More than Just Physical Fitness

My journey to fitness well beyond the physical.

Hi, there! I’m Laura, an owner/operator/coach at CFLS along with my husband, Joel. That’s me, up there, and I chose this picture in particular because Joel took it on a really hard day. A day when I wanted to quit the workout and walk away because I felt terrible and wasn’t working up to, what I assumed were, my capabilities. I took a few extra deep breaths and kept going, and eventually finished. Today was another one of those day. Thinking on the fact that people often see us as encouraging them through struggles that we never have (i.e. healthy choices, discouragement, motivation), I wrote the following Facebook post to our CFLS family this morning:

I know a lot of you are struggling with motivation, illness, upset, or just general ick. Joel and I don’t encourage you to get up and moving and take care of yourselves because we are exempt from these things.

I pinched a nerve in my back on Sunday and have spent the last two days generally laying on my side because it hurts to lay flat on my back and holding my head up too long gets uncomfortable ����.

I haven’t worked out since Saturday and I took the first two days of the week off of working out because my body genuinely needed it. But this morning I woke up in slightly less discomfort and I knew I needed to get moving again. At some point ick leads to nothing but ick. True need for rest just turns to lack of motivation and, if we are being honest, excuses bred in laziness.

So I played with some dumbbell weights until I found what I could snatch with only minimal discomfort. Struggled a bit more with the fact that I’d be lifting less than I prescribed to many of you yesterday (��#pride), and set the clock. 3-2-1 Go.

All of this stuff isn’t just about losing weight or getting stronger (though those things matter), it is equally about making you a person who endures. Who knows when to rest and when to push. Who can make the hard to choice to stop unhealthy and unhelpful thought patterns and do something about it.

I literally used to cry when Joel and I first started running and found CrossFit. I was probably moving slower than molasses in January, but I would complain and moan, and *literally* cry. I don’t know how he put up with me. Years later, I am more proud of how I hold myself than how much I hold. I am proud that days can just be days instead of weeks and months.

I’ve decided to share and expound on that post here, because I think it’s an important conversation to talk about how fitness benefits your life beyond the physical. 

I am not a naturally motivated person toward exercise. I wasn’t an athlete growing up, my family still jokes about my dandelion picking in pee-wee soccer. I never felt gifted in athletics and team sports like so many of my friends were, and I certainly never saw exercise as something I needed to do unless I wanted to drop a few pounds. My husband, however, is the polar opposite. When we started dating, I started running with him. When we got married and he got a job as a CrossFit trainer, I started going to his 5:00 am class (let’s talk about how only a newlywed would make such a sacrifice). Everything I put in that post above is true. Literal tears over the discomfort of exercise, and don’t ask me why I kept up with it. Probably a mixture of knowing deep down it was good for me and wanting to impress my new spouse. The change came gradually, a subtle shift. When working out wasn’t just


 Joel, but something I did


Joel and genuinely found the benefits in for myself. I liked feeling stronger and more fit. I liked that running gave me time that was quiet and alone (well, years later the babies were napping in the stroller, but it was still quiet). I became a person who craved physical activity. 

The physical shift wasn’t all that changed though. I found myself

more resistant to the negative effects of stress

. I began to think of myself as a person who could do hard things, both physically and mentally. I learned to relax and reframe situations when they were genuinely hard. In the middle of a really difficult run when I felt exhausted, I learned that relaxing my facial muscles and smiling sent messages to my brain and body that I was fine, that I could keep going. I do this even now during tough workouts, tough conversations, and in the face of adversity. 

As a generally Type B personality, I am also pretty resistant to discipline. I like to do whatever and go wherever, and often fall victim to going by my feelings instead of what I know I should be doing. In school that looked like procrastination (I don’t feel like doing that, until I feel like I’m going to get in trouble if I don’t. I never liked being in trouble.). In adulthood, if I let it, I would look like eating my feelings and only doing exercise that didn’t challenge me.

The more physical activity became a part of my life, the more self-discipline that came with it.

Training when I didn’t feel like it, running in the rain, coming back from illness and injury when it would have been easier to take more days off than I actually needed to (see Facebook post above). This discipline has also helped me to create better order in my days, to get up and get moving (man, I love a slow morning), to care for my family and provide structure for them. Do I do this perfectly? My Type A husband can tell you no, but I have slowly harnessed my weakness and turned them to strengths. I can be flexible inside of routine. I can stop what I am doing to care for others, but not get distracted from my goals. 

I also found that I was more resilient in the face of failure (and the fear of it).

I have fallen off of plyo boxes, dropped barbells in very uncomfortable ways, and lost to competitors that I really wanted to be better than. Then gone back and tried again the next day. I have also moved across the world and back again (and again), sold almost everything I owned, taken jobs sight unseen, and invested lots of our savings into opening a business (unbeknownst to us, 90 days before a global pandemic would hit). Some of those things have worked out beautifully, some were absolute and utter failures, some are still a cause of fear at times. And yet, here I am. Realizing that failure is a part of life, not to be feared, but to be figured. 

Now, admittedly, CrossFit didn’t teach me all of this. I have amazing mentors in my life and faith in a God who provides hope not dependent on my external circumstances. I read, listen, pray, seek counsel…and exercise. Respecting and caring for my physical body has taught me limitless lessons about respecting and caring for myself emotionally, spiritually, and mentally. This is my favorite part of coaching our people. Seeing them hit barbell personal records is great, but seeing them show up for themselves  when they want to quit is better. If you are looking for any of these things in your life – resistance, resilience, discipline (not to forget weight loss and strength) – I encourage you to take a hard look at the choices surrounding your physical health. Great things can start out seeming superficial and actually change your life.