Before CrossFit I was a mess. Maybe, “a mess” is the wrong term. That would imply that I was something. What I was, was nothing. I lost my fight, my drive, my will. I was merely existing. I was overweight, hitting my “PR” at 203 pounds. I was exhausted. And, boy, could I eat. At any given meal I could easily put away what most people eat in an entire day.
CrossFit was something that I had heard of, but never really had any interest in actually doing. The closet box to our home in Aurora, Colorado was situated next to the local convenience store. Watching the men and women come pouring out of the double doors on a run, or flipping tires in the parking lot filled me with mixed feelings. On one hand, I was incredibly impressed with their drive and ability, on the other hand, they looked silly.
For more than a decade I sheltered myself, protecting myself from standing out or making too much noise. Coming out of an abusive relationship, I was wilted and missing all of those aspects that made me who I was. Here I stood at the gas pump watching these incredible people who had that spark that I was missing.
On the outside, we’d laugh and joke about how “douchy” they looked, but on the inside, I wanted to be one of them. I wanted to feel strong again. I wanted to have some semblance of power.
As bad as it sounds, I also didn’t want to change. I was comfortable in my uncomfortability. I had gotten used to being overweight. I enjoyed the cheesy, greasy foods I ate. I liked staying home watching television or playing video games. Working out looked hard and I didn’t want to do anything hard. I had already been through some of the hardest times in my life and I felt that I deserved what I was. I deserved the after-effects of what I went through. These were the scars I earned.
Ultimately, I did not make the decision to start going to CrossFit, but rather it was made for me. I intended to sign up for Krav maga, but they were closed. Instead, I headed over to the box by the convenience store and started an adventure that would give me my life back.
Over the course of the last three years, a lot has changed. Yes, I got stronger and thinner, but other things changed that I wasn’t exactly prepared for.
I like to move it, move it –
I have always had loose hips and tight hamstrings. Even though I’m pretty flexible, I’m also very tight on my back side. I can cross my legs, with my feet on top, lotus pose, and still be able to place my forehead all the way to the floor, but I could not touch my toes with straight legs.
I work in IT so I am sedentary much of the day. Though standing desks are provided, I must admit, I don’t use them as often as I could, or should. Instead I sit. Not only do I sit, but I sit with my feet under me, or in cow face pose, with one leg under me and the other crossed over, on top.
I have pain in my hips and feel as though my hip has “popped out of place”. I had to be careful with the stretches that I performed and with sitting in the same position for too long. When this would happen it would be extremely painful.
With CrossFit, I have learned the appropriate ways to stretch and build strength in my lower half. I am able to settle into deeper squats without the risk of my hips popping. I am also able to do something I haven’t done since I danced as a young girl; I can touch my toes! Not only can I touch my toes, I can reach even further and place my hands on the soles of my feet!
In addition to the strength in my hips, I developed core strength. Previously, I would have to roll to one side, first, to go from lying down to sitting up. It was a process and it was frustrating. I was in my early thirties and fighting my own body to do seemingly small tasks. After several months of CrossFit, I sat up from lying in bed, simply to start my day. It was in that moment that I realized that I had achieved a huge win for my body. My core could now stabilize and move the rest of me exactly like it should!
I used to lay perfectly still taking deep, slow breaths and count my heart beats. My resting heart rate used to be 100 beats per minute. That’s wild! This was me calm?
I was first put on blood pressure medication at 26, shortly after they discovered an arteriovenous malformation in my brain. It’s fairly common, though most go undiscovered until after an aneurism or a stroke. My 135/90 blood pressure was only controlled with twice daily medication. Without the medication, I would be at a greater risk of popping my already strained arteries. After the AVM was obliterated, I remained on the blood pressure medication well into my 30’s. Thanks to poor diet, bad habits, and stress, I was still in the danger zone.
Now, my blood pressure is a beautiful 117/75 and my heart rate is a rhythmic 70 beats per minute. I am off all medications and feeling amazing!
I sweat. You sweat. We all sweat. It’s gross!
Due to a hormonal imbalance, again attributed to my weight and stressors, I didn’t sweat, even when I worked out. Weird, right? Now that I’m in better shape, eating right, and generally just a happier person, I’m a sweaty mess after each wod!
I got taller?
As my muscles developed and my form improved, I was pulled into a more upright position, shoulders back and head held high. Take that gravity!
I love you, but I’m not IN love with you –
I love food! Food is always there for you. It’s warm (when it needs to be) and fills the void. It scratches the itch. It passes the time. It’s tasty!
We depend on food to sustain us. Without food, we die. Right?
When I first started CrossFit, Dave, the owner of CrossFit South Aurora, told me that I needed to change the way that I ate and provided me with Christmas Abbot’s Badass Body Diet. He told me I had to eat bricks. BRICKS?
