"I took last place in the CrossFit Games Open"
- by By Industrious Athlete Greg L
I began doing CrossFit in June 2013. Horribly out of shape and overweight, I made a decision to change my situation. It wasn’t easy. Athletic things came easy for me much of my life. In my late 20s, I stopped making my health a priority and began to gain weight and lose fitness. From there started a downward cycle. Trying to climb the fitness mountain seemed daunting. And the slide continued.
My wife had already been doing CrossFit for about a year. She was hooked. I saw how much she was enjoying it. I told her I would try it. She was encouraged…albeit skeptical that I would last. I was skeptical that I would last.
So many things went through my head before I started:
“I can’t do it.”
“I don’t want to be made fun of.”
“Everyone will think I’m wasting my time.”
I’ve never been last at anything athletic that I can remember. I had to come to grips mentally that I would be last now. It was the largest mental hurdle that I had to tangle with. I knew everyone in the gym would be fitter, faster, more flexible and stronger than me.
I kept seeing mention of the term ‘community’ on CrossFit websites and I didn’t understand what that meant. It made no sense to me. I was used to ‘team’. Team means to showcase the best and replace the weak link. I didn’t want to be the guy that everyone felt sorry for. I would soon learn what community meant.
I sat in the parking lot before my first On-Ramp Introductory class. Walking those last few steps was perhaps one of the more difficult things I have done. We started the warm-up. It was simple dynamic stretching. I was already struggling. We then ended the warm-up with a 400m run with a coach’s instruction to not leave anyone behind. I didn’t make it 50m. As I struggled to catch my breath, two wonderful people, Katherine and John, walked with me that last 350m.
The start of my CrossFit journey was slow and steady. I began learning the movements and learning what I needed to do to scale each exercise to be self-sufficient. I enjoyed it.
Each WOD provided new challenges. As my body adjusted to pain and soreness, I became more comfortable with each movement. My mobility slowly started to improve so I could do the basic moves without too much discomfort. I took last every day, every WOD, nearly without exception. My results were the worst on the entire board everyday.
Most times at the end of class, I would walk close to the board to give the coaches my time, my rep, or my barbell weight. I struggled with the embarrassment of last place and being the worst.
Finding the right gym for me was key. The coaches at our gym are great. They understand what I need to do to scale and be successful. Every coach not only seems technically strong as an instructor, but they also provide a good mix of motivation and care and concern. In addition to the encouragement from coaches, my gym-mates would even cheer me on as I tried to finish each workout. I wasn’t expecting that. Was that the ‘community’ I had heard so much about?
Nine months into my CrossFit journey, I was making some progress. I still had last place solidly locked up, but I was getting stronger, more flexible, and fitter. The CrossFit Open was coming fast and I knew the question would be asked—Are you going to sign up? I had never done any workout at RX. I wasn’t even close much of the time. Many of the basic movements I knew would be programed in the Open I could still not do. For example, I still scaled pull-ups to ring rows or box pull-ups. Every time I was asked and encouraged to sign-up for the Open, I always said no.
Somehow in the end, I was proud. I wasn’t proud of last place. I was proud of what I started 10 months ago. Out of shape and feeling trapped, I competed. I posted a score every week and had many PRs.
But more important, I learned what community means. It is more than a collection of people that go to a gym. It is coaches and athletes. It is friends. It is people that care about your success. It is people that cheer where you are going more than where you are at today. I am grateful for the coaches and especially our gym owners, Molly and Stephen. I am thankful for my community.