Be One of the Cool Kids
I’ll never forget my first fitness competition. I was a young, lanky 26 year old who had really just learned that fitness competitions were a thing. I’d only been practicing barbell lifts for about six months, but as a life long competitor in sports, I was hungry for a new outlet for that drive and energy. I was competing in the Scaled division, so I naively thought I’d be able to hang with everyone else.
In the first event, we were given 10 minutes to find our heaviest barbell clean. It was mostly a test of strength, with some technique too. At the time, I had neither. I hit 185lbs about 3 minutes in to the 10 minute cap, and then got to experience the joy of failing 195lbs about 20 times in the next 7 minutes. I had plenty of time to watch the guy next to me hit 285lbs, a full 100lbs more than me.
In the other lane next to me was a 14 year old kid, who was about 6 inches shorter than me and probably 25lbs lighter. He lifted 20lbs more than me. Ouch.
I dragged myself back to the athlete area, thoroughly embarrassed and wondering why I put myself through this torture when I clearly sucked at it. Coming from a “team” sports background where failure or weakness made you fair game for ridicule and exclusion from the group, I was expecting the guys in my heat to make some wise cracks about my low lifting scores, then ignore me.
To my surprise, at some point in the next few minutes each of the others in my heat came over to chat and give me some fist bumps. I think they could tell how bummed I was.
Instead of laughing at me, they encouraged me. “You were so close to hitting that 195!”
Instead of focusing on my last place finish in the lift, they refocused my attention on the next workout which was endurance based. “You’re going to crush us on this one I bet!”
Instead of excluding me, they invited me to talk strategy for the next workout.
It only took one competition, and I was hooked. I’ve done dozens of competitions since then, some small with just a handful of competitors and two or three workouts, and some as large as the Granite Games with thousands of athletes over many days of competition. The spirit of the competitors has remained the same through them all. It never mattered whether I got first place or last place, or which division I competed in. I always felt accepted and encouraged. I’d never found an athletic pursuit where your social status wasn’t affected by your ability, until then.
That acceptance and encouragement kept me working hard and wanting to get better. I knew it was OK to try new things, and push myself, because I wasn’t going to get made fun of or laughed at if I messed up. My friends in the gym or on the competition floor would help me get myself up, dusted off, and back at it with smiles all around. It’s now 2020, I still love these workouts, these movements, and these people. I’ve never experienced that type of sticking power with an exercise program. Because it’s not really about the exercise.
I’ve tried to re-create this sense of camaraderie, shared goals, and unconditional positive regard every day at Ripple Effect. Community is more than just a group of people in a room.
We practice a huge array of different movements, equipment, workout styles, and timee domains. On some days you might have the fastest time. On other days, you might have the slowest. You might really struggle to learn some new moves, while others fly through it. Some days, you’ll be the quick learner. In the end, the times don’t really matter anyway. What matters is you showed up to better yourself.
In our community, it’s OK to suck at some things. Or all the things. The important part is, how you’re viewed by our community members is unchanged no matter how your workout goes that day. If you care enough to show up and give a real effort, you really can’t fail here. There’s no “cool kids” group. There’s just us.
So maybe that means, we’re all the cool kids here?
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