Finding Courage with Friends

Keep your fears to yourself, but share your courage with others. — Robert Louis Stevenson

I don’t know how I did it, but I convinced my friend to join me at the gym for a CrossFit session. I have been pretty relentless in my pursuit to gather an army of friends to join me in the CrossFit craze. I faithfully check-in at the gym. I share funny memes and progress. I encourage everyone to try it because I seriously love it and having friends with me at the gym would be the cherry on top.

But no one has taken the bait yet. I get all kinds of inquiries — interest is definitely alive. I also get all kinds of excuses. Some people even think I have entered a weird, mid-life crisis battle and that this fad will fade. But honestly, I am just excited that, for the first time in my life, I can actually say how much I love going to the gym.

Yes, I am filled with anxiety at first. These workouts are tough and I struggle my way through them. It makes my heart beat fast to think about what the WOD will have me doing and I talk myself out of going eight times before I finally go.

Once I am at the gym, I feel relief. The coaches are top-notch coaches who walk me through every move, give me grace when I am slow, and help me with modifications as needed. They push me when I need to be pushed and keep me focused on my goals.

And then the workout begins…

The panic sets in and I wonder how on earth I will ever finish. I tell myself I am out of my league. That maybe I should be at the YMCA walking on the treadmill. My “rah-rah — I can do this” attitude is quickly replaced with thoughts of death by burpee…

But pretty soon, I have made it through the warm-up. I have practiced a skill. And the WOD is complete. My workout is over. I suddenly feel like an ecstatic rockstar who just crushed her first gig.

I am pretty sure my friend felt all of these things while working out with me the other day, although she may not admit it and swears she will not be coming back. I could be upset by that but I know she just hasn’t felt the last emotion in the stages of exercising — pure joy and excitement.

When I leave the gym, I record my workout and look at my calendar to see when I get to do it all over again. Sometimes I wonder why on earth I am so excited about such torture, but I think I have it all figured out. You see, yes, my body is transforming, but more importantly, my brain is getting something it desperately needs.

Most people wouldn’t know or understand, but I struggle with anxiety and depression. I could sleep through most days if adulting wasn’t a necessity. Running has helped me immensely in the past but since not being able to run, I’ve fallen prey to the fear and sadness that often consumes me. I fight hard, but sometimes, a candybar and a nap are the best things to get me through a long day. Doctors just want to medicate, but I can’t help but wonder about the connection between exercise and mental health. Running gave me the boosts I needed to get through the day without crumbling like a piece of rotted wood. I have found that CrossFit is doing the same thing for me.

I can’t encourage you enough to find a place where you can experience the benefits of exercise. Research shows that exercise improves your mood, helps you sleep, and boosts your self-esteem. No medication required! It doesn’t have to be running or CrossFit (though I would welcome your company). It just has to be something you enjoy. What will it be for you?