I’ve been wavering on how I feel about CrossFit for a while now, and I stayed away from the gym all last week to try and . . . I don’t know, get some perspective, I guess. I jumped around the living room to DVDs, I ran more miles than I’ve run in months. If there is a form of exercise that is 100% enjoyable I’ve yet to find it, but I noticed that even during the mostly-ridiculous moments of throwing punches in front of the TV and the exceedingly-heinous part of my neighborhood loop with that lung-shitting hill, there were these little bursts of feeling—if only for the briefest of intervals—as though I was fully plugged into life. Lit up like a Christmas tree.

That’s the best way I can think of to describe the fleeting endorphin rush, that elusive exercise high that never lasts as long as I’d like it to. Most of the time for me the payoff of working out is afterwards, when I can feel awesome for having it be over and done with—but sometimes the exertion itself has its own reward.

I’ve never felt that way with CrossFit. For a long time I thought that was probably okay, that a workout designed to push you to your max isn’t supposed to be fun and that’s all there is to it. But I miss it. I miss feeling good while I’m sweating. I miss the sense of accomplishment. I’ve rarely regretted a CrossFit workout, but I’ve also traded feeling amazing and strong for a sensation of being virtuously wrecked.

For that and a number of other reasons, I cancelled my membership this week. I told myself that I’ve given it six months, that there’s no reason to keep trying to make the most of something that just isn’t right for me, that there’s no shame in moving on. Still, I cried myself into hiccups, tangled up in a pile of mental crap I can’t even fully unravel.

I know I’m disappointed because I really wanted to love CrossFit. I know how immensely rewarding it’s been for other people and I wanted to be one of those success stories, all sinew and muscle and a newfound sense of badassery. After years of trying all sorts of different things—gyms, personal trainers, DVDs, classes, swimming, running, biking—I was hoping I’d found my thing. The thing I embrace wholeheartedly, the thing I get really good at instead of being enthusiastic but barely competent.

I also know I’m more than a little humiliated that there’s a social aspect that I never got right with. It seems like the fact that I never really made gym friends or even got to the point where I could comfortably walk in the door without feeling like I was looking for a table in a middle school cafeteria verifies what I’ve always suspected about myself: that I am a pathetic unlikable dork.

And, of course, I feel like a wimp. Like whatever I tell myself—oh, the weather’s getting nicer, maybe I’ll get back into kickboxing, start doing some more races—is just an excuse. As if it’s anything other than admitting defeat.

I’m not really sure why this decision has stirred up so much murk in my brain. If I were listening to someone else say all this, I’d be like, are you fucking kidding me? You’ve got zero reasons to beat yourself up over making a choice to stop doing something that isn’t making you happy. Life is too short for forcing yourself to do things with a crappy suck-to-yay ratio, good on you for recognizing you need something different. Good on you for not continuing to dump boatloads of cash into something you don’t love.

Still. Still.

:::

(Thanks for bearing with me as I write this out. It helps.)

Comments

138 Responses to “Throwing in the towel”

  1. Tracy on March 23rd, 2011 3:24 pm

    I so understand where you are coming from with this post (although I have no experience with CrossFit). I totally get the agonizing over whether your reason for not doing something is a “good” one or a “bad” one, especially when you are trying to stretch out of your comfort zone. But probably the most critical thing I’ve been trying to learn how to do is to give myself permission NOT to do things that I really don’t want to do. Saying no CAN mean we aren’t trying, but it doesn’t always mean that. Six months sounds like a good trial to me. I think I’m actually making this comment more for my benefit than for yours…

  2. Melissa on March 23rd, 2011 5:41 pm

    It’s not for you – that’s completely okay but you gave it a hell of a try. The search goes on for the right challenge. I think it’s better to move on then to get down on yourself about. Onward and upward.

  3. kate on March 23rd, 2011 5:44 pm

    no time to read all comments, so pardon any redundancy, but i LOVE the “suck-to-yay ratio” comment. sometimes we push ourselves to do stuff we don’t want to do, because we think we should. good for you, for not giving in to pressure. enjoy yourself and just lift your kids for exercise, hike with them and dance with them like you do. keep up the great work!!

  4. Brooke on March 23rd, 2011 7:11 pm

    I was just reading Gretchen Rubin’s book The Happiness Project and one of her “secrets of adulthood” is that the things that make other people happy might not be the things that make you happy. So there comes a time when we have to admit that even though I want to like that cool new band, I actually like to listen to country music. Or even though I want be informed about foreign policy, I would rather read novels. So part of being happy is recognizing what makes you happy (and what doesn’t) and letting it be what it is. You can make yourself do something you don’t like, but you can’t ever make yourself like it. So you’ll like something else. You’re a grown up now. It’s cool.

  5. Nhalia on March 23rd, 2011 7:53 pm

    I never got the whole cross fit thing, so I’m sort of glad to see you move on from it ;)

    Find something you feel empowered by, or several things. Have fun working out again. No one loves going to workout (I think they lie if they say they do) but everyone loves the results!

    Btw, have you ever checked out cathysavagefitness.com? Rocking weight training programs. I do the lifestyle program for non-competitors. Incredibly motivating coaches, new workouts every month…it’s the closest thing to fun while exercising I have found :)

  6. Sarah on March 24th, 2011 10:44 am

    I love your blog. Love it. This post was great and I totally admire you for admitting your feelings so candidly. I have always felt the same way about running (I’m right there with your commenter, Tonya) — my friends all love it, I feel like wanting to run a marathon is some sort of expected life goal and yet, it just doesn’t… do it for me, I guess. I dread it, don’t enjoy it & yet always feel like I should keep it up. Your post was amazing and was a perfect mix of inspiring and comforting. Thanks. Again.

  7. Sarah on March 24th, 2011 11:19 am

    Dude! It just occurred to me that you might like rowing, as in crew. You live in one of the most wonderful places in the world for rowing (recreational on up to competitive), and it is a hard-core, awesome workout that you can do into your eighties (and beyond) because it’s low impact on your joints. It works your legs, core, and arms equally, as well as providing cardio. Yay!

    I’m your age, and started with my first learn to row class at age 30, thinking “this is going to be so relaxing; it looks so graceful.” Little did I know it is one of the most ass-kicking sports, with the mental trickery component of beautiful scenery. It is the only sport that has worked for me (for that reason), and you don’t have to have gone to a New England prep school to take it up. You can get as intense with rowing as you want, and there are plenty of great masters events if you want to compete one day.

    Check it out! Knowing you from afar for a little while, I have a sneaking suspicion it might be a great fit for you. :)

  8. Sonia on March 25th, 2011 3:16 pm

    You are a TOTAL BADASS for even trying it, let alone sticking with it for 6 months!! I think you should be proud of the fact that you gave it such an honest effort.

  9. dug on March 25th, 2011 8:54 pm

    Have you tried just walking?? Walking is what we are built to do. All the studies are quite positive. Solo, or with a bud, it does everything you need. Good luck

  10. Lori O on March 26th, 2011 1:59 pm

    I just did an Insanity workout video today for the first time in awhile. I’ve been doing CrossFit-esque workouts but wanted something different today since it’s too crappy out to go for a run, which is my usual Saturday workout. It has the hardcore, high-intensity, no-dorky-dance-moves that you might have enjoyed about CrossFit, but it’s another Beachbody video you can do with zero equipment in your own living room. You might check it out if you haven’t yet, for a new challenge. It puts P90X to shame, I think.

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