By Lauren Herreid
Women in present-day America are surrounded by the expectations and standards set by our culture, our peers, and ourselves. Often times, diet and exercise become our means to meet those standards, whether healthy or not, and result in a tendency to cling to any fad or quick-fix that promises a lean figure and washboard abs. While my story certainly contains its fair share of poor decisions, my experiences with CrossFit have provided freedom from my own expectations of what my body should look like, and they’ve shaped my ability to endure whatever life might bring my way.
Three years ago, after battling with fluctuating weight issues for most of my life, I decided I'd had enough. Enough insecurity, enough imbalance of priorities, and enough wishing my life were different. Thus began my journey toward a happier and healthier lifestyle. I started exercising regularly and eliminating processed foods little by little. This was, of course, a gradual process; but within a year, I had gone from a size 12 to a size 2.
THE PERFECT BODY
However there came a point when my exercise routines veered away from my commitment to a healthy lifestyle, and somehow morphed into an obsession with achieving "the perfect body." You know, the ones you see in magazines and in movies and all over the Internet. No matter how great the results of my hard work, in my mind there was always something that still needed to be smaller, curvier, flatter, or more toned. I was running at least three miles a day, and enlisting the help of personal trainers at my college gym to help me attain what I envisioned my body should look like. When I achieved various aspects of this dream, I gloated over it: I loved staring at myself in the mirror, dancing around in smaller and shorter clothing, and snapping selfies. Now don't get me wrong, not all of this was bad, but I have to admit that a majority of it was rooted in pride. Because our bodies are gifts entrusted to us by God, I’ve since realized that it’s important to view nutrition and exercise as a form of worship and appreciation to our Giver. Yet during this season, my mind was easily swayed, falling into a trap of self-absorption and elevation.
In 2013, I was invited to a CrossFit class with a friend from the gym. I remember waltzing into the box (fancy word for CrossFit gym) with my ego held high, thinking I was about to knock this workout right out of the park - and impress the guy who invited me while I was at it. I don't remember the exact workout, but I do know it involved an interval-style combination of back squats, kettlebell swings, pushups, and several 400 meter runs. I was miserable. I was like a sweaty, tomato-faced turtle, trudging through the workout as if I were about to breathe my last breath. As I left, I noticed a hand-written sign above the whiteboard where scores are tracked: "Leave your ego at the door."
While at the time I vowed I'd never return, an overwhelming surge of endorphins indicated there was something valuable about the pain I'd just endured - something I wasn't quite getting from those miles on the treadmill. After several months of slowly incorporating CrossFit-style workouts into my normal gym routine, I finally joined CrossFit City of Lakes in my hometown of Minneapolis, Minnesota.
BECOMING A CROSS-FITTER
CrossFit is "constantly varied, high-intensity, functional movement" which incorporates Olympic and power weightlifting, kettlebells, dumbbells, medicine balls, push-ups, pull-ups, sit-ups, running, and a variety of movements that human bodies were made to do well. But for me, CrossFit has evolved into much more than just a good workout each afternoon.
If I'm not getting enough sleep or eating nutritious foods that my body was made to consume, it will make those three rounds of wallballs and box jumps much more difficult and painful. It's easy to tell when my body is trying to run on man-made fuel versus the foods God made. I know that I'll lift more weight and move much faster if I'm filling the temple God has given me with protein, vegetables, good fats, minimal fruit, and plenty of water. Just eating what makes your body skinny can become very UNhealthy.
RELYING ON GOD
For me, CrossFit workouts foster a reliance on God and build endurance in my prayer life. I can't tell you how many times I've wanted to quit in the middle of a workout, yet one earnest, internal prayer will recharge my mental toughness and keep me moving toward the finish line. This constant dialogue inevitably transfers to real-life situations when I’m again in need of endurance and determination from the One who is greater than I.
I found a quote recently via Pinterest, which said, "I always thought I just wanted to look good, until I learned what it felt like to be strong." This could not be truer, especially when considering the perspective God desires for us in terms of our physical health. For years I obsessed about what it might feel like to have “the perfect body." Unfortunately for me, I was chasing a myth. CrossFit helps me focus my attention on what truly matters: strength, endurance, and nutrition as the means to keep my body as physically healthy as possible, versus scrutinizing every curve of that body.
While those fast-paced CrossFit workouts do kick-up my metabolism and burn calories like nothing I've ever experienced, there's something much more valuable to be gained from my time at the box. I gain the healthiest body I ever thought possible, freedom from my own unrealistic expectations and warped body-image, and the determination to keep charging forward pursuing God no matter life’s circumstances or season. And at the end of the day, there’s something much more satisfying about lifting 120 lbs over my head than being able to fit into a pair of size 2 jeans.
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QUESTIONS FOR PERSONAL REFLECTION AND GROUP DISCUSSION
What is the hardest thing you have endured physically? What about emotionally?
Do you see tests of your endurance as a chance for Gods refining love to make you holy? If not, how can you start?
Examine what your motivation for personal fitness and endurance is? Is it rooted in pride or vanity?
Ask God to give you pure intentions and give you the desire to be used by him in your fitness.
Lauren Herreid is a natural light photographer with a passion for capturing stories and smiles. Lauren says about her work and passion of photography, "I'm captivated by the ability to document unique and powerful stories, mainly because we all have them." You can see more of Lauren's work and learn more about her love for travel and CrossFit at her website.