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September 8, 2017 | by Compete Network
How Crossfit Inspired One Gay Athlete to Find the Confidence and Courage to be his Authentic Self

I started Crossfit on March 14, 2016, a Monday, at Crossfit San Gabriel Valley. I’d been exercising off and on for five years and finally decided to take more control of my fitness and health.

At the end of that class, I was internally embarrassed to realize how much I’d allowed my well being regarding health and fitness to deteriorate. 

Throughout the class, I kept feeling humbled (not embarrassed) at how quickly I was winded doing 10 lb wall balls – picking up the medicine ball, squatting, standing up, tossing the ball up against the wall, catching it on the down fall, and repeat, and using the 15 lb beginners bar, no weights for whatever movement the class was doing.

At the end of the class, Coach Chris said, “People take a few days off,” and I said, “I’ll be here tomorrow. I have weight I want to lose.” I showed up the next day and Coach Chris was surprised: You’re back. I said, “I was serious about wanting to lose weight.”

For me, Crossfit has been one of the best investments I have done for myself. My upper and lower body is stronger. I have a stronger mental attitude of “I can do this!!” Also, Crossfit has allowed me to overcome my depression. I choose to not be ashamed that I have it, and proud that Crossfit is my medicine for it!

With that, from March to December 12, 2016, I still woke up every morning wondering about my meaning and purpose in life. I still went to Crossfit 4-5 times a week (sometimes 3), but I couldn’t shake this feeling in the morning; this depression existed prior to starting Crossfit, when my mom died in November 2014.

Then, December 12, Crossfit San Gabriel Valley introduced “partner workouts.” I was paired with a great guy. That day, there was a 25:00 minute time cap. He started, so I had to finish: Overhead squats, Chest-to-bar pull-ups (me – jumping from 20” inch box), and hand release push-ups. As I was working to finish my last half of the 24 hand release push-ups, I mentally decided that he would not fail to finish because I hit a wall at the end. I finished and we had 30 seconds to spare.

The next morning, I woke up and that feeling regarding my meaning and purpose was gone. I awoke with hope and purpose. I realized that the last day’s partner workout, the accountability to someone else, had shattered and smothered my depression. I’m not sure that the owners and coaches of Crossfit San Gabriel Valley truly know how much my life changed for the better due to that day’s workout accountability.

December 13 to the present, I wake up knowing I have meaning and purpose.

Although not discussed at my box, I’m confident the majority of people know I’m gay. How or why does that matter? In the box, it doesn’t. From my perspective, the owners, coaches, and other members don’t treat me any differently. Again, from my perspective, what I think matters to everyone is: Are you friendly? Do you cheer your colleagues on to finish? Do you sometimes help someone that pushed themselves further than any other day to put the bar and other weights away?

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What does matter is I am living my authentic self every day.

As a proud gay man, Crossfit has added to my existing confidence and strengthened my “Can Do Attitude:” about every three months or so, I clean my father’s solar panels, which means climbing up on to the roof. Prior to Crossfit, I would hem-and-haw at the base of the ladder, worrying about its stability. The next time I climbed the ladder, after becoming a “Crossfitter,” I didn’t test the stability nor did I cautiously climb. I scrambled up the ladder with enthusiasm.

Say what? Me the guy that was cautious, nervous, and wondered if the ladder would topple while I was climbing it. Yep, me. I scrambled up without a second thought and when done, climbed down with equal confidence and assuredness. I’ve had friends tell me there is a new certain air about me, confidence, not cocky. 

My softball teammates shared with me last year that they saw my pitching transform, which I believe is due to Crossfit. I’ve also noticed that my hitting has changed too. I regularly try and place hit, just over the head of the person playing third base or a couple feet behind the shortstop. Since Crossfit, I tend to swing hard to the right side, a standard swing for lefties.

With all these new experiences outside the box, I hit a new achievement every month in the box, happily, with the endless number of different movements available. In February, I successfully completed 155 lb bench press. In March, I successfully completed 25 double-unders. 

The box has an “I Will Do” board. As I hit my goal of 25 double-unders, I went to the board and replaced the 25 with 30. Coach Chris said, “I’m doing you a favor.” He put 40. Is he seriously kidding me? I achieved it so early, he challenged me to a higher number. He also challenged me to a 175 bench press by the end of May. I didn’t achieve it. Did I quit? Nope! By the end of the year, I want to do 175 lbs bench press and hopefully 185 lbs!!!

At the end of July, I did three strict pull-ups. I know, right? Not a lot, but I did it, considering the fact that a year ago I couldn’t do one.

By the way, back in April, my job moved out of state, so I am in transition (unemployed). If not for Crossfit San Gabriel Valley, I’d lose all of my achievements, but more importantly, possibly revert with the depression. Since April, I still wake every day with meaning and purpose and just know that I will find something soon. I do know that if I go too many days not doing Crossfit I feel the depression creeping back and that is my trigger to get to Crossfit and knock it away, which is why I am thankful for the box where I workout.

In closing, what I’ve learned about myself due to making Crossfit a part of my life: I’m more confident, I’m more self assured, I have a stronger mental strength, and if there is a roadblock I can figure another way to complete a task and not just give up.

 

By Anthony Pace (Guest Writer) & Dirk Smith

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