• Emily Makselan

Happy CrossFit Anniversary to Me!

There are few dates in my life I remember.  I remember my anniversary, loved ones birthdays, the date I moved to Tucson, the date I started eating healthy, and I remember the day I started CrossFit.  That day was 4 years ago today. It may seem like a funny date to remember, but when something leaves that big of an impact on your life, it deserves to be remembered and celebrated!  However, I started CrossFit by accident really, it wasn’t by choice. My husband was in the process of starting his own affiliate. I didn’t know very much about CrossFit, but I had seen it on TV and thought it looked dumb to be quite honest.  I really didn’t want to do it.

I had been completely physically inactive for over 15 years prior, and worse yet an old improperly rehabbed knee injury and surgery had left me unable to do a lot of things like run, jump, or even properly execute an air squat.  I worked at a Physical Therapy office at the time. And their running joke was “we love CrossFitters, they keep us in business”. Looking back now, we never once treated a single CrossFitter.

Despite my reservations I knew I had to support my husband.  So I agreed to let him give me a few personal training lessons to show me what CrossFit was.  The first couple went OK, but I didn’t like it. And when I showed up for my third lesson with him he was sitting at the desk.  He didn’t get up, so I said, “I’m ready”. And he replied, “I’m not coaching you today. You’re going to take the group class”. I started freaking out.  I got mad. I wanted to start screaming at him. Looking back now, I honestly have no idea what I was so scared of… perhaps of being vulnerable in front of others.

I took the class against my will.  And something weird happened: I didn’t hate it.  Even weirder, I showed up again the next day on my own free will, although I refused to admit to him that I may have actually liked it.  I’m not sure if I already knew it then or not, but I was hooked.

Shortly after I started all shit hit the fan for my husband’s gym.  He had lost most of his staff, and his business partner was not holding up their end of the deal.  I knew I had to help him or his dream would fail. So, I gave him a loan to buy out his partner, and I quit my job to help him at the gym.  My background in PT actually made me an OK fit to take over some of his personal training clients. But I’d be lying if I said I still wasn’t completely out of my element.  Looking back I am amazing I adapted so well. This would just be the first time of many that CrossFit would force me out of my comfort zone to become a better person.

My previous boss once told me that the Physical Therapy world is all about faking it till you make it.  He told me that if I ever didn’t know an answer to something just to smile and pretend like I did. I couldn’t disagree more with this mentality, that’s not who I am.  And in CrossFit there is no such thing. Your weaknesses get exposed for all to see. Nothing can be bought or cheated, everything has to be earned. This is what I would come to love most about the sport.  So, I spent months reading and watching everything about CrossFit and Olympic weightlifting that I could. I’d stay up late each night watching videos in bed while my husband slept. I attended class every day trying to get better and “catch up”.  I’d stay late after class working with a PVC pipe trying to figure out how to do movements.

But the problem was, I wasn’t doing any of it for myself.  As the owner’s wife, and now as a part of the gym I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel pressured to look and perform a certain way.  It’s dumb, I know that now. And it was completely the doing of my own head, and no one else. But I felt a ton of pressure to “look the part”.  My husband has always looked like a statue of a Greek God since we met. He has always been built and has abs you could wash clothes on. I’m sure that there was a point where he sucked at CrossFit, but I’ve never seen it.  He’s told me of his first experience with it and how humbling it was for him. He says that’s why he fell in love with it so fast, he loved the challenge. But all I have seen is the athlete swinging from the rafters like a spider monkey, and walking on his hands like it was innate.

I felt like if I was going to be a part of that gym that I was expected to look and perform like him.  So I started killing myself to obtain this, not for myself, but for those mystery voices in my head. I accomplished a lot of really incredible things that first year.  I got my first pull-up! I went from being unable to do air squats to cleaning my body weight. I was running again without pain for the first time in over 15 years! But I hadn’t yet learned to love the process, at least not for the right reasons.  Because of this, I still used any opportunity as an “opt” out of the gym. Some weeks I was really consistent, but others I used anything as an excuse to not show up: a bad mood, soreness, it was too hot/cold.

That first year, I actually gained over 30 pounds.  Interestingly enough, I wasn’t fazed by it though. CrossFit had quickly taught me that my body’s worth is not in it’s size or shape, but it’s ability.  I had come to love and appreciate my body for it’s achievements. But I still felt that false sense of external pressure to look the role. I thought I was supposed to be parading around in my little CrossFit booty shorts and a sports bra looking like I just came off the CrossFit Games floor.

So, just after my first anniversary of CrossFit I knew I had to finally give in and change my diet.   I started working to clean up my diet and almost instantly dropped 15 pounds. I was feeling and performing better than ever too.  That summer I attended the CrossFit Games with my husband and some members of his gym. I didn’t have any interest in attending, but my husband had been dreaming of going.  This wound up being a life changing experience for me. I was so in awe of all the bodies, both in the stands and on the floor. And I couldn’t believe what the athletes were capable of.  I thought it seemed impossible. It was at those Games that I decided that I wanted all of that.

We came home and I immediately put myself on macros.  I started researching all I could on the subject matter.  I signed up for my first nutrition certification. And over the next 6 months I don’t think I missed a single day of training (5 days/week).  Over the next few months I lost another 20 pounds, and over 9% body fat. But my performance in the gym was the biggest transformation. I went from scaling most WODs, to RXing everything and sitting atop the gym’s leaderboard for the first time.  I went from barely having pull-ups to getting my first muscle ups. Almost immediately I put 30 pounds on both my snatch and clean and jerk.

For the first time I was truly in love with the process.  And for the first time I was doing it for MYSELF, and not for those crazy voices in my head.  I knew what I wanted, and I knew why I wanted it. And on days where I lacked the motivation I simply reminded myself of that and got my ass to the gym and ate my meal prep, no excuses.  The transformation to my body just became a wonderful benefit of the transformation that was taking place inside of me mentally. The “results” were no longer just about looking or performing a certain way, it became about so much more.  

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