An Ode To The CrossFit Box

UCSC volleyball standout Austin pulls 455 (there is an iron 45 in there).

I have an unashamed love affair with the CrossFit box.  It is so functional, never vain. Its equipment, scarred and scuffed, but always ready for the next battle.  The rowers, the GHDs, the Airdynes–clusters of pain.  Piles of bumpers, the 45s reaching toward the ceiling. The iron 45s patiently waiting for the lifters who can’t fit enough bumpers on the bar. The flash of the ten foot wallball line, encircling the box like the wink of color at the last moment of the sunset. The sleds grouped together like throaty dogs, waiting to be urged forward. Forests of barbells in quiet formation, some thick and strong, some thin and whippy, a bar for every lift. The pullup bars defaced with white chalk, the graffiti of hard work.

I love the unabashed sense of hard work that permeates a good CF box.  Sure, there is ego and some arrogance.  You see it in people who make whistling or woohoo noises after a lift, as if in amazement at their own feat, but they are the exception.  Most people just come in, work hard, kick ass, and get on with their day.  And the box reflects this.  It’s unadorned except for the record board, which is just some writing on a white wall.  And it really doesn’t get the attention the Weekly PR board does.  That’s the way it should be.

But there is one great aspect of the CrossFit box that captures my soul the most.  That soul born of immigrants who pushed their way from the Pale in Russia and the Ukraine across the heaving Atlantic to the bare Eastern coast of Canada, down into the United States, and across that magnificent land, to the very edge of the broad continent where the vast Pacific laps, rises and curls.

And that is open space.

The openness of the gleaming black mats never fails to resonate with my pioneer soul.  Most gyms are cramped, packed with hulking machinery, producing convoluted navigation, each person isolated from the others, but CrossFit boxes are light and airy, the space revealing possibility.  The open space is wrought with potential.  It is a fluid flexible space, packed with barbells one moment, agility cones the next, people stretching the moment after that.  It is not tied to any one thing, but open to any permutation or purpose.

That open space is the very hallmark of the CrossFit box.  For people who come to it for the first time, like a visitor to North America from Japan or Belgium, all that open space is eye catching, consciousness expanding, and a little overwhelming.  Their eyes cast about with wonder.  It’s so different, they say.  This space is a crucible, I want to reply.  It’s very unformed-ness makes it open for anyone and everyone.  But I just nod and smile instead, and invite them to try a free class.

Whether the CrossFit box is a huge many thousand square foot masterpiece, or a small hole-in-the-wall, the recipe is the same.  The only difference is scale, the formula holds true.

I spend a lot of time in CrossFit boxes and I like to look around, across the black mats, taking in the bars and bumps, the pullup structures, the bells and med balls, and, like shadows thrown by a thin sun, I can see the struggles and battles that occur there daily.

What are your favorite aspects of a CrossFit box?  Please post to Comments.


Rest Day