I Cried in Crossfit the Other Day and it was Good

This is not me.

Not me. And that’s OK.

Me

Me

Last summer I attended a Crossfit competition and it looked fun! The following Monday I was in my first Crossfit class and I’ve been attending ever since. (For those who don’t know, Crossfit is a type of exercise based on functional fitness – and it’s pretty darn intense to say the least!)

Now, I’m 5”10“ tall and naturally very skinny. In the real world, this body type has typically been more desired, but in Crossfit, not so much. I stand out like a sore thumb. I am easily a head taller than almost every woman there! Plus, they all weigh more than me, have really nice arm muscles, great thighs… awesome abs. I began to crave big, cool muscles and started going to Crossfit four or five times a week. I was going to do everything possible to get that amazing strength everyone else had achieved. Until the other day…

There I was, standing in the back of the Box (it’s what Crossfitters all the gym), looking at the barbell. It was loaded with my heaviest weight yet and I needed to Power Clean it (lift it to my chest using a particular movement).  I had already given it a couple tries, and I was feeling pretty defeated because it wasn’t working and all of the other women in the class were working with much, heavier weights than I was. I started feeling upset.

Frustrated and sweating, I tried the Power Clean again, only to drop the bar in anger.

Worried that someone would notice my struggle, I silently headed to the empty front entrance of the gym. I started walking in circles, deep breathing and trying to talk myself out of breaking down into a full fledged cry. I just wanted to work at the same level as the people around me!  I just wanted to get those big, beautiful muscles that all the other women had achieved.

Finally feeling calmer, I trudged back out to face that barbell. This time, I said to myself, I’m going to do it. I’m going to Clean that bar. So, I tried again. Nothing changed and I wasn’t able to lift the weight. Oh the anger! I should be able to do whatever I want to make myself do! I should be able to just put my mind to it and make it happen! Within five minutes of standing there facing that barbell, I had both trainers hovering around me with concerned expressions on their face as I tried not to cry.

But I could feel it coming on. The tears stared to well up in my eyes and I knew I was becoming all red and sweaty faced.  Hold it in Danielle. Just hold it in… Nope. Didn’t work. The crying wanted out and I started to hiccup.

I… (hic) can’t… (hic) do it… (hic).

I covered my sobbing face with one of my hands. I tried to ignore my trainers. I tried to be quiet so the rest of the group wouldn’t notice me. I felt like I was the only person who struggled. I felt like my body was betraying me. I felt like I was at the bottom of the heap, and everyone else could just “get” this stuff while I was destined to lag behind for the rest of my life. I envied the women who were doing muscle ups and handstand push ups and how they had simply achieved these things.

As I look back now, I realize I needed that embarrassing moment to take me to the next level within myself. After the workout, I mentioned what happened to my friend Danielle. She laughed when I told her. “What are you talking about? I just cried last night during the WOD! And Kerry cried the other day and Nicole cried last week! It’s not a big deal to cry Danielle – for some people it’s part of pushing through.”

That was not what I expected to hear. And it got me thinking. WHY was I crying? I already know I can’t accomplish anything I’m feeling defeated or upset. I always have to be in complete balance to allow things to click together. And I was certainly not in balance at that time with all the sweating, hiccuping and tears.

I realized that I also had to let go of my attachment to how it was supposed to look, how much muscles were supposed to grow and how I was going to make it all happen on MY timeline. So maybe crying was part of the letting go process for me too. It was my body’s way of saying, “you can’t force it!” Because at the end of that workout, when I felt calm and balanced and I thought I had nothing to lose – I Cleaned the weight. Pretty easily too.

As a Spiritual Teacher I am used to reminding people about balance and letting go of how it’s all supposed to look in their relationships, in their career, in their personal life – but I didn’t realize I wasn’t following my own advice  at the gym.

Now, at Crossfit, I’m still pushing myself – but it’s only to do what is best for me. I’m not comparing my body to everyone else’s body and I’m not feeling less than, just because I have a different body type. Sometimes that means more weight, sometimes it means less weight, sometimes it means not going in at all. Today, incorporating ME into my workout is just one more way I feel good about walking my talk.

 

 

8 replies
  1. Jeanne
    Jeanne says:

    It’s interesting that I am reading this this morning. My daughter is a gymnast and she had a defeating meet last night personally. She tires so hard, but her team mates all seam to be consist at on higher marks than my daughter. Seeing the sadness and pain in her eyes and face during and after a competition when she doesn’t compete the way she wants is so hard for a mom to see. It’s so hard to teach, “HOPE” and being comfortable with what you can do. Teaching a 12 year old how to let go of the attachment of what it should look like and not to compare yourself to your teammates. She seems to better when practicing than when she competes. How do you help a child learn a mind set that could balance them before a competition?

    Reply
  2. Maryanne
    Maryanne says:

    Hi Danielle,
    If you are just starting crossfit, what’s the worry? I started high-intensity interval training nine months ago, and, after nine months can successfully do 12 girlie pushups in a row! So many people opt out after seeing just how difficult it is to get strong and in good shape — it tough. It’s brutal. But, the dividends are so totally worth it. I just focus on personal best, and am lucky to have people around me who celebrate every success. You’ll be able to do whatever you are determined to do, it’s just that your road might be longer — but you will get there. I’ve also been following this blog http://www.12minuteathlete.com. Krista is the best!! Good luck. Maryanne

    Reply
  3. Dawn
    Dawn says:

    As I was reading this, I thought you were going to say that you realized during this process that the frustration you were feeling was the same that others felt when they tried to communicate with animals the way you do. It looks so easy when you do it, but it’s so hard for most of us when we try it.

