Diary of a CrossFitter
It’s Wednesday August 14th, 2019, 3:30 p.m.
I know I should be making myself something to eat but instead I’m chatting up a storm on the phone with my best friend.
Suddenly, it’s 4:15 p.m. and I realize my chance to eat before my first CrossFit class is gone. I walk to the colorful gym with a smile plastered on my face as I suppress the mountain of nerves in my stomach. I could do it! It’s fine! I’ll eat after!
The mountain of nerves expands to my chest. My mental narrative gets interrupted by my warm invitation from the trainer to the group. To The Muscle. The trainer resembles an Amazonian Warrior Goddess of badass ultimate fitness. I haven’t done a work out this notoriously intense since I was nineteen. I’m twenty-three. Do the math.
I channel my anxiety by talking to another new member. We connect over the fact that we both recently decided to plunge into adulthood by moving out by ourselves. It reminds me of why I’m here in the first place.
To have a place I could escape to.
To have a purpose, to act like I have a clue on what my twenty-three year old life could look like now that I’m on my own. I expected myself to feel free. Free from the nest my mom built me, free from the tension between my brother and I, free, free, free.
I was wrong. I feel terrified.
The warm up consists of running around the gym twice. I’m at the end of the line contemplating whether or not the sun is secretly plotting to slowly cook us one by one and Live Free Miami is its first target. As the work out unfolds I think about what my new friend said to me, “They won’t throw you right into it. They’ll ease you in.”
Yeah, well, we’ll see.
I recall my first experience with a CrossFit gym from four years ago. I was there for a month but I had to stop because of everything else going on in my life at the time. This feels like a refresh button.
I’ve got this, I tell myself through the blur of squats.
I’ve got this, I tell myself through the bear crawls and the lunges and the layer of sweat on my skin as everyone around me seems to be glistening with that Amazonian god-like ultimate fitness power. God damn it.
I’ve got this. Yup, I’ve got this. I’ve TOTALLY got this. My mind retaliates with a fresh batch of nerves in my head, chest, and stomach. Then, like an angel descending from heaven the owner’s daughter appears at my side telling me she’s going to teach me the back squat and the front squat.
I lock eye contact with her kind eyes as I absorb every word she says.
“So you have to make sure you’re looking forward and keep your back straight…”
My confidence grows as I watch her do the motion and she hands me the silver bar. I try it once.
“Good job,” she says. Piece. Of. Cake.
“Let’s see it again.”
I do it again and again while ignoring the scorching heat and my nerves of wanting to avoid looking stupid.
“You have pretty good form. Now let’s go for the front squat.”
I gulp. I can’t seem to ignore the heat or my nerves anymore. But I try anyway going back to my mantra of I’ve got this.
She hands me the bar and I smile at her while the gym seems to be shrinking exponentially. A knot forms in my stomach and seems to pull my chest with it. The room spins.
My nerves have won. The heat is successfully cooking us, and I am its first victim.
“I feel faint,” I tell her as I smile through my shame.
“It’s okay. If you want, you could lie down and rest your legs on the wall. That always helps me.”
I do as she says and accept my defeat. I stare at the wall as I breathe my way back to calm. I avoid glancing at my CrossFit friend killing it in the corner. I know I shouldn’t compare myself to her. The owner’s daughter (let’s call her Angela) comes back with water and a bottle of coconut water. It tastes awful but feels like I am swallowing an artic heaven.
“Thank you,” I say.
“You’re welcome. It happens to me too.”
I no longer feel faint anymore.
Then the owner, Amazonian Warrior Goddess Trainer and this golden boy of fitness pop up from the sides of my vision. They ask me how I’m feeling. They resemble curious meerkats to me. It’s comical, embarrassing, and comforting.
I tell them that I only ate a bowl of cereal at 11:30 a.m. and leave out the part that I was too nervous to eat anything else.
“Your blood sugar dropped, you’re in a new place and you feel overwhelmed. You’ve got to eat something more before coming,” the owner kindly says to me. I nod as if I don’t know that. Golden Boy agrees with him. Amazonian Warrior Goddess goes back to training The Muscle.
“You don’t have to finish the work out, you could go home,” the owner says.
I nod and smile. I haven’t moved an inch.
“Don’t worry. We’ll take care of you.” He smiles. His daughter looks at me with the same reassuring smile and in that moment, I decide to believe his words. And that maybe, just maybe this could be my new home.
Thursday, August 15th, 2019.
