To be good at any sport, one must exercise to be in shape for it. We tend to view working out as a means to an end: to get in shape. We usually don’t enjoy the journey, just the results. But for sports like Grid or CrossFit, the exercise is the sport. CrossFit gyms have popped up all over the world with the promise of getting members in shape through the disguise of exhilarating athletic competition. Through creative WODs (Workouts of the Day) and structure, they are making working out fun. “The health club is dead in my opinion,” said Justin LaSala, player on the National Pro Grid League’s Baltimore Anthem team. The workout revolution is here.
I stumbled upon a Grid match in action while changing channels one Sunday afternoon and I was blown away. In this sport, two tag teams race to complete a large variety of tasks, which could be anything from weight lifting, gymnastics, to body weight maneuvers. Climbing a rope? Walking handstand races? Lifting a piece of equipment, weighing hundreds of pounds, end over end? It’s all there, and more.
Variety like that has always appealed to Justin. Growing up he played almost every sport. Many high school athletes pick either football, wrestling, or track. Justin played all three. He would go on to play Division 1 football at Wesley College, where he also earned an Exercise degree. After college, it was a little difficult at first to find an outlet for his degree and huge competitive spirit. “There was nothing really available to me other than beer league softball,” he said.
It was at this point that he found CrossFit, from which Grid is a natural (albeit technically unrelated) progression. Here he found a gym that satisfied his competitive appetite and was just better than an average gym, which is, “just not set-up for people to succeed,” said Justin. “The majority of people don’t know what exercises to do or how to do the movements properly. The health club doesn’t help you at all. They take your money and say good luck.” CrossFit is much more structured and competitive, with coaches to help you along the way. “We create a community of members who help to support you and your goals,” he added.
When Grid started up, Justin had to try out. After doing the online tester, where you perform five skills and post your scores, he was invited to Pro Day in Maryland. About 70 athletes were there to prove that their scores were true. From there he was invited to the Grid combine, where he got the chance to race in a team atmosphere. Then came his most memorable Grid moment so far: proudly getting drafted to the Baltimore Anthem for their inaugural season. In general though, “being able to travel and do something I love is pretty sweet,” he said.
The Grid season lasts about 3 months if you make the playoffs, with matches taking place every 2-3 weeks. Justin said that his favorite activity in the games is climbing the rope. On the other hand, “I’m not a fan of pistols (single leg squats).” So far the DC Brawlers are the Anthem’s biggest rival. Preparation is rather interesting too: the team will run through all the races and then Coach Garrett selects which athlete is more suited to each movement. Then they run the races again, focusing on the transitions between the movements. “It’s very much a team sport,” said Justin. “Seconds are the difference between races.”
Grid and CrossFit are by no means easy. What viewers at home of Grid in particular might not realize, said Justin, is that, “all the athletes work extremely hard to be where they are. They weren’t just lucky.” It is tough indeed, but the competitive environment is something Justin and all the other athletes love.