STORY & PHOTOS BY JD DOTSON
I arrived a bit early at Four Barrel to get signed in before the Lean X class. There is a small reception area, offices and bathrooms and Four Barrel merchandise shelves before you enter the door to the gym.
On this particularly warm, humid day, the massive warehouse space filled with equipment and all manner of weights had the far wall exposed to the back parking lot. Big box fans kept the air flowing around what resembled an adult jungle gym and a small crowd gathering just inside the door.
Behind the crowd on the chalkboard wall was a list of the day’s workout. It has been awhile since I took a crossfit class and was unfamiliar with some of the terms and abbreviations, but I was relieved to see the word burpees was not among them. A burpee is a full-body-squat-thrust-jump exercise that revs up your heart rate and uses every muscle and your core and is – to be honest – excruciatingly exhausting. I am convinced that no one on earth likes burpees except crossfit trainers.
The class circled up with an introduction from Sheri McWilliams, followed by a detailed description and demonstration of the warm-up. Not so bad; I might survive this after all. By the end of class I would be praying for burpees.
The warm-up consisted of two rounds of a 100 meter run, a set of good mornings (an exercise, not a greeting), mountain climbers, push-ups with a down dog and leg raise bridges. Some of these exercises I was familiar with but all were expertly demonstrated, and I was in the middle of 25 people doing the same thing. Warm-up completed, we met back at the board.
Next came four rounds of weighted Romanian dead lifts, side raises and a torturous pistol squat (Google it to see a video, but this is a single-leg squat). Again, everything was demonstrated and explained expertly. There are several qualities that are common with amazing teachers and trainers. I have experienced these qualities in my yoga teacher at the YMCA, my current trainer, even my former art teacher and friend, and Sheri is no exception. They all make what they do look effortless, even things like pistol squats. The exercises required a lot more effort and huffing and puffing on my part but served as great inspiration for what could be possible in the (near?) future with training and persistence.
The last set involved a quick-paced round of jumping onto and then off of a tall wooden box before quickly springing your legs as a catalyst to shove weights up over your head. We started with 12 box jumps followed by 12 dumbbell push presses. That was followed by 11 box jumps followed immediately by 11 dumbbell push presses. Next was 10 box jumps followed by 10 dumbbell push presses. Thankfully, before the workout, I had read a quote just inside on the gym wall: “Strength grows in the moments when you think you can’t go on, but you keep going anyway.”
That quote was running through my mind as we counted box jumps down and push presses down to one. Exhausted, our reward for surviving through the LeanX class, was a small hard foam roller that we used on the floor to roll out our fatigued leg muscles.
Reflecting on the class, some things you should know if you want to take a Lean X at Four Barrel. Some of the exercises can seem daunting, but the instructors do an amazing job at offering modifications for each one. The class was full of people of all levels of fitness and expertise and a variety of ages. I had to take advantage of a modification on the pistol squat because my body wouldn’t move like that and my balance was way off. That’s OK. The goal is to keep trying any way you can.
The other quality of a great teacher was found in abundance during this hour-long class: Sheri was everywhere in this giant space offering encouragement and making sure we did the movements correctly for maximum benefit, constantly weaving in and out around every person.
Definitely bring a water bottle and a towel, and be prepared to show up a bit early to sign a waiver. There is a free trial period of two weeks with their on-ramp training classes to prepare you for crossfit. In addition to personal training and unlimited crossfit class memberships, there is a LeanX-only membership for $119 a month. LeanX does most of the exercise of crossfit except for Olympic lifts.
The exciting thing about LeanX class for me was the opportunity to mix up my regular, solo workout with a group of like-minded people. Because of them, I pushed myself beyond what I thought was possible, mixing cardio and weights. I know I was successful because I still feel it in my legs today. Eighty box jumps later, and carrying my foam roller to work with me today, I am looking forward to challenging myself again at Four Barrel.
“Strength grows in the moments when you think you can’t go on, but you keep going anyway.”