I started about 4.5 years ago, around January 2017, because of my wife, Janelle. She started going to CFH about 6 months before and really liked it. She thought I would like it a lot and knew I was looking for a way to get more consistent fitness. I was initially a little skeptical at the suggestion, but as is true about most things, she was 100% right.
I remember feeling pretty good during the foundations class, I had always been pretty active and played a lot of sports…and then we started with the barbell and gymnastics and I realized I’d have a lot to work on. I really liked that you don’t just get thrown in and there is a lot of attention paid to fundamentals and technique. I also read a bit about the CrossFit definition of fitness and philosophy and immediately drank the Kool-Aid. Being a generalist, not a specialist, is very appealing to me (maybe because I played a lot of sports but wasn’t THAT good at any one of them). I like learning new things so having some “projects” to work on was appealing. I also remember going pretty light for a while as I got used to the techniques. I really liked how the gym didn’t meet any of the negative stereotypes about CrossFit. There was a lot of focus on form and proper movement and effective scaling, no pressure to increase intensity or weight beyond comfort, no yelling. Everyone was very welcoming and approachable and it was a very supportive environment. I think that’s a big reason why I’ve stayed so long.
I had basically no gymnastics or Olympic weighlifting experience, so a lot of those things were essentially brand new. Double-unders seemed insane. Muscle ups and handstand push-ups seemed even more impossible. And don’t get me started about the dark wizardry of the overhead squat (I don’t think I could even do that with a PVC pipe when I started). Now I can do all of those movements, even in workouts. Next up: butterfly pullups and handstand walking.
Physically I’ve changed a lot. I am way stronger than I’ve ever been. I also think I’m more resistant to injury, even though I’m getting older. I’m sore all the time, but I don’t get HURT, if that makes sense. I’m probably not as fast of a runner as I used to be but that’s a bit of a tradeoff…and I’m getting older. But I’m a much more well-rounded athlete. I wish I had done this sort of training when I was playing sports, I would have been much better. I do feel more capable of using fitness for things that I don’t get to do all the time, and I think I’ve actually gotten a bit better at some of them. Like I can run a 10k or go on long hikes whenever I want, even without training; I added 10 yards on my golf shots and a couple grades on rock climbing routes (I don’t do those things very often). I feel fitter skiing and biking when I get a chance to do those things even though it doesn’t happen that often. It’s nice to have a strong base of fitness that is generally applicable to a lot of activities, so if we just want to go do something, fitness is not the limiting factor.
Emotionally, I have always felt happier and more content when I get enough exercise. Before I started CrossFit, I was feeling a bit aimless about exercise. I was just coming out of my training program which had been really busy. I didn’t have anything regular I was doing; motivation to go to a gym by myself was low, it was getting harder to use sports to check that box as I got older and my friends’ and my schedules got less flexible due to family obligations. CrossFit is great because it easily fits into my schedule. I can just go spend an hour and check that box, so I’m not always worrying about what I’m going to do to get enough exercise. Even if the rest of the day doesn’t go well, or I don’t feel that excited with what I’m doing that day at work, if I went to the gym, I definitely did something productive that makes me feel good. That makes that day a win. It’s nice to have the hardest thing I’ll do all day out of the way in the morning. If we had a tough workout, and I got through it, then I can handle whatever nonsense the rest of the day throws at me. It’s also nice to have something in the day that takes complete attention. The intensity of the WODs means you really just have to be present and think only about what you are doing at the time. Lots of people have other ways to get to that sort of mindfulness, but a suffer fest has always been a good way for me, and it’s nice to have something that does that for emotional balance.
It’s fun to look back on how much I’ve progressed over the last few years. It’s remarkable to me that I don’t think I’ve done anything special. Mostly, I think showing up consistently, doing what the coaches tell you to do, and being willing to try new or difficult things and be challenged, results in a lot of progress over time. I think one thing that has helped me stay engaged has been to not shy away from my weaknesses. I’ve also been a little bit deliberate about goals. I wanted to be able to do the workouts RX, and have eventually gotten there. That did require leaning into weaknesses and being willing to be slow, or not finish some workouts, and working to push the weights instead of pace. I’m happy with that decision, and maybe later those priorities will change. I love that the gym is a supportive place for lots of people who might be working any number of other things.
It’s surprised me how much the community aspect of CFH has mattered to me. I had always done team sports or individual sports in teams, so being around others to provide some support and inspiration to push a little beyond comfort zone (“well if SHE can do it…”) has been a big part of why I enjoy coming to CFH. I’ve liked getting to know the coaches and “teammates” I see regularly at the gym, and certainly makes coming much more fun and fulfilling than other more anonymous or solo activities. It’s great that I’ve found something that I think could be engaging and health-promoting literally for the rest of my life, that I get to have in common with my spouse, and teaches skills I can pass on to my son regardless of what physical activity he chooses to get passionate about. Thanks to the whole IA team for all your hard work to make the gym the great place it is.