Crushing Comfort Zones with Competitions

Baby, It’s Cold Outside


On a chilly January 28th, the Elm City CrossFit gym was packed. Fans, families, and athletes lined the inside of the industrial space. They donned hats and hoodies. They rubbed their hands together for warmth while they cheered on those competing in the outdoor events. Athletes from across Connecticut came together to compete in the Elm City CrossFit’s 3rd annual Frosty Festival. As it promised, the Frosty Festival brought together athletes of different ability levels and backgrounds. Chalk dust flew, PRs were met, and grunting and laughter could be heard in equal amounts. There was a clear element of comradery between the teams, and this is the thing that keeps us all addicted to the sport of CrossFit. It is this indescribable connection. Each person in that gym was doing the same thing. Sure they were achieving it in different ways: Different goals, different maxes, different definitions of excellence, but what connected them was that they were all there, outside of their comfort zones, uncomfortably pushing their personal limits. They stood among comrades who understood the vulnerability of trying something new. Young and old, black and white, male and female. They were together at the Elm City CrossFit Gym, and they were also together outside of their comfort zones.

Bust Out of Your Comfort Zone

Comfort zones are tricky things. We develop comfort zones over time. In various parts of our lives, we adapt to repeated events. Psychology Today author Abigail Brenner M.D.  says that comfort zones are the “behavioral constructs that define the routines of our daily lives.” They aren’t always bad. Comfort zones provide us with routines, they alleviate anxiety, and they are a nice stress-free place for us to spend our lives. The problem comes when we never push ourselves outside of those zones. When we become complacent. If we allow the fear of trying new things to take over, we allow our comfort zones to become cages that we are trapped inside, instead of places we can go when we need to feel safe.

This is How We Do It

This competition, and others like it, are perfect examples of how we can push ourselves out of our comfort zone and achieve results we never thought possible. The CrossFit Expressions team came out in full force to compete in the Frosty Festival.  Coaches Amber, Megan, John, and Jordan lead the charge followed by members Carol, Bri, and Jerry.  I talked to a few of our members who competed. When I asked them what they were most proud of, the overwhelming consensus was having the guts to show up. Jerry, a former college athlete told me that he hadn’t felt that sense of competition since his Decathlon days in college.

Jerry is fit. Think, Tony Horton, if Tony Horton were more soft spoken. With some pushing, he did finally tell me he was also very proud of his 330 pound back squat, but more than the lifts and the squats and the reps, he was proudest of his ability to set a goal, show up, and not let fear get in the way of that. He said “it’s about proving yourself. About getting up there in front of all those people and pushing yourself.” Likewise, when I asked Coach Amber, what she was the proudest of, she instantly responded with, “having the courage to step out of my comfort zone.”

Amber recently graduated from Southern Connecticut Statue University with a degree in exercise science and human performance. Ask anyone at the gym, and they’ll tell you that Amber makes people believe in themselves. Even with her skill level and ability to motivate others, she admitted that she still has self-doubts. She still gets scared. She was beautifully blunt in our conversation. “Competitions are scary as F***,” she told me. “But they are important to help you push past the boundaries that you thought you had.” She laughs and shrugs while she tells me, “Plus, you get cute tee-shirts and sweatshirts.” In addition to her sweatshirt, Amber took home the feeling of pride for a 265 pound deadlift.

The WODs

The event consisted of six different grueling WODs. It began with fifty box overs for time (24/20” six-minute cap). The athletes then moved to a max rep. back squat. From there, they competed in a bear of thruster workout. (Aren’t thrusters the worst!?). They started with an 800 meter run with 10 thrusters (45 pounds for the ladies and 65 for the boys). They worked up to a 400 meter run with 20 thrusters and finally ended with a 200 meter run and 30 thrusters. The third event consisted of a one max bench press. The fourth WOD was an 8 minute AMRAP (as many rounds as possible) of two ab mat sit-ups and 2 burpees over ab mat that increased by two reps each round. Finally the athletes finished up with a one rep max deadlift.

And the Winner is….

In the end, Coach Jordan was able to win first place in his age group. He achieved a PR of 405 pouds on the deadlift!img_2974 Yes, the sport of CrossFit is about how heavy we lift, how fast we run, and how many pull-ups we can do, but it is so much more than that. It is about how we push ourselves, and the people around us to be better. It’s about having the courage to step into an industrial space, scattered with heavy weights, enshrined in new techniques, embrace our fears, take a leap, and jump into the scary unknown. It is about that moment when we want to quit but we look to the person next to us, we look inside ourselves, and we just go for it.

There is a competition coming up on February 18th hosted by Guilford CrossFit. I know you’re scared, but remember, “Your real life is the sum total of ALL of your experiences, not just the ones you’re comfortable with.” Will you be there?

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