For a girl who wouldn’t touch a weight until she was 25 years old, it’s kind of odd that I fell in love with CrossFit the way I did. I’m not kidding, I didn’t touch weights until I got my certification in group exercise.
I went to my college gym a few times, but only for the elliptical, occasionally the treadmill, and just once, the leg press. The leg press only occurred the one day I went before 7am with my roommate when I was certain nobody else would be there to wonder, “What is that girl trying to do?”
You know those gym meme videos you see go viral on Facebook? I was one set away from being an internet sensation.
So why CrossFit? I’ve been thinking about it lately (you know, doing the sentimental reflection thing) and joining this gym is against everything in my personality. I don’t loathe calling people. I refuse to go to new places solo. And I absolutely will not show up somewhere by myself where I don’t know what to expect. Yet here I am, because I did all those things I never do, even still to this day.
I was injured, working with an awesome physical therapist in July of 2013, clueless about the world around me beyond running. One morning, I was introduced to a married couple at my 6:30am session who were foam rolling after their workout — they were finishing up training for Ironman Lake Placid (let’s call them Mr. and Mrs. IMLP). Little did I know what effect they’d have on me in less than a couple years.
Over the year working with my therapist, he’d remind me that he was partnering with his friends — Mr. and Mrs. IMLP — to open a CrossFit gym. You should join, he would tell me. I was content working at Buffalo Athletic Club and LA Fitness teaching my bootcamp and spinning classes, but always listened when he mentioned it. I showed up to a Spring 2014 outdoor workout; the gym wasn’t open yet and I remember being totally out of my league when I showed up. But I met up with J’s sister and completed the workout — sort of. It was rough.
All I truly recall is having to compete wheelbarrow walks and my core was so weak, I couldn’t make it one length. I was paired up with a girl from J’s sister’s gym who was incredibly fit and she (thankfully) did every wheelbarrow walk.
In preparation for the opening of the gym — a gym I knew nobody planning to attend — I purchased a 6-pack Groupon at another CrossFit gym that J’s sister and her boyfriend attended. I wanted to walk into my new gym looking like I knew something. Of course, it was harder than I expected and I suddenly felt totally unfit. Who cared that I could run a 6:00 mile? Or that I could run a half marathon easily under 2 hours (at that time, at least, let’s not talk about current fitness)? Or that I could coach 3 bootcamp and spin classes in a row? CrossFit didn’t care, I’ll tell you that much.
The week my gym was opening, I had to call the owner to set myself up in their system. I remember standing in the living room of my apartment looking up the gym phone number and pacing. Remember? I hate calling people. But I called Mr. IMLP. Hey, I’m Brittany and I want to come to your gym when you open. I gave him all my information and he said he’d see me on opening day.
On the first day, I showed up. Hi, I’m Brittany. At this point, I didn’t know that I already met Mr. IMLP. He introduced me to his wife, Mrs. IMLP. I got a tour of the gym. I couldn’t even tell you what the workout was, but I’m sure it wasn’t too bad. I handed over my credit card information and purchased a 10-pack of classes and started coming once or twice a week. I came by myself. I don’t do that, but for God knows what, I did that. It never got easier until this summer, truthfully, so I really don’t know why I kept coming back.
I didn’t make a ton of friends off the bat. I saw the same people day after day, but I kept to myself, only recognizing people with a quick ‘hello’. I became pretty good friends with Mr. and Mrs. IMLP, partially because they already knew J’s sister so it was a common ground conversation, but it didn’t take long for a friendship to come from that. It didn’t hurt that we all had similar interests in the endurance world.
Soon after, Ms. HotMess started coming around the gym. I met her previously through J’s sister so we had something in common off the bat, too. After seeing her around the gym more often, we became easy friends. She was training for her first half Ironman as a Mom of 3, one of which has special needs, on top of working, being a wife, and fitting everything else in!
Then sometime in the winter of 2015, there was a Buffalo Triathlon endurance class. Mr. IMLP told me to come to it, probably because I had been going to endurance class each week for so long I had the understanding of what was going on, but also could easily say how much help it was in my recovery/strength, even though I knew nothing about triathlons. I met Ms. MedSchool who could compete in multiple full length Ironman races, ultramarathons, and, if you couldn’t tell by the name, was in med school. I didn’t know if she’d come back to be a full fledged member, but she did, and we became friends just as fast.
Soon after, a Friday in spring 2015, Mr. IMLP told me a girl needed a running buddy on Saturday. I never met her, but he said to meet her at the gym at 8:30 and so I did. I remember being nervous wondering what I was going to talk to this chick about for an hour. I showed up Saturday and met Ms. TrashPanda who instantly had me laughing and oversharing like we were friends for years, despite knowing each other less than an hour after the run was done.
This group of friends has been everything I’ve wanted and needed since leaving college. My best of friends from college (and shortly after) live in various parts of the United States and a few of us have grown apart. I hadn’t truly found a group of local women who were uplifting, fun, determined, and supportive that understood me and the things I loved. So easily, they’re the reason I stuck with CrossFit and kept coming back for more. We’ve cheered each other on at goal races (or, in Ms. TrashPanda’s case, even fights) near and far, either attempting to be there in person, or supporting virtually. We’ve been sounding boards and motivators when 5:30am workouts come far too quick. We’ve also had our fair share of drunk chats, personal meltdowns, rants, raves, and everything in between. Our Facebook group chat doesn’t stay silent for more than a few hours, no matter what time of day or night it is.
Friendships aside, CrossFit has given me something I’ve never had in my life. I feel strong. I felt strong coaching group fitness classes, but this is something different. Right now (finally) I can lift 75% of my body weight over my head and before the end of 2016, I want that number to be 100%. I see pictures of myself running and I see the definition in my legs; I see strength pushing my body over the finish line. I notice my arms in the mirror when I’m brushing my hair. I can carry at least 2 more bags per arm from the car to my apartment after grocery shopping (or something like that).
Growing up, I was always concerned about being too thin and I hated shopping because I was stuck looking at clothes for people way younger than me. Today that isn’t the case. I feel strong and I certainly look stronger than I once did. Oh, and I haven’t had an injury since I started strength training with purpose.
So if you made it this far, I’ll have you know this post was brought to you by a few beers, a spiked seltzer, not enough carbs, and a going away party for a coach at the gym. Sometimes I enjoy thinking about how I got to where I am and a lot of my life feels a bit more than just serendipitous. I’m not sure how much I believe in fate, but more and more I feel like my life is exactly where it should be somehow and it involves a lot of irony and “whoa, what a small world!”
It’s not often I get too personal on this little corner of the web, but here I am, getting a little personal on this little corner of the web. Thank you, Empire Brewing, Spiked Seltzer, Corona, and Blue Point Brewing for bring out the emotional in me.