I had a very insightful conversation with a friend today, and it got me thinking about what I’ve learned since starting Crossfit about 9 months ago now. I’m not talking about rope climbs and snatches, and I know 9 months isn’t a very long time – but I wanted to take a few seconds and reflect on some of the things that have contributed to my learning so far that apply well beyond the walls of my gym.
1 – Progress is just between you and yourself.
Progress can be a very measurable thing – adding weight to a squat over time, or shaving seconds off a 1k meter row. It can also be a very intangible thing. This is what I’ve gotten out of Crossfit more than anything – my progress is just that – mine – and nothing anyone is doing around me can change that or take it away from me. Progress can be a mental state, and a way you view yourself, and what you want to progress towards will constantly evolve.
2 – Girls can be fucking strong as hell.
Literally. I have seen some ladies move some weight and it is damn impressive. Going to regionals last week and seeing the women’s heats was gives-you-chills inspiring. Heavy weights aren’t just for the boys, and it’s amazing to see how mainstream this has become.
3 – Strength doesn’t just apply to physical strength though.
Back to point number 2 … girls can be fucking strong as hell, mentally. I’ve met some people through Crossfit that I can’t begin to express how lucky I am to know. Hearing their stories and backgrounds, what they’ve overcome, and what they plan to achieve reminds me we all have our own battles, all equally difficult in their own way and endlessly unique. At the same time, our goals are all completely different – and yet Crossfit is what we have as common ground trying to get us there.
4 – Community matters.
I tried Orange Theory, and it didn’t sit well with me. Nothing wrong with the methodology or the workouts – but no one ever tried to get to know me! The instructors had too many chickens in the nest, so to speak, so I was just one in hundreds, showing up, putting in time, and moving on. And so that’s exactly what I did – I moved on to something else. Having a support group around me, people that remember me and know me both inside and outside of the box, and care about my progress has impacted my effort, my motivation, and the way I perceive fitness as a whole. Which leads me to point number 5 …
5 – Fitness is way more than just working out and eating right.
I used to see it that way, as a one- or two-dimensional part of your life that you squeeze in between laundry and groceries. Crossfit has shaped me well outside of that flat definition of “fitness” – it’s part of the way I conduct myself at work, make choices and thus form habits when I’m at home, and how I interact with others. I am more open minded to new things, new people, and sometimes new struggles, but these things all work together to keep me going in a well-rounded way. Fitness is definitely a lifestyle, as corny as that sounds.
6 – I learn something new every day.
I’m a forever-student. If I had my way, I’d just be in school til I died, learning whatever I wanted and moving on to something new as soon as I achieved demi-mastery. Life is so much more fulfilling when you’re learning something new and getting to exercise that new skill or knowledge (no pun intended) – Crossfit gives me that outlet every day! I love knowing that even when I achieve a goal in something, I can continue to adapt that skill to be as hard as I want to – you can always go faster, heavier, or more technically perfect. You can also do the same workout with a completely different mindset – and in that way, I learn something new about myself all the time.
7 – Achievement is way more satisfying than abs.
Take this one with a grain of salt – abs are pretty awesome. I kinda had then back when I competed, and just recently I started seeing them again when I was working with a nutrition coach (which I just stopped doing – goodbye abs). But the thing is, those physical achievements are fleeting. I’d wake up one morning, see definition, and by night time it would be totally gone. The next time I saw something, my mind would be flooded with shit like “How long is it gonna last this time?” “Maybe if _______ they will stick around.” “I’ll just eat less today and see if they’re still here tomorrow.” It felt like some temporary blessing I couldn’t really enjoy because I knew it was going to disappear any minute – like hiking up a giant hill in the desert to get ice but it melts before you get back down the hill again to use it. These “achievements” just resulted in disappointment or anxiety. Hitting a strict press PR, on the other hand, just gets built upon for future achievements, and that has way more of a positive effect on my mind. Surrounding myself with these thoughts and this type of internal-self talk like “You did it! You can do it again now” is way more worth it to me.
8 – Of course, Crossfit does have an amazing effect on the body, too … for everyone and anyone who wants to be a part of it!
Zillions of people do Crossfit for the physical benefit! My personal favorite – Crossfit is a sport that embraces the female form in whatever shape that can be. Women aren’t supposed to look any certain way (thank you Reebok!) Women can be strong as fuck and muscular, and this is fine (read: great). But it isn’t just for that, and that’s not everyone’s goal – any body can do Crossfit. Everything is adaptable and non-discriminatory. For any age, shape, background and ability. It grows with you, not against you, and you can make it whatever you need it to be for where you are right now. If you want to gain muscle, it empowers you to do so and embraces that shape and celebrates your strength. If you want to increase mobility after a knee replacement, it will get you back on your feet. If you want to lose weight, you better believe all the constantly varied movements will whip your body into shape. And for all of those, whatever shape you are along the way is beautiful and exactly what you should be.
9 – Everything is a journey (I know, I know – corny).
But it’s true! I’ve changed my own goals already about a zillion times since starting Crossfit. That’s totally fine. I haven’t stopped moving, which is the important part. Life and the things around you are constantly changing, and as a result, we are always learning new things about ourselves and where we see our futures. That means sometimes, you rewrite where you see yourself going. I’m like on my 16th version of a rough draft right now of what I wanna be someday with no intention of ever getting to a final version. No one needs to know exactly what’s going to happen to them in the distant future because you never know what’s coming around the corner. If I get thrown off balance by something external (or even internal), I just adapt and figure out where to go from there.
10 – Working out is just plain intimate.
It’s weird to think about, but it’s true. I often get closest to people I work out with, and it’s a different kind of close to friends outside the gym – my old boss, for instance, trained me during my first competition, and we’d spend 2 hours together every night (after working a full day together) hauling away. It was like a therapy session with weights involved! We became incredibly close friends through this, because she saw me at my lowest and also my highest, and I felt like I could talk to her about anything in the world. When you’re training for anything, you’re raw and wearing your life on your sleeve. Things you’re feeling are written right across your face in plain sight – you can’t hide what you struggle with and where your weaknesses are. Pain and defeat are clear as day – just as successes are. It’s the people around you that take note of this and give you a hand when you need it, and a pat on the back when you break through – those are people to keep around.
If you didn’t gag reading all this, then you deserve a pat on the back 😉