5 Things I´ve learned after switching from triathlon to CrossFit

Gabriel (mentally) preparing for a lift

Gabriel (mentally) preparing for a lift

I’m just a regular guy with a non-competitive background of team sports, encompassing time in the gym at a young age of 17. Basketball, Soccer, Softball, Cricket, Swimming and Cycling played a very big part of my childhood. Some feat for a fat kid that loves his food! Being a constantly fat kid in my early teens, I developed a hate for running (I still do) and any other activity that requires me to run a lot.
Training and lifting weights at the gym did help me “hercules” my way through the 2 years of military service from the attained physical strength but it was certainly not much of help for any form of fitness endurance or mental toughness.
Fast-forwarding to my first 10 years of trying to carve out a career, there was a constant struggle to stay active and I eventually allowed myself to descent into a lifestyle of somewhat a sedentary “couch potato-hood”, until I discovered cycling again through a friend. Over a period of 3 years, cycling led to running and eventually Triathlons/Marathons, which frankly I was not good at all, but was just a mere hope to keep myself healthy, lose some weight and stay active with my mates. From Sprints and Olympic to Half-Iron distances, I trained to participate in these events with friends/colleagues with the sole objective to complete, with no intention to compete.
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the journey of training and the conglomerate found in my 3 years of Triathlons and other long distance events until I suffered a massive burnt out from waking up in the wee hours of the morning to clock mileage on my bike and thereafter, with a run after an already tiring day from the office. I was just not getting enough sleep from balancing between work commitments and the strain from prolonged obsession to clock more mileage.
Unintentionally, I took an 8 months break with little or almost no physical activity; contributed by again demands of work; accompanied with a series of binge eating, entertainment and drinking - putting on a whopping 8kg. Until… I discovered CrossFit 6 months ago out of mere curiosity. The first CrossFit “Box” in the western part of Singapore,
that’s conveniently located from my home.
Here are my personal findings and perspective, since switching from a different discipline. Let me start with perhaps everyone’s favorite focus.

1. The Initial Cost -  Not expensive to start!

Not as expensive as I thought it would be. There are constant debates amongst “would-be joiners” that CrossFit gyms (“boxes”) charge an exorbitant monthly fee as opposed to regular gyms, but I wouldn’t go into that, as this would be a separate topic altogether anyway. I’ve learned that it doesn’t cost you as much as Triathlons to start you up for CrossFit. The initial
financial outlay was lower than setting myself up for Triathlon Training in the past. CrossFit: A monthly membership fee, a pair of CrossFit shoes and regular active apparel is all you need. You are ready to go! Every piece of equipment or any workout accessory is already available in a good CrossFit box. Sometimes the accessory is just yourself: your own body weight. It’s also not a pre-requisite to buy a CrossFit specific shoe. A regular flat- bottom sports shoes works fine though, until you start ramping up in WODs with serious weight-lifting. Just turn up for classes!
Triathlon: A bicycle is a fundamental piece of equipment that you will need in order to think of starting a sprint triathlon. A decent road bicycle ranges from S$2,000 to S$5,000 and I’ve personally gone through a fair share of buying 3 different bikes because the previous one is “just not good enough”. Haha. Next, a good pair of running shoes and cycling shoes and these should set you aside a minimum of $250 combined. Not forgetting – the cost of registering for Triathlon events both locally and overseas that usually happens at least 6 months ahead of your training. Ironman Tri events are usually overseas and will usually takes a chunk off from your pocket for the registration fees, hotel accommodation and airfare.You do your own math!

2. Time

Given the atrocities of work demands or career obligations, I do find the amount of time spent in a CrossFit class and a WOD is efficient enough to give you an extremely good workout in a shortest span. Combining cycling and run training programs for Triathlon preparation - takes hours. Notwithstanding the time taken to transport my bike to a safe cycling route at Changi Coastal road after work on weekdays!

3. Overall Strength & Fitness Intensity

This can be a sensitive topic with the presence of human ego, but I’m not writing to create an outcry debate of which sport is better. CrossFit is after all defined on paper as “constantly varied functional movements performed at high intensity”, which technically is transferrable to any other type of sports you indulge in.
I must admit my upper-body strength felt almost non-existent in the course of my Triathlon training days. On the contrary, in the 6 months of CrossFit classes, I discovered that the vast range of weightlifting, HIIT/Tabata and gymnastic activities provided for by CrossFit sessions improved my stamina, overall strength and mobility. Albeit; there are still many athletic gymnastic movements that I’m not capable of performing well. Lifting weights at the
gym and weight-lifting in CrossFit is also different, where you will realize that proper form is everything in order to enhance your skill set to the next heavier weight. Of course, a good form of motion prevents injuries. Try a “Snatch” and tell me J.
Side note: A friend whom has little hope of passing his IPPT earlier, joined CrossFit and barely 3 months into it (including basics classes) passed his IPPT test with a silver award.

4. Variation

Triathlons have 3 commonly known disciplines. Swimming, Cycling and Running. All are almost quite singular in each discipline, over a considerable period of time and distance. I’ve not as yet observed any WOD that’s the same in any of the CrossFit classes I’ve attended. Some movements may be the same but scrambling it up with other movements makes it entirely different or more challenging. “Same Same, but different”. Each WOD never seem to fail in shocking the body or tricking those sleepy muscles awake from its slumber. There are scaling variations in CrossFit movements. In Triathlons, you move through the tarmac, undulating hills, weather elements and your own physical and mental limits. You can’t scale nature down. Once you stop, you get a DNF status.

5. Community

Every sport, including triathlons, has a community. Your training buddy, your Sunday long- distance cycling group or just a couple of friends that’s passionate about it. The community in CrossFit is similar but not limited. How?
After crushing a WOD, you give that stranger who just joined the box a high 5. You go away for a holiday overseas and decide to workout at a local box; you are welcomed to “drop-in” for a very small fee, or sometimes otherwise for free.
The more experienced CrossFitter at the box is willing to help you out with tips or a bunch of people to cheer you on in your final bits of despair and breathlessness to complete the WOD. Community is no-doubt fundamental and prevalent in all sports, but what I’ve learned about CrossFit’s community is: “A gym with a global phenomenon - connecting people”.
Don’t get me wrong. I still miss the adrenaline from cycling events and triathlons. I may just be training again for Triathlons once I figure out how the limited amount of time permits me to do both. I’m also particularly keen to find out or swoon over how CrossFit could likely benefit me in performing better in a Triathlon or any other sport. Who knows!