WUNPENN and TARA
Q. What was your life like prior to your CrossFit training and why did you want to start working with a coach?
Wunpenn: I started CrossFit largely because Tara asked me if I wanted to go with her. That and the lure of Olympic lifting and burpees was too strong to ignore. I was vaguely aware of what CrossFit is, and as a somewhat reasonable person, I knew I’d have try it to know if it was a good fit for me. Truthfully, I was actually wary of working with a coach when I first started CrossFit. Prior to starting CrossFit, I always trained alone. My workouts consisted of weight training, running, swimming and a little yoga every now and then. One of the best surprises for me has been how much I really enjoy having a coach. I really appreciate the energy and knowledge that all the coaches bring to class.
Tara: Prior to CrossFit, I really just focused on cardio, biking and running mostly. I knew it was not a well-rounded routine, and at some point I was going to have to address my total lack of strength. I hate using weight machines at the gym, but it was the only way I knew, so that was never going to happen. I tried a trainer and specifically requested alternatives to machines, but it was still so boring. I discussed this with a friend who said, “that’s why I do CrossFit, and here is a place by your home.” I was not succeeding with what I was doing for exercise, so I had to give it a try (as soon as I got some moral support on board). I had no idea what working with a coach would be like, but I can say I would never be accomplishing what I am now without them. I had never lifted weights how I do now, and I really needed extra support and encouragement. I appreciate every coach that made me comfortable, then and now, as I work through skills totally new to me.
Q. What have been your greatest challenges (physically, mentally, emotionally) since you began your CrossFit Training?
Wunpenn: At first, the biggest challenge was just showing up! The idea of being terrified of a workout may seem silly, but for the first several weeks (okay, months), the terror was real. There is something particularly gut-wrenching about knowing that you will be pushed to the outer limit of your ability, knowing that it’s going to hurt tomorrow and knowing that you are willingly taking on that challenge as a regularly-scheduled part of your day. Having a friend to show up with, and who makes sure you show up, has been great. Tara and I often carpool to the gym, so we get time to alternately freak out about the WOD and talk each other down. Afterwards, we get time to discuss the WOD (cursing optional), what tips or techniques we found helpful (thanks, Zach), who looked good (that’s you, John) and who had the best outfit (hint: no shirt).
Tara: I agree with Wunpenn; it was months before I could look at a WOD and think, ‘I can do that. It will be all right”. For a long time I thought I would never improve, and it was hard to just walk in the door. The first time we did Fran in Evolutions, I pretty much had a meltdown. I psyched myself out about before we started, since my Mr. Burns arms were already struggling from the beginning of class, and immediately after it was over, I was sure I had let myself down. I felt as though I would fail before we even started, but that was the day I decided that would never happen again. Every WOD now, I remind myself to do the best I can so I have no regrets when I leave.
Q. What have been your greatest successes (physically,mentally or emotionally) since you began? How does your body feel now compared to whenyou started and WHY?
Wunpenn: In terms of getting stronger, the payoff has been huge. I am stronger and have more energy than before. Although I was no stranger to weight training prior to CFJ, I feel stronger than ever because my training is now dynamic. And needless to say, when someone is blasting music and telling you to, “Get Strong!” Well, you tend to work a little harder than you might otherwise.
Tara: First, I am so proud to have stuck with CrossFit being that it was so hard for me at the beginning. I need to give big credit to Wunpenn holding me accountable and to our coaches for that. Well let’s face it, I’m on the 1+ year plan for a pull up if I’m lucky, but I feel so much stronger now. Having any upper body strength is new for me, so I have achieved what I thought was impossible. I love when something I did before is so easy now, like throwing my bike on a roof rack.
Q. How has your life changed since starting CrossFit training? Has CrossFit transferred over into any other areas of your life?
Wunpenn: Before I began at CFJ, working out was about trying to look a certain way. Now, it’s more about feeling a certain way. The shift in focus has helped me be honest with myself about my fitness and set better, clearer goals for myself. There’s also mental component to my new strength, and it comes from training my body to do what I tell it to, all while it is telling me it can’t–or doesn’t want to. What an everyday miracle it is to put mind over matter. I can more and more easily channel that mental toughness, and even though most days after a WOD I’m sitting on the floor panting in a puddle of my sweat, trying to remember my own name, I always survive. And I keep coming back.
Tara: I am mentally stronger. When things seem difficult now, I can say for sure I have faced something I thought impossible and willed myself to dig deep and get it done. It encourages me to make better decisions for my overall health as well. I surely do not need any disadvantages during a WOD from poor eating, or perhaps indulging on a Friday for which I will regret Saturday morning (I didn’t say I was always successful being good).
Q. What are the advantages of CrossFit style training compared to your previous workout styles?
Wunpenn: I definitely prefer the lifts we do and the functional strength we develop over watching myself do curls in a mirror or running on a treadmill. Where else can I go to lift stuff over my head and then throw it on the ground? Working with a coach and training with a group are both departures from my previous style of working out. And both have changed me for the better. I have a hard time imagining going back to my solitary style because the community of athletes and coaches at CFJ is so encouraging and inspiring. I love that people come in to CFJ from their different competing obligations like jobs, school and family responsibilities, and check it all at the door for an hour and just do work. The ability and drive of my fellow athletes and the coaching staff is inspiring, and I really respect the hard work that we all do together.
Tara: I feel I am part of a team and everyone wants me to succeed; it is so motivating. There are a few people from our Evolutions class who still are still working out together routinely (Gemma, Frank, Wendy), since we all started together, and we have seen what each other has achieved. I appreciate when they point out how much I have improved from Evolutions. I also appreciate other gym members taking time to help me work on a skill, like when Jesse and Bill try to help me do a double under after class when they could be doing something else. Though laughing at me might be worth the time. Another benefit is being taught new exercises to mix things up, and that my form will be monitored for my safety.
Q. What advice can you give to others?
Wunpenn: Just show up. And keep showing up. And be a little weird. Sometimes the biggest challenge is just getting in the door. But once I get there, the energy is infectious. Truly, being slow or finishing last does not matter–it’s the quality of the effort that matters. So for me, that means bus commuting from Boulder to Denver for three hours a day for work, then showing up at CFJ to run, row, push, pull, swing, jump, squat and lift the heaviest stuff I can. And I’ll probably be cracking jokes to Tara during the warm up and dancing around pre-WOD (sorry, Everyone). Because if you can’t be your true self while you’re sweating your face off, when can you? (Really, I’m sorry.)
Tara: Same as Wunpenn, show up. Once I am inside that door, scared, tired, or whatever, work is going to happen. It is good to appreciate each small gain. My progress with some things has not been as fast as I hoped, but if I stop and think about it, I have improved a lot.
Q. How working out as a team has helped you along the way.
Wunpenn: Being able to go to class with Tara has been a huge part of enjoying and really sticking with my CrossFit experience. We have built-in accountability, and the ability to encourage each other (and all right, spend some time socializing) makes every day fun. It’s great to reflect on our progress from when we started Evolutions together and how far we have come since then. Although I still have plenty more progress to make and skills to master, having a friend along to share the journey makes all the difference.
Tara: (blush) It is true; I have needed an extra push sometimes. We have put a lot of work into ourselves since starting CrossFit, and frankly she is the only one that will let me go on and on talking about it.