Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Love Letter: 52 Reasons Why I Love Crossfit

Today marks my one year "Crossfitaversary". Last year, I walked into the introductory ramp up class not a little terrified of whether I could hack it Crossfitting. But, to tell the truth, I had hit the end of my rope and felt like I had no other waffling options - it was time to take some major chances.

It was painful at first. OK, some days, really painful. Not only were my muscles (and muscles I didn't know I had) sore all the time, but I felt the ego pain of realizing exactly how far gone my body and fitness were. I frequently felt the searing self-awareness of being the last to finish, often by more than ten minutes.

What can I say? Me and Crossfit sittin' in a tree...

(Via Flickr Creative Commons)
Fast forward 52 weeks. Like coming around a bend while driving through the mountains, it took me getting a ways into Crossfit to realize exactly how much ground remains for me to cover in the future. I enjoyed the feeling of getting stronger, and noticing new definition of muscle tone where it hadn't been visible for years.

What really kept me coming, though, was the people. My Crossfit box's coaches and owners are some of the most steadfast, friendly, encouraging people I have ever met. The quality of the box has everything to do with their positive attitudes and their teamwork, with their programming, with their dedication to excellence and continuous improvement - that of the box as an organization, and its members as chasers of exceptional fitness.

That in mind, I've decided to dedicate a post to the reasons I love my Crossfit box - 52 reasons for every week I've been Crossfitting. Now that I'm one year in, I'm excited to realize all that is possible in the year to come!

Crossfit Is

1. Learning to fight. After learning to fight through and finish workouts, I recognize myself exercising that same will to "make it" when I'm fighting through a tough day. When I need inspiration to power through a day, it reminds me of shrugging my shoulders and exploding through the hips on a tough power clean. It's in me, I just need to let it out.

2. Learning patience. I often talk with fellow Crossfitters, and learn that after 2 or 3 years of Crossfitting, they've finally reached a personal goal. I remember this when I get frustrated with myself for seemingly being far from hitting some of my goals (like a dead hang pullup) - they made it to their goals, and I can, too. It may simply take longer than I'd like.

3. Learning limits. There have some days (or, weeks!) in the last year that were so humbling - whether I've been rehabbing an injury, or realized that thrusters seem to never get easier, or discovered that my overhead squat PR was lower than I expected because I still have lots of core strength to build. Sometimes running into limits is a daily reminder, sometimes they occur at once - unexpectedly - in a workout and it feels like hitting a brick wall. Either way, I've learned my limits and how to respect them, and sometimes, I've been able to worth through them, which feels like even more of an achievement.

4. Avoiding the temptation to cherry-pick. Not cherry picking is part of the character building process. If I only showed up for the parts of life that I knew ahead of time that I'd enjoy, I would miss out on a whole lot.

5. Leaving self-consciousness at the door. It only took a few sessions at my box before I completely chucked notions of vanity or self-consciousness. Over time I've found function-focused workout gear that lets me get things done, and I've learned to get over the fear of looking silly...often because everyone else is trying to do the same thing! Collapsing into a endorphin-basted makeup-free red-faced pile of sweat and chalk when time is called is something I now fully embrace.

Crossfit Opens
New Avenues of Self-Esteem by Developing Athletes

6. Seeing anyone and everyone as an athlete. I was a poster child for participation trophies as a kid. Now, I recognize the ways I measure my own success, and every little improvement in strength, in speed, in power...all adds up to a growing athletic ability and a growing confidence in what my body can make happen. Now that I know what is possible from my own workouts and watching those at my box work out, I know that anybody who truly wanted to Crossfit could do it.

7. Learning to fuel oneself as an athlete. I've gotten better on average in my fueling up. When I know that the next workout is depending on me getting clean protein and nutrient dense foods, I'm more motivated to keep myself stable on that front.

8. Learning to recover as an athlete and to value that recovery. Over time I've gotten better at recognizing the multiple aspects of recovery, and to honor those when needed - sleep, a rest day, stretching, doing foam rolling, and seeking the advice and services of professionals like my chiropractor (who is himself also paleo and a Crossfitter).

