Well…I did it, I mentioned the contentious C-word. I have been doing Crossfit for just under two years and have learned more about myself in that time, than I have in the better part of my adult life. It could possibly be a mix of the program, of where I am in my life or of growing up, but I’ve picked up a few lessons on the way.
THE IMPORTANCE OF COMMUNITY
“Find your tribe. Love them hard” #truthbomb @daniellelaporte
Whether you are “into” Crossfit or not, you’ve undoubtedly heard rumblings of the “Crossfit Cult”. If a cult brings together people who support and encourage each other, than I guess I am a cult member. I have lapped up all the kool-aid I could (while wearing my lifters, wrist wraps and pull-up grips).
I grew up playing team sports (soccer from the ages of 5-25), I am no stranger to the benefits of being on a team and belonging to a community. My younger sports-playing years have shaped who I am on the field, at work and in life in general. As an adult, there a very few opportunities to fulfill that yearning to be a part of a something outside of the traditional work setting. Call it a community, team, tribe, cult….whatever, Crossfit has given me back that feeling that I have grown up loving and have missed for many, many years.
I moved to Vancouver knowing very few people, that can be a pretty nerve wrecking experience for anyone! Knowing now what Crossfit offers, I wouldn’t have waited so long to join. It has been a great place to meet people, to feel instantly welcome and to feel part of a part of something bigger (the parties aren’t so bad either). In fact, two of my most recent jobs have come, whether directly or indirectly, from the connections I’ve made inside the gym. With lots of travel plans on my horizon, I know I could walk into any affiliate and feel just as welcome, regardless of my ability – now that’s pretty neat!
Everyone needs to find where they fit, find where they feel safe and where they belong. Everyone needs to feel supported and to find their community. Call it what you will, my little Raincity cult is pretty damn great.
THE PURSUIT OF A PERFECT BODY
Like any female who has grown up in the western world exposed to ANY sort of media, the perception of a “perfect” body that is engrained in my soul is one closely resembling a stick figure from hangman. Like the millions of others in pursuit of the elusive “perfect” body, I am no stranger to gruelling diets that started in my single digit years and unending cardio sessions, all with the goal of reaching that “ideal” body shape that about 5% of the population will ever reach.
Since starting Crossfit, I have learned not to judge myself based on a number on the scale and am more excited to see a rounder butt and bulging traps than I am to see that arbitrary number go down. I have learned that what you put into your body has a direct impact on your body’s output. And I have learned the quality of the food you eat is way more important than counting every last calorie.
My perception of perfection has shifted away from the often emaciated-looking body to one with muscles that enable a body to do some pretty extraordinary things. Women like Brooke Ence, Lauren Fischer or any of the Icelandic dottirs are making it more acceptable to be athletic, fit and strong than to be as skinny as possible. Strong is sexy, it builds confidence, it shows hard work and dedication.
It has taken me until my 30’s, and until I started Crossfit, to feel prouder of what my body can do, than what it physically looks like, to be ok with not counting calories and obsessing with the scale, to let go of the idea of low-fat everything. I’ve learned that food is fuel and that I like to lift heavy things.
THE POWER OF VULNERABILITY, UNCERTAINTY AND FAILURE
“CrossFit challenges us to identify our weaknesses, and work hard to turn them into strengths.”
-Jonathan Kinnick in his post on Beyond the Whiteboard
According to Brené Brown (one of my favourite authors and Ted talk speakers of all time) vulnerability is “basically uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure”. Inherently, with vulnerability comes discomfort.
Being vulnerable is a tough one. However, Crossfit has reassured me that being vulnerable is not only ok, it’s necessary. Being vulnerable and embracing uncertainty with respect to my ability, has pushed me to often surprise myself at what I can do, to (safely) lift more than I ever thought I could and to allow my body to do things I never dreamed possible.
Allowing vulnerability into one aspect of my life (i.e. the gym) has let me confidently push my limits outside of those four walls. Even starting this blog presents a huge element of vulnerability, uncertainty and a risk of failure that I wouldn’t have dreamed of taking on without being more comfortable in stepping towards the unknown.
Learning from this vulnerability has regularly pushed me outside of my comfort zone, has brought successes, and has brought even more failures. From what I’ve learned – that is OK.
YOUR MIND WILL OFTEN PLAY TRICKS ON YOU
I think this one ties closely in with the vulnerability topic, but definitely deserves its own category. This is one I still struggle with often, I am aware of it, but I still struggle. When I’m on the cusp of trying something new, pushing myself a little harder than usual or attempting something that generally makes me nervous, my mind starts racing. Whether it is a new movement, a heavier weight, or Rx’ing a workout, my mind begins swirling with thoughts of “I can’t do this” or “I can’t lift that” or, worst of all, the dreaded “I’m going to fail”.
How is anyone supposed to succeed if you are doubting yourself before you even get started?
I’m learning that my body is capable of way more than my mind thinks it is. Whether it is driven by ego or fear or doubt, my mind is trying to convince me that staying within that comfort zone is what I am supposed to do. The uncertainty and fear of failure is so present that sometimes my mind recruits my body and my nervous system goes into overdrive. I start shaking before I even start what I’m trying to do (i.e. a heavy back squat). That’s a pretty powerful distraction to fight off.
What I’ve taken from this, a very transferable skill, is the importance of quieting the mind.
Inhale. Exhale. Repeat.
“I can do this, I know I’m strong”.
“Just try, what’s the worst that can happen?”
Whether it’s through breathing, or a mantra or challenging that voice or simply telling it to shut it, it comes down to believing in myself and not letting my head get in the way.
All of this is helping me on my pursuit to be the best me I can. It’s all a part of the journey!