It’s 8:30 a.m. and I have finished my bowl of cereal.
8:40 a.m. I have finished meditating and visualizing myself breezing through the work out.
9:00 a.m. I am grateful that the sun isn’t cooking the gym at this time and that the trainer for today looks like a spanish soap opera artist. Or like Tarzan. Or Jesus.
10:00 a.m. I DID IT! I breezed through the work out like a boss ass bitch and made two new CrossFit friends!
“Alright guys that was the warm up now it’s time for the work out,” Tarzan declares.
Oh. It’s not 10:00 a.m. There’s probably at least forty minutes left. Damn it.
I recite my new mantra over and over again as I jump rope to the beat of the loud music. I’ve already done this. I’ve already done this. I’ve already done this.
The music, the sounds of the people around me slamming their weights, and the scent of chalk, sweat, and determination temporarily have me believe I am already the Amazonian Warrior Goddess I want to be.
10:00 a.m. Tarzan gives us all high fives.
Okay, yes, it’s actually 10:00 a.m. the work out is over. I’m free!
Friday. August 16th, 2019.
My alarm is on snooze. I want to keep sleeping, I want to be dreaming of a place I don’t have to do pull ups.
I remember that I’ve got to eat at least thirty minutes before the work out and crawl out of my bed. My body feels like it was at war.
Today’s work out feels like I’m at war.
I’ve got this, I think to myself as I make sure Tarzan doesn’t see me take a mini break between BURPEES and KNEE RAISES on the PULL UP BAR. The class ends with high fives and smiles. I survived. We survived. I feel good. Like, actually good.
Monday, August 19th, 2019.
I feel terrible. Everything is brutally sore. And I’m doing a modified work out.
I tell myself the music makes the work out more intense than it really is. Right?
Besides I’ll look good.
Besides this box is better than my ex box. And I’m way stronger now than I was then.
I smile at everyone through my pain. I get the feeling they’re doing the same.
Tuesday, August 20th, 2019. (A month before my twenty-fourth birthday!)
I got to the box earlier than usual, so I decided to do a quick visualization meditation. So what if people see me?
The work out began with its usual rigorous warm up. I observed The Muscle around me for inspiration and learning purposes. Then Tarzan taught us the single leg squat on the pull up bar poles.
I pretended this was a pole dancing class to amuse myself. The music seemed fitting too. Then, we moved on to handstand push-ups where I used the big wooden box to hold the lower half of my body. It was in this exercise where a piece of skin from my middle finger got ripped off! I didn’t even feel it happen.
I told Tarzan about it and he swung over to the front desk and fetched me a band-aid. I couldn’t tell if my small finger injury was a blessing or a curse but either way, I felt grateful. And most importantly, like I could keep on going. Kind of.
Wednesday, August 21st, 2019.
WOD (aka WORK OUT OF THE DAY):
Batman & Robin (aka PARTNER WORKOUT)
100 wall balls
80 russian kettlebell swings
60 cal row
40 burpee over the bar (ugh)
20 power cleans
We began with rolling our bodies on those foam roller things. Even that felt painful. It’s okay Ana. It’s only your first week. You could get a massage. You could do the yoga class.
Tarzan asked us how we were doing today as he usually did. My gorgeous friend and I laughed. I’ll call her Wonder Woman. Wonder Woman and I laughed over how crazy and painful CrossFit is while we did the warm up. It felt less intense with her by my side.
She threw the ball to the wall and caught it in a squat. I followed her.
She rowed until she got ten calories in. I followed her.
She did her burpees over the bar. I followed her. Kind of. Amazonian Warrior Goddess appeared to remind me I have to basically throw myself to the ground. UGH.
At this point I felt a rush of adrenaline as Wonder Woman and I did our power cleans side by side. The music was perfect for my internal hype. Yet as the work out finished, and my shins got bruised from accidentally hitting them with the bar I couldn’t come off the rush. I sat next to her as I stretched and waited for my body to relax.
It didn’t. And it didn’t want to clean the gym afterwards either (that is part of my job description here). Instead I got one powerful period cramp. I walked upstairs to the yoga area and away from the Metallica music ringing in my ears and felt struck by the message beautifully painted on the wall.
“Your focus determines reality.”
Your focus determines reality.
I repeated the mantra in my head while the pain left my body. The wall is right after all. I survived my first week. I made friends. I got stronger. I feel like this could be my getaway. I feel myself thriving in my power. Not just my body but the part of me that is so untamable; my mind.