I've been at the same CrossFit since June of 2012 now. I've experienced some incredible gains--both mentally and physically. My confidence has certainly experienced a needed boost. I can do things I never thought I'd be doing (like double-unders--holy crap! I can even do ten in a row repeatedly now! It only took me a year and a half and the help of quite the incredible coach who worked to understand how I learn and figured out how to direct me so I could get it--and I CRIED when I did!). I finally know what it means to be physically exhausted. I had no idea what it was like to feel that way previous to CrossFit. I feel like this experience is important for all humans to have--at least it is to me. When I get tired of things, I reflect on how hard I can push myself, and I know that, really, I can withstand much more than I allow myself to a lot of the time. When I don't want to do something because I am sleepy, I know that I can't honestly use that as an excuse. I can do nearly anything I am required to do in daily life.
With that said, I still cannot do everything at CrossFit. I still cannot do a good snatch with more than ten pounds on the 35# bar to save my life. No strict pull-ups are happening and only three kipping ones. I will probably never do a handstand walk (there's that bad "never" word! but I used "probably," so it's not as final), and when the WOD (workout of the day) includes sequences of more than 10 wall balls at a time, you could successfully bet a million dollars that I will walk away from the workout really pissed off, over the time cap if there was one, and with a sore, red face from the ball landing on it (and swearing). But these failures or inabilities to perform or lacking skills are precisely why people like me keep going back to CrossFit: there are always weaknesses to strengthen. No one that I workout with is the best at everything.
We all have good and bad workouts. There is always a gigantic dose of humility that is served to a CrossFitter to remind them of the even playing field when it comes to those they are competing with daily. In fact, I have been struggling for the last few months with nearly everything and am always coming in last. Consistently. It is extremely humbling and frustrating, but I know that it is just a matter of time and work before it all gets better. I am coming in last right now because I have consciously been working hard to lift heavier and scale the prescribed workouts less. I am a small person, and I am not, by nature, a sprinter at anything, so I am fighting against nature to lift more and work harder--which has been keeping me steadily at the end of the time caps and last on the leaderboard. It's not my favorite thing in the world, but I'm better for it. CrossFit is, in fact, for most everyone. If the coaches are good and the person wanting the workout is willing to work, the workouts can be done in a variety of ways. One of my favorite things about CrossFit is the variety of people coming together to sweat and get stronger. While the little cliques do exist, they all have to kind of disappear in order to get the workout done. This means that the 70 year old grandmother is working out beside the 16 year old football player and the lady whose pregnant with her third kid.
Because of CrossFit and the education regarding food and diet and support I found within the CrossFit community when it came to eating, both my husband and I changed our diets drastically and have found that we feel completely different. I'm not going to spend a whole lot of time talking about going Paleo or the Zone diet because I just don't feel like it right now. Maybe another time. But, quickly, just so you know: when I started CrossFit, I was given a book about food which led me to read a bunch of other things about food and ended with the deletion of most processed food from my life. Mike and I have been cooking nearly all of our meals since July 2012 and haven't looked back. He lost weight incredibly quickly; I realized I was bloated all the time (I had no idea) before we deleted gluten and other nonsense. We are not 100% committed to any type of diet, but we both agree that the change was great for us, which is why, a year and a half later, we are still following the same kind of plan. However, let it be known that if you invite us out for burgers and fries, we will eat burgers and fries. And pancakes and waffles and big huge bowls of cereals. We just don't have that stuff (usually) in our house any longer. And we feel a lot better for it. (Please ignore the fact that our entire refrigerator is currently filled with ungodly large amounts of stuffing, fried turkey, and mashed potatoes. I SAID we weren't 100% committed, and the holiday season...well, you know, the experts say not to restrict your diet, just to practice portion control... :D ).
Enough of food. I don't like writing about it. I'd like to return to the "anyone-can-do-CrossFit" idea. Anyone can. If they're willing to work and not do the same thing as everyone else all the time. CrossFit has the ability to make everyone feel accomplished and see gains. It has helped me build a stronger respect for different types of bodies and what different types of bodies can do. That whole stick thin ideal for women is kind of cast out in the CrossFit world. Stick thin women can do things that others can't though physically. And I respect that. But if a stick thin woman stays in CrossFit long enough and works hard, she isn't going to be stick thin for very long. Bigger bodies can move bigger weight. And bodies in general look all kinds of different ways--and they can do all kinds of things. As a result of seeing some incredibly different bodies doing some amazing things, my ideas of health and strength have shifted. While I never really thought stick thin was a great look, I was it for a lot of my life. And I hated it (that's a post for another time, though). And I had plenty of people tell me how skinny I was (I hate that word), and still do, and how they were jealous of me. I hate that, too. Through CrossFit, though, I've learned to love myself a bit more than I did previously. I've learned to love the different ways bodies can look, too. While I want to see some more muscle for myself, I don't hate the way I look any longer. And I've come to respect the other body types that I see at the gym, the way those bodies can do things that I cannot, and I've also stopped coveting what I am not going to have! Self acceptance is pretty cool once you have it--just watching what everyone can do and seeing their weaknesses and strengths has led me to love myself and the things I can do and allowed me acceptance of the areas in which I have weaknesses and others do not.
One of the things I hear a lot--directly and in passing--is the concern women have about themselves and other women being strong and "manly." If being able to lift my body weight is manly, then I want to be manly. If having to buy bigger pants because my thighs have muscle is manly, then bring on the manly. I've always thought muscle looks good on girls! As it does on men! If I need to punch someone in the face, I have a bit more confidence in my abilities to do so now than I used to have. Functional fitness is what CrossFit is all about, and if that is manly, then I'll take it. The gender definitions and stereotypes kind of disappear within the walls of the box, and I like that. If I'm falling off a cliff, I might be able to hold onto it because of all the pull-up practice I've been doing versus weakly plummeting to my immediate death (or into the arms of Vin Diesel).
