Swimming in sweat

Pushing myself to the limit at Queen Street Crossfit

Credit: 
Supplied by Aleksandra Popovik

Squats, weights, conditioning, diligence, and dedication, repeat. This is my story of how I went from rolling my eyes at the word crossfit to lighting up when someone says AMRAP burpees and DL. 

I grew up playing every sport under the sun. It wasn’t uncommon to see me running from piano practice to the pool for swimming and then straight to soccer. I grew up dancing competitively at Turning Point Academy of Dance and I can still remember the look on my mother’s face when I told her I wanted to try out for my high school’s rugby team. 

Her fear of me getting injured made the decision for me. I trained with tennis coaches in Toronto and Macedonia and I played on the school team since middle school. 

Our family spent every winter skiing in Quebec or in the United States. When I turned 16, I was more excited about getting my tennis instructor certification than my driver’s license. After I got my ski instructor CSIA Level one I went on to get my Level 2. I spent every weekend of the ski season in my last two years in high school at Mt. St. Louis teaching skiing. When I started my first internship the summer after first year I took up Bikram yoga with my coworkers. 

Needless to say, I didn’t have a lot of trouble diversifying my exercise portfolio. I’m a strong believer in being a well-rounded athlete and am always trying new things in order to challenge myself. I believe that our bodies need different exercises at different points in our lives in order for us to continually build endurance and avoid plateauing. 

Crossfit allows me to combine the different types of exercises to keep the challenge alive.  It’s a combination of strength and conditioning, Olympic weightlifting and gymnastics. It’s a functional movement program meant to challenge and prepare you for anything life throws your way. The WODs (Workout of the Day) vary depending on what the goal is.

So how did I arrive at Crossfit? 

I actually stumbled upon Crossfit unintentionally. My housemates and I decided to try one of Lululemon’s free yogaexercise classes on a Sunday morning. We thought we were signing up for kickboxing, but the address they gave us took us to the Crossfit Queen Street gym. 

I will confess that, much like most people, I didn’t initially understand the draw to Crossfit. At first glance, it looks like a bunch of extremely athletic people swinging from bars and lifting a ridiculous amount of weight above their heads.

I’d even teased a friend of mine who did it. I didn’t see how lifting made sense for people that are trying to build lean muscle mass. And of course there’s the whole “people who do Crossfit never shut up about Crossfit.” 

I also had a misunderstanding of the kinds of people that do crossfit. I didn’t want to bulk up or injure myself. When I did my first trial class I talked to one of the coaches about the portrayal of crossfit in the media. 

We talked about how there is the typical body type that you see doing crossfit. As someone who builds muscle in certain areas really fast, I was apprehensive about joining this new workout sensation. 

The coach explained to me that although it’s what we see in the media, it’s essentially up to the individual to personalize the workout. Whatever your goals are, whether it’s general fitness or weight loss, you can strategize your approach to Crossfit workouts to make it work best for you.  If that means starting at the lowest weights then so be it. 

However, once you see how much stronger you are than you realized, the addictive element of progression kicks in. I got my first taste of it when I was able to do more than three double-unders in a row. The kind of support and encouragement I received from the coaches inspired me. 

The mental aspect of Crossfit is also worth talking about. Every new personal record you break just proves how much strength you have on the inside and out. Realizing this strength was so important to me around this time of my life. 

Juggling school, work and finding a job for next year created a stressful mind-set. I needed an outlet where I could escape and release negativity. By embracing the challenges I faced in the gym, I learned to let go of the stress associated with the challenges outside of the gym. 

Why do I love it?

First of all, the energy. Everyone is so friendly and cheers each other on. Being in a class environment motivates me because I like the element of competition. In the end you’re only competing with yourself, but it still pushes you. 

There are people of all ages and all walks of life. I once saw a very pregnant woman in one of my classes and she was still giving it her all. Even when you’re the last one finishing your reps, everyone will come and cheer you on. You fist bump your fellow comrades after the workout. 

The beautiful thing is that the actual work you put in is no more than 20-25 minutes tops. I’m the kind of person that can’t spend hours in the gym. I want to be in and out. I can’t run on the treadmill for hours and that’s why the high intensity interval training method works for me. 

Trying it out has debunked a lot of myths about lifting for me. I learned new skills and it’s been a humbling experience. I didn’t realize how much I lacked in upper body strength and I’m a better athlete because of Crossfit. 

Even if it’s not up your alley, I still strongly suggest trying it out at least once. You have nothing to lose and everything to #gain(z).

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