Friday, April 15, 2016

An Indefinite Hiatus From Something I Loved

When I get used to having something in my life, it's hard letting go. But it's important to differentiate an accustomed routine versus loving to do it. I'm not participating in CrossFit any longer. At least for the time being. I suffered a nagging injury which is still healing. While I miss the routine of my gym schedule, as well as my friends, I found myself not excited to resume the activity. I noticed I constantly tried to thwart my feelings to simply uphold an accustomed routine.

I'm going to discuss both pros and cons of my experience. If you are an extreme CrossFitter and sensitive to the slightest bit of negativity, I suggest you just stop reading now. I'm entitled to my opinions, my reasons, and my revelations which apply to me. I don't regret my journey or choices. I'm simply sharing my true raw emotions, a.k.a. feelings, which is difficult enough.

I tried out a CrossFit class back in 2011 after some persuasiveness. I wanted to not like it. I simply wanted to just say I completed one CrossFit workout, but I found that I surprisingly enjoyed being physically challenged. I quickly became interested in some of the elements that I seemed naturally good at such as pullups, pushups, situps, and rope climbing. I started attending every other week or so. That turned into every week, and pretty soon a women's class dawned in order to meet the changing needs of CrossFit. It was a non-intimidating atmosphere and it was fun learning technique, improving skills, and making new friends. There was fun, laughter, and enjoyment in surrounding myself with other ladies. All these things were wonderful, but I noticed gradual changes that, little by little over the most recent years, shifted my yearning to continue.

First, was the competitiveness of the classes. As the women's class became popular and membership increased, a competition circuit seemed to emerge which meant those gals needed more fitness challenges than the average woman. The Rx (or standard) weight for WODs (workouts of the day) became increasingly heavy, like those in a regular class. I realize the purpose was to condition competitors which also puts the box's name out there in the winner's circle, but I felt left behind. I'm a petite person and I physically couldn't keep up with the fast changes of the class so I stuck to lighter weights and focused on those elements I was good at. While I felt welcome in class, I no longer felt important. I wasn't a competitor, yet the class's concentration was on those that were. I didn't have the desire to be competitive which began to affect my group interest.

Second, was the introduction of Wodify, an electronic version of the classic CrossFit whiteboard. In the old days, after each WOD, scores were recorded on a plain ole whiteboard. Members walked into class, their names were written in down in no particular order, and scores recorded appropriately. At the end of class, they were simply wiped away. With Wodify, it electronically keeps score and tracks progress, which was handy. However, it also ranks members for the WOD that day. While it wasn't my personal goal to be one of the first-ranked CrossFitters listed on that thing, it honestly was depressing to see my name frequently at the bottom of the list. The score with whiteboard method were so jumbled, it never even crossed my mind to look at the rank order. Wodify partitioned the ranks first by if someone completed the WOD Rx, then those who modified, followed by time and/or repetition numbers. With this method, someone who did the Rx version in 12 mins, for example, ranked higher than someone who scaled to their ability and did the WOD in 8 mins. But lets say Person 1 scaled and used 55 lb weights. Person 2 scaled and used 35 lb weights and did the WOD faster; now they are ranked higher than Person 1 even though Person 1 lifted heavier. There was no organization to the scaled version of the WODs. If you modified you'd better do it fastest. The problem was the hidden competition factor that Wodify fueled within the class setting, and I suppose modifying allowed me to step back and notice this. I loathed observing dirty looks between women, attempts to conceal jealousy, and the cheating. Yes, cheating. It was there with the old whiteboard system, but got insanely worse with Wodify. The yearning was so intense for some, it came down to cheating to get that number one spot on a stupid electronic tallying system! Wodify turned classes into mini competitions; not something I enjoyed, truthfully. I didn't want to let Wodify further shape my attitude, and I tried my hardest to move past it. I stopped looking at results. I would even "forget" to enter my score. Wodify is great for keeping track of progress, but I certainly did not appreciate the daily score stats. Some people may look at this process as motivation to better their skills, but I clearly felt differently. Wodify brought unnecessary and uncomfortable tension.

Third, was my shoulder started to become a pain in my arse. Admittedly, it's easy to become entangled in the CrossFit hype. I wanted to lift heavier, be faster, and continually enrich my skills. After heavy (for my ability) and/or repetitive lifting, my shoulder became inflamed. I'd rest it until it felt better, than go back to lifting. The allotment days to heal slowing began increasing and the time between flare ups decreased. Before I knew it, my shoulder rendered itself useless. I could handle omitting overhead lifting, but after a while I couldn't hang from a bar let alone perform pullups (my favorite) or toes to bar. Every WOD was transformed into a modified-for-Jennifer-version which became frustrating. Unhappiness and discomfort settled in due to my shoulder troubles. I tried non-invasive treatments: several cortisone injections, physical therapy, and chiropractic care all from multiple medical professionals. They helped temporarily, but once I felt better and returned to CrossFit it flared up. When everyday tasks, such as turning on faucets, putting dishes away, and casting a fishing pole become too painful, I finally caved and had surgery where the doc found "profound bursitis" and shaved down bone spurs.

