Guest Feature Sport - CrossFit by Dr Fokumlah


Guest Feature sport is a series in which I interview friends and acquaintances who participates in sports that I don't. I talk a lot about soccer, running and yoga on this blog but there are many other activities that are equally interesting. The goal  of this series is for all of us to learn from them and maybe get inspired to try something new.


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1. How did you get introduced to Crossfit?

It was September 2011, I was a 260lbs sedentary 24 y/o female in physical therapy school. Some of my classmates in PT school had seen the ads for Crossfit elements (introductory classes) at the box (Crossfit lingo for a Crossfit gym) in our community. 

 Two of my closest friends tried it out. One loved it and the other, not so much. The one who loved it kept going and she told me how much fun it was. She said: “it’s a full body workout, and you go at your own pace.”

She said she would give me the hookup and it will be ok.  

Of course I was intimidated because this friend of mine used to be a swimmer for her undergraduate team, and she was in pretty good shape already.  However, she was true to her word.  She talked to the owner/coach about me and he was expecting me. 



When I went in the very first day, he assessed my fitness level and designed my very first WOD (Crossfit lingo for ‘workout of the day’). It was a combination of only body weight movements for a 12 min AMRAP (Crossfit lingo for “as many repetitions as possible” in 12 minutes). Not even halfway into the time cap, I WAS WINDED! My lungs felt like they were going to explode, I felt lightheaded, my skin was tingling, my throat was burning… I could not complete the WOD.

 I felt like a total failure – that day. The next day, I was back again as I would not let myself be a failure. It was a different WOD and I still could not complete it. I went back day after day and put in work, showing improvements every day.


 I started being able to complete the WODs and they started to become ‘fun’ but best of all my body began to change. There was less fat and more definition! Every day, I was back at the box; other members would cheer for me, encourage me, do the last reps with me and they would never let me quit. I was hooked!


2. How long have you been a "Crossfitter"?

It has been 3.5 years since the first time I walked into a Crossfit box. Crossfit will be an important part of my life forever!





3. Why Crossfit? How is it different from other sports in the fitness industry?
My fitness level is nowhere near that of the Crossfit elites. As a matter of fact I might not even be considered an average Crossfit athlete, but then again Crossfit is about so much more than who can do more reps.  It is about the community, it is about the heart, the effort!

 Crossfit is the only sport in the entire world in which the cheering is loudest for the person who finishes last! Crossfit changed my life. I was sedentary and depressed, stuck in an unhealthy lifestyle. By doing Crossfit, I am a better version of myself now for so many reasons.


 First, I have family wherever I go and we speak the same ‘lingo.’ My mind is stronger than ever before because trust me when I say there are still WODs which kick my rear end but I am able to stay in the game mentally and push through. I have even been able to complete two half marathons as a result!






Crossfit is the sport of fitness. 
By definition, Crossfit is “functional movements at high intensity.”


I have heard plenty of naysayers get all worked up and give their negative opinion on the sport, and that’s fine!  We are all entitled to our own opinions. 

The two most popular (and I have to add ridiculous) things I hear are, that “people get injured a lot from Crossfit” and “you can get rhabdomyolysis (muscle tissue breakdown).” While this could be true, it is also true of every sport on record! 

This is why we physical therapists, orthopedic surgeons and athletic trainers have jobs! I have more patients who got injured playing soccer, tennis and doing gymnastics. I have only ever had one patient who suffered an injury from Crossfit. I would encourage everyone to try Crossfit at least one time or for one week and then draw your own conclusions about the sport and how it works for you, because we cannot all like the same things! That’s just how life works!


4. Was your family supportive of your lifestyle?  If not, how did you win them over? 

My family was very supportive because I became active, happier and there was a lot of

 positive energy in that environment.

 I even encouraged my sister to start Crossfit .

 My brother also participates in Crossfit WODs with me when we are able to exercise together. 

 My mom is very supportive as she comes to watch competitions and sometimes daily WODs, 

but it’s definitely not for her even though she enjoys watching the athletes.

