CrossFit Newbies Offer Perspective on Joining a Gym During the Pandemic

January 24, 2021 by
Credit: Courtesy of The Adroit Collective
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For Ryan Marie Diduk-Smith, the pandemic came with three kids at home, a switch to garage workouts, and isolation. It had been years since she’d stepped foot in a CrossFit gym, but, needing a break from “the insanity” of her life, she joined The Adroit Collective in Virginia. 

The big picture: Diduk-Smith is one of many, despite lockdowns and restrictions, who joined a CrossFit gym in the past year. For some, it’s been a welcome break from stress and a new source of support. For others, it’s pushed them mentally, in a way that Charlie Waldvogel, a new member at CrossFit Timoro, says has kept him “accountable, kept my mind sharp and my motivation constant.”

No reason to be nervous: Waldvogel started CrossFit online and says that regular check-ins from his coach made the sport less intimidating. Grace Heckenlively, another new member of CrossFit Timoro, says joining virtual-first was “definitely weird,” pointing out that it’s harder to feel the dynamic of a group class online.

  • “I had no idea of all the different challenges that would come with CrossFit,” Waldvogel wrote in an email.
  • “Once restrictions were loosened and we were allowed to meet in person, I quickly learned that there was no reason to be nervous about joining a gym. Though there were athletes who were and still are much more skilled and experienced than me, everyone shares the same role of encouraging others to achieve some of the hardest goals in training,” Waldvogel continues.

Waldvogel’s sentiment is echoed across these new members. Carson Brewer, a new addition to CrossFit Soda City (CFSC) in South Carolina, laughs that before her first class, she thought, “Oh, no. I have been roped into something really bad.” 

  • “CrossFit can be intimidating, but at CFSC, the coaches take their time to work one on one with you when working on new lifts and helping you through every step. I have always looked at CrossFit gyms and thought about joining, but just did not have the guts to make that first step and try a class,” said Bracken Petroviak, a member who joined CFSC once restrictions decreased in South Carolina. 

What made them feel welcome: Chris Stevenson, a member of Industrial Athletics in Pennsylvania, puts it simply: the people.

  • “At first I thought I was going to stick out being the new guy, but I’ve met both new and veteran CrossFitters and we’re all striving to improve our fitness,” Stevenson says. 

Petroviak says it was the acceptance of the LGBTQ community.

  • “Most boxes have flags hanging in their gyms and one of the flags hanging at CFSC is the Pride flag. To walk in and see that among the other flags is a big deal for a lot of people. You not only feel welcomed, but more comfortable to be yourself,” Petroviak explains. 

Petroviak went on to share that the CFSC was incredibly supportive during a pandemic-related furlough:

  • “I was furloughed from my last job due to the pandemic and multiple members went out of their way to ask people they knew if they were hiring or could pass my resume along to them. It is great to have a group of people that want to see you succeed in and out of the gym.”  
Credit: Courtesy of The Adroit Collective

It’s physical and mental: Coming from Orangetheory Fitness classes, Adroit Collective member Stephanie Fine says she’s let go of calorie-motivated fitness, switching to a mindset of strength and performance.

  • There’s all shapes and sizes in [CrossFit], and it’s really more athletic, performance, strength… it’s really empowering as a woman, like, I haven’t’ gotten on the scale in months,” she says, explaining that while her clothes still fit, she can tell that she’s more “cut” after being a part of CrossFit since the spring. 
  • “It’s so much more of an exciting thing to work on, as opposed to how many calories did I burn,” she adds.
  • “Coming to classes where there are things that I cannot do,” she continues, “It’s really exciting to not be able to do something, work at it, now you can do it… it’s more physicality stuff than just your jean size.”

Physical and mental changes echo across the members: 

  • “Though some days may be more challenging than others, and some workouts can be more grueling than the day before, there is no greater feeling than the moments immediately after when each person can take a moment and reflect on the great challenge they just overcame in the company of others all reaching for the same goal,” Wadvogel says.
  • “I am not only stronger physically, but mentally. It can take a lot of mental strength some days in the gym. When looking at the barbell loaded with a new max can be very discouraging but saying to yourself ‘I’ve got this’ can really make it happen and I think that has transferred to outside of the gym, which is very important during the current pandemic we are in,” Petroviak says.
  • “During the pandemic, where you aren’t allowed to go see your loved ones and go do things out and about, for me, working out has been something that has had positive effects on the mental challenges that this pandemic has pushed onto my plate,” says Heckenlively.
  • “It gives me an outlet,” says Diduk-Smith.Lifting heavy things is therapeutic….there is something satisfying about making a lift or tossing that bar down or getting your thoughts together on the 60 seconds you have on a rower.  I didn’t realize how much I was struggling mentally (for a lot of reasons) until a few months after I went back.  I also think it changed my perspective a bit… CrossFit gave me a better perspective of the need to find balance and I think that is something when the world opens up again, will stay with me.”

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