The gym was chilly in the early morning hours. He had pulled into one of the open parking spaces just across from the gym door. At six in the morning it wasn’t challenging to park his SUV. The air was crisp, as fall had turned into winter. Christmas was just around the corner and temperatures were hovering in the 30’s. It was his second week back to CrossFit. Anxiety continued to fill his emotions around this type of exercise. The first attempt with CrossFit was almost a year before. That experience hadn’t turned into something positive, but he figured most things are worth second chances. On this Wednesday morning, they would be working out in pairs, it was partner WOD Wednesday. All other days of the week members worked out individually. He had decided to reenter into CrossFit because of his enjoyment during these partner workouts. The first one would be done with his chiropractor, who first suggested his involvement in CrossFit and was one reason for giving the gym another try. He also came back, attempting to find if he could participate after taking an absence. So, he walked across the parking lot and reached timidly for the door.
CrossFit gyms are designed differently from regular health clubs. As he walked through the door, the emptiness inside was startling. There were no machines or bench-press stations. He didn’t see a squat cage either, there were row machines in the corner, with bars and weight plates off to the side. In his view were some dumbbells, kettlebells, and weighted workout balls. It was a unique way to work out; most movements are done without support. He shook hands with everyone he knew and began learning the names to accompany new faces. Like in prior workouts, he walked to view one of the whiteboards and read through the warm-up. After loosening the body at six in the morning, they all gathered to review the workout for that morning. Paired with his chiropractor, the two divvied up the workload and prepared to begin. The three teams competing that morning gathered equipment needed, soon the clock would start and off they would go. Most Wednesday morning routines last around twenty minutes and they remain highly intense on cardiovascular movements. He worked hard at the high rate, while being pushed by his partner that morning. They finished out of breath, but satisfied with their exhausted effort. Each member shook hands upon completion, as was customary, and the workout was over.
He could tell the experience was different after that first Wednesday. His strength had improved from the previous attempt at CrossFit. That improved strength made him feel more comfortable during the routine. He decided on the spot to return the following week for another partner workout. However, the following week would involve differences he hadn’t expected. Upon entering the gym at six, he looked to the whiteboard for warm-up instructions. After working through the items on the board they gathered around to partner up for the morning. He fully expected to work with the chiropractor again, but the gym had other plans. There would be different partnerships on that Wednesday morning. The work with his chiropractor was done and he would be paired with someone who better matched his skill level. Dana was the best athlete in the gym. So, his chiropractor would probably work better with someone at his skill level. The new pairing was with someone he was unfamiliar with. They had exchanged introductory chit chat the week before. Now they would be partnered together for the first time.
As the Wednesday morning workouts continued, they continued to be paired together. Sometimes they added a third partner to their group. But, on other occasions they took on the session on their own. Their pairing was unique for many reasons, as he discovered through time. His cerebral palsy was the main hindrance to his CrossFit workouts, making them more challenging. The new partner he had acquired also had something physically holding her back. Stacy had been hampered by issues with her knee for years. He would learn Stacy messed up her knee as a young woman, but never had surgery to correct the issue. The knee functioned for years before it was examined by a doctor. When she finally underwent surgery, Stacy had grown basically without mobility to exercise, leaving her health deteriorating to a frustrating level. Upon her surgeons working their magic, her knee mobility increased and Stacy got to work at improving her health. As an athlete while growing up, getting back into the swing of exercise became almost natural. But, the road to recovery was still going to be challenging.
Before entering back into the CrossFit gym, he heard about Stacy. It didn’t occur to him who Stacy was until after working out with her a couple times. During one Wednesday workout, she began telling the story of her knee surgery. During Stacy’s articulation of the story he began to realize his casual familiarity with the story. When it was mentioned to him, it was told without use of names. Finally, he was able to match the story he heard with the main character of that story. Stacy had achieved so much in a short amount of time, with most of her health improvements having been accomplished in the CrossFit gym. He was amazed by the bits of Stacy’s story that had been told. It was one of the many aspects tempting him to give CrossFit another chance. Stacy was working hard inside the gym and had lost over a hundred pounds, half her end goal. The encouragement from other members seemed to motivate Stacy to continue her pursuit of improved health. Hearing the story was becoming an inspiration to him, as the weeks went on.
The unique story he was being told were inspiring. Making him believe there might be a place for CrossFit in his life. However, it takes more than a few inspiring stories to push someone into coming back week after week. One of the things convincing him to continue was a new-found feeling of inclusion. That feeling of inclusion truly began upon spending time working out with Stacy. Because of her limitation with her knee, Stacy had developed positive ways to modify many movements. It gave him the ability to follower her lead with certain exercises. Stacy had already developed many modifications that seemed to also aid his battle with cerebral palsy. Even motivating him to suggest implementing some of them with his own trainer outside CrossFit. The modifications he witnessed Stacy implementing could also help his progression in strengthening. Hopefully mastering those modifications and strength progressions would allow both of them to eventually achieve the movement without modification. Working on the exercises individually, but also as a team.
That effort being put forth together provides him with inspiration. They each build individually toward similar goals of battling something physically hampering them. For him, his battle has always been cerebral palsy. During his journey, it has been challenging to find people he could relate to regarding physical difficulty. Many who find themselves faced with physical impairments seem to allow those impairments to win. They decide the struggle toward improving those physical aspects has become insurmountable. Maybe we all look for some kind of quick and easy fix, if we can’t find it, discouragement and frustration seem to engulf us into giving up. But, for those who take on the challenge, inspiration becomes part of our contribution. We still need to gain inspiration from others, driving us to inspire. Stacy has become someone helping him find ways to work a little more intensely. Maybe they help one another find ways to physically accomplish tasks that feel more simple for others.
The feeling of inclusivity seems a powerful emotion. We share things in common with our family and friends bringing us closer. Even the simple shared challenge inside of a gym can bring people together. CrossFit has proven more beneficial for him than expected. The second attempt at the exercise form has included positive motivation. Not just inside the CrossFit gym, but during other forms of exercise. He has found unexpected bonding with not only Stacy and Dana, but other members. Those developed friendships contribute to the desire of continuing his CrossFit workouts. It’s helping him add a new form of strengthening to his exercise routine. Everything will continue to revolve around his work with the trainer, as most of his strength and stability have been developed with Ian. However, the openness to add and subtract from those training sessions only increases the challenge and helps cerebral palsy.