 I have gotten other family members and friends interested in Crossfit and they have been able 

to find a box in their community and exercise there and when we visit each other, we go in to 

our respective box and get a WOD in.  

It brings us together while being healthier, and we get to encourage each other.

 For me, that’s an all-around positive!

5. How do you stay healthy while being part of a community that embraces "thickness" as a standard of beauty? 


Well, I AM considered to be “thick,” but by who's standards are we referring?
 For me, health and wellness is very important and my standard is to have an impeccable blood panel (which I must say I do have) and feel good about myself.  

Currently my diet is not the best and I could admittedly improve on that. However, I try not to live my life based on society's standards. That is just unrealistic and it gets too many people in trouble – in my opinion.  

This is my life, I’ve got only one to live, and I’m the only one who can live it

If I start to feel uncomfortable with my body e.g. if my clothes start to get snug, I need to do something about it. It is in my own best interest to do what I can to take care of myself and preserve my life. This much, I can control.




6. What's your guilty pleasure African dish? Something you know is bad for you caloric wise but you just won't do a fat free option?


So this might be a disappointing response, but I do not have any “guilty pleasure African dishes.” However I DO LOVE dough: bread, cake, donuts, brownies, etc. It is so hard for me to give them up, but I’m working on it. It is a work in progress. I think that I am doing a lot better than I used to :-)

7.  Any advice for newbies trying to embark on health and fitness as a lifestyle choice.
It starts with you. You have to make up your mind that you want to not just live, but to BE ALIVE. Think down the road. If you have kids, do you want to be able to run around the park with them when they are young, watch them grow up, and be able to be active with your grand kids? Or would you rather be sick and or dead too young because of conditions which are preventable by maintaining a healthier lifestyle? If kids are not your motivator, then think of how you would want to spend your adult years. Would you be in and out of the hospital and taking 20+ medications whose names you cannot pronounce just to get you through the day? Or would you rather enjoy the one life you’ve been blessed with?
Whatever your motivator, it starts with you! Make up your mind! And every time you are faced with the dilemma of slipping back into old bad habits vs. continuing with your healthier lifestyle, think of what motivated you to get healthy in the first place, and the will to live and be alive will take over.

8. How do you feel about the recent increase in the fast food industry in Africa? Can we become a developed continent while avoiding some of the disadvantages that comes with a "convenient" lifestyle such as obesity?



Well, I have always been of the opinion that “fast food” does not necessarily have to be “unhealthy food.”

 It all goes with the mantra to ‘make healthier/healthy choices.’ 

We have to keep in mind that before fast food was an issue, our own African traditions looked on being overweight as a good thing, because it indicated being wealthy. 

 We have to change our mindset. 
 It is a matter of educating ourselves, each other, and our communities. 

We have always had fast food in Africa: that mami’s house that was a soup kitchen, or my favorite spot in Cameroon, Down Beach… It doesn’t get healthier than grilled fish! Fast food is what we make it.  If we get the education before the industry erupts in mother Africa, then we can get them to do it right on the first try.

Additional wisdom you may want to share

The journey to a healthy lifestyle is just that.  It’s a journey. 

And as long as you are alive, it 

will continue to be a journey.

 I do agree that a person’s size is not ALWAYS a true indicator of their health since we all have 

different body types, but like everything,  that too has its limits. We need to get educated! We 

cannot continue to be ignorant about our health and wellness. Trust me when I say life gets 

so much better in every way possible when one starts to make healthy choices! I hope you 

make the choice for yourself to become a healthier version of yourself. And if you have already 

started on the journey, I wish you the best of luck and remember that you are an inspiration to

 others.


If you would like to find out more about Crossfit, check out the official 

website www.crossfit.com (you can also find an affiliate or “box” near you). 

You can also check out games.crossfit.com to see what the elite Crossfit athletes are up to this 

summer.



NELLIE FOKUMLAH, PT, DPT
Physical Therapist
Mililani Physical Therapy, LLC