You Don't Belong Here

“I don’t belong here.”  That’s what I kept telling myself as I sat through the athlete meeting at my first CrossFit competition last weekend.  I looked around and saw a sea of extremely fit people.  Women with six-pack abs, strong shoulders, and tight legs wearing sports bras and tiny little spandex shorts.  “Who do you think you are?” I hear echo in my head.  “You will never be like these people.”  This competition brings in the best of the best in the Midwest and I am just a mom trying to be in shape.

I wanted to shout, “I used to weigh 315 pounds!”  I wanted a disclaimer to let them know how hard I had worked to even be there.  I know I can’t carry that mantle my whole life. At some point my weight loss won’t define me, but for now, it’s still something I am processing.  Just because the pounds are gone, doesn’t mean I don’t still feel like the fat mom inside. 

No, I won’t ever be like those people.  But, as I sat there, having moments of huge self-doubt I tried to remind myself how far I had come.  There I was, ready for three grueling days of workouts.  Willing to throw myself onto a team at the last minute due to another woman having pulled out of the competition.  And just over a year ago I weighed over 300 pounds.  I couldn’t run 200 Meters; I couldn’t jump 3 inches off the ground.  I could barely do a sit up.  And now, I was going to take huge leap out of my comfort zone and compete against these amazing athletes.

As far as I have come, and as hard as I have worked, I still have major moments of self-doubt.  As I looked around at women my age, wearing shorts, I know that I’ll never wear shorts.  I use compression pants to hide the sagging skin on my legs.  I carried my weight in my legs and hips, so the battle wounds are there.  I can hide it pretty well in my regular clothes, but even in compression pants I am aware that my body is not like others.

Surgery helped immensely with my stomach, it’s flat, but I am very aware of my scar. It’s great to have a flat stomach.  I love the way it looks in clothes; I love working out and not worrying about my stomach skin getting in the way as it did before surgery.  But, there are days I feel like Frankenstein.  I look at myself and see that scar and it reminds me of what I did to my body, the toll that 315 pounds took on me. 

So, being thrust into a situation that was out of my norm, was not easy.  I sat there thinking that the Sesame Street song “One of these things is not like the other” should be playing.  I was afraid that as we competed I was going to stick out like a sore thumb as the one who wasn’t good enough.

My husband and I checked into our hotel after the team meeting and had a couple of hours before we had to be back for our first workout.  At the hotel I broke down. I cried.  I still felt like the fat kid that no one wanted on their team.  Even though I was on a team with two other women, and three men (including my husband, Scott) who fully supported me.  I didn’t want to let them down.  I was afraid I was going to embarrass myself.  Scott talked me off the ledge and told me that just being there was a victory.  He reminded me of where we were a year ago, and how just being willing to try was so much more than I would have done before.

The path to wellness is not always a smooth straight line.  My body may be a lot smaller and a lot healthier, but sometimes my emotions haven’t caught up yet.  This weekend was definitely one of those moments.  Where did I fit in?  Was I really a competitive CrossFit Athlete?  Apparently I am. 

As the competition began, I realized I was blending right in.  No one was gawking at me thinking, “What in the world is she doing here?”  I was competing right along with my teammates and we were doing great. 

Not only was no one judging me, they were supporting me, cheering me on.  On the first night of competition, the workout included burpee box overs.  The movement involves moving from a standing position, down to a push up, with your chest touching the ground, and standing back up.  Once you are up, you must jump onto a 20” tall box, jump down on the other side of the box, and repeat with a burpee and back over.  It may not sound too terrible, but trust me, no one likes burpees.  For a good reason.  They work your whole body and can get very tiring, very quickly.

Time was running out on us, it was my turn, and I got to the burpee box over.  I don’t typically do 20” box jumps.  I am comfortable with 18”.  And jumping onto a box can be intimidating.  You have to just completely go for it, or you can get hurt.  As I came to the box, I was fighting off fear.  Terrible fear.  I had missed on a few jumps warming up and it had gotten in my head.  I went for the first jump, and bailed.  I didn’t make it.  The next jump, I got my feet on the box, but not enough to make it over the box, I came back down on the same side.  Jump three is a repeat of jump two, on the box, but not over.  I was freaking out inside.  I can hear my team cheering me on; I only have about 30 seconds left in the workout to get in as many burpees as I can.  I stared at the box for a second and thought, “just get on the box”.  And voila!  I did.  I made it on the box and over.  And again, and again.  I got in four burpee box overs in our remaining time!!

We may not have won.  We came in 11th.  But it was a hard fought battle.  Throughout the weekend, I had people come to me and say, “Were you the one struggling on the box jump?”  The first time someone said it, I was thinking how stupid I must have looked.  But they said, “My whole team was cheering for you!  We were mentally willing you onto the box.  Great job!”  That same conversation was repeated several times throughout the weekend.  The very people that I was worried about judging me, or my feeling unworthy around them, were rooting for me.  They cheered me on.  They hoped for the best for me.

This weekend was a big eye opener.  I spent years feeling like an outsider.  Like I was fatter than everyone around me.  I felt like an outsider in my own body.  Like it wasn’t supposed to be my body.  During this CrossFit weekend I felt like an athlete.  I felt like I belonged.  I looked around as everyone gave it their all, and knew that I was giving it my all too.  We all were there to challenge ourselves and I wasn’t the outsider who didn’t belong.

Each competitor was given an armband to get into the venue.  It said “ATHLETE” in bright pink letters.  I put it on and thought, “Yes, you are an athlete.  You belong here.  You have earned it!” 

My team was a great support.  They cheered me on.  We pushed ourselves.  We bled, we have sore muscles, achy joints, exhausted our bodies.  But, it was worth it.  For me, it was another step away from who I used to be.  It was another step to just accepting who I have become.  After 20 years of obesity, it’s hard to comprehend sometimes that I am no longer that person.

As you travel on your wellness journey, I am sure there will be bumps in the road.  There will be curves you weren’t expecting.  Then there will be summits, where everything is great, you’re cruising right along and all seems right with the world.  Embrace each moment as it comes.  Don’t fret the curves or the bumps in the road.  Learn from them.  And enjoy the summits.  Relish in those moments.  This weekend was definitely a summit for me.