Agreeing to the surgery was not an easy decision. I spent many days and nights alone in silent tears about the procedure. I was scared of the anesthesia. I was scared of what damage the surgeon would find. I was worried if it would even be successful. I was nervous I couldn't return to CrossFit which I had invested the last five years in and began to wonder if I should go back at all. The doctor was hopeful, but at the same time I sensed he was leery about allowing me to return to CrossFit. He was concerned about my joints, which are loose and unstable, and not a good fit for such high intensity like I was doing. I think he was trying to be a nice guy and not burst my determination-to-return bubble since he knew it was something I loved. At the same time, I began questioning my own antagonistic feelings about CrossFit. After all, I felt grumpy after class and left as soon as I could. Something I was once excited about suddenly turned sour, and I found myself preferring to be elsewhere.

Instead of continuing to foster anger and resentment, I decided it was time to start tuning in and listening to where the universe was guiding me. 

My surgery (which was in December 2015) went well, but my recovery is slow. When I asked to extend my membership freeze for a few extra months it was instead terminated. At first, it felt like a slap in the face. I couldn't shake my reaction of feeling unwanted. But then I tuned in and listened at the chance to veer off my current fitness course. Perhaps an indefinite hiatus from CrossFit is what I needed and to free myself from the bitter resentment created in my mind. The universe was speaking and I chose to be attentive. CrossFit will always be there if I decide to return. I told myself it's okay to let it go and allow as much time as I needed to heal. 

So far, I've presented negative feelings on CrossFit. It probably sounds like there is nothing good, but that is far from true. It's allowed me to make many self-discoveries. I have more confidence in life than I ever have. I'm not exactly sure how CrossFit made that happen. Maybe it's the feeling of exuberance when PRing a lift or move. Or perhaps it's just that eureka moment upon completion of a new skill. Even those who absolutely detest CrossFit in it's entirety, cannot dismiss the tenacity that emerges from those passionate about it. It has enlightened my self-esteem in ways I wish I possessed 20 years ago. I'm more willing to take risks and try new things. I've signed up for 5Ks and even done a couple fitness competitions (before my shoulder went out on me). Enrolling at the Community College would not have happened without the confidence I gained from CrossFit. Heck, I even started this blog because of it. Something about the connection between athletes, fostering the good in one another, thus leading to personal self-discoveries, rides with the spirit of CrossFit.

I've also made numerous friends, who I miss quite a bit. I think that's the hardest part for me about taking my hiatus; the withdrawal from the absence of friends. I miss the encouragement and camaraderie (yes, it was there despite the competitiveness). I miss the small talk, our kids' interactions, and complaining about life's annoyances. I miss looking at our muscles exclaiming, "Hey! Look! Here's another one I didn't know I had!" I miss whining joking with the coaches about how my body aches from WODs. I miss watching people grow and improve. I miss watching the top athletes do cool stuff like lift three times what I weigh. I miss the plates clanking and miniature earthquakes as they drop during the WOD. I miss the gentle whir of the rowers. I even miss the loud music I never really cared for. I miss gritting my teeth to get in just one more rep. I miss when a class performing overhead squats, it resembled engine pistons. I miss the feeling of burning oxygenated lungs, the sweat angels, the "see you next time[s]," and the roll of the garage door along its track to close the box for the day. I spilled more silent tears over the reality of leaving a community.

I don't miss being injured. Leading up to my shoulder surgery, I reluctantly came to realize that I lost some of the love I had for CrossFit. I had grown accustomed of the routine and discounted my physical well-being to keep it going. Coming to terms with my physical setbacks was a tough mental struggle. Maybe I was just not made for it. Maybe I am just getting old. Maybe it's just time to take a step back and allow myself to be taken in a new direction. Perhaps, with time, I can recover enough to return to a (much less intense) capacity. But for now, I need a break.

As I jot down my feelings here, I felt bad for being harsh and outspoken with my thoughts. I know what I have to say is going to upset others. But I need to express my feelings to strengthen the mental recovery process, and it has to be the truth. I need to write out the truth; my truth, for me.

Through these experiences and self-discoveries, I have been given the chance to change and grow. My wisdom has matured like the autumn tree who lost its leaves and patiently awaits its next chance to blossom into a sight more beautiful and grand than before. I've learned patience and acceptance and the importance of putting myself first. Perhaps that explains why I'm now content with leaving CrossFit behind for a while; I recognize the need for change and choose to embrace it, knowing that growth from experiences is the ultimate transformation of wisdom.

Copyrighted 2016 by Jennifer E. Miller

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