I’ll admit it — I’ve been keeping a secret. It’ not like I’m ashamed of it or anything. It’s just that I didn’t want to go public with my new obsession until I was sure that I wanted to make it last. By now, I’m close to categorically certain that this fledgling fascination I’ve been flirting with is going to become a near-permanent part of my life, so it’s time to announce it to the world:
I quit my gym membership. Because CrossFit changed my life.
Until I discovered CrossFit, I was the poster child for Skinny Fat Syndrome. I was a certifiable cardio addict. I would drag myself to Equinox several times a week for five-mile runs on the treadmill or spinning classes, and I wasted the better part of my early 20s running not one, but four Chicago Marathons. I also attempted to eat as little as possible (which was incredibly difficult because the compulsive running made me ravenously hungry every waking hour). My weight was extremely low, but I had zero muscle. So I’m assuming that my body composition was not much more than skin, fat, and bones. In other words, I was an incredibly skinny fat person. I looked great in my size 26 legging jeans, but I hated wearing bikinis because jiggly, non-solid flab looks gross, even on an otherwise thin person.
But at the time, I didn’t really think there was anything I should have been doing differently. All of the hottest-looking, and therefore most intimidating and jealousy-inducing, girls at Equinox were faithful cardio devotees who appeared to subsist mostly on Starbucks, Diet Coke, and Kashi cereal. I was mirroring those habits, so I figured that the skinny flabbiness was just a biological fact of life I needed to learn to deal with.
And, although I absolutely dreaded going to Equinox — I hated the smug silent atmosphere, the attractive but often useless trainers who pranced around conveying an air of exclusive superiority, the lululemon-clad socialite-esque gorgeous girls nonchalantly flipping through Us Magazines on the ellipticals, and the awful dumb-looking guys making faces at themselves in the mirror and trolling for girls while using those stupid cable crossover machines — I didn’t think there were any other legitimate options.
But that’s when I discovered CrossFit. Oddly enough, it was my mom who recommended that I try it, because one of her friends urged her into enrolling in a CrossFit 101 program at a box in Cincinnati, and when she finished 101, she was hooked.
I was skeptical at first, though (hence the reason for my initial secretiveness). Sure, the workouts were a hell of a lot more enjoyable — not to mention took less time — than running five miles on a treadmill. And I knew immediately that the workouts are more effective than my cardio compulsion, because I’m always sore for a day or two afterward. So my skepticism wasn’t that I thought CrossFit wasn’t effective. The problem was, I was afraid it would be too effective. Somehow, I had absorbed some sort of tacit belief that heavy squats, or really anything involving barbells, would make me bulky. Looking back on it, my flawed logic makes me laugh (and makes me a little bit sad) because I wanted muscle. I knew the reason I looked like crap in a bikini was due to my lack of muscle. So I don’t quite understand why I thought that there were only two body types available to me: (1) skinny fat with no muscle; or (2) not fat with big bulky muscles. I don’t really know why I concluded that there wouldn’t be a mid-range option of not fat with non-bulky muscle (although maybe I was just scared of working hard and trying movements where I risked looking stupid and couldn’t hide behind the predictable safety of the treadmill). I like to think that one of the (very few) benefits of law school was that it strengthened my logical reasoning skills, but I guess that didn’t extend to pondering fitness outcomes. I decided to keep doing CrossFit in secret, and I vowed quit immediately if and when I noticed any telltale signs of bulkiness, such as my jeans getting tight in the thighs, or the emergence of lats.
Somehow, though — perhaps even magically — the bulk never appeared. I went from not even being able to do one air squat properly to being able to do a 75-lb. back squat, and I still fit in the same jeans but now I actually look good in a bikini, too. Even better, I’ve stopped being so freaking preoccupied with the way my body looks because I’m starting to focus my excitement on what my body can do. I’ll admit that I’ve noticed some evidence of lats, but I haven’t panicked because I know I’m that much closer to being able to do an unassisted pullup.
Oh, and did I mention that I actually enjoy going to my CrossFit box every day? Everyone is so positive and encouraging, and I’ve never once gotten that weird, smug vibe that was so pervasive at my Equinox. There’s also an awesome lack of lawyers there, which means I often find myself in conversations about real life and interesting things.
Of course, I’ve also discovered something else about CrossFit that the desperate single girl in me loves — guys that do CrossFit are ridiculously hot. After spending years inwardly gagging at poser meatheads grunting while doing cable crossovers, it’s amazing to be working out in an environment surrounded by guys who are attractive and who I would actually like to hang out with. This will sound weird to the uninitiated, but I’ve developed some serious crushes on guys wearing striped knee socks after watching them do burpee pullups.
So that’s that. I’m hooked on CrossFit (maybe even for life), so much so that I cancelled my Equinox membership, and I’m no longer contemplating an exit strategy based on irrational fears of bulkiness. It’s time to go public with it. Hopefully, my next announcement will be that I’ve had a few amazing first dates with a CrossFitter.
Post image via Shutterstock.