Getting CrossFit, Day 15: CrossFit NYC, The Black Box

Wednesday, June 24

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    This morning I was completely crammed with work at the office. Between this blog, a feature article, and planning for an event that I would be attending later in the day, I was ready to pull my hair out. As noon rolled around, I was ready to call CrossFit NYC: The Black Box, and tell them I wouldn't be coming to their Wednesday 12:30 WOD. However, after some inspiration from a buddy, I managed to get a good start on my article and so found the time to get out of the office to get my daily CrossFit on.

    I walked quickly up Park Ave towards the West 38th Street address that Google directed me to at 12:10, planning on being a little bit early so I would have time to talk to the trainers and change before the WOD. After some searching I found 39 W 38th Street but saw no sign of CrossFit anywhere. Panicking, I called the Black Box only to find that they have recently moved locations to 25 W 26th Street!

Note to newbies: For those of you interested in CrossFit NYC,  refer to their home page rather than Google maps.

    I again fought off an urge to abandon my workout of the day, and ran down Broadway towards the new location. By the time I got there, I was already sweating bullets. At least I'd have a jump start on the warm up. Walking down 26th Street, I was overjoyed to see building 21, then 23 pass, but again started panicking when 25 W 26th Street showed no sign of CrossFitness, and had a door that wouldn't open (you had to be buzzed in). Well, I waited patiently at the door, acting like I was on my cell phone, and hoped desperately that someone would open the door as they exited the building, thereby allowing me to enter. Luckily, within moments, someone did. I tried my best not to look completely sketchy as I ran around him and caught the door. Still trying to cool myself down, I ran in the elevator and pressed "3" on the dial. As the elevator bell rang with my arrival, I prayed that it would be the right address. I thanked God as the aroma of black rubber and hard work emanated from the third floor into my elevator as the doors slid open. I stepped out and briefly glanced around the gym. 

    I expected the Black Box to be much smaller than Guerrilla Fitness. Why? Two reasons: first, Guerrilla Fitness is among the best CrossFit workout gyms in the nation, and second, space is much more expensive in NYC. True to my expectation, it was smaller. While it might not have been the ideal CrossFit workout center, given the location, the Black Box is likely the best that can be done for a New York City CrossFit. Ceilings were low, and space was limited. However, given its limitations the Black Box still manages get to get most of the necessary CrossFit equipment jammed in there through a very efficient setup. The floor had the thick rubber mats, barbells, kettle bells, rowing machines, jump ropes and other CrossFit goodies were cleverly fit in around the side. Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the gym was a very dynamic pull-up bar station. The system is flexible; while CrossFitters can do conventional pull-ups on it, it can easily convert a ring dip station, as I would find out during the workout.

     I exited the elevator door in a rush to find the entire Wednesday at 12:30 crew staring at me in bewilderment as I stopped, still breathing heavily, a deer in headlights. My trainer for that day, Allison, quickly alleviated the incredible awkwardness of the situation by greeting me warmly. Thank God for Allison. I was quickly introduced to Brian, the assistant trainer for the day, and was then directed to the changing room.

     I emerged from the changing room sporting my Guerrilla Fitness: CrossFit Montclair shirt with pride. I joined in a circle of CrossFitters as we all went through the fundamentals of the lifts of the day. It was the overhead squat, a lift I am completely unfamiliar with. As Brian went through the motions with us I couldn't help but feel like an idiot as I struggled to maintain balance while using the plastic practice bar to learn the lift.

Note to newbies: The overhead squat demands a considerable amount of flexibility. I, under no circumstances, meet that considerable amount. Owch!

     As Brian went around and inspected form, I couldn't help him notice my misery and he passed. Thankfully, he decided to take some time one on one with me to correct my motion. Allison took over the rest of the class. I watched him as he demonstrated the squatting movement with perfection. 

Note to newbies: Brian is a high level Olympic weight lifter. These people never cease to impress me. Somehow, he has managed a ludicrous combination of both very strong musculature and incredible flexibility. I used to think the two were mutually exclusive.

