Moms Make Better CrossFitters (and CrossFit Makes Better Moms).

Maybe CrossFit was started by a man.  Maybe men hold most of the records, win most of the competitions and get most of the glory.  But I’m here to talk about what women in CrossFit gyms all over the globe already know:

CrossFit is the most feminist sport on the planet.  Here’s why:

I have owned and operated a CrossFit box for over a year and a half.  Women make up the vast majority of our current membership.  And as much as I would love to claim that we are a unique snowflake of a CrossFit gym, I don’t think we are.  I think women outnumber men in many CrossFit gyms, because the qualities you need to excel at CrossFit come naturally to women  They may not always come easily, but I do believe they are part of our nature.  I have seen them modeled for me in the women who have mothered me through my 30 years.  And I use them constantly as I mother my own child.  In CrossFit I have found a sport that celebrates my innate strengths, those that all women access when they care for and nurture another person.  CrossFit also speaks to a deep part of my soul, the part that needs to be pushed to keep improving, to strive constantly to be the best version of myself.

Let’s start with the easy stuff.  This is how CrossFit makes me a better mom:

You’re not allowed to quit.  

An unspoken rule of CrossFit workouts is that you do not quit.  You might slow down, you might take a break.  You might be lagging behind everyone else by a substantial margin.  But if your coach is as good as mine (spoiler alert: he’s also my husband, so I’m partial) that coach will tell you to keep going.  And so will your fellow athletes.  They will tell you that you are strong enough.  They will tell you you’re doing a great job.  They will tell you to take a breath, then dig deep and jump right back in because you have more in the tank than you think you do.  

Last night was a particularly rough workout for me.  I was tired and cranky and I’d had a rough week.  I told everyone this before we started, but I was there and with everyone watching me I knew I couldn’t just give up. Everyone else finished before me, and as they caught their breath they turned their attention to me.  Two years ago that would have mortified me, but last night it warmed my heart. One of my dear friends, who was a relative stranger before we started working out together, knelt right next to me as I began my 5th and final set of heavy front squats.  Her encouragement grew louder and more urgent until, when I had only three squats left she screamed, “this week did not beat you!  You are stronger than it! You win! YOU WIN!’   I did.  I won.  I was tired, and dead last, but I finished.

I had some low moments this week.  I was not the mother I dreamed I would be.  I lost my patience, gave in to whining, and ignored my child instead of engaging him.  But I did it.  I made it one more week staying at home with my toddler, feeding him nutritious food and reading him the same books over and over and loving him even though he punched me in the eye.  And when I struggled and wanted to give up, I had a tribe of women around me to tell me what a good job I was doing.  There is not a parent alive who doesn’t need that.


You chose the hard way.  

In a world full of ‘easy’ workouts, CrossFit stands out as the road less taken.  The ‘hard’ way, the rugged option that is not for the faint of heart.  The same could be said of parenthood.  As a mother I am constantly struggling to chose the difficult path, the one that is sure to lead to a happy, healthy child but requires so much damn effort that it seems insurmountable.  Vegetables instead of dessert.  Books instead of TV. Cloth diapers instead of disposable.  Patience instead of anger.  As the mother of an almost two year old, my future looks like a mountain of these kind of struggles.

Where I land on each of these kinds of struggles depends on the day, the week, the month.  And the end is nowhere in sight, no matter how fast the internet tells me it will go.  But I am surrounded by women who chose the hard way.  They show up night after night to lift heavy weights, run in the rain, and leave it all on the floor.  Because they know that their choices matter and that every single time they chose the hard way, they are one step closer being the best person that they want to be.  And when I struggle to find the will to parent my child, I think of them.

 

Are you ready?  ‘Cause it’s about to get heavy.  This is how being a mother makes me a better CrossFitter:

It is Hard

My very first Mother’s Day was two days after I found out that the baby I had been carrying for 20 weeks was most certainly not going to have the kind of life I had dreamed of for her.  In the weeks between that day and the day she was born, I learned a lot more about specifically which parts of her body worked and which did not, and which part of her brain was present and which was not.  But I never learned why.  No diagnosis, no syndrome; perfect chromosomes, healthy parents. Just a part of the 3% of all human pregnancies that mutate without cause.  This is the human condition: life is hard for no reason.  

We struggle so much, fight so hard, and still we can’t always change our circumstances.  We are usually better because of our struggles, but that doesn’t mean we would ever chose them.  I get stronger every time i do  burpees.  It sucks, I loathe it, I am almost never happy when I do them.  And if I had the ‘choice,’ I wouldn’t.  But you read what I wrote about not quitting right?  I don’t quit.  Because there are other things in my life that have been harder than burpees.  

Birthing my daughter knowing that she had already died was much harder than any CrossFit workout I will ever do.  But I did it, so that I could hold her in my arms and kiss her tiny face.  And I will continue to do hard things, like CrossFit, because it feels like one of the most pure elements of the human condition.  

