September 14, 2017

CrossFit saved me

People use CrossFit for a lot of different purposes. Some want to get stronger and put on muscle, others want to compete in competitions, and some people just want to feel good about themselves. I use it to fight depression. 

Prior to now I’ve only shared that with one or two other people in my life. A week or so ago I had a reader email to tell me I inspired him to make changes in his life and it caught me off guard that I had the ability to inspire anyone. I decided then that if I can help others understand and address this issue then it was worth a little vulnerability and embarrassment.

Depression has a lot of misconceptions. It isn’t something that has you moping around 24/7. As a matter of fact, I am happy and laughing more than I am not. When it hits me however it can be like living in a dark hole but that hole is filled with the sounds of regret and pain. It’s debilitating and takes you to a very dark place. I’ve joked to friends over the years that “Everyone gets sick of me and leaves eventually” but the reality is this feeling of darkness and dread has made me push people away. Some I pushed fast and some slowly but ultimately it was always me that pushed because I was too afraid to confront my fears. When you get this feeling inside you all you want to do is be alone but being alone is the worst thing for you. It’s a vicious cycle really. 

Back in April when I tweaked my shoulder, I was in one of my dark places and wasn’t able to workout like I was accustomed to. I started running and practicing yoga with some rehab lifting in my basement to stay in shape. This is where I identified how CrossFit is one piece of the puzzle that can truly help me. The running made everything clearer and by that I mean it cleared then fog in my mind. It didn’t help resolve any issues but it cleared away the fog of where the root causes were.

You see, in order to run long distance you can’t really drink the night before. Running 10 miles after a few Titos and Soda is miserable so I pretty much gave up drinking altogether. Without that “numbness” of the alcohol my focus was clearer,  particularly as I was going to bed and it really affected my sleep. Not sleeping is bad but the running was even worse because I would have long periods of time where all I could do was think. There is nothing uglier than a crying runner wearing nipple tape, trust me on this.

I was also practicing Yoga several times a week because I had heard it had the ability to generate focus and “free your mind” but I had the same problem there as I did with running. My mind was still moving a thousand miles an hour but now I was inverted and had sweat running up my nose. Not exactly the therapy I was looking for.

As my shoulder and arm started to heal, I decided to start doing CrossFit inspired workouts in my basement. For those of you that don’t know, I have an amazing gym in my basement and with the exception of box jumps and wall balls, I can do just about anything down there. I’m pretty good at programming for myself and designed a WOD that would test my endurance since I was training for a long race. I added in some barbell movements to force myself to lift with a moderately high heart rate cause that sh*t hurts. It was 30 mins of pure pain and focus but for once my mind was clear. Not only was it clear but it stayed clear for most of the day. Thats when I realized that I need this. I needed the sense of accomplishment that comes from working through a difficult workout. I needed the clarity that comes from only worrying about how hard it is going to be to pick the bar up again. I needed the feeling of control that comes from being able to do something that others dare not try.

The last piece that fell into place was realizing that I needed accountability and couldn’t do this on my own so I left the basement. I needed a metaphorical family to push me hard and hold me accountable but support me when I inevitably failed. That's where Mentality came into play. The irony of needing a metaphorical family and finding a gym run by an actual family isn’t lost on me. It also isn’t lightly taken. When it occurred to me that the very thing I needed at that moment had been given to me I was in awe of the universe and was reminded of a quote from one of my favorite authors.

“The bond that links your true family is not one of blood but of respect and joy in each other’s life. Rarely do members of one family grow up under the same roof.” - Richard Bach

My point to all of this is that CrossFit can be bigger than getting in shape and posting shirtless ab selfies on Instagram. It can challenge you to be better and grow. It can allow you to focus your life in a positive and meaningful way. It can help you find others who will help you be the person you want to be while supporting you in good and bad experiences. I’m certainly still working on parts of my life and would be lying if I said every day is a great day. I am however grateful that I have found my family and the difference it has made in my life has been immeasurable. That is my encouragement to anyone that feels they struggle with this. Talk to others. Find your family and the respect and joy that comes with that. It won’t make you perfect but you also won’t be alone...

If I can ever be of support or encouragement to you please do mot hesitate to reach out here, on my Facebook page, Instagram, or Twitter.