CrossFit, Butt Berries, and Fear

“No sit ups tonight?”
“No… we’re going to work on some new skills.”
“OK, that’s good… because… I have these, um…” (pointing in the general direction of my backside)
“Butt berries, they’re called. Yeah, ouch.”

Turns out that they’re also called CrossFit crack or monkey butt. They are what appears to be two large red lipstick kiss marks at the top of your butt cheeks and occur when your clothing rubs against your skin while doing the full-range (i.e., all the way up) sit-ups in a CrossFit workout. You don’t really notice them too much until you take a shower, turn around, and the hot water hits them. It felt like someone snuck in and branded me like a cow. CF Ranch. Pshhhhssss… yee haw!

I think the butt berries were worse than the other noticeable side effect of my first class, the leg soreness. Actually, ‘soreness’ doesn’t quite do it justice. I’m pretty well into my forties; doing squats to failure without much prep left me able to walk the next morning but not much else. For the next couple of days, if I dropped something on the ground, well, I just didn’t have that thing anymore. Luckily, I had spare keys hanging at about shoulder height.

Still, when my son, looking a little confused, asks me “do you like it?”, I have to say ‘yes’. I like it because it’s hard, and before I went, scary. I’ve come to learn that regularly facing things that scare me, things that put me outside of my comfort zone, make me a better, more confident, more interesting person. Every time I suck it up and do that public presentation, take that class, or publish that personal blog post, there’s one less thing to be afraid of, one more interesting experience, and one less temptation to feel regret.

Now, I’m not the type to bungee jump off a bridge, necessarily. There are some things I don’t do because I just don’t want to do them. When I choose a fear to tackle, large or small, it’s something from which I think I’d derive some benefit, not just get a temporary adrenaline rush or endanger my life. I’ve done those things: jumped off cliffs into water, found the top-end speed of my motorcycle, gotten into fights. Exciting? Sure. Did I learn anything? Not really.

But my first public speaking gig at Internet World in New York City? Now, that was scary. When I applied for graduate school at a fancy university, I was terrified to send in my application. Moving to Japan with nowhere to live and a new baby was frightening as hell. So was showing up for kendo class in a Japanese city where, as it turned out, for the next year I would be the ‘international’ in the Kobe International Kendo Club. Taking a job where I’d travel every week, studying languages, performing in a ballet, quitting my job.

What those fears all had in common was that, first, I really didn’t know what I was afraid of. Embarrassment, mental or physical difficulty, or the possibility of financial loss, I guess. None of them were statistically likely to kill me. But they also held the opportunity to open up new avenues in my life– new friends, new skills, and new experiences that I just couldn’t have without pushing myself to do it anyway.

The truth is that you are far more likely to regret those things you don’t do out of irrational fear than those things you do. The reason is that once you’ve gotten up at that podium, you know. It sucked, or you crushed it. Either way, you know. But like a movie with an unsatisfying ending, if you don’t get up there, you’ll always wonder what might have happened, and you might not get the opportunity to find out again.

So, I’ll go back to CrossFit. I’ll flip tires, climb ropes, and jump up on top of boxes. And after a while, I’ll decide if I want to keep doing it or not. If not, it’ll be because I don’t enjoy it, it’s too expensive, or the schedule doesn’t work for me. It won’t be because I’m not sure if I can handle it. It won’t be because I was too scared to give it a try.

You’ve got one shot at any given moment in your life and there are only so many of those– fewer every day. Always ask yourself if there’s something there that scares you that you might want to try. Will it get you killed or ostracized by your friends and family, or are you really just afraid of some effort, change, or embarrassment? Embarrassment is temporary, like butt berries and sore legs. The confidence you gain by conquering your fears and the benefits of pushing yourself will last the rest of your life.

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