I’m pretty sure I don’t have a death wish. At least, I was pretty sure — but that was before I started the workout of the day (WOD) at Swamp Rabbit Crossfit. Right now, I’m hunched over, hands on my hips. Booming ’90s hip-hop masks my ragged breaths as sweat drips into my eyes.
I’m discovering firsthand CrossFit’s numerous, creative, and devious interpretations of the word workout. Today, the WOD consists of five 75-pound thrusters (an explosive combination of a barbell front squat and shoulder press) every minute. And every five minutes, I’m supposed to add 20 pounds to the barbell. The workout ends when I can no longer do all five thrusters in the minute allotted. I’m only ten minutes in, but I already loathe all 115 pounds resting on the ground in front of me.
Paul Ouellette—a man in his 40s whom I’ve just met—walks over from his barbell to give me a fist bump. “Good work, keep it up,” he says. He’s as drenched as I am. I look up and see the rest of the class: a dozen tired, sweaty people fist bumping, shouting encouragement, and bouncing along to Coolio’s “Gangsta’s Paradise.” It makes no sense, but it’s infectious— I can’t help but want to keep going.
Owner William Timmons, riding the surging global popularity of CrossFit, opened his cavernous warehouse-turned-gym in October 2012 with the help of coaches Jake German and Jessica Clohessy. Officially defined as “constantly varied, high-intensity, functional movement,” CrossFit borrows elements from a grab bag of other athletic disciplines—calisthenics, Olympic weightlifting, gymnastics, high-intensity interval training, and more—and puts them into a structured class setting.
Not only does this allow for infinite variety, but also CrossFit becomes infinitely accessible. “The workouts we post are absolutely not for everyone,” says Clohessy. “But we can scale workouts to make them available to anyone who walks through the door so that they can still be working, still be moving while being comfortable and safe.” In essence, although WODs are conducted as a group, there’s still a high level of individual customization.