My motto going into 2017 was to step out of my comfort zone. After seeing it on Instagram I signed up for the Crossfit Chicago New You Challenge. I had no prior experience with Crossfit. I'm not even sure I knew exactly what it was. I had these visions in my head about it being something that big, beefy guys did. That they pushed huge tractor tires around all day. It was something that was definitely outside of my comfort zone. But I knew that I needed something to motivate me to get active again.
I stopped being active about 4 years ago. Prior to that I was a long distance runner. I trained with a group of endurance athletes and ran year round. I did Bikram yoga religiously. I ran any distance up to and including a marathon. Physical activity was a huge part of my identity and my life. Then some things happened and I just stopped running and being active. I kept telling myself that I would start again. That I would go to the gym. I never seemed to make it there. Then I needed shoulder surgery. That was another setback. And also another excuse that I could use to postpone resuming an active lifestyle. It took me another year to fully recover from my surgery.
I guess I finally got tired of not feeling good physically and mentally. I still remembered the feeling that I would get when I was exercising regularly. I was fit. I had a positive outlook on life. During the four years of not being active I became depressed and I just could not motivate myself to take that step to get back to where I used to be. When I was running I considered myself an athlete. I could no longer call myself that. When I found out about the New You Challenge it just resonated with me. I needed a "new me". I decided to sign up.
I was definitely scared and intimidated. It was hard just walking in the door for my initial interview with Ben. He was extremely nice. He talked about the community of Crossfit and the physical benefits of doing that type of exercise. He assured me that regardless of my level of fitness (or lack of), there would be a place for me in the challenge. After all, everyone has to start somewhere. He also talked about adopting a Paleo diet for the 6 weeks. That was something that I was a little bit familiar with. I knew that the diet aspect would not be a difficult thing for me. I had already decided, before walking in the door , that I was going to sign up regardless. I was stepping outside of my comfort zone in 2017 and this was my first opportunity to do that.
The first day of the challenge was nerve wracking. Our coaches Dana and Silvia were awesome. Every time I had a doubt about something they reassured me that it wouldn't be a problem. It's an extremely humbling experience when you are faced with your own shortcomings. And then you have to state them out loud amongst this group of people that you don't know. I can't do pull-ups. I can't do push-ups. I don't have enough stamina to go all out for 30 seconds without resting. They had an answer for everything - there are modifications. It's ok to rest. Do what is comfortable for you. There were so many times after that first day that I felt I didn't belong there, that I couldn't perform the way the others were performing. But the coaches were always encouraging and let me know that I did belong there. I wasn't competing against anyone but myself.
A couple of weeks into the challenge I tweaked my knee a bit. I thought for sure that I wouldn't be able to continue. I was disappointed because I had actually taken the steps to get to this point. I still had a long way to go and a lot to learn but I was feeling more comfortable just walking in the door. I knew that I didn't want to quit but I was having difficulty with certain movements that were integral to what we were doing in every class. Once again, nothing but positivity from the coaches. Coach Dana talked about her experiences with an injury and how she was determined to continue to work out. She assured me that they could work around my temporary physical limitations. Coach Rudy talked about my situation and reiterated that continuing with Crossfit would not be a problem. Although I felt at that time and still feel at times that it's a burden for them to have to tailor my workout a bit differently than the rest of the group...they let me know that it's not a problem. I'm not the first person who's needed to have adjustments made to their workout and I won't be the last.
I have to say I was really impressed by their willingness to help me and how they showed that they really wanted to help me. You feel that you aren't just taking a class with an instructor. You have coaches that are experienced and their job is to give you the tools you need to succeed. You are part of a group but at the same time you are getting individualized attention and support. It's like having your own personal trainer. From day one they made it clear to all of us that Crossfit was something we could do. And just like any personal trainer would do, they deal with each of us on an individual basis within the group setting. That is a valuable benefit that you really don't get in other group workout settings.
Six weeks have now passed. The challenge is officially over but I have decided to continue to be a part of the Crossfit Chicago community. This has been a wonderful experience. They called it the New You Challenge and I definitely feel like a new person. And what's excreting is that I feel that I have only just scratched the surface of this transformation that I see happening with me.
Taking part in the challenge was hugely beneficial because for someone like me, I need the type of coaching and instruction that we had every session. I'm a bit older than most everyone in my class. I'm not the most graceful or coordinated. Every session began with an introduction to a new activity followed by demonstration and practice.
We would then do our workout of the day which may or may not include the new activity. And as I mentioned before it's like you are getting your own personal trainer included with the package.
As far as the Paleo diet, we were held accountable. For the first few weeks we had to email Coach Rudy our food consumption every night. That was beneficial because since you had to report to him daily it kept you honest and on track. If he felt you needed guidance or suggestions to fine tune your eating he would provide it. One of the things that I had trouble with was eating regularly enough. He pointed that out to me so I was able to adjust the times during the day that I ate to make sure I had enough fuel to get through the day and the workouts. And I am reminded again how much better I feel when I eat clean. It's amazing how you become aware of how certain foods affect you when you cut them out of your diet. For me, I love anything to do with cake, cookies, pastry. But I realize now how cruddy sugar makes me feel. And while there are always going to be temptations and cravings, I can make an informed choice as to whether or not I want to eat something that's going to affect me a certain way. It's not about depriving yourself but you learn that maybe you want to indulge on a special occasion or on a night out with friends..rather than making it an everyday thing. I'm definitely sticking with the Paleo eating. I know that part of my transformation with this challenge has to do with the way that I am eating.
I feel noticeably stronger. I remember during my initial meeting with Ben that he mentioned that you would notice changes and how they would help you during your day to day life. I am aware now of when I have to carry my groceries from the car up the stairs to my apartment. It sounds kind of silly but it's not a problem for me now. I can carry more which means less trips back to the car, and the steps aren't an issue. I'm not as fatigued. It's motivating when you notice these little changes taking place.
I've never been one to weigh myself consistently but I did buy a scale when I started the challenge. I still don't weigh myself consistently but I estimate that I have lost about 10lbs within the 6 weeks. I know that I am down one size in my clothing. That's definitely a motivator. If you feel good about your body it's a confidence builder. Feeling good about yourself also increases your mental well being. It all goes hand in hand. It's like this big upward spiral in all aspects of your life. I've already experienced the downward spiral going from active to inactive and all the negative results that go along with it. But this is definitely an upswing. I am happier, I feel stronger, I'm more motivated. And it's all from doing Crossfit. Also, I would say that I am becoming more well rounded physically compared to when I was a runner. I had endurance at that time but not strength.
I have to say that taking this challenge was the best thing I have done for myself and for my health. I'm proud that I overcame my fear of walking in the door. I still feel intimidated and fearful at times but the benefits I have experienced so far are enough to keep me coming back. I will swallow my pride as much as I have to because I know that I am making progress. My goals right now are small. I want to get to the point where I can do a pull-up totally unassisted and I want to be able to do a "real" push-up. For now those are the goals I have set for myself.
During our first meeting coach Silvia talked about her experiences and challenges with taking up Crossfit. Ultimately she said that Crossfit was life changing for her. I have to admit, I believe she was right!