"Quit fearing everything!" barks Aaron, my favorite trainer. It's 7 a.m., and I'm trying to conquer this 4-foot-high sit-ups contraption.
With both ankles hooked into holsters and my butt cheeks firmly planted on a shiny black cushion, I'm afraid to lean back onto nothing. So, I sit paralyzed, arms crisscrossed over my chest like a dead person, with Aaron staring at me.
"Seriously, Michelle. What are you afraid of? It's a sit-up," he says.
"I lean back and there is nothing there (insert abandonment issues metaphor). What if the ankle holder breaks?" I ask.
"It's not going to break. I'm right here. Now lean back!"
Cut and paste this conversation into dozens of scenarios I've experienced in the "Great CrossFit Adventure" I've embarked upon at Aquila Fitness in East Sacramento, and you can visualize what Aaron has had to deal with. I wear CrossFit fear like face paint, and I'm fully aware I can be a real pain in the ass.
My CrossFit highs and lows are actually comical at times. I can haul ass on a rowing machine, jump rope with this super heavy rope, slam a tire with a sledge hammer, start crying for no particular reason, and then gallantly swing a kettlebell around like a frigging professional discus thrower, all within the course of 20 minutes.
Then, we're told to do these tricky power-clean-snap maneuver things with this bar holding gigantic round weights, and I want to cry again. The experience is like staying with a hot boyfriend you kind of hate. I can't leave because deep down I really like that place.
I actually did try to quit once. About two months in, I told the owner I just didn't think I would ever (fear) be excited (fear) to lift (fear) that huge barbell thing. He then returned my email with four fat paragraphs of subtle, yet poignant, ass-ripping truths.
I was so pissed he tried to challenge me, I didn't even get past his first sentence for a couple of days. When I finally read the entire message, I realized all of his words could have been cut down to one thought: "I think you are afraid because it's all foreign, and you haven't given it enough of a chance yet." He had a point, so my ego marched us right back into that gym.
Things I like about CrossFit:
• I get to do cartwheels and skip backwards.
• It challenges me and is never the same.
• The classes move quickly, so I don't have too much time to bitch or daydream. You just get 'er done and go home.
• I've buried the lead: I lost 9 pounds.
Things I hate about CrossFit:
• This not-so-graceful bear crawl exercise where you have to crawl across the floor with your butt in the air. I like the exercise, but always feel like my underwear is creeping out of my pants, so I really feel dumb on that one. Actually, I feel like my underwear is sticking out a lot of the time. Fuck it.
• Summersaults. Doing one of them makes me so dizzy, I almost throw up. I can't understand how I did so many effortlessly as a kid.
• Push-ups and pull-ups because I still can't do one by myself. Not one. I'll keep trying.
Things that surprised me about CrossFit:
• It's not a cult. I take classes with lots of women just like me, and we are encouraging and work together. I don't feel like I stick out like a sore thumb the way I thought I would. Granted, there are dudes in there who wear knee socks and get all grunty and crazy with those weights. But who cares? They aren't hurting anyone (or my eyes). Sometimes they walk around the room on their hands (show offs), which gives me hope that maybe some day I can do one push-up. Just one.
• The trainers are nice and super thorough. Part of my fear is that I will get hurt, and I certainly could. But I think overall, if I continue to follow directions on posture and positioning, I should be fine. Nobody pushes me to do anything I don't feel comfortable with.
• Some of them are Paleo and some eat cookies and biscuits. No pressure there. (I'll hold off on telling them I'm experimenting with a vegan diet.)
Funniest CrossFit moments so far:
• This one time when I was trying to grab the lighter and easier weight bar, and one of the trainers yelled to the class that, "Those lighter bars are for the elderly and injured!"
• When one of the trainers told me: "You are very flexible, Michelle. Not a whole lot of strength though."
• The time we were all in a circle straddling our legs to stretch, and I looked down and realized there was a hole in my yoga pants in the, well, you know. I threw those pants away.
Every time I go back to CrossFit it gets less scary, which I guess is the story of my life. Lifting objects in real life is now easier too.
I still come in last on a lot of the workouts, but whatever. I'll keep trying. I'm doing exercises I've never done, so focusing on the goodness there outweighs everything else.