CrossFit: My Story.

The way I workout had always had people approach me to ask me the how what and why of my training. I have been working out in an intensive, mixed and matched intervals way for as long as I remember. No biological or scientific reason from my side but simply knowing my body really well, listening to it very closely feeling what gives it a good kick ( burning fat and keeping me fit ) and that kind of workouts does.

I create my workouts, perform them, see how it feels, what it does and from there I use them with my clients, scaling and customizing them to each one’s needs, fitness level and capabilities. One of my favorite workouts is stairs training. Walking up and down a set of stairs for 45′ carrying a 40/45lbs dumbell, followed by some stairs hopping. I got almost every person I train into doing stairs with me, scaling the workout to each person’s level. It is a tough workout and most of my clients used to make faces when I say “Today is Stairs day”. Now, to my joy, they ask for it. I don’t argue when they do, I just carry the dumbell and walk them out to the stairs before they change their minds πŸ™‚

I was once given a warning by a gym manager to have my membership discontinued if I do lunges and step ups again. The next day I got him an article from a magazine of Cindy Crawford doing lunges and step ups with her personal trainer. He said ” don’t believe everything you see in the magazines! You know what the problem is with athletes like you? You have the experience so you think you know better than everyone else and you don’t listen to any advice ” . Just imagine this sentence coming from a gym manager. It made me laugh thinking how insecure he must be. The next day, guess what I did? Yep I changed gyms.
I even had a trainer one time tell me that what I was doing is very tough. I said “yes i know” he continued “but you shouldn’t be doing it”. I smiled and didn’t answer him. For me if he doesn’t think I should be doing a tough workout then he is not even worth stopping my workout to answer him. People around me think I am crazy when I say “What’s the use of a workout if when done I still can lift my arms or legs?” it would be a waste of time, better stay in front of the TV and do nothing, then, at least there would be no expectations in the horizon.

A few years ago one of my clients came to me and said: ” Have you ever heard of Crossfit?”. I said ” no, what is it?” she said “google it and check it out apparently it is very close to the way you train yourself and train us”. Turned out some of the US Military that were in Beirut that year of 2006 Israel war, had talked to her after seeing me training her. I checked the Crossfit website but I couldn’t understand the workouts posted so I just didn’t follow it up.
A couple of years later, I had come across more and more military personnel and at this point all of them were talking Crossfit. Early 2009 a ” Filthy Fifty ” workout was posted in the gym. I heard it was one of the toughest workouts which challenged me to give it a shot. I wrote it down and googled/youtubed the exercises. Next day I tried it, loved the intensity of it and told R, a hardcore crossfitter about it. He smiled and asked to coach me thru another workout, I said “yes with pleasure but not one of your 5′ short ones, at least 20′ so that I feel the kick in my body”. He just smiled. Next day, explaining the workout to me, I was like Aouch !! Me and my big mouth..!! At the same time I was looking forward to the challenge. The workout was a killer. Which means I was happy when done because that’s how I like to feel after a workout, Drained !! R was pleased with my time and performance, he said to me ” You are strong and fit, if you were in the states you would do really well with the Crossfit community”. That sentence started ringing in my head.

When I got home that night of June 2009 I started my Crossfit enquiry. Although not a big fan of heavy snatching, lifting, pressing and bulking up, I was still intrigued with Crossfit and found myself starting to plan a trip to the states. With my great passion for fitness I started seriously considering bringing Crossfit officially to Lebanon. Officially to me meant Certification, Affiliation, Gym investment and everything related to it. So I made up my mind, I was going to the US for a New Certification. Being a perfectionist in my work, spending 3 or 4 weeks ahead of the seminar was primary and non-negotiable for me to get into the community’s atmosphere, live their daily trainings and then attend the Seminars with a better foundation, better understanding hence a better chance of successful results and well deserved certification. From there on, not knowing which state am going to yet, my journey started.

Thru Rick’s ( my friend from Beirut ) Crossfit connections, I got in touch with people in San Diego. One contact led to another and I ended up registering for the Crossfit Seminar in San Diego. Consequently I was put in touch with JP the manager of CFSD as a first step to train with the Crossfit community. JP’s first reaction was ” Hey Ritta, We would love to help you out. You can come and train with us.” along with tips on accommodation, gym schedules etc. and to be honest, just by having this attitude, JP got me motivated to go to San Diego and take a shot at Crossfit.

