For most of my life, my fitness journey centered on running. As I’ve written for aSweatLife before, running has been part of my life since I was a little girl. I did track as a kid, ran cross country in high school, kept up the habit in college, and even completed two marathons after I graduated. As I grew older, I nervously decided to try lifting and eventually conquered my fear of the weight room.
CrossFit was, to me, still a concept in those days. I’d heard of it but figured it wasn’t for people like me — that is, people who were small and resorted to cardio as their main form of working out. In a word, it was scary.
So you can imagine my fear when, on a fluke, my husband Luis and I wound up at a CrossFit gym. (No, I didn’t realize it was a CrossFit gym before we showed up. Clearly I didn’t do enough research.) But after taking a class filled with stretching, bench pressing, and slamming sledgehammers into a tire, it turned out I actually liked it.
Fast forward to 2019 and we’ve moved to Tucson. We hadn’t done CrossFit since our sledgehammer experience, but Luis suggested we try out another gym. Despite being a little nervous, I went along. And I loved it.
Three years later, we’re still CrossFitting. I never thought I’d be so interested in a sport and so excited to go to the gym. By no means am I an expert, but I’m improving my fitness and enjoying every minute. Here are five things I’ve learned from three years of CrossFit experience.
1. It’s okay to modify a workout
Each CrossFit gym has classes that include a variety of movements, from weightlifting to cardio to gymnastics. The workout of the day typically includes a recommended weight, distance, or movement (otherwise known as “Rx”).
For instance, the workout may involve running 800 meters, jumping up to a 20-inch box, and deadlifting 135 pounds. When I initially began CrossFit, numbers like those scared me. What if I couldn’t deadlift 135 pounds? What should I do?
As I’ve learned, I can still do the workout without hitting the prescribed weight. In this example, I could scale it and perhaps deadlift 105 pounds instead. At first I felt embarrassed to adjust the exercises like this, thinking I looked weak or inept.
But I’ve learned the Rx version of the workout is simply a suggestion. If you can’t run a certain distance, lift a certain weight, or perform a certain gymnastics movement, there’s no shame in adjusting the exercise to fit your current abilities.
2. Trying new things pays off
Three years ago, pull ups were new to me. I never had to do them during my running days. Because they’re a staple CrossFit movement, I decided to take a whack at them.
After more than two years of practice, I can finally do pull ups. I’m not extremely proficient yet, but knowing I can do a few in a row makes me feel accomplished.
Even though certain skills can seem impossible to achieve, I guarantee you’ll get better if you keep at it.
3. I’m stronger than I thought
Have you ever watched strong people lift heavy weights? To me, they look pretty intense and intimidating. As a small-bodied runner, weightlifting was out of my comfort zone.
Yet once I realized that it’s not humiliating to lift light, weightlifting became fun. Nowadays, I actually look forward to it. I love gaining muscle and seeing my progress.
Never in my life did I think I would be able to push a 95-pound barbell over my head, power clean 115 pounds, or back squat more than 150 pounds. With lots of determination (and some failures along the way), I’ve gained physical and mental strength.
4. Fitness is more fun with friends
For most of my life, I preferred working out alone. I was fine running miles and miles by myself with only a podcast or playlist to keep me company. I enjoyed running with other people, but solitary runs were a chance to let my mind wander.
Taking a CrossFit class is far from a solo endeavor. You’re surrounded not only by other athletes, but also by the coach. Initially, the mere prospect of this made me nervous. What if everybody judged me because I couldn’t lift very much? What if I did something incorrectly and embarrassed myself?
My perspective changed after a couple classes. I’ve never encountered judgemental people in the CrossFit community. In fact, it’s quite the opposite — athletes cheer each other on during workouts and celebrate each other’s successes. As for making mistakes, they happen. But someone is always there to kindly offer guidance and advice for improvement.
Through CrossFit, I’ve found a supportive community of individuals with whom I enjoy working out and hanging out. Everyone is welcome, regardless of your level of fitness. Turns out, it’s kind of fun to exercise with other people.
5. It’s 75% positive mental attitude
Look, I’m no professional athlete, nor will I ever be. I go to CrossFit because I love the community and I feel better when I work out. My motivation is internal. I’ve found that like running a marathon, most of the battle is competing with what’s inside your own head. You have to mentally tell yourself you can do it, whether it’s hitting a new PR, trying a complicated movement, or even just finishing the workout.
Since starting CrossFit three years ago, I’ve improved my fitness, made new friends, and stepped up my mental game. But most importantly, I’ve had a blast. After all, what’s the point of fitness if we’re not having fun?