Beginning CrossFit

I appreciate it when people invite me to try new things. During dryland for the Amazon Dragons Paddling Club last season (in which we, as a team, gather at RDFIT in Beaverton and work out together for a month prior to going on the water), one of my new teammates says to me, and I am paraphrasing: “You seem to really enjoy working out. You should try CrossFit with me!”

It was true, I do love working out. I love a good sweat; how I can finally put my phone down, get into feeling my body and focus on coordination, balance, agility, strength and endurance. I love that it changes up my chi and I can be in the worst mood going in and then come out a completely different person.

There’s a reason why we have gym class as kids.

When it comes to athletics, I’m a joiner. I value community around sports and fitness. I’ve been members of numerous gyms, tried many different fitness classes, including a running class that cumulated in competing in a 10K when I was living in Brooklyn. I trained in martial arts for six years (spending long periods of time learning one technique and performing katas in front of my class). Most recently, here in PDX, I took a huge jump out of my comfort zone and joined a Dragon Boat paddling team (on a real river in actual boats, water sport, whoa!),

Before paddling practice, I paused for a selfie.

But CrossFit?

Just the word conjures up images of well-chiseled dude bros, backwards baseball caps and super buff women in short shorts and color-coordinated work-out gear. Not only that, but I had gained a good amount of weight over the course of the last few years (emotional eating over a long drawn out devastating break up, anyone?) and wasn’t sure I was emotionally up for being the most overweight and slowest person in the room.

But she invited me to go and I said yes. My first experience at the Tigard box (what CrossFit calls its gym) was positive. I felt encouraged and it was fun. We were determined to find me a box more local to where I am in NE Portland. We went to a class at a box near me and I talked to the owner of another box near me – both experiences didn’t resonate. But then I found the place where I’m at now.

This isn’t an ad for CrossFit Torque Strength but I do believe I’ve found my home there. It’s woman-owned, pretty queer and the box is tiny so everything has its place and everyone is super efficient. The negotiation of space that happens there so people can do their barbell thing is endearing to witness. Speaking of, have you ever seen a line of women and non-binary folks lifting heavily-weighted barbells? It’s BADASS to the 10th degree.

For me, engaging in “fitness” or “building athletic ability” isn’t just about the external, though I do have goals around that. Just like in dragon boat paddling or when I trained in martial arts, it’s about the internal journey.

When I am working out, I am always facing situations where my brain tells me I can’t do something. That it looks too hard. No way. Are you kidding? I’m just gonna avoid that situation all together.

But yes, I can do it. With encouragement. With the ability to modify and start slow, I can do it. And you know what? It feels hella good and like I am accomplishing something important. It’s been a source of joy (and yes relief) during such a transitional and frustrating time when other things in my life have been confusing and painful (I am coming out of this period, thankfully)…

This happened to me the other day during a CrossFit WOD (work out of the day). We were going to do pull ups and I said to my coach, so I’m just gonna do rings, right? And she was like, NO. (Side note: rings are the early stages of the pull up where you grab a wooden ring with each hand and pull yourself up, like a reverse push up, with your legs and feet slanted on the ground)

The coach says to me, You’re going to get up there. You’re going to hang from the bar and I’m going to help you.

So what this means, is that I have to climb up on a wooden box (that for me is pretty high) and grab onto a metal bar while she helps me put one of my feet in a loop of rubber bands hanging from said bar. She had her hands under my foot and with the help of the rubber bands and her push up, I pulled myself up over the bar, to the sounds of cheers and congratulations from my teammates.

It was awesome. And we did it numerous times.

My point here, is that I did not think I could do it. I wasn’t going to even allow myself to try. But there was really no time for fear or the social anxiety or self consciousness of being the most green person in the room. I’ve only been doing CrossFit since September. I had to just step into it. And I’m so glad I did.

It’s moments like these that help me to see the progress I am making in getting stronger and more agile. And mentally, it clears barriers that keeps me comfortably stuck and small.

Some people might think that’s a small thing. But I’m honoring all steps forward, the big ones and the small ones. And hey, doing a pull up, even if assisted, is no small feat. It’s the beginning of something magical and I can’t wait to see where it takes me.

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