Crossfit Gave Me Nothing.

by nathanrklein

I used to be the most outspoken advocate for Crossfit.  OK, probably not the MOST but, I wanted everyone to know about it.  I told friends, family, and strangers at any chance I had.  That was four years ago.  There have been many changes in my life since then.  I am the same person with a few learning experiences continually shaping who I have yet to become.  With the changes I have experienced my perspective has changed and my values have wavered.

I have been a fitness fanatic for the last few years.  This world and culture is continuing to grow and grow. I don’t know everything and I don’t claim to.  I am a proponent of the idea of any fitness.  I want people to be getting healthy whether it is walking with their dogs, running, yoga, weight training, power-lifting, Crossfit, or any combination.  Taking the positive step toward controlling your health is the whole point.  I don’t hear people around me bashing runners because of the high injury rate.  I have never heard anyone tell a person who does yoga that the basis of body in a spiritual quest is moronic.  Many people go the average gym and admire someone who is doing half of a squat and a few curls.  Crossfit, however, is given a particular bit of criticism and mockery.  Obviously, you can read one of the hundreds of opinion pieces or false reports about the dangers.  It is fine to disagree with methodology or even just say you don’t like it because it doesn’t suit you.  The issue is that many Crossfit athletes receive direct criticism to the face. People actually have mocked fellow Crossfitters and me directly and blatantly.  I am told how it is stupid, how bad it is for me, and how “these Crossfit dudes” are just over there ruining there joints.  OK, this is not a rant or attack piece on these people, I am just framing my thoughts.  But, I digress.

“This Crossfit clown over here in the squat rack ruining his joints. Team ACL tear.” -person at work

The negativity I have experienced has managed to silence me a bit.  I have had some time to reflect on my overall experience lately and it is clear that I shouldn’t be the slightest bit quiet about it.  I have been thinking about writing this for a long time but every time I sit down to do it I back out.  I usually write something much more superficial and then eventually delete it. I know I lack confidence in what I write but, there is something more to what causes me to remove my empty words so often.  I have yet to express what I truly want to first.  Here is the starting point:

It is 2010.  I am a college freshmen who has recently found themselves transplanting for the second time in a matter of months.  I am good at laughing things off and even better at covering true emotion.  My state of health is not very good for a 19 year old.  I drink a lot, I smoke, I am sedentary, and I am a few pounds overweight.  I have the body of a lazy offensive lineman, but I am in a five-and-a-half foot body.  Lets say I am wide and wearing large shirts that are very snug.  I hate myself.  Self-hatred was not something that was new at this point in time.  I spent a lot of time thinking about dying or just giving up.  I had an amazing childhood and amazing parents.  I was attending private college and considered myself to be well studied and educated.  It didn’t make sense to me.  There are some people that know, or have experienced my cries for attention.  I was emotionally labile.  Under some of my attention seeking behavior was deeply rooted sadness that didn’t seem to have a real origin.  I wanted to kill myself.  It would have been easier and the stress of living would be lifted.  Through the eyes of my friends, I was a pretty jovial guy.  I won’t lie and say I didn’t have enjoyable and fun times, but that feeling was ALWAYS there.  I feel I have never been close but, not very far from taking my own life.  Something just was not right.

I found Crossfit in the midst of a tumultuous time in my life.  School toward a career path was loaded with multiple new jobs.  I had started to run with a friend almost daily.  I couldn’t run fast and I couldn’t run far.  Little by little I saw subtle changes in my body and a few pounds fell of the scale.  May 2010 was the beginning of my journey.  I had an old friend who owned a Crossfit gym and I up and decided to join.  The uplifting idea that I joined and all of my problems disappeared is one for the fairy tales.  I spent a summer running and going to the box every single day.  I became an addict with reckless abandon.  The numbers on the scale counted down daily and my body began its transformation.  There are so many steps and learning experiences to get to where I am in my training.  I won’t go through all of that because it is just the process and reserved for a separate discussion.  The point is that I was beginning to see a  healthier body image.  However, there is no such thing as easy and there are no fairy tales.

