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CrossFit, Martial Arts and Other Things Girls Do

Posted on 02 September 2009 by Scott

I wrote this blog in February of 2007 to celebrate two years of CrossFit training. CrossFit has literally changed my life. Please read my story to find out how.

An Accidental Athlete

I didn’t know I was an athlete. Sometimes I still am amused by it. People I haven’t seen in a few years aren’t quite sure what to make of it. The beauty of having goals sometimes isn’t so much in ever achieving them, but rather the unexpected twists that arise on the path.

February 10th of this year marked a special anniversary for me. That date signified the completion of two years of CrossFit training. Maybe that sounds funny. It’s just a gym, after all.

But it’s not.

I remember being active as a child. I was on the soccer team and the softball team, but I was never that great. Nobody ever got excited when it was my turn to bat. I was active, but I never excelled. For me, childhood, high school and college were all about the arts. I didn’t understand the beauty in athletics. I wanted to make music, to sculpt and paint, write and make movies. Exercise was something horrible and rarely done.

Ten years ago I moved to Los Angeles. I had plans to be an Academy Award winning feature film editor. While attending USC, I worked on a documentary that sparked something inside me. It was called “Judy’s Time” and was about a fifty-something year old woman who decided one day she wanted to be a tri-athlete. She wasn’t a runner or an athlete, she just had a dream. That first day she ran around the block. The next day she ran a little further. Eventually she dominated her age division, and even beat some of the younger men.

Then, one day, out on a training ride, she was hit by an under-aged driver and killed.

It was her daughter I was working for on the documentary, and I was moved by the dedication and the dream that her mother, Judy, had and shared with everyone around her.

I thought I would try to be a runner, too. Two days into my plan, my shins hurt so badly I could barely walk. After that I stuck to the rowing machine and the stationary bikes. Those get boring quickly. I never even ventured into the weight room. I didn’t know what to do with anything in there. There was a lot of grunting and strange machines.

I decided I just wasn’t very good at working out on my own.

I signed up for martial arts. I figured if I had someone telling me what to do, I’d do it. I learned how to stick fight on the Santa Monica Beach. I began to understand the elation that comes from sweat on your skin, sand stuck to your face, and exhaustion in your muscles.

Our class only met once a week, and I was hooked. I wanted more. I began to study other arts, and eventually found my way to Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. I began to feel a sense of pride in doing a physical feat well. I began to understand the draw of competition.

My first grappling tournament, I went to shake my opponent’s hand and I thought she was going to crush my fingers. I could see the definition in her arm muscles through her rash-guard. I need to get stronger if I’m going to do this, I thought.

A teammate in Jiu-Jitsu told me about CrossFit and their website. He said they posted daily workouts for free and he sometimes did them. I went to the site. I didn’t know what most of the words meant. The things I did recognize, I either didn’t have the equipment for or I was pretty sure I would behead myself if I tried them on my own.

I noticed a list of affiliates and couldn’t believe my luck that there was one in Santa Monica – Petranek Fitness. I put the address in MapQuest. It was only a couple miles from my home.

I emailed the gym and went to a class two days later. Thursday evening, February 10th, 2005. We did a workout called the “Jackie.” 1000m row, 50 thrusters, and 30 pullups. I kept a journal from that very first day. I knew I loved it. Something in me knew it’s what I needed. Andy, the owner, had a great energy and brightness and I trusted him immediately to guide me.

But regarding that first workout – thrusters are a squat where you have dumbbells at your shoulders, and as you explode upwards in your squat you thrust the dumbbells over head. My journal says I did 15lbs on the thrusters – that’s 15lbs total, not 15lbs added to a bar, or two 15lb dumbbells. And on the pullups I used the thickest rubber band we had to assist me in doing them. I couldn’t do a single pull-up on my own.

I spent most of the next day trying to figure out how to get down my stairs without actually bending my legs.

Training at Petranek Fitness was not really in my budget. For me at that time, it was expensive. I made a deal with myself. I would quit drinking Diet Rockstar (a ten dollar a day habit at that point) and the saved money would pay for CrossFit.

I didn’t stay off the Rockstar long, but I stayed at Petranek.

Very quickly I discovered an amazing community at the gym. We cheered for each other. We raced each other. We pushed each other. We helped each other up off the floor. There is something about going through a painful and difficult experience with a group of people that bonds you to them. You don’t even have to talk about it. You know that they know.

A little over two years later and I do 65lb thrusters on the workouts that require them, and I can do twenty pullups straight with no assistance.

I’m aiming for 25 very soon.

Just recently, the gym had an open house event. It was a boisterous celebration, with students attempting all sorts of activities and personal records.

Towards the end of the event, Andy made a special presentation. I was sitting there on the floor, listening, feeling relieved the day had gone well, when I realized he was speaking about me. He tells his version of my first day at CrossFit. That I showed up in my Full Contact Fighter hoodie and my big bag of gear. That he wasn’t quite sure what to make of me. Except that I kept coming back.

“You are the living breathing example of what hard work, persistence and ‘just showing up’ will do. Your dedication and commitment are inspiring.!”

Those were the words etched into the metal. I was so touched Andy did that for me – that he said that about me. There’s not really a similar feeling to having a coach and mentor express those things to you.

I accepted the plaque from him, but I didn’t have the words to thank him. To tell him that gym, that place, is something I look forward to being in every single day. I have never been involved with a more positive and more driven group of people. I wanted to tell everybody there that each and every one of them was important to me as part of that community.

But I couldn’t say any of that; I just tried not to cry.

Somewhere along the last two years, I started teaching at the gym. I went to a CrossFit Certification and discovered that the larger CrossFit family was very similar to ours at Petranek. It was information and coaching and chaos and energy. It felt good.

I wanted to share with other people what I had learned – what I had learned about myself and what I knew about them. We can do more than we think. We have things inside us we have not discovered. Being involved with CrossFit, Petranek Fitness, and our family at the gym has opened up my mind, my body and my life to things well beyond the gym walls. I feel as if I have been given the biggest and best gift of my life and I want to give it back to everyone around me.

People talk about the necessity of possessing an open mind. But what about having an open mind regarding you? How often do you tell yourself you can’t do things? How have you defined yourself, and therefore limited your possibilities?

I never knew I was an athlete. It was an accidental discovery. I had no idea of what I was capable, and I’m positive that most other people don’t know what they are capable of either.

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