Self-love through functional fitness

“Since I don’t look like every other girl, it takes a while to be okay with that. To be different. But different is good.” — Serena Williams

How it Began

It was December 2013. Degreed and a few months out of Howard University, I was confused about the future; pissed every time someone asked, “so what do you want to do?” I had recently completed a life-changing internship with the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, but now it was over. I formed unbreakable friendships with my cohort. They went back home — to Georgia, New York, Texas, North Carolina, Arkansas. I returned to Baltimore. “Back to square one,” I thought.

At the time, I was working for $10 per hour doing an internship in journalism (which I would go on to stay full-time). I penned many-a diary posts in a deep depression fearing that I would not live up to my full potential; that I’d be living in my mom’s home forever and never pay down my student loan debt. I had no identity or sense of purpose. Present was the dreaded, overbearing feeling of invisibility — a recurring theme.

I decided to join the National Guard.

My primary motivation for such a decision, to be frank, was the promise to be freed from my student loan debt and have a steady trade for employment. I am not ashamed to admit such.

All the paperwork was completed and in order. Physical was clear. Background check, good to go.

“Ms. Webb, you’re a pound over the Army’s weight standards,” said the MEPS nurse as I finished up processing at Fort Meade.

“….. what?”

I was in disbelief. Really? They made me leave. “Come back in a week to try again,” the enlisted soldier in the liaison’s office told me. They didn’t seem worried, but rather irritated. (A pound is nothing. I could’ve limited water intake, and dropped a few pounds overnight).

2014, at my heaviest of 140 lbs and 40% body fat

At that moment, something clicked. I was unhappy. I felt disgusting and sloppy. I was making rash, uninformed decisions while also being completely indecisive. I blew off the recruiter, which I am not proud of. However, I took this as a sign. This was not the right move. I believed that there were other opportunities in store. This is not the direction I should be going.

At last, my physical and mental well-being needed to take a front seat after suffering from years of emotional abuse. I decided to love myself. Cliché as it may sound, it began with losing weight. I started tracking calories (MyFitnessPal), I started training in Muay Thai (Crazy 88 MMA) and, since I was commuting to D.C. every morning to my internship (and later full-time job), I lifted heavy in a traditional gym 3 days per week at beginning at 4 a.m.

Committed. Obsessed. I lost 20 lbs in about 8 months. No gimmicks. No get-skinny-fast restrictive dieting. I ate a little less, a bit more healthier, and I made visits to the gym a regular occurrence. It paid off.

SuperFit DC, 2016 — Alexandria, Va. (Establish 1RM snatch in 10 minutes)

Enter: CrossFit

Lets fast forward to June 2015. I’m living in D.C. I accepted a new job, so I’m making more money. I decide to try CrossFit (join us! Old City CrossFit). I heard the cultish rumors, but I didn’t care. I was tired of doing my own programming and I figured working out with a group of people would be fun. That decision changed my life.

Listen.

Changed. My. Life.

I firmly believe that functional fitness is for everyone. If you need some inspiration, know that there are 90 — even 100 year olds — participating in daily WODs.

Back in 2013 when I was an unhappy recent college graduate with zero hobbies, I never would’ve imagined that I’d be training with, and competing against, the some of fittest athletes in the D.C. area.

Functional fitness — which, to me, is defined as practical movements that can prepare you for everyday life — has introduced a new realm of challenges and aspects of the human psyche that I did not realize existed. I’m tougher mentally. More assertive and sure of myself. Individuals outside of the community, for example, can at times feel intimated by women who are strong and look strong.

2016, 125 lbs and 20% body fat

People like to stare. They make comments. “Be careful, don’t get to muscular.” EYE. ROLL. Ladies, a strong body is a healthy body, and if people don’t like it then that’s their problem, not yours. I can probably write a separate post just about people making unsolicited comments about my body.

The point is, I decided to invest in myself. I like to train. A lot.

It’s no longer just exercise for healthy living. I just competed in my first USAW sanctioned weightlifting meet in April 2017. Ultimately, I would like to be a nationally competitive weightlifter.

Through it all, I’ve made great friends in the process who have goals of their own, which is motivating for me.

Fitness isn’t the only way to practice self-love.

It can be self-love through music; self-love through writing; self-love through programming; self-love through mentoring. Do what you love. Do what makes you happy. I’m not saying my self-esteem is through the roof. It’s a work in progress, but being an athlete has made it ten times better.

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