I am a card-carrying member of the Church of CrossFit. I belong to a gym, a specific branch of the Church, and I honestly couldn’t love it more. I am in. I am sold.
Let me tell you why.
Different gyms have different personalities, like neighborhoods. Some are competitive, some are snarky, some are kind. They might have different warm-ups, do different workouts, and have their gym set up differently, but the goal is the same for everyone, in every gym. In some gyms it’s even written on the wall:
“Be better than you were yesterday.”
It’s a simple goal, obviously. But it requires so much. In fact, when you start, you have no idea how much it will require of you.
It means pursuing your health. It means moving, one step, one day at a time, toward being the best you possible. And only you know what that means, how that looks. There are hundreds of people who have gone ahead of you, but not everything they did will work for you, because they are not you.
You have to learn about yourself, have to understand how you work, what food your body likes and doesn’t, how much rest you need, how much pain you can actually take.
Oh, the pain. That’s a big thing. It’s expected, that pain. Everyone at CrossFit knows there will be suffering – the goal is to be better than you were yesterday, and that means something is probably going to hurt. You learn to accept the pain of soreness, of breaking down your muscles and building them up again, and it becomes a bond between you and the people around you.
But actual injuries are totally different. If you get hurt or exhausted, maybe because you pushed too hard or maybe just because your body couldn’t keep up with what your spirit wanted to do, people tell you to rest and recover. They suggest therapists and doctors, stretches and medications, all kinds of things to help you heal. There’s no shame in being injured, it means you were trying. Everyone just wants you to be healthy so you can get back to being better than you were yesterday.
Sometimes, despite every attempt to grow in health, you don’t achieve your goals. This can simply mean missing one lift you thought you could get, or sometimes even plateauing for months. When this happens, it’s frustrating, but not hopeless. If you fail, everyone encourages you, tells you, “You’ll get it next time.” “We all have off days.” “You’re here, you’re already doing a great job.”
And when a famous CrossFitter crashes and burns, it doesn’t destroy anyone’s faith in CrossFit. We know that sometimes your body just can’t do what you want it to, or that, as humans, we can’t control everything. We might shake our heads in empathy, because we all know what that feels like, or we might use it as a reality check. “That could be me. I’m not guaranteed anything. I need to remember that.” It’s not CrossFit that has failed, it’s a human being.
And the human beings of CrossFit believe in each other. Because tomorrow that could be you dragging your lead-filled legs toward the finish line, and you are going to need the cheers of everyone around you just to take one more step without collapsing. Because we all know that if I’ve experienced something, probably someone else has too.
And when you spend so much time together, bonded together by suffering, you get to know each other. The different personalities can clash or blend, and loosely formed groups often surface, usually based purely on how much time you spend at the gym and how serious you are about being better than you were yesterday. We share recipe and date ideas, talk about work and home life freely. I’ve watched business mergers and real estate deals happen over a barbell, seen new friendships form and old friendships solidify while we lie on dirty black mats, sweating like it’s our job. Everyone does the same thing in the workout, so everyone has to come together, sweat together, sometimes cry together.
We only know what to do each day because of our coaches. Our coaches are leaders and guides, but never the end-all be-all to all things CrossFit. One coach might have one great suggestion, but it could be the third coach at a gym you dropped in at while on vacation that finally gives you the suggestion that gets you past a road-block in a skill you’ve been trying to master for months. And your home coaches aren’t mad, because their job isn’t to turn you into them, it’s to help you be better than you were yesterday. They will cheer as you show off your finally-mastered skill.
Now, not everyone at CrossFit has pure motives and a heart of gold. There are people who are only there for the accolades, or who seem to miss the community aspect. Their insecurities or egos can sometimes ruin good moments or frustrate other CrossFitters. But they’re still welcome, as long as they work toward the goal.
Speaking of welcome, at CrossFit you have no idea who is gay or straight until you meet someone’s significant other or someone asks you out – because it’s completely irrelevant to you being better than you were yesterday.
What CrossFit does make relevant is the good of the community, because you cannot be better and healthier than you were yesterday and still ignore the community around you. CrossFit gyms and competitions raise hundreds of thousands of dollars each year for community centers, homeless programs, and individuals who need a helping hand. CrossFitters are often incredibly generous and thoughtful people.
And honestly, I’m very grateful for those people. I’ve been a part of four different gyms now, and each one has helped me be better than I was yesterday. I’ve made friends and grown stronger and healthier in each place. Because although on the bottom line, I am the one responsible for becoming better, they have encouraged, challenged, and supported me in that journey.
That’s why I’m a member of the Church of CrossFit. And sometimes I wish my Church of Jesus looked like that. I would just change the goal to this:
“Be more like Jesus than I was yesterday.”
Imagine with me for a moment. What if the Church of Jesus looked like the things I said above? We believed in each other, challenged each other to be healthy, suffered together, knowing that pain is part of growing more like Jesus than we were yesterday. Don’t get me wrong, I love my church. But what if the Church of CrossFit has gotten some things right that the Church of Jesus has missed?
This is a long post, so thanks for sticking with me. But now, I have to go the gym to be better than I was yesterday. And also to be more like Jesus than I was yesterday. Feel free to join me.