It may seem like a small thing. I don’t have an outwardly impressive story about CrossFit, like losing 100 lbs or making some kind of incredible comeback from a serious injury. But don’t let that fool you because the past year has radically changed me in so many ways, and I have CrossFit to thank for it.
Before I walked into CrossFit Weddington for the first time, I was a headcase. I had just done a bikini competition after 5 months of training and dieting, and despite being leaner than I had ever been, I felt terrible about my body. All of my self-worth was tied up in my physical appearance, and I was constantly comparing myself to other women and never feeling good enough. I was considering taking drastic action to try to rectify these feelings of inadequacy. Not only did I seriously consider getting breast implants, but I also contemplated using steroids after a fitness professional whose opinion I respected told me that I would never be competitive in NPC shows without them (you can read about my decision and stance on steroids here). Thankfully, I did neither of those things, but hopefully it helps illuminate the type of mindset I had back then.
I remember my first “intro” workout at CFW. After completing a dynamic warmup (a pretty new concept for me), we went over some basics. When it was all said and done, I think the actual workout was 7 minutes of “Cindy” (which is normally 20 minutes of 5 pull-ups, 10 push-ups, and 15 air squats). I couldn’t do pull-ups, so I did ring rows. I remember thinking I was going to blow this workout out of the water. I was used to bench pressing my body weight and squatting even more than that – and all of these movements were without added weight. Furthermore, the workout was 7 minutes. Seriously, 7 minutes. I had been doing 60-80 minutes of weight lifting and 30-60 minutes of cardio in one session. Seven minutes was going to be cake…right?
Right. For like, the first 3 minutes. And then I got schooled in my first lesson about intensity. Pushing yourself isn’t always about the weight on the bar. And although a heavy barbell is one of my favorite things about CrossFit, the intensity of most of the WOD’s have very little to do with lifting a lot of weight and a heck of a lot to do with your pace and your effort. One of my favorite CFW WOD’s was a deceptively simple one – 100 kettlebell swings and 100 burpees for time (broken up however you want rep-wise, and you could alternate between movements). I think I used a 26 lb kettlebell back then for that workout, and similarly thought that this would be a good WOD for me since I’m relatively good at both kettlebell swings and burpees. WRONG. There was a time cap on the workout (I’m thinking it was 30 minutes, but I don’t really remember) and I wasn’t able to complete all of the reps before time expired.
CrossFit helped me end my preoccupation with how my body looked. The lack of mirrors in the gym area and the focus on performance, whether it was celebrating PR’s or posting times to the whiteboard, subtly and powerfully transformed my mindset about training. I would go to CrossFit a couple of days per week (cherry-picked, of course) and then still go to my regular gym a few other days per week, but over time I stopped wearing my heart rate monitor and checking calorie burn after a marathon session on the stairmill. Instead, I found myself doing metcons of my own design using CrossFit movements like wallballs and thrusters. The sweat angel I left on the floor after a 12 minute metcon was the only indicator I needed of my intensity level – heart rate monitor not required.
When I moved to Chicago, I finally fully embraced CrossFit. No more cherry-picking WOD’s, no commercial gym “bro” workouts, and I started to become more aggressive about improving universally as a CrossFitter, which meant working on my goats and learning some skills I had been putting off. That decision has paid off in spades so far. I’ve been able to add new movements to my repertoire (kipping pull-ups, handstand push-ups, toes-to-bar), become more proficient in Olympic lifting (almost up to a body weight clean), and set numerous PR’s in almost every major lift. I don’t look like a fitness model. But you know what I do look like? Strength. I’m not jacked. I don’t have a six pack. But for the first time in a very long time, I don’t care. I like that my lower body is a little thicker than it used to be. I like that I actually have some baby trap muscles forming. I have calluses and rips on my hands, and I’ve got bruises on my shins, knees, and collarbone. I traded in my long bikini competitor hair for something much shorter and more low maintenance, which is way more ME. I bear very little resemblance to that spray tanned, manicured, bedazzled version of myself that got on stage a little over a year ago, and at times, I have lamented that. But not anymore.
Thank you to CrossFit (and to the people at both CFW and RNCF) for helping me stop chasing the appearance of strength in favor of pursuing actual strength. Before CrossFit, I worked out to burn calories to make my body look better. Now, I train to become stronger to make my body perform better. I can’t wait to see where I will be a year from today!