The Fat Girl

All my life I’ve been the Fat Girl. I don’t remember the exact point in time that I realized that I was bigger than most of the other girls my age, but I do remember having to lie down on the bathroom floor in kindergarten because I couldn’t get my jeans to button. I have always been the chubby friend. I was called Baby Shamu by boys on the bus when I was 7. I wore a t-shirt with the movie poster of Titanic on it, and a girl in my class asked why I had a picture of myself on my shirt when I was 10. Even though I cheered for 7 years and played softball for 12 years, I was often the biggest on my team and consistently ordered larger uniforms than anyone else. I couldn’t share clothes with my friends. I remember going swimming at the creek with my friend, Lindsey, when were 15 and hearing someone say, “Man, when did she get tits?” referring to Lindsey and, “How much do you think that one weighs?” referring to me.

My point is, even though I was athletic, I was overweight. There was a very short period between 18 and 20 where I worked out every day – sometimes twice a day, regularly took Adipex, and had a strict 1200 calorie diet. I got small then, but still didn’t consider myself skinny, and still wasn’t happy. As soon as I got married, I quit working out every single day (as one does) and obviously could not maintain my 1200 calorie per day lifestyle. A real shocker here: I started gaining weight. I accepted a long time ago that being small was not in the cards for me unless I dedicated all of my energy to it. And, frankly, that’s just not something I’m willing to do. I refuse to arrive at death having strived for an unattainable body image so intensely that I missed out on life. But that’s a blog post for another day.

I’ve tried everything. Spinning, Zumba, Yoga, Kickboxing, Pilates, Body Pump, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, pole dancing, Beachbody, line dancing, Kayla Itsines, Insantiy, P90X, and so on and so on. None of these stuck. I took a mixed martial arts exercise class called Body Combat when I was 17, and I loved it so much I became certified to teach it when I was 18. A few years and 2 cross country moves later I had to cancel my certification because I couldn’t keep paying for it, so that fell by the wayside too.

Then I started CrossFit.

Cross Country CrossFit

I’ve been a part of CrossFit gyms in Georgia, California, and Virginia. I always loved the people. We would always get close to the members and the coach. I was never necessarily good at it though, and would often finish last. I would love it, then I would feel discouraged with it, then I would love it, and then we would end up moving.

I was competitive and hated losing, and I’ve always had the “well if I’m not good at it, I’m not even going to try it” mentality, which often got in the way of CrossFit for me. I would leave workouts feeling discouraged. I would think, “I should feel proud of myself for busting my ass, not discouraged for being the last one finished.” We never found a gym in Virginia we really liked and we missed our community in Georgia and California.

Fast forward a couple of years, a baby, and a move back to our hometown.

Chase wants to join a CrossFit gym here in Albany again. Fuck that, I thought. I’ve gained a lot of weight after having Law – partly because of, you know, having a baby, but also because I now have a thyroid disorder, haven’t worked out in 2 years, and haven’t exactly been eating the best. “You can go, but there’s no way I am. I’m done with CrossFit.”

As I usually do, I ate my words. I joined CrossFit Dreadnought about 8 months after Chase did. I was proud of myself for starting, but I was scared. I had to work through panic attacks during some WODs. But it was different than before. I wasn’t competitive. Maybe it’s the atmosphere here, or maybe I’ve grown. Maybe both. I wasn’t truly consistent until I left my job (more about that here), but now I go at 9am nearly every weekday, and I love it. LOVE IT.

This is what I’ve been missing.

And I got to thinking… What is it about CrossFit?

Why is CrossFit so popular? Why do CrossFitters have such a reputation? Why do some people call CrossFit a cult? Why do people get so attached to their box (gym) and the other members who go there? What makes it so different from other types of gyms and programs?

Exercise = Good

Duh. It’s not an unknown concept that exercise is good for us. It makes us healthier. It makes us happier. It makes us have more confidence. It helps us sleep better. It makes sex better. It gives us more energy. This can be true of any type of exercise, but CrossFit is different, for me, because it is so intense. It burns more calories, it makes me overall stronger, and it gives me more energy than other programs.

Also, unlike many other gyms and programs, we have our own coaches. Our coaches watch us, make sure we are doing the motions correctly, can give us targeted stretches if we’re feeling tight or especially sore, and cheer us on.

So, exercise = good, but CrossFit = great.

Vulnerability

CrossFit requires vulnerability. It’s scary as shit to walk into that box for the first time. It’s scary to do your first WOD (and honestly, a lot of people still get nervous before each WOD [workout of the day] even if they’ve been doing it for years). It can be uncomfortable when you feel like you’re on the edge of death and there are people you don’t know all around you.

And it can be ten times more terrifying if you’re 100 pounds overweight.

Did I mention my husband is amazing at CrossFit? He recently got his level 1 certification. He’s strong as shit and just overall an amazing athlete. And, well, I’m not. Going to CrossFit and hearing “You’re Chase’s wife?” is vulnerability.

I’ve been reading a lot of Brene Brown’s work, and she’s an expert on vulnerability. (I encourage you to look up her TED Talk if you haven’t already.) Basically, vulnerability is essential to courageous living. It’s essential for living in strength. It’s essential to risk the discomfort of embarrassment and humiliation in order to improve. No risk, no reward. There’s so much pride on the other side of that vulnerability. It’s so worth it.

Shared Pain

This is the most interesting concept to me, and one that makes my psychology-loving heart happy. Research shows us that pain has positive social consequences – meaning that pain can act as a “social glue” that promotes solidarity and connection in groups. Psychological scientist and lead researcher of the study, Brock Bastian, states, “Our findings show that pain is a particularly powerful ingredient in producing bonding and cooperation between those who share painful experiences.”

I think this is the heart of it. The same people show up at the same time every day to go through an hour of suffering and pain together – and the insane part about it is that we enjoy it. We get closer through it. We do the WOD, and as we are sweaty and panting afterward, we look around and shake our heads in unison. We all acknowledge how hard it was. We all embrace the suck, together. Some of us do RX (prescribed weight), and some of us modify the WOD. Some of us finish fast and some of us finish last. But we do it together. It makes us stronger. It makes us family.

Family

I’m not fast. I don’t have a lot of endurance. CrossFit doesn’t come easy to me. So why do I keep coming back to it?

Because these people become family. The CrossFit gyms that I’ve loved, I’ve loved because of the people. The community. We work hard and play hard. We go out for drinks together. We celebrate birthdays together. We hang out on the weekends together. At CrossFit Dreadnought, a lot of us go to church together. It’s unlike any other gym or workout program, not because the programming is superior (even though it might be, but I’m not here to argue that), but because of the people.

Our family is made up of all kinds of people. There are kids, adults, and seniors. There are both men and women. There are different sizes, different abilities, different races, different beliefs. There are a lot of differences, but we’re all there for the same thing: to get better. To improve. And we do it together.

That’s what makes CrossFit so different. That’s why people think it’s like a cult. That’s why you don’t have to wonder if someone does CrossFit – they’ll tell you. That’s why we’re proud. It’s not just a gym. It’s not just an exercise program. It’s a family. Whenever you’re ready to drink the Kool-Aid, we’d love for you to join us.

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