I am excited and still surprised to announce that this weekend my husband and I are competing in our very first CrossFit competition. It’s only been about four months of “CrossFitting” but we decided to dive head first into the challenge. In some ways, it makes perfect sense. Since joining our box (CrossFit gym affiliation) in early November, we've grown so much; each day we’re getting stronger and more confident. So, when less than two months ago the opportunity to compete was presented, it would only make sense that I would immediately jump on it. But, I had a minor internal struggle about whether or not I would compete. When I came to the box, it was not my intention to train to compete; rather I saw an opportunity to challenge myself. (And if we are being perfectly honest, I watched the CrossFit Games on TV and I wanted to look as fit as those ladies!)
So why not compete?
I had come to a point in my life, where I believed competition was behind me. This was not because I felt “too old” or out of shape or was scared I wouldn't do well. There was something else, much deeper inside, which I would have to come to terms with. Growing up I was always involved in athletics—and not just-for-fun athletics—every sport I played was on a very competitive level. I went to the Junior Olympics as a sprinter, I was on various state champion teams for track, was the captain for various teams, and played almost every sport under the sun. And I loved it. I loved the “do or die,” “go hard or go home,” win, win, win feeling. Then, when I graduated from college and entered the “work world,” I left behind my team sports. It wasn’t long before I found myself channeling my competitive mind to my professional and personal identity. Unlike in sports, when a competitive drive can be productive and even necessary, my instinctive competition became self-hurting.
It was at a time of pain that I came to begin my yoga practice. In many ways I was going through a quarter-life crisis. I was deciding what to do and where to go, and how to be okay with my choices. (If you want to learn more, just read some of my older posts!) Basically, I was hurting both physically and emotionally, as my stress slowly took hold of me. Luckily for me, I had my youth and developed my yoga practice at a perfect time. In the beginning, I continued to struggle with competitive feelings. During class I would stare at myself and others in the mirror, comparing my ability to theirs. I always wanted to push harder, “do better at yoga,” and was continually frustrated with myself. It took some time, but through practice I realized that there was no “winning” yoga. There would be no end to my effort, it’s continuing, it’s constant, it’s forever. Coming to that realization was not only freeing, it was humbling. When I let go of my need to push, I finally moved forward. My mind’s constant judgment resulted in my body being stuck. Once that powerful hold was gone, balance and flexibility came easy. Poses became beautiful and my mind felt light.
So, am I taking a step back by training at a CrossFit gym and—even worse—competing again?
No. I have decided to think about life as stepping stones, and whether or not you begin something that you’ve already done before—it will never be the same, because you are not the same. If I had started CrossFit instead of yoga three years ago, I would be a completely different person today. My guess is that I would be extremely critical, unforgiving, and aggressive. This is not because CrossFit makes you so, but because of where I was in my life. Having built a foundation in yoga instead, I came to CrossFit with an entirely different mindset. I would not be stepping back to the blindly competitive 18-year-old, because I am no longer that girl. Having forgiven myself, I can now train with a much clearer mind. Not only that, but now I can see how we're all in this together. Everyone is challenging themselves, in their own way, at their own pace. I can only ever compete with myself, so either I win or I lose.
Don’t get me wrong, it ain’t easy.
I always have to check in with myself, remind myself to be weary of old habits, and be open to move forward. As yoga has taught me, you are never “good to go;” you are never done growing. Pushing yourself forward is part of life—progress—but is not the only way you grow.
I practice yoga for my mental strength and clarity, and I train at CrossFit for my physical and mental challenge. To me, they are intertwined and not mutually exclusive. So when I compete this weekend I know that with each moment, I have an opportunity to grow. And with each breath out, I begin again.