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Let the Games Begin 

By Venise Grossmann


Maybe I assign too many essays. Maybe I assign too much outside reading. So when my students suggested I try a Cross Fit class, I knew they wanted me to suffer.


I learned about the classes from two of my students. I teach English and journalism at West Deptford High School. I like to allow my students to write about topics that interest them. I have two very fit young men in two of my classes, Piers and Nick, and each wanted to write about his commitment to the Cross Fit program. As I fact-checked their articles, I explored the website:


Knowing I like to work out and am interested in fitness, they suggested I try the free week offered to prospective new members. After e-mailing one of the owners, Erin Kelly, I felt an immediate kinship since she had majored in journalism. She does a wonderful job of maintaining the blog on their website. The site has quite a following. My student Piers never begins his writing assignment until he checks the daily WOD, Workout of the Day.


I was nervous driving over to the Deptford location on a Saturday. Piers said Saturdays were a tough workout, and he was right. The space wasn’t set up anything like I was used to: it was a big open area in a warehouse that they call “The Box.” I was excited though since I was looking for a new experience. Erin greeted me and I soon met her partner and co-owner, Jesse.


After doing some warm up exercises, such as lunges, toy soldiers, supermans, and scorpions, Erin, or E.K. as the regulars call her, broke us into teams based on ability. Although some groups consisted of males and females, I was grouped with three other young girls who had only joined several weeks ago. We were a team, and they were very supportive from the start.


Jesse explained each exercise, and we couldn’t move to the next station until the whole group had finished. I started with swinging a kettlebell, then progressed to doing push ups and then stepping onto a weight (a burpee), followed by jumping up onto a wooden box (box jumps) and then running 200 meters outside.


Both coaches assisted me with my form, and our group progressed from doing five reps of each exercise to 15. Not only did the girls in my group support me, but one girl from another team kept saying, “Way to go, Venise.” I was pretty impressed that she remembered my name since I couldn’t even remember the names of the girls in my own group.


Despite feeling nauseous from the protein smoothie that I drank only 45 minutes before my hour-long workout, I felt great. It reminded me of the Biggest Loser series, only instead of a barking Jillian Michaels, there was a supportive Erin Kelly.


Later in the week, I worked out in a group with one of my former students and her mom. Through Facebook, I learned that many other former students also take part in the program. On another day, I tried a deadlift for the first time. I found that experience very exciting because it was something I never saw myself doing. My students got a kick out of seeing me do it, too. My week ended with taking part in the 2012 Reebok Crossfit games. While I was certainly no stand out, I was proud that I gave it a try. The seven minute competition was a pure adrenaline rush.


Cross Fit is a great deal more rigorous than the yoga, elliptical and swimming routine that I usually perform. I’m glad that my students encouraged me to try the classes. It’s more than just a day at the gym. They promote good eating, living a healthy lifestyle, and even run social events. I also like their motto: “Be better than you were yesterday.” My students shared an important lesson with me. Fitness is an important part of their lives, and I was proud to witness their commitment to maintaining it.

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