Having dinner with my family, I joked about how introverted my husband is. Whenever I try to introduce him to my CrossFit family, he jokes that he doesn’t want to be friends with “those people”. Unfortunately, my sister latched onto that line: “I wouldn’t want to be friends with those people either.”
Me: “Why not? They’re normal people. Some of the nicest people I know.”
Sister: “They’re not normal people.”
This threatened to ignite a fire because I knew she meant it negatively. There’s something wrong with people who work out regularly and enjoy it, to her. Especially CrossFitters – we drank the Kool-Aid, we joined a cult. We’re not normal.
I changed the subject to avoid an argument we’ve had before, but in my head I was firing off retorts (starting with something I’ve wondered frequently when talking to her: “can’t you support my activity in something that obviously makes me happier?”). Until I realized that she was right. We aren’t normal. But perhaps not in the way she meant.
CrossFitters Are Welcoming.
I joined my gym without knowing a soul. I had found out about CrossFit via Pinterest and decided to make a change during what was a dark time of my life. I showed up overweight, out of shape, and reserved. But the coaches and athletes I met invited me in anyway.
I see this time and time again at my gym. If you show up ready to work and willing to learn, we accept you with open arms. Yes, there are exceptions – new members with a toxic, consistently negative attitude (not just a bad day) tend to fall off after repeated attempts to nudge them into positivity.
I’ve been a member of my gym for over 3 years now, and while I haven’t made core friends through my gym, I have found a core family. I don’t text any gym buddies and rarely see them outside of CrossFit events, but I’m always happy to be around these people. If I’m gone from the gym for a few days, I miss it – not because I feel like I have to work out, but because I haven’t seen the smiling faces and determination of my CrossFit family.
CrossFitters Support Each Other (Inside & Outside the Gym).
There’s certainly something brilliant about this quality; it’s the reason the sense of community grows so strong with CrossFitters. The obvious example is that we cheer for everyone, especially those finishing the WOD last. We cheer when you’re fighting for a new 1RM back squat. And if you miss it, we pat you on the back and encourage you to stay determined.
Our coaches and many of our fellow athletes have a sense of what skill or lift we’re working to improve, and we offer advice or support to help.
But the support doesn’t end once the WOD is over. My hairdresser is a fellow member. I get my car serviced at the business another member just opened. When I gave my first cooking demo, CrossFit buddies showed up to support me. I know I’m not the only one who’s inadvertently found a thriving network inside the box.
Truly, CrossFit is a menagerie of all different kinds of people…and that creates a strong network.
CrossFitters Celebrate Non-Aesthetic Qualities.
We have two large boards at our gym – “Goals” and “PRs”. Many CrossFit gyms have these. And they may not be what you think. These aren’t weight loss goals…these are strength and skill goals. We declare the weight we want to snatch or our desire to get our first strict pull-up. And when we hit those goals? That’s what the PR board is adorned with! See, our focus is being better than yesterday…and that does not necessarily have anything to do with weight or aesthetics.
Beyond these boards, we celebrate confidence, positivity, and mental strength. These are qualities I found when I joined CrossFit. The experience of gaining strength, crushing workouts, and being surrounded by supportive people empowered me. I’ve seen dozens of other people go through the same transformation. As a matter of fact, I think the people who join CrossFit purely as a way to quickly lose weight and “tone” (bleh, what a myth) their bodies are the ones who don’t stick with it.
Yes, there are people at my gym who are concerned about their weight (although it hurts my heart whenever I hear a fellow member mention shaping up their “summer body”). I’ll admit that I’m trying to lose body fat. But, I love my body as it is. My goal isn’t to lose weight so I’m happy, it’s to lose weight so pull-ups and other gymnastic movements are easier. Big difference.
I didn’t love my body before CrossFit. We had a tumultuous relationship. Now, though, how could I not love my body? It enables me to do so many cool things—handstands, body weight back squats, snatches…the list goes on. So what if I have cellulite or a belly pooch? CrossFit convinced me that those things don’t matter. Having confidence and feeling empowered does matter. When I see that lightbulb switch on in others, it makes my heart sing.
So, yes. My sister was right. We aren’t normal people. We all found something—a supportive environment, a family, strength and confidence—that removes us from the norm. CrossFit changed me for the better. And if that means I’m not normal…well, normal wasn’t fucking fun anyway.