But on a real note, muscle is good. I like it. It helps any body look better. I'm not scared of my butt getting bigger or my thighs touching together. What's with this thigh gap thing anyway???? It is admittedly a bit strange that I can no longer comfortably cross my legs when I am wearing pants, but it's good. It means I'm seeing gains when I do a movement involving squats. It means I can run further. I am currently hovering just a few pounds under my heaviest weight ever. The last time I weighed 120 pounds, I had been eating four meals a day and lots of those meals included boxed and packaged food and fries and things from a fryer, as I worked crazy hours in Hell...I mean, Disney World. I was miserable, and it took me a full year to get back to a body size I was happy with when I got back home. Right now, I am 120 pounds and have no qualms about it. Since May alone--as in, May of 2013--I've gone up two pant sizes (depending on the brand), one shirt size, and gained about 8 pounds. And you know, I've never felt better about myself. I've had to go out and buy all new clothes. And there was a moment, I'll admit, when I was in a dressing room and a pair of shorts that was a 5/6 didn't fit my butt or legs, where I experienced a bit of shock and sadness. I'm used to wearing a 1/2, 3/4, shopping in the juniors department because nothing fit right in the women's, and suddenly, I'm having to wear a 7/8 or 9/10 in shorts. But a size is just a number that in no way indicates health or appearance. I love the way I look--I much prefer the muscle to the not muscle. I can eat more than ever and not see gain from it, I can physically outperform myself from my running and gymming days, and I am happier and healthier than I have ever been, and, man, am I...nevermind.
My body is comfortable at 120, and if I keep gaining muscle and eating the way I do (with the exception of the holiday food), I'll be comfortable at 125 and 130 as well. By weight alone, I am probably starting to hover on the overweight side of the scale according to the BMI index, but numbers are just numbers. And gender is just gender. If you are confident and strong and you can do stuff like climb a rope or lift your terrified 70 pound dog onto the table at the vet, you're way better than stupid numbers on a BMI chart (which is wrong anyway!), and you're probably pretty attractive for it. CrossFit has helped me see how beautiful power and strength are--and how different they look on different people. I used to like to read magazines like Women's Health and Shape--now they're just hilarious and horribly misinformed. That model with no muscle definition most certainly did not follow that crappy workout regimen she's just LOVING! from her couch!
I think I've nearly exhausted the CrossFit conversation for myself, but the last big thing that CrossFit did for me--and perhaps the most important--was give me an escape from the worst year of my life. Those of you reading who know me know that last year I was a high school teacher. It was the hardest, most stressful job I have ever had. It consumed my entire life and all of my waking moments. It ate me alive. I could not stop thinking about it, could not stop planning, could not stop stressing over what I needed to do, how I was going to manage to do it, and how I wasn't doing it if I was trying to take a "break" from it. The ONLY times I could ever stop doing my job or feeling absolutely consumed by it were the few hours of CrossFit I did every week when I managed to pry myself away from the stacks of papers haunting my every waking moment. For someone whose mind refuses to shut off when stressed, even sleeping the very few hours I felt I could spare from teaching and planning was an arduous task for me because my mind couldn't shut off.
Fortunately, there was something in those hours at CrossFit that simply would not allow me to think about anything but the task at hand when working out. Had I still been running and pedaling the stationary bike, I know, without a doubt, that I just would have quit being physically active all together out of the consuming guilt that ate me alive every time I tried to do something that was not teaching-related. Because CrossFit requires its participants to have concentration, discipline, and extreme focus, I was unable to think about teaching for an hour every other day or so. And those few hours gave me the only relief I had for those nine months of the school year. My typical day of teaching was this: get up at 4 in the morning, grade things until leaving to teach, teach from 7:50 to 3:00 PM, grade and plan until 6:00, get to CrossFit at 6:30 mentally drained, get home at 7:45 re-energized and ready to grade and plan until midnight or later (whenever I couldn't possibly stay awake any longer). Repeat the schedule for 9 months. CrossFit was the only thing in my day that allowed me pause in the anxiety and stress, and once I stopped teaching, I saw tremendous and immediate gains in my physical performances and abilities (and clothing sizes ha!). It was like they were lying dormant in me until I removed the stress source and added sleep back into my schedule.
CrossFit has afforded me tremendous benefits, and while it does come with what feels like a hefty price tag compared to a regular gym membership, my husband and I look at it as an investment in our health and futures. We actually got rid of our cable to counteract the cost of our membership. We want to be around for a while, and we want to be able to enjoy our futures and our children. And since we are not having them now while we are younger, we are ensuring that we can get on the floor and chase them around comfortably by CrossFitting regularly now. We both look and feel younger than we did when we started--all you have to do is look at our pictures from before and after. I don't think CrossFit is for everyone because not everyone wants to do it. But it has the potential to work for everyone if people are willing to embrace it and aren't so quick to reject it as a trend. It has been difficult for me to read and hear the constant attacks on it, as it is something I love that has led me to love myself more and live a fuller, happier, and healthier life.
And with all that, I am formally joining the CrossFit conversation.
Oh, and to keep with the (rather loose) theme of my blog: Will CrossFit matter when I'm dead? Yes. Because I will either die later than I would have had I not been doing it, or die at least trying to survive (though not successfully, since I will be dead).