I’m a lucky guy. Over 10 years ago a professor of mine and my peers in grad school convinced me to go to CrossFit. I had never heard that word in my life but it (was part) of what changed me into who I am today. But let me backup so this all makes some sense.
I was an athlete growing up. I wasn’t strong or fast and I was a little chubby most of my life but I was above average at sports. I was even fortunate enough to play sports at the collegiate level, on a scholarship. However training was never really a part of my life. Most of the time I was in a “Weight Training” class, I was playing basketball with my friends. Or, in college, playing Halo. We can go into why that was the case but it isn’t important for this story. After my baseball career ended, I put on a good bit of weight. One day I decided I didn’t want to be the person I was anymore (inspired by seeing a picture of myself from my college baseball days and someone saying, “I didn’t even recognize you in that picture.”)
So I decided to change. Change who I was, because that’s what you have to do to change your circumstances. The current you got you where you currently are. Want to be somewhere else? You have to become “that person” (the person who does the things that allow for “that” life). I started running, well I actually started jogging for like .25 miles and then walking and switching back and forth, and stopped eating pure garbage. I didn’t go Paleo. Or vegan. Or count macros. I stopped eating fast food all the time. Or 5 bowls of cereal. And drinking Coke. Because I knew that would be better than what I was doing. And I was 100% correct.
I started losing weight. I became a decent jogger. I got to the point where I’d casually go for a 10+ mile run because I enjoyed it. I started running 150+ miles a month. I lost a bunch of weight but didn’t really like what I looked like. I looked like a smaller version of the bigger me. I didn’t feel more comfortable in my skin. So when I was told that CrossFit was lifting weights and sweating, it sounded perfect. And it was awesome. It is part of a period of my life when I pretty radically changed, internally. All of a sudden, my self-esteem was much higher, I was proud of what I could accomplish with my body, I started reading/listening to podcasts and improving me because I felt that I deserved to grow. Not coincidentally this is when I met my wife, fell in love with her instantly. The “old me” wouldn’t have had a chance with her. Not because I had 50 pounds more fat then but because I wasn’t confident in who I was. Me being me is what attracted her to me. And I wouldn’t have dared be me when I was the “other me” because I didn’t have the foundational identify of myself settled yet. I would have been anything she wanted to try and impress her. And it wouldn’t have worked. Trust me, I tried a few times before with others.
We got married. I became a Strength Coach. I worked in pro sports. We opened a gym to help others capture the feeling I had captured earlier. I banged up my hip. The lifting/CrossFit that gave me all this confidence started to die because I hurt when I did some basic things. The business started demanding more of my time and it became easy to pass off making time to train (because I was using that time to help others! What a good guy, right?) I got out of shape. And more so mental shape. I didn’t have the self-confidence I once had. I wasn’t as good of a husband. I wasn’t as good of a coach. We bought another gym and merged the two. More time spent at the gym and even less training.
But something kind of clicked. We had a son! And I didn’t want him to have a day on this earth where he didn’t have that positive self-image, that little bit of swagger that comes from knowing who you are. So I started to work on getting mine back. At first it was more on the mental side. Books, podcasts, TED Talks, etc. And that worked. That led me back to training. And here we are. I am not in the shape I was 5 year ago (but it is coming soon!) but I feel great. I am me. I am a better spouse and dad. I am a better coach. It was never about being “fit” it was about being me.
I understand that this doesn’t necessarily mean you need to go grab a barbell and read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (well, I do suggest the barbell part to everyone but I digress). What it does mean is you need to pursue the things that make you, you. That give you a confidence in your sense of self. Because you are better when you are that person. You’re better at things that have nothing to do with the area that needs work because you get to be you. And that’s what the world needs: You.
I could go on to talk about social media, the polarization of society into groups at the extremes, and other things that are trying to force you into certain boxes but that’s for another day. Find what gives you purpose, not “happiness,” and dig into that. As my dude Viktor Frankl said so elegantly, “That which is to give Light must endure burning.” Find the areas that light you on fire but don’t burn you out so you can share that light in dark places.