A few weeks ago, I quit in the middle of a CrossFit workout. “So, you stopped exercising? What’s the big deal?” To outsiders, this does not seem alarming. But in the seven years I have been doing CrossFit, it was a first for me. CrossFit purists would argue that you always finish. “You are stronger than you think you are!” “It won’t get easier, you just get better!” We cheer everyone on to the finish. A community is forged. Those who suffer together stay together. Quitting would be taking the easy road, and there are no easy roads in the real world.
Still, I quit. I completed three of the five rounds before calling the coach, in this case my husband, over to break the news.
“I think I am done for today.”
“Are you okay?” he asked with genuine concern. His first thought was that I must be hurt.
“Yeah, I have a busy day and can’t completely exhaust myself here. I got what I needed.”
He squeezed my shoulder and whispered, “I’m proud of you.”
I sat on the floor and cheered on my fellow athletes. They were still working, grinding away, rep after rep.
My husband came back around. “You know, round four is the only bad one. Then you are practically finished.”
“Nope, I’m good.” He smiled at my confidence. It has been a long time in the making.
On that day, my coach realized I was listening to my body AND my soul. My mom had died less than a month earlier, and I was exhausted from bearing the weight of my grief. My coach saw that I was making a decision for myself. I was seeing the long term goal. I needed to show up for my kids’ ball games and practices. I needed to cook and fulfill family obligations. Exercise was to make me feel better and stay healthy, not a punishment to deplete and rob me of the energy to face my day.
While my coach recognized and respected my decision, my husband was simply proud of this new found confidence. In the past, if he came back around to offer another chance to jump back in the game, I would have entered the shame cave and rallied to finish. I would have felt guilt and fear about letting him down. See, I am also a coach. I am a co-owner of the gym. What kind of message would that send if I decided to call it quits midway through the workout?
I will tell you what message it sent on that particular day - the right one. Under those circumstances, I would look at any athletes under my care and tell them to do the exact same thing. I would welcome them with open arms, tell them I was glad they showed up, and lovingly encourage them to just move their body and have fun for an hour. I would not want them to push to some dark place that broke them down physically. As my husband reminded me, “You are already going to that dark place and facing your demons all day long.” Yes, grief is hard. It is a full-time job, so I would encourage my athletes to be kind to themselves. I would offer them some grace.
CrossFit is built around the idea of intensity--doing more work faster. It yields results, and as Chris Spealler defines it, “Intensity is being comfortable with being uncomfortable.” I have not become a perpetual quitter or lost my tough edge and willingness to fight through every grueling rep or round. Finishing a workout brings personal satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment that I relish. It also benefits my overall level of physical fitness. But I am softer in a way that I believe suits me at the moment.
The day I quit my workout, I finally decided to offer myself the same kindness that I would offer anyone else. Why should I be any different? I had nothing to prove. Or maybe I did.
The next day, I received a handwritten note in my mailbox. It was from a CFJ athlete who was in the class with me on the day I didn’t finish the workout.
I could tell you needed a little space today -- an opportunity to be Jaime and work hard but not necessarily have to be Coach Jaime. And yet, you still pushed us on and cheered us forward.You are an inspiration everyday in your honesty and ability to show up in the hardest of times.
You’ve shown me such an example of balance - of ‘toughing it out’ but also of being unabashedly raw and real.
It is such a gift to be seen and understood. My tears stain this card that I keep tucked in my journal. I have wasted so much time and energy worrying about how I could keep it all together. Unbecoming a perfectionist and people pleaser is a daunting task. Old habits rear their ugly head around every corner - lurking in the shadows at my kids’ school functions, my workplace, family gatherings, and yes, even my CrossFit box. But every day offers a new opportunity to rewrite my story. And if I would not have quit the workout that day, I would have completely missed the lesson that comes along with authenticity.
Ever since we started CrossFit Jane in our garage, I have lived under the burden of my own misconceptions. I felt that I had to somehow float above my circumstances. I needed to be the example. I did not need the same grace and kindness that I offered to every athlete and friend who entered our community. It has been a long time coming, but I am finally realizing that a leader can be “raw and real.” And even more importantly, I can do unto myself as I would do unto others. It truly is an inside job.
I am grateful beyond belief for the encouragement I receive from my CrossFit family. There are not enough words to describe the way this community has lifted me up, showered me with gifts, and poured down love on our family.
Find your tribe, friends, and love them hard. It will come back to you tenfold.