CrossFit - a training ground for life.
Last weekend, my mum said to me: “Your sport has changed you a lot. You are more grounded and seem happier”. Usually she always has something to say about my physical appearance. Sometimes I'm “too thin”, sometimes my shoulders are “a bit too big” but she definitely has seen my physical change over the years. It was quite surprising hearing her acknowledging my mental transformation.
While the physical change is quite obvious to all and important to me, it is just the tip of the iceberg.
I feel different on so many levels. I am stronger both mentally and physically, more confident, empowered, alive. I’ve embarked on a journey to becoming a better version of myself which is not limited to the gym.
And it is because CrossFit is a microcosm of life.
By nature, CrossFit wants to prepare you for life. The aim of those “constantly varied functional movements performed at high intensity” is to physically prepare you for everything and anything. It is designed to improve health and fitness in life.
But because it is very demanding on the body, in order to progress well and feel well, it also demands a change of lifestyle. Implementing that change brings a lot of precious lessons, which are ultimately changing more than our body and nutrition.
A school of dedication and consistency
In training sessions or in the kitchen, it is a matter of dedication and consistency. It is about keeping your goal in mind even if it seems distant and even if the temptations are numerous, very appealing and immediately rewarding.
It means going to a training session, even if it’s cold, dark, you’re tired and you would rather be on your couch watching Netflix.
It means making sure you consistently get enough sleep, even if there are a million of more exciting things to do.
It means saying no most of the time to highly processed and/or sugar packed food, even if your colleague has brought to work chocolate boxes and mince pies leftover from home.
It is prioritising your goal, even if it seems alien to people around you.
It is saying to your friends things like “No thank you, I will not have another pint / glass of wine.” or “I’m not drinking today”.
“Yes I am available this evening, but after training.”
It is making reasoned compromises between a fulfilling social life and working towards your goal.
The same is applicable to anything you want to achieve like studying, developing a business, writing a book...
Whatever your goal is, to make substantial progress, it needs to become a priority and to a certain extent, your life needs to be rearranged around it. Life will never get less busy, distractions will always be there in one form or another. Find a way, not an excuse.
Playing the Long Game
We are not following a “30 days to get a beach body” programme. We want to create sustainable health and fitness and as for any big project, that type of result doesn’t happen overnight. There is no shortcut or hack. Big things happen when we keep making small changes over time. It is a long mental and physical process.
On that road, there are times when we are having fun, other times when we have to do things we don’t like or aren’t very good at. There are times when we feel proud and motivated because we can clearly see that our efforts are paying off. But also other times when everything feels slow and challenging. There will be fluctuations, plateaus, even setbacks. That’s when it is crucial to stay on track and carry on.
My journey to fitness made me reflect a lot on mindset and realise how crucial our mental state is and how much it influences our actions and their outcomes.
The investment of my time and energy in CrossFit comes with an emotional charge that constantly challenges me on things I need to work on. During training and competitions, things come up like my fear of not being good enough, not being truly seen, anxiety, doubt, negativity… Whenever I catch myself in a bad mental state, it pushes me to examine the trigger, how I deal with the emotion it creates, the consequences and how to better deal with it next time it happens.
I was already interested in self development before I started training, but it feels like it accelerated the process, making it more tangible.
CrossFit provides me with a physical and mental training ground in which I do what I can to gather favourable conditions in order to perform at my best.
Pushing our limits - Growth
Not stopping just because it gets hard is a good life skill by itself, and in training we practice it all the time. By pushing our limits and embracing discomfort on a regular basis we gradually become stronger, physically and mentally.
I’ve written more extensively about the benefits of getting out of our comfort zone, in the gym and in life in this article.
The importance of community
I don’t know if it comes from the fact we’re going through intense sh*t together, but a BIG part of CrossFit is its amazing community.
We come from completely different backgrounds, with all sorts of different personalities and different lives. But when we gather around our passion, none of that matters anymore.
We support each other daily in small but very powerful ways:
By giving each other tips.
By acknowledging and celebrating everyone’s progress and victories - whether it’s a massive lift or somebody doing a pull up for the first time.
By sympathising on bad days. We all have those sometimes. Well done for coming and doing the work anyway.
By challenging each other.
By strongly (sometimes loudly) encouraging and pushing each other. If one struggles but holds on, there will be shouts and intense supportive stares until that person has given his/her best.
A big part of each other’s progress is due to that push and support. Most of us would never have got to our current fitness level alone at the gym. Personally, I would have given up a long time ago.
And I think, in our modern individualistic society, it is something to ponder on. For the benefit of all, we might need to give each other a bit more of that.
Thanks to CrossFit, I am excited about the future and willing to take the risk to dream big. I am less scared about the height of the next mountain I want to climb because I know to take things step by step. I know that following your own path is not easy but I am willing to give it my best shot. Because I have seen that with love for our goal, consistent work, dedication, self-reflection, support and patience, we can achieve great things that once seemed impossible.