by Lauren Grogan (originally published May 7, 2016)
Maybe CrossFit was started by a man. Maybe men hold the fastest times and get the biggest lifts. But I’m here to talk about what women in CrossFit gyms all over the globe already know:
CrossFit is the most feminist sport on the planet. Here’s why:
I have owned and operated a CrossFit box since 2014. Women make up the majority of our current membership. And as much as I would love to claim that we are a unique snowflake of a CrossFit gym, I don’t think we are. I think women outnumber men in many CrossFit gyms, because the qualities you need to excel at CrossFit come naturally to women. They may not always come easily, but I do believe they are part of our nature. I have seen them modeled for me in the women who have mothered me through my life. And I use them constantly as I mother my own children. In CrossFit I have found a sport that celebrates my innate strengths, those that all women access when they care for and nurture another person. CrossFit also speaks to a deep part of my soul, the part that needs to be pushed to keep improving, to strive constantly to be the best version of myself.
Let’s start with the easy stuff. This is how CrossFit makes me a better mom:
You’re not allowed to quit.
An unspoken rule of CrossFit workouts is that you do not quit. You might slow down, you might take a break. You might be lagging behind everyone else by a substantial margin. But if your coach is as good as mine (spoiler alert: he’s also my husband, so I’m partial) that coach will tell you to keep going. And so will your fellow athletes. They will tell you that you are strong enough. They will tell you you’re doing a great job. They will tell you to take a breath, then dig deep and jump right back in because you have more in the tank than you think you do.
Last night was a particularly rough workout for me. I was tired and cranky and I’d had a rough week. I told everyone this before we started, but I was there and with everyone watching me I knew I couldn’t just give up. Everyone else finished before me, and as they caught their breath they turned their attention to me. Two years ago that would have mortified me, but last night it warmed my heart. One of my dear friends, who was a relative stranger before we started working out together, knelt right next to me as I began my 5th and final set of heavy front squats. Her encouragement grew louder and more urgent until, when I had only three squats left she screamed, “this week did not beat you! You are stronger than it! You win! YOU WIN!’ I did. I won. I was tired, and dead last, but I finished.
I had some low moments this week. I was not the mother I dreamed I would be. I lost my patience, gave in to whining, and ignored my children instead of engaging them. But I did it. I made it one more week staying at home with my toddler, feeding him nutritious food and reading him the same books over and over and loving him even though he punched me in the eye. And when I struggled and wanted to give up, I had a tribe of women around me to tell me what a good job I was doing. There is not a parent alive who doesn’t need that.
You chose the hard way.
In a world full of ‘easy’ workouts, CrossFit stands out as the road less taken. The ‘hard’ way, the rugged option that is not for the faint of heart. The same could be said of parenthood. As a mother I am constantly struggling to chose the difficult path, the one that is sure to lead to a happy, healthy child but requires so much damn effort that it seems insurmountable. Vegetables instead of dessert. Books instead of TV. Cloth diapers instead of disposable. Patience instead of anger. As the mother of a six year old and an almost two year old, my future looks like a mountain of these kind of struggles.
Where I land on each of these kinds of struggles depends on the day, the week, the month. And the end is nowhere in sight, no matter how fast the internet tells me it will go. But I am surrounded by women who chose the hard way. They show up night after night to lift heavy weights, run in the rain, and leave it all on the floor. Because they know that their choices matter and that every single time they choose the hard way, they are one step closer being the best person that they want to be. And when I struggle to find the will to parent my child, I think of them.
Are you ready? ‘Cause it’s about to get heavy. This is how being a mother makes me a better CrossFitter:
It is Hard
My very first Mother’s Day was two days after I found out that the baby I had been carrying for 20 weeks was most certainly not going to have the kind of life I had dreamed of for her. In the weeks between that day and the day she was born, I learned a lot more about specifically which parts of her body worked and which did not, and which part of her brain was present and which was not. But I never learned why. No diagnosis, no syndrome; perfect chromosomes, healthy parents. Just a part of the 3% of all human pregnancies that mutate without cause. This is the human condition: life is hard for no reason.
We struggle so much, fight so hard, and still we can’t always change our circumstances. We are usually better because of our struggles, but that doesn’t mean we would ever choose them. I get stronger every time i do burpees. It sucks, I loathe it, I am almost never happy when I do them. And if I had the ‘choice,’ I wouldn’t. But you read what I wrote about not quitting right? I don’t quit. Because there are other things in my life that have been harder than burpees.
Birthing my daughter knowing that she had already died was much harder than any CrossFit workout I will ever do. But I did it, so that I could hold her in my arms and kiss her tiny face. And I will continue to do hard things, like CrossFit, because it feels like one of the most pure elements of the human condition.
These days, if I put on a hat, so does my toddler. He wants to eat whatever I’m eating, wear whatever I’m wearing and do whatever I’m doing. Which is why he does spontaneous burpees, and cheers whenever he sees someone running. As his primary caretaker, I am responsible for his entire worldview. That is a huge responsibility and one that I do not take lightly. If I was not constantly reminded of how closely he watches me, it would be easy to skip the gym and eat junk food all day long.
It is one of those fantastic human paradoxes that we take better care of our children than we do ourselves, but I’m sure it is true for most of the parents I know. So (in pre-COVID times) I drag him with me to CrossFit two or three times a week, even though it takes at least an extra half hour to prepare him, and messes up his sleep schedule (which makes my life harder of course.) Because I want him to see that I am strong. I want him to know that I make my health a priority. And when I hit that inevitable wall in my workout and I hear him yelling or see him clapping, I get the motivation I need to finish. Because what he needs, more than anything else, is for me to be strong and healthy and happy.
So I am.