These days, if I put on a hat, so does my toddler.  He wants to eat whatever I’m eating, wear whatever I’m wearing and do whatever I’m doing.  Which is why he does spontaneous burpees, and cheers whenever he sees someone running.  As his primary caretaker, I am responsible for his entire worldview.  That is a huge responsibility and one that I do not take lightly.  If I was not constantly reminded of how closely he watches me, it would be easy to skip the gym and eat junk food all day long. 

It is one of those fantastic human paradoxes that we take better care of our children than we do ourselves, but I’m sure it is true for most of the parents I know.  So I drag him with me to CrossFit two or three times a week, even though it takes at least an extra half hour to prepare him, and messes up his sleep schedule (which makes my life harder of course.)  Because I want him to see that I am strong.  I want him to know that I make my health a priority.  And when I hit that inevitable wall in my workout and I hear him yelling or see him clapping, I get the motivation I need to finish.  Because what he needs, more than anything else, is for me to be strong and healthy and happy.  

So I am.

Athlete Spotlight!

Nicole (left) twinning with her daughter!

Nicole (left) twinning with her daughter!

Athlete Profile: Nicole H.

Hometown: Argyle, NY

Age: 39

Occupation: Registered Nurse

When did you first start CrossFitting? July 2015

When did you first start training at UPCF? July 2015

What's your favorite workout? Anything with handstands and thrusters

What's your least favorite workout? Anything with burpees and running

Tell us about your sports and fitness background: I competed in gymnastics from ages 8-14, then cheerleading and softball in high school. As an adult I did a lot of cardio and some weight training at the Y for several years prior to joining UPCF.

How did you first get exposed to CrossFit? Honestly, one of my co-workers used to do it in Albany and she lost a ton of weight and got into really great shape. It sounded like crazy workouts (tire flipping included) and starving yourself (paleo) and honestly kind of intimidating. I talked to Coach Windy about it last summer and she put my mind at ease. After my first workout I was hooked and never looked back.

Take us back to your first workout... what was it and how did you feel? My first real workout was power cleans and running. I was super-intimidated and scared that I would be the weakest/slowest person there. Even thought I was one of the last to finish, everyone was outside and cheering me on as I ran to finish, it made me want to push myself even more! It was awesome.

What sorts of changes have you seen in your body, health and fitness since starting CrossFit? I hate to say this, but I didn't see any major changes with my body until I buckled down and changed my diet. Many of us did the Whole 30 this January which cut out all grains, sugar, and dairy. It was a pretty minimal way of eating and I feel it has re-set my metabolism. I watched the pounds literally melt away and over the 30 days I lost about 12 pounds. I have continued losing weight since then and am now only 8 pounds from my goal weight. My daughter lost 16 lbs and my husband is down 20! We are going to do it one more time soon to push ourselves even more and reach our goals. Plus, we all feel better when we eat clean. I am definitely stronger and I am starting to see muscle definition (especially in my arms).

What sorts of changes have you experienced in your life after starting CrossFit that were unexpected? It is my stress relief. I have a stressful job and tend to be an overall anxious person. I always feel SO much better after a workout. My mood is better and my whole family is more conscious of our diet and activity level. I have also made a bunch of great friends who are so supportive!

Please share with us any favorite CrossFit or Underwood Park CrossFit moments! I love the sense of community there. Everyone is encouraging and really wants the best for each other. Some of my favorite workouts are the ones where you look at it in the beginning and think, "there is no way I can do all that"! When the workout starts, you just start chipping away at it and before you know it, you have done it! We had one recently like that and another one called the "filthy fifty" last year. They are memorable and left me with such a sense of accomplishment when I was done! It made me realize that I am stronger than I think I am! If I can do all that in a workout, I can do anything!

Any advice for people just getting started? DON'T WORRY ABOUT WHAT EVERYONE ELSE IS DOING! Focus on yourself and learning good technique, especially in the beginning. The weight and speed will come.

What are your hobbies, interests, and/or talents outside of CrossFit? Spending time with my awesome family!

Thank you, Nicole!

Common vs. Normal

There are a lot of things that are universal...

Joy
Sorrow
Hunger
Thirst
Satisfaction...

And then there are things that may not be universal,
but a lot of people experience them...

Texting
Schooling
Driving
Biking...

But...

(and here's where it gets tricky)

Just because lots of people do something,
it doesn't make it universal, and even more importantly,

it does NOT make it normal.

It DOES make it common.

We need to be clear on the distinction.
Because if we think something is normal just because
other people are similar, then we'll excuse it.
But if we realize that some of our struggles are common,
but not normal, it means that we can work together to get back on track.

Bad posture from texting all day is common, not normal.
Being 20-40 pounds overweight is common, not normal.
Peeing when you jump or run after childbirth is common, not normal.

Your struggles are common, and you're not alone in them.
But they're not normal, which means you don't have to be stuck in them.

Healthy is normal.
Active is normal.
Being pain free is normal.
Having control of your body is normal.

Get out and reclaim your normal.