Andrea Nisler used to run and be done.
That was before she was introduced to CrossFit, a strength and conditioning program that is trending right now.
"My fiance is a personal trainer, and when he started doing CrossFit, he raved about it," says Nisler, 23, of White Bear Lake. "I decided to give it a try after I graduated from college in Iowa last spring.
"Before that, I would just run. I was not into running, really; I just needed an exercise to be thin. I wasn't looking for any other health benefits.
"My first CrossFit WOD (workout of the day) was Olympic lifting. I was out of my league. I was so humiliated that I couldn't really do it. But the workouts are different every day, so I kept going.
"I guess you could say I drank the Kool-Aid. I got really into it: When I moved back to Minnesota, I found a CrossFit venue before I found an apartment.
"I belong to the CrossFit Athlete Lab in Little Canada. I pay $140 a month for my membership -- it's a lot, but I also get a social aspect out of it. It's sort of like a lifestyle, down to the nutrition.
"I try to go every day. I look forward to it. It's not like being on your own at a gym, with your iPod and a treadmill. It has more of a community feel -- you do the workout together, you cheer each other on.
"You work out in a warehouse. It's all very simple -- no treadmills, no equipment except for the rowing machines. It's mostly fitness balls and free weights. There's a cage for pull-ups. The atmosphere
when the music is blaring and people are grunting and cheering and we're all trying to do the workout as fast as possible ... it's tough to explain. No one can understand the obsession and camaraderie unless they've tried it. It's like nothing I've ever experienced. It's way more intense than a typical group fitness class.
"We do everything from rope climbing to rowing to wall balls to squats to sledge hammering. I leave feeling exhausted and I wake up sore, but I love it. I've been doing CrossFit for about 3 1/2 months, but in that time I have found muscles I didn't even know were in the human body.
"Before CrossFit, I had not lifted a single weight. Now, I can squat 180 pounds. And when I run, my cardiovascular strength is so much greater. Every part of me seems affected by CrossFit. I feel better and I have more energy.
"I never have been someone who looked forward to workouts. I dreaded them. But now I get excited to check the website to see what the next workout will be.
"It sounds like something for elite athletes, but it's not. It's for everyone. I have met people who are just starting to work out; a lot of people in their 30s with kids; there's also a woman in her 60s. The workouts can be scaled to the person's fitness level.
"I bet I sound like an infomercial right now. Sorry. I talk about CrossFit constantly. People say, 'Andrea, don't you have anything else going on in your life?'
"I have just found it to be the most inspiring, life-changing event. I have a whole new outlook on what is considered 'fit' and now know what it feels like to be healthy. It's all thanks to my fiance. If it hadn't been for him, I'd still just be running on a treadmill."
Share your own "turning point" with Molly Guthrey at email@example.com or 651-228-5505.
When: 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 27
Where: CrossFit Mendota, 2535 Pilot Knob Road, Suite 122, Mendota Heights
Details: CrossFit Mendota owner Pat Costello is hosting the metro area's first all-day CrossFit competition, similar to the CrossFit Games seen on ESPN and ESPN2. The event will feature male and female athletes competing in weightlifting, gymnastics, plyometrics and indoor rowing.
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