CrossFit and the Corner of Shame
I moved to DC from Florida last summer. When winter rolled around, I faced a series of jarring discoveries: first, that flip-flops are not, in fact, year-round-appropriate footwear; second, that scarves are not just big floppy fabric necklaces and are actually necessary for survival. I’m a sunshine- and social-interaction-fueled being, and when my intake of Vitamin D and outdoor adventures went into winter-induced hibernation last year, I took it hard.
By the end of winter, I had essentially taken to sitting in my studio apartment in my bathing suit, with a fanny pack and sunglasses, maniacally chanting lyrics to tropical Jimmy Buffett songs. When spring arrived, I thawed and returned to normal . . . except that “normal” started to include sobbing tears of joy every time I went outside.
When I felt winter coming on again this year, I knew that I had to do something to keep myself sane. I needed a bit more accountability fitness-wise, and I definitely needed some increased social interaction. And so, I did something drastic.
Folks, I joined a CrossFit gym.
Now if you have ever read anything I’ve ever written, I’m sure that you could come up with about 1,000 reasons why joining CrossFit would be a questionable decision, based on my history of awkwardness and general disposition for falling down in public places. I am sure that if you know me personally or have ever seen me work out, your level of skepticism is exponentially higher.
But who am I to let a little thing like being the most awkward person in the history of the world stop me from trying out something new?
Additionally, I had a lengthy discussion with a CrossFit coach about their training methodology, philosophy and overall view on safety (BTW, I highly recommend a discussion like this before joining any gym) and I decided that if there was any CrossFit that might be able to handle the awkward blonde shitstorm that was coming their way, it was this one.
I arrived the first day, intimidated for sure. Everyone was super friendly, though. The coach introduced herself, and I started to relax a little. I took a look at the workout on the board and was thrilled that I recognized all the words (in this case, shoulder press and dips), and started to think that this was going to be okay.
Well folks, eight months off of any sort of actual weight training does not make re-entry easy. The most painful part of this workout? The blow to my ego.
About halfway through the workout, those workout words I recognized were WAY harder than I remembered. I really wanted to impress my new friends, and so I pushed as hard as I could.
And then it happened.
My new coach walked over and said, “I think we are probably done for the day. Why don’t you go work on some stretching and mobilization?”
Yep, it was not even halfway through the workout, and everyone else was still hammering through reps. Here’s what went on in my mind:
First thought: I can do more! I might dislocate a shoulder, but it’s cool! They go back into place.
Second thought: I think this might be the Corner of Shame.
Third thought: This is my perfect CrossFit.
Here’s the deal: CrossFit sometimes gets a not-so-positive reputation for pushing people past the limit in terms of safe training, and this was largely the reason that my awkward ass never tried it. But in stark contrast to this industry image, this coach proactively stopped me as soon as my form was anything but perfect. And as I sat in the corner eating large servings of (Paleo) humble pie while stretching my hammies, I realized that I’d found my perfect match.
Now, it is worth mentioning that I was the literally the only one in the room that noticed I had been sidelined. The folks I was working out with (at first) and then watching work out (for the rest of the time) all came up to me after, told me what a great job I had done, how impressive it was that I hung in there, and that they hoped I was coming back. To everyone else in the room, the Corner of Shame was just a seamless part of the experience, and arguably one of the most important and necessary components of training.
Folks, I got put in the Corner of Shame at least 3 more times. But honestly, I started really liking it there.
Was it awkward to be the only one not working out? Of course!
But I am no stranger to awkward, and I started to really trust the coaches, and know that they were not going to ask me to do anything I was not ready for. That trust is a hugely crucial part of any fitness experience.
It’s been about 6 weeks now, and I haven’t seen the Corner of Shame in about a month. I feel myself getting stronger. And, more importantly, it is 40 degrees and raining today, and I know my workout will be the highlight of the day.
Now, let’s not paint this into a perfect picture of “out-of-shape girl joins CrossFit and miraculously transforms into superfit and coordinated CrossFit champ.” This is me we are talking about, and who am I to withhold the awkward bumps in the road from you? Lucky for you, my new CrossFit home takes many pictures and posts them on Facebook, thereby providing visuals for the awkwardness. Here are a few, with captions added by me:
Sometimes I think I am too short for CrossFit. I keep expecting them to come out with a sign that says, “You must be this tall to ride this ride” and then kindly asking me to wait to rejoin until after I hit puberty. That has not happened yet, so in the meantime there are a lot of tippy toes involved in my CrossFit experience.
I never realized this, but it appears that the size of my chin is inversely proportional to the amount of weight I am trying to pick up. Maybe one day I will have a chin while weightlifting, but I’m not really holding out much hope.
I could write an entire post just about my infamous Ugly Workout Face. When I worked out with my trainer back in Florida, gym members would approach us during our sessions inquiring as to whether or not I was okay. She would always respond, “She’s fine. Her face just does that when she works out.” It appears that my Ugly Workout Face has followed me to DC, prompting one of my new coaches to cue me during a workout to “relax my face.” It’s not a good look, but it’s been captured on camera for your amusement.
Now, it should go without saying that not all CrossFit gyms are created equal . . . and that actually goes for all gyms of any variety. While I sincerely believe in powering through the awkward intimidation inherent in starting any new program, I also think it is important to acknowledge that you have to be in tune to what motivates you.
I’m a tiny little competitive person.
Lifting weights makes me feel badass.
Finding a CrossFit gym that can keep me safe while also fostering these elements of my personality has been a game changer.
I sincerely believe that exercise and nutrition can be some of the most powerfully transformative ingredients any of us has access to, but it would be a huge mistake to believe that there is any one-size-fits all approach.
So, do your research.
Finish the question, “Wouldn’t it be badass if I . . .
. . . could run a 5K?”
. . . could not need a nap in the afternoon?”
. . . could do a pull up?”
. . . could feel healthier?
And then start looking for ways to get there. Don’t let a little dose of awkward be the thing that stands in the way of finding your perfect fitness fit. As a former fitness professional, I can assure you we are all motivated to help you find your way there, even if that means directing you to another studio or type of training.
Exercise has literally transformed my life on multiple occasions (bad break up, stress relief, career transitions, overall empowerment, how I see myself), and it has looked different each time. What is so cool is that I am watching it happen again. I think it’s safe to say that what started out as a winter coping strategy is quickly turning into something much more important in my life.
But this isn’t just about CrossFit. This is about taking the reins, taking a risk, pushing through a little bit of intimidation to take control over a piece of your life. It would be the most unfair of generalizations to say that exercise is about losing weight, although that vernacular is extremely pervasive. Do not put a box around what you think being healthier can accomplish in your life. Allow health to look like a community of people, a healthy hobby that is the highlight of your day, modeling of a lifestyle for your children and family, a way to be your best self.
I know this sounds super cheesy, and I would be rolling my eyes right alongside you if it wasn’t absolutely true.
Would I put a picture of my invisible chin on the internet if I didn’t believe this stuff?
So get out there.
Make an ugly workout face and get placed in the Corner of Shame. Push yourself to the outer boundaries of your comfort zone. Because I assure you: that’s where all the awesomeness happens.