By Samantha Sweet
My freshman year in college I joined the gym on campus. I stepped on the scale and started crying. I weighed 138 pounds. That’s all! But there I was, standing there red faced, flustered, doing my best to hold back the tears. At that point in my life, I remember thinking “healthy” was fitting into the smaller sizes of jeans sold at Hollister or seeing the tiniest number possible for someone my age on the scale. So being the rational 18-year-old that I was, I decided to lose some weight by completely restricting what I ate; even though what I did allow myself to eat was Quiznos salads with chicken, bacon, cheese and ranch on them, or breaded chicken patties and wild rice from another place in our student center. I believed by choosing to eat these “healthier” choices on the few times I decided to eat that I would see more success. I was more concerned about the skin peeking out between my denim skirt and the lace trim of the tank top layered underneath my Aeropostale polo. This cycle continues for 12 years with manic highs and drastic drops to unhealthy lows.
My turning point came right around the time of my divorce. At this point in my life, I was already a regular with constant stomach issues. The pain would leave me doubled over, sometimes on my knees in pain in public places like Target or having to leave full shopping carts in Walmart. Not only was my body dealing with that, but in my 30’s I had now had two babies and my body was slowly becoming a time bomb. My divorce brought many changes to my life and many of those involved me having to take a harder look at myself and what I wanted to change and why I hadn’t done so yet. I know that while I was making all the mental and emotional changes I needed to make, it was the perfect time to make the physical ones as well. I wanted to be part of something that would occupy my time and encourage me to focus on myself. That’s when I decided to do CrossFit.
I know. CrossFit. Eye roll, right? Let’s address that. I am that stereotypical CrossFit person. I love it. I think it’s amazing. I could and will talk about it all day if given the opportunity. It really did change my life.
Disclaimer! CrossFit isn’t for everybody. Whether that is because it is physically not what’s best for you right now or you just flat out hate it. I realize that we all have our things and it’s mine. So, if and when I reference it, that is because I am speaking about how it makes me feel and I am able to label it as a source of those feelings. I know the feelings are universal even if the action that causes them is not. This is not me encouraging you to do CrossFit (although I can totally do that) and I just want to make sure I make that clear.
I drank the Kool-Aid from the moment I started. It became something I really looked forward to showing up at each day. I loved getting to know the people there and forming new relationships. I enjoyed the style of the workouts. I don’t have a long attention span and the pace and variety that the classes provide keep my focus. I still remember the first workout when I squatted clean and jerked 100 pounds for the first time. This was when I had my first “ah-ha” moment. There I was, lifting 100 pounds above my head, my first 3-digit lift, when months prior I had been using a pvc pipe. I felt invincible. I felt like if I was able to do that then there wasn’t anything I couldn’t overcome. There were people in the class who celebrated with me and as nice as it was to feel that I had people in my corner, this was the first time in a long time I had felt like I was actually in my own corner.
I started applying this mentality to other areas of my life and started noticing a positive change in those areas as well. I was taking challenges that seemed daunting and impossible and was facing them head on. I would formulate a plan on how I would approach each situation and methodically pick away at it. If one thing didn’t work, I analyzed it again and came up with a new plan. I became more confident in myself and relentless at finding ways to improve. I became more humble and patient and for the first time, I loved and was proud of myself.
That’s the tone I hope to set with my writing when it comes to fitness and health. The approach to health cannot be a blanket theory that we assume because it may have worked for one person it will work for everybody who tries it. We should desire to become better by doing something we love. We should want to do this activity often! We should enjoy doing it! Physical activity should never be used as a form of punishment for something we did or ate. It’s a physical component that still leads to our overall mental well-being. Having goals is great, but I speak from experience when I say you don’t want to be like that girl I was and define yourself based on some number on a scale. My goal is to encourage people to find whatever it is that can help them achieve and feel their overall best. I’m excited to start exploring this realm on a more personal level while I share it with you.