Recognizing the Wins Before the Race is Over

As part of my quest to get healthy and happy last year I joined a Crossfit gym.  It was actually after some convincing as I was terrified to do such a challenging workout in a gym filled with 20-year-old athletes.  However after a few weeks I was hooked on the energy and was back to appreciating the high of working out. I loved the idea of keeping track of my progress. My competitive nature could really shine here. Plus I was on a mission to push myself out of my comfort zone in all areas of life – and there is nothing more uncomfortable than Crossfit workouts. A bigger challenge for me that I didn’t see coming was being okay with not being the best.  There haven’t been many things I have approached where I wasn’t a top performer.  I was always one of the better dancers in my classes growing up.  I was captain of my dance team in high school.  I have always been one of the better employees at work, no matter what the position was at the time.  I am a natural leader and I am comfortable that way. To do something like Crossfit where I am nowhere near the best athlete and probably never will be made me extremely uncomfortable. I am a competitor and I am at my most confident when I know I will do well – makes sense…   My competitive side wants to keep up with the recommended weights and the better workout times but I am forced to accept that I have a long road to get to that point.  I still show up and work hard and watch those improvements add up.  My confidence now is in the fact that I will perform better today than I did yesterday.  I am competitive with myself rather than with my peers.  Last week, however, I let that competitive side get the best of me.   Every year the Crossfit Games are held among all Crossfit gyms across the world as a chance to test your strength and compete among the greatest athletes out there. I am nowhere near a level where it even matters but we still do the workouts as a whole gym.  The Crossfit Open is coming up and so our gym, every Friday, is currently repeating last year’s workouts as a way to prepare.  The idea is you are able to measure how much you have improved in the last year by completing the workouts in shorter times or using higher weights, or both.  This particular WOD (Workout Of the Day) had a time cap of 12 minutes.  I knew that the recommended weights (RX status) that day would be too much for me to complete the sets so I scaled down a little to a weight I could handle.  This was already not ideal as I was starting to complete WOD’s from time to time at RX and really wanted to push it further.  But I got over it quickly as I noticed most of the other women were scaling too.   I started off strong and confident as usual and about 6 minutes in I noticed I was slowing down drastically.  It was getting tougher to continue and I needed more breaks between movements.  Before I knew it the clock ran out and I was just starting my last set.  I collapsed to the floor along with my other classmates (this is the norm immediately after a WOD).  In that moment as I was trying to catch my breath I was so angry.  I felt defeated and weak because I didn’t finish in time.  I had already scaled back on the weight requirement.  I should have finished.  I stood up after a minute of rest and completed my set anyway, knowing that I could at least live with myself if I pushed through to the end.  I heard my classmates cheering me on as I worked through my last ten burpees.  Most of them had finished in time.  The support is always welcomed and motivating but it wasn’t working after this one.  I was so disappointed.  I tried to shake it off and just lightly express that I was mad that I didn’t finish.  This overwhelming urge to cry right then came over me, but at least this time I waited until I was in the car before letting it out.   Right before I left a fellow classmate that I see daily in that gym (who by the way is one of those 20 year olds that makes the workouts look like a warmup, but I have nothing but love for her) reminded me that I have come a long way and I should be proud of that.  I could recognize that there were improvements that were obvious from last year to this year.  But I couldn’t recognize in that moment just how much has changed.  She looked at me and said “you are a different person now”.   I am a different person now…   When I got in my car and let the tears flow like a little kid who just lost the last game of the season, I couldn’t help but repeat those words to myself.  I tried to remember what weights I used on the same WOD last year or at least remember if I finished in time.  I thought it would make me feel better if at least my weight had increased.  I couldn’t remember a thing about it and then it dawned on me why.  I didn’t do it last year.  I skipped that week.  I was too afraid to join the Open at all being so new at Crossfit and since I wasn’t “competing” I wasn’t motivated to even do the workouts that day.  I wouldn’t dream of missing it this year.  I don’t skip a day at the gym very often.  It is an extenuating circumstance.  Last year, I was proud if I made it 3 days a week.   When I started Crossfit I was winded after 5 burpees.  Now I am doing fancy burpees jumping over barbels.  I couldn’t just hang from a bar without putting my feet down after ten seconds.  It felt like I was pulling my arms out of their sockets.  Now I am working on perfecting all of the actual moves where we are incorporating the bar.  I started out using 10lb dumbbells for every movement.  Now I am putting in PR’s well into the hundreds.   I also never would have gotten up and finished that last set ever before.  I would have settled for the minimum requirement of 12 minutes.  No one would have noticed if I finished or not and I would have kept quiet about it.  Now I find more value in putting in that extra work for myself and finishing, than sparing myself the humility of admitting I didn’t finish the workout.  That is a strength on an entirely different level.   My coach happened to post a video of our class that day in our Facebook group and I watched it intently, of course, to find myself in it and analyze my form, my pace, and see where I went wrong.  It took a minute for me to find myself in the video because I didn’t recognize myself.  I have lost 70 pounds.  This is a goal that I thought would be impossible to reach.  Especially now, raising two kids almost entirely on my own, in my thirties.  And I am not done.  I see the possibility to keep going and I am going for it.   These are all huge achievements that I never in a million years thought possible.  I suddenly stopped feeling disappointment and started feeling pride.  Again the overwhelming urge to cry came over me but this time out of joy; out of disbelief for where I have been and where I am now.  I often use my time at the gym as an escape from all the burden and baggage in my life, but I also use it as a way to build my strength inside.  When I am in an impossible workout that seems to never end I give myself a little pep talk.  I tell myself things like “I stood up to the X, I can finish this workout” or “If I can survive mornings with a demanding kindergartener with an issue wearing any type of clothing on her body, I can do this”.  It works in the reverse as well.   When I am in a trying situation, say a difficult phone call with my attorney, I remind myself that I am able to push past my limits every day in that gym.  And if I can survive those workouts I can do anything.  If I can surprise myself every time I push a little harder I can do anything.  Literally anything.  I don’t have to make excuses and back down from things that scare me or may be risky.  I don’t have to be so hard on myself for not being perfect.  I don’t have to say no to something because I can’t predict what will happen.  I no longer have to forego opportunities because I may not be the best.  That is the old me.   And I am a different person now.    

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