For the past 9 months I’ve been secretly doing Crossfit.
Ok, so it hasn’t been a complete secret, but I haven’t posted much online about my involvement.
For one, I wasn’t completely sure I could stick with it. So, nine months in, I feel like I’ve been committed enough to “own it” now. Secondly, I haven’t 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 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 nine life lessons I’ve learned (or have been reminded of) through Crossfit:
1) Just Show Up
This has been my motto from day one. When my schedule allows, my preferred Crossfit class time is 5:30 AM. I hate when my alarm goes off at 4:50 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.
2) Coaching Helps
One of the major elements of Crossfit is the coaching. At Crossfit OD, we have some wonderful coaches who are chalk full of valuable information. 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.
3) Community is Key
What brings someone to Crossfit is the workout; what keeps someone in Crossfit is the community. The first time I showed up at Crossfit OD, I had no idea what I was doing. I actually showed up in regular clothes during a class, just to ask about what Crossfit is, and how I might go about signing up. Little did I know that all these people I was staring at in awe would soon become my teammates and biggest cheerleaders. I’ll never forget the 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. And when I miss class, they notice.
This point is very pertinent in my line of work in the church. While many different elements of the church experience might bring someone to a particular congregation, 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.
4) 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.” “I’ll just scale this one today.” “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.
5) 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.
7) Looking Like You Know What You’re Doing is Half the Battle
I say this one kind of “tongue in cheek,” but it’s actually true. My high school chemistry teacher told us to “dress for success” on test days and he claimed that we would score higher as a result. I think there was something to it. I just invested in a new pair of Crossfit shoes, and even though they can’t automatically make me lift more or run faster, they do give me a new sense of confidence that translates into positive energy as I workout. Compare that to the days I need to do laundry because I’m at the end of my workout clothes and I find myself wearing some running shorts that are a little on the short side… shorts that I can’t exactly do hand-stand-push-ups in… if I’m not comfortable and confident in what I’m wearing, then I’m already operating at a deficit!
Again, this might seem a little vain, but when we feel comfortable in the way we are presenting ourselves (even if we “fake it ‘til we make it”), we operate with more confidence. This is why it’s important to dress up for a job interview. This is why I like preaching in my “preaching shoes!” This is why wearing a tuxedo in a wedding makes you automatically feel like a “baller.” This is why the people I’ve golfed with think I’m a good golfer when I show up (but then they learn the opposite truth as the round progresses). Looking like you know what you’re doing is half the battle! (Disclaimer: while this is half the battle, it’s always the half that immediately precedes the workout that humbles me and puts me in my proper place)
8) 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.
9) 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 OD 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. I still don’t think I’m going to start posting about it constantly, but I certainly have a better understanding of the motivation behind those who do!
A special thanks to Carrie Wageman and all the wonderful coaches and athletes at Crossfit OD for your continued encouragement and growing friendships.
What about you? Do you do Crossfit? What life lessons have you gleaned from your experience?