By October of my first year in Boston I’d begun to feel somewhat underwhelmed by the changes college had brought. The binge drinking and pizza eating provided no satisfaction. I struggled with the distinct sense that I had not yet found my place. While my dorm mates seemed to thrive on the insular culture of group living, I felt stifled. I couldn’t have articulated what was missing, but looking back I was longing for a sense of community and purpose. During this time I was following CrossFit’s main site and doing their workouts independently, mixing in weightlifting with my existing running routine. While the workouts were challenging I was bored, lonely and increasingly over-trained as I continued to increase the volume in search of greater gains (because more is always better, right?).
Finally, at the end of October I decided to give CrossFit Boston a call. At my uncle’s urging I called Neal and scheduled my intro session. I remember walking into the gym and immediately feeling that I had made an egregious error by agreeing to this. My thought was that they would immediately know that I didn’t belong. Someone would take one look at me and smell my fear and that would be it: exile to the island of the unskilled and untrained. To my great relief the opposite was the case- I was welcomed in with open arms and more positivity than I can begin to explain. I was hooked immediately, so thrilled to be learning new things and to once again be in an environment that was both supportive and competitive. I remember well, Jon Gilson in my face, stridently informing me that I had more in me, that I didn’t need to put the bar down yet. And honestly, everything was really hard.
When I began I had no concept of where my body was in space and absolutely zero ability to integrate coaches cues into my performance of movements. I flailed. I struggled. I hit myself in the face with a barbell more than once. My arms were so weak they were useless. I finished last every single day but just kept showing up. I’d wake up at 5:30 four days a week to make it into the 7:00am class at CFB and hustle back to BU for 9:00am lecture. As the months passed I steadily improved. I gained muscle and learned for the first time how to use my upper body. I learned to lift things and reveled in the newfound skill.
But the most noteworthy change wasn’t in my strength, endurance or coordination. The big transformation was all in my head. CrossFit provided the basis for a complete shift in how I viewed my body, my value and myself. Not long after joining I found myself thinking not in terms of inches or sizes but rather in terms of pounds lifted and sprints run. With this new metric for assessment, my thoughts began to change. I berated myself less often for the size of my thighs and thought instead of how heavy I could squat and how far I could jump. My confidence soared even as I had to buy larger jeans to accommodate my new muscular quads. I cannot possibly overstate what a huge change in perspective this was. Today I’m strong and it shows. My shoulders, which I once would have called ugly and too big, are my favorite body part. I relish the fact that I am strong, I look strong, I feel strong. It’s awesome.
I’ll share one other anecdote about my CrossFit experience before I wrap this up. A few years ago, after a flare-up of an old injury, I started to focus on Oly because it was one of the few things that didn’t bother my back. I took a step back from CrossFit and focused my efforts on learning the complex lifts. Over the months the movements began to click and I was thrilled by the progress I made. I put the work in, drilled my form relentlessly and eventually became proficient in the lifts that had previously been the absolute bane of my existence. I went on to compete at lifting meets, winning my weight class on a few occasions. What was previously a major weakness is now something that I identify as one of my greatest strengths. Again, cue major shift in perspective. Olympic lifting allowed me to understand that excellence isn’t something that just happens to people. Skill and strength are the hard-won result of dedication, attainable if you are truly willing to pursue them. I feel so lucky to have grown up at CFB, having had the opportunity to learn so much about sport and about life. It’s been an incredible gift.
So here’s a big thank you. Thank you to CFB for helping me to lay the foundation for a healthy, happy and strong adulthood. Thank you to Neal for creating a gym where respect, compassion and encouragement are paramount. Thank you to the coaches for inspiring excellence. Thank you to the whole CFB community for being my friends, my training partners and my acquired family. While I’m excited to begin a new chapter in Denver, my next gym Front Range CrossFit has some serious shoes to fill. I love you fiercely and am so fortunate to call you all friends.