CrossFitters have a reputation of being the most disruptive, dare I say, obnoxious members of the fitness community. At least, those were the thoughts that plagued my mind the night before I stepped into CrossFit Yarmouth for the first time. I had never worked out in a public setting before, preferring the privacy of my dimly lit basement. Yet, as a flurry of nerves and anticipation erupted, I would have never imagined that one Monday night in February would completely alter the way that I perceive not only myself, but also my sense of community.
This February will mark a year since I joined CrossFit, and my only regrets are not having joined sooner. In fact, if I could give anyone advice when considering fitness, it would be to always engage your core and join a community where you can have fun and feel welcome. Even from that first Monday as I stepped into the gym and was met with seven girls, all my age or a year older, congregating towards the front of the gym anticipating an introduction. They had the complete capacity to judge and reject me, but as introductions were made and we began cackling about the newest trends, it felt as though I had been lifting with those girls since day one.
The collective groans when Coach Jenni announced eight sets of three back squats would become a staple throughout the next months, along with jokes, gossip, and singing. It wasn’t even twenty minutes into my first practice before I was choreographing various dances with everyone, pausing on occasion to struggle through chin-ups. I smile about it now as I reflect on that first day – my initiation into a community that would come to spot me as I hit benchpress PRs and vented about schoolwork, home-life, and friends over the next few months.
In a way CrossFit has come to resemble the concept of Girlhood for me. It has appealed to my inner child in a way that no other hobby of mine has. It’s funny, but I feel safest when throwing around metal weights and equipment. I think it was because I entered a community where we all recognized that every girl was in there for the same reason, to improve in a setting that felt welcoming and empowering. We all recognized within eachother the desire to become something more, and each made a silent promise to always hold the other girl accountable, to always be her hype woman, and to become her safety net should she fall. Being able to grow and flourish surrounded by such a supportive and accepting community has truly contributed to my confidence and sense of self.
Looking back to when I started all those months ago my confidence has nearly doubled as I have not only gotten stronger, but have felt more comfortable expressing myself. I no longer try to shy away from my spirited and exuberant personality, but rather, choose to embrace it amongst my classmates and my colleagues. I don’t feel as ashamed for being loud and energetic. I don’t apologize for taking up too much space; after all, my tendencies to dance, shout, and celebrate are what fuel me at CrossFit. I know now that I am truly me, not when I sit aside quietly, but when I’m watching one of my teammates hit a PR, screaming at the top of my lungs, just as they do for me. This is ultimately the most valuable lesson that I can take away from CrossFit: the importance of having a welcoming, and accepting community that ensures you are comfortable enough to be your authentic self. It is why I strive to ensure that everyone feels what I did on my very first day, not just the burn of successful squats, but the safety of a group of girls who are just trying to get stronger together.