A Functional Fitness Story
So, what I have to share with you is pretty raw, honest, and humbling. But the journey I want to share with you is worth opening the window to my story and worth the hit to my pride if it helps even one person to take a step and make a change for your health.
June 2nd marks the one-year anniversary I walked into our local box, Adamas CrossFit, for the first time. I was scared to death! The sound of the music exploded into the air as I opened my car door. Even the playlist was scary! But I lifted my feet off the floorboard and placed them on the pavement. I heard the clanking and rattle of bearings as barbells loaded with weights hit the floor. It was intimidating.
Then I took the first step towards what looked like a warehouse. I glanced inside the open overhead doors. I had never seen anything like this-people moving from one activity to the other, sweat falling from bodies hitting the black rubber mats beneath them. Shouts from the coach calling out times and encouraging people to push through was a bit daunting for a girl who had never lifted a barbell in her life. In high-school I was the kid who often got to skip PE when other teachers called me out to run errands for them, make copies, help grade papers, etc. They though they were doing me a favor. I did too. Looking back, maybe they weren’t.
My utter disregard for sports of any kind and complete lack of athleticism just aggravated the coaches. When one coach told me if I’d cut my nails, I might be able to catch the ball, I told her I didn’t want to catch the ball anyway. I didn’t hold athletes in very high regard, even though in high school the quarterback was one of my best friends and one of the smartest people I knew and in college I hung out with girls from the basketball team and guys from the Rugby team.
But I thought the National Honor Society, Debate Team crowd was just better. To put it bluntly, I was a bit of a Geeky Preppy Snob who completely neglected the fact that some, or most, of the athletic crowd was a part of the “smart” crowd too. I failed to realize they worked hard on the field and off. I tutored one of the football players in English, so he could keep playing. He was important member of the team. Honestly, I don’t even know what position he played. But I never recognized his work ethic as he invested in his education as well as his athleticism. I was blind to the probability of learning some important life skills from any of them. I had an aversion to sweat, or to anything which may ruin my makeup or make me appear weak. I was strong in the library, so that is where I spent most of my time. I don’t regret spending so much time in the library or the teacher’s work room. I enjoyed it there. I fit there. But I’ve learned over the years, that we don’t have to fit into one place only and much can be learned from others who excel in something we struggle with.
So, here I was, over 30 years later, walking into a gym ON PURPOSE! Justin, the box owner and coach, asked me how I felt. I told him I felt like I wanted to throw up. Justin and Kelly, who I had met at church, had been trying to get me into the gym for months. I had excuses for days! I thought these were reasons. Nope. Excuses! But there was a moment I came face to face with reality. I had little to no strength. I could not lift my 10″ cast iron skillet to pour from it without using both hands or getting help. If I were on the floor, I had to crawl over to something to lift myself back up. My knees hurt; my feet hurt; my elbows and shoulders hurt so bad and my arms would fall asleep. I would stop at the edge of a curb, before I stepped down, to think about how much it was going to hurt my knees when I took that step. The most aggravating thing to me was this: I could not hold my grand-baby and pick something else off the floor at the same time. I had to put the baby on the ground, pick up the item, and then pick the baby back up. One day, I sat my grandson on the hammock so I could pick up his baby blanket the wind had blown onto the ground. He rolled off the hammock. I was devastated! And oh so glad the hammock was a low one.
That did it for me!
I told my husband I needed help. “I just cannot do this alone!” I emailed Justin who responded within minutes. Then he called me as soon as I texted back. He tells me he and Kelly had had a conversation about me before I even reached out for help. “She needs us,” they had said. Boy, were they ever RIGHT! From the first text, from the first conversation, and from the first moment I stepped into their CrossFit box, they considered my fears but challenged me to move beyond them.
