I’d say that I’ve had an atypical start to my CrossFit experience. I wasn’t invited by a friend to come try a workout at a box. I started self-teaching myself by following free programming by MisFit Athletics and a whole lot of Youtube/Instagram videos. I only knew what movements looked like because of the Games athletes that I started following on Instagram. That may or may not have been a good starting point, especially since they’re moving HUGE weight which means proper technique isn’t always present.

But since I did have at least some experience in basic functional movements, I just winged it. I bought a barbell and bumper set to go in my garage gym and I started hammering out the pieces from the programming. MisFit Athletics would usually program 3 to 4 pieces: a warm-up, a strength piece, a metcon (metabolic conditioning), and accessory work. I found out 5 months later after I was way deep into it, that I didn’t have to do all of the pieces each day unless I was training to compete — which I wasn’t.

I was fortunate to have been blessed with natural coordination to be able to start learning some of the mechanics of all these CrossFit movements (olympic lifts and gymnastics) relatively quickly. The use of cycles in the workout programming made it easy for me to track my progress in not only the weight of my lifts, but also the technique when executing the lifts. Of course, it was mostly for “the gram” but having videos of my lifts allows me to see how I’ve progressed in how I move.

There’s so much that I learned from just video recording myself when working out. I was able to see so many faults and compare them with videos that I would see on CrossFit’s Instagram (RIP) or other athletes’ videos. I also constantly drilled myself in front of a mirror with a PVC pipe. I didn’t even know that was what you were supposed to do to learn proper technique. I just thought it was the easiest way for me to learn and fix my movement faults in real-time.

As grateful as I am to MisFit Athletic’s programming and my natural ability to pick things up pretty quickly, there were some big downsides to doing this alone. Sure, I occasionally had workout partners who would help me fix my technique or give me that extra push when I was meandering through the metcon, but for about 80% of the time, it was just me and my thoughts. Now looking back at it, they weren’t fully experienced CrossFitters or even athletes with good technique / mechanics — so the examples set by them weren’t the greatest to mirror.

Although two of the checkboxes were marked for what keeps me motivated to workout (challenging and constantly varied), one was still missing: community. There were times where I would skip a workout, because I didn’t like what I saw in the programming or that I just didn’t feel like it. And even during the workouts, I would pace myself a bit slower than if I would workout with a group which means my intensity level was low. And since CrossFit and fitness results stems from intensity, I wasn’t growing as an athlete as fast as I could be. There’s also only so much I could fix on my own in terms of movement mechanics and technique.

It’s February 2019, right in the middle of the open, the monday after completing 19.2, I get my first CrossFit injury. And of course, it came from doing a heavy snatch. At the time, my current snatch PR was 150 lbs, and here I was building up to a heavy weight for the strength piece of the day. I do a few lifts at 95 lbs, felt good; 115, felt good; 125, failed. Tried again after some rest, failed again. Tried again after some rest and empty bar drills, failed again. Tried one more time, I hear a snap crackle pop in my left shoulder, the bar comes crashing down, hits my forehead, and I fall back. Ouch.

Shoulder hurt just a tiny bit — little did I know that was just the adrenaline masking the pain, so I said screw it, no heavy session today and still finished the metcon which was GHD’s and double unders. The next day comes around and boy oh boy did I feel it.

This put me out of commission for about 6 weeks. I realized it wasn’t a surgery requiring injury so I fully rested it for 2 to 3 weeks, then started doing shoulder rehab and strengthening movements for 10 minutes a day. For some reason I found myself on the CrossFit directory page and just happened to look up CrossFit boxes near my location. I already knew of two boxes near me, one which was 3 minutes away, but I saw that there was a new one opening up one week from then!

After that injury, I realized I could only get so far on my own. Sure I improved really fast in just 6 months with most of my lifts increasing by over 30% in that time frame, but I knew that if I wanted to move with proper form and technique, I would need a consistent pair of eyes to correct my movement. What were the chances that a brand new CrossFit box was opening up right as I needed them at the tail end of recovering from my injury. The best thing about newer gyms (assuming there’s good coaches there) is that the class sizes are much smaller so you get more personalized attention on you. Having a coach pay attention and correct your movement is difficult when you’re in larger class sizes.

Besides just getting more eyes on my technique, the CrossFit box provides a community for me to grow with. Having the injury was one of the best things that happened to me. Not only do I appreciate having good movement mechanics even more, but also patience in developing strength and competency in new skills. Going to the CrossFit box gave me more options for movement modifications to work with my recovering shoulder which allowed me to get back into good health more quickly than if I was doing this alone.

However, this wasn’t the first instance I’ve spent time at a CrossFit box. This past winter, I spent a month in Tampa, FL — why? because it’s warmer. While I was there, I became a one month drop-in at CrossFit Warrior Eagle where I got my first experience in CrossFit group classes. I absolutely loved it! The community and culture there was so fun and the coaches were great too. I learned a ton in just one month of classes there.

The other gym I was previously at was part globo gym, part specialty fitness center for group bootcamps, olympic lifting, and bodybuilding — there wasn’t much of a CrossFit culture there. With this new CrossFit box (CrossFit Citrine), it was a lot more fun being around people who believe in the methodology as much as I did. Having people cheer you on, makes pushing through the workout that much easier. I also don’t see working out as something I have to do anymore, it’s basically social hour with a good sweat now. It’s become something I get to do.

Now that all three of my requirements (challenging, constantly varied, and supportive community) for a good training regimen are fulfilled, my consistency in showing up to workout has increased as well as my intensity levels. I haven’t been this consistent in working out since 2015 when I was doing 90 day workout programs at home.

I’ve been more consistent since starting at CrossFit Citrine. The only times I missed a workout were due to being out of town on the weekend and even then, I worked out wherever I was.

Transitioning from solo training in CrossFit to now taking classes at CrossFit Citrine reminds me of a quote from leadership expert, John C. Maxwell.

If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.