What happens in Virginia stays with you for life

I recently spent nearly 3 months on a professional adventure in Virginia. What I learned there, earned there, and grew there will never leave me. Even though what I went to experience is now gone.

I was the new guy

Nobody knew anything about me. Good or bad. I wasn’t the kid who the veterans were sour about having as a boss. I wasn’t the gay girl who used to be married to a guy. I wasn’t the once-ruler of a city who had been reduced to one-of-many. But I also wasn’t a one-time CrossFit Regionals competitor. I wasn’t a 2nd degree anything. I was just a girl, showing up at 0600 on a Monday morning with her hood up, ready to teach some classes and hopefully win some hearts.

All at once, I had the challenge of proving myself and the opportunity to reinvent myself. How cool.

It is still about relationships

I was tasked with helping a struggling CrossFit gym pull out of their rut. At first, the way I approached that challenge was numbers and figures. Dollars in versus dollars out. And of course, that was the ultimate factor in the eventual decision to close the gym. In the mean time, however, I made friends. Some very close, very quickly. I don’t care if I’ve coached somewhere for 11 weeks or for 11 years…this business is nothing if it isn’t personal. I didn’t keep the current clients and earn a few new ones because of some dollar figure. It happened because I was a girl who liked music, beer and dogs. Oh, and CrossFit.

It still isn’t easy

I’ve had my share