Why I Started Going to Crossfit
It’s 2:35 a.m. and I am up and at it, writing a blog entry before I leave for Crossfit at 4:30. Pretty much every morning, Monday through Friday, I get up, pour myself a cup of ambition, and head out the door to the 5:00 a.m. class at Slaton Kinesiology in Magnolia, AR. I’d been a runner most of my life–track in junior high and high school– loved it, even though they had to time me with a calendar. Thereafter, I ran 5ks, 10ks, and half-marathons and, when I was 28, I ran a full marathon–26.2 glorious miles that hurt like hell. I did it for the t-shirt, not the glory, and I probably won’t do it again though I’ve learned never to say never.
At any rate, by January, 2017, I’d become focused on horse showing and pretty much abandoned running and a regular regime of fitness. I decided I needed some structure in order to get back in the game because I could feel time ticking away and my body was beginning to feel old and tight. I wasn’t overweight, but I felt less and less mobile. I had no intention of being one of those fifty year old women who pants when she walks up a flight of stairs. So, I joined a “box”–the weird and accurate term used to describe a Crossfit facility, most of which are surprisingly no-frills–and fell in love with an activity during which death seems imminent each and every day and after which I can’t wait to go back for more.
But why, one might reasonably ask, would one do such a thing? Why not do something that does not make one feel regularly like she is going to meet her maker? Why not go among those in a traditional gym who read magazines on the treadmill while strolling at a leisurely pace before weighing and measuring their thighs and celebrating the loss or bemoaning the gain of inches? The answer, quite simply, is that Crossfit culture does not celebrate the appearance of a commitment to a healthy, functional body; it demands such a commitment and it makes space for each and every person’s reasons for and ways of making it.
Why I Keep Going to Crossfit
I love Crossfit because there are no scales in sight. No one is obsessing over pounds and inches. No one is looking at the size of anyone else’s thighs or booty unless maybe it is to praise or admire them. (One of my proudest moments was when Coach Carrie commented on how my butt was showing the effects of the workouts.) Crossfit is about functional fitness. It is about training our bodies to be able to do the things we want to do–play another sport, run around the playground with the kids, or being able to say “No thank you” at the feed store when the cashier asks if you need help loading the 50 lb bags of feed you’ve just purchased.
I love Crossfit because no one is judging anyone’s character on the basis of his or her dimensions. No one is trying to starve himself or herself to thinness. On the contrary, our coaches emphasize the importance of balancing macro-nutrients–proteins, carbohydrates, and fats–so that we fuel our bodies to do the work we’re asking them to do. That requires eating a lot more than most of us have been conditioned to think of as “appropriate.” “You can do all the lemon squeezes (an ab exercise) in the world,” Coach Ben says, “but if you’re not eating right, it won’t matter.” In the Crossfit world, food is our friend. Let me say that again; in the Crossfit world, food is our friend. That is a concept that many of us take a little time to wrap our heads around.
Another of my favorite things about Crossfit is that it is an activity where everyone participating in a WOD (workout of the day) works at his or her own level and everyone is too preoccupied with doing his or her own thing to worry about what anyone else is or is not doing. That means “RXing” for some–performing the moves to particular, prescribed standards–or scaling for others. For some of us, RXing is a long, long way off. For others, it’s just what they do. It’s an exciting day when someone “RXs” a move for the first time. It’s also an exciting day when someone pushes the prowler up and down the length of the box four consecutive times without stopping. It’s often said, and it is true, that Crossfit may be the only activity where whoever finishes last gets cheered for the loudest. Where else in the world does no one care who is the fastest or who is the slowest?
What I Have Learned from Crossfit
At Crossfit, each person has his or her own mountains to climb, obstacles to conquer, and moments to celebrate. Crossfit culture is one in which people pull one another up those mountains and help each other over the obstacles through high fives, encouraging words, or by noticing that someone did something better than he or she did the last time. For me, that’s not only the heart and soul of what Crossfit represents, but it is also why it represents a model worth integrating into other realms of our day-to-day lives.
So, fourteen months ago I started Crossfit to reintroduce my body to a structured fitness program expecting to gain the kinds of benefits that I knew came with a regular fitness regime. To be sure, I have gained those benefits, but my Crossfit takeaways go far beyond stronger quads and a slightly rounder booty.
Crossfit reminds me–no, it teaches me–to look at other people as individuals who are making their way through the day-to-day challenges of life doing the best they can with whatever resources and abilities they have in the moment, even when those are in short supply. Crossfit reminds me to remember to pause before judging others’ behavior or performances by some rigid set of standards; it reminds me to consider that others may have legitimate reasons for “scaling” on any given day, even if I am not privy to those reasons.
Crossfit forces me to be honest with myself about whether I’m working as hard as I can or not. Crossfit invites me to celebrate small things as well as big things. Above all, Crossfit is a place where I meet people who show me what it means to be strong and how to become strong in more ways than one.
Crossfit is my happy place and that’s why I’m going to finish this big, beautiful cup of ambition beside me and head to the box to see what exciting WOD Coach Carrie and Coach Ben have planned for the 5:00 a.m. crew this morning.
Thanks for reading. I appreciate you.