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Your first time at CrossFit

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Do you remember your first CrossFit workout?

In 2008, we were living in Phoenix, Ariz., and stationed at Luke Air Force Base. The commander there was a larger-than-life fighter pilot general – and he was also a CrossFitter. Not just a weekend CrossFitter, though. Gen. Kurt Neubauer was a total badass, and so was his wife, Sandy. They were some of the OG’s on the leading edge of adopting what was then a radical approach to fitness. The general implemented CrossFit into the regular physical training for all Airmen – including Andy.

Jodi, when she first started CrossFit in 2009.

When Andy first came home and told me about these workouts, I was horrified. “You are too old to do that,” I said (he was 40.) “You are going to have a heart attack or get seriously hurt!” Although I was overweight and out of shape myself, I was certain I knew what was appropriate exercise and what was not.

I didn’t only hear about this insane workout program at home. One of my co-workers was also on the CrossFit koolaid. Mary was in her 40’s as well, and a Type 1 diabetic. She went to CrossFit classes on base several times a week, and she made sure to always invite me. After weeks of declining, I finally decided to give it a try.

It was a spring afternoon – mild for Arizona at about 80 degrees. I walked in to the bare bones CrossFit facility with great trepidation. The head coach, Sherri Biringer, was there, and she greeted us both, and explained the workout. Sherri was, and is, one of the best CrossFit athletes I have ever known. She was mid-forties, and she had the leanest, most ripped physique I had ever seen on a woman. I later learned she was a mom to five kids, and a grandma. I don’t remember the details of the workout, but I know Sherri told us to start with a 400m row.

“I am in terrible shape, and I’m probably going to pass out, so don’t expect me to get through all this,” I said.

Sherri just looked at me like she’d heard it all before, and showed me how to use the rowers. I complained the whole time.  I’m sure we only worked out for fifteen minutes or so, and the movements we did must be lost due to my confusion about what was happening to my body. But I survived. And that day, I started to have a tiny little belief in myself that hadn’t been there before.

Since then, I have developed as a CrossFit athlete, and as a person. I went on to do things I never thought I could. I became a nationally-ranked physique competitor, coming in the top ten of Fitness America. I began coaching CrossFit. And in 2014, I blew up my former corporate life by quitting my job, moving to New Orleans and opening CrossFit Algiers.

Jodi (left) and Em at the original CrossFit Luke in 2010. Note the squishy running shoes and boxes of death.
CrossFit Luke skill seminar, 2010.

The strength I built in my body was nothing compared to the strength I built in my mind. I learned lessons about tenacity, commitment and willpower that I never would have without CrossFit. The split-second decision to try it out that afternoon had more impact on my life than I could have ever imagined.

Now I want everyone to have that same opportunity. If you’re a CrossFit Algiers athlete, I want you to keep trying and learning and getting better in all areas of your life. If you’re not a CrossFit Algiers athlete, I want you to give it a chance to make your life better, too. It isn’t easy, but that’s what makes it (and you) great.