A year into this new lifestyle and I am seeing many positives.  I am fronting everything.  I am not happy.  I have created a new persona as a Crossfitter and I am damn good at faking it.  I have new friend, new bonds, and I don’t want to let any of them in.  I begin to get sick more often, grind my teeth more, and panic.  I am also in a relationship that is completely full of depression.  If you take two sad, emotionally unstable characters who hide everything and put them together,you get a black hole.  Crossfit released endorphin which gave me moments of high followed by the continual low.  There is an increasing amount of time spent inside of my head with the gears grinding into dust.

“I look better naked.  Why the fuck and I still so fucking sad and angry.”  – Me. I was consumed by a wish to die from something so I wouldn’t have to do it.

I remember the night that I started to make the necessary changes.  I was in a very good friends room feeling terrible.  I wanted to throw up.  I was sickened by myself and it was like a never-ending circle.  We sat up most of the night talking.  I was just avoiding conversation.  He is an awesome friend that I owe a lot to.  I was giving excuses for how I felt and using other things to deflect what was really going on in my head.  After hours of discussing both of our problems, without either of us admitting what they even were, we decided we both needed individual help.  Covering it up by working out more and endless meandering conversations was no longer going to work.  I have told few people ever, but I went to a professional counselor.  I did some time going to a weekly counseling session.  I filled out the suicidal assessment and was challenged by a stranger.  What comfort zone I was holding onto was shattered.  For me, the gym was constantly forcing me out of my comfort zone.  Outside of the gym I could just slide right back in to it.  Now, I was challenged to rid the unhealthy bubble I had worked so hard to create.  There are plenty more ups and downs, but the rest is truly history.

Interjection – Professional counseling is a good thing.  No one should have to feel shame to seek out help for whatever is needed.

I’ve never opened up about how much I used to contemplate suicide and the fact I received help from someone at a counseling center.  I am reading my own words currently, picking them apart.  I don’t know where all of these commas come from or where I am supposed to put them.  I don’t want to find myself  out there with too many punctual mistakes.  I want to resonate in at least one mind.

I don’t know if the Crossfit and fitness culture has saved my life.  I don’t know if something else would have saved me or I would have let myself enter a much darker world.  I can’t speak to things that never happened and I will not entertain, what if?  What Crossfit and the many communities of friends and families gave me was much more than an outlet.  Something goes above the idea that fitness can be a great distraction from stress or some type of relief.  Crossfit takes the mind beyond this.  Like I said, using this diversion and shift in attention had done nothing to fix my problems.  The mood stability created by high cardiac output began to fade.  No, Crossfit gave me nothing.  I was forced to overcome fear.  Crossfit changed my way of thinking about a challenge.  It doesn’t matter so much how large or small the obstacle is.  Through this sport of fitness we learn how to endure and overcome.  It comes together from all different aspects of the lifestyle that have been integrated and practiced rather than adopted.  I am able to make so much more of myself than I ever have been.  The individual communities do fund raisers for the less fortunate and sick.  As a world wide community we do workouts that are to honor fallen loved ones.  We watch in awe of the feats accomplished, from children to the elderly.  This community cheers loudest for those who are struggling to finish, for those who are having the hardest time.  In the most grueling workouts where all I want to do is throw up and quit, I have had to go within and know that I can give more.  I say Crossfit gave me nothing because it made me attain it.  If I wanted out of my cycle of self wallowing and self deprecation, I had to be the one to do it.

The conclusion is this;  I am not going to shut up about my experience any more.  I can see the difference in me and I have seen how Crossfit has helped countless others.  There are even people who got into it because of my times of talking about it incessantly.  The impact it has beyond the idea of a sport or even fitness routine is worth telling everyone about.  Share this little bit of information with someone who might be struggling.  If someone wants to give a hard time to a fellow Crossfit athlete, hopefully they think about what that individual is able to achieve instead.