CrossFit is often portrayed in the media as a cult.
It is either made into a humorous parody of exercise, or a warning of dangerous activity. From the outside, CrossFit might seem like a strange, extreme hobby. But what people inside understand, what we’ve experienced and know to be true, is that CrossFit has the power to save lives, to change people for the better. Yes it helps people lose weight and get in better shape, but the true impact that CrossFit has on people runs far deeper than that.
When we are not strong enough to bear the burdens that pile upon us, we must find a way to gain strength.
Sometimes, that means literally picking stuff up and carrying it around.
I’ve watched lives transform at my gym. I’ve seen kids grow into the adults their parents always hoped they would become, and grown-ups learn to be proud of who they are for the first time in their lives.
I’ve witnessed wounds transformed into weapons.
When people step into our gym for the first time, they are typically intimidated, and often a little bit broken. Anyone who voluntarily signs up for such an extreme combination of workouts and weightlifting is searching for some kind of strength.
The “cult” community of CrossFit, the new challenges it presents every day, the continuous setting and achievement of goals, and most significantly, the constant competition between you and yourself, all contribute to the perfect formula for healing hearts, bodies, minds, and souls.
I was one of those broken people when I started CrossFit. For years, it was as though my mind was no longer mine to control. It was obsessed. All I could think about was food. I hated it, longed for it, refused it, dreamt of it. My body betrayed me soon after my mind, and I was too weak to fight back.
The first day of CrossFit, I couldn’t make it through the warm up. But something about the energy in the gym, the dedication of everyone involved, the people who refused to give up on anything kept me coming back. There were ups and downs, days of feast and famine, but every day, I grew a tiny bit stronger.
It’s been years since I’ve looked at a scale. I have no idea how much I weigh, but I know exactly how much I can clean and jerk. Somewhere along the way I lost the need to wear a certain size. The transformation came on so gradually that I hardly knew it started before it was done. One day, it felt like I could breathe again. The world felt clear and bright and crisp and sharp, like that first fine day in Autumn. I know now that I’m strong enough to overcome anything that comes my way.
There is a sub community in the world of CrossFit. One that often goes unnoticed by those with different backstories, and unacknowledged by those of us who live in it. We are the survivors, the sufferers fixed through suffering of a different sort, the unlikely lives changed by what seems simply to be exercise, the unexpected outcome of a family of fitness fanatics.
We are the victims of their own internal destruction who built ourselves back up brick by brick.
CrossFitters might wear obnoxious neons, talk too much about WODs, (workout of the day) or burst into spontaneous handstands, but underneath the buzz and the burpees lies a power that goes beyond lifting weights. CrossFit is exercise that becomes a metaphor for life, and can give people the strength to heal.
Author: Gabriella Sweezey
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: 182nd Airlift Wing/Flickr