Not the usual way I enter a new community: writing a womanifesto of what I needed for the leaders to help me help myself.
About a month ago, I took the dive into a CrossFit gym close to where I work. I figured that when my busy semester hits this spring, I’d have a new routine and a gym to swing by on the way home. I also knew I wanted to reclaim my levels of physical activity that always seem to wane when amidst other things I love to do with my life—circles, teaching, sacred listening-companionship, etc. ... I do have an inner athlete, after all. I discovered her in college when I joined the college women’s soccer team during my junior year. It was an unusual time to join the team—halfway through—but they needed a goalie and I took the dive then too. ... The heady parts of my work and married life, even, do not often allow her much expression these days, so I thought perhaps CrossFit would be a good fit for right now.
And it really is. I’ve been in regular classes now for about two weeks, having done the intro-sessions with Matt, one of the coaches, during late August. I’m learning which classes have which kinds of energies. The 4 p.m. class is a bit snooty and competitive, with folks just off their jobs, working off steam before heading home to family lives. 8 a.m. is led by the other coach, Melissa, and has a much gentler feel to it, plus more one-on-one coaching. More often a women-centric class too, though a husband and wife team was there together once when I was there. The Saturday open-workouts for the community are probably my favorite so far—more body-as-weight kinds of sets because the number of folks can be high. My work life may require me to go to the 4 p.m. class; my sense of well-being values the 8 a.m. class. I’ve not tried the noontime or the 5:30 p.m. class, though I suppose I will in the days to come.
After the third ‘regular class,’ I realized that one of the practices of CrossFit was beginning to distract and shame me: CrossFit math. Matt would ask each of us what our time was, writing it up on the white-board amongst the list of names for each day. I wasn’t here to keep time or compete for a fast time. My focus from day-one has been technique and form, intensity of workout, regularity of showing up. I could feel the dread building in me for everytime I had to gather my things to leave, hoping to avoid the question. By the fourth class, I knew I had to take a different approach than sneaking out.
A day of Columbus meetings, the first in an Upper Arglington coffee shop, I set to writing the draft of an email to the two coaches. I was sure to begin with a huge list of gratitudes and what I was showing up for… I am really glad to have taken this dive, after all, and can feel myself growing, re-focusing my life in healthy ways.
I did try to give some context for this invitation-demand of them: This message is to help you help me in flows of energy I'm guessing you'd have no reason to know anything about... I cannot imagine you've had much reason to delve into the motherwound or the long histories of bodyshaming that religious traditions exact upon their young--perhaps you have, and you simply hold it differently for yourselves--but CF is the apparent place for me to redress some of this in my own body...
I was pleased to name for them, and for myself, what I was intending and striving for: What I am coming for: the regularity, the intensities deepening, the circle of companions also working out and pushing into their best reps, time etc. I need to have invested at this level in order to show up in the overwhelm of my work life(lives). So far, I'm getting all that I need there, entering in slowly...
I was proud of myself for then getting concrete and specific:
All that said...The whiteboards, the reporting, the numbers/CrossFit math are not going to be good for me at this stage in my body journey... They distract me, my long history of body-shaming and internalized self-hatred are simply too tender for the post-workout-give-the-number routine that is part of your/CF community practice. You can cancel my reservation for the thing on the 7th. Not good for me, at this stage. I don't actually care where I'm starting in the masculine-driven, body-image way of being in human bodies. I finally know how to name what I need and so this is your invitation to help me deepen engagement in the ways<I>need. ...you make your suggestions, but I need you to not put my name up on the board, I need you to not ask me, and I need to find my way into these flows of movement in my own way. Guided and pushed by you, sure, but listening inwardly always first. Maybe someday down the road, I'll enter in this way; maybe not.
I was most delighted by the ending of the email, the opportunity to name what it’s taken me so long to name: I'm happy to flow in and find my way amidst different classes as these next weeks beckon. It's taken me 50 years to love the body I have, just as I am, knowing I've needed every fuckin' cell to do the work I do...so my desire and goal is simply to move into deeper and deeper movement, health, well-being, as I know from the inside alone. Thanks for reading this far. See you tomorrow and more,
A woman-i-festo indeed. I felt immediately lighter upon sending it. I felt the waves of self-doubt and fear too, but I knew to expect those. It is really hard for a woman to name so clearly what she needs and not collide inside herself with the need for outside approval, the need to not take up space, the need to not be too pushy or too much or 'a bitch' or too…something. I could feel some reverberations within me as I eased into new classes. Did they share my words with others there? Did other CrossFitters not want to partner with someone like me? Ultimately, I allowed it to be whatever it needed to be for them, confidence growing in me that I had done what I needed for me to feel most safe and most engaged.
And yesterday, at the start of a full day of ‘mental health care’ for me, I entered into the 8 a.m. class with seven other women. I partnered with a woman I'll call Jaime, a slim buff-honed athlete woman, with ease. I learned how to begin with bench-pressing the yellow bar (35 pounds). I walked out, feeling like myself, on a journey I’ve wanted and needed for a while. I'm a new member of a local CrossFit community, feeling her way in as she needs to.
In our world today, it always seems to take a womanifesto to get there. So be it.
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