Fitness and Self-Realization by Ben Lewenauer

As of Friday, October 15th, Ben Lewenauer finished his four week session of OnRamp at CrossFit Milwaukee. Below is his account of his first experience with us when he came in for an introductory class on a Saturday before starting OnRamp a few weeks later. The first workout that we use for our OnRamp is a series of 15 foot shuttle runs, air squats, push-ups and ring rows. Normally this is performed for 15 reps of each of the exercises the first round, then 12 reps of each for round two and finishing with 9 reps on the last round. That being said, we do allow modifications to both the rep scheme and to the exercises to allow for varying fitness levels. Ben did the workout for day one of OnRamp as I just described it, completing it in 4:25. Four weeks later, his time was actually slower – 4:27, but he scaled up from the ring rows to unassisted pull-ups, so I consider this a HUGE win in the power output category.Anyway, here’s an account of his first experience with us from his perspective…

Fitness and Self-Realization

As the world becomes fatter, I feel the social responsibility to become fitter. The fatter they get, the more self-inflicted punishment I prescribe.

After running a couple of marathons, I thought that I was fit. This changed drastically one day when I was thumbing through an endurance running magazine. I stumbled upon a profile of a woman who goes by the alias Dirt Diva. Dirt Diva has run many events over 100 miles and lived to speak of it. She said that the reason she could achieve such a high level of fitness was from her CrossFit training. Naturally, this seemed worth investigating. This is how I came in contact with CrossFit Milwaukee.

CrossFit is an international company with the mission of promoting overall fitness by focusing on metabolic training using free weights and basic gymnastic movements. To clarify, metabolic training consists of completing multi-joint exercises with little rest in between. This program was originally developed for gymnasts, but it is now commonly used for military, fire, and police personnel. As a nation at our fattest, the general public can greatly benefit from CrossFit too.

Walking down the steps to my first session, I was definitely nervous. Prior to class, I had read a story about a middle-aged man who worked so hard in his CrossFit class that he developed rhabdomyolysis (a poisoning of the kidneys from working out too hard…yikes). Probably not the best time to read that article, but I guess it’s better to be informed rather than ignorant, right? I walked into the weight room and was greeted with a warm smile by a brick-shit house named Ryan, the owner and head trainer of CrossFit Milwaukee. Ryan introduced me to the other participants who would join me in the workout that afternoon. I shook each one of their hands, which were just as sweaty as mine. I wondered if they read the article about rhabdomyolysis too?

The first order of business was to be briefed on the structure of the class. We would spend the majority of our time together practicing proper form and execution of the exercises to come. Once we displayed competence, we would try and complete all exercises as fast as possible to gauge our current fitness level. Everything in CrossFit is quantified by time. This way you can objectively see if you are improving your physical performance. Many of the workouts only last 5-10 minutes, however, it is so intense that you do not want to do anymore.

My exercise circuit included: first a 500-meter row, then 30 air squats, then 30 sit-ups, then 20 push-presses, and finally 10 pull-ups. Playing my role of the cocky young male, I figured that I would fly through this series of movements with ease. Oh, how I was so wrong.

I sat on my rower and greedily waited to torque out my 500-meters as Ryan called out the countdown. 3…2…1…and I flew out of the gate. Exploding with my legs and pulling for my life, I watched my distance gauge increase. Around 300 meters into the row, I began to realize that the fun was over and self-improvement was about to commence. Finally, 500-meters completed and I was ready for the next exercise. I figured that the squats would be a breeze since they were only using bodyweight; once again, I was wrong. I didn’t anticipate how gassed my legs would feel from the rower. My body burned with delight as I the finished squats. I immediately dropped to the floor and began my sit-ups. 28…29…30, holy shit, I still had two more exercises to go. I got up and awkwardly jogged to my barbell to commence with the push-presses. At this point, I’m wondering why I chose the heavier barbell as I greatly struggled to pump out the last repetitions. Finally, I approach the pull-up bar. I felt the time ticking away and I realized I’m not as fit as I thought. The first 5 repetitions were a struggle, but I managed. 5 repetitions left. 5…things are becoming blurry, 4…sweet jesus, 3…the end is near, 2…I’m meeting my maker, 1…I am no longer decaying organic matter, 0…release! The next thing I knew, I was down on one knee in a small calm pond of sweat. Ryan shouted out my time, which I immediately forgot as I tried to regain consciousness.

From that day on, I was hooked.

About the author: Ben is currently studying English at UW-Milwaukee. Outside of CrossFit, he enjoys trail running, mountain biking, and exploring other forms of human powered transportation.


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