Here’s the thing about my personal history with fitness–I’ve never disliked exercise. I just disliked the fact that I wasn’t good at anything. All the way back to childhood, I knew I wasn’t particularly gifted in the physical sense. If a sport or game involved throwing, catching, shooting, hitting, or otherwise propelling an object through space, it wasn’t going to be something I excelled at. Even as an adult, I can be a little clumsy (ever known someone who could trip and stumble while standing still? That’s me). Running and climbing and just generally being an active kid? No problem. I spent a lot of time in trees and creeks (not deep ones, because I am a terrible swimmer) and later, on bikes and horses. But playing baseball or basketball, forget about it. It got even worse when I hit an awkward growth spurt around age 11… and didn’t really grow into my adult body until 17. By then, the damage was done. I wasn’t good at sports, and I didn’t have time to play them anyway. End of discussion.
Fast forward a number of years, and hey howdy, I’m in my 30s! Throughout my 20s, I was always in reasonably good shape, mostly owing to an active job and a decent (according to conventional wisdom) diet. But I always knew I needed to get more exercise, and nothing seemed to come naturally to me. For a few years, I was doing distance cycling. Truthfully, I still love cycling, and if I were retired, I’d do a lot more of it just for fun. You just need to spend so much time at it to get a decent workout. It’s not much fun without a buddy. Midwestern weather is a challenge pretty much every month except May and October. And the tan lines were just ridiculous. (Kidding. Kind of.) After cycling went by the wayside, I tried doing the types of “workouts” outlined in fashion magazines, utilizing 5-pound weights, “Fifteen minutes a day!” and lots of “toning.”
Now that you’ve stopped laughing…
Along comes the man who is now my husband. He’s a runner, and he gets me into running. Great! That requires essentially zero coordination! No (adult) runner cares if I’m slower than average! It gets me outdoors! It doesn’t cost much! You get a medal for just crossing the damn finish line! The clothes are really really cute! Unfortunately, it doesn’t do much for my overall fitness. I built up great endurance, but at the cost of constant lower-leg pain, frustrating setbacks, and a ravenous appetite that I couldn’t feed if I wanted to lose fat (which I did want, and I didn’t ever really accomplish, because goddamn I love to eat, and I was under the impression carbs were good stuff).
In the end, Jason got burned out on running, and since it never came naturally to me, I kind of stopped running too. We both played around with P90X. (Getting closer to CrossFit…) The workouts in P90X were pretty good, if a little tedious after a few rounds. Poor Tony Horton. He has no idea of the verbal abuse he suffered from the comfort of my living room. But it did a good job of introducing me to weights heavier than 5 pounds. God, I mean, 5-pound weights. On what planet is that a workout for an average, healthy adult? Anyway. Besides being not-very-exciting once the videos are memorized, I got a little tired of the muscle isolation. It just didn’t seem all that useful for overall fitness, and that’s what I wanted–a strong, fit body that can take me hiking or biking or just walking around London for about 10 hours on a drop-dead gorgeous October day, sightseeing everything on foot that most people see from a bus (yeah, we did that on our honeymoon. I highly recommend it).
Enter CrossFit. I learned about it through Jason, after he went Paleo to break his sugar addiction (and I went Paleo because moar bacon). When we first learned about it, we were definitely interested in joining, but the nearest CrossFit options were insanely expensive. We don’t even have cable TV because we think it’s too expensive, and that’s, like, a third the price of a 2-person membership at the nearest gym. No sir, no thank you, we just couldn’t do that on our income. But… then we moved. To a small town. And wouldn’t you know, there’s a gym here, a very nice one, with great coaches and great members, for about half the price of the city gyms. That, we could justify. So we joined about a week after we moved.
And I LOVE IT. I found the exercise niche I’ve been needing. You do need some coordination for the lifting, it’s true (hi, I jacked myself under the chin during a push press in our very first workout), but since lifting is not the main focus, it’s not discouraging. In fact I find it exactly the opposite–I really have to focus to get the lifts right, and it’s unbelievably satisfying when it clicks and I can feel all my pieces working together as they should. (Granted, it can also be incredibly frustrating when it doesn’t happen, but it’s incentive to try again and get it right.) I have always known that I like throwing around heavy weight–I’m not fast, but I’m strong. I’m not CrossFit strong, not yet, but I’m working on it. And you never get bored. You never know from one day to the next what the WOD will bring, and they’re rarely long. I never knew you could sweat so much in 18 minutes. And it’s FUN. It’s sort of like being a kid again, bouncing around, picking up heavy things just because you can, getting good and tired. (It’s not easy like it was when you were a kid, but what is?)
And I LOVE the people. Granted, I have fairly limited experience, but because I’ve been reading All The Things, I’m getting the impression that my experience is far from unique. In a nutshell, everyone wants to be there (you have to, if you’re going to survive), and everyone wants everyone else to do their best. I am routinely the last one to finish–but there are always people (besides my husband, even!) who are right there, giving encouragement. Some of the most impressive athletes in my gym are also some of the biggest cheerleaders. (They have more time for it, because they get done before anyone else.) Even the ones who keep to themselves aren’t doing it because they’re assholes, they’re doing it because they’re focused on their own workouts and maybe they’re just not very outgoing (I can totally relate).
So there it is… my CrossFit love. Maybe in time I’ll speak more specifically about stuff, but I’m just in a happy place today, fueled by a 5:30am WOD and a puppy that has slept most of the day.
SPEAKING OF PUPPY…