in the towel to my CrossFit adventure.

Samantha Stanich: When I first got to the gym, thought, “I run, I’m in shape, how hard could this be.” My answer: I am consistently sore. Everything hurts but I am ready to get stronger. I realized that I could win this workout.

Justin Adam Brown: It wasn’t as bad I remember some CrossFit classes being, but it was a big wake up call that I was not as in shape as I used to be. I remember when I first started CrossFit, someone came over to help me take off weight from my bar so I could keep up with everyone. They didn’t know me. I didn’t ask for help. They just wanted to see me succeed. I was doing the same thing they were doing, and they considered me a teammate. It’s rare to find an environment like that anywhere – especially a gym.

Jeric Foulds: I don’t remember what we said to each other after that first class, but I’m pretty sure we were all in shock at how intense the workout was. The strange thing was, unlike any other work out adventure I have ever been on, I was looking forward to the next class. I wanted to go back. It was physically one of the hardest things I had ever done, and i was ready for more.