By now, we’ve all heard the negatives that seem to accompany CrossFit: it’s dangerous, it leads to injury, it makes you bulk up … but what about the other side of the coin? What is it about CrossFit that's got everyone talking?
Many people who stumble into this world of CrossFit emerge as changed people. I’m not talking about the physical changes. (Though of course, they're a bonus!) For CrossFitters, the greatest transformation is in the mind. I’d like to share some of the shifts I have witnessed firsthand, in everyday people, after two and a half years of running a CrossFit gym.
1. They walk taller.
One of the first things I notice in both men and women after about a month in the program is so subtle you can easily miss it. But if you look closely, you’ll notice a change in the way they walk. No longer are their shoulders slumped forward as they try to slip discreetly under the radar. Instead, they’ve acquired this quiet confidence; a certainty in themselves that wasn’t there before. It's like every cell in the person’s body feels a little better about themselves and about life. It’s easy to miss, but this change is one of the most gratifying to see.
2. They embrace the booty [or insert least favorite body part here].
The majority of people begin CrossFit saying they want to lose weight or get toned. But somewhere along the line, the focus becomes less on how the body looks and more on what the body can do.
Don’t get me wrong, wanting to lose weight or get toned is a fine goal, especially if the person is overweight and at risk of developing health issues. What’s not OK is spending every ounce of mental energy “fixing” things about the way you look. And let's face it, for women especially, body image can be a vexing issue.
That's why, when I hear a young woman say “I no longer care about how big my thighs are because I see what they can do now,” it’s like music to my ears! It’s about time people see their body for more than just how it looks. Our appearance is just one tiny part of our what our body gives us.
3. They unleash their inner athlete.
When asked to sign the registration form, newbies are prompted for their name under the heading “Name of Athlete.” Generally, when they read this, I usually hear snorts, chuckles or laughter as they wonder how I would even consider them an athlete. But over the months, I watch as their athleticism starts to present itself in many different forms. For some, the athlete shows up in tests of strength and power. Others shine in endurance and stamina drills while some unleash a competitive side they never knew they had. Some may not be coordinated but they can pick up heavy weights. Others may excel more in the gymnastics realm and struggle to run a block.
Just because we aren’t all going to the Olympics or playing for the Chicago Bears doesn’t mean we shouldn’t value our inner athlete. Everyone has a niche and even the most seemingly unathletic person begins to see that they can excel in certain areas.
4. They think stronger.
Another change that comes with the CrossFit territory is in thought process and how people deal with the little voice of doubt inside them. In the beginning, I see fear written on almost every person’s face. But as they continue to show up, day after day, and survive the grueling and often painful workouts, that face of fear turns into that of a warrior. Dramatic? Yes. But true.
No longer is that voice of doubt the dominant player in their existence. They are learning slowly and surely how to quiet that voice, even if it's only for an hour in the gym. I watch as a stronger truer version of them takes over.
5. They surprise themselves.
People seem to place themselves in little boxes with their own set limitations. They walk in so confident in what they are INcapable of doing. “I can’t do that,” they insist. But then, little by little, as they progress through the program, they start to realize they had no idea what they could and couldn’t do.
I love looking at the face of a woman the day she clean and jerks over 100 pounds. Usually her face reveals utter shock, with a delayed response of excitement and happiness. With the help of CrossFit, people see just how much they hold themselves back with their own assumptions and they learn to step forward with a new outlook.
6. They let go of judgement.
Anytime we think something about another person, positive or negative, we are making a decision about them that may not even be true. I made this mistake early in my CrossFit career when I thought I could determine a person’s strength based on his build. I quickly ate my words when a 5'5, 115-pound female competitor out-lifted everyone around her.
Some people who join CrossFit are indeed very fit and step into the gym with a certain bravado. For these individuals, I sit and quietly and wait for the moment when they become completely humbled by some unassuming veteran in the gym. It usually depicts a turning point in their attitude as they realize there’s no room for judgment in CrossFit; there will always be someone faster and stronger than you.
CrossFit changes people’s perspective of themselves and the world. I speak confidently to each of these points as just over five years ago, I was the one stepping into a CrossFit gym, looking like a deer in headlights. I have seen firsthand what CrossFit has done for my life and for me. Now, I’m lucky enough that everyday I get to wake-up and see what it does for others.