And I’m alive to tell about it.
That would be the abbreviated version of what transpired last Friday, the first time I walked into a crossfit gym. I knew what I was in for – I love research and I was fully aware of the type of workouts they do. I was intimidated. A little fearful. I expected to not enjoy it. But I wanted to know if I could do it.
Here’s the longer version:
After a warm up and an explanation of the work out of the day, we were told to start. The object is to complete the steps of the workout of the day as quickly as possible.
Step 1 of 10: 200 meter dash. OK. I run sometimes. I can do 200 meters.
Step 2: Hang from the pull up bar, and pull your knees up to your elbows. Or if you’re me and new at this, just pull your knees up as far as they will go. 50 times.
I decided, I’ll do them 10 at a time. I got the first 10 done. I got 7 more. 3 more. 5 more. My hands were on FIRE. Only 25 down and I could already feel my skin screaming to stop before it blistered/ripped. The actual movement of my legs was working out my abs, but that wasn’t my problem. The problem was that it HURT my hands to have to hold my body weight. Because I’m not light. How the hell was I supposed to do 25 more? Not to mention the rest of the workout? And really, who was going to know if I didn’t quite do all 50? No one but me…
I’m not a fan of working out – I’ve discussed that before. I’d rather read a book, cook a meal, or just learn something new. But I’ve found that I can use my nerdy tendencies to my advantage. I’ve come to look at working out as an experiement. There are all these things I’ve never tried, so I try them. Can I lift this thing that many times? Can I run this far without stopping? How far can I go and how much can I lift without dying?
Dying. That’s the key.
We’ve all heard the expression ‘What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.’ Like most expressions, there is truth in it. When I was out of shape, I thought all sorts of physical activity was going to kill me. I laugh about that now. We are such a culture of extremes. We throw around words like dying, and love, and hate, without actually meaning them. Even the acronym lol is used so often I wonder whether people are actually laughing out loud every time they type it. (No way, right?) Well, I’ve been working out for a while and I haven’t died yet, and I know I’m physically stronger, but here’s the really cool part:
“The harder I work out, the more I learn about myself. So much more than I ever learned when I sat on the couch eating peanut butter cups and cheese bread sticks.”
I’ve learned, while I know I’m going to die some day, it probably won’t be while working out.
I’ve learned that if I cheat and say I finished a work out that I really didn’t, it doesn’t hurt anyone – it just means my butt will still look flabby in my jeans. And I have to live with that.
I’ve learned that my body can tolerate much more than I realize. And it’s kind of amazing to test it.
I’ve learned that sometimes I want to quit because I’m afraid of success. Not because I physically need to quit.
Over the course of the year, I’ve used the things I’ve learned about myself during my workouts, to keep me going. To motivate me. To ‘slay dragons’ that would scare me into quitting.
So last Friday, as I looked up at that bar, rubbing my hands together, gritting my teeth in pain, I started having thoughts that went something like, ‘You don’t have to do this, just walk away. You can’t hang with these people, and its fine to give up, you’re good at other things, just stick with that’…. and in that moment, I learned yet another thing about myself… sometimes I want to quit because that’s what other people expected me to do. Because there’s no way that girl, can do that. I mean, just look at her.
And that is bull $h!t. It doesn’t come from truth; it comes from coaches who treated me like a lost cause when I played sports as a kid, and teammates who made fun of me. Who actually had me convinced for years that I had no athletic abilities. That I couldn’t run, that I wasn’t strong. But no more. I don’t sell myself short.
“There isn’t anything I can’t do. There are only things I’m not very good at yet.”
I got back up on that bar. And I did the other 25 knee lifts; I didn’t cheat. And not on the rest of the workout either.
And I FINISHED. In 19 minutes. Not terrible.
I’m still sore (my obliques are screaming!). And I’m still proud of myself.
And next time, I’ll do it better.
That’s what working out can be – sweaty and uncomfortable, even painful, stressful, or embarrassing at first – but as long as you don’t cheat yourself and finish, it can be a source of great pride – wherever you are starting, whatever you are trying to do, however long it takes to complete – you can be proud. And having pride in ourselves, for going beyond what we think we’re capable of, for rising to a challenge, for not giving up, is something every person needs to feel. That kind of pride is something you can only give to yourself, and something no one can ever take from you. It makes us better people, and spills over into all areas of life.
So here is my pep talk – what is your pull up bar? That thing that’s hard that you’re not sure you can do? Go do it! Finish! And be proud today 🙂