    "Now you try," he said. Oh god. I did, and fell on my butt. Today was going to be a tough one. "Well, you're pretty inflexible," Brian noted. I briefly considered arguing over him on the definition of flexibility but I abandoned that thought when I could not come up with one that would help my case. I wanted to run and hide when I saw Brian demonstrate another overhead squat. His movement was quick, very sturdy, and brutally efficient. My movement was about as erratic as Amy Whinehouse's heart rate. While I struggled with the form I glanced over at the white board for the WOD. It read:

WOD

"Neda"

21-16-9 reps of:

Overhead Squats (95lb men, 65lb women)

Ring Dips 

    "Well you can do the WOD, but use a light weight since your knew with this," Brian told me. I didn't think I wanted to at this point, but I obliged, and loaded a barbell and suspended some rings from the pull-up contraption for my ring dips.

    "Alright guys, go," Allison announced. We were off. I did my best at twenty one overhead squats using the women's weight, and was overjoyed to hear Brian say "hey, that's not terrible!" Woohoo! Knowing well that my form needed significant improvement before I could do this WOD seriously, I didn't focus on time, and did my best just to get as much range of motion as I could muster out of my squats.

    Ring dips were a struggle for me, as my arms were exhausted from several difficult workouts earlier in the week. CrossFit NYC has a very interesting alternative lift for the ring dip. While at Guerrilla Fitness, I used a box to kick off of to assist my ring dips, but the Black Box actually has a nifty way of stringing an assistant band through the rings for assistance. This way, you're not tempted to lean forward on the ring dips as I had in Guerrilla Fitness, making more of a push up motion than a dip.

    After twenty one dips, it was back to the barbell for another sixteen reps of hell. I felt all sorts of weird tweaking and creaking in my shoulders and hip flexors as I labored through the overhead squats. They were certainly not easy, and I doubted I'd master them any time soon.

    As the workout progressed, I felt a strange sensation in my left arm. With my desperate effort at acceptable form on overhead squats, I was bending my arms backwards to compromise for the inflexibility in my hips. This was apparently cutting off the circulation in my arm, and with nine dips to go I couldn't feel my left hand. Great.

Note to newbies: The tingling sensation in my hand has yet to diminish. It's been two days now. Fortunately, Gregg said this isn't all too uncommon with newbies on overhead squats, and the numbness will likely subside by tomorrow.  

    As I finished up the remaining reps, I couldn't help but wish I was in Guerrilla Fitness where Joe, Sean, Gregg, Bill, Rob, Micky, Rhabdo, Caitlin, Carlos, and everyone in between would be screaming at me and everyone else to "FINISH UP BABY!!!!" The camaraderie and community feel that I enjoyed so much at Guerrilla Fitness didn't seem to be quite as strong at the Black Box. That might have something to do with the overly sensative neighbors of the Black Box NYC who submit official complaints about CrossFitters who yell too loud or drop weights. Unfortunately, this limitation comes to the detriment of a true team-like CrossFit environment, a characteristic of CrossFit which I think really makes it unique to different types of training.   

    My criticisms of the Black Box have made me question just how anyone could possibly amend the difficulties CrossFit NYC faces with a location in New York City, and to be honest I'm not sure. With the amount of clientele they have, there is clearly demand for CrossFit in New York. However, since CrossFit isn't a large chain of gyms (each is privately owned), it must be nearly impossible to accumulate the resources necessary to establish the spacious, ideal setting that I currently enjoy at Guerrilla Fitness, in New York City. Being on a third floor creates two immediate, unavoidable issues: 1) you cannot drop weights because the people on the floor below you will most likely take cover and think they're being bombed, and 2) you can't perform a workout that incorporates running and uses gym equipment at the same time (unless you want to take the elevator down to the street to run, then take it back up to complete the rest of the workouts).

Note to newbies: I have been informed that when running is prescribed in a workout, Black Box CrossFitters perform it in central park.

    The only possibility I can think of is to manage to convince a deep-pocketed investor to provide the financial backing towards a larger CrossFit facility in NYC, providing the very skilled Black Box trainers with more to work with. With any luck, CrossFit philosophy will become so widespread that something like this will be a possible in the near future.

My time: 8:26

Next Workout: Thursday, 7:00 PM at GF!

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