Next thing I know I had a seat for the Seminar in April, a return ticket to SD, an apartment rented for the month and I was ready for the adventure. An adventure indeed, as I was traveling all the way from Beirut – Lebanon, flying across the Atlantic to live for 5 weeks in a city that is new to me, an environment am not familiar with, going for a training that I wasn’t 100% for and all I got was friendly emails with phone numbers, a receipt for the seminar registration and a deposit paid for an apartment not even sure it exists. My friends thought I was nuts but for me that’s what life is all about. Taking chances, living the adventure, enjoying everything that comes along and making the best of it. Call me crazy but challenges keep me alive.

Day 1 in San Diego, a dream beach house condo and a Godsend landlord.

Day 2 CrossFitSanDiego.
Entering the gym, a sign caught my attention, it read “CFSD: LEAVE YOUR EGO AT THE DOOR” I thought coool, that’s my kind of a gym. And then walking towards me I see a muscular, not very tall guy with spiky haircut, dancing eyes and a constant smile on his face, coming my way slowly, in his long baggy shorts, dingling from side to side, cute like a little boy wearing his father’s shoes and watching out not to trip. He said Ritta? I said JP?
JP, what a character !! I had read he was an Olympic Lifter so I was expecting to see a huge guy with a serious look on his face looking at me from high above and was pleasantly surprised to see that JP was rather a very warm, child at heart, funny, easy going cool guy who helped making my training at CFSD a memorable experience. Within a few minutes he had me booked and set to go with a complete training plan. My journey was starting off on a good note. With the apartment set, training schedule taken care of, I already felt at home.

JP has a great team of instructors at CFSD, from himself giving the Olympic Lifting classes to Aush the gymnastics exercise encyclopedia to Glory the gorgeous smiling face, Trish excellent trainer, Lauren our 12 o’clock trainer and a few others. I am not someone who warms up quickly to a new atmosphere but at CFSD it is just easy to jump straight into the friendly phase. When a guy at the CFSD asked me where I was from and how do I like it here, I said “I am amazed at how easy people are to train with in this gym, great atmosphere ” and his reply was a phrase I heard many times at different gyms, over the 5 weeks. He said “With CrossFit, people come for the training, they stay for the community”. That was so true.

With 5 weeks in San Diego I experienced the family life within an amazing community that is called the CROSSFIT community.
Neil, another friend of Rick’s, and his GF Shauna had me over for dinner the next day I arrived, what an amazingly friendly couple. Saturday I was their guest at The CrossFit Coronado and a week later went with Shauna and her CFC team to attend a CrossFit competition. Only a few days into my stay and I already understood what Rick meant when he said back in Beirut “THE CROSSFIT FAMILY IS GREAT”.

Steph a wonderful crossfit woman that I met with the CFC team, told me about a 2 week- Olympic Lifting course with Sage Burgener at Crossfit Invictus . Without thinking twice I contacted CJ ( another very friendly person ) from CFInvictus who helped me sign up for the course. In the short period that I got, I wanted to make the best of my stay, grasp maximum information and connect with as many people as possible and the best way for me to do so was to train with different instructors at different gyms hence different ways of learning and different ways of teaching.

I didn’t know much about CFInvictus and much less about Sage. First day I arrived a young cute blond greeted me at the reception, I said “Hi I am here for the course with Sage” She shook my hand and with a beautiful smile she said ” I’m Sage” I said “Wow! you are very young I thought you would be much older” She said ” Yes am young πŸ™‚ ” with a genuine smile and no offense what so ever. I liked her already. First session with Sage I knew that signing up for this course was a wise decision. I loved her professional way of teaching and passing along the details to perform a technique with her voice loud and clear and always with a smile.
I had started the Olympic Lifting with JP when I first arrived along with the CFFoundations course and JP was brilliant. Sage gave me the Olympic Lifting course and she was fabulous. Both were great, each one in his/her own way and thru his/her own experience. My two weeks of Oly Lifting with Sage were complimentary to my previous two weeks training with JP. One couldn’t have been successful without the other.

At CFInvictus, I came back for the instructors and the workouts. Michele the mid-day trainer is a fantastic instructor, she is tough, funny and extremely helpful. I spent my time juggling between CFSD and CFInvictus for my different daily workouts. What better way to spend my day!!

Three weeks into my training, The Seminar week end:
I had arrived to San Diego 4 weeks earlier, with no Crossfit experience but a lot of my experience thru my athletic background and with of course first and foremost an indescribable enthusiasm to learn. I spent the past 3 weeks training, learning and preparing for this week end. The Certification week end.

