My CrossFit journey started out like several of my other journeys: in Mexico. When I first began CrossFit I was living abroad in Cancun. I was 11 months sober and looking for something to fill all my newfound time with. Athletics have always been a part of my life starting with soccer, and I have always been willing to try anything new: yoga, running races, spin class, and Tae-Bo, just to name a few. I had my eye on CrossFit for a while. It looked like an intense, fun workout, and the high-level athletes who were shown doing it had amazing bodies. I wanted something that would challenge me, but I also wasn’t sure if I could do CrossFit. I had already endured 5 knee surgeries and I was convinced that fact would limit me. What I knew about CrossFit was that it had a lot of crazy weightlifting and heart-stopping workouts. I figured it could probably get me in good shape. I put out a status on Facebook about wanting to try CrossFit but feeling nervous about my knees. A college soccer teammate of mine who had already been into CrossFit answered, “You can scale anything to work around injuries! You can definitely do it!” That was all the confirmation I needed.
I signed up and took my first beginner’s course in Spanish. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing for my entire first month at CrossFit, due to a slight language barrier and entering a whole new fitness world I knew nothing about, but I kept showing up. The rush I got after each WOD, the blast of dopamine, and the sheer pride from completing a workout were all I needed to keep going back. Shortly after I started CrossFit in Cancun, I moved back home to the United States. Florida to be exact. The first thing I did was look for a CrossFit box in my new town. I chose the first one that popped up on Google and dropped in. It was a completely different atmosphere than the box I belonged to in Cancun, but I signed up anyway because I was eager to get back to the tough workouts.
It was from this new place I realized how different CrossFit can be depending on where you go. I felt like I had to start over. I hadn’t memorized the names of the Olympic lifts and all the acronyms associated with CrossFit and this caused me to feel left out in a lot of my classes. It became difficult for me to decide which scaled weight or movement to use and I ended up comparing myself to a lot of other people in my gym. I wasn’t as fast, as strong, or as experienced as the rest of the people in my new box. The workouts seemed longer and harder than the ones I had participated in Cancun and I felt myself beginning to lose interest. I managed to force myself to get to the gym about 3 times a week, but I mostly felt self-conscious and lost when I was there. I had joined a local soccer team too and I ended up hurting one of my knees again. Eventually, I was diagnosed with a meniscus tear and needed surgery. Injury was not new to me, but I took this as the perfect time to quit CrossFit. It was not a hard decision for me to make and I quickly canceled my membership and walked away from the sport.
In February 2015 I had my sixth knee surgery, endured physical therapy for the billionth time in my life, and promptly returned to playing soccer and attending the regular gym. CrossFit did not cross my mind again until July of that year. A girl I played soccer with also did CrossFit, but at a different box than the one I joined when moving to Florida. She invited me to work out and told me I should try again and not to worry about my knee. At that time I was at my heaviest weight I had been in years. The regular gym was boring and I was not motivated to get in shape there. I need something different and I took her up on her offer and joined her at her box. Immediately after attending I knew it felt different than before. This box had a welcoming environment with members of all fitness levels. I didn’t feel intimidated. I felt like I fit in. There were several other beginners like me, other former athletes, men and women of all ages and pants sizes. People greeted me with open arms and they made me feel like I could do hard workouts and movements by starting small and working my way up.
And just like that, I had started CrossFit once again. Falling in love with this sport has been a slow, evolving process for me. When I found a home at this new box, I looked forward to showing up there every day and I craved the soreness my muscles felt after a hard workout. I even RX’ed a few of them. I made friends with the people at my box and if I missed a day they asked where I was. I started lifting more weight and not dreading every time there were burpees in the workout. My body slowly started to change as well. We completed a nutrition challenge and I lost weight and body fat while gaining muscle. My new community kept me accountable. I even volunteered to work at my first CrossFit competition and people asked me why I wasn’t competing. What? Me? Competing in a CrossFit competition? Absolutely not. I thought that was something I would never think or dream of doing. Shortly thereafter, our box hosted an in-house competition and there I was on the competition floor amongst my friends I completed WODs with every day. They made me believe I could do it, and I did.
In late 2016 I received the news that my box was being bought out by another local CrossFit box because they could no longer sustain their business. At first, I was devastated and dreaded going through a major change surrounding this small, but uplifting community I had become a part of. But I realized quickly that once again, my CrossFit experience was about to change for the better. I became an official member of CrossFit Cape Coral and for the first time, I realized how important coaching is in CrossFit. I gained coaches who wanted to see me improve, who didn’t let me ignore or avoid movements I wasn’t good at, and I felt comfortable asking questions about how I could complete workouts faster and better. Because of their guidance, I have honed in on my technique and skills and have progressed immensely as an athlete.
I started this sport because I needed something fresh and different, I was uncomfortable in my own body, and I was on the precipice of a new life. I stay because every single day is a challenge, I still get that dopamine hit after a workout, and I am always learning something new. I’ve also made incredible friendships and discovered my body can do things I never thought it was capable of (yes, even after 6 knee surgeries.) CrossFit provides me with a holistic fitness routine that has unsuspectingly given me a mind, body, and spirit transformation. Not only that, the place I do it in has turned into my favorite place to be. What more could I ask for?
Kelly Fitzgerald Junco is Special Projects Manager at CrossFit Cape Coral and Head of Marketing at This Naked Mind.
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