I joined CrossFit 2 years ago for completely different reasons from most people. A survey was done on my local gym’s members recently and most of them voted that they joined to look sexier, become an athlete, or get fit and healthy.
I joined to meet people and make friends. I already knew how to lift weights. I didn’t need to spend an extra $150, money I barely had, to do so.
You see, I wasn’t making a lot of money and was more frugal than my peers. I would eat homemade meals, while everyone else ate out, to save money.
Plus, I was perfectly fine paying $10 a month at Planet Fitness. There were plenty of free bodybuilding videos online to learn from. So why did I do this?
Loneliness. My 9 to 5 office job had decent but limited social contact with others. And when you add in the silent commute, exercise, showering, and eating that happened after work, I found that most of my weekdays were spent by myself.
Although I was an introvert and liked to recharge by myself, too much alone time made me feel unhappy and like I wasn’t wanted or didn’t belong. I felt like I was lacking something to make me happy: strong friendships. On top of that, it wasn’t easy to meet girls when you’re alone all the time.
It could also feel like your life is dull when you’re repeating the motions of the daily grind. When others seem to be living their dream on social media, that can eat away at you.
Trials and Failures
I tried many things to build a social life but nothing worked that well. I tried talking to people at Planet Fitness but I discovered commercial gyms are a horrible place to meet people. The people there treat you like strangers (because you are) and they’re in the zone and don’t want to talk.
Plus, if you meet a friendly person, you rarely see them again. People aren’t always consistent with their workouts and if they are, they don’t always return at the same time every day.
I tried a few other activities in my area, like yoga, salsa, youth meet-up’s, and public speaking groups.
They didn’t meet frequently enough to build camaraderie, sometimes felt like a chore, or had a “get in and get out” attitude.
Enter the Box
I saw an immediate difference when I joined CrossFit. People are friendlier. They will recognize you and greet you each time they see you. You saw similar faces over and over. You weren’t treated like a stranger
My gym even has occasional social events outside of classes, like a holiday potluck.
Myths and Truths about the CrossFit Community
Different CrossFit gyms may have different vibes and cultures. I tried out another gym before the one I settled on and they were friendly but it was still a bit more of a “get in, exercise, and leave” environment.
I suggest picking a gym that knows what they’re teaching and stick with it for at least a month. It took that long for me to really start seeing a strong, noticeable difference. Over time, you become more recognizable and part of the community. You build more social connections naturally and have more friendly interactions.
Another myth of CrossFit is that it’s not like a fraternity or sorority where you are paying for friends. Just because you paid doesn’t mean that everyone’s going to go up to you and be your friend or that they’re incentivized to do that.
I still have to make an effort to go up and talk to people because many are there to get fit. They aren’t actively looking to talk or make friends. They’d be open to the idea but it’s not on their mind, so many won’t initiate first.
The community nature of CrossFit makes it easier for someone shy, like me, to make friends.
People seem friendly; you will see them again and will recognize you later on.
Also, by the nature of this, I have to generalize. While some people are friendly, some still prefer to keep to themselves even at a CrossFit gym. Some prefer working out alone and talking to nobody. Others are friendly enough to say, “Hello!” but won’t go out of their way to ever engage you in conversation. But definitely, some will.
It’s definitely not a magic pill that has solved everything. CrossFit members are also inconsistent with their workouts. At least at my gym, you have a lot of beginners of all shapes and sizes and sometimes you only see them once or twice a week because that’s as often as they care to go.
I do have to make an active effort to engage others and push past discomfort and fear of rejection to make friends because they don’t always come up to me and talk. Many leave right after class but often without the urgency of someone at a commercial gym or yoga class. You still have to catch them and engage with them to form a social connection. They’re just often unaware or not focused on making friends but willing to talk if you give it a chance.
Finally, CrossFit is not a secret potion for dating success or meeting women. Depending on where you live, the demographics of your gym can range quite a lot. For me, there are a lot of middle-aged parents at the gym.
After joining CrossFit, I’ve also discovered a lot of wonderful surprise benefits along the way.
I’ve realized that I really don’t know how to lift a lot of weights using a barbell. I’ve never done a one rep max before of anything and I learned a lot about good form for many movements, including a deadlift, clean, clean and jerk, push press, front squat, back squat, and more.
I also learned that I’m more at home than I think and should feel less insecure. Like many newbies, I started off a bit insecure as a skinny Asian kid at this intimidating CrossFit gym with these big people lifting huge weights over their heads.
I went in with the hope and quiet belief that there were kind people here to help me and that muscular people don’t necessarily mean unfriendly people. I showed up consistently almost every day.
Before I knew it, I looked around and I was almost 2 years into the sport and I was in the “advanced” group of each class, often doing movements like handstand pushups that most of the class was opting out of.
Consistency really pays off. I realized that most people don’t stick with something, like CrossFit, for even 2 years. If you do, before you know it, you may look around and realize that you’re not so different or pathetic as you think.
CrossFit has played a huge role in helping improve my mental health and social intelligence. I was starting to go a little insane from sadness when I was spending my days and nights working and exercising alone. It got boring and I longed for human connection.
Since then, interacting with secure, happy, relaxed people and seeing familiar faces has helped me stay happy and calm.
Along the way, I also developed a deep fascination and love for the sport of CrossFit and the athletes behind it. I figured that I should learn from the best if I’m going to do this every day. I picked up a couple books and looked at countless videos from the best CrossFit Games athletes of all time — and before I knew it, I was obsessed.
I started learning about the mental game of what it took to be first place and what separated the good from the great. I even started reaching out and interviewing athletes. I was a big fan of just watching the competition itself on YouTube. (And this isn’t just a thing that every person who does CrossFit cares about. Most at my gym aren’t even aware of what the Games are or have seen them compete.)
Over the months at my gym, I also found that the group dynamic of the sport was great for my style. I found out that I may be a bit of an undercover show off. For some reason (maybe it’s for my ego), I push a lot harder and endure a lot more pain than I did when I worked out alone when there are others around doing the work out with me.
This really helps me get gains and improve my fitness because I push harder. I don’t cheat myself. On the flip side of this, I pay extra attention to be careful of injury and making sure I’m mobile, flexible, warmed up, and focused on form first. Pushing harder also means that I may push more than I should and get injured. And CrossFit is well known for more injury than most sports. A lot of the athletes I follow on social media and a good amount of my classmates have gone through major injuries, sometimes requiring surgery.
In conclusion, CrossFit has made me mentally healthier, happier, and improved my social life and relationships. It’s also improved my fitness, physique, and honed my mental mind. Try it out yourself.
Are you a CrossFitter? Are you thinking about it? What’s your experience been like?
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