Butt wink. Andrea (long A) from CrossFit St. Paul hadn’t even known me for 30 minutes when she first told me I had a butt wink. The first time she said it, I was at the very bottom of a below-parallel back squat (First thing you should know about CrossFit: it is not enough to get to parallel on a squat, they are so hardcore you must go beyond parallel to make sure it counts. Second thing you should know about CrossFit: it is all about the counting.) and did a double take. “What did you just say??”
“You have a butt wink,” she repeated, totally serious. Pulling Gym Buddies Megan and Allison over, she told me to do another squat. Right at the bottom of the move she clapped her hands, “See! Right there. She tucks her pelvis under just a little bit and loses the extension in her back.”
“Oh yes! Uh huh. I see it.” Megan and Allison chimed in as they all examined my butt that apparently winks. (And I’m not alone in my winkage either!)
It’s a bad thing in practice but it is a totally awesome word and I’m working it into a sentence at least twice a day now. It was also the perfect re-introduction to the workout religion that is CrossFit.
Back in year one of the Great Fitness Experiment, the Gym Buddies and I did a CrossFit Experiment. We were total noobs to weight lifting and so everything from the theory to the moves was brand new to us. We remedied this by watching endless videos on YouTube and the CrossFit site and roping in an ex-high school track competitor to teach us the Olympic lifts. We have never worked so hard during an Experiment as we did that month (our experience is detailed in my book) and while we were crazy toilet sore for pretty much the entire 30 days that was also the first time in my life I got a pull-up.
Four and a half years of Experiments later (I know!!), it remains in my top 3 favorite workouts. I was prompted to revisit this workout because Andrea and Mike, who own CrossFit St. Paul, offered to give us free introductory lessons and full use of their CrossFit gym. We have never done CrossFit in an actual CrossFit gym – something that makes a big difference. Most importantly for us we get Andrea to teach us the proper form for all the lifts – instruction we’ve never had before and desperately need. (When I showed her my clean she smiled “um, kinda sorta!”) Unfortunately since we have 14 kids between the 4 of us, we will not be able to travel 40 minutes to use their gym daily. So we will do our workouts at the Y, the place with childcare (dear child care staff: I LOVE YOU. MORE THAN CHOCOLATE.).
Me – concentrating realllly hard on not winking my butt. And also on not laughing about my winking butt. Seriously though – is this not awesome? I look so strong! Now if only there were plates on that bar….
What is CrossFit?
If you haven’t heard of CrossFit or have heard of it and been to scared to try it, it’s a combination of Olympic weight lifting, (mens) gymnastics and short cardio bursts organized into different high intensity circuits. Workouts are generally fairly short – under a half hour – and really hardcore. There will be no chatting, giggling or cartwheeling during the workout. There may possibly be puking. That’s my definition. The official site refuses to be so clearly defined: “Our program delivers a fitness that is, by design, broad, general, and inclusive. Our specialty is not specializing. Combat, survival, many sports, and life reward this kind of fitness and, on average, punish the specialist.” From my experience, it’s pretty punishing all around.
Who Does CrossFit?
This is not typically a question you ask before starting a workout but in this case it’s important. CrossFitters are a special breed of people – super competitive, very dedicated, no-frills and unbelievably, amazingly strong and fast. When we first walked into CrossFit St Paul there was a man doing standing box jumps… onto a box taller than I am. Like it was nothing! Says the site, “CrossFit is the principal strength and conditioning program for many police academies and tactical operations teams, military special operations units, champion martial artists, and hundreds of other elite and professional athletes worldwide.” Be still my heart. Who wouldn’t want to train like the military special ops??
How Do You Do It?
Every day a new “workout of the day” (WOD) is put up on CrossFit.com and this is what you will be doing. They do a 3 days on, 1 day rest schedule. If you go to a CrossFit gym they will likely have their own WODs but if you are following along at home, just check the site! At first when you look at their prescribed weight loads you will wet yourself laughing – that’s ok, you can always scale them down either by just doing what you know you can handle or by using one of the many sites out there that specialize in this. If you don’t know what an exercise is, look it up in the CrossFit library.
What Do You Need?
This is generally not a workout you can do at home unless you set up a special garage or basement gym (like my friend Tyler – we will be touring his CrossFit garage later this month!) as you need a variety of equipment including a pull-up bar, set of rings, parallel bars, boxes (for box jumps), an Olympic weight bar, rack and plates, climbing rope, kettlebells, jump ropes, and weighted balls. You will also need some place you can run with varying distances marked off (a high school track is perfect). I know it sounds like a lot but CrossFit gyms are usually no-frills kind of places. What you won’t see: machines of any kind, painted walls (unless it’s chalkboard paint to write the WOD on), fancy lockers, spas, mirrors or other creature comforts. Some of this equipment can subbed out (we use a towel thrown over the chin-up bar instead of a climbing rope) so if your gym doesn’t have gymnastics rings, don’t let that stop you from trying this!
What Else Do I Need to Know?
It’s very competitive. Every workout is either “for time” or “as many reps as possible (AMRAP)” or measured by weight loads. They key word here is “measured.” Ardent CrossFitters track all their times, weight loads and reps of the benchmark workouts (known for their funny names like “Fran” and “Fight gone bad”) and they will post them to the CrossFit boards. There is even a CrossFit Games every year that is
Weight gloves are for wusses as callouses are a badge of honor. (We wear them anyhow).
Many many CrossFitters are also avid Paleo/Primal eaters. I think they work so well together because the level of dedication and willpower required is very similar.
A lot of them wear Vibrams.
The CrossFit FAQ page is a gold mine. Any question you could possibly have – like what a butt wink is, say – is answered there.
Be aware that because you are handling such heavy loads and performing complex movements, this workout can be injury prone. Use a spotter, go lighter if you’re unsure and make sure you have good form.
Push yourself. This is your chance to open up and really see what you can do! It’s tough – I’m not going to lie to you – but you can do anything for 30 days!
Who’s crazy enough to try this with us this month? What do you think of CrossFit? Anyone else not know what a butt wink is either??
Check out this vid for the best explanation of CrossFit ever! (Warning for language)