Get Pump’d: Three ways pumpkin is perfect for CrossFit

It’s only basic if you are.
By Jessica Kelly,

OK, wait. I know what you’re thinking: “If I have to read one more goddamn post about pumpkin lattes, leaves changing and/or your favorite chunky sweater, ish is gonna get ugly.” Don’t worry. This isn’t that kind of article. I love autumn. I don’t necessarily love the predictable deluge of pumpkin bread, apple picking, pumpkin pie, tractor rides, pumpkin beer, flannel shirts and pumpkin, pumpkin, pumpkin. As I’m writing this, my friend Will was wondering why someone hasn’t made a pumpkin-shaped loofah for the ultimate in basic-ness. I checked. They have. You can literally rub pumpkin all over yourself.

The American pumpkin obsession is a lot. Like a LOT a lot. And most of that pumpkin garbage popping up on store shelves and at the coffee-shop-that-shall-not-be-named is processed, full of sugar and … let’s face it, delicious. I don’t eat a lot of processed foods and refined sugars but … I love pumpkin. So when autumn comes around and all the other white girls are strapping on UGG boots, jumping in piles of leaves, and chowing down on pumpkin pie with a pumpkin latte and a side of pumpkin pudding, I sometimes get a little jealous. Well, not of the UGG boots. I mean come on, they look like Muppet feet. #NotSexy. I want to indulge my inner basic bitch … but I want to do it my way.

Here’s the thing — even if you’re exhausted by all the autumn insanity, don’t knock pumpkin. It’s a gourd. It grows from the ground. And it’s dang tasty ... even without all the sugar. Plus, we spend so much time in the box being badass, it’s nice to be a little basic once in a while. So lean into it, embrace the season, but do so like a true CrossFitter. Here are the three best ways to get pump’d with pumpkin this fall:

1. Eat It

Not the canned stuff. Not mixed with cake batter and poured into muffin tins. Eat the gorgeous gourd itself. It’s a squash. It’s delicious. If you want to sweeten it up a little, try roasting it with a little coconut sugar and cinnamon. Heaven on a plate. Puree the roasted pumpkin (chilled, duh) with some milk, sweetener and protein powder for an incredible postworkout shake. Serious game changer.

Pumpkin is a powerhouse food for athletes. It’s chock-full of stuff to replenish your body and refuel your muscles: fiber to promote gut health, beta carotene for your eyes and potassium to restore electrolytes. Pumpkin actually has more potassium per serving than a banana, so it’s a great WOD-recovery food. It’s got antioxidants, enzymes and hydrating properties that help cleanse and hydrate your skin, so it makes a lot of sense to eat this in the fall … to recover from those “accidental” sunburns you got on all your summer adventures.

For a quick pumpkin fix (and a healthy dose of protein), get it in bar form. Quest’s Pumpkin Pie Bar (new this year) tastes just like Ben Smith. I mean, I can’t confirm that, but when I imagine licking him … that’s what it tastes like. (Jason Khalipa tastes like birthday cake, FYI). The bar has 21 grams of protein and lots of healthy fats to keep your nutrition game strong and your hunger at bay.

For a savory pumpkin snack, get in touch with your inner kid, carve that sucker, pluck out the seeds and roast them with a little sea salt. Pumpkin seeds can help reduce LDLs, which aids heart health and reduces cancer risk. They’re also a source of tryptophan (the famous sleep-inducing agent in turkey), so eat ’em before bed. Interestingly, pumpkin seeds have also been associated with increased serotonin, which is a natural mood booster. So those fond childhood memories of roasting pumpkin seeds might be even more fond because you were basically getting high on them.

2. Wear It

We’re about to cross a line, but bear with me: I want you to slather pumpkin on your face (or at least your hands). I’m not saying rip a pumpkin open and roll around in the chunks … although that might be fun for some of you crazies … but there are a lot of antioxidant properties in pumpkin that are good for your skin, not just from the inside but the outside, as well.

Easiest way to get those antioxidants? Blend up the pulp.

My friend Lily Diamond, aka Kale & Caramel, has a beautiful food blog, and she also does recipes for MacGyvery, do-it-yourself body maintenance products. Most of them use simple non-GMO, organic, unprocessed ingredients that you can find in the grocery aisle. I asked her whether she had any pumpkin tricks up her sleeve for the fall, and it turns out she does: a pumpkin SCRUB.

According to Lily, the scrub will “leave you feeling as glowy as you do post-WOD but less sweaty.” For the guys who don’t want a face full of pumpkin, she says this one’s got a bonus use that’s perfect for CrossFitters: It doubles as a hand scrub. It helps soften your barbell-hardened skin, which is great for two reasons: 1. It prevents your calluses from ripping off. 2. Fall is hand-holding season. All the girls will want to hold your big, soft studly hands as you stroll through endless apple orchards. They’ll also want to eat you because you’ll smell like a goddamn pumpkin pie.

3. WOD It

Don’t start laughing just yet. Pumpkin WODs are actually REALLY FRIGGING HARD (and really frigging fun). Basically, think of the pumpkin as a medicine ball. You can do anything with a pumpkin you could do with a medicine ball (except for maybe wall balls … unless your box is redecorating and going for that Jackson Pollack look).

If you want to organize your own, here’s the rule that really seals the challenge of the whole thing: You can’t drop the pumpkin. Two options if you do: 1. Drop the pumpkin and you’re out. 2. Drop the pumpkin and you have to put all the smashed bits in a garbage bag and keep going … finishing the workout with a severe handicap cuz your medicine ball is now a deformed bag of mush.

Turkish get-ups, sprints, burpees, they’re all fair game. Get different-size pumpkins for different ability levels. Don’t be fooled, these suckers can get HEAVY.

I think the most fun (and the most challenging because of the breakage risk) way to do a pumpkin WOD is with partners, Fight Gone Bad style. Try the following:

The Smashing Pumpkins Partner WOD

The Workout: five moves, three rounds, one minute at each station, with a minute rest in between.

Goal: AMRAP. Don’t smash the pumpkin.

Move One: Synchronized thrusters

Move Two: Partner sit-ups. Toss the pumpkin to your partner on the upswing. (Don’t smash it!)

Move Three: Burpee over the pumpkin (alternating): Just like burpee-over-the-bar but replace the barbell with a pumpkin.

Move Four: “No-wall wall ball” with pumpkin. Stand with your partner on opposite sides of an 8-foot pull-up bar. Toss the pumpkin over the bar to your partner. Don’t hit anything! Don’t drop it.

Move Five: Partner pumpkin kettlebell toss. Test your grip with this one. Grip the pumpkin on either side, swing it between your legs just like a kettlebell, and as you thrust forward, launch it to your partner, who’ll then swing and return it.

Make sure you’ve scheduled enough time at the end of your WOD to clean up cuz it’s bound to get a bit messy up in there.

There’s just something so right about seasonality and CrossFit — treating life as an adventure, eating the way nature intended and getting incredible joy from life’s every waking minute. The problem is that seasonality has become commercialized cardboard. It’s time to take it back, make it REAL again. Because pumpkins are effing awesome.

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