My Crossfit Love Affair

You walk in, not knowing what to expect. It’s crowded, chaotic and the air hangs heavy with steam rising off the sweaty bodies laying around you in an exhausted heap.  You watch transfixed as their chests rapidly rise and fall. The doubt begins to take hold, and suddenly you find yourself looking for the closest exit.  But then,a friendly smile, followed by more smiles and welcoming nods, and you begin to realize that this isn’t some typical gym where egos are flaunted and muscles flexed– it’s a Crossfit box where the humbled are favored. If any of you reading this are Crossfitters then you know exactly what I am talking about. You will never forget your first time walking into the unknown– it’s nerve wracking and hectic and the only piece of knowledge you have is based on haunting tales from people who have experienced this life changing realm of barbells and chalk stained floors.

I have been doing Crossfit for a year and half, and it still continues to push me so far outside of my comfort zone, I don’t even know if I still have one anymore. Unrelenting in its demanding WODs of endless reps and body movements, it is an extraordinary clash of gymnastics, Olympic lifting, endurance, hell, emotional breaking and functional fitness that leaves you in a euphoric state every single fucking time. And no matter how many times I go to Crossfit, in whichever box or whatever country, it is always the same- knots in my stomach and wild electric anticipation. To some this may sound horrible, to me, and any other devout Crossfitter, it sounds like home.

So how can I best describe my love affair with Crossfit? I will admit I fell hard and fast, and happily sip the Paleo Kool-Aid (sugar-free of course). Let’s start at the very core, community. A family grows from the box, People from all sorts of backgrounds and beliefs find themselves lifting side by side, supporting and cheering each other on during an AMRAP (as many rounds as possible), and yell to stand up beneath crushing weight. And It is after the WOD when bonds are especially made, each one of you are captured but the same sensation– lungs screaming for air and bodies ablaze as if all had been dancing in the same inferno.

Crossfit continues to surprise you, and my latest discovery is its ability to cross borders, both physical and cultural, and how comfortably it fits in any country. I was fortunate enough to attend two amazing boxes outside of the United States, one in Dubai and the other in Bahrain. Both boxes resembled any Crossfit gym one may visit in the States– rubber plates, barbells hung up on the wall, buckets of chalk– basically the usual tools of torture that we love. The only differences I  encountered was that these boxes had a diverse array of people from a collection countries, and with them, they brought their languages and own exotic flair. For instance, in Bahrain, my coach would bark at me in English or Arabic to complete those burpees or to add more weight to my bar.  Personally I find this remarkable, the passion of Crossfit can translate from English to any other language with such ease. If any of you have been watching the news lately you know the world is becoming increasingly polarized in politics and religion, and it is refreshing to see unity, no matter what the circumstance is, between people of different colors, race, and religion. This statement may seem outlandish and somewhat farfetched, but an oasis of peace is always welcomed in a desert of violence, and for that, I am eternally thankful for that.

This is not a crush, or a summer fling, it’s love. Love for the thing that has my heart pounding against my chest so hard that the world can hear it. On my back I lay post WOD, eyes heaven bound, laying in a glorious mess, already wanting more.

The Misfit Clan

Being accepted is one of the most humanly based desires out there, we fight every day to find our tribe and niche that provides that warm delicious feeling of acceptance and home. For me personally, it has been a hell of a quest figuring out where I belong and how I can mold myself into fitting into societies image of normalcy, yet I have tragically learned that the more I attempt and struggle to look “normal”,  the more  I stand out.  Tonight I had an interesting discussion with a Crossfit coach here in Bahrain. I had just walked out of the box and found him sitting on a bench talking to a member, my original plan was to walk over, talk about the WOD and leave, however we quickly began discussing the challenging world of misfitville and how challenging life can be when you don’t quite fit into societies standard definition of what is normal. I have always stood out, I’m a tall blonde with a faux hawk pixie haircut,and can be somewhat obnoxious at times, and I love who I am. Before my self love, I hated who I was, and still struggle with myself sometimes (who doesn’t?).  For instance I always used to slouch in order to be shorter since most of my girlfriends in Bahrain are petite, I felt so gigantic and bulky around them, and it wasn’t until I moved to Texas that my posture slowly improved and I came to terms with my height.  Now I stand tall and proud, but once and a while that awkward feeling will arise and I have to work extremely hard to douse any flames of shame before it spreads like wild fire.

