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Cross Fit Charlie and the Chin Up

imagesI circle the graffiti marked cross fit building off of Clark like a buzzard in my black gym strip until I find an entrance. It says something akin to Cross Fit Mad lab – be prepared for cardiac arrest – leave your ego at the door.

I tremble in my Lulu Lemons, “You’re a long way from hot yoga, Toto.”

I open the door and enter into a large simple rough manly lair of a warehouse gym. This is a real gym! It isn’t some gym posing as a hair salon or a juice bar. It’s a real gym with no TVs, no cheesy pop station, and no cosmetically altered blondes wearing tights and a thong! AND a woman in her late fifties, ripped, walks by after pumping iron, not even aware of how impressive she is.

“Hi there”. A fellow with tats greets me with a friendly accepting nod, like a bouncer who lets only deserving people in. Today, miraculously, this is me. And the fellow with tats is Charlie. I want to ask him why he tattooed a double cheese hamburger on his bicep: likely a lifelong commitment to avoid gluten.

Charlie is one of the head coaches and he is going to give me my assessment today.  He’s all lumberjack handsome in a toque and plaid shirt and sweats. He’s got a genuine smile, a no nonsense opener, a challenging yet do-able workout, an outreach fitness program for youth at risk he spearheads, and a fiancé he can’t stop talking about because he’s getting married next month. What’s not to love? Charlie is adorable. And even better, he isn’t trying to sell. He just seems genuinely interested in my upper body strength.Unknown-1

If any of you know my friend Kirsty Provan, http://www.kirstyprovan.com, then you will know why I am inspired by her figure to join Cross Fit. (incidentally, she also recommends the nutritionist http://marcussidhu.com)

Charlie gives me the no-nonsense low down and I don’t feel patronized or dismissed because he listens before he talks. He gives me a little tour. This whole atmosphere feels so at home to me. It reminds me of the gymnastics club I used to be a part of. It brings back all that jock history. In my youth I went as far as provincials in track and field, gymnastics, badminton and volleyball. I always got there due to my tenacity moreso than my skill. And because of this, I’ve broken toes, suffered concussions, snapped a knee, landed how many times on my head while doing a back handspring, slammed into walls, did nose dives into the floor…all to save the ball, birdie or routine. It’s the exact same thing with theatre, just different injuries. The blood on the floor doesn’t necessarily lead to blue ribbons, but it does lead to self respect.

I look around. The people who come to cross fit seem to be the same way. There’s a hard nippled guy well into his sixties doing discus throws with a totally ripped torso. (apparently his nickname is Peacock) And on the mats is a girl with a half shaved head, tats and wicked strong beat up legs. I peg her as a roller derby girl. And then there are a few more “regular” looking folk like me, but they have pit bull jaws when they’re doing their set.

Now it’s my turn. I run around outside as fast as I can with a 10lb medicine ball and hope that nobody from the Vancouver opera building comes out and recognizes me; I’m really huffing and puffing. I don’t think my heart has beat this fast since I saw Lenny Kravitz on stage. Next, Charlie has me do a series of squats and sit ups and push ups. Then he pulls me over to a high bar and says, “Okay, time to do some chin ups.”

The last time I remember being able to accomplish any such thing was when I was about sixteen. Charlie brings a box over to the bar for me to stand on, and then he pulls it away (you know, much like a hanging) and I dangle there. He says “Up, up, pull up!” He waits. “Have you started yet?” I am straining so hard I can’t speak but I’m not moving an inch. “Are you giving it all you’ve got?” He’s a bit surprised. I grunt through gritted teeth, “Yes!” And I drop.

Next, Charlie decides to give me a little help. So he sets up a jumbo rubber band that he ties to the bar and then gets me to step on the other end. It helps sproing me up towards the bar, though I can still barely do three. But I am damn determined to do at least five and not be a wimp. I get to three and a half and PASHOO my arms collapse and my leg shoots out of the rubber band and I accidentally kick Charlie straight in the can.

He buckles.

Oh dear. There goes that package deal he was going to offer me.

Poor man. Honestly. I can still feel that sickening squishy assault I made on his poor testicles. The guy isn’t even married yet and I’ve diminished his chance of having children.

Can he speak? Dear God, he’s going to speak.

“Never…had…that…happen…before…”Photo on 2013-12-03 at 2.32 PM

A little while later after he’s waved it off and we have a good laugh he still offers me the package deal. How can I pass that up?

So folks, this is the first day of the rest of my Crossfit life.

Before I leave, Charlie says, “One more thing…”, and makes me do eighty squats. His advice once I am done? “Get a rolling pin and roll out the muscles in your thighs…you’ll need it.”

He chuckles and it’s the beginning of a beautiful sadomasochistic relationship.

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