I was feeling nervous as I walked from my house to CrossFit CDA on Fourth Street. Kind of like going to church after not having attended for a long time. It’s been about 10 years since I was a regular member of the CrossFit congregation and what I remember are intense workouts and lots of super fit people. I am definitely not in the shape I was back then! But from the moment I stepped through the door, Coach Chandra  greeted me warmly and as I was stretching out, other acolytes came up and introduced themselves to me. Before we started, Coach Chandra gathered all 30 of us in a big circle and welcomed me into the flock as she was outlining what we’d be doing for the next hour. 

My friend Caline Lybarger arrived right as we were starting our warm-up exercises, which included line drills with rubber bands around our ankles and stretches as well as using a rowing machine. So far so good! Caline has been doing CrossFit for over five years and started it, “to prepare me for being stronger at triathlons” but admits that “the best part is the friendships I’ve made here…  it’s a friendly atmosphere.”

    Dr. Geoff Emry and Caline Lybarger

After the warmup about half of the group did strength work focusing on squats with progressively heavier weights while the other half did the EnduroFlow workout. EnduroFlow tends to be sweatier but doesn’t use heavy weights or barbells and often involves sit ups, slam balls, running, kettlebells and pushups. As Chandra explained, it’s good for those who are working through injuries and allows for workouts to be “scaled in different ways… we give a lot of options. That’s why EnduroFlow has been so popular.”

Caline and I chose the squats which I haven’t done in forever so I really focused on using good technique and not overdoing it so I wouldn’t be too sore to get off the toilet the next day. Though I successfully completed the squats under the careful scrutiny of the coach, normally new postulants are initiated into CrossFit with an onboarding plan that includes three private sessions with the coach to learn all the fundamentals and the movements of CrossFit. Coach Chandra added that “We’ll go over any injuries that we may need to work around. It basically just sets them up for success.” The onboarding plans are six weeks in length and include three one-on-one sessions plus a month of unlimited membership or an option to include nutrition coaching as well. 

At last we arrived at our WOD (Workout Of the Day) consisting of quickly doing 30 squats followed by jumping on an Airdyne stationary bicycle (beastly machine) for a number of Watts followed by 30 more squats. We all completed the WOD in less than 12 minutes, sweating and cheering each other on with religious fervor. It was tough and Coach Chandra even admitted that “some people hear the word CrossFit and they get intimidated,” but she emphasized that they “take a holistic approach with fitness, nutrition and recovery.”  They even offer a “No Sweat Intro” which is a free 30-minute discussion of goals which she finds “kind of takes away that little bit of intimidation.”

Finally, we cooled down, happy to have survived our mutual suffering, with Coach Chandra guiding us through stretches so we (hopefully) wouldn’t get muscle cramps after all those squats. No longer nervous, I chatted with the others like we were fellow parishioners after a service – embraced once again into this crazy exercise cult. 

THE GOOD:   In keeping with my mantra that exercise is better with a buddy, joining the CrossFit faithful is a great way to make new friends who can keep you accountable in achieving your fitness goals. Or as Caline put it, “it’s very social… I don’t feel timid here anymore.” 

THE BAD:  It is crucial when moving heavy weights to use proper technique to avoid injuries and these movements do take time to learn and even longer to master. The cost for onboarding is $350 – $600 depending on the plan and $150 – $180/month thereafter.

THE NITTY GRITTY:  With their focus on fitness, health and longevity, CrossFit is scalable for anybody and all abilities. So don’t be nervous –  give it a try!

Dr. Emry is a family physician and partner at Ironwood Family Practice in Coeur d’Alene. Exercise Explorer MD will appear every other week in The Press and Dr. Emry can be contacted via email [email protected]. © 2023. This work is licensed under a CC BY-ND 4.0 license.

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