There was a time, not so long ago, when you couldn't go a week without hearing something about CrossFit. As terms like WOD, AMRAP and box infiltrated the lexicon, so too did the CrossFit stereotype: Men with large biceps and six-pack abs lifting outrageous amounts of weight over their head in between sips of protein shakes. The "cult of CrossFit" intrigues some, while intimidating others. Abby Maley (VEG_GIRL04) fell into the latter group—that is, until she talked to an unexpected CrossFit enthusiast.
"When a 40-plus-year-old friend who is a single-leg amputee tells you she's obsessed with CrossFit, it opens your eyes a little bit," 31-year-old Maley says. In her mid-20s, Maley had fallen victim to the common cycle of gym excitement turning to boredom before ultimately throwing in the towel. The slow weight gain that came as a result—from 120 to 152 pounds—left her suffering from the body image issues that plague so many women.
"It's a terrible thing what we women do to ourselves. I looked in the mirror and felt unpretty. I lost confidence," she remembers. "It's strange that I wasn't bothered by the fact that I got winded on stairs, but by the idea that I was no longer a size two. I would sit in the bathtub and poke my fat and be disgusted with myself."
Maley recognized the warning signs and knew she had to change something before her health became a problem. Her friend's CrossFit encouragement and enthusiasm prompted her to give the intense workout a shot. After a few CrossFit-inspired classes at her local park left her wanting more, she visited her local gym, or "box," for her first official session.
"I was scared and intimidated. As I watched the more experienced men and women, I thought, 'How am I ever going to do that?'" she said. "But my first 'real' class came and went, and I did it. The next day I could barely sit down and stand up—my thighs were on fire! [But] watching my friend work through a CrossFit [Workout of the Day] on a prosthetic leg was all the inspiration I needed. Add to that my buddy doing it at 50-plus years old and I was truly motivated."
As she visited the gym more frequently, she found herself improving and getting stronger each session. In early sessions she had a difficult time completing the 400 meter jogs in between exercises. Flash forward to today and Maley's already completed a half marathon and has plans to complete a 5K race every month. Where she once didn't even understand the term "burpee," now she prides herself on being able to complete 100 in just 10 minutes.
What's more, though, is her confidence in her inner strength skyrocketed. After hitting personal bests, Maley says she enjoys showing off her moves to her husband in their living room. They laugh about the shocking amount of weight she still can't believe she can lift over her head, and the fact that she's capable of pumping out a hundred burpees.
"It feels nothing short of amazing," she says. "CrossFit has made me realize it's not about the size of my pants or the number on the scale. I have the confidence because I'm fit, strong and having fun!"
One year after becoming interested in the workout, Maley is down 26 pounds and a proud member of the CrossFit culture that once intimidated her. "I don't just have a gym membership," she says. "I have a place where I belong. If you aren't there, people notice and ask why. They encourage you to come more, push harder, lift more, be more, focus more. [It's a] place filled with people who support and care about each other."
Maley recommends that anyone interested in getting involved with CrossFit really focus on finding the right gym, emphasizing that not every box is the right fit for every person. Try a trial class to get an idea of the types of exercise you'll be doing and to see if you like the coaching style. And most importantly: "Go in with an open mind," she says. "You are stronger than you realize!"
On the successful journey to healthy living, exercise has a way of becoming a part of you. Home Is Where the Workout Is is a series featuring members like you who achieved their goals by getting hooked on exercise. Discover what can happen when people struggling with weight loss find their passion and change their lives.
More From SparkPeople