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Overcoming Mental Blocks in CrossFit

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By Cara Campbell

I started CrossFit, begrudgingly, when I was forced out of my old ways by an injury. I had run myself right out of shape.

I considered myself to be a mediocre endurance athlete, with a few marathons and triathlons under my belt, and had just finished my first (and only!) 50k trail run. I trained for this event after reading a single blog that recommended lots and lots of mileage. So I spent my days off in the woods, by myself, putting in tons of slow, monotonous miles. Surprisingly enough, I hurt my knee. And my hip.

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When I was introduced to CrossFit Full Circle, the coaches told me about a kind of training that was centered on strength and involving less time and less miles. I was skeptical, but since I couldn’t run and needed something else, I reluctantly went for it. And every time I walked in the door, I felt out of place. I couldn’t remember the difference between a snatch and a clean for the life of me, and everything scared me. Holding heavy weights over my head scared me, and kicking up to a hand stand push up scared me. My attempt at a kipping pull up was more like flailing on a bar. I was overwhelmed by the amount of new things I was failing at. Honestly, I don’t really know what kept me coming back. I cried during multiple workouts and repeatedly stayed late chipping away at skills I just wasn’t getting, until one by one, they started to click.

So that’s what I did. For two and a half years, I kept showing up. I loved lifting something that was heavier than the week before and mastering skills I never thought I could do. But I was always thinking “I need to get out before they make me do a hand stand push up,” or “I need to leave before I have to do box jumps.” And the voice in my head saying “I can’t do that” was very loud.

In the fall I decided to join the endurance team, which encompassed a style of training I was very uncomfortable with – short interval training and strength training for a marathon? That’s crazy talk. But I “trusted the system” and got my best marathon time.

I was beginning to taste the joy of showing up, working hard, and seeing results. I was sold.

Now, I can kick up into a hand stand AND do box jumps. Those may not seem major, but I spent a lot of time staring at boxes and walls and not jumping. Although I’ve come a long way, the list of skills I want to master and heavier weights I want to lift seems endless. But that’s fine, because for me it’s been about overcoming mental blocks and choosing to silence the voice of “I can’t do that” or “I’ll never do that.

CrossFit has conveniently paralleled my time as a new nurse, where I’m also constantly inundated with things that seem overwhelming or daunting.

In both settings I’ve been learning how to fail, and the joy that comes from doing hard and scary things. And in the process, I’ve gained insight into something I didn’t expect – a much healthier perspective on body image. Like a lot of girls, I’ve always been fixated on the number on the scale, wanting to be one elusive size smaller than I am. As part of the strength and training I was getting at the gym, I experienced major body image change. As I continued, I began to care less about what size I am, and more about what my body was capable of. I love going to a workout and seeing how varied people’s strengths are.

And I love being a part of something that meets people where they are and pushes them to improve.

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