For the past 8 years I’ve been doing CrossFit.
Cool story, huh?
In the beginning, I wasn’t completely sure I could stick with it. So, eight years in, I feel like I’ve been committed enough to “own it” now.
I never wanted to be one of “those CrossFit people” who are constantly posting about and talking about how they do CrossFit. But on this side of my CrossFit experience, I can see why “those CrossFit people” are always posting about and talking it. The truth is, I love it! It’s one the most physically challenging thing I’ve ever done, but it’s also one of the most rewarding. And the reality is, the more you do it, the more you realize that the rewards are about so much more than just the physical and athletic development.
So, for fun, here are some life lessons I’ve learned (or have been reminded of) through CrossFit.
Just Show Up
This has been my motto from day one. When my scheduled allowed, my preferred CrossFit class time was 11:30 AM. Now days, I settle in to 6:30 AM, with Coaching at 5:30 AM. I hate when my alarm goes off at 4:30 AM. And every time it does, a voice inside my head is doing its best to coax me back into bed: “You can take the day off. You’ll go tomorrow. Go back to sleep.” I have to mentally tell myself, “Just show up.” I know that if I can just get there, I won’t regret it.
This is the same with most things in life. We always have a voice inside our head trying to talk us out of the things that matter, and yet, we also have the power to fight that voice off. We may not always be motivated by the end result of something because it seems so far off, but if we tell ourselves to “just show up,” we’ve already taken a major step toward that goal—whatever it is.
One of the major elements of CrossFit is the coaching. At Fern Creek CrossFit, we have some wonderful coaches who are chalk full of valuable information. I also may be a little bias. Even as a Coach, If I’m not in a particularly good mood for some reason, it’s easy for me to ignore what the coaches are telling me, or to even get offended that they’d suggest I’m doing something incorrectly! But every time I open myself up to their wisdom, I see results. The truth is, coaching helps.
The same is true in life. As much as we’d like to think we can do things our own way, it often takes an outside observer to point out areas for potential growth and to suggest practical steps of development. If we aren’t open to coaching, we find ourselves ignoring the wisdom of those who have gone before us, and we get offended when they offer help. However, the moment we invite someone to speak into our lives, we allow our potential to be taken to new levels.
Community is Key
What brings someone to CrossFit is the workout; what keeps someone in CrossFit is the community. When most people show up at Fern Creek CrossFit, they have no idea what they are getting into. Most show up in regular clothes during a class, just to ask about what CrossFit is, and how they might go about signing up. Little do they know that all these people they are staring at in awe will soon become their teammates and biggest cheerleaders. I’ll never forget my first time one of the “pros” asked my name, welcomed me to class, and then encouraged me in my workout. From that point forward, I’ve found myself finishing workouts and lifting amounts of weight that I could never do on my own.
This point is very pertinent in life. While many different elements of life might bring someone to a particular spot, it’s always the community that keeps them coming back. The same is true in most aspects of life. Unless we surround ourselves with people who will constantly cheer for us and encourage us, we will never reach our greatest potential.
Excuses are Limitless
I can always think of an excuse to not go to CrossFit—the trick is listening to that excuse or not. “It’s too early.” “I’m sore.” “I’m tired.” “I’ve got a full day today.” “I’m just going to make this an ‘easy week.’” “I skipped a couple days already, so what’s one more?” This part of CrossFit is mental. I’ve learned that I must exercise my mental strength to get past these excuses, as much as I exercise my physical strength. And those are just the excuses to show up! There are even more excuses once I’m in class. “There’s no way I can lift that much.” “I’m not going to be able to finish this WOD.” “There are only 30 seconds left, so I might as well stop now.” Again, the difference is made when my mental strength allows me to ignore these negative thoughts in my head.
Life is full of excuses as well. Whatever your situation, you can always talk yourself out of it. Particularly as we give in to the temptation to constantly compare ourselves to others, we make excuses about why we don’t “measure up.” STOP DOING THAT! You can be great! You just have to get past the mental battle that is holding you back.
If At First You Don’t Succeed, Keep Failing Until You Do
In CrossFit, I fail a lot. But honestly, I probably don’t fail enough. Failing isn’t fun, so I often stop just short of failing. The problem with this method is that I’ve probably missed some PR’s because I didn’t try “just a little more weight,” or “just one more rep.” On the other hand, when I have allowed myself to fail, I’ve recognized the things that I need to work on, and I’ve been able to improve as a result, leading to success at bigger, higher, and faster levels.
I wonder how much potential we eliminate in life by being afraid to fail? I bet it’s a lot! Instead, by viewing failure as an opportunity to learn, we keep pushing the envelope past what we know we are able to do, into the realm of surprising ourselves by what we are capable of doing. When we give ourselves permission to fail—or maybe even when we pursue the point of failure because we know it’ll help us grow—we find ourselves surpassing expectations, sometimes the expectations of others, and sometimes our own.
Prior to doing CrossFit, I had never worked out seriously or regularly in my life. In fact, that was one of my biggest excuses to overcome before starting: “I’m going to be so much weaker than everyone else there.” And you know what? That was true! I was so much weaker than everyone there. The key word is “was,” because once I humbled myself and gave in to that reality, I opened myself up to growth. Was it humbling? Yes! At times, I’d even try to set up my bar in the furthest corner of the box so no one could see how much weight I wasn’t lifting. CrossFit also has a natural way of reminding you that you are human. The moment I begin to think, “This is going to be easy,” I’m re-humbled by the challenge. But again, through humility I’ve grown.
Life can be humbling as well, right? There are experiences in life that level the playing field, reminding us that we are ultimately not in control. We can do our best to pretend we are tougher than those challenges, relying on our own “pretend strength” to fight through them (which never leads to growth), OR we can humble ourselves, ask for help when we need it, admit our faults and areas of weakness, and start the intentional process of growth—whether personal or professional.
The Perceived Problem is Not Always the Real Problem
One major thing that I’ve learned about physical fitness is that nutritional fitness is 80% of the challenge. While I might think to myself, “Wow, I’m just feeling weak today. My muscles must be fatigued,” the truth is, it’s probably my nutrition! The perceived problem is not always the real problem.
This is definitely the same in life. We often diagnose the problems we see based on just that—the things we can see. More often than not, there is something that lies deeper beneath the surface that is causing our perceived problem. The trick is being able to think abstractly and introspectively as we try to determine what is really going on. Often, it takes an objective third-party, like a therapist or counselor, to draw those answers out.
Don’t Worry About What Other People Think
This circles back to a couple previous points about humility, excuses, and community. Perhaps one of the biggest obstacles to working out for those of us who haven’t done much of it in the past is the intimidation factor. When I first walked into CrossFit and saw all of those athletes doing hand-stand-pushups, pull-ups, box jumps, and throwing weighted barbells above their heads, my first thought was, “They are going to laugh at me.” As childish as this sounds, you have to understand, I was really weak when I started. I absolutely had to decide not to care what other people thought, or else I would have never given CrossFit a chance. Of course no one ever did laugh at me, but this temptation to care what others “might” be thinking (even though my mind paints it inaccurately toward the negative) is something I have to remind myself to ignore on a regular basis.
In life, I’ve found that the people who might struggle with this the most are also those who have some of the kindest hearts. It’s this same innate desire to please others that creates a person of compassion, but also a person who may tend to create false ideas in their own minds of what other people may be thinking. Sometimes we just need to throw those thoughts to the wayside and say to ourselves, “Even if they are thinking negative things about me, I’m not going to let their thoughts hold me back from my potential.” Depending on your personality, this is sometimes easier said than done.
So there you have it. I do CrossFit, and I’m proud of it.