Crossfit 101: An Interview with Crossfit MPH Head Coach Rebekka Ellman

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Crossfit MPH DC header image

Despite living in DC for six years, and the bustling crossfit community in and around the District, I have never done crossfit before. This may not seem too significant, but every year in the summer, I tune into the annual Crossfit Games. I am amazed and stunned at the amount of strength, endurance, and resolve Crossfit athletes possess. So, this year, I decided to get in on the action and make it a point to stop by a few gyms, also called boxes, in the area.

 A few months ago, I had the pleasure of doing an intro class at Crossfit MPH in DC, and although my workout was really intense, I had a lot of fun! I'll post about my experience on Thursday, but if you're interested in Crossfit, but haven't tried it, or don't even know what it is, Rebekka Ellman, head coach Crossfit MPH, is going to give you the 411 on everything Crossfit, and even talk a little bit about the MPH community.

Tell me how you got into CrossFit, why you became a coach, and why you opened a gym?

I discovered CrossFit back in 2009 as part of my search for a fitness program that would help me rehab from an unexpected bone graft surgery months earlier. I have been hooked since day one! I became a coach (and jumped at the opportunity to help open CrossFit MPH) because I want to help others discover a level of fitness that is both mentally and physically empowering. CrossFit is often called intense, but that reputation simply comes from each participant's willingness to work hard, push past preconceived limits, and develop a level of grit and resiliency that benefits all aspects of life.

What do you love most about the CrossFit community?

When I think about the CrossFit community, I think about two things. The first is the CrossFit community at large. There are now over 14,500 CrossFit gyms worldwide. That is insane but what it also means is that when you take an interest in CrossFit, you also gain access to a global network of like-minded individuals, essentially one big shared experience. You can walk into a CrossFit gym anywhere and automatically feel welcomed and supported. The second, is the MPH community, specifically, and while I am very biased, our community is special. MPH is truly about fun, challenging workouts because we all want to live healthy and long lives and have fun while we do it. No judgements, no egos, just lots of hard work and lots of laughing.

What makes CrossFit MPH special compared to other CrossFit gyms?

CrossFit MPH is unique in our level of organization, style of coaching, class structure, and emphasis on customized workout modification! You can read more about how we are different here. We challenge you to try one class with us, that is all it takes to understand our unique approach and level of service!

How is CrossFit different than other types of workouts?

CrossFit is different than other types of workouts in that it places an emphasis on a broad and general fitness. Often, programs specialize in one type of workout using the same movements, loading, and workout duration each day. In CrossFit, however, this is not the case, because there is constant variance day to day. For example, we use everything as light body weight to as heavy as hundreds of pounds (of course, depending on age, size and fitness experience level). Workouts can last anywhere from seconds to upwards of 35-40 minutes. In terms of movement selection, the options are nearly limitless, although CrossFit does focus primarily on functional movements including squats, presses and deadlift variations, gymnastics movements, and Olympic weightlifting. The variance in workouts in CrossFit is what gets results, the body constantly has to adapt and thus keeps getting more fit.

When I went to the intro class, I remember only taking a water bottle. But when I found out we were running outside, I wished I had brought a light jacket, and I remember you said that with CrossFit, you have to be prepared for everything. So how should beginners prepare for their first CrossFit class?

That is a great question! Often, people will tell us they feel like they have to get in shape first before they can do CrossFit, and that is simply not the case. At MPH, our approach is to meet YOU where you are! In other words, we make CrossFit work for your current experience and fitness level, and not the other way around. From day one, our coaches work with you to modify any and every aspect of a workout so that it is appropriately challenging (so that you feel like you got a workout in), yet fun and motivating. And when I said that in CrossFit you have to be prepared for everything, I was speaking to the inevitable mental and physical growth that results from doing CrossFit. If every workout you do is done inside, away from ambient conditions and any other imperfect factors, then you miss the opportunity of training your fitness when the environment is not ideal.

When I first went to your class, we worked on form in preparation for us to lift heavier weights. Can you talk about how important form is, and why it matters when doing a lot of the explosive movements that you see in CrossFit?

Form, or technique, is the foundation of what we do at MPH. When we focus on technique, we are emphasizing correct muscle activation, correct and safe positions in each phase of a particular movement and how and when to apply force to a movement or weight. The idea is that you must be able to move safely and correctly at low speeds and minimal loads in order to cultivate the body awareness and body control necessary to move at higher speeds and heavier loads.

While going through our WOD (work out of the day), you said that CrossFit makes you comfortable with being uncomfortable. This really resonated with me because it’s something you can take out into the real world with you. What other real life lessons can you learn from CrossFit?

Yes, exactly! The biggest take away is being comfortable with being uncomfortable, and rather than fearing it, using that uncomfortable feeling as a signal to dig in harder. It is about challenging yourself to go beyond what you thought was possible, whether that's getting your first pull-up, kicking up into a handstand for the first time, or being able to squat a certain weight. In order to achieve those things, you have to practice, be open-minded to learning new things, work hard, and mentally tell yourself that it is possible. A great quote that really ties into CrossFit and the process of learning new and challenging skills is "if you want something you've never had, then you've got to do something you've never done!"

Anything else you would like to add? 

My hope is that my answers will help shed some light on CrossFit, and, in particular, MPH. We are just regular people who like taking on challenges, who want to have fun and to feel supported while doing it. We work hard so that we can live long, healthy lives.

Did Rebekka pique your interest about Crossfit? Or thinking about taking a class? Let me know in the comments!

Got a question or just want to say hi? You can connect with me on my social networks!

No comments:

Post a Comment