My (accidental) foray into CrossFit at Urban Athletic Club

Just a note here — I’m not going to use my typical grading system to review this studio. Since CrossFit is so outside of my comfort zone, I feel like there’s no way I could really provide a fair evaluation. That said, I do have some feedback for Urban Athletic Club, as you’ll see below.

so, how does someone “accidentally” go to crossfit?

Earlier this week, I went on a business trip to Washington, D.C. I’ve made the trip out a few times since starting at the firm, and I’ve typically worked out in the hotel gym. This time, I thought I’d do something different. I researched free first classes at studios near-ish my office, and I found one called Urban Athletic Club that advertised functional training. Eager to book and rushed between projects, I signed up for a 7am class — without really looking at what I was signing up for.

Two weeks later, I woke up in my hotel room at 5:45am to the alarm I’d set the night before. I look at my account on MindBody and do a double take. The class I was registered for was CrossFit — and the only way to back out would be a late cancellation. Already awake, with no desire to pay a penalty and suck it up in the hotel gym, I decided to bite the bullet.

what i’d heard about crossfit

People tend to have strong feelings about CrossFit, even if they’ve never been to a class. Some common assumptions are that people who do CrossFit are intense and that the workout is only for those who are already in shape. And let’s not even talk about the “CrossFit is a cult” stereotype…

Fortunately for me, my husband has been doing CrossFit on and off for years, so I already knew that those stereotypes weren’t (entirely) true. However, beyond one Foundations class, I had never tried it myself. Although I find functional training to be extremely effective, the Olympic weightlifting component intimidated me. That’s the section of class where people pick up and put down some really heavy weights – and the part where students are at the highest risk of getting injured.

So what happened when I got there?

I arrived to the class about 15 minutes early, both because I don’t know my way around D.C. at all and so gave myself a ton of extra time, and because I wanted to scope out the workout. The 6am class was finishing up, and they looked pretty wiped. And then I saw the board…

My heart sank. The Olympic weightlifting? It looked challenging, but I’d use the women’s bar and ask the instructor for help if I needed. The burpees, sit-ups, and kettlebell swings all looked fine, although that section of the workout was obviously going to be intense. But double unders? Those are when you jump rope in such a way that the rope passes under you twice, as this nifty graphic fromĀ BoxLife MagazineĀ below demonstrates.

Jump roping, like bike riding, is one of those activities that, if you don’t learn as a kid, you’ll never be able to do well. I’ve learned this the hard way with both of those. I was an extremely inactive child, preferring my books and computer to being outside and playing with other kids. And I was paying for this as an adult. When I lived in the Netherlands, I was the only person there (at least that I knew of) who couldn’t ride a bike. As a well-intentioned boyfriend tried to teach me, I was laughed at by all of the four-year-olds who’d mastered this task years ago. Although I was eventually able to balance on the bicycle, I was never confident enough to actually ride it beyond my driveway

this sounds like it’s going to be a disaster. how did this workout actually turn out?

Colby, the instructor, introduced himself and got me acclimated to the studio. When the rest of my 7am class finally arrived (about 9 other people), we warmed up with a half mile run. Then, Colby demonstrated cleans and jerks. He broke the movements down into different parts and helped us all individually with our form before we loaded up our bars. I ended up going with 75 pounds — since we didn’t do a lot of reps of any move, the weight seemed appropriate.

Then, came the embarrassing part — when I told Colby that I don’t know how to use a jump rope. He was planning to teach me, but I got lucky (or unlucky, depending on how you look at it). Some of the jump ropes had gone missing. Instead, I got to do 50 tuck jumps.

One of the amazing things about working out is that you get to see how long short periods of time can really feel. Those 20 minutes that we spent doing AMRAPs of burpees, sit-ups, tuck jumps, and kettlebell swings really brought this to light. Each round was increasingly difficult, but we all worked until the last second. I hit my target of four rounds during that time within the last ten seconds of the class.

feedback on urban athletic club

Overall, my experience at Urban Athletic Club was really positive. Colby kicked our asses but was also a ray of sunshine at that early hour. I especially appreciated his patience and willingness to provide as much individual attention as needed. The facility was clean and well-maintained and equipped (apart from the missing jump ropes!). The shower situation was decent, with two huge private showers and two separate bathrooms. The water pressure from the rainfall showerhead was quite good, and there was shampoo, conditioner, and body wash inside. One amenity that I did miss was a hairdryer — wet hair isn’t usually a good look for the office.

My only suggestion for improvement (apart from hair dryers) would be to incorporate a stretch at the end. I know that CrossFit workouts can be long, usually around an hour. However, I’ve seen this issue arise with my husband as well. I strongly believe that not stretching after a workout leaves you at greater risk for injury and can lead to greater soreness later on. I’m not a kinesiologist, but I’ve noticed from my own experience that even a five-minute post-workout stretch makes a huge difference.

so will i be back?

I’d definitely be happy to visit Urban Athletic Club again next time I’m in D.C. In New York, though, for now, I’ll stick to Equinox. I’m not ready to give up the huge variety of classes and some of the amazing instructors I get to interface with on a weekly or more frequent basis. For anyone who is interested in getting into serious shape, though, I would highly recommend CrossFit. With the right instructors, you’ll develop amazing full-body strength and mobility.

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