The Cross Fit High Five

The (Cross Fit) High Five

One of the things which I find so addicting about Cross Fit is the ‘high five’.

No, I’m not someone who walks around wanting to be hoisted in a chair and crowned.. but rather I delight in the culture of praise, encouragement and kudos that CrossFit engenders.

(And yes, to non Yanks, a ‘high five’ seems weird and terribly cheesy, but don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.)

In one of my first sessions, a fellow cross fitter coaxed me through my final set with a ‘you got it girl’ and despite me almost dropped the bar in confusion, I found the encouragement strangely effective as I pushed my noodling arms to lift the bar.
The second time it happened I was 35 minutes into the 50 minute slog that is called ‘Murph’ (a killer workout of 100 pullups, 200 pushups and 300 squats, book-ended at the start and finish by a 1 mile run). As I wobbled through my final mile run, I was passed by fellow cross fitters who gave me the ‘high five’, shouted ‘ great job’ and ‘giddy up girl’ all while jogging on wobbly legs themselves.

Despite the alien nature of ‘encouragement’ to a Brit, I cruised through that last mile as though they carried me. It still hurt like hell and I thought I was having a stroke at one point, but at no point was I stopping because I wanted to be worthy of that encouragement that they’d given me.

Now two months into Cross Fit, I find it (almost) natural to offer a ‘high five’ to anyone who’s struggling through a set or who’s ahead of me on a run or who’s just rocking it during a workout. It feels great to acknowledge someone’s achievement and every workout I’m amazed at what my fellow cross fitters try, and do. Plus hell, it feels as good to give as it does to receive.

What is that?

Ah yes. Encouragement.

I know that no ‘high five’ is going to lift the bar for me, and the workout isn’t going to end faster with a ‘you got this’, but there’s something in that nanosecond of encouragement that forms a bond. It seems to say something more than ‘good job’, it somehow holds you up, gives you a boost, and for me, lets me know that I’m supported. Even when I feel like I’m sucking and I can see stars out the corners of my eyes.

With my standing ovation back in April and now with Cross Fit I’ve come to realize that value of encouragement. Suddenly, at 41, I realize that a ‘good one’ or ‘you rock’  does wonders for my self confidence and (crazy!) is helping me be better. I start to believe in myself (because others do), and things I never thought I could do… well I’m taking them on. Dropping them on my knees a lot (my knees are a mess), but taking them on.
I’m sure someone, at some time, gave me praise and encouragement but this year, I’ve finally started to hear it. And it blows me away every time. Its like nitro to my psyche.

Which brings to me other areas of my life. Unlike Cross Fit, its not the norm to say ‘you rock’ or ‘you got this’ in the normal scheme of things. Dudes high five each other all the time, but its uncomfortable to say to a woman without receiving a rolled eye or a sarcastic response. We just don’t do it and if we do, the normal response, especially from women, is to play down the positive feedback, even throw it back as ‘I don’t do that’. We don’t want to hear it and we certainly don’t listen hard enough to actually feel the verbal support that’s being offered.

In the past few weeks I’ve high fived several dudes, a coworker and yes, even a date (actually, I think he high fived me). And yet I’m surrounded by women who I now want to ‘high five’ but I’m not sure how. 

  • My sister, who lost 65lbs in 6 months, then started running and boot camp at the age of 42.
  • My girlfriend who lost her mother and went through major surgery in the last few weeks and is just doing so, so well
  • My dearest friend, Hope, who’s learning about herself and changing life learned attitudes in order to grow
  • A friend with head trauma who’s raising a family and fighting to make it work 
  • My girlfriend Ann who navigated the maze that is the housing market and managed to walk away ahead (and with a kickass house)
  • My work colleagues who bang their head on our glass ceiling every day and yet stick it out, bringing other women along with them and still keep on trying
  • And finally, to all those chicas who’ve dealt with shit and who just soldier on, keeping the kids fed and alive (how? how?), marriages working and still find time to  race bikes or run marathons or introduce me to Cross Fit

Awesome… every one.

 I wish there was a meaningful code that women had to offer encouragement to the people in our lives that didn’t raise questions about our sanity, sexual orientation or whether we found God over the weekend. That wasn’t cheesy or easy, had meaning and wasn’t dismissed. I’m no good at hugging and frankly most of them are too far away for me to do that.. but until then I guess I’ll just mentally ‘high five’ them, let them know that I’m there and that I think they’re just badass.

Giddy up girls.

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