    Everyone has something they are good at…something that comes more naturally to them than it does to others. Doesn’t mean it isn’t worth working on it. There’s always much to be learned in the process.

    Reply
  4. chris
    chris says:

    Very resonant story. Maybe its not at the Gym where we feel less than or different, but somewhere else. And we leak power over it and get sad…and wish it was different. A powerful reminder that we can be beautiful and OK where we are. Interesting when I see the “that’s me” photo, I find that body type every single bit as beautiful and magical as the Cross fit beauty. (I know judgement is taboo for we “enlightened” but I prefer the first look)

    Reply
  5. Debbie Kirstein
    Debbie Kirstein says:

    Dear Danielle,
    I need to admit that as I was reading your blog I was thinking, “Boo Hoo, the tall and lean and lovely woman can’t lift the weight”. And then I realized that we all are our own worst critics. Even super models criticize their looks. So learning not to compare ourselves to others and being our own best cheerleader is a wonderful lesson. But as I’ve aged (I’m 61), I’m learning a new lesson that goes hand-in-hand with what you’ve learned. We can’t compare ourselves to our younger selves either. We can’t berate our bodies because they can’t, at 60, do the things that they could do at 30. Like you, I would go to the gym and the competitive juices would start to flow and I would push myself. And often, I ended up hurting myself; knee or lower back or shoulder, etc. That’s when the ugly truth would hit me. I just can’t expect my body to accomplish what it used to and perform the way it used to. And so I’ve come to appreciate all that my body continues to do for me. And it is so much more than how much weight I can lift or how many miles I can hike. And I realized that I wouldn’t trade this old body for a young one if I had to let go of the experience and wisdom that I’ve had the opportunity to receive as I’ve taken this journey with my trusty and loyal vehicle, my body. I realized that I never would judge someone I love as much as I’ve judged my body. So, upon that realization, I told my body that I was sorry. And I resolved at that moment to be grateful for all that it has done for me, this soul, who couldn’t experience this amazing life without it. So thank you, Danielle, for so honestly sharing your experience with all of us.

    Reply
  6. Susan A
    Susan A says:

    Danielle, thank you for sharing. I am sure that, ok, you can’t life as much as other women now or you may not have as much muscle as the other women, but maybe they are not as flexible as you are. I am someone that gains muscle very easily and I am one of those women that are very strong, but I dont have a lot of flexability because of it. I am sure with your long lean body, you are very flexible and the other women may envy you for that. I had a similar experience doind a headstand in yoga. I could do it with no problem in the beginning but then something changed and I had difficulty getting my legs up there and felt horrible because everyone else could do it One day after several attempts I got up grabbed my matt and ran out the door crying hysterically. I was embarrased too, but later when I thought about it I just decided that every one is at a different level of strength and flexability and that we shouldn’t compete against them just compete against ourselves because then you can look back and see where you came from and how much growth and strength you have now. This will show you how far you have come from where you started out. Enjoy the adventure and growth.

    Reply
  7. Agata Klein
    Agata Klein says:

    Danielle,

    Thanks for sharing your story. So amazing to hear your perspective. I have not tried CrossFit yet, however I am entering my first all female strength competition in September, as well as a number of other fitness related events this year. I have never been so much into fitness until May 2013 when I started with a trainer. I am on the opposite spectrum of you — the girl with the big thighs and I can put muscle on easier but am not as good at cardio (have to work harder). I used to see all the skinny girls at school and I would feel ashamed of my large legs… I didn’t fit in. I learned how to embrace my body and stopped comparing myself to others (thanks for your reminder!) and just focused on ME. There is no one to compete with, but ME. I am now in martial arts for the past year, have my very own punching bag in our gym, and am going after what I want, after years of not feeling good enough or happy with my body image. KUDOS to you for being who you are, and embracing yourself. I am glad to connect with you on this level now too. Looking forward to reading more about your journey. Sending HUGS from Canada 🙂

    Reply
  8. Janelle Carroll
    Janelle Carroll says:

    Danielle I came across your blog post after I googled “wanting to cry in Crossfit”! I am the same as you in many ways, I’m 5’11, slender, skinny legs and I’ve actually had coaches claim my “body type” isn’t made for deadlifts…gee thanks. We have to remember that since we are tall and lanky that the way we lift might look a little different than other women. I completely know how you feel! I got so upset today, tears forming when I couldn’t get my clean and jerk….I have to tell myself that there are so many women who would never even set foot in a Crossfit box, we need to see how far we have come to even step in there! As many said on here, its so easy to compare ourselves to others, isn’t it ironic that we might not even realize that other women are looking us, the tall slender Crossfitter wishing they looked like us while we are looking at them wishing we could deadlift like they do! I typically work out with all guys at my box and I STILL feel those same feelings, of wanting to be that strong even though I know that’s unreasonable to compare, esp with men! We are so hard on ourselves! Just know I’m with you as the tall Crossfit chick, I’m sure there are tons of us out there. Crossfit is amazing in that it really does push us mentally, which we need like others said here, to push us to that next level. Crossfit brings up so many emotions within us and it has the power to help us be more confident within ourselves, I wish all women could Crossfit, we’d have way more women loving their bodies!

    Reply

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