We all found CrossFit for different reasons, but perhaps we’ve all stayed for the same one: it makes us better at this curious thing called, human-ing. Yes, it makes us strong. It uncovers muscles we never knew we had and never realized would severely impinge our ability to find a decent pair of jeans sans tailor. It’s allowed us to instantly spot humans who likewise delight in functional fitness at high intensity via their footwear, Japanese style half sleeves, and/or equal distribution of muscles from head to toe, and thus have endless topics of conversation with former strangers.
But behind the facade of muscles and in inexhaustible ability to talk about one’s clean and jerk, CrossFit is more than that. Its lessons for more complicated than how one is supposed to pick heavy things off the ground like a champion. And while to the outside observer it can look like it’s just working out really fast, to us we know that it’s made us, it continues to make us, better, more whole, and happier humans.
This probably isn’t the first lesson you take away from CrossFit, but it’s arguable one of the most important. I used to look at each WOD as its own, unique test of my ability to withstand pain. To squat my heaviest. To run my fastest. Whatever combination of movements that were on the board that day I had to do my BEST. I was flush in youthful enthusiasm (and equally flexible shoulders.)
This approach works for a couple months. Maaaaybe a year. But sooner or later it comes crashing down via an injury or straight-up burnout. It’s the - are you in or are you out - tipping point of CrossFit. If you’re in, you have to figure out a way to make this work sustainable. And if you’re out. Well, that’s a way simpler option, but not nearly as fun.
Discomfort is a wonderful tool in adaptation, but it is also a finite resource. We can’t be uncomfortable in every area of our life every moment of the day. We have to choose our battles. And we have to create the space to breathe and recover. In fact, recovering is PART of training. If we look at our life and there is no space for self care, no room to take a step back and refine our technique we’ll get lost and overwhelmed and end up hurting ourselves or someone else. You can choose your idiom: train smart not hard. Quality over quantity. Whatever it is, it promises that when we approach the work to be done with respect and curiosity, when we realize we can’t repeatedly bludgeon our body or ourselves and expect to come through unscathed on the other side. Well, life tends to go a little smoother…
Whenever you start CrossFit it feels like you are the only one modifying the weights or struggling in the middle of a chipper or being personally beaten at the hand of your jump rope. I don’t know what happens first. If you realize everyone is continuously modifying or struggling and simply doesn’t give a sh*t what you’re doing, or if you stop giving a sh*t what everyone else is doing. Either way, there comes a moment when it is too exhausting and too distracting to care about everyone else. You realize what they’re doing has nothing to do with your own workout or your own success. And that you tend to get far more done and be far more satisfied on the other side when your focus is simply on the work at hand.
The greatest learning curve in CrossFit happens when you realize that the fact that you’re breathing hard, or that your heart is going bananas, or that you feel vaguely like you're either about to throw up or pass out (or both) aren’t reason to stop or even really to slow down. Those are just the natural sides effects of hard work.
What still remains one of my dating requirements is to witness said suitor in the midst of a workout that is kicking him in the pants. If he freaks out. Blames someone else for why it was hard. Or legit devolves into behaving like a five year old, well, that does not bode well for the incredibly complicated and messy adventure that is being in love with another human and sharing your life with them. However, if you can survive any one of the “girls,” well there’s hope you can survive me.
I almost always think of “Karen” when I get overwhelmed by the expense that seems to exist between the person that I am and the person that I want to be. How will I EVER get there?! The same way you do 150 wallballs. You don’t think worry about wallball 149. Or 100. Or even 75. You think about number 10. You break that business up into manageable chunks and you work from there. You also don’t try and do it unbroken. You realize you most likely can’t. That in fact eventually getting to wall ball 150 requires that you take moments to breathe. That you have to rest if you want to get there at all.
Perhaps the most important thing here is not that you finish. It’s that you start. You do finish. You always get there. Often not in the way you expect. But just as often that doesn’t matter. What matters is that you started. That you did the work. And that you allowed it to change you. That you allowed it to make you stronger.
One of the great myths of being a human is that you have to do be able to do all those incredibly hard and messy and uncomfortable things alone. And yet, one of the greatest things about being human is when you realize you don’t have to. When you realize that everything is better in the presence of community.
Perhaps it’s the fact that discomfort is inherent in CrossFit. It conditions us to seek out a training partner (or ten) to come with us on this thing that is bound to challenge us. But more than that, we realize that those people get to play so many different roles in our lives. They are our friends. Our family. Our tribe. They have our backs. They are on the battlefield with us be it a WOD or cancer. CrossFit teaches us not only that we can’t leave when things get hard, but perhaps more importantly, that no one else will.
This is a guest post from Maddie Berky. Maddie was a NCAA Champion rower and now coaches rowing and CrossFit at CrossFit Verve in Denver, CO. She is also a writer and holistic nutritionist, specializing in all things food, sex, and worthiness. For more Maddie, check out MadWellness.com or ElevationRowing.com. You can also follow her on Instagram or Facebook -Mad Wellness or Elevation Rowing.
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