Being healthy has many different meanings and many different looks. One person might look sickly skinny and be perfectly healthy. Another might look like the picture perfect person but be so deeply depressed on the inside. I have had my own different versions of health in life as well.
Throughout my life so far, I’d say I’ve been above average on the active scale. I’ve always valued physical exercise as a source of therapy and self-love (although, I’ll admit sometimes it was more out of hate for my body than love). I’ve always enjoyed challenging myself physically. The sweat, the emotions, the endorphins. It was there for me when I was sad, mad, had a long day, a break up, a great day, a new opportunity, a new city, a new endeavour. It’s always been there to help shape me into who I am today (literally).
I personally do Crossfit regularily and mix it up with traditonal strength training for specifics I want to work on. Crossfit has helped my fitness abilities tremendously and I’d recommend it to anyone. I recently was on Facebook and came across an old friend who was reaching out to her feed for advice on starting Crossfit or not. Since I have had such a great experience in my 5 ish years in the community, I decided to read through the comments and share my own opinion.
People were commenting horrible things, basically scaring this woman into ever coming close to a Crossfit gym. I won’t get into the details of the comments but I found myself getting protective of my own relationship with the sport. I noticed some of the people bashing it were people I knew and people I knew definitely had never tried it for themselves to begin with. They were “bodybuilders” and everyday gym go’ers that wouldn’t know a clean from a snatch if their life depended on it. There are a few things I learned through Crossfit, specifically, that I wouldn’t have known otherwise for reasons I’ll get into.
Now, full disclosure, I am not bashing typical gym exercise or any other form of fitness. In fact, on any given day, anyone could ask me to join them in a yoga class or a boxing class or a spin class or a “leg day” at the local Steve Nash or a date with Shaun T and the Insanity crew in their living room and I would be up for it like it is my jammm. There are many forms of fitness and everyone is entitled to do whatever feeds their soul the most. For me, I didn’t find the community I was searching for, the results I wanted and the physical challenge that made you question your sanity on a regular basis anywhere, but Crossfit. I wanted somewhere to go where I could tune out the rest of the world and focus on myself. I was craving something more that I wasn’t finding anywhere else. So I dove into it, ego aside, and fell into a new way of life. And I owe it all to my wonderful friend who invited me to challenge myself in a new way that Sunday morning, way back when.
Here are things I wouldn’t have known if I didn’t step out of my comfort zone and walk into that gym:
#1. I actually SUCK at fitness.
This one is important you hear me out. When you walk into a Crossfit gym, you may, too, learn how unfit you truly are. There are people roaming around like they just stepped off stage and can lift heavy, heavy weight in ways you’ve never seen before. This is not to intimidate anyone. This is actually encouraging, believe it or not. It is also humbling, something necessary for all of our egos. What I love about this sport is there is no finish line. You ever heard the saying “If you’re the smartest guy in the room, you’re in the wrong room”? Well same goes at the gym. You can always get better, set a new goal, reach new heights and get an overall better physique while doing it because you’re not competing with the guy walking around with his shirt off that has abs that have abs (although it’s nice to look at). This is also what some people can’t stand about it. It never ends. The job is never complete. You keep going and get better, then do something else you suck at, then get better, and so forth. You are there to compete with yourself and only yourself. Your strengths are someone else’s weakness and vice versa. You are there to increase your own fitness level and set and achieve your own goals, not try to have the best reflection while doing bicep curls and booty poses. Whats even better is you have the help of a group of like-minded people who all want to see you succeed in whatever YOUR goals are. And hey, there’s always time at the end to practice that booty pose, if that’s what you’re in to.
#2. My body is capable of more than I give it credit for
When you begin your Crossfit journey, the workouts might be harder than you thought. First glance at the board you might think, “That’s it?”, and be disappointed because you are there for a “better” workout. Well you just wait, sister. The workouts might look and seem rather simple, but we all know simple does not always mean easy. You’ll find yourself pushing limits you never knew you had and start to understand why people are always half-naked. Your lungs will pump harder, your heart rate will sky-rocket and you’ll begin to question your level of fitness… and then push even harder. Because that’s why you’re there. Three minutes in to the AMRAP ladder, you won’t be doubting the workout anymore. This will happen every workout if you want it to. The body is capable of so much more than we think. I had a day just last week that I was genuinely impressed at how well I did at a workout, remembering back to a time I couldn’t do half the movements, let alone that well and quickly. Of course, during the workout I wanted nothing more than for it to be over. But I pushed through and pushed hard even when I wanted to slow down. I didn’t let my laziness win. The body is amazing and wants to be challenged and wants to succeed. It’s up to us to get out of our heads and let our bodies do what they are designed to do: MOVE.
