CrossFit renders Ephs strong as a ‘purple cow’

crossfit_editFor the average CrossFitter, inestimable rounds of five thrusters, seven power cleans and ten sumo deadlift high-pulls within the span of 20 minutes is nothing out of the ordinary. In fact, it’s all part of the program. A relatively new fitness program that has found fanatics at police training academies and special operations units, CrossFit has even found devout followers in the Purple Valley. This past weekend, I got the chance to sit down with a few these CrossFit enthusiasts and even contemplated my own conversion to this intense workout program.

I first sat down with Mike Tcheyan ’10 and Joe Jacobsohn ’10, who first heard about CrossFit while on a spring break trip in California. On the trip, they met a family friend who happened to be a Marine, an avid CrossFitter and extremely jacked. “We decided that we wanted to get as jacked as this Marine dude,” Jacobsohn said. “So there was only one option: We had to do CrossFit.”

CrossFit works like this: You check the Web site, www.crossfit.com, for the workout of the day, or “WOD.” Normally, the workouts are timed, and you repeat the steps as many times as you can within a time period of usually 20 to 40 minutes. The workout is all about varied routines and high-intensity functional movement. Some log their repetitions and times to gauge progress, and others repeat until they feel like they have the power to aviate.

Tcheyan and Jacobsohn belong to the “other” category. “At one point last year, we felt like our lats had gotten so big that we could fly,” Tcheyan recounted about the pair’s CrossFit progress. Jacobsohn sat up and offered an alternative method of measuring their advancement of the program: “You wanna see the results?” he said jokingly.

The pair has recently been hitting the gym again, mainly taking advantage of the kettle bells, pull-up bars, Olympic weight sets and outdoor track on campus. The duo will become a trio come spring, when soccer star and self-professed “CrossFit guru” Mike Essman ’12 joins the seniors. Coincidentally, Essman heard about CrossFit when he ran into a sweat-drenched Tcheyan last March. “I told him he must’ve had a good workout and he told me about CrossFit,” Essman said. “I looked it up and was immediately hooked.”

But other CrossFitter encounters at Williams don’t necessarily create perfect synergy: Devotee Jenni Ewing ’10 admits that though she often sees Tcheyan and Jacobsohn in the gym, she is sometimes less than friendly for the sake of her fitness. Her typical greeting is, “Not now! I’m in my workout!”

Ewing’s first encounter with the CrossFit program was in the workout section of the Daily Advisor. She read the routines, often including Olympic-style weightlifting and thought, “Who would do that? That’s horrible.” Ewing stuck with her usual routine of an hour on the elliptical followed by an hour of isolation machines. But she found CrossFit to be much more efficient while simultaneously yielding better results. Now, she even keeps record of her improvement through a miniature notebook with yellowed graph paper, tabulating four daily workouts per petite page. Today she’s doing the workout with 55 to 60 pounds with the goal of completing it faster than she did a month ago. “I thought I was in great shape before CrossFit, but I wasn’t really,” Ewing said. And although her triceps are now “kind of beastly,” she’s still finding areas of improvement.

Although at the time I was sporting decidedly non-athletic attire, I invited myself to Ewing’s WOD with no clear goal in mind. All I knew was that I liked talking to these CrossFitters, and I just wanted – no I needed – more CrossFit. While she rowed in the Estrogym, I was sidetracked by friends and texts. Then, feeling guilty of sloth and wanting to try my hand at it, I abandoned my sandals and did a few squats, pull-ups, butterfly crunches, back-extensions and the “Samson Stretch” with Ewing.
Aside from the fact that this was my first time in the downstairs weight room, I was feeling good about the warm-up. But I was still hesitant about the workout itself. However, Ewing was quick to reassure me and relieve me of my CrossFit doubts. “The right way to look at it is to have no shame and to think, ‘So what that I’m not lifting as much as you, big guy?’” she said.

After my own experience with the CrossFit workout, it’s hard not to be intimidated by the intensity of the program. That, coupled with my paranoia about CrossFit-induced rhabdomyolysis (the breakdown of muscle fibers and resulting myoglobin release into the bloodstream, frequently results in kidney damage), were easy motives for me to excuse myself from continuing with such intense daily doses of CrossFit. But then again, the image of Jacobsohn and Tcheyan’s bulging lats might just be the motivation I need to get back into that LaSalle weight room.