I guess this blog post makes it official: I have become a member of the CrossFit cult. Now before you form a snap judgment re: my sanity and obsession with the sport let me just point out that, while I do believe in its methods and practicality, this is not the end-all-be-all of all workout regimes. I still do yoga. I still (try to) run. I still dance around when the house is empty. I still mountain bike (when it’s not freezing cold and icy outside). No one method of working out is inherently better…unless you’re sitting in the gym not working out (sorry, that’s not going to do much for ya).
I will admit that CrossFit is a cult. Those of us who do it are fanatics, which is clearly evidenced in almost every human being I’ve met who’s done it. You either love it or you hate it. We love it. And that is what really classifies it as a cult. Because those who hate it suffer through those 20-minute AMRAP workouts whereas those who love it push through the I’m-about-to-vomit progressions, knowing that they are not just gaining physical #gainz, but also practical and mental #gainz.
After this morning’s intense workout, the four of us were discussing this precise difference as a result of going through sometimes extremely brutal workouts. One girl talked about how she will sometimes look at the WOD and wonder how she will possibly get through it, but when the workout ends, she in fact was able to finish by sheer dedication and persistence. Because those of us who have done a CrossFit WOD all know the feeling of dread that comes before a Filthy Fifty workout. But having an I-am-going-to-give-this-all-I’ve-got mentality is the difference between success and failure, between love and hate. And practically speaking, pushing through a disgustingly difficult workout despite the inevitable doubts and tiredness develops the strength of willpower to a point where we ultimately recognize that we are able to take on the challenges that life throws at us: both in and outside the box.
For me, CrossFit is the intersection of natural ability and drive. That’s why it works. I come from a gymnastics and diving background, so luckily for me, all of the gymnastics components are second nature. I was kipping on my first day, and almost got ring muscle ups on my first try. Because of the precise movements required in diving and gymnastics, I have a natural proprioception and can therefore understand the basic functions in a single movement. Which, apparently, takes some people months and even years to get down. I only wonder why I didn’t start sooner…
Then there’s the competition factor. Whether competing with myself, the person next to me, or the clock, I am driven to excel. Though I would love to always finish first or complete the most reps, there are days when I physically can’t due to exhaustion, skill level, etc. On those days, it’s the presence of other hardworking athletes that keeps me going. If I were to do some of the workouts I’ve done in the box at home, I would have given up (whoops, so much for strengthened willpower). If I feel like I can’t get through the next five minutes or reps, I remind myself that everyone else in the gym is feeling the exact same way. But we are all fighting for the finish, because it’s only five minutes out of 1,440 in that day, and if he’s pushing through, so can I.
In the words of Tony Horton, “Do your best and forget the rest.” That’s what ultimately gets me through even the most vomit-inducing workout. I’ve learned that I can do whatever it is on the agenda for that day, and sometimes I exceed my best. Take this morning, for example: We did a 20-minute AMRAP of 5 burpees-to-pull-ups, 10 pushups, and 15 air squats. By the fourth round I had lost my breath (thanks, lack of oxygen at 9,000 feet) and thought I would be lucky to finish with ten rounds. As I pushed through the exhaustion and focused on what I was doing and doing it well, I finished with 13 rounds +3: well above my goal. And realized I could definitely improve that in the future. Indeed, my best determination had given better results than I even wanted. Sometimes it doesn’t happen that way, but I’ve learned that nothing is impossible and I can’t limit myself based on the doubts that come with exhaustion or breathlessness, because I can always push through (obviously I do need to take care of my body and give it the oxygen it needs and rest enough, but that’s a different story). The body is so much stronger than the mind, and when the mind is strong in willpower, performance exceeds all expectations.
CrossFit is not for everyone. CrossFit sucks some days. CrossFit is the air beneath my wings many days. In the end, what really matters is not just the strength gained, but also the growth experience. It’s really incredible what a single approach to fitness can do to transform both mind and body.