#3. My only competition is myself
For women, this is huge. We are constantly compared to each other. No matter what we look like we are told it isn’t good enough. Without going into a discussion on the topic of pressure on women in society, Crossfit has helped guide me in my own healing with my body image issues. I can’t give it all the credit because it was a process, but it wasn’t until I was involved in a community that was performance and health focussed over aesthetic and physical appearance focussed, did I become aware of all my personal troubles I had with my perception of my body. Throughout my own journey, I’ve realized my body is so much more than a number or a size or someone’s idea of perfect. I finally was in a safe place where I could take risks, eat more, lift heavier, train harder, grow out of jeans, grow into myself and never look back. I could use my body to discover my own strengths and weaknesses and use them to empower myself. I was able to lose the idea of “the Perfect Body” and discover athleticism, casually, in a non stressful, non judgemental environment, and create my own perfect body in the process. To be honest and real with you guys, if I had started Crossfit prior to getting breast implants, I wouldn’t have felt the desire or pressure to get them done at all. Also, working out with other people is actually fun! I can work out with someone who is waaayyy stronger than me, maybe better at me at most things, but still willing to take on a workout with me and help me get better alongside of her, to finish it, together. She competes with her best self and I am doing the same, but we’re doing it together. How cool is that? No more avoiding stangers with headphones dangling in the way.
#4. Who I am in the gym is who I am in life
This is a lesson I truly believe in. Since beginning my fitness journey over 10 years ago, I’ve learned the better I am in the gym, the better I am in my relationships, at home, at work and at life. I am more focussed, more attentive, more driven, more optimistic and just generally better to be around. I am all around happier. Crossfit really upped my game to the next level in this sense. The stronger I got, the more confidence I got. The more confidence I got, the more friendships I made, more risks I took and more opportunities came my way. My “gains” in the gym transferred to the rest of my life. My body transformed but my mind was the biggest transformation. The harder you push yourself in the gym the easier life gets outside of the gym. Now, I know, that’s a big statement but its true. You crush your fitness goals, conquer your mental barriers and watch your life change for the better.
#5. Nutrition rules all
There are people in this world who can eat whatever they want and look amazing and not think twice. I am not these people and when it comes to health, this really doesn’t matter because these people may not feel as good as they look anyway. Some do, don’t get me wrong, but I’ve learned that nothing is better than feeling like a million bucks, even if you don’t look like a model. Health is so important. It’s truly all we have. Although some people may be able to survive off pizza and sour patch kids, that doesn’t mean they are happy with themselves. Getting yourself to your highest potential and feeling the best you can feel is priceless. Proper nutrition is the fastest way to a better life. Before I learned to eat to perform, I used to eat to be skinny. I wasn’t happy and I was clueless. At this time, now, I am pretty flexible with my diet. I eat healthy but I also eat what I want and make foods I enjoy in a healthier way. I am a full-time mom, not a full time athlete so I enjoy the flexibility. Not saying you can’t be both, as we all know many athletes are mothers. This is just what works for me, as a single mom of a one year old, that allows me to have some wiggle room, for now, but if I want to see my full six-pack and when I’m training full time again things will need to change and I will be more more structured. Everyone has their own version of what works for them but I see women eating gum for breakfast, soup broth for dinner, doing hours of cardio then doing a juice cleanse to lose weight for next weekends event and it makes me cringe. I actually feel for these people. It makes me sad that these are the extremes some people go through not knowing how great they can actually look and feel with the proper program for them. Proper nutrition isn’t a quick fix to losing weight… its better.
So, if you are bored with your current workout program, want to learn some new skills, take your fitness to another level or are looking for a new community, you might find it with Crossfit. Above all else, I hope everyone out there finds joy in some sort of fitness program. There are so many avenues these days, there is no reason to feel stuck or “hate” exercise. I refuse to accept that. Keep trying different classes and step outside your comfort zone until you find something you enjoy. Your body with thank you… and so will your future self.