“Please don’t take this offensively, I want to try CrossFit but I don’t want to look like you.”
At first I was taken aback by a random stranger’s comment as I finished up my workout, but then I realized that I couldn’t be offended since I felt very much the same when I first walked into those garage doors a couple years earlier. There was one girl in particular that I saw that led to my first similar thought of, “I want to build muscle but maybe not that much.”
What this random stranger and I didn’t realize was the amount of time and determination that goes into the skills these girls were making look so effortless and the fact that they didn’t look the way they did from my former typical pasta every night philosophy.
Over the first few months of my CrossFit adventure, I watched as some incredible female athletes did pull-ups, handstand push-ups, barbell lifts and muscle ups. Despite being a skinny runner who clearly was not genetically engineered for this thing called CrossFit, I wanted to be able to do it all. Somewhere between not wanting to be bulky and wanting to lift weights and do basic gymnastics movements my mindset changed. Rather than worrying about what my body would look like I started to worry about what my body was capable of; with this came several lifestyle changes that brought me to the much more muscular, perhaps “bulky” physique that I enjoy today.
Diet, Eating and Energy
When you start spending that much time around people talking about their Paleo and zone diets you start looking at the bowl of pasta a little differently. Growing up (and through college) the only “vegetables” I ate were corn and peas (in my first introduction to paleo I learned one is a grain and the other a legume, crushing any impression of a healthy childhood). Through my first Paleo challenge, I forced myself to learn to like many vegetables. However with limited energy for multiple workout days I decided to learn more. After reading about different diets, hormonal balance and macros I increased my carbs, practically eliminated sugar and gluten, and even tried measuring my food for about 2 weeks. While I learned a lot about nutritional balance, I also learned that I could never be a bodybuilder because measuring everything made me slightly miserable. Despite not measuring, I still spend about 4-5 hours meal prepping Sunday afternoons and I look forward to my Sunday morning trip to the farm for my grass-fed meat, pasture raised chicken and eggs, and as many different colored veggies and fruits as possible – all while avoiding the traffic and lines at Market Basket and Hannaford.
Does all this mean I never go out to dinner or have a glass of wine with my brownies and ice cream? Or that I never go out with friends on a Friday night? Of course not – I love those things almost as much as CrossFit, I just do them a lot less frequently than before.
Now it’s been 4 years since I started CrossFit and I have been asked everything from, “Are you a gymnast? A bodybuilder? A fighter?” to “Do you take steroids?”; yet there are plenty of people who I started CrossFit with and ones who were at it long before me who lead a normal life, wear tank tops in public and have never been asked any of these questions.
First – CrossFit became a passion – some would argue an obsession. Though not necessary to see positive results both from a capability and a physique perspective, the amount of time and effort put in is certainly related to the results. I loved my time at the gym and soon found other hobbies were less important, I stopped playing in the recreational floor hockey league, limited drinks with coworkers to special occasions and somehow managed to get to the gym at 5:30am on days when I had my MBA classes after work. Weekends became the days I could go to the gym (or stay active in other ways through hiking, swimming, etc.) without time constraints, and I learned quickly that going out on a Friday night would bring with it a miserable 9am training session Saturday morning – so I chose to stop going out on Friday nights and honestly didn’t miss it at all.
My time at the gym increased as I understood the movements and theory of CrossFit and I found myself reading articles and books related to technique, mentality, and nutrition. Soon enough every night I could look forward to spending 2-3 hours at the gym – much of that time was spent training and working skills and technique but the rest learning from those around me. My life became a delicate balance of my career (then in finance) and CrossFit.
Editors note: I wanted to comment on something from immediately above. 2-3 hours per day at the gym is an incredible amount of time. That is a lot of dedication and goes well above and beyond what we would consider a normal CrossFit class of 45-75 min. Please keep that in mind — it’s the point of the story 🙂
If you start CrossFit can I guarantee you will or will not look like me?
CrossFit can be a workout, a hobby, a passion or a lifestyle and it will certainly bring with it a higher level of fitness and expand your own capabilities, but you will only progress as far as you prioritize and commit.
With an open mind hopefully, like me, you will find your perception of “bulky” changes as you experience what your body is capable of.
I am not a gymnast, fighter, or bodybuilder and I don’t take steroids.
I am a CrossFitter, I work hard, and I love every minute of it.