When I walked in, I could do ONE push up from my knees. ONE! I could not hang from the bar and had to work with an empty training bar (15#s). I could not do squats. I ‘squatted’ onto a box. EVERYTHING was scaled. After a year, much of it still is. But Justin set me up to succeed one rep at a time. When I would say, “I can’t do…” He would say, “Not YET!” or “I know you can’t, but you CAN…” So now I can hang from the bar, do some kip swings, scalp pull-ups, and knees to waist. I can lift-real weights, guys! I can dead lift, push-press, power clean, back and front squat. I LOVE it! Why had no one ever told me before girls could lift REAL weights! It’s exhilarating! I can even do a few regular push-ups now, but mostly I use a band around my arms to prompt me and teach proper positioning. After squatting to a box when I started, I moved to squatting to a wall ball, then nothing. And I can get below parallel just fine.
Our coaches are not afraid to tell you they are proud of you-and mean it! They encourage me to do a bit more each day than I did the day before, never settling for just “good enough”. Justin has also learned a little bit about my personality when it comes to challenging me to push myself. Once, when I was not squatting below parallel during a WOD (Workout of the Day) in which front squats were programed, he asked, “Do I need to get the training bar out for you since you can’t get low enough with that weight?” I heard the sarcasm in his voice. I think I gave him an ugly look when I told him NO and then did the squats right. He laughed as he walked away, saying, “There ya go.”
So yes, I NEEDED Adamas CrossFit, the coaching team, and the people of CrossFIt. I still do! I haven’t lost a whole lot of weight. About 30# this year and 26″ inches. I’ve gone from a size 22/23/2x or 3x pants to a 16 and while I was wearing 3x shirts to be comfortable I just purchased some larges. I still feel uncomfortable walking into a clothing store. I have a sense I don’t belong. Even if it’s a wrong sense. I also often think there are areas I can’t scooch through, but when I try, I get through it without an issue. I often feel like an imposter when I wear the box’s T-shirt that says, Athlete. I know that when others see me who do not know my journey they likely still see an out of shape “fat girl”. And yes, I could reign in my nutrition some more. BUt for the first time in years, I am confident and I am hopeful!
That said, I don’t necessarily want to tell you about what I have lost. I want to tell you about what I have gained.
- Strength! I LOVE lifting! I wish I’d have known about this when I was younger! It’s soooo empowering!
- Muscles! I didn’t even know I had those-ever. And I’m actually starting to see some abs! My husband has even given me a new nickname: “Muscles”!
- Endurance and Agility! I move faster than I did (Which is still not fast, but I am getting better every day. I don’t think I’m quite as slow as the turtle through Peanut Butter I used to compare myself to.)
- Confidence! I’m not afraid to try new things and actually want to challenge myself more. One of my worship leaders has told me she has notice I walk in on Sundays with a new level of confidence.
- Knowledge! About my body and how it works, how to eat, what to eat. (Hey, I have my good days and bad days here.) And I’ve learned so much more. There may be MATH involved! Math is not my strong suit. Athletes seem to be pretty good at math!
- A ROCKIN’ SUPPORT SYSTEM AND ACCOUNTABILITY TEAM! This is found in the awesome coaches and the amazing people I get to work out with every day! I cannot say enough good things about these people. They are WHY I keep coming back. Any preconceived stereotypical ideas I had about athletes have been destroyed by these people. They are smart, strong, powerful, encouraging, empowering, accepting, and…well, you get the point! As an introvert I have learned to love, (yes, I said love), being around others. These people propel you to be better, to do greater things, to go farther than you ever thought you could. When I couldn’t go because of a two week quarantine, I missed these people! I sat at my window singing “I want to be where the people are.” while thinking about my friends at the box.
- Functional Fitness is a real thing! I can lift my cast iron skillet and open jars. I can swing my grand-babies around and chase them. I can get down on the floor with them and then get back up without crawling to the closest piece of furniture to help pull myself back up. I lifted heavy boxes to help my parents move. People tell me I am strong. I love this! THIS IS WHY I JOINED: to be STRONG!
One of the definitions of strong is to be able to withstand great force or pressure. Let me tell you, functional fitness is more that lifting heavy weights, jumping rope, push-ups, pull-ups, or box jumping. It’s more than building muscle and cardiovascular endurance. Yes, these things are important, fun, crucial. But it is more! It makes us MORE! Because even though we grow to withstand great force or pressure in and on our bodies, we grow to do the same emotionally as well. We are stronger-INSIDE AND OUT!