Here are some things that The Crossfit Place has helped me learn or consolidate, what it’s contributed to my life, and why I wouldn’t want to be without it:
It shows me the value of functionality.
Looking good and fitness are so often paired up, with people searching for a lean body or massive muscles! That wasn’t my aim when I joined Crossfit but what I’ve come to realise more strongly over time is how beautiful bodies are. They are incredible, not because of how they look but because they work; I know how hard life is when they don’t work as they should. I find it just as amazing seeing the new Crossfitters as those who have been doing it for a while, because whatever stage we’re at it’s wonderful how much potential we have in our bodies and minds, even when there are physical limitations to deal with.
It gives tangible results.
When I perform a trombone solo people may like it, or not; I may think I’ve done my best, or not; and competition results are sometimes even more confusing. In Crossfit you can set your muscles into the right position and lift: 50kg. Not quite a PB but it felt lighter than last time – I’ll try a heavier weight and see if I can still keep good form. I can put emotional input on the backburner and focus on the physical, which seems to help with nerves too.
I’ve noticed a change in my trombone playing recently: I focus on my breathing and on the way I stand. I connect with myself physically and switch off what’s around me until I’m relaxed. I still use my emotions in the performance but am more able to switch off unhelpful emotions, thinking about my feet planted in the ground and my hands curled around my instrument...
It helps me to scale effectively.
I’m a perfectionist by nature. I used to think that if I couldn’t write a good journal entry every single day I wouldn’t bother at all. Obviously this is silly but it’s an easy trap to fall into. Everything in Crossfit is scalable and, if you have great coaches as I do, you’ll always be given a way to make it manageable. It doesn’t hinder your progression; it’s essential for achieving it. It doesn’t make you a lesser Crossfitter either; you’re a runner if you run – no matter how badly, slowly, or short the distance!
I’ve learnt that it helps if I set a timer and write solidly for fifteen minutes at a time. It reminds me of WODs: short, intense and to the purpose. Sometimes I imagine I’m working out – 15-minute AMWAP (‘as many words as possible’!). I’m getting better at setting myself realistic goals – I now write my journal every day but without pressurising myself to write every detail.
It distracts me.
Yes, Crossfit can hurt like crazy and you know that afterwards you’ve got to go home and deal with all that stuff...Wait, what was it again? The busier I am the more comfort I get from going to Crossfit because my thoughts are completely glued to the moment and nothing else matters. It’s not possible to think about much else! I can leave all the busyness, stress and work outside the door, and when I’m done the endorphins help me to deal with things more positively. (It can be difficult to get up the next morning though – stretch properly next time, Hannah!)
It makes me properly tired.
I often struggle to drop off at night – my brain tends to be stubborn and stay switched on. The best feeling in the world is getting under your duvet at the end of the day when every part of your body is falling asleep: physical tiredness. If you have an active job and are on your feet a lot of the day then maybe the novelty wears off! But I spend a lot of time sitting down and my head is often too busy. I get to sleep much better if I’ve been to Crossfit – too well sometimes: napping for three hours in the early evening just isn’t a good idea!
It gives me another tribe.
Like-minded people. I’m blessed to have friends and family who share my enthusiasm for writing, and they not only give me technical advice but, more importantly, encouragement and support. It’s the same with Menai Bridge brass band – I fitted in with the people and my music benefitted as a result. I think whatever you do it’s invaluable to have a bunch of freaks around you who see things in a similar way!
I look forward to seeing people at Crossfit, knowing that they care about how I’m feeling and will support me to the end of a WOD, and hopefully I do the same for others. We’re there because we love it, and it’s great sharing in other people’s achievements and encouraging each other to keep going, particularly when it gets tough or your hormones are telling you not to bother.
It helps me to do my best.
It’s okay to struggle. It’s okay to nearly faint when you have to do burpees. It’s okay not to be able to do a strict (‘proper’) push-up. It’s okay to get upset when, after all the effort, you end up knocked out with a migraine. As a severe-headache and migraine sufferer I was unsure I would be able to do any sort of vigorous exercise but I decided it was important to try.
I went into it with an open mind and it was easy to do in some ways because my expectations were rock bottom. I didn’t know if I could stick at it and so the worry, and self-inflicted pressure, wasn’t there. I tried to relax into the ‘regime’ and knew that as long as I got in the car and went to do my best each time, then that was enough.
It shows me what might be possible.
I’ve always loved the idea of running – I was transfixed watching the Olympic athletes. I tried going for early-morning runs a few times when I was younger. I managed about 500m at the furthest and ended up having three severe migraines within two weeks: three days unable to eat or drink and in complete agony. Impossible. It would have been easy to let it end there.
This year on 1st March I was playing with the band at the Anglesey Half Marathon. I had such an adrenaline rush watching people run past – I said, ‘Next year that’s going to be me’. I only half believed my words! I knew that it would take a long time to build up to it but, inspired by the confidence Crossfit had already given me, I started by conquering 800m without walking or stopping.
Two weeks ago I completed a 5k race (and much quicker than I anticipated). Last Saturday I managed to run 10k. I’m fitting in my running around Crossfit, getting stronger and gaining more stamina all the time. I haven’t managed a half marathon yet – but I’m halfway there! More importantly I’ve realised I don’t have to dream about it in an abstract way anymore; it has become an achievable aim.
What I learn from Crossfit impacts other areas of my life and visa versa, which makes it even more valuable to me. This is the second spontaneous Crossfit article I’ve written this month (conceived after WODs while I was trying to shower or shove food down!), so it clearly inspires me. You might be inspired by Crossfit in similar ways, or have completely different struggles and achievements. There’s only one way to find out...
Hannah Retallick, tired and inspired 21-year-old