When I was in high school, I never thought of myself as an athlete or as an athletically-inclined sort of a girl. I hated to run. I was uncoordinated. In the eighth grade I tried out for the volleyball team. The only previous experience I’d even had with volleyball was running into the net at a company picnic. I “trained” for a good two weeks, skills people spend years honing and perfecting, with my friend who was a soccer player. All she had to do was pick up a ball and she could magically play the sport. Those two weeks of training with her paid off because I made the team. I am just kidding. I did not make the eighth grade volleyball team. I let this one failure (and the fact that I am uncoordinated) convince me that I could never be athletic and that, if I wanted to stay healthy, I would just have to suck it up and learn to like running or yoga or Tae-bo.
The summer before my junior year of high school, my parents took savings from an investment property and decided to start a CrossFit fitness gym. Back in 2007 many people had not even heard of CrossFit. Many people still have not heard of it. CrossFit is a strength and conditioning fitness methodology. It is not sports-specific. It teaches functional-fitness through Olympic lifts, gymnastics, running, rowing, tractor tire flips, swinging kettlebells, pull ups, push ups, squats, twenty inch box jumps, medicine wall ball tosses in any sort of combination. The workouts are always timed. There are no machines, no bicep curls, no mirrors, no televisions, no swimming pools, just fast and furious workouts. CrossFit is not for the faint of heart. In a town dominated by gyms with shiny machines and flat screen televisions and vending machines, this was a risk. I was scared and worried, scared about the future of our family and worried for my parents’ mental health.
My family and I started doing the CrossFit workouts off of http://www.crossfit.com/
in the park that summer. Those first CrossFit workouts were the most difficult and most physically taxing thing I had ever done in my sixteen years on earth. CrossFit is all about full extension. In layman’s terms this means your chest has to touch the floor on push ups, you have to come all the way up on sit ups, you must have ninety degree angles on dips. It sucked. I could not do a single exercise the way it was supposed to be done. My step-father would hold a timer and make us sprint for a minute, rest, sprint for a minute, rest, sprint for a minute, then we would go straight to three rounds of ten push ups, twenty dips, thirty sit ups. I could not breathe, I sweated more than I had ever sweated while doing yoga, and my muscles hurt. After the first day even though CrossFit did not kill me, sitting down on the toilet seat became a test of stability and strength because I was so achingly sore. Day two was a little better. Day three was horrible, but my family and I stuck with it. By the end of summer, I had developed an addiction. I loved putting my body through the battle each workout promised to be.
CrossFit is a big part of my life now. Not only is it the way my family is and was able to eat and pay bills (it was my parents’ business, after all), but it is my lifestyle. I skipped my senior prom to go to the CrossFit Games Qualifier in Aromas, California. The CrossFit Games take place during July and it is a weekend where athletes compete against each other in workouts unknown to them until literally twenty minutes before they do them. I did not qualify this year because I could not do muscle ups (look up muscle ups on youtube), but I got my first jumping muscle up at the qualifiers, literally seconds before my heat took place. It was an amazing feeling. The night where many of my friends danced and partied the night away, I was asleep, resting for the Catch-22 workout on Sunday. The Catch-22 workout was awful. We had to do deadlifts and hill runs and pull ups and overhead squats. Running up the hills, as my muscles ached and my knees threatened to buckle I asked myself “WHY AM I DOING THIS?!” Then the workout was over. The rush of relief and sense of accomplishment is why I do it. The workouts hurt so good and it feels great to finish. Once it was over, and after every workout I ever do is over, and I review my performance, I realize a) how strong I am both mentally and physically and b) how much I have improved and continue to improve. CrossFit has changed me inside and out.
I have tried many times to get my friends to workout with me. None of my friends have made it to the second workout. I always feel disappointed when that happens. I know how painful it is to start CrossFit because it is still painful two years later. There is a saying in CrossFit that goes “It doesn’t get any better, you just suck less” and it is true. You learn to do movements more efficiently or you lift more weight. True, it results in sore muscles and bruises, but those are battle wounds! They are something to be proud of. I cannot remember how many times I have ripped my calluses on the pull up bars. I have a picture on my facebook of my bloody hands after a workout about a year ago. I like to look at it because in a way, it is an inspirational picture. I had ripped my hands on my second round of pull ups and the workout was three rounds. I could not quit. You do not quit in the middle of a workout. It is sacrilegious to quit in the middle of the workout. I persevered through the exposed skin and blood. My hands ached when I was done and I had to clean the blood of my bar, but once again, finishing the workout filled me with a sense of pride. I know I can push through anything.
After two years, my love affair with CrossFit is still strong and grows more each day. My friends think I am crazy, but they also think I am buff. In the CrossFit community, we joke about CrossFit being a cult; however, when we say that, we are not really joking. When it all comes down to it though in my two years of sweat, blood, ripped calluses, bruises, tears and a missed prom, I learned I could be an athlete. I am strong and skilled and ready for anything the world throws my way. CrossFit embodies the principle that if something is worth doing, it will be a challenge. CrossFit sucks sometimes, but I love it. CrossFit beats me up, but it is worth it. If I think of myself as anything, I think of myself as a CrossFitter and I know that means I can do anything.