A little over a year ago, I was going through my timeline on Facebook, and an ad caught my eye. It might have been cheesy - "Do you have what it takes?" - but, as one sometimes does, I clicked the link.
I'd heard of CrossFit before, through friends and coworkers, but I never found it appealing. I came away from it as "Kill yourself during workouts", "Pay lots of money each month", and "Subject yourself to boatloads of injury including rhabdo". After the ad on Facebook, though, I decided I'd give it a whirl, in a limited context (a six-week introductory course).
After the first couple of days, I was hooked; it reminded me of training I'd done in the Marines (sans barbell work). Lots of exhaustion, running, moving heavy things, and doing so as a group. I have a sick sense of satisfaction when everyone is suffering together.
A year in, and I've come away with a few things that continue to apply not only to CrossFit, but to life.
Check Your Ego
Every single other person you're working out with has their own strengths and weaknesses, and is at a different place in their fitness journey. Respect that.
When I started, I could barely deadlift my bodyweight. The only barbell work I'd ever done before was military press and bench press (and that was back in high school). Because of the diverse group of people, though, I was working out with people who could deadlift more than double body weight, or back squat double body weight. At first, I wondered what I was doing wrong, or how long it would take me to lift that specific number of pounds.
I was looking at it the wrong way.
Instead of comparing myself to others, I began to realize that I needed to compete against myself, and respect others who'd put in the work to get where they were. Instead of, "Why can't I do that?", I shifted my thought process to, "Wow, they've worked hard to achieve that. I hope I can learn from their work ethic to improve myself."
Focus on the Group
This might be a personality thing, but as I said before, I like suffering through a grueling workout as a group. There's something to be said about locking eyes with someone during shuttle runs and exchanging that look of, "This sucks; keep kicking ass."
As a group, everyone has a collective goal of encouraging everyone else. You suffer as a group, but you also celebrate as a group. It builds camaraderie, and the focus shifts from yourself to the group.
Put in the Work
As with everything else, it's all about what you put into it. If you work hard, you'll progress. That progress might take minutes (like when you go from doing kipping toes-to-bar and you finally string together three, and then five, and then eight), or days (getting the hang of kettlebell swings) or weeks (adding ten pounds to your deadlift) or months (learning double-unders or muscle-ups).
Having confidence in the process, scaling work appropriately, and staying aggressive day in and day out will get you there.
Equally as important as working hard is knowing when to rest. Exercising seven days a week is unsustainable, increases risk of injury, and actively hurts progress because your body isn't able to repair (read: build muscle that was broken down during workouts). Don't burn out.
Try It Out
If you haven't tried CrossFit, I'd encourage you to find an introductory course. The entire point of the program is that it's cross-functional fitness - it'll improve other areas of your life, regardless of your age and ability. Good coaches will work with you through injury and varying ability to ensure you get something out of it, while ensuring your safety.