9. Fellow athletes and coaches set the standard of self-care and fitness gains by their examples. My fellow Crossfitters simply take care of their bodies and value their mobility and fitness gains more than the average citizen. When everybody else at my box is doing that for themselves, it makes it easier to do it for myself, too.

Crossfit Means
I Get to Have FUN!

10. Early morning social time. There's nothing to bring me out of my bleary-eyed 5:30 a.m. state than when I pull into a parking spot at the box and see everybody up and about, the earlier class getting their WOD done. The music perks me up, I get to say hi to my friends, catch up on everybody's week while we stretch and warm up. Admittedly, sometimes it's the only interaction I get with other adults the entire day!

11. Laughs. Dancing, busting each other's chops, and generally joking around. And yes, there is still a serious workout that gets done in the middle of all that.

12. Celebrating personal records. Nothing brightens up the rest of the day like hitting a PR. Just as fun is cheering on fellow Crossfitters to PRs of their own!

13. Trying new things. Even a year on, I'm still getting to try new things from one week to the next. I love that Crossfit is based on mixing things up; it's a dopamine fix I can fully endorse.

Crossfit Offers

14. Fundraisers - Our box regularly gives back. We participate in nationwide and local WOD fundraisers. A group workout, a tee for everyone, and working as a team to accomplish a bigger goal...I love it!

15. Food drive/polar bear plunge - We do a polar bear plunge as a group -- and everybody contributes to the local food pantry. Win-win.

16. Holiday WODs - I love getting to spend the early mornings of my holidays knocking out a WOD with my fellow Crossfitters. Even if I'm lazy the rest of the day, the WOD gives me a sense of accomplishment...and an excuse to wear wacky socks and seasonal colors.

17. Team Races and Other Competitive Athletic Events - groups from our box regularly participate in local road races, Tough Mudder, Primal Quest, and other events. These people are fun-loving fitness geeks - WODs just aren't for checking off a box; they genuinely love to get sweaty and compete!

Crossfit Fosters
Goals for the Future

18. Bringing back concrete goals for oneself. Once kids arrived, it became really hard to focus on growth milestones for myself, much less on specific goals, because I felt like I was just trying to make it through each day. Crossfit not only gave me permission to bring goals for myself back - it gave me permission to make them big. I started with my first deadlift 1 rep max at 125 lb. last October. Once I hit 230 lb. on my deadlift early this spring, I knew that 250 was in sight...and within a few months I hit my current PR of 255 lb.

19. Dreaming up goals for your kids. Even if my girls don't grow up to Crossfit, I hope that as they grow, they do find a fitness outlet that gives them a rush and power in the feel of weight work and functional fitness.

20. Seeing oneself as a role model. It's a little easier to hold myself accountable when I see my workouts and my nourishment as a long term project, with me as my daughters' role model for overall adult female wellness.

21. Dreaming about therapeutic applications for sensory kids. My youngest daughter has sensory processing disorder - and in her case as a proprioceptive/vestibular seeker, she needs regular specialized weight work to release dopamine and serotonin. Because she is an intensely active and physical child - she already enjoys monkey bars at age 2 - I have added hope, though, for her future. I dream that maybe, some day, in Crossfit she could relish the therapeutic value of weight work, and gain her needed dopamine fix in such an encouraging environment among friends and coaches.

Crossfit Means
I Get to Be a Kid Again

22. Kids naturally know how to do it. Kids' brains and bodies know more than we think they do. A squatting toddler exhibits more natural mobility than many adult marathon runners. I've so enjoyed reclaiming my body's natural ranges of mobility while Crossfitting!

23. Kids revel in the physical. A young boy scrambling up a fireman's pole on the playground knows the raw joy of being physically active and instinctively lets his core and legs help him up. Crossfit lets me have those moments, of "Wheee! I did it!" as an adult that I rarely experienced as a kid.

