I pick up the bar, focus on doing the movement right, and go for it. A few minutes into the workout the thought of quitting enters my mind – this is too hard. I look around me – my CrossFit friends, many of them moms, are still going, and so I pick up the bar one more time and do one more rep. And then another, and another. I continue to struggle physically as I find healing mentally. The clock finally beeps. I drop the bar and simply lay on my back staring at the ceiling. I’m a heap of an exhausted mother covered in sweat. Exhausted, but not defeated. A little bit stronger, mentally refreshed, and high on endorphins. Most importantly, I’m ready to go home to my girls and try something different because what seemed like a jagged mountain of parenting issues is suddenly not so intimidating any more.
After my second daughter was born, a child we waited for almost 8 years, my life was shattered. She was crying so much, so loud, so long. I thought I had this mothering thing down since I’ve gone through the baby and toddler years with my first daughter. Then a totally different child arrived, nothing worked, and my firstborn felt she lost her mom and her world fell apart as well. I was totally unprepared for this. Enter CrossFit, my therapy, battery charger, and calming force. I finally came back to the gym when my little one was 4 months old, as I’ve been postponing my return due to absolute exhaustion and depression. I remember the first workout, the guilt I felt that I was not at home to comfort her, and instead was selfishly doing my own thing. I didn’t realize that without charging my own batteries, I had nothing left to give. And so instead of talking to a therapist on a couch, I made sure I showed up for my CrossFit classes each week.
I’d enter the gym every Tuesday and Thursday a complete mess, ready to curl up in a corner and not move, responding to “how are you” questions with a simple “I’m here”. I’d force myself to follow the coach and do the grueling workout to the best of my abilities, next to other moms whom I was so happy to see and talk to, realizing I was not alone in this parenting struggle. Sometimes the workout would take 7 minutes, sometimes over 30, but each time, I managed to refocus my mind from panic mode about failing my kids as an incompetent mother to how to correctly do a deadlift, swing on the bar to try for that pull-up one more time, or jump on the box again when my legs turned to jelly and the clock hasn’t stopped yet. And a miracle happened – in the process of physically pushing myself, I started seeing the sun through the clouds and started coming up with ideas that might help my husband and I summit the parenting Mt. Everest at hand. Suddenly, at the end of each workout, I’d feel refreshed, no longer wanting to curl up in a corner and remain motionless.
Never At Home
I would never do such demanding workouts at home as I’d quit after the first round. I would probably end up in a corner of my bedroom crying instead and would never get the mental, physical, and social benefits I’m getting each time I show up for my class, especially when I’m in the “I’m here” mode. Week after week I end up on that floor staring at the ceiling, gasping for breath, happy that it’s over and knowing that I’m a beast because I gave it all I could and didn’t quit. I’m a momma bear fiercely fighting for herself and the happiness of her family. And I see others around me, each with their own challenges, not giving up either. In the past 3 years there were long stretches of times when I thought everything was going wrong except for CrossFit – I was still making progress there, little by little, and that drove me to keep trying on the parenting front as well.
What’s Different About CrossFit
But what’s so different about CrossFit compared to a regular workout place? It’s in the word “different” – each workout is different so you never get bored. You can start as a novice, be right next to someone doing a fully RX’d (= as prescribed) version, and you will both get the same benefits. There’s so much to learn and you will see yourself progressing to heavier weights and being able to do things you never thought you were capable of. You can also compete. For real. When I first heard of the CrossFit Open, I thought it was for the extremely fit people who come to the gym 5-7 days a week and who can do all the prescribed movements. I was so wrong – I entered my first CrossFit Open 2 years ago and the dragon within me woke up and has been breathing fire since. I did everything scaled but felt like a true athlete – something that I always wanted to be and never was before. Compared to my daily parenting struggles and the tricky work-life balancing act, being an athlete who is taken seriously feels incredibly empowering and I’m already working towards the next CrossFit Open when I’ll be fiercely fighting to defeat only one person – myself.
While I do CrossFit to recharge my batteries, I also realize my girls are watching everything I do. I don’t always have a solution for our struggles but I am delighted to show them a healthy way of dealing with life’s challenges. There are times when I simply tell them I need my CrossFit before I can think straight again. I apologize when I realize that I’m not set up to be a partner to them right at that moment and that I’ll be better once I come back from CrossFit. And no matter how tired or upset I may be going in, the transformation works every single time.
Another mean workout under my belt, I know I’ll be sore tomorrow and will need to stretch, even if my little one sits on my back as I do it. So be it, she loves it and I admit I do too, even if it makes it a bit harder. As I pull into the garage after my class, sometimes I hear crying from the inside, sometimes I know I’ll be immediately pulled into a situation that will make my heart hurt because my girls are going through tough times. I know I can’t fix it for them but I can be with them and now my batteries are full. So I get out of the car, take a deep breath, and walk around to the door telling myself, “Ten seconds…. 3, 2, 1, go!”