Funny as it is, the video does bring up a pet topic of mine: being scared of, or scared out of, the gym. This is something we're going to be talking about and trying to deal with here in some upcoming planned content. It's fascinating to me: I am utterly and absolutely convinced that the number of people out there who sincerely want to make a healthier change for themselves doesn't match up with the number of people actually doing it. Not even close. And I used to be part of the bad side of that ratio.
But for those of us who didn't grow up active (me me me me me--you don't even want to know how many hours I logged into Super Smash Brothers in high school. I actually checked. It's alarming, and I say that as an adult who still enjoys games!), or for those of us who have some degree of self-image or confidence issues, or for those of us who just never developed a comfort zone in an active space, walking in that door on Day 1 can be absolutely daunting. The gym was always where The Jocks went. We weren't The Jocks. We didn't go into the gym. There was a tribal line there, and crossing it had consequences--even if they only existed in our heads.
Let's say you eventually get over that Day 1 fear, though. You're in the gym. You signed stuff. You brought a towel. You're doing...something. You don't really know what, maybe, but it's better than nothing!
Except the old "getting through the door" fear has now just been replaced with a whole new batch of irrationality. Am I doing this right? Are they looking at me? Am I in someone's way? Have I broken a rule? Did I not clean the machine right? Those guys/girls are so much stronger/bigger/faster/skinnier/better at this than I am--I don't want to be next to them. I don't want to interrupt them. They seem to know what they're doing. I'm just getting in the way. I don't know how to lift weights, I'll just use the machines. I don't know how to use THAT machine, though, so I'll just avoid it. Maybe...maybe I'll just use the elliptical. Oh good, it has a space for a magazine and there's a TV in front of it! ...Now it's been weeks why haven't I improved at all?!
(To be fair, it's totally possible to get in fantastic shape on an elliptical. Or on a infomercial home gym, for that matter. It just doesn't happen very often).
And so here we are, just coming out of New Year's Resolution Season...you're going to see a lot of formerly eager newbies disappearing over the next few weeks. Between the constant morale battle and the consequential difficulty attaining any results, is it really that shocking? It's hard to go (so you find excuses not to), it's hard to stay (so you justify leaving), you're driven away from the things that might actually get the results you want in a noticeable time-frame (so you can't rationalize the physical, mental, and monetary costs of going), and the whole time you're standing next to people who just seem to get it, but you don't. Goodbye! I'm out! Maybe I'll try P90X at home alone...well, after a rest period. I've been at the gym, don't want to burn myself out. I hear that's a thing.
I tried the solo gym thing for a while. It didn't really stick, in case you missed that point. Better than the couch, maybe, but that's a pretty low bar. Finally, with some (persistent) prompting from some epically awesome friends, I threw the proverbial Hail Mary and signed up for a Crossfit intro.
The coach (Amy at the excellent Crossfit Blacksburg) asked me to come in for a one-on-one between regular classes, so she could give me the introduction, find out about any injuries or issues, etc. Right! Sounds good! Not wanting to disappoint, I showed up about twenty minutes early.
The class before my appointment was doing a workout called--named, that is, like you would for a damn hurricane--"Grace." Grace is actually a lot of fun for me now. But it's fast, it's heavy, there's a lot of noise, and if you don't know what you're looking at, it seems violent and overwhelming.
Let me drive this home here: at this point in my life, I had never even touched a barbell. And I'm walking in on freaking Grace.
I stood in the street and watched through the window, making a point to fiddle with my phone and be fascinated by things just to one side of the window frame or the other, so as not to look like a doughy weirdo staring at these fit alien gym-folk. Frankly, I almost bailed right then and there--what the hell was I walking into?! I was the guy who drew pictures and played computer games. I'm not like these people! I drank Mello Yello like it was going out of style, spent late nights hunched over a desk in the design studio, and had a finely curated Hulu queue that took up most of my free time. I owned a Perfect Pushup--surely that was enough; I didn't need to be there. Look at these people. No way they're supposed to be dropping the weights like that. They're going to hurt themselves. I'm pretty sure someone told me once that you were supposed to go slow. Because...metabolisms. They don't even look like they're isolating...
(Honestly, the only reason I stuck around that day is because I was trying to impress a girl. It didn't work, mind you, but years later, I'm willing to focus on the silver lining here).
Now, here's the kicker. Every weird little phobia and mental block, every imagined bogeyman: 99% nonsense. Oh, hindsight--where were you when I was fifteen?!
I say 99% because, in the four years since that nervous, elliptical-confined sophomore stood outside that window in Blacksburg trying to play it cool; sure, I've run into a jackass or two...and watched them get shut down by everyone else in the building. Yeah, turns out, there's really only a few places in the world that the alpha-douche can thrive. No coach wants that crap in their box pissing off their regular customers, and no one who reads past a third grade level is going to put up with it while they're pushing through a WOD. The best part is, shitty attitude rarely seems to correlate with performance--getting your time crushed by the accountant or the lawyer in the room really seems to shut down the crappy-ego-inflation process pretty quick. Delightful!
All those "health nuts" and "gym rats" I was so convinced were going to drive me out turned out to be some of the friendliest (and often dorkiest) people I've ever met. The biggest jump in my Fran time, ever, happened when I did it side-by-side with a former US Olympian (when in my life did I think that would ever happen?!)--who immediately turned around and cheered me through the rest of it when he finished. And it turns out the girl with the six-minute mile is actually a pretty beast Munchkin player. The ex-...I'm sorry, FORMER Marine who cranks through the burpees also loves Cards Against Humanity and wants to throw down for a game of Catan sometime. Coach Jared and I have on multiple and continually recurring occasions opted to settle disagreements via N64. With brackets. Tournament style. There is no tribal line here. There is no "us" and "them." My reasons for avoiding this for years seem to me now ridiculous, trivial, unfounded, and tragic. It was fear of the unknown, pure and simple.
This is not a memoir. This is not a "look how wonderful CrossFit is" article--I happen to like it quite a lot, but there are pros and cons (which we'll discuss), and I'm not going to stand here and claim that it's the greatest thing to happen to exercise in the history of the world (especially when this so clearly is).
This is a declaration of intent.
I believe there are a lot of people standing outside their own windows, wondering what in the ever-loving f#%& those lunatics are doing on the other side. I believe there are a lot of people willing to try but lacking a starting place, or stuck in the false-start/grind/bust/repeat cycle. And I believe that between the Warcry contributors, our friends, and myself, we've made just about every mistake, chased every dead end, and fallen into every pitfall you can fall into when you're starting out or pushing through to your next level--whether that means joining Crossfit, breaking a plateau, or just getting off the couch and finding something that works for you. We're here to help. We're going to take the mystery out of this. Hang around here, and you're not going to be sailing into the unknown. You're still going to have to bust your ass. You're still going to have your own journey, with ups and downs and all of it. But we're going to map out the reefs, and show you how to steer the boat. (Ok, no more nautical metaphors for a while).
We're not trying to convince you to exercise, that's on you--you either want it or you don't (though if you don't, it's interesting that you read this far). But if you're willing to put in the effort, but keep finding yourself lost or frustrated...stay tuned.