The Day I Learned about Being an Athlete

I started doing Crossfit. 

The official Crossfit website describes Crossfit as follows:

“CrossFit is constantly varied functional movements performed at relatively high intensity

The community that spontaneously arises when people do these workouts together is a key component of why CrossFit is so effective…

The CrossFit program is driven by data. …This data has important value well beyond motivation.”

So basically, Crossfitters are intense, community oriented, data nerds. OH MY GOSH–THESE ARE MY PEOPLE because that’s me in a nutshell: intense, extraverted, community lover, and I’m all about data. (

So, I went to a demo class, liked it, and then signed up for a series of six foundational classes. 

After the foundational classes, I nervously went to my first “official” class, and came out sweaty and sore and feeling VERY good.

“OMG I’m so excited about Crossfit!! I’m so excited about Crossfit!! I’m so excited about Crossfit!” I told everyone within earshot and annoyed them.

And then…

I went to official class number two. 

Now. Listen up. Because I need you to understand that I’m not dumb. 

Prior to attending this class, I looked at the posted “workout of the day” and thought it looked hard but doable, if I scaled it. (A good Crossfit gym/coach is great about scaling movements for newbies.) I even convinced a friend of mine to come with me.

“This workout is going to be fun!” I told her. 

However, when I walked in, I saw about 30 people lifting heavy weights who were not scaling anything. And the workout they were prepping for was definitely NOT THE WORKOUT POSTED on the website. 

“Umm, maybe I can just walk out and no one will notice,” I thought to myself. 

“Welcome, Emily!” a voice said. It was my foundations teacher.

Oh crap. 

I turned around. 

“Hi! Umm, why is this workout different than the one that was posted for Crossfit today?” I asked. 

My teacher explained that they were doing a “special” workout in its place for competitors in the Crossfit games, in order to prep the athletes. 

“Okay, well I’m not in the ‘Crossfit Games’ and I feel weird,” I said.

“Just do the workout,” he said, smiling. 

He was not picking up on my wide eyed, “YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME” look I shot him.

I really, really did not want to stay there. But then I kept thinking about what I’m always telling Aliana to do: “Just show up and be brave.”


The fearful part of my personality was having a major temper tantrum inside as I watched the first group of Crossfit athletes do this workout that was preparing them for the games. 

“You are going to look SO stupid,” said the voice. 

“You are NOT an ATHLETE!!” said the voice. 

“Shut up,” I told the voice. A Crossfit athlete standing nearby smiled. She probably thought I was telling her to shut up, I thought. Great. Now I look stupid AND people think I’m mean. 

Things continued to get worse. 

When it was time for my turn to do the  workout, the coach started running around, calling out for judges for my round. 

“Did he say judge?” I asked my friend, and before she could say yes, my “judge” appeared, just in time for my freak out. 

So, as if doing this workout in front of people who are Crossfit athletes isn’t embarrassing enough, NOW THEY ARE SENDING OVER SOMEONE TO JUDGE my ability to do the workout. 

“You guys,” I said to my judge and anyone else who would listen, “this is my second official Crossfit class. And I don’t know what I’m doing. And I am afraid I may die. And I’m almost 40. (My new favorite excuse I use for anything). And, I just don’t really need a judge,” I explained.

Someone started telling me that everyone had a judge today since this is the Crossfit games workout.


That someone did not care. 

“This is my second official class! I’m going to suck at this and my judge and everyone else will be like, ‘Why the heck is that dumb lady here?!'”

“You’re going to do great, it’s ok,” he said. “You’re here and that’s awesome.”

I stared at him deadpan.

My judge even looked worried for me as the clock was getting ready to start. She asked me again if this was really only my second class and I said “YES!” in desperation. “Okay,” she said, “everything will be fine.”

And before you know it, the clock started and mass chaos began. 

I ran over to the bars to do the first movement: hanging leg raises. I kept looking for a box to jump up onto the high bar, but all of the boxes were taken. “It’s okay,” my judge told me. “Just jump for the bar.”

I looked up at the bar and shocked myself by jumping up and grabbing it. I fell off multiple times, but still, I couldn’t believe I HAD GRABBED THE DAMN BAR. I kept putting chalk on my hands each time I dropped, and hopped back up again. 

After that bar craziness was over, I had to jump rope. “That’s easy,” you may be thinking. 


I was trying to go too fast and kept tripping over the rope. My judge looked concerned again. She temporarily ran away and came back with an expensive jump rope which magically allowed me to finish the set fairly quickly. 

“Thank you,” I told my judge 300 times.

Then, it was time for squat cleans. 

I don’t know how to do a squat clean. And after all that jump roping and those leg raises, I FELT LIKE I WANTED TO DIE. I wanted to die and I didn’t even know where my water bottle was. 

I told my judge I felt like I was going to die. 

“Die?” she said.

“Yes! I need water!” 

“Please go drink water,” she encouraged me. 

After guzzling water, I suddenly realized that however much time it took me to do this workout didn’t matter, because my only goal was to simply get through it. 

“Okay, I don’t know how do a squat clean,” I told my judge. 

“I’ll teach you,” she said. 

At that moment, I actually took time to look at my judge’s face. And you know what I saw? KINDNESS. She wasn’t laughing at me. In fact, nobody was. She had the kindest, most gentle eyes, and warm smile. 

“Let’s do this,” she said. 

She picked up the bar, and started teaching me squat cleans. I remembered that I actually had learned this before, but just had no memory of what it was called. I kept practicing, screwing it up, and practicing again. 

“Sorry!” I said, about 200 times (not a hyperbole), each time I did it wrong, as she was teaching me. 

“No! There is no ‘sorry’ here,” she said, smiling. 

I was so afraid of annoying her by my slow learning ability to intuit these movements, that I hadn’t noticed she was not annoyed at all. 

When the buzzer finally rang, I dropped that dumb bar. 

“Oh my God,” I said. “I got through it,” I said.

And since I love hugging strangers, I ran over and hugged my judge. 

“Thank you! Thank you for being you! You are awesome!” I told her. 

“Um, YOU are awesome!” she said. 

And that is the story of the day I learned that part of being an athlete is just showing up and doing the work. 

(The smiley face next to my name means I got through it.)

5 thoughts on “The Day I Learned about Being an Athlete

  1. Great piece!!! I’ve been doing Pilates at the Y but have been doing some Pilates at a DC area Pilates studio…. OMG. Everything done to exhaustion. 😳. Barely walk for 2 days afterward. Hang in there. Best regards, – m

    Sent from my iPhone


    Liked by 1 person

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