People join Crossfit for a variety of reasons:
To get fit.
To improve athletic performance.
To learn something new.
To impact their appearance.
To positively affect their health.
When you look around at a Crossfit gym, you’ll see a lot of things. But one thing that’s always stuck out to me was … the people. Of all varieties – ages, genders, cultures, races, socioeconomic statuses, religions, shapes, sizes, ability. Crossfit draws a ton of different people into its boxes, for many reasons, and for many common causes.
But my favorite reason has been, and always will be, the Crossfit community.
So maybe we are a cult
One of the many definitions of the word “cult” is:
a great devotion to a person, idea, object, movement, or work.
In this example, the devotion is towards the methodology of Crossfit and all that it stands for (constantly varied functional movements, performed at a high intensity, with a focus on truly functional fitness and overall health). However, cults tend to have rather negative reputations associated with them. For this reason, I don’t love using the word “cult” to describe Crossfit. I prefer “community”:
a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals, which therefore creates a feeling of identity.
Now that sounds MUCH more positive, doesn’t it?
Why community matters so much
If you’ve ever experienced the Crossfit Open, you know that community is the glue that binds it all together. If you haven’t, well, let me tell you about it.
The Open is the very first step towards Regional qualification, and ultimately, the Crossfit Games. The beautiful thing about the Open is right in the name – it is open to absolutely everybody. If you can’t do a given movement, scale it. If you don’t feel comfortable with that, have your coach engineer a movement appropriate for you. The point is to challenge yourself, try things you didn’t know you could do, and grow. The Open is incredibly humbling in that it identifies rather clearly any room for growth and practice – but it’s also encouraging as hell. No matter who you are or where you’re at in your fitness journey, people are cheering for your success!
The Open intimidated me very much, at first. I was only 5 months into Crossfit when the first workout, 17.1, came around, and I was terrified to come in and compete with practiced athletes in the room. What if someone watches my performance? What if I fall off the box and look like an idiot? Who cares?!
All those feelings were immediately thrown out the window when the countdown beeped and the cheering started. Every time I got tired and stopped to gasp for air, I heard a “You got this! Pick it up!” or a “Keep going, you’re almost done!” Some of those people didn’t even know me.
The energy is contagious. You almost feel high off of it. I can accomplish so much more with the understanding that these random people believe in me and want to see me do well. I’d never experienced anything like that before, until that first Open workout.
Crossfit’s collective spirit exists to encourage and educate. It doesn’t oust anyone, or make them feel like they can’t be a part of this if they want to be. When a group of people have a common goal that is important to them, they make that goal as inclusive as possible. This is the Crossfit community.
Check it out yourself. Stalk the Crossfit instagram account to see amputees, grandmothers and high school kids all be a part of the same thing. Understand that while there are elites within Crossfit, it’s for everybody, always. “A feeling of fellowship with others” is something that is given out and experienced by all involved.
Where community can get you
You’ve drank the kool-aid and have now become one of us. Here is what you can expect from your box:
- Encouragement. Accomplishing something new, scary, and difficult is so much easier with positive words of encouragement. We’ve all felt like giving up in the face of something trying, but having someone come by and believe in you makes a world of difference.
- Support. Need help with your form? Don’t understand how to get from A to B? Your coaches are more than happy to be there for you – that’s their job!
- Safety. Form comes first, and is drilled in. Something I greatly admire about Crossfit is how much more quality is emphasized over quantity (or speed) when you’re learning. While it’s great to have a quick Fran time or a heavy front squat, you won’t be going anywhere as soon as you’re injured. Good coaches take the time to teach things the right way, and there’s never shame in keeping the weight off the bar until your comfort level is higher. Additionally, scaling a workout is made to work for you. It doesn’t make you a lesser athlete – it means you are listening to your body and you understand what is right for you in that moment. Crossfit preaches this concept.
- Camaraderie. Ever get really into something and wish you could talk about it with people, but you don’t have anyone to talk about it with? Yeah, you won’t have that issue with Crossfit. The second you sign up, you gain a whole family of friends who are excited about the same things you’re excited about!
- Achievement. Goals are that much more accessible when you have the right support group behind you, giving you advice, pointers, hands on help, encouragement, and practice. Making your goals known to your friends and coaches is one of the best things you can do.
I came from a bodybuilding background that always felt like something was missing. It had nothing to do with the sport of bodybuilding itself – you could run into this feeling anywhere, doing anything, if you don’t have people to do it with. I used to think I loved training alone, since it allowed me to focus – but over time I realized how alone I felt. I was never able to find a group of people to train with; no one at work was interested in what I was doing, and I lacked the support of a team to keep me motivated.
Crossfit gave all that back to me and more. I feel like a part of something bigger, and this motivates me more than I can explain. I show up for me and my goals, but I also show up for the people I’m there to cheer on.
Whatever your sport, be it Crossfit, bodybuilding, running, or organized sport – find your community. Go out of your way to reach others who are chasing after the same goals, and stick to them like glue. The result is a partnership that will get you further than you ever imagined you could go – and you may not know it, but you’re probably doing the same for someone else in return.