There is an unmistakable introspective element to strength and conditioning. The reactions to the visuals that are so notable to the CrossFit experience are powerful. In both locations, my gym has been very exposed to traffic, both on foot and in the car. The reactions to women with barbells overhead, or kegs being used as exercise equipment is priceless.
Fitness is like a giant mirror. People see it happening and immediately introspect. “Can I do that?”
I can reenact the exact process of a stranger walking by who stumbles across a class of eclectic men and women performing some good old-fashioned hard work. The wheels start turning right away, and 60% of them motion some fitness move like bicep curls to themselves as their mind wonders.
“Woah! How do I feel about this?”
“Can I do that? Maybe…in my 20s.”
“Well, she doesn’t look very fit. I’ve got to be at least as fit as her. But damn, that’s serious business.”
“Is it safe? Probably not. That’s why I won’t do it. It’s not safe.”
“I wonder what I could do…”
It’s incredible. I see it everyday. I could only wish that everyone had the perfect cocktail of confidence, humility, openness, and courage to finish their self-talk after seeing what we do and be open to trying it. That, however, just isn’t the case.
There is a certain amount of guilt involved with seeing someone taking on health and fitness when you yourself are not. Any coach can tell you, men and women view us as some sort of authority in health. Passing us in the grocery store isles or in the post office, and the first things out of their mouths are, “Yeah, I’ve totally been meaning to get back in the gym. I took a break because my knee was giving me trouble, but I’ll be back at it. I mean I’m starting to watch what I eat, you know?”
It’s word vomit. They are compelled to justify their position and assume that there’s judgment of their health and fitness simply because looking at fitness or those that represent it serve as a mirror that confronts them with introspection.
This is why as coaches and athletes we need to continue to live and breathe a reality that is approachable and inviting. Everyone gets better when fitness is inclusive. Believe me, people are looking at your from the outside and they are making a thousand judgments and decisions a minute about what they are seeing. Do your best to tip the scales towards them saying “Yes!” to fitness.