OpEd: Things We Wish We Knew Before CrossFit

February 7, 2020 by
Photos Courtesy of Desiree Day and West Studio
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I often think about who I could have been at the age of 14. And at 19, at 22 and even at 25. I think about who I would have been had I known what I know now because of CrossFit.

  • At 14, I quit volleyball — even though I loved the sport — because I was going to have to start wearing super tight and short spandex shorts. So I pursued basketball, where I got to drape myself in oversized shorts that fell off my waist and went down to my knees.
  • At 19, while playing college basketball, I thought men would never be into me. The story that I told myself: Basketball girls aren’t sexy. Volleyball players are the sought-after ones.
  • At 22, as a college rower, it was the lightweight rowers who I envied. They were small and petite, and again, more attractive to the opposite sex. The tape that played in my head was, “What man would want to date a girl with bigger and stronger legs than his own?”

Then I found CrossFit. It changed me and changed my life.

Now at 35, I look back and I wonder: If I knew what I know now — that strong, muscular legs, and hamstrings that bulge and cause people to inquire, “where did you get your legs from,” on a regular basis — are sexy, who could I have been?

What kind of confidence would I have had at 14? Would I have chosen volleyball over basketball? Would I have spent less time trying to hide my legs, and avoiding the sun in a bikini on hot summer days? Would I have had more joy in my life and brought better energy to the world?

This got me thinking about what other women wish they knew before CrossFit. More importantly, how other women have become free to accept and embrace themselves through the sport we love.

“I wish I knew about my body before CrossFit. Looking in the mirror now, I remember myself as a teenager: skinny as a rail and embarrassed to show even a bit of my stick legs. Now, holy shit, do I have muscles. How beautiful my body looks and I love it.” —  Ana Zaidan

So I decided to ask. Here’s what I discovered:

“I wish I knew that training like an athlete didn’t have to stop once childhood sports stopped. I always struggled with going to the gym because my why was completely wrapped up in the way I looked. CrossFit, on the other hand, had all the other aspects of sport — teammates, competition, pushing past your limits, goals, learning new things, excitement, fear — that I got out of gymnastics. As soon as I got those things back in my life, my mindset completely shifted from what I wanted to look like, to how I wanted to feel and what I wanted to achieve. And, ironically, I ended up pretty quickly losing the weight that I had struggled to lose for nearly 20 years.” – Desiree Day, 36, Coach and former Canadian national team gymnast

No one cares how fit you are. Only other competitors remember how you placed.” – Miranda Alcaraz (formerly Oldroyd), beloved CrossFit Games athlete who needs no further introduction.

“Don’t be afraid to have babies. Your body will be ready to maintain your lifestyle.” – Alcaraz

“I wish I knew about my body before CrossFit. Looking in the mirror now, I remember myself as a teenager: skinny as a rail and embarrassed to show even a bit of my stick legs. Now, holy shit, do I have muscles. How beautiful my body looks and I love it. How powerful I feel on the inside. How sexy I am with all my muscles.” – Ana Zaidan, CrossFit coach from Curibita, Brazil

“I wish I knew that it was really possible to make meaningful changes to my body. By putting strength first instead of skinny, my body was possible of shaping itself to be a more efficient and comfortable place to live.” Katie Allen, 39, CrossFit athlete who lost 40 pounds in 2019.

“(I wish I knew) more isn’t always better. Never replace quality with quantity.” – Emily Rolfe, 31, 2019 CrossFit Games athlete

“I wish I knew that it was OK to be strong and not to be a size 0, and proud to be that way.” – Bonnie MacMillan, 35, nutrition coach and the owner for Forge Valley Fitness in Vernon, B.C.

“(I wish I knew) how strong and capable my body is!” – Carly Fuhrer, 28, 2016 CrossFit Games athlete

“Had I understood what CrossFit would teach me about life, I would have started sooner. Patience, persistence, confidence, resilience and the realization that we are never finished growing, are the most important lessons CrossFit teaches. One of the (other big) lessons for me has been that I am always capable of more, (capable) of better, and of learning new things.” – Jennifer Morris, 49, nutrition and lifestyle coach and the owner of CrossFit Goderich in Ontario

“I wish I knew how important it is to surround yourself with a strong community. When I moved away from B.C. to Montreal, I lost a lot of dear friends until I was introduced to CrossFit. Now that I have been in the CrossFit community for more than 10 years, I can’t begin to put into words how much all of the people that I work with, coach and train mean to me. They are my people. They have my back. No matter what.” – Louise Eberts, gymnastics expert and CrossFit coach at CrossFit 604 in Vancouver, B.C.

Then came an answer from the always articulate Alex Parker, a 2015 CrossFit Games athlete.

From CrossFit, she learned to “stop doing the things I feel like people want me to do — like be a lawyer. It has made me realize it’s important to follow my passions and be who I am,” said the 30-year-old.

Then she added: “CrossFit has changed my life in so many ways, but I don’t think I would have wanted to know anything ahead of those changes.”

It made me realize she’s right. While it’s impossible not to learn and grow from the sport of CrossFit, it’s silly to regret not finding it sooner. Finding it is just one part of our imperfect, unique, beautiful journey, so how can I regret what I didn’t know before?

One thing I know now is that I’m glad I know what I know.

Oh yeah, and I’m glad I replaced my all basketball shorts with dozens of pairs of itty bitty spandex ones.

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