Sunday, March 27, 2016

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Pain

When I was halfway through the CrossFit Opens I realized that I had hit the six month mark in this fitness journey I have been on. I consider myself to be very much "in progress", but I wanted to reflect on some of the moments that have shaped me and where I am now.

Six months ago, in mid-September 2015 I realized I could not keep going as I had been. I was two and a half years into my first-ever sedentary job, and while I wasn't eating poorly, I could have been doing better by myself. Of course, the other piece of this, and one that many of my close friends and family are already aware of, is that I struggle with Clinical Depression, and six months ago I could feel myself dipping. I have successfully managed my depression without medication for many years, and I know that makes me lucky compared to many I know. I do not and did not want to go back on the drug regimen that had previously left me feeling alternately zombie-like and jittery, and so I went in search of another solution.

I woke up one day needing to make a change, and so almost immediately I started to search for Boot Camps. Why Boot Camp? I was looking for overall conditioning. Even in those early days, I knew I would place more value on gaining strength rather than being skinny. Finding no Boot Camps convenient to home or work, I settled on CrossFit. I was nervous (see: previously mentioned sedentary life). I found CrossFit Coolidge Corner, about halfway between work and home, and sent them an email asking basically "How hard is this going to be for me?". I was invited to try a class to check it out. One Sunday morning I unsuspectingly walked into my first class, not really knowing what I was in for. I honestly don't recall what we did that day, but I couldn't walk right for an entire week - this is not an exaggeration (ask Rachael)- naturally, I went back gleefully two weeks later.

In that first month I was self-conscious in almost every class. I felt old, slow, out of shape, but there was a shift. I started to recognize that I was comparing my performance to that of others in class, and there is not a lot of space for that in CrossFit. Every person in the box is on their own fitness journey. I think most of us just want to be stronger, faster, fitter than the person we were yesterday, so instead of comparing myself to them, I had to compare myself to me.

Fast forward six months...

Here is what I know after six months of CrossFit and Yoga. I am stronger, fitter and faster. Period. Each class I walk into is a moment in time when I am at my strongest and fittest, tomorrow I will be stronger, I will work harder, I will move faster.

I am at my mental healthiest I have probably ever been in my life. My supervisor at work has noted that I manage stress at work better, and I seem less anxious when things that are out of my control at work try to take over my day. I have been able to continue to manage my depression without medication.

Each week of the CrossFit Opens presented me with challenges I would have walked away from six months ago. Opens workout 16.5 was hard, harder than I expected. I was confident going into it, I had hoped to finish in 18 minutes, it took me over 25 minutes, but I did not fail myself because I kept going.

The number one lesson I have taken away from this experience is that in the middle of 16.5 my internal voice took a turn for the decidedly negative. I felt weak, I thought I was going to vomit, I wanted to cry. At one point I couldn't get the weight overhead, I threw the bar down, turned my back on the bar, cursed. I could hear so many people urging me on, the support of an entire team telling me that I could finish, just keep moving, one rep at a time. I turned back to the bar, I finished. It was painful, but I did it. 

What I realized yesterday is that there was a time in my life when I would have walked away, and there is only one person I would be letting down if I had done so- me. This is not just about CrossFit, and it is not just about physical power. This about pushing yourself to be the best version of you in every aspect of your life.

I want to give a huge shout out to the Coaches and my fellow athletes at CrossFit Coolidge Corner. Without your support and thoughtful encouragement I would not be where I am now.