When I first started CrossFit 4 years ago it was the best part of my day. Every day was a learning experience and I had no bearings to compare my times or lifts to. With no idea of what constituted “good” there was no pressure. Every PR was new territory and not being able to pull a 200lb deadlift didn’t bother me one bit, except for the fact that Jody could do it. All I knew was I liked the new challenge, felt inspired by pushing my athletic abilities again, and loved the exhausted feeling after a WoD trying to sign the white board with shaking hands.
Some time after my first Regionals I had a feeling I could be good at the sport of exercise and decided to get more serious about recognizing my potential. I still didn’t have my sights set on the Games until I won the Open in the SE the following year. At that point, I realized I was close, and placing 4th at Regionals stung.
Hating my life and my hands after the 2011 Regionals!
Even after the sting, workouts were still fun (keeping in mind it doesn’t have to be fun to be fun) and with a full time job, lots of sweat, a bit of blood, and sometimes tears the PRs came often and I transformed myself that year. Things got a bit more stressful towards Regionals again because it was so much more of a big deal to me to make it that year. I did well and approached the Games with pure determination and expectations of myself, but no external pressure or expectations from others.
Me and Mom in the 2012 Regionals photo booth.
2012 CrossFit Games
After making the podium in 2012 I came home elated, and for a few months I was on air. Then after a coaching change going into 2013 and dealing with what I know now was adrenal fatigue, the pressure to do well got to me. I was working 30 hours a week and training hard, but it wasn’t as much fun anymore. Before the Games I even thought a few times if I win that will be nice because then I can quit. I guess you could say I was burned out. I stressed over bad workouts and always felt the weight of the Games in the back of my head. I also didn’t feel like myself in the gym. I know I was so burned out when the Games finally came around I didn’t put my whole heart into the middle days for sure. By the last day I didn’t care as much about the leader board any more because I felt like I was out of the running anyway. I just said screw it and went hard and wallah, a 3rd place, 2nd place, and 1st place. Realizing I was only 6 points from the podium again after it all played out made me regret my attitude the middle days.
Somehow this feeling 2 years in a row makes it all worth it!
I’m not sure when I had a paradigm shift this year, but at some point it just sort of hit me that although the podium is what we strive for, the journey is the true reward. By focusing so much on the outcome, I had robbed myself of the joy of training and forgotten that I was already really living my dream. A dream which I sort of always had, but never had a way to recognize before CrossFit came about. It almost sounded silly in my mid 20′s to tell people my dream job would be to be a professional athlete, but I always knew it was. I had just given up on it since I was almost 30 and obviously wasn’t going to the olympics in anything. If you had told me 4 years ago it would happen, I would have laughed. I know I only make a tiny fraction of what NFL players make, but it’s still enough for me to work part time, work out part time, and be comfortable. That’s pretty awesome! Working out is a part time job that I would do for free. Heck I would pay to do it and did just a couple years ago!
and still finding time to play!
With that in mind what sense does it make not for me to enjoy the hell out of every day of it? This realization has helped me to live in the now, be happier in the gym, and wouldn’t you know improve as an athlete again. I even had one friend tell me I’m like a totally different person this year. Happier, nicer, and she thinks it’s great. The nicer part actually made me sort of sad that I wasted a year being stressed and obviously not as nice to those around me.
Me and some of my favorite CrossFit babes of the Southeast, Liz Bland and Lauren Brooks.
A nice highlight starting out the 2014 season at the East Coast Championships.
I guess my point with all this is I know CrossFitters are super driven people who strive to attain their goals, but when progress towards those goals comes at the sacrifice of finding fulfillment in the journey itself you’ll never recognize your full potential anyways. You also won’t be enjoying what is supposed to be your passion and one of the best parts of who you are. Obviously goals are a great thing to have, and I’m not saying you shouldn’t put your heart and soul into them. I’m just saying don’t let your dreams rob you of the joy in your life and the reason why you started chasing them in the first place (because it was fun)!
Sounds easy to say, but hard to do, especially for worriers like myself. Here’s something that might help, make a list of things you’re grateful for. One of which should be the physical ability and opportunity to participate in CrossFit in the first place. Every day we get to go into the gym and move our bodies in virtuositous (yep new word) ways is a gift. Also, realize that the only way to achieve your full potential is by living in the moment of each workout. Ever tried to snatch while your mind was elsewhere? How did that go? Lastly, get outside yourself so you can see the awesome people surrounding you in the gym. CrossFitters are a unique breed, and while sometimes obsessive, they know how to live and can provide great entertainment and community. They’re the reason I could never work out in a garage gym for very long. They’re also one of the greatest reasons after no one wants to watch me exercise anymore I will still be doing it.