Looking at these pictures, I am reminded of why I love CrossFit. I can see the agony and determination on our faces. What’s more difficult to see is the the elation. This was one of the most fun and challenging competitions I’ve ever experienced. The pictures are from the Mid-Atlantic Affiliate Challenge, a team competition for CrossFitters from the entire Mid-Atlantic region. This weekend I’ll be competing for a second time. A lot has happened in the last year, including a shoulder injury, a lot of time off and rehab. Leading up to this point every time I think about it I fight back the urge to toss my cookies. All the old self-doubts surface. Am I ready to compete again? Will I hurt my shoulder? What if I let my teammates down? And so, on. What's worse is after last year I know just how bad it hurts physically. Why on Earth then, would I voluntarily put myself through the agony once again?
Here are a few reasons why I love CrossFit and why I can’t wait to compete again:
1. My Teammates.
Anyone that’s played sports can attest that you develop a special bond with your teammates. CrossFit has a major focus on community. Undoubtedly, you’ll feel closer to someone after fighting through a WOD (workout of the day) together. It’s just a result of the experience. We all go through the same emotions; the pre-WOD anticipation and one last run to the bathroom, the initial excitement of “3-2-1 GO!”, the moment of overwhelming doubt that you will ever finish approximately 2 minutes later, the resolve to see it through, a final push to the finish with your coach and fellow athletes cheering, and the post-WOD collapse, sweat angels, fist bumps, etc. The people at your box will push you to try harder than you can ever push yourself. They become your teammates. We all get through the WODs together. You don’t have to like everyone all the time, but you still respect them and want them to succeed. I had an awesome team last year, and I expect this year it will be equally inspiring.
2. Zen. It’s cheaper than therapy and more fun than meditation.
Living in the moment is a blissful state. Often during a workout I find myself completely absorbed by the task at hand. Nothing that has happened or will happen can enter your mind. The minute it does you usually drop a barbell, smack yourself in the face with a jump rope or miss a box jump. The intensity forces you to be completely present and therefore, able to experience total freedom from the chaos inside your mind.
Additionally, in CrossFit gyms we use a very simple, yet very powerful tool: the whiteboard. Every workout has a score and everyone’s score gets written up on the whiteboard for all the world to see. Just like meditation, or a therapist, the goal is to see yourself more clearly and objectively, but one must also do so with compassion and acceptance. Few things spotlight your weaknesses and call you out on your bullshit habits better than CrossFit. Because of the wide range of movements and time domains it’s really hard to be good at everything. Everyone has an achilles heel. Yeah, I feel like a stud after a running WOD, but give me heavy front squats and watch me crumble – quite literally sometimes. It forces you to say, “This is where I am today, and that’s ok.”
It’s not just the physical BS either, like a crappy movement pattern or suboptimal posture. All your emotional BS smacks you in the face the moment you look at the whiteboard and think to yourself, “Oh, no she didnt!?!?” or “I suck at everything”. It forces you to deal with all of that messiness too. Remember I said fitness is a journey that’s both physical and mental. The whiteboard is like a mile-marker on your journey. It shows you where you are at this particular moment, but more importantly; it shows you where you’ve been and how far you’ve come.
3. Fear...and conquering it.
The conquering starts off small. I remember being deathly afraid to kick up into a handstand against a wall, my first pull up EVER, and the first time I got my body weight from the ground to over my head. Over time, the more times we face our fears the greater our confidence and overall happiness. The mark of a brave person isn’t the absence of fear. People that are truly brave face their fears over and over again. They don’t let their fears dictate their actions. Every time I attempt a max height box jump I probably chicken out a minimum of 10 times before actually making it…or not making it. Sometimes we fail. Sometimes it hurts more or less than we imagined. That’s life. You have to keep trying and failing or you risk squandering it all paralyzed in fear. I think Theodore Roosevelt says it best:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
I’m so excited to compete again for all of these reasons. Once again I have an amazing team. I know they will inspire and support me no matter how I perform, so long as I am trying my hardest. We will celebrate the small victories and the defeats together. I will experience the total freedom of being in the moment. I’ll feel the butterflies in my stomach, the pounding heart in my chest, the aching muscles in my legs, the roaring crowd in my ears, the knurling of the barbell in my hands, the chalk under my fingernails and sweat running down my neck. I’ll face my fears; I’ll get the barbell over my head or fall down trying. I’ll jump on the box or add another scar to my shin. Either way, I’m going to give it everything I have. And through it all I’ll get to feel the splendid satisfaction of daring greatly.