Day 1 : On arrival I was greeted by the CF team and given a name tag. Of the 65 students in the class I was the only non-american so the only person whose English was not a native language. True that I read, speak and write good english but in a lecture room it is kind of different. I was also one of three people who has been doing CrossFit for less than 4 weeks. We had 4 lecturers Andrew, Boz, Rory and Nadia and 6 instructors with Eric and Dave. The only time I kind of struggled with the lecture was with Boz. He speaks so fast I could barely keep up with him. I thought, this guy should slow down I can’t understand a word. I started thinking, my journey had started in a challenge and will end in a challenge.

The seminar was based on the 9 fundamental exercises of Crossfit. Teaching, seeing and correcting them as a trainer was primary. First part of the day was lecture time. Second part of the day. Practice time. We were divided into teams of 8 to practice with an instructor on what we had learned earlier. When I saw Boz coming our way I thought “Shoot!! I hope he doesn’t do the practice as fast as his lecture”. But actually he turned out to be one of my favorite instructors of the week end, he explains and corrects perfectly on the ground. He must be nervous when in front of a classroom hence he shoots his lecture like an arrow.

For some reason, Day 1 was kind of slow. I honestly don’t know why but I didn’t feel things were moving. Although I was happy to realize that all the tips they were giving us to use with our clients on teaching an exercise or scaling a workout to everyone’s needs and ability were tips that I already use with my clients. Tips that I haven’t learned in a class but thru my own experience, working and learning from people of all ages and all levels of fitness. I learned from a 5 year old things I can never learn from the 70 year old. Teaching is a give-and-take game. I learn from my clients everyday just as much as they learn from me. Having the ability to see a wrong form teaches me to correct it the best way possible. I remember not long ago one of my clients said to me ” You have a gift. You have a way of seeing, teaching and correcting that makes us want to come back for more, although we are dead at the end of every session πŸ™‚ ” for me that was one of the best compliments someone can ever give me and I told her so.

Day 2 was pretty interesting. Nutrition, creating programs and also more exercises and practice. I must say, Rory, when explaining the GHD exercises, he is one step ahead of Boz. He speaks fast too but he masters the speed talk with great articulation and he does breath in between, ending it with a smile πŸ™‚

End of Day 2, the written test. The moment we were all dreading. It seems we are one of the first groups or may be the first? to do a written test as part of the certification. Time to start, I opened the folder, multiple choice test. Although I finished within a decent time period, I wasn’t sure how I did. I thought, if I don’t pass the test and don’t get certified, no big deal I would have had a great experience, learned a lot and met loads of interesting people. My trip has been a success so far and I will still consider it as such no matter what.

I was talking to Andrew about the language barrier from my side when someone called that the results were out. I picked my folder, opened it and didn’t really understand if I passed. So I asked Andrew he said “I don’t know I don’t remember the results” I said “no I have the folder here but I didn’t understand it” he opened it slowly with a sad expression on his face expecting to see an “attendance certification” then he jumped off his feet and with a huge smile he gave me a big tight hug and said “Congratulations, I am proud of you” I said ” What? I passed ??” he said ” YES !! Excellent” I said ” YESSS ” I was so happy, I am officially a Crossfit trainer.
I was so proud of myself, I will be going back home after such a short period of time with a load of new exercises and techniques learned and practiced, the ability to pass them on and a Trainer’s Certification. What a great feeling of accomplishment. BUT for me that is not where it ends, that was my goal of the moment and it is just the beginning of a new Rittasports era.

The certification is just my first successful step into the Crossfit world, going up the ladder to the top step. I still have a lot to learn and experience in Crossfit, to mix and match it with my lifetime experience as an athlete and a martial artist, climbing up to reach the top of the ladder where I can stand up and shout from the top of my lungs “YES”!!

To all my Crossfit Seminar instructors I say Thank you. You guys are all wonderful, you made my week end worth the effort.

Rory and Eric, my pix with you both are blurry, funny that each one of you took the other’s pix πŸ™‚ I will be wanting another pix with each one of you, a good clear one that I can keep, may be soon in front of the First BEIRUT CROSSFIT? πŸ™‚

To all my San Diego instructors at CFSD and CFInvictus I say, Thank you for everything, you all made my SD Crossfit experience a fantastically memorable one.

Coming to San Diego for the Crossfit Seminar turned out to be the perfect decision. If it wasn’t for Rick my whole Crossfit experience would have been different, better or worse I don’t know but just different. Thank you Rick for your main contribution in bringing me into the Crossfit family.