“A brick is a specific quantity of protein, carb and fat. This is how you will put your meals together. The number of bricks you eat is based on your plan (Modifier) and your frame size (or height).” – https://bcf21daysummerchallenge.wordpress.com/a-guide-to-the-modifiers-plan/
It took some getting used to but, eventually, I adjusted to the process of eating what my body needed, not what my mind wanted. It was a tough process, one that I still struggle with today. When I get frustrated or have a rotten day and want a snack. Or, I’ll have a terrific day and feel like I deserve a sweet reward.
I had to change my relationship with food. Food should not be a reward or a punishment. Food should sustain you. It should fuel you. Food should not control you.
The first time I did a no junk challenge, three years ago, I was irritable and felt deprived. I cut out all “junk”. No processed foods. No soda or juice. No sweets.
Initially, I focused on the “can’t haves”. Those foods that I loved, but wasn’t allowed to eat anymore. This was rough and only lead me screaming (literally) to the cupboard.
I had to change my thought process. Instead of focusing on what I couldn’t have, I decided to focus on what I COULD have. I discovered all kinds of delicious foods that I never would have because I was stuck in a junk spiral.
This change spurred another change.
By focusing on the “can’ts” and “won’ts” I was living my life under a storm cloud. Just like my aggravation with not being “allowed” eat certain foods during my no-junk fast, I was equally frustrated with the tasks I didn’t complete or the opportunities that I missed.
Instead of complaining about what I don’t have or can’t have, I try to focus on the amazing people and experiences that are all around. When the scales come out, the good definitely outweighs the bad.
Just calm down –
My first panic attack was when I was very young and they only got worse from there. I remember sitting at my desk, afraid to move, trapped in a panic attack. I wouldn’t go anywhere alone or without my phone in the off-chance that something might happen and I would be all alone.
My father told me once that we don’t fear a bad situation, we fear how we will handle that situation when it comes. He could not have been more right. No matter how much I overthought a situation I still wouldn’t know how I would react until that situation happened. More often than not, the need for my planned reactions to the multitude of inflated situations was never needed. I spent a lot of time preparing for events that never transpired.
Now I know that I am strong enough, mentally and physically, to handle just about anything! It’s not a fool-proof plan. I have my frail moments, but I am reminded of my true strength each time I step up to the bar.
It takes a lot to move that type of weight around. Physically, I have to prepare in order to get my body to pull at the right time. I have to gather my body in alignment, squeezing here, pressing there, then BAM… Lift. Mentally, there is a much larger change. It’s a change that is so subtle yet so incredibly difficult. To prepare for a lift, I have to be present. I have to live in the moment. I cannot think about that project at work. I cannot think about that conversation that went bad. I cannot think about the what ifs. I have to be here, in front of this weight, right now. Breathe in. Hold. Go.
Being present is the hardest thing for anyone with anxiety to do. It’s hard to calm the mind and just be. So now I attack each day as if I’m standing at the bar. Ready. Breathe. Work.
What you got under there?
Julie Andrews sang:
“I have confidence in confidence alone
Besides which you see I have confidence in me!” – Sound of Music: I have confidence
So, this one is more a “Me” thing. I was under the impression that, because of my size and my age, I’d never be able to wear cute outfits like the twenty-somethings. Now, I have the confidence to wear what I want and strut!
I’m sure you’ve all heard of the rule that women over a certain age should not wear mini-skirts.
Family Time –
Before CrossFit, family time consisted of sitting around the television watching other people live or playing video games, living virtual lives. This would, of course, include something sweet to eat.
Now, television time is limited. Not because there isn’t anything good on, but rather because we’re just too busy. After work, we exercise, then cook dinner together. We’ll spend the weekends exploring our surroundings. We enjoy being active and outside. More importantly, we enjoy being with each other and that is the best part of any day.
Conversations have shifted –
The CrossFit community is very much about building each other up. The loudest cheers are given to those that try their hardest, even when they don’t win. You will never find a female athlete belittling another woman about her size, her ability, or her appearance. We’re all working together to achieve our own goals. We each want the other to succeed. We each want to help anyone in any way we can. We do this because we know the struggle of coming from somewhere, being here, and wanting to go all the way over there. CrossFit is hard. Life is hard. Good people make the journey, in and out of the box, all that much easier.
This is very much the same in our home, as well. Instead of talking about others, we share experiences, thoughts and ideas. Talking bad about others was easy when that was all that we could see. Now, thanks to our community, the positives are far more defining. We offer critiques, not criticism. We offer assistance, not annoyance.
Things have certainly changed since CrossFit; Body, Mind, and Soul. Though I contribute a lot of the changes to CrossFit, I know, at the root of it all, it was in me the whole time. CrossFit simply gave me the tools to recreate myself bigger and better than I was before I lost myself.
I am grateful for the changes that have occurred, even the sweat. I look forward to seeing what else is on the horizon!
March is the founder and owner of The Barbell Beauties which she started in 2015. She is from the Philippines and currently lives in beautiful Thailand with her American husband and daughter. She is an avid Crossfitter and has just started her journey into Muay Thai (kickboxing).