by Maurya Scanlon

Awhile back, after the 2011 Vancouver Spartan Sprint, I had the great fortune of speaking with Vancouver’s own Mandy Gill.  She mentioned that she ran the sprint as a part of a team consisting of athletes from her crossfit gym.  This was the second time I’d ever heard of crossfit.  I thought to myself, “O goody, research.”  As we continued chatting, the conversation became less about the Sprint and more about being a woman athlete and inspiring women to explore those sides of themselves.  Also, we discovered that we had oodles in common like we’re both consistently five minutes late for everything, and we like mud.

Earlier that month, I had suggested to Carrie Adams an extension to the WOD 30 Day challenge, in which I’d do a Spartan Makeover:  The Whimp to Spartan Transformation.  When I went home to research crossfit for my Mandy Gill post, I determined that “Whimp to Spartan” meant a crossfit transformation.  Upon researching further, I became intimidated with the exercises and all the crossfit models’ game faces.  While second-guessing myself, I looked down at my note pad with my interview notes and saw “If you have any doubt, just do it.  You’ll be surprised.  Overcome that doubt!”  Mandy had spoken directly to me from my legal pad.

A couple of weeks later (which was last Wednesday), I found myself traveling to Crossfit South Brooklyn to start my training for the Whimp to Spartan transformation in which I’d train to be a competitive force at the Staten Island Super Spartan on September 25th.   CFSBK’s brochure states, “Crossfit South Brooklyn is a non-traditional gym dedicated to the celebration of physical culture and developing community through fitness.”  I thought that was a positive message.  The nervousness eased, and I mistakenly considered myself prepared.

I walked into the gym and met my trainer/slave driver, Shane Williams.  After getting over how his biceps were literally the size of my head, I introduced myself with the grace and poise of someone who had just tripped down the stairs.  This man didn’t smile.  He shook my hand as if he wanted to break it, and looked me dead in the eye and said “I need you to fill out some paperwork.”  Despite feeling intimidated, I half-smiled (thinking it’d be flirty, but I’m sure I just looked like half my face was paralyzed) and said, “All it really says is that if I break my arm, it’s my own damn fault, right?”  Without a moment’s hesitation, Shane responded, “Or neck.”  A slow tilt of his head revealed a kind yet mischievous smile.  I damn near peed myself at that moment.  I looked to Murph, my camera crew of one, for support, but he was too amused to sympathize.  So I turned my attention to the papers on my lap.

After I signed all the waivers, I looked around the gym at all of the different torture devices hanging from the ceiling and screwed into the cement floor.  I remembered Mandy saying, “I do crossfit every day.  I love it!”  It dawned on me that clearly Mandy and I were not as similar as I had originally thought.  Regardless, I thought to myself “You’ll love it too.  You’ll love it too.  I WILL love it, because I will be able to do ONE solid pushup in the foreseeable future.”  Even Mandy said she couldn’t do that before she started.  This thought fueled me.

As I reveled in my newly found yet flimsy optimism, Director/ Cameraman/ Soundguy/ all-around awesome Giant, Murph, coerced me into doing a Real World-esque confessional-thing before we started.  We isolated a spot on a cement wall that we thought would be appropriate, and I began to ramble like a MORON about this new crossfit adventure and my Lara Croft braid.  After THAT mistake, I womaned up, strutted up to Shane, and we began.  See the video above.

As soon as we started the workout, Shane went from being this serious crossfit guy, to this motivational sassypants.  He taught me the proper pushup form, made me do ten-thousand of them, alternating between “strict” push-ups and sissy (on my knees) pushups.  We also covered proper sit-up technique, which I had down.  I must say that Shane took great pains to make sure my form was perfect so that I wouldn’t hurt myself.  I really appreciated the attention to detail.  The surprise of this session, however, was that I had awesome squat technique.  Shane even said, “You could teach me how to do squats.”  I’m sure if I weren’t already beet-red by that point, I would have blushed.  Then, mid-squat, it struck me: of all things to be good at, sticking my tushy out on purpose had to be it.  My parents would be so proud.

Once the form was addressed and my arms rendered useless, Shane put together a workout for me and informed me that what we had just done for 30 minutes was only the warm-up/ the foundations of crossfit.  O sweet baby Jesus, there was no way I could do more with the limp noodles attached to my shoulder sockets.  Then Mandy’s voice came from the Heavens.  “We put ourselves down, instead of focusing on what we can achieve.”  She was right, of course.

The WOD (workout of the day) that he planned for me had running, pushups, sit-ups and squats.  I must admit that the running was a welcome change of pace, because when I’m not running, I think that I like it.  I completed the WOD, which Shane timed, and we cooled down.  Murph then insisted that we do another Real World moment by our favorite piece of cement.  I relented, because I had no strength to argue with someone 4 times my size.  I must also admit that I was beginning to like this Kim Kardasian-esque experience.  After we packed our stuff up, I think I hugged Shane.  We said “See you on Friday,” and I waddled away to a dinner date with a friend.

Despite having been out of the athletic arena for quite some time, I thought I did well.  I thought that Mandy was right when she said, “You can start anytime.”  While I jest about how much we have in common and her apparent omnipresence, just knowing that someone else made this journey not three years before me gave me the strength to imagine that I could do it.  Between Mandy’s completely unsolicited support and Shane’s technical knowledge and sass, I have a solid foundation to push off of.  Singular perfect pushup, here I come!

One Response

  1. avatar

    You are awesome. I love your Lara Croft braid, I love your determination, I love your spirit.
    I was in your shoes 3 months ago. I can do FIVE (yes, 5!) push ups in a row now! If I can do it, you can do it. I’m doing a Spartan Sprint in August, a half marathon in Sept. and a marathon in Oct. I’ve been doing the WOD as much as I can and have learned to love burpees.
    Women can do more than we give ourselves credit for! I look forward to following your journey. Also, you should check out Oxygen magazine – it’s for women body builders but it’s super inspirational.

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