Three times a week, I go to CrossFit Austin, and I do whatever they tell me to do. As fast as I can.
But twice a week, the barbells are the boss at the South Austin Gym. I pretend to be the boss with my strength training worksheet and my plan for warmup and cash-out, but who am I kidding? The barbells make the rules.
I surprised myself the other when I realized I have a deep affection for the Craptastic, even though – or maybe because – it’s definitely a no-frills experience. The lighting turns everyone green, and the mirrors distort like a funhouse. There are no rubber bumper plates, and the barbells leave little rust marks on my heads when I get sweaty. But… I like to imagine all the muscle-y lunkheads who’ve tossed around the iron there before me. And there are stacks of plates EVERYWHERE so my strength will run out before the plates ever do.
Most times, I have the whole place to myself, but every once in while, there will be another warrior communing with the barbell. We just nod at each other – there’s no talking at the Craptastic.
Ready for your tour?
This is the outside of the building. It’s sandwiched in strip mall among the Highball – a swanky bowling alley/cocktail lounge/karaoke club where I sometimes perform with Karaoke Apocalypse – a family-owned, old-fashioned drug store; an Alamo Drafthouse movie theater; a yoga studio; and a scooter store.
Inside those big windows is a badass boxing studio: heavy bags, speed bags, mats on the floor, tough looking characters wandering around in hand wraps. I walk past them – again, with a nod – to get to the stairs that lead to the main gym.
Up the stairs, there’s a door…
… that door leads to more stairs with a mirror – and another world – at the top.
Upstairs, it’s usually empty. But I know that others have been there since my last visit because the plates are stacked slightly differently and the bars on the cage are re-set for a tall person. I wonder if they hit a new PR, or if they got past parallel on their back squat.
At the top of the stairs, you can turn left to the stretching/group class area. This is where I do my warmup: rowing, jump rope, some work with the wooden dowel to loosen up my shoulders, stuff like that.
If you look right at the top of the stairs, you see the strength training and cardio equipment. Most of the elliptical trainers have personality quirks and at least one of the treadmills is usually under construction. This affects me not one bit. It’s good to note that a person can do 25 walking lunges from one end of the green strip to the other.
This is my cage in the foreground. OK, it’s not really MY cage, but I think of it that way. The cage to the left is the one where I try and repeatedly fail to complete a deadhang chin-up. The mirror has seen me make a pouty face many times.
I call this thing “The Thing, ” as in, I have to get The Thing to do my deadlifts. I don’t know it’s actual name, so if you do, please post to comments so I can stop sounding like a dumbass. The Thing is used to lift the barbell off the floor for the application of cumbersome metal plates. Seriously, hoisting the 45-lb. plates onto the bar for deadlifts is a workout in itself. I feel both tremendously girly and tremendously tough when I’m loading the bar. (The plates on the bar in the photo are 25# for my warmup lifts.)
When the barbell and I have finished our therapy session, I usually stretch a token amount (Note to self: work on becoming more flexible, both literally and figuratively.), then pay homage to the shrine at the top of the steps leading back downstairs.
And at the bottom of the stairs, I pretend the sign is just for me, and I nod at the sign. (Note how blurry the photo is from my post-workout shaky hands.)
And that is the story of the Craptastic Gym. If you ever come to Austin, I’ll take you there and we’ll throw some heavy stuff around, but we won’t talk, we’ll just nod at each other and commune with the barbells.
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