The only reason I tried CrossFit is that it was different from anything I’d ever tried before. I was nearing 200 lbs – my heaviest weight in a life-long struggle with my body. My self-esteem was at rock bottom. I had attempted and abandoned so many goals that I had lost faith in my inner-strength. I needed a success, a breakthrough, to confirm that not only could I achieve something, but also that I wasn’t a total waste of space in the universe.
It had taken nearly 33 years to build me up to my all time low. But some time in the last 18 months I reclaimed the confidence I had surrendered to self-doubt. Somewhere under the barbell, on top of a box or in between WODs I rekindled a passion for life.
It’s Not Your Coach.
During my first CrossFit On Ramp class, I was able to back squat more than the others in the class. Coach John said I was strong. And just by hearing that, I became stronger. When On Ramp was over and I started regular CrossFit classes, my back squat was a lot less than the others in the class. But it was okay. I knew I was strong and could get stronger. Before CrossFit, before Coach John, it had never occurred to me to be physically strong. I desired strength of spirit, strength of will. Who knew the two were so connected?
My first strict pull up required two black 2.5″ bands and two coaches to help haul me up to the bar. I wish I had a picture of it. The mix of humiliation and wonder I felt as I bobbed up and down grasping the bar added to my determination. When I asked Coach Rob how to get rid of the band, he suggested a simple pull up workout I could fit in after class. Eight months later I could do an unassisted pull up.
CrossFit coaches are exceptional. They have to be. With new boxes popping up everywhere and competition right around the corner, lackluster coaching is the fastest route to losing members. As much as I trust and value the coaching staff at CFWN, I don’t expect anything less. I pay for exceptional. I am working on a life change – anything less than exceptional will not cut it. And if I make it through a WOD without one of them yelling at me to quit resting and get back up on the damn bar, I think they’re slacking. But in the end, I’m the one getting back up on the damn bar. It’s up to me.
In the last 18 months I have developed a deep respect and friendship with my coaches. But, if for some reason, they disappeared tomorrow – would I quit? No. I would find a way to keep going.
It’s Not Your Community.
How does an incredibly shy introvert survive the CrossFit environment? My first few months of CrossFit were part exhilaration and part terror. Sometimes I would go home just as weary from being social as I was from completing the WOD. Sharing a rack for squats? Doing a partner WOD? For someone who is incredibly private and admittedly a bit socially dysfunctional – these things required as much practice as the Olympic Lifts.
But as time passed I saw the common thread that links us all. No matter our backgrounds, professions, life choices – at the box we share a love for CrossFit and a desire to progress. I empathize with newcomers and envy (just a bit) the exciting first few months they’re about to experience. My CrossFit community challenges me. I try to be as capable as they think I am.
There’s nothing like a Sunday morning at the box – foam rollers and lacrosse balls in use, good CrossFit conversation, yawning as we tend to muscles that have worked hard through several days of training. Rack sharing and partner WODs are still not my favorite things, but I’m now better at dealing with the outside world. I have become more assertive, less internalized. My career has benefited and I’ve realized the worth in camradery.
Yet mid-WOD, when we’re all focused on the task at hand – when I want to stop because I’m out of breath or I’m tired or my time sucks and there’s no way to improve it – it’s just me. Only I can make the decision to keep going and that strength is my own.
It’s Not CrossFit.
There was a problem with my decision to start CrossFit. I had nothing to wear. Workout clothes from past endeavors no longer fit. The current trend was spandex, and the XXL baggy mesh capris that I needed were difficult to find in stores. Did Greg Glassman at CrossFit HQ help me solve this problem? No. My credit card and savvy internet shopping skills came to the rescue.
As muscle began to replace fat, and I found myself doing muscle man poses in the mirror, my self-image began to change. For decades I had starved, dieted, tried and failed to be thin. Skinny. When my husband would remark that an actress had lost too much weight, I would quip, “You can never be too rich or too thin.” My innermost being was convinced that I would never achieve my dreams because I would never be skinny. I truly believed that. And I quit trying.
Confession: I would still rather be skinny.
I have a long way to go to unravel years of skinny wishing. The difference is I don’t believe not being skinny stands in the way of my success. I don’t put my life on hold “until I’ve lost some weight.” I’ve learned to maintain my weight and I no longer “diet.” I love feeling hard muscle under my skin. My desire to lose weight is no longer fueled by a panic-like need to fit into a smaller jean size in order to have self-worth. This is no small feat for me. Sometimes I think that disconnecting my self-esteem from my weight has been the most difficult and grueling part of this life change.
Yesterday, I read an article headlined “How CrossFit Ended My War With My Body.” I see this all the time. “Thanks to CrossFit, I can…” or “CrossFit showed me…” or “CrossFit saved my life…” And I want to whip out my red editing pen. CrossFit did not end your war. Or my war. You did. I did.
It’s Me. And You.
My battles over the last 18 months have been too hard won for me to give away the credit. Has coaching, community and CrossFit been a big part of it? Yes. Of course. These make up the magic – the missing piece that made changing my life possible. That piece is an important, wonderful part of my life.
And I get it. Saying “CrossFit changed my life” is much easier than saying “My decision to do CrossFit has changed my life.” But it was your decision. You had to find a box, learn foreign new skills, fight against self-doubt and press forward. No one did that for you.
The sport of CrossFit has brought powerful awareness to the importance of strength, nutrition and body-image. Through that awareness, I have made my own life changing choices.
The next time you start to credit CrossFit with your success, just remember to give yourself some credit too.