No, I don’t live in the box (crossfitters’ slang for gym), although there are sure days when I would.
But crossfit has sure taught me oh so much beyond physical challenges for my weary body. I’ll boldly say: crossfit has been a huge help in helping me stay in my recovery lane from crazy shit like eating disorders, anxiety, depression and bipolar. In short, it made me grow up.
I know Crossfit Inc is a profit making enterprise. And no, they are not paying me. I don’t agree with all their decisions, claims and philosophies. Like in every community, there’s some good, some decent but also (rate, but still) bad rotten eggs.
I also don’t think everybody should do crossfit. In fact I think they shouldn’t: find that one thing that keeps you active AND happy at the same time. Something that makes you wanna get up at 6am on a winter weekday. For me it’s crossfit. For you it maybe crochet. In other words, go back to the title of the article and replace ‘crossfit’ with whatever is your jam, and we’ll be good.
- It made me stronger, faster, mobile.
Let’s start with the basics: that it, that crossfit is a form of physical activity that combines gymnastics, cardio, weightlifting in all forms. In the long run, on top of making your body ache all over, it makes you much more aware of it: of what you can push it to, how much more can it grown, but also where it’s limits are. The human body is truly a remarkable thing, that can surprise us with what it can do. I’ve spent years of my life hating mine for being too fat. But with crossfit, I realized that it can lift heavy weights, climb ropes and jump boxes, do handstands and run for miles and has the drive to be stronger and better. I’ve started treating it better by not starving myself and binging (and not feeling guilty about a full hearted meal), by taking vitamin supplements, massages and other physical joys. As a by-product of all that, I did slim out. But at some point that stopped being important (albeit it still haunts me in the moments of weaknesses). I learned to appreciate what I am.
- It’s a community thing.
‘Community’ may be the most overused word of the decade, but, really, why shouldn’t it? In the era where we choose to isolate ourselves from the world around us, usually with a smartphone in hand, it is truly amazing that someone (Greg Glassman) managed to get people to get together (occasionally outside) and experience the pain and joy of working out together. These people are not your family, most of them are not your friends, but still there is some magical connection between all of you. I’m not a huge fan of religious congregations, but there is something about crossfit boxes that is church-like (imho not the Polish catholic church with it’s crazy). I confess: I sometimes go to the box in the evenings, when I’m feeling down and lonely. Not to exercise, but just hang out around people pumped with adrenaline and bursting with endorphins. People, who are my comrades.
- You are competing… with yourself.
A lot of people get discouraged about crossfit’s competitive aspect: in a lot of boxes (albeit not all), there is a rule that after each class, where you do a WOD (workout of the day), you write on the black/whiteboard your name and score (time, number of reps, weight etc.) and, in some cases, at the end of the day, the athlete (ok, I know… but everyone in crossfit is an athlete..) with the best score is chosen and the results get published for all to see. I must confess: I had a hard time with this. I am competitive AND a perfectionist, so not being able to be the best ALL THE TIME made me very very frustrated. And frustration is a big trigger for me. At one point, I refused to do the WOD with everyone, in the fear of getting humiliated. But you know what? No one cares. No one judges you as a better or worst person by your score. They just want you to finish and do your best. Because, at the end of the day, the only person you are competing against and comparing yourself to is.. Yourself. Yourself from 3 weeks ago, 3 months, 3 years. Funny thing, isn’t life the same?
- We cheer each other on
In a good box, the work out is not over until the time cap and/or the last person doesn’t finish. And everyone cheers them on, because we all remember the time we were starting out, or when we had a shitty day and those 100 burpees were not making themselves.
But we cheer each other on beyond the workout. Like I mentioned, I struggle with comparing myself with others and shaming myself that I’m not number one. On bad [mental] days this results with me signing myself off as “꼴찌” [loser] or “쓰레기”[trash]. Instead of keeping on telling me ‘No, no Marta, you are not trash, stop calling yourself that’, they started calling themselves losers and trash, resulting in our 8am class being baptised ‘the trash class’. And you know what? Oddly enough that mocking has been great help for me, letting me snap out of my destructive mind-mill and laugh at the silliness. Turns out, my workout mates are my greatest therapists.
- It’s a journey
Even if you are number one crossfit athlete (like him or her), you are still learning a new skill, a new technique, a new nutrition plan etc. You will never be perfect and it won’t be like you will hit the roof and that’ll be that. You start not being to do a pullup, and as you get better you progress to chest-to-bars and muscle ups and all the fancy gymnastics. And there’s still something that you haven’t mastered. I remember this video of Rich Froning and Dan Bailey (the legends of crossfit), learning to backflip on the go before and event.
And you know what? Life’s like that too. Even as a master in your field, you are learning something new. And if you’re not, you sure should be looking for something that will challenge you enough to grow. I, for instance, starting taking olympic weightlifting classes and it has been a discovery of a new love (and a new fun community).
Is crossfit for you? I don’t know: you should try and see. But I know living a good life is for everybody and I encourage you to find your ‘thing’.