Every week I spend about 8 hours in a smelly, stuffy old mill building that doubles as a gym. If you had told me this would be true 10 years ago, I would have said you were stark, raving mad. Even more than that, I have to confess to something: I actually enjoy it! For the next few weeks you’re going to hear from some of my friends from CrossFit South Kingstown about why they feel the same way I do about our gym.
I asked 9 of them to help me collaboratively tell the world (or at least you, the readers of this blog) about the biggest lesson they have learned in their time at CrossFit. I’m going to kick it off, and then every Thursday and Friday for the next few weeks you’ll hear from different voices.
Discarded titles for this post about the biggest lesson I’ve learned from CrossFit include:
Don’t Do It!
These People are CRAZY!
CrossFitters Swear. A Lot.
There’s No Complaining in CrossFit (Unless the WOD Involves Running)
Cherrypickers Never Win and Winners Never Cherrypick.
So what is the biggest lesson I’ve learned?
“It’s harder than you think, but
You’re stronger than you know.”
Every night around 8:00 I begin obsessively checking the CFSK site for the next day’s WOD*. I started doing this when I first began CrossFit because many times I needed to remind myself of what some of the movements looked like. Now it’s just become part of my nightly routine. Some nights I look at the WOD and think, “Well, that’s not too bad.” I go to sleep dreaming of setting the WOD world on fire the next morning and wake up ready to hit the gym.
I walk in at 9:00 and look at the whiteboard to see how the 5:30 AM class fared. Then I adjust my expectations. Usually the adjustment goes something like this: “Dave and Neil and Scott and Holland all did it Rx** in around 21 minutes. I guess I’m probably NOT going to finish it in under 20. Let’s shoot for under 30 minutes!”
The WOD begins. I start out at an even pace with Tim or Ryan or one of my other 9:15 classmates, and then I notice myself falling behind. “This is really hard,” I think to myself. I think about how I planned to pace myself, and then realize I’m at least 30 seconds behind my pace, and it’s only the second round. That’s when it hits me – this is much harder than I thought it would be. I can’t breathe properly. My shoulders hurt. My brain tells me that I’m not going to finish at all, never mind finish in under 30 minutes.
Laying face down in a pool of my own sweat doing burpees***, or hand release pushups, or (worst of all) wall-walks, I have a decision to make. Let the difficulty of the WOD win, or pick myself up and keep moving. One more step. One more rep. CrossFit has taught me that even if the WOD is harder than I think, I’m actually stronger than I knew I was when I walked in.
Ten years ago I would have laid on the floor in the pool of my own sweat and probably never gotten up. I would have walked out the door after the first time I finished last in the class, but that’s different now. I’m not just stronger physically, I’m stronger mentally, and that has been a huge shift in my life inside the gym and outside as well. My confidence in my ability to tackle difficult situations has improved dramatically as I’ve learned that I can push past some limits I have always set for myself. Sure, I’ll fail sometimes when I step past those boundaries, but I’ll still be able to get back up and try again.
It seems to me that CrossFit has revealed a hidden strength I didn’t recognize was there. The coaches have managed to find the right balance of challenging my weaknesses and honing my strengths so that most days I leave the gym feeling like I accomplished something. My fellow athletes and friends have created an environment where encouragement and laughter both flow freely enough to make it feel like at least we’re all in this together.
So tomorrow, when you walk through those doors, just remember, it will absolutely be harder than you think, but you are undoubtedly stronger than you know!
*WOD: Workout of the Day. Everyone in every class at the gym will do the same workout.
**Rx: All movements and weights as prescribed in the program which Roger (our programming coach) has chosen to inflict upon us.
***Burpees: A form of torture where one throws oneself upon the floor, pushes oneself back up and then jumps, finishing with a clap overhead.