As the warm summer night wore on, I discovered that the young coach is a full blooded Bahraini, and you would not assume, at least I didn’t, that he considered himself a misfit.  At first I laughed at his self-belief, and patronizingly questioned his misfit proclamation. How could he feel different? He fit the Bahraini standard perfectly. Eventually though I discovered that my fellow Crossfitter was also a Misfitter.

So how did I come to this realization? Well, it all began with our discussion about my plans for the future after I finish my master’s in January. I confessed that I did not know if I wanted to come back to Bahrain since I felt like I never truly belonged here, especially after living in Austin for seven years.  I told him that sometimes I hated being different and thought that life would be so much easier if I was a full blooded Saudi or American, not one of each.  As I continued to dig deeper into a hole of fear and pointless worry, I uncovered a surprising and extremely reassuring treasure, even he, a true Bahraini from a huge and well known family, did not feel like he belonged.  At that moment I found comfort, my misgivings were simply born from my own self-doubt, and that just because I am a half Saudi American who was brought up in Bahrain, does not mean that I am alone and that even misfits can come from two parents of the same country of origin.

Although I feel lonely from time to time and wonder if I will ever find the holy grail of acceptance, I am beginning to realize that I do belong to a tribe, the Clan of Misfits.   We wonder adrift in a sea of standards, and soon find that our differences are in fact our bonds that forge unbreakable relationships and transcend any cultural barriers that many will never cross.

Sweet Misery

I am miserable. I am currently sitting in my kitchen, one that I have always found comfort in since the age of two, and cannot shake this feeling of loneliness and low-grade despair.  It’s another quiet Ramadan night here in Bahrain, and I am still in my gym clothes after a great class at Crossfit Delmon. The workout buzz I was riding has all but disappeared, and the determination not to eat the leftover candy from the night before quickly faded as the evil sugary voices finally won me over with short-lived promises of happiness. The same battle, different night.  I try and try to avoid eating junk since I know that it has ZERO benefits, not to mention my self-esteem takes the majority of the beating when I don’t see results from killing myself at the gym, or when I put on a pair of jeans and just feel like a  big fat whale with a muffin top. Why do I continuously do this to myself? I eat sugar, feel a brief high, and then come crashing and burning down back to earth with nothing but a sickening feeling of failure and way too much sugar. I know what I’m doing when I put the candy in my mouth, but it is as if my common sense is put on hold as the sweet pieces of chocolate melt upon my tongue and send feel-good signals to my brain, only telling it MORE MORE MORE! The candy I hold in my fingers has no nutritional value what soever, and only brings me sadness and fat, and so, I decided to write a blog during my post-sugar crash and tell you exactly what I am feeling. Thirsty, bloated, depressed and extremely frustrated. It’s Ramadan and my last chance to eat or have water is in an hour and a half, so being  thirsty sucks. After pushing myself at Crossfit and feeling weak from two days of eating terribly, I promised myself that I would not succumb to any sort of temptation with regards to poor food choices, yet here I am, surrounded by the empty wrappers of candy, chocolate and a spoon I used as a vessel for peanut butter (one of my biggest weaknesses), and all I can say to you is that I am disgusted with myself. If I want to see results I have to stop these late night binges, and I also need to be patient and more forgiving with myself. So here I am, confessing to you, whoever you are, that I am hoping to break this addiction and be strong, however I am battling artificial foes that have been chemically engineered to stimulate parts of the brain that dopamine does.  Sugar, you’re a terrible influence and bring me nothing but regret and sadness, if food was a one night stand, I’d be walking out of your apartment right now with my head hung low and my dignity destroyed. I aspire to be a healthier and more confident woman, and I know that one of my biggest obstacles is going to be my sugar rehabilitation, and that time and patience will be my only allies during this uphill sugar-laced struggle.