When you want to experience things you’ve never experienced, you better be ready to do things you’ve never done before. You need to be ready to be uncomfortable, to raise your sails and not worry about sideways looks and shaking heads. And you better be dog gone sure you have a cab lined up to take you home from 30 minutes of mobility and a 1 hour class with an ass-kicking WOD.
So I was in Poland last week and I got a chance to go to two different boxes. Both were great and I’ll be posting detailed write-ups of both CrossFit R99 and CrossFit Mokotow. The programming was awesome and the community atmospheres were excellent – but enough spoilers. Let me just itemize a few things I learned.
1. If you say you’re going to be a hobo, you better be prepared to wander – Look, generally a CrossFit box isn’t going to be right next to your hotel. So kids, if you’re going to try this at home and abroad, you better be ready to get your hustle on. I’m still not driving on my visits to Poland – which is going to change soon for dang sure. So I have to rely on taxis. I’ve got bad news for would be wanderers, the rest of the world does not feel obligated to learn English to make you feel more comfortable. You better get used to being a mime, charade expert or have a language app. Oh, and speaking louder and slower in English doesn’t work either. So this week, I had to wander. Which immediately leads me to lesson #2.
2. If a cab driver in Poland tells you “yes, I will come back at 8:30” — trust me, it is a “soft” commitment – There I am, after my first big adventure at CrossFit Mokotow. The coach put me through some of the nastiest stretches I’ve ever done. I didn’t even know you could do that with your hips and legs. Sorry, spoiler. I am standing outside waiting for about 10 minutes and have to stare the inevitable straight in its ugly face. The cab driver is not coming back. Ever. This bridges us nicely to lesson #3.
3. Never, ever, ever try to be a hobo without a GPS phone with an international plan – When you are looking at 5.2 kilometers of gap between you and your hotel, you better know where the heck you are going. At almost 9:00 p.m. at night, I pretty much decided that asking the guys standing outside of the alcohol stores that say “Nocny” for directions probably wasn’t going to result in trustworthy information. But, I had my daughter’s old soccer drawstring bag filled with tape, wraps and yes – my phone. Now you just have to follow the arrow. The right way – let me make that clear – it really doesn’t help when you turn the wrong way, the distance starts growing larger from home and you are sure it is because the GPS is wrong. It wasn’t – and it isn’t. But you just keep moving, at a good pace if you can. Kind of like lesson #4.
4. Nothing motivates you to keep a good 5k pace like a) wanting to get to the hotel, b) not knowing where you are and c) getting freaked out by the occasional dog concealed in a community vegetable garden – The dog part is really not fair, he freaked me out twice. You tend to run by the same community vegetable garden more than once when you believe the GPS is wrong. Just sayin’. Have to say that I kept up a pretty good 5k clip, considering I have avoiding running for more than a year. I’m basically like “if you can’t one-rep max it, what good is it really”? Running through the Warsaw neighborhood-side had yet another interesting lesson for me.
5. If you wear “gymnasium” clothing, run around in the dark and look like you are lost, people will avoid you and stay in their cars and homes until you are way past them – Black compression socks, black Hylete shorts, black “Barbells for Boobs” fundraising shirt, a skull and crossbones Junk headband and my ubiquitous Chuck Taylors (more on why I wear them on my travels soon) – I was a site to behold. I had to look like a cross between John Belushi outside the sorority house window and some kind of character out of Cirque du Soleil. An acquaintance told me that most people probably thought I was a “vandal” – note to self, don’t pack any spray paint cans in that little blue string bag on next trip to a CrossFit gym. Speaking of Chucks, that leads me to the last lesson of the week.
6. Yes Virginia, you can run a 5k in Chuck Taylors – for all you minimalist shoe freaks out there, let me tell you, Chucks are all over that, yo. Yes, it is like running with pancakes strapped to your feet. Or cardboard – really thin cardboard. But they work. I didn’t get a hot spot, blister or any other kind of malady. I just kept running along, dodging dogs in vegetable patches, scaring Vasovians and getting back to the hotel late enough that the only option for dinner was Kentucky Fried Chicken.
There you go. This adventure of going to CrossFit gyms and working out with other members of my growing athletic community doesn’t come without a bit of getting out of that comfort zone. But how can you have an adventure if you never try anything different and sometimes a bit scary? To my new friends in Poland – Na Zdrowie – which seems fitting for sharing both a Żołądkowa Gorzka and a WOD.