A year ago, one of my best friends and roommates mentioned that he was thinking about joining a local CrossFit. My eyes rolled back into my head and I mocked him relentlessly. CrossFit was for a bunch of protein-powder-eating, muscle-shirt-wearing, weight-tossing jerks. A year later, and here I am, one of those weight-tossing jerks—and I’m better for it. Sometimes it’s good to change your mind about things.

I was a runner for years of my life. I was on the cross country and track teams throughout middle school and high school, and I loved being a part of a team. I loved meeting goals and pushing past limits. When I started college, all I knew was how to run. Which I did—for a while. Until I was too busy or too tired or too whatever. Needless to say, I stopped running and worked out approximately 3 times a semester. 

Like many college students do, I started to gain weight. This was good at first, having been decently underweight for a good portion of my life, until it wasn’t good. Like many people also do, I laughed it off when people mentioned my weight gain. I owned it. I was just getting a “dad bod.” Exercise was for losers. I tweeted this last December: “How out of shape am I, you ask? I broke a sweat and got out of breath wrapping Christmas presents.” 

That tweet got 35 likes and a retweet. Not too shabby. But the issue was that behind these jokes was a deeper identity struggle. I was out of shape, tired and lacking confidence. Humor is the easiest way to hide from others and ourselves. One of my favorite authors, Donald Miller wrote, “if we live behind a mask, we can impress but we can’t connect.”

In April, after writing a story about new ownership at a local CrossFit, friends at this gym convinced me to give it a go. I swallowed my pride and threw away my hiding humor and went to work. As a result of many days of challenging workouts, I feel  more comfortable in my own skin than I have in a long time. This feeling comes from more than just the noticable weight loss and improved athletic performance, but also from how I have learned to connect with others, and myself, more authentically. 

At CrossFit we can be honest about who we are and where we are, caring for our bodies and working to be the best version of ourselves. There are no masks. The work is hard, but it’s work worth doing. Counter to culture, it’s cool to try, rather than funny to not. My encouragement to all is to find this in your life. Whether you find it in a CrossFit gym or not—stop hiding and do the work to change your circumstances. Don’t laugh off your struggles; face them head on. Be brave enough to be better.

Franklin Norton can be contacted at [email protected]