Maybe it was the two-week break — official excuse: the Santa Barbara International Film Festival 2011, which heaps endless amounts of admittedly enviable work upon my already overloaded plate — but this past Wednesday’s return to Crossfit Pacific Coast after not attending since January 26 had to be the most daunting workout yet.

After running along Anacapa Street to the beach, pounding out two rounds of 10 overhead squats with PVC pipes, 12 scorpions (where, while lying facedown, you throw your leg over your back toward your opposite hand), and nine divebomb push-ups, and completing some intense stretching, we got to do eight 20-second rounds of sit-up sprints (in taking your weakest round, my score was a class low of seven, which was still a stretch for me by the end). Only then did the workout-of-the-day actually start. And this is all supposed to take place in about an hour. No joke.

The WOD, as it’s known in the colloquial of Crossfit, involved the following: five L-pullups (where you hold your legs straight out and then do a pull-up, a task impossible to most of us, who relied on the elastic bands to do normal pull-ups), 10 overhead squats (I did the 45-pound bar, not the 95 pounds suggested for men or 65 pounds prescribed for women), and 15 burpees (the dreaded push-up to jumping hand clap over head move) followed by five overhead squats, 10 burpees, and 15 L-pullups followed by five burpess, 10 L-pullups, and 15 overhead squats. And then, argh, we did it again, because this was a two-round timed workout. Again, no joke. (You can keep track of each WOD by checking out the Crossfit Pacific Coast site every morning.)

Toward the end, albeit assisted and regular rather than L-shaped, my pullups were much more like mini-pullettes — my head barely reaching the bar, my chin far from it — although I was able to “handle” most of the rest of the exercises by keeping a slow and steady pace, finishing somewhere around the 20-minute mark. Throughout the entire workout, I was pretty sure that I wasn’t going to be able to finish, but that feeling slowly dissipated as the exercises got knocked off one-by-one. Lo and behold, I did finish, and that psychological challenge has been a common theme from my Crossfit experience. Since each uses somewhat different muscles, there is a certain level of rest while doing each exercise, but total body exhaustion is certainly a factor, too, and caused me to stop and even sip water once or twice, which most of the other folks never seem to do.

How sore will I be later today or tomorrow? (I am writing this a couple hours after the workout.) Not sure, but if the need to go lay down at home after this latest WOD for more than the usual time is any indication, it’s probably good that I’m typing this now and not in 24 or 48 hours.

There are reasons for solace in these experiences, though, as athletes who have been doing them for more than a year still struggle. Even newbies who look fit as fiddles find themselves challenged by the workouts, with one even telling me today that Crossfit is definitely the top of the game when it comes to intensity.

My intent is to return on Friday for my second attempt at twice-a-week, a goal that has not been easy to achieve, more so due to my hectic schedule as editor/father/husband/freelancer/etc. than any physical reason. Although mentally, I still dread the idea of another Crossfit, I’m pretty happy and satisfied when the whole thing’s done. Because it’s given me more core strength than I’ve probably ever had before in the minimal amount of time I’ve been able to do it, it’s clear that something is very effective about this form of torture, and that is what keeps calling me back.

Follow Matt Kettmann’s foray into Crossfit Pacific Coast with regular updates at


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