“Learn. Work. Play. Have fun.” Those are the words that kept me going to my 6.30pm CrossFit class almost every day. Because not going meant I would lose myself.
Before CrossFit, I felt like I was slowly disappearing from earth. There are moments when I could barely breathe because the pain in my chest was just too painful. There are days when I don’t even want to get up from bed, because my joints were too painful to move. At 18, I was slowly crushing in my own body. By 23, after 5 years of misdiagnosed, I was finally diagnosed with joint hypermobility syndrome (JHS). In other words, I have loose ligaments, constant pain in my joints and there’s no cure or treatment. The team of doctors who “treated” me suggested physiotherapy and light exercises to manage the pain. But, at that time I was already running 10k at least 3 times a week and swimming 1500m per week. I knew my version of “light exercises” weren’t enough.
It took me 5 months before I entered CrossFit 399, mainly because the box wasn’t officially opened when I found out about it. When I first walked into the box and not knowing anyone, I was immediately overwhelmed by the amount of people in what-felt-like a tiny space. I wanted to disappear, but I braced myself and stepped onto the black rubber mat. I remembered reading the WOD on the whiteboard - “Partner workout” - 200m medball run, 30 wall balls, 30 burpees, 30 thrusters, 200m medball run - and thought I could do this, but my heart was pounding! Like many others, I ended the workout in a pool of sweat and wanted to puke. But, I was already hooked.
Despite convincing myself that I’m doing CrossFit because of JHS, I actually do it for selfish reasons. I do it to escape the chaos and stress of life. It’s my one-hour of peace, calmness, and relaxation. It is the only time I could decompose, while banging my ears to loud music, pushing the limits of my body, hanging out with some friends, and stretching out those tight muscles. It is my own version of retreat.
Two months into CrossFit, I suffered a meniscus tear from JHS and had to abandon CrossFit for a while. I finally realized that CrossFit meant so much more than the weights I've lifted or the fastest time I've clocked in. CrossFit is about community, diversity, encouragement, and tolerance.
Because without the community, I may not be able to perform as well as I am right now. They are the ones who cheered me on when everything is not as beautiful as it seems or as comfortable as you thought it would be. They are the ones who asked what happened to you when you’re limping across the floor because you just hit your shin against the barbell. They are the ones you count on to show up and hit the workout with you when no one else does. They are the ones pushing you on because indirectly they’re pushing themselves.
CrossFit is not about individuality. It is about community. You push each other to be a better version of yourself. As Sam Briggs would say (in her British accent), “if you know you’re gonna win something, what’s the point?” That’s what made CrossFit much more fun than working out alone in the corner of an ordinary gym and not knowing whether you’re doing the right thing or worrying that you might get laughed at for doing the wrong thing.
I’m approaching my eighth-month mark and CrossFit has absolutely changed my life. And I kick myself all the time for not knowing about it when I was younger, in the US, when I had all the time on earth.
Physically, I can confidently say that I’m much stronger and fitter than I was 7 years ago. I can now squat 1.2x of my weight, when 100lbs used to feel impossible. I’m able to perform 10 unbroken push ups on good days, when 1 push up used to feel miserable. But, those numbers aren’t important. It’s the friendship I’ve built along the way that meant so much more. Meeting new friends, reuniting with old friends. And somehow, CrossFit makes the world seems a lot smaller, especially when Crossfitters from other parts of the world drops in and workout next to you.
Nevertheless, one thing never changed (and probably never will) - I am still clumsy and in constant pain. Though I’ve had my share of injuries (none of which related to CrossFit), without CrossFit, I could never have recovered from my meniscus tear as fast as I did. That’s another thing I love about CrossFit. Everything is scalable to your strength and ability. Everything is possible, if you're willing.
There are so many things I want to achieve in CrossFit - the Handstand Push-Up is definitely one of it. But, let’s go slow before I overwhelmed myself and think I could never do something. Right now, I just want to have fun and progress gradually and positively. In the end, it’s the memories and friendships that count.
Though CrossFit never really helped with the pain from JHS, it gives me a different meaning of life. I learned how to pace myself and to be patient in life. I have more desire to try new things and to get out of my comfort zone. I’ve enlarged my circle of friends and family. But, most importantly, I’m no longer depressed or feel sorry for myself. And that's a huge accomplishment.