24. WODs = recess. One morning last winter, before we began a workout that would involve a lot of wall walks, my friend B said, "I love Crossfit! It's like recess." When you see a WOD as your chance to get some fresh air and fun running around with friends, it puts a cheerful spin on things.

25. The competitive spirit. Just like a bunch of kids at recess, a good WOD will tease out the competitive spirit. I love it when I'm in lock-step with someone across the WOD's reps and we both know it - it makes us both finish faster and stronger than if we were doing it by ourselves.

Crossfit Promotes
Defying Inertia

26. Reclaiming life in the right direction, 20 minutes at a time. Even though many days our workouts are 20 minutes or less, they still manage to leave me thoroughly wiped out. Some may pooh-pooh such short workouts (I call them "efficient"), but over a week that's almost 2 hrs. of intense sweat equity that otherwise wouldn't have happened.

27. Recognizing that in body composition changes and performance changes, the best results come from continuously tracking data. It's hard to recognize body fat creep or weightlifting plateaus unless you regularly document and track your own data. Luckily, my Crossfit box encourages this in pretty much any aspect.

28. Accountability to turn the ship around. If you've been living one way for 20, 30, 40 years, it is so. hard. to turn the ship around - to dedicate yourself to workouts and clean eating. Having partners, friends, and coaches interested in your progress keeps you accountable in a singular way.

29. Knowing the lion-hearted in every coach and member. It is only as a matter of time - eventually, if I get to know a fellow Crossfitter well enough, I discover that they have not allowed the dark side of life to get the best of them - or let the inertia drag them down for good. There is so much that folks at my box have overcome. To see my friends and coaches daily having gotten out of bed, laced up their shoes, and put themselves through a WOD's paces, demonstrates their consistent will to defy downward inertia.

Crossfit Affords
Pleasure in Physical Accomplishments

30. Nerds learning the thrill of the PR. As if it were any secret at all, I'm a nerd - a major one. Most of my life accomplishments until my late 20s have been marked by what I could accomplish using my  mind, but I always assumed myself generally incapable of anything athletic. Now I know that my body possesses a power that I never before realized was there - and it's up to me to do right by my body.

31. Hormone release. Working out releases all kinds of feel-good hormones - some the same hormones released when eating delicious foods, enjoying sex, and trying new thrilling things - like bungee jumping. If you can get a guaranteed bundle of these wonderful hormones packaged and delivered on a regular basis, why wouldn't you?

32. Letting the WOD counter the effects of stress. The right kind and quantity of exercise can effectively counteract much of the negative biological and emotional impact of stress. Tabatas might feel awful in the moment, but 10 minutes after you've caught your breath, you can sail on the hormone-modulated mood boost of accomplishment all day.

33. Honoring the zone in oneself. You know the zone - if you've ever watched the Olympics, or a coach, or a champion, or experienced that moment yourself. It's a moment of unadulterated flow, when your mind barely whispers to your body what to do, and your body salutes and says, "Yes, ma'am." These moments don't happen all the time, but when they do, you can only bask in the euphoria.

34. Celebrating the zone in others. Many days, especially if the workout of the day is a short one, I'll hang around after I'm done to watch other folks tackle the same WOD. My coach, a lean and petite retired Marine who can deadlift double her body weight, will often arrive in a zone during her WOD, when she's scaling a rope, or cranking through multiple dead hang pullups, and it's then that she makes it look as easy as riding a bike, while the rest of us stand by, slack-jawed at her God-granted hard-earned finesse.

Crossfit Creates
A Family Atmosphere

35. Welcoming newbies. We get a new batch of Crossfitters joining our ranks about once per month. One of our box's owners always says to us regulars, "Don't be a workout snob, say hi to - ...." and is sure that the new people are introduced all the way around at the box. This right-at-home welcome set a very nervous me at ease a year ago, and I still really, really enjoy saying an enthusiastic, "Hi!" to the folks joining us - because waking up early to go do something completely terrifying and new while you're still sore is a little easier when you don't feel like you're doing it among strangers.

