Yes this post is going to be about CrossFit and since CrossFit seems to be a loaded topic to some, I feel the need to put up some disclaimers here right up front:
- I do not think CrossFit is a cure all, nor do I think it is for everyone. It just happens to be what works for us.
- CrossFit has a reputation for being intense to the point of turning people off, and I think there definitely is a strain of CrossFit out there like that, but that is not what it's like where we work out. It is the most balanced gym I have ever been to or seen. More about this later.
That being said, here are some of the reasons why I'm glad we started doing CrossFit:
1. It has changed Ken. Ken has always been athletic and had his heyday back in high school for volleyball and tennis, but since then, besides the weekly adult league volleyball games, he wasn't doing much else. Add to that his questionable eating habits and there seemed to be little I could do to convince him that there was a correlation to how he ate and how he felt. Then we heard that one of the coaches we knew from RVC, named Chris Shaffer, was offering workouts at a local park one evening a week. We started going to them and loved it, so when Chris decided to offer CrossFit sessions in his garage in preparation to open his own gym, we were interested. We didn't know anything about CrossFit, but we liked the body-weight based workouts in the park and most importantly, we trusted Chris and his coaching abilities. We decided we probably couldn't afford both of us to take his classes, so Ken started on his own in August of 2013.
Soon after, Ken agreed that we should try Whole30, which served as a reset button and also a time to reflect on how and why we eat what we do. This month is also noteworthy because it was when Ken became much more involved in our day to day cooking and meal prep. We don't eat strict Paleo all the time, but we are mindful of what we eat and have been meal prepping together ever since.
Not only did this time period change his approach to what he ate and how we ate, it changed his priorities. He became more active overall; he had more energy to go out on the weekends, hang out with people, and play with our daughter. And as he got more into the weightlifting part of it, he spent his time in the gym and with the people there, rather than on the couch or in front of the computer. He set up a gym in our garage and invited people over to work out and hang out. I saw him fall in love with not just the exercise component, but the community component as well. CrossFit just happened to be thing that allowed him to prioritize, set goals, and develop his interests in building both strength and community. It's been cool to watch.
2. When I started at CrossFit Bezel, Chris' gym, the thing that I noticed immediately was the community there. By community, I mean a group of people who were working towards similar goals, who took the time to acknowledge each other, listen to one another, and be supportive during the hour we were working out together. People I barely knew were encouraging me to finish a tough workout, giving me high fives and offering solidarity. There was an energy in the gym that I didn't expect - I had usually liked working out alone and was surprised to find that I enjoyed this aspect of togetherness. Everyone who was there was so nice and seemed to have the attitude that we could become better by encouraging one another.
That's what I appreciate about our gym. Everyone is at different stages and everyone has varying strengths and weaknesses. Everyone has great days and everyone has terrible days when doing the most simple thing seems hard. This diversity and realness is what makes community awesome anywhere, and it applies here too. Add to that coaches who meet each person where they are each day, who believe that the purpose of spending time in the gym is to be better out there in the real world, and you have opportunities to make real relationships.
Even when I was pregnant, the coaches, Chris and Taylor, met me where I was each day and encouraged me. Not just by telling me what I could do, but by telling me what I should not do, in order to be safe. They even arranged for a sympathy workout towards the end of my pregnancy, which consisted of everyone strapping on a medicine ball to for their workout so that they could be 'pregnant' with me.
(My belly is the real one...that's Logan in there!)
4. I started appreciating my body for what it could do instead of what it looked like. I always liked working out because of how I felt afterwards - yay endorphins! - but I have to admit the primary goal of getting myself to the gym consistently was to keep weight off or just to avoid being too sedentary. When I started doing CrossFit, I started becoming much more interested in finding out what my body was able to do. Can it be upside down? Can it do pull-ups? Can it lift that? Can it jump higher? It was exciting to employ my body for movement and strength, instead of trying to whip it into submission to look good in an outfit.
Some days are better than others. It's been especially hard the past few months. I get discouraged about how much ground I've lost since having a second baby, lack of sleep makes everything feel harder and the cold is always a paralyzer for me. This past month I've been prioritizing sleep training the babies and I've been wanting to go to bed as soon as possible each night. And that's fine, that's my season right now. But I do miss consistently going to class; I know my body misses it. Even if I can't go as much as I want to right now, I still try to go when I am able. Even on the hard days, my mindset is just to keep moving. I'm going in there because my body has been sitting in a chair all day, and my body is saying, I want to move I want to play! Even when I'm too mentally zapped to set goals, I'm obliging my body because I want to keep it happy and working for me for a long time.
5. I think the thing that changed most about me after starting to do CrossFit is my perspective on a woman's body. I know I just finished saying that doing CrossFit made me appreciate my body for what it can do over what it looks like, but I'm also saying that we don't need to ignore appearances. In fact, we should celebrate them...for the right reasons. Once I determined that strength and ability was important to me, I started noticing that the way I viewed female bodies was changing too.
One day, I realized that I wasn't idealizing stick legs anymore. When I saw a tiny girl with a big gap between her thighs, my first thought wasn't, "She looks so good in those skinny jeans!" It was, "I wonder if she wishes they were a little thicker so that she can clean more weight." And when I saw a girl with big thighs and big butt, my first thought was, "Wow, I bet she can squat a ton of weight...lucky her!"
I'm not saying that I think all women should be muscular, I'm saying that I started noticing other bodies for what they might be capable of, instead of how they looked in a dress.
I naturally have muscular thighs and calves and when I work at it, I can build some good muscle on top too, but that was never something I was super psyched about...until now. It is awesome to me that when I put my body to work, I can make it be stronger, and I can make it look like how it is designed to be. I'm probably never going to have sheet rock abs but I am going to have what my version of strong abs are, and I love that.
It makes sense that we would think being stick thin is ideal, that's all media has to show! But once I saw what the world of CrossFit female athletes had to offer, I started realizing that everyone's body is different when it is strong. The goal can't be to look like a stick shaped you; if that's not in your gene pool that's going to be impossible no matter how hard you try. But you can look like the strong and capable version of you, and it's going to be totally hot because you will FEEL strong and capable.