Why I Changed My Mind About Crossfit - The Outside and In

After many years of declaring Crossfit wasn’t for me, I begrudgingly agreed to try it out for 3 months last May. Seven months later, I am still attending classes almost daily. If you think I’m going to tell you that Crossfit is going to help you lose 20 pounds, get 6-pack abs or allow you to leap tall building in single bound, you won’t find that here. You can trip over that type of information anywhere you look these days. I’m going to tell you my personal experience beyond that.

A little history…

Over the past few years I have been dealing with some nagging adrenal fatigue/autoimmune/thyroid symptoms. I’m not going to get into details here, but suffice to say I have been extremely focused on doing what I can to get past these issues. Cutting out stress, eating clean, removing toxins and doing whatever it takes to heal.

Exercise is something that was the last frontier for me to address. Mainly because I didn’t think I needed to.

When it comes to exercise, I’ve been doing some variation pretty much daily for the past 25+ years. I tend to enjoy fast-paced, flying-high, sweatfests. I love Shaun T’s Insanity program, all kinds of bootcamps, running and high intensity training stuff.

When your adrenals are taxed however, most experts recommend cutting waaay back on exercise. But what if exercise is something that brings you joy (which it was for me)? The two months prior to starting Crossfit I actually stopped doing anything but walking and yoga. But man I missed my daily movement so much!

It was at this point that Brian recommended (for the 100th time) that I give Crossfit a try. I thought, “What the heck? It’s got to be better than doing nothing.”

My hesitation with Crossfit

I’ve been familiar with Crossfit for a long time. A high school friend of ours who served in the military shared it with Brian probably 10+ years ago. Brian was doing the daily workouts in our neighbor’s garage before there were any Crossfit gyms in our town. Whenever I would look at the prescribed workouts, they looked horrible. When I say horrible, I mean that the movements and exercises all seemed like nothing I would ever be able to even do, so what is the point? Things like pull ups, snatches, ring dips, burpees. Not only where they foreign movements, they were foreign words. AMRAP, Metcon, EMOMs…what?! I didn’t want any part of that.

Another thing that turned me off was the stereotype of Crossfitters. I got the impression if  you drank the Koolaid, you had to walk around all beefy and ready kick butt at all times.

Despite all of my reservations, when Brian recommended I try Crossfit out last May, I finally agreed. Itching to dive back into something physically active, I decided try it just for the summer. Knowing I was going to hate it, I made a big deal of getting it in writing at the gym that I could go back to a non-Crossfit membership as soon as my 3-month trial was over.

The first few months

When I started, I hated it just like I had prepared myself for. These weird exercises I couldn’t do. The lack of keeping my heart rate up for an hour like I was used to. Am I even going to be in shape when I stop?

And these people who all seemed so happy to be here. Annoying.

As I mentioned earlier, exercise has always been part of my daily habit so I was going every day. Slowly but surely, after the first month or so, I started to hate it a little less.

At our gym, the class starts with a good warm-up, then we move on to a weight training or skill component, followed by a metcon challenge. Metcon is basically just short for metabolic conditioning. This is the part of the workout that will get your heart rate up, but not usually longer than 20-30 minutes, which in my case is key.

During the second and third month, I started to feel less awkward with some of the weightlifting – some! At the end of my self-imposed 3 month trial, I decided to stick with it a little longer. Maybe it wasn’t so bad.

Now it’s been 7 months and I have had some revelations as to why switching to Crossfit has been a very good thing for me during this season of life. I’ve been feeling really good the past couple of months. And while I won’t say it is all because of Crossfit, I definitely think it played a role.

Here’s what worked for me:

Being the overanalyzer that I am, there are some key differences that Crossfit made for me. And those are:

  • Variety – I love that every day is a completely new and different workout. Every. Single Day. Our coach usually posts the workout on a special app the evening before. It’s like unwrapping a present. What will it be? Will it surprise me? Will it be something I hate (like farmer carries)? Or something I love (like situps)? No matter what it ends up being, I end up going. Because if I hate it, I probably need to work on it to grow. And if it is something I love, then let’s go!
  • Challenge – Crossfit challenges me every day. And I don’t mean in the physical sense (although it does that too). Nothing is ever straight forward. There is always a twist or an element that makes it seem impossible. Think back on a time that you have conquered or even stepped up to a challenge. How did you feel afterwards? That’s the feeling you leave with every day with Crossfit.
  • Less taxing – This probably sounds really strange. Especially after going on about how challenging Crossfit is and all those insane movements. However, since I had been doing high intensity for so long, it took a lot of cardio for me to get fatigued or even feel it. Probably too much. With Crossfit, you are able to scale every and any movement to your ability. And since there are so many different variations, it always seems fresh.
  • Modeling for my kids – Like most of you, there are so many things I want to teach my kids. I want them to learn to not be afraid of failure. I want them to work hard. To follow their passions. To have growth mindsets. And so much more. But one thing I know for sure is that you can tell them to do everything you can think of. And they will end up learning what you do versus what you say. Crossfit has been a beautiful vehicle for so many life lessons I want them to pick up on. First, they see me going every morning. Being physically active throughout your life is important – check. Doing things to take care of yourself is important – check. When I come home and they are heading out for school, they hear Brian ask me how it went. They hear my disappointing results days, my good days and everything in between. Today, I came home and told them I came in last in my class. But I was smiling when I said it and they know I will be back tomorrow to try again. Modeling growth mindset – check.
  • Connecting with Brian – Brian and I stopped working out together a long time ago. First, because I was kind of a bossy workout partner. Also because we gravitated towards different styles of exercise. With Crossfit, I go at 6am and he goes at 12pm, which is perfect. We can experience the same thing, just not at the same time 🙂 And then, we have something fun to talk about that does not involve our kids. I like that they hear us talk about having fun. I don’t want them to think being an adult is all work and no play, you know?
  • Being coached – Do you remember a time in your life that you have had a coach or a teacher that pushed you further than you thought you could? My guess is you have, and that you think fondly of that time. For me that was my high school basketball coaches (don’t laugh) and my masters swim coach. And now my Crossfit coaches. You see, we are all wired for growth. A good coach will do that for you. Our coaches are insanely talented athletes. But it is their passion and commitment to help us reach our potential that stand out above everything else.
  • The people – Okay, those people that I totally stereotyped? You guessed it. They are also super nice individuals. Each and every one is ridiculously supportive and encouraging.  My 6am peeps are fast becoming friends (whether they like it or not). I guess that is what happens when you spend 5 hours a week together. Just when I needed a reminder that stereotyping an entire group of people is never a good idea…lesson learned.

The one thing that has made all the difference:

Of all the things that surprised me during this experience, there is ONE major deficit that Crossfit filled for me above all others. Something that has nothing to do with heart rate, max effort, or a specific exercise…

Bringing play back into my life. 

As we turn the corner into adulthood, things get so serious. When is the last time you played? And just had some flat out fun? Apparently it had been too long for me. Imagine the impact of scheduling laughter, games and camaraderie before to do lists, work and drudgery would have on your overall health. Well, now I have it scheduled on my calendar every weekday morning. And I credit it to improving my health.

A few parting words of encouragement

As a new year begins, odds are that you have made some resolutions and set some goals around your health. We’re always cutting stuff out. Gluten. Dairy. Sugar. Alcohol. But what if you look for fun stuff to add versus bad stuff to remove? What if you looked at change from the perspective of wanting to do things versus having to do them?

I encourage you to look at you approach to physical activity and make sure it’s working for you. It doesn’t have to be Crossfit. It could be swimming. Or that barre class that you love. Whatever that “fun” thing is for you. But make sure you prioritize it like your life depends on it.

Because it kind of does.

Photo credit: AJ Ravay

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