Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Out of the Comfort Zone

It’s hard to believe it’s been a year since I first started Crossfit.  Before I started I really felt like I was in a slump.  I had finished a half marathon but had very little desire to put my running shoes back on.  I was waiting patiently for Crossfit Critical Mass to open to the public so I could start Foundations.  Yet at the same time, I was scared. 

I certainly never expected to like it as much as I did.  I’ve always played soccer—a team sport where you can sorta hide.  I never really viewed myself as very competitive—not with others and certainly not with myself.  At first it was really hard not to look at everyone else and compare my abilities to theirs.  But I knew coming into Crossfit that I had zero strength training, and so I started at the bottom.  But, obviously I could only go up from there.

I’m not the fastest, strongest, or most coordinated Crossfitter.  But I have made a good amount of progress.  I am faster, stronger, and more coordinated than when I started.  And Crossfit helped me check off a few things on my bucket list too—indoor rock climbing, real push ups, a sub-30 min 5K, archery.  It’s given me confidence to try new things—especially things that are strength or endurance related.  Getting through so many grueling workouts makes every day things seem easier.  It trains your brain to say “Just keep going” and “You can do this” instead of “Give up” or “You might as well not even try”. 

Seems like everyone is into lists these days.  So…here goes…7 things I’ve learned from my first year of Crossfit:

1. Getting out of your comfort zone is the only way to move forward. When I was training for the half marathon I had to tell myself to "just keep going". But never to the point that I completely and utterly wanted to stop and give up. Crossfit really makes you push yourself—to be better than yesterday and to keep up with other people. The workouts are tough, but when you push through you gain a true sense of accomplishment. You will never improve without trying something that is uncomfortable and challenging.

2. The human body (and mind) are capable of so much more than what we typically use them for. I always looked at professional athletes and said, oh they are just extremely talented. That is part of it, but they also have the drive and determination to be great at something. We are all capable of it—we just don’t think we are. Watch the Crossfit Games and see the amazing athletes do it all—strength, endurance, speed, coordination, flexibility, etc. Our bodies are not meant to sit at a desk all day.

3. Food is fuel. Some would argue that food is more than fuel—and I would agree. Crossfit is often based on paleo or zone diet principles, but you don’t have to follow that. However, it is hard to eat junk and do well in Crossfit (or any sport). Giving yourself the proper nutrients, calories, and water each day makes a big performance difference at the gym. Now I often wonder how I got through high school soccer and cross country by eating complete junk food—and wonder what I could have done if someone had simply told me how to feed myself better.

4. Failure is not always a bad thing. Failing in Crossfit is usually dropping a loaded barbell on to the ground after you miss a lift. If you don’t ever go to failure, you won’t know your current abilities and you won’t be able to set new goals. Sometimes a second try on that failed attempt is successful, and it is such a great feeling.

5. Exercise can be fun. I workout 3-5 times a week. And I enjoy it. It’s not a chore anymore. If my mind tries to trick me into staying home I remind it that I have never regretting going. I enjoy it as much as soccer—which has really never felt like a chore. Sometimes I stay at the gym for 3 hours. I used to hate those people who did that. Now I’m one of them. Find something you love that challenges your body and mind—doesn’t have to be Crossfit. ANYTHING. And go do it. Move. Often. Enjoy it.

6. A community can be a powerful goal reaching tool. A community like the ones formed in a Crossfit gym is pretty unique. The people I workout with are just as important as the trainers. We get through tough workouts together. They push you, they help you, they motivate you, and they make sure you keep coming back. I see them often and we give each other advice. We share a special bond--which makes it sound like a cult--but you can't get that kind of support from most gym memberships.

7. It’s ok to be proud of myself. I have never taken compliments well. I grew up in a household where it seemed like there was always something I could have done better or differently. Crossfit has allowed me to set my own personal goals, chip away at them at my own pace, and see the results immediately. THEN, it allows me to celebrate my success with a bunch of other people who are doing similar things. Maybe it’s annoying for my Facebook non-Crossfitting friends to see posts about my success at the gym, but that’s just too bad for them. I’m proud of my progress. I have worked hard for it. (This is also where the community comes in, because the average person will think you are speaking some other language when you talk about PRing your 1 rep max clean and jerk.)

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