36. Knowing that folks are teased for even brief absences, and welcomed back warmly after harder stretches away. "Whoa-hoa! Everybody check out the new girl!" Variations on this dig are commonly tossed out when somebody returns from an absence of as short as a couple of days - but always in good fun. I take it as a comforting sign that somebody can be missed and rewelcomed after missing even a handful of workouts. It's also a great motivation to not casually miss too many workouts. And yet, sometimes there are solid reasons to be gone; while I was letting an injury heal recently, under my chiropractor's advice, I missed about a week of workouts straight. I came back on a Friday, and the first thing one of the box's owners said to me was, "Hey, welcome home." You know that people truly care about where you've been and how you're recovering, and that they are genuinely glad to have you back.

Crossfit Teaches
The Value of Teamwork

37. Team WODs. I've learned to appreciate team WODs; the first few months of Crossfit, I was afraid that working as a team meant that I would be holding my partners back. Now, though, I see the value in shared reps and runs, and in the importance of letting no one feel left behind. Often, it seems, one team member's gifts will complement the other's, and that lets us carry each other just a bit through the hardest parts of the WOD...except through wallballs and thrusters, because I've yet to meet somebody who would consider themselves gifted in doing those - at most, gifted in surviving them.

38. Team Nutrition Challenging. We don't do all of our nutrition challenges in teams, but this summer I had a chance to do one with a fabulous partner. Knowing she was giving it her all as we checked on each other throughout the week kept me very much in line with my own eating and workouts, and we finished strong as a result. It was a great way to mix things up with the challenges!

39. Seeing coaches as team members in wellness. I have a primary care physician that I adore, and a chiropractor who is the jam. Meanwhile, our box has an awesome nutrition gal (who also coaches) and coaches who look after the general fitness welfare of the box members. Even though they've all never met face to face, I love having such a capable "team" looking out for me!

Crossfitting Yields
The Continuous Practice of Doing Hard Things

40. Tackling the most-dreaded WODs. Reading the descriptions of some WODs makes me want to run a mile...or avoid running a mile, as it were. The only way to make these things I dread easier, though, is to keep doing them, to make them a way of life. Simply showing up for those tough-looking WODs is more than half the battle.

41. Adding more weight to the bar. Because getting stronger doesn't happen unless you push yourself.

42. Scaling up. Sometimes I have recognized on my own when the time was right...and sometimes my coach gave me that nudge. Scaling up is what prevents us from stagnating, so even if you have to do the WOD a few minutes slower, and end up a little more sore the next day, you've earned yourself some progress.

43. Fueling the right way, faithfully, consistently. We start another nutrition challenge fourth at the box this year. Responsibly fueling myself is not always fun, but the results that come from it - clear-headedness, improved strength and performance, decent health markers, and a leaner look - make fueling that way worthwhile in the long run. As many I've spoken to at our box will testify, though, it often takes a solid three weeks of dedicated clean eating before cravings start to fade and the body makes the switch to using "premium". The biggest difficulty for me, then, is remaining consistent for very long stretches of time of several weeks in a row. The more I do it, though, the easier it gets to stay on course and recognize whether a splurge is truly "worth it" or not.

44. Deprioritizing fluff time to make room for rest and recovery. Sure, it's fun to stay up late browsing the web, catching up on emails, and watching movies, but ultimately, a night like that robs me of sleep and drains my energy if I do it too often. I am still learning to bring sleep and recovery toward the top of the list - so that I can live to WOD another day.

45. Greasing the groove. Earlier this year we had an entire month of extra burpees every day after the WODs were finished. I was not a fan burpees, but I did them anyway, and discovered that doing those burpees day after day really did grease the groove. By the end of the month, I had learned to flop to the ground much more efficiently, and as a result, I came to embrace burpees in my WODs from that point on as much more doable.

