There’s No Crying in CrossFit – Until There Is

My CrossFit coach has this shirt from a competition that says, “There’s No Crying in CrossFit” – a take on the famous line from A League of Their Own (“There’s no crying in baseball!”) And you wouldn’t think there would be, even when Pukie the Clown comes to visit. CrossFit is about reality, about taking fitness and making it functional so you can handle whatever life throws your way, whether it’s the zombie apocalypse or a really heavy bag of cat litter. You don’t have the luxury of crying in a lot of situations; you have to do what’s in front of you.

This brings me to every single barbell-intensive CrossFit workout I do. If you want to make me feel woefully inadequate, hand me a barbell and tell me to start lifting heavy. It’s not going to happen. I don’t weigh a lot. I’m 5’1″. My BMI is on the low end of normal. I just don’t have the weight on me to lift at the level I’d like. For my size I might be strong, but I can’t compete until I can clean and jerk 85 pounds – and that would be in the scaled division.

Since I do want to compete, and I do want to put on muscle, I’ve added a barbell strength class to my training. Last Thursday, I was sucking at every single lift. I have a note in my WOD Book with sad faces nest to the snatch and push jerks (38 pounds and 35 pounds, respectively). I got up to 50 pounds on the clean & jerk. At that point, I was thoroughly discouraged and angry with myself. But I refused to cry because there’s no crying in CrossFit.

Then I stepped up to the rack to back squat, the last lift for the morning. My one rep max is 105 pounds. The whiteboard instructed me to do four sets of three reps, working from 75 percent of my max up to 90 percent of my max. (So, 80 pounds, 85 pounds, 90 pounds, 95 pounds.) At 85 percent, I was battling, but I was doggedly determined to do that last set. I rested, loaded up the bar, and ducked under it to balance it on my non-existent traps. And I backed up from the rack and executed my first squat. The second one was a struggle, and I didn’t think I could do the third. I took a really deep breath. I sank down below parallel. And then something really awesome happened: my peers and my coach were encouraging me, telling me I could do it. So, really struggling, I made sure to lead with my chest as I rose, my quads burning. But I did it! I didn’t dump the load!

But there is crying in CrossFit, because as I re-racked, and as I put away my plates and bar, I started tearing up. I didn’t think I could do it. I thought I was going to drop the bar miserably behind me. The community and camaraderie you hear about from CrossFitters really is there; here are people who can lift a barbell with two of me curled up on each end cheering for me and giving me the encouragement I needed to stand up with 95 pounds on my back. I quickly swiped away the tears; they were of joy and gratitude, not frustration. As tough as it is sometimes, I’m learning how to push myself past my comfort zone, one lift at a time. I can do this. And it’s okay to cry, just a little.