Preface: This post isn’t about Jesus. Its about doing whatever works for you and your illness. I started CrossFit from a place of just needing Something. Something more. Something different. I’m not there to lose 20 lbs. or in hopes of competing in the games, but to finally take care of my body, to treat it well, in hopes of recognizing its worth. At least that’s what I’m trying to do. I’m there with hopes of learning to build up instead of shrink down; to learn not to punish but to break free. And also a fragile wish for an hour’s rest from the deafening anxiety that consumes me so often.
I walk into the box in a foul frame of mind. It’s gray out, and raining hard, which fits my mood perfectly. I’ve been doing CrossFit for about 7 months and there are still so many things that elude me. Strength I haven’t gained. Skills I haven’t mastered. I’m a chronic overthinker, and I constantly feel out of place, worried that I don’t belong, acutely aware of my shortcomings in comparison to the other athletes.
Today’s WOD includes jumping rope.
I hate jumping rope. I’m terrible at it, and despite my progress to actually jumping with a rope, it still feels humiliating; a pointed reminder of all that I lack. I look at my coach, stink-eyed wondering if he picked this workout for just that purpose.
We warm up together, the coach talks us through all of the movements for the day, and I realize that he expects us to do the majority of the workout outside. In that pouring rain. I’m too embarrassed to back out, to have other people see me walk out of the box, but I sincerely want to do so.
My daughter has met me for the class and she looks at me with questioning eyes. Really? Outside in this weather? I shrug at her and try to tell myself at that at least we aren’t jumping rope outside. At least there is that.
We start the first part of the workout. Sixty unbroken jump ropes in a minute. Everyone else breezes through this as I struggle. Unbroken. No stops.
Thirty-two and it hits my shins. I swear. I look at the clock, there is no way I’ll get 60 of any sort – much less unbroken before the minute is up, but I start jumping again. I make it to 20 and stop close to the end of the minute. I put the rope down, irritated. My coach calls out some encouragement and I do my best not to roll my eyes.
We go to the next exercise. One that is entirely too short before we head back to the jump ropes.
This time I only get 25 before I trip up. Then about 20 more before the end of the minute. The rope gets tossed down again, as I blink back tears. STUPID jump ropes. My coach yells out again and I completely ignore him. My daughter asks if I’m OK – I seem exasperated. Through clenched teeth I tell her I’m fine.
The third round of jumping ropes and I am now well and truly angry. I pick up the rope, grit my teeth, stare straight through the wall ahead of me and jump. Pure hatred floods my mind – at the rope, at the exercise, at the fact that I’m here and not at home with a book and a cup of coffee.
I should be elated, but the anger hasn’t worn off. I throw the rope down hard while my coach cheers about the “best set yet” and I still bite back tears that something so simple, so straightforward should require such encouragement.
I finish the fourth round with about 50 jumps and just stop. I’m disheartened and out of breath but now its time to go outside. To the rain.
The rest of the workout looks like this:
- 800m farmer’s carry with 26 lb. weights in each hand. This essentially is walking, carrying those weights as a farmer would carry buckets of milk – arms down by your side.
- 400m waiter’s walk with that same 26lbs – now in one hand at a time, alternating every 100m, weight extended overhead like a waiter with a tray of food.
- 200m sprint
- 100m walking lunges.
We all stand outside at the starting line with our weights at our feet. We have small towels tucked in our shirts in case we need to dry things off mid walk. They are useless almost immediately. We are well on our way to soaking by the end of the 10 second count down.
The buzzer sounds and we pick up the weights and start walking, arms at our sides, shoulders back. Someone laughs and jokes that a membership at the local mainstream gym sounds pretty good about now. The weighted kettle bells get heavy quickly, and the rain runs into my eyes. I keep walking. Every 100m or so, I set the weights down, try to dry off the handles for a slightly better grip, pick them up and walk on. At 300m I can see the raindrops on my eyelashes, I feel the weight of the droplets and I close my eyes in hopes that the rain will run off to clear my vision. Occasionally when I exhale I see droplets of water fling out ahead of me, flying on my breath. At 400m, I set the weights down again and use my towel to wipe the makeup off my daughter’s face – makeup that had run into her eyes and down her cheeks. I ask her if she is OK. We pick up our weights and walk on. It keeps raining, and we keep walking.
The last 400m are slower than the first. The halfway mark didn’t feel like halfway, the walk back seems so much farther. My shoulders are tired, my hands are slipping and the rain is not letting up. I put the weights down more often. With a little more than 100m to go on the farmer’s carry I look up to see my coach taking our picture.
My clothes are stuck to my body, my hair is plastered to my head, and I can only shudder to think what a horrendous picture he is going to take. But at that moment, I smile.
I’ve lost the anger and frustration from the jumping rope somewhere in the pouring rain. I’ve only space for putting one foot in front of the other, for wiping my face and the kettle bells, for checking on my daughter, for keeping my shoulders back, for breathing. There is no space left for embarrassment or humiliation. Only enduring.
I finish the farmer’s carry and start the waiter’s walk. It’s somehow easier, a rest to have my arms overhead, the shorter distance feels like a reprieve. After that, the 200m sprint, although it’s not much of a sprint – as I worry about slipping on the wet asphalt it is, at best, a peppy jog. And then the walking lunges.
Only 100m of walking lunges, I think it should be quick . Yet my legs immediately begin to quiver and moan. The weighted distance exercises of before have taken their toll and my legs rebel at every lunge. I lose control of my form often, striking my knee hard on the pavement. I have to stop after every third lunge to shake my legs, to talk myself into continuing. And then after every two lunges. And then after each lunge. I hold my arms extended out, parallel to the ground to prevent myself from using my hands to push off each leg.
It’s still raining, although it’s no longer a pour, but more of a constant drizzle. I’ve got about 25m of lunges left to go and I look down at my legs. The rain is running down the muscles on my calves in tiny rivulets. I pause at the bottom of a lunge, wiping my eyes, to watch a drop fall from the curve of my knee and settle into a striation on the front of my shin and make its way to my ankle.
And it hits me. Those legs I’ve hated my whole life, with those thick thighs and chunky calves and sturdy ankles, those legs have made it through this workout.
Through this rain, this misery, those weights, this weakness, this fatigue, this slick and unforgiving asphalt. Those legs have made it through.
I struggle up from that lunge and through 25m more. I call time. I finished. Dead last in my class.
Dead last, but no longer embarrassed. Finished with the full prescribed weight and distance.
But no longer angry or frustrated.
I walk out to my car, still soaked to the bone, clothes sticking to me.
And all I feel is strong.