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CrossFit: You've Come a Long Way, Baby

CrossFit: You've Come a Long Way, Baby

[ Mon, 2010-06-07 14:01 ]
CrossFit: Back to Work
SKI Mag sends a blogger, Hillary Rosner, to do our dirty work: Get in shape. She joins a CrossFit gym, which is reputed to be the best—and most brutal—way to get strong fast. It's painful, but now Rosner has more employment options...like brick layer. Or jackhammerer. Or contestant on that reality TV show where they pull trucks of cement. This week she marvels at how far she's come.

The first day I walked into a crossfit gym, an absurdly ripped girl was doing pull-ups. She finished up whatever outrageous number was required for that day’s workout, and then offered to demonstrate for me the art of kipping—a move that lets you use momentum and whole body strength, instead of just your arms, to do each pull-up. Despite the fact that she should’ve already been tired, she went right back at it, swinging her body and pulling her head above the bar, over and over, without appearing the slightest bit winded. I immediately decided to sign up for crossfit—though at a different gym. No way was I gonna work out beside the pull-up robot girl.

But I sure did want to learn to kip. Kipping, which I’ve written about before, involves swinging your body—leading with your hips—while pulling yourself up, then pushing away from the bar on the way down to keep the momentum going. Before you think, “Oh, how easy, it’s just like being on a swing at the playground,” let me just say: This is hard work. It’s more like you are the playground swing.

After a year of crossfit, I can still only do a handful of kipping pull-ups. But I’ve finally gotten the hang of the technique, and can now do a whole lot of them with a little assistance: big rubber bands that hang from the bar and help make pull-ups easier by offsetting some of your weight. Before, doing regular pull-ups, after the first ten or so I could only do one or two at a time before my muscles failed. Which meant pausing several times during each round (crossfit workouts often involve 50 to 100 or more pull-ups)—dropping my heart rate down each time.

But now, with kipping pull-ups, I can do 10 in a row, even at the tail end of a workout. And my whole body is getting a workout—while my heart rate stays up. Since I use crossfit as a way to maintain overall fitness—staying in shape for skiing but also for hiking, biking, hauling furniture, and generally feeling like a badass—that aerobic element is important. What’s more, it’s a lot more fun to swing yourself around than just to slowly and laboriously pull yourself up by your arms.

I’m still far from becoming a pull-up robot. In fact, I truly can’t imagine how that girl kept at it. Maybe she really was a robot. I’d hate to meet her in a dark alley—but I wouldn’t be afraid to work out next to her. She’d have to come to my gym, though.

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