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Grinding Through the 12 Days of CrossFit

‘Tis the season for holiday-inspired workouts.


‘Tis the season for holiday-inspired workouts.

I’m not sure how many affiliates around the world do a workout like the 12 Days of CrossFit. Unlike the story of Christmas, I’m not clear about its origins. But I’ll say this, I don’t know of any other workout I’ve done that seems so fun but is so physically crushing as this one.

The idea is your trainer takes the song “The 12 Days of Christmas,” and you do it as a CrossFit workout — substituting the various gifts mentioned throughout the song for CrossFit movements and lifts.

From the first mention of this, I was eager to give it a try.

Each year, our trainers, Brian and Zack, mix up the movements and the order.

This is what last year’s line-up looked like (to give you an example):

1 Squat Clean Thruster (135 pounds/95 pounds)
2 Handstand Push-Ups
3 Over-the-Box Jumps (24”/20”)
4 Lateral Bar-Hopping Burpees
5 Waaall Baaalls! (40 pounds/30 pounds)
6 Push Presses (135 pounds/95 pounds)
7 Front Squats (135 pounds/95 pounds)
8 Kettlebell Swings (53 pounds/35 pounds)
9 Toes-to-Bar
10 Weighted Lunges (40 pounds/30 pounds)
11 Clapping Push-Ups
12 Squat Snatches (135 pounds/95 pounds)

This was followed by the instructions for members to “Complete this workout as if you were going through the ‘12 Days of Christmas’ song. Start with one squat clean thruster, then do two handstand push-ups and one squat clean thruster. Then three over-the-box jumps, two handstand push-ups, one squat clean thruster, etc. Singing is encouraged. Merry Christmas everyone!”

Traveling with the Ghost of CrossFit Past (my apologies to Mr. Dickens), when I was first presented the concept of this workout, I was naively excited. I showed up in a “You’ll shoot your eye out” shirt from the movie A Christmas Story, candy-cane pajama pants and a red Santa hat. It was a small class of about four, and I recall it took a good deal of time to set up the bars, boxes and other equipment. I was probably caught up in the fun idea of the WOD, so I never took a second to contemplate the sheer volume of reps I was about to encounter.

From the “3,2,1 … Go,” this workout starts off as rather jolly. I remember knocking out the thruster with ease, then moving on to the next movement of two HSPUs, going back to the one thruster, and so forth. Each time (in the early rounds), I would have Brian belt out “FIVE WAAAAALL BAAAALLS” — you know, like in the song. But as the rounds and reps grew, my fatigue set in and the hat came off, the fun pajama pants were tossed in a ball in the corner, and I spent much more time with my hands on my knees than I did happily singing along with the holiday music Brian (the only person in the box still smiling at this point) was playing while we grinded away.

Around the ninth or 10th “day” of CrossFit, I was pretty sure I hated that song. By the 11th “day,” I was beginning to hate the holidays and all they stood for. By the 12th “day,” I just wanted it to be over.

Maybe, in that way, this workout is a metaphor for the holidays. The anticipation and ideals of family fun and getting together meet the actual aspects of travel and the grind of the holiday season until you’re just ready for it all to be over so that you can go back to your “regular” life.

Hindsight on this “gift” of a workout is that a person doing this entire thing will do 12 squat clean thrusters, 22 HSPUs, 30 box jumps, 36 bar-hopping burpees, 40 waaall baaalls, 42 push presses, 42 front squats, 40 kettlebell swings, 36 toes-to-bars, 30 weighted lunges, 22 clapping push-ups and 12 snatches. This is a high volume of work, but there was a 30-minute cap (if needed), and honestly it was a challenging but beloved experience that I shared with a wonderful group of friends.

If you don’t do this WOD or something like it, I’d suggest it. If anything, it’ll make you feel better about setting a PR on Christmas dinner this winter.

Does your box grind out this kind of a WOD? If not, do you do any kind of special CrossFit get-together or workout around the holidays? I’d love to hear your stories. Send them to me at jtolgrinder @

Stay on the grind and have a happy and safe holiday season.

— Jamie Toland (JTol)