I actually signed up to CrossFit by accident. Jono and Dom, my housemate and my boyfriend respectively, had heard about the Chiltern box through Jono’s personal trainer. They are both healthy, active, outdoorsy types who had decided they wanted to take on a new challenge to increase their fitness. Personally, I was half-heartedly looking for an evening yoga class I could do once a month that I knew I’d never turn up to as I would be too scared to go on my own. One evening, I gave Dom a lift to talk to the charming Jay, one of the coaches at the box. 20 minutes later, I walked out of the office having signed up to the Foundation sessions and a week’s worth of classes.
As a fair-weather exerciser, the idea of committing to even two classes a week seemed overwhelming; I’d never have time to fit it in between work, socialising and sleeping. As a girl who has struggled with weight, body image and confidence issues since the age of 12, CrossFit seemed like the last place I wanted to be. As a feminist, I was wary of walking into a room full of testosterone fuelled men grunting in front of mirrors, alienating me because of my genetic make up and scantily clad girls judging my lack of thigh gap and latest Nike neon crop top.
All of the above assumptions have been proven wrong by the coaches and members of CrossFit Chiltern.
My fitness history is one of peaks and troughs. A keen rower at school, a sporadic gym bunny at university and couch potato with the odd breathless 10k run thrown in here and there when I started working full time, I had never found something that could keep me interested for very long. I’d go to the gym five times a week for the month before a beach holiday, then not go for 6 months after the plane landed back in London Heathrow.
What’s so good about Chiltern CrossFit then, I hear you ask? Well, no other gym I’ve been to offers coaches who will push you to your limits, tend to your aches and pains and make you laugh until your abs ache within the space of an hour. No other gym I’ve been to posts videos explaining to its female members when the best time to hit your Personal Records are during your menstrual cycle. Or get you to ring a loud bell when you do hit a personal best. Or where a team captain in the box competition will turn up to a class he wasn’t even signed up to just to cheer another team member on, or where another athlete makes a sign for you on a whiteboard to encourage you to get through those last six pull ups.
I used to walk into the gym, plug my headphones in, try not to catch anyone’s eye, and look for the treadmill furthest away from everyone else. Now I walk into the box to cheery waves and the sweaty, smiling faces of the exhausted class before mine.
That’s not to say it’s been easy; it’s been one of the biggest challenges I’ve voluntarily put myself through. After the first ramp up class, I wobbled away feeling nauseous and annoyed at myself for not being better, despite Roman and Jay’s words of encouragement. I told Dom in the car on the way home I wasn’t going back; I wasn’t good enough. Fast forward four months and I’ve ramped my classes up to 14 a month, I’m competing in our box Open with team Snatch Me If You Can (woo!) and I’ve overcome my fear of heights by climbing up a ruddy massive rope and touched the ceiling of the box. I’ve also enjoyed the look on my boyfriend’s face when I’m keeping up with him on burpee box jumps! I obviously have good days and bad days, but my ability to accept the times I haven’t performed as well as I wanted to has improved too.
The confidence that the coaches and members inspire has had perhaps unintended results as well. Safe to say I used to see exercise only as a way of punishing my body for the extra calories it had consumed that day. The truth is, CrossFit works to cultivate your body’s abilities, rather than the way it looks. I’m no longer so caught up in how many kilograms I’ve lost, but rather how many more I can put on the end of the barbell. As for my fear of bulging men laughing at my attempt at a pull up, I’ve never worked out in such a positive environment, where doing something ‘like a girl’ is a point of pride, not an insult.
Tonight will only be my 57th CrossFit workout since starting in November 2016. The change in my strength, confidence and approach to fitness is already tangible. I’m nowhere near the fittest or the fastest in the box and that really doesn’t matter. I know I’m the strongest I’ve been in a long time and that’s thanks to the Jeremy, Kelly, Jay and Roman and all the members of CrossFit Chiltern.