46. Honesty with oneself. There have been some uncomfortably honest moments I've had to endure - learning my highest body fat percentage back in January was one of them. Moments like these, though, inspired me to be honest with myself more often...because it's less painful that way, and less likely that I have a chance to stick my head in the sand. Instead of blowing off the body fat assessments offered by our box's nutrition gal, I sign up for them regularly through nutrition challenges. I weigh myself regularly to understand how workouts, food, and other factors impact my weight on a regular basis. Knowledge is power, so honesty with myself about how I'm performing on all counts is ultimately my wisest course.

47. Giving up some pleasures for the sake of bigger goals. The difficult thing is accepting the idea of opportunity cost. If I want to lean out, I need to avoid insulinogenic and inflammatory foods. I can't eat massive amounts of chocolate every day and continue to develop into a lean, mean Crossfitter. If I want to make it to my morning WODs, I need to not sleep in and instead get myself to bed earlier - thereby forgoing my aforementioned "fluff" time. Giving up some parts of my past life impersonating a slug is what must be done to pursue a future of health and fitness, and it's accepting and applying that reality that is still a hard thing - an ongoing process, truthfully.

Crossfit as a Microcosm for Life

48. Training the core. Crossfit - but especially the lifting - almost always involves engaging the core abdominal muscles to bring about explosive power. What I've realized as a mother, is that I'm the core of my family's home life. (Corny, I know, but true.) If I don't condition and take care of myself, it can take one awkward moment of lost form for my own weakness to bring everything crashing down. If you're at the core of family life, remember to take care of yourself, too. Keep the core strong and engaged!

49. Learning what's right for you, then going out and getting it, because you're worth it. When you're Crossfitting, you learn to cherish the time you're given. This time is for me, this WOD is for me, I'm going to make the most of it. When you begin to think like that regularly as a part of your day, soon you begin to value yourself more, to value the wellness of your family more, and to value the time and energies you put into the rest of your day.

50. Keeping setbacks in perspective, and getting back in the game however you can. Whether it's an injury, or an unavoidable absence, or a shift in schedules, any setback could be an excuse to quit - or an excuse to get creative and do whatever you have to do to keep yourself moving and retain strength. It means paying extra careful attention to what you eat (to retain muscle mass and avoid gaining fat), or doing bodyweight WODs while you're on the road, or substituting movements around an injury. No matter what has to happen, it teaches your brain a "don't quit - just get creative" philosophy that I've in turn applied to my own life outside of Crossfit, as when dealing with managing my youngest daughter's SPD through diet, speech therapy, and occupational therapy.

51. Believing that "If it is to be, it is up to me." My dead hang pullup won't happen on its own. Neither will rope climbs. My ability to do those as prescribed in the future depends on me - and not just showing up for WODs; they will only come with continued day-in-day-out dedication to healthy nutrient dense eating and smart supplementing. Holding my own feet to the fire in this way gives me plenty of practice for dealing with the ongoing daily commitments of my marriage and my parenting, and to believe that there are great things to achieve with steadfast application of my efforts.

52. Trusting in the best from people and waiting to see what they deliver. My coach believed in me from the first day...even during that first week, when I could barely finish the beginners' super-scaled workouts. I've watched her place the same faith in fellow Crossfitters day in, day out - from the freshest beginners to the longtime members. It still amazes me to this day, and convicts me of my natural bent toward cynicism. If my coach could look at a cream puff like me and cheer me through a whole year of weight loss, strength gains, and PRs, how much more faith could I put in my own family and friends?

Why do you love your Crossfit box? Do you have 52 reasons? Or 100? Or 1000? Post your reasons!



  1. To my sister in ARE awesome!! Congrats on sticking to it and fulfilling entire year of crossfit!! Way to be dedicated, I've learned crossfit has a way of changing people in a very positive way!! Keep pushing yourself cause your my motivation to lift heavier keep up the good work..and embrace the SUCK!! :-)

  2. I read this post before I started Crossfit, and again just now after three months at Crossfit. And now I get it. Thanks for putting all of the awesome things I feel about Crossfit into words!
    And here is mine - I love that Crossfit has made me look at myself and my body in terms of progress and potential rather than limitations and shortcomings.


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