Everyone Should Compete in the Open. Yes, Everyone
It’s 9am Monday, after my first ever CrossFit Open WOD. Honestly, I’m feeling seriously crazy for just showing up, but I spent the weekend telling everyone how amazing I am. If you know me you’re laughing, certain that I’ve never in my life said I’m amazing. NEVER! In case we haven’t met, I’m shy, most comfortable at home or running trails alone. If I heard about myself from someone else I’d be impressed, but when we’re talking about me, less so. Self-confidence is still a lesson I’m learning.
I’ve done a lot in my almost 38 years; graduated college early, with honors, while running throughout and working two jobs. I married a career military officer, had three children and we’ve been transferred 8 times in 16 years. Still, I’ve kept running. It’s what I do, since I first joined the cross-country team in 7th grade.
After having our youngest daughter, running was not all it once had been. I’d gone from being a competitive collegiate runner, to a recreational 5k runner when I began to wonder what I was capable of. I ran my first 10k, then half-marathon. I finished my first marathon and qualified for Boston, then New York. I ran 50k’s, 50 milers and my first 100 mile trail race. Pretty impressive if someone else told me they did it, but I always could run. No big deal.
“So, I prepared to die. As expected, I didn’t finish; I also didn’t die…212 reps were all I had to give and way more than I thought possible. Apparently I am strong.”
For the first time in my life, running wasn’t enough. I was terrified when I walked into CrossFit Frequency. No expectations; empty aside from the coach and me. He said “pull-ups.” I laughed. Runners can’t do pull-ups. During my first ever WOD I push-pressed an empty barbell. Once. Barely.
I began, scared to walk into the box, unable to complete any workout that required strength, unable to even contemplate the coordination necessary for kipping anything and with zero understanding of any movement involving a barbell. Friday, I walked into Freakin CrossFit (yup, moved again) planning to attempt the craziness that 17.1 promised with a seriously scaled weight. I don’t pick up 35# dumbbells, ever. I’m a runner, we don’t put weight over our heads. Not serious weight anyhow and lifting a dumbbell that’s almost a third of my body weight, over my head, with ONE ARM? Crazy.
“Just try,” coach said. What?! I mentioned I’m a runner, not a CrossFit athlete, right? Those people are strong, fit, amazing! Runners aren’t strong, but we do finish things. I wasn’t sure I could complete even 10 snatches at Rx weight. “It doesn’t matter, do what you can.” Really?! First, I will die when I drop this on my head. Second, what happens when I don’t finish? I have to finish. Runners don’t stop before the finish line; I had to scale the weight so I could finish. “NO.”
“I spent all weekend knowing that I’m amazing because 17.1 taught me that I am. Just starting the CrossFit Open makes you amazing. Whatever the outcome.”
So, I prepared to die. As expected, I didn’t finish; I also didn’t die. There were burpee box jump-overs unexecuted. A tough way for me to end, but truly a CrossFit moment. 212 reps were all I had to give and way more than I thought possible. Apparently I am strong, lesson learned. A group of women, all finished with 17.1, cheered me on. They knew I was scared and took time from their busy lives to be with me. Most didn’t know me well, but they stayed. They cheered. They yelled. They encouraged. They stayed. This is what the Open is about. Finding a strength you didn’t know you had and a family you didn’t realize you’d been missing. What lessons to learn from 20 minutes of suffering.
I may move to new place and start life over every few years, but I now know I will have family everywhere I go. The Open is about challenging yourself and I was seriously challenged by 17.1. But it’s even more about the magic that comes from people working together, sweating together, suffering together, succeeding together.
I spent all weekend knowing that I’m amazing because 17.1 taught me that I am. Just starting the CrossFit Open makes you amazing. Whatever the outcome, the willingness to begin takes incredible bravery. Especially if you aren’t a CrossFit athlete. Especially if you don’t know the first thing about how to pick up a barbell or what on earth a burpee box jump-over is. The Open will challenge you, humble you, teach you. It will also give you a family who will become more important to you than you can imagine and a belief in yourself that will have you walking tall and with confidence. You will fail, you will not always finish, yet somehow you will come away owning your greatness. Knowing that you are truly amazing.
You will walk into your next WOD tired and incredibly sore, but when your coach says “Do you know how proud of yourself you should be? You’re amazing!” you’ll smile, choke back tears and simply say “Yes.” Even better, you’ll believe it. Then, you’ll get back to work because, after all, there are four more lessons waiting to be learned.
Erin-Kate Aleksak is a military wife, mom of three crazy fun kids and ultra-marathon runner. She currently lives in Pembroke Pines, FL and is excited to learn all the lessons CrossFit has to teach. One WOD at a time.