It’s a cult. It’s dangerous. You’re going to get injured. You need more cardio. You drank the koolaide.
Those are some criticisms about CrossFit as a sport. But this is not a blog post about the fitness part of CrossFit. This is an article about friendship and about what happens when you surround yourself with people who do hard things.
What follows is the only statement about CrossFit as a sport that I will make, I promise. I’m not going to pretend to be an expert on fitness. So here’s what I have to say on this subject: CrossFit, as a sport, regardless of any dangers or benefits, is really, really hard. It requires digging deep – super deep – into your willpower. And it relies on other people forcing you to do so.
And that’s what I’m here to talk to about today: friendship. So from now on when I say “CrossFit” in this article, I want you to think “community.” Don’t think about the sport. Think about the people.
Now let’s rewind to the fall of 2013. My friends had been gushing about CrossFit, so I decided to hit up a local gym. (What can I say — I’m a follower.) It was kind of, well, whatever. I enjoyed the social aspect enough. I was really sore. I could take it or leave it. I liked that there were people to talk to. In regular gyms you try not to make eye contact with anyone. There was lots of eye contact at CrossFit. Sometimes I thought there was almost too much eye contact.
And then my life got real. And by “real” I mean “really, really bad.”
I know you want me to go into details. And someday I will — but not now. You’re just going to have to believe me on this one: imagine your worst emotional nightmare, extended it for years on end and you’ve got me.
That chaos started about two weeks after I walked into that CrossFit gym. Working out very quickly became my escape, just like running might’ve or any other kind of physical activity. I just happened to use CrossFit.
What was remarkable and what mattered, though, was that I was doing my workouts with other people. The physical struggle I felt and pushed through every time I stepped in those doors was linked in my mind to the pain of getting up every day and dealing with my new reality. And the people who did that self-inflicted hard stuff next to me were my battle buddies, even though most of them had no idea they were fighting with me.
Community. People who do hard things together and stand by each other no matter what.
There are friends and then there are friends. There are people you know in passing, and then there are people you lean on because they are trusty.
And for reasons I don’t fully understand, in my experience, CrossFit attracts trusty people.
Maybe it’s because people who don’t want community, who don’t care about relationships, don’t look for stick with CrossFit. When they workout they are cool with going solo.
But I think you’ll find that the people who do walk through those doors time and again are the people who know that this whole thing is about more than just exercise. It’s about other people. In the words of a very wise local CrossFit coach – it’s about your tribe. It’s the same kind of people who like to ruck in groups or who lead community hikes or who only run with their running club. They are people who push other people because they need someone to push them back.
That “never leave anyone behind” stuff isn’t just about being physically left on the trail or in the middle of the workout (although sometimes that’s the case). It’s about being carried as a person.
And I am carried. Every single day my people at the gyms in this town carry me. We may all physically attend different locations. But we are a big community.
Those people are my tribe. And they are why I can do hard things, why I have not quit. Their compassion and wherewithal has kept me going when I didn’t want to or thought I just straight up couldn’t. Moving through a workout with them next to me is just symbolic of how I am moving through life.
If you don’t have a tribe, I know how you can find one: locate a group of people who do the same hard things you want to do, and hold them close.