I’ve been professionally involved in the healthcare industry for 14 years now. I’ve worked in medical transport, long-term care, and health policy. About a decade in, it became abundantly clear that health coaching, fitness, nutrition, and mindset was the path to solve our healthcare problems. Furthermore, I’m convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that lives are changed not through willpower but through relationship; relationship with community, coaches, and those that come from a different walk of life.
When I left my career in traditional healthcare, I asked myself the following questions:
- Where are adults learning new, difficult things?
- Where are adults meeting new, diverse people?
- Where are adults practicing new physical skills under the guidance of professional coaches?
- Where are adults doing all of the above for several hours per week, for years and years?
- What is the most economical way for people to access all of these?
I ended up with a “C” word.
You guessed it. To be honest I thought CrossFit was the dumbest thing in the world. Bad form, douche bags, cult-like behavior, and injuries galore. Turns out, CrossFit is more like the Wizard of Oz than I thought. From the outside it’s this intimidating, insular group of super-fit, shirtless 20-somethings with under-trained instructors screaming “one more rep!!!!” But a peek behind the curtain revealed a group of highly-motivated professionals, generous community leaders, and an environment that looked more like “Cheers” than “Full Metal Jacket.”
CrossFit probably isn’t for you, though.
I say “probably” in the strictest, most statistical sense of the word. Statistically speaking, roughly 3%-5% of the population of the United States gets the recommended amount of physical activity, eats vegetables, and gets adequate sleep. CrossFit requires that you pay attention to all of these things. Well… your body requires that you pay attention to all these things. And CrossFit requires you to use your body functionally so the two go hand-in-hand.
Why you think you can’t do CrossFit.
Most people will say they’re unable to do CrossFit because of their age, physical abilities, schedule, family, or history with exercise. I’ve yet to meet the person for whom that is true. If you peel back the onion, there’s typically self-doubt or fear underlying those reasons. Combine that with negative messaging from a now-disrupted traditional fitness industry, and you see why this thought is so pervasive.
Who is CrossFit for, then?
I think we should first define what is CrossFit. The textbook definition is “constantly varied functional movement performed at a relative high intensity.” There’s quite a bit that falls into that definition. You could fit Zumba, Yoga, and Powerlifting all into that single definition. And — across the world’s 14,000 some-odd affiliates — you’ll likely find all three.
But said differently, I describe CrossFit as: “the best practices from every discipline of fitness made accessible to the masses by professional coaches.” At our gym we do bodybuilding courses, powerlifting classes, yoga classes, nutrition coaching, half-marathon training, and the “CrossFit” you’ve likely seen on YouTube. We take the approach that anything that has a grounding in peer-reviewed science is fair game as long as our coaches can learn, master, and teach the skill.
But most people will still shy away. The sad part is that they’ll project some inner inadequacy as their reason for not trying it out. “I’m too old. I’m too fat. I’m too ___ and I could never do that.” I’d retire for a dollar every time I’ve heard that. But the truth is that CrossFit isn’t for everyone because it requires you to face those pre-conceptions about your own ability head-on. It requires that you expose yourself to failure. If you’re really really strong, there will certainly be a day in CrossFit when you’ll need to run a 5k and be humbled. The reverse is also true. I’m 10 years into this thing and I’m routinely humbled.
But, the growth I’ve experienced from repeated exposure to new and difficult things has changed my life. In my career alone, I’ve developed a confidence and tolerance for difficulty that was never there before. I’ve learned that meaningful relationships are borne of overcoming obstacles. And that doesn’t even take into account the biological benefits of regular exercise.
Probably not for you and that’s OK.
My preference is that people wouldn’t beat themselves up with negativity when they say they “could never do that.” Whether it’s travel to a foreign country, quitting a job you hate, or starting a new exercise routine you CAN do things that seem scary. Millions of people before you have done it. My hope is that your default reaction to anything that you want but are afraid of is to move toward it. More often than not, that fear is a healthy indicator that you should probably give it a go.