It was a series of circumstances, or signs if you believe in them, that pointed me in the direction of CrossFit.
Eight years ago, weightlifting and spinning were my workouts of choice until I lost my lifting partner tragically—to CrossFit.

Rather than follow his lead, I stuck with the gym, but over time I found myself getting bored with spinning, and lifting just wasn’t as fun or as challenging on my own. That’s when I re-discovered yoga.

My mother introduced me to hatha yoga when I was in grade school, but I had naturally rejected her influence as I became a petulant teenager with an aversion to brown rice and Birkenstocks. In my 30s, as my gym interest waned, she bought me a weeklong class at a Massachusetts yoga center, where something deep inside me clicked. I found in yoga many of the same things I loved about lifting: an exploration of my own strength, the union of movement and breath, the heightened spatial awareness, the random mental revelations.

Then, in October 2015, my dog passed away, and it felt like nothing would ever stanch my grief. Four months later, I was still raw inside when my fearless and previously workout-averse business partner announced out of the blue that she was going to try CrossFit. Something clicked in me for a second time.

I knew CrossFit was hard, and I was overweight and out of shape. But I didn’t care. I was beyond feeling self-conscious. I was beyond needing to be competitive. I just wanted something that would flush the sadness out of me, even for an hour at a time.

CrossFit gave me what I needed and more.

Unlike a lot of CrossFitters, I was never great at track or soccer or gymnastics, and being lumped in with “CrossFit athletes” felt a little silly at first. Similar to yoga, however, CrossFit invites you to start where you are and go from there. A year after I joined. CrossFit Clintonville has become a place where I feel like I belong.

I love the coaches’ yoga-like instructions that teach me how my body works, and getting into a mental space where the only things that matter are the movement of my muscles, the rhythm of my breath, and the force of my determination. I also love that, unlike yoga, CrossFit invites you to hoist barbells over your head, which is totally badass. I love the whole-body spatial experience of a split jerk. I love the feeling of accomplishment I get from a PR—and that other people will give me a high-five for one, or for just managing to do something for the first time.

Jenny Deadlift PR

CrossFit, like yoga, imparts lessons that are relevant to the rest of life, like realizing when it’s fear that’s holding me back, or listening more to the inner voice that says “I can” rather than the one that says “I can’t.”

And I love that sometimes the voice of encouragement isn’t even mine. It was my Wendler partner’s tips and videos of me doing a back squat that helped me get to a full, thighs-below-parallel squat for the first time in my life. More recently, a pal informed me that I was going to touch my nose to the wall in my next wall-walk, so I did—another first.

Today because of CrossFit I have both a channel for self-discovery and a deadlift PR that my mother brags about to her friends. I also lost 38 pounds with the help of a new diet. And I was right: CrossFit is excellent for flushing out grief or stress or anxiety. The exertion of a workout puts things in perspective and reminds me: I am strong.

I have a new dog, too. Her name is Ripley.