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Life in a Box

My stomach was flipping as I showed up for the intro/information session. I was excited but super nervous. I secretly hoped hed double booked me or that for some reason Id need to reschedule. Physical training for me = anxiety.

The gym had never been my friend. It was like the cool kid in school I wish Id been able to hang out with but it just wasnt meant to be. Wed say hello (Id wander the gym trying to figure out what to do) but we never became friends (Id eventually come to the conclusion this wasnt for me and Id bugger off). As a result, I was tired, out of shape, and whenever I tried to get in shape I'd dive right in and would injure myself. Time and time again.

Even as I explained everything I was looking for in a training program to the manager at my local CrossFit gym (or box as Id learn they are often called), and he was emphatically telling me how his philosophy was in line with mine, I wasnt sold. But what did I have to lose?

As part of my never-ending quest for having a life that included some semblance of fitness, I once again decided to try something new and thought that CrossFit looked effective. CrossFit is structured, intense and I thought it looked pretty cool. All the popular CrossFit athletes have the strength and functional capacity I covet so there had to be something to it.

CrossFit has a bit of a sticky reputation. If you casually google "will I get hurt doing CrossFit?" you'll no doubt come across some pretty scary articles. But that's a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy that CrossFit critics like to latch on to. If you google "will I get hurt doing X" you'll find plenty of reasons to avoid doing X, even if that's needle-point or dicing onions.

If you google "benefits of CrossFit", the articles are glowing. Countless weekend warriors have benefited from the high intensity, interval style workouts found in CrossFit and have achieved remarkable results.

I was fortunate that there was a box right near my house so I gave it a try. Despite my anxiety I stuck with it and being a couple of years in, I can say it has transformed my life in a very profound way. CrossFit is now an essential part of my routine that keeps me on track and enables me to really enjoy life.

I try not to be that guy that always talks about CrossFit, but being immersed in the culture for a relatively short period of time I get it. When you discover something that can change a life, that really works, and that can help you conquer your fears, why would you not want to shout it from the rooftops?

Ive taken the lessons Ive learned in the box and have started to apply them to all aspects of life beyond just fitness - and the results have been powerful. This is how CrossFit has helped me live life outside of the box.

The value of taking a chance

Life is, quite simply, a series of calculated chances we take. It is about decisions, and we live with the outcomes. That day I decided Id had enough and walked in and found the courage to say I need help getting in shape I took a chance. There was a real possibility that Id hurt myself again. There was a real possibility Id throw up. There was a real chance Id simply not progress. There was however one absolute certainty; doing nothing would result in nothing.

I dont think I need to put too fine a point on this, but he who risks nothing gains nothing. As a hugely risk-averse person by nature, this felt like a gamble for me. Since then Ive become much more comfortable taking chances and pushing myself outside of my comfort zone and it is liberating.

The value of camaraderie; of having a team pull in the same direction

Ive spent most of my life operating independently of others. I could do the team thing but deep down I never really understood the point. Id done well operating on my own and was generally content. What I was quickly learning however was that the higher up Id get in life, that the wind was strongest near the top. Those headwinds that life throws at you were getting harder to push against.

One remarkable thing I discovered during a CrossFit class was that when the stronger athletes finished their workout, theyd stick around to cheer on the slower people. Those who were pulling up the rear got the most encouragement. Everyone really wants everyone else to succeed. This is true at the local box and it is also true at the CrossFit Games the pinnacle of competition for elite athletes. As I was often one of the last to finish the workouts I benefited from this energy more than a few times. The rush it gives you is like a bolt of lightning.

When a team (even one made up of individuals each with their own personal goals and agendas not unlike a work environment) pulls together and genuinely wants everyone to succeed, the possibilities are endless. Id never really felt this before Id read about it of course and knew it must be true but until you feel the wind at your back, pushed forward by people selflessly supporting each other, the summit will likely remain out of reach.

The value of stringing together small wins

Its great to have big, ambitious goals. I want to complete some of the hardest workouts without having to scale (modify the movements for less skilled athletes) and achieve the level of fitness Id always aspired to, but that wont happen overnight. It can be easy to get discouraged when we dont get to where we want to be fast enough.

Wallballs were my nemesis. This is a movement where you take a weighted medicine ball, do a squat and then hurl it up against a target mounted high on the wall. They destroyed me. My legs would be shot. My arms would be Jell-O. They made me feel weak. So I did more of them. I told myself Id do 10 before having to drop the ball. And I did. Then I wanted to be able to do 15 before having to drop the ball. I just kept creeping forward, piling up small win after small win. Now I love them. Ive tackled every hard movement this way one small step at a time.

Not only is this a great way of addressing weaknesses in my skill sets, but it also gives me the framework and the confidence to take on new challenges knowing I can just chip away and that I will eventually get to where I need to be. Have your big goals, but break it down so that you can enjoy some wins along the way.

The value of learning how to deal with failure

Some days are going to suck. There are days I feel like Im just flopping around the box like a drunken seal. There are days when I run out of time to finish a workout or where, to be honest, Id cave a little and know I left something in the tank. Ive had some injuries that I know were my fault. There have been days where my head wasnt right and I just had a bad performance. I can also say that after every failure, I was able to regroup, ditch the negative self-talk and get right back in the action. And every failure has been offset with one of those little wins I spoke about up above.

In my personal life, Ive not had many failures. For most of my professional career, I experienced none. Thats all great until that first inevitable failure punches you right in the mouth and you arent prepared to deal with it. Youre knocked back onto your heels and if youre lucky you avoid going down. Life will throw you a curve-ball we will all deal with failure at some point in our lives. The key is to leave it behind you, to regain the momentum you once enjoyed and to move past it as quickly as you can. Dont dwell. Success isnt found in the rear view mirror. There is only forward.

The value of deep focus

In our world today there are so many distractions. Bills, kids, emails, deadlines, politics, media, conflicts etc. Our minds arent designed to process so many things at once. I strongly believe that if were required to tackle more than a few tasks at the same time our overall performance is seriously compromised.

During a workout, all you can think of is the movement. The next rep. Anything more than that and youll either get hurt or come unglued. During the workout it sucks. If you let negative thoughts or outside distractions creep in youre toast. Ive never been in the middle of a brutal workout and thought Oh I need to email so-and-so when Im done or I wonder if I paid that power bill yet. Im focused 100% on the task at hand and the results speak for themselves. Its one of the few places on earth my mind is totally silent.

In life today, its easy to take on dozens of tasks and try to be the go to person for our employer or our family, but I wonder if any of those jobs are getting your full attention and by extension are they getting done as well as they should be?

Im learning to tune out the noise, set boundaries and focus as much as possible on one task at a time. The results are awesome. The quality of my work is better and the time it takes me to accomplish a task is a fraction of the total time it would have taken me if Id been multi-tasking. Turn off your email notifications. Forward the phone to voicemail. Schedule time in your calendar to tackle a specific task. Once you really commit to it, the value of deep focus is remarkable.

The realization of how much potential we each have in us

Despite my dreams of becoming fit, the progress Ive made is surprising even to me. No, Im not shredded with a six-pack or able to blast through the hardest workout without scaling a single movement, but I know that one day, in the not so distant future, I will be. I know that whatever I commit to and whatever aligns with my passions, can be achieved.

Im not sure what it takes for people to realize their full potential, or that any of us actually ever will. I do however know now that any limitations we find ourselves facing are self-imposed.

Not everyone is on a level playing field, but life is full of stories exceedingly more remarkable than anything I have to offer, of people overcoming doubts, anxiety, restraints, disabilities, poverty, oppression, hatredyou name itbecause they saw in themselves the potential that lit a fire so powerful it could not be contained.

All it takes is a glimpse.

Take a chance and set yourself up for success because if youre paying attention, that glimpse will change your life. If you find the courage to sign-up and risk feeling uncomfortable. If you make the decision that "enough is enough" and start to realize how much potential there is in you. If you just have faith that it is already in you, you'll achieve your dreams.

I want to thank the team at Crossfit Solid Ground for encouraging me and helping me begin to realize my full potential in and out of the gym.

I'll see the rest of you at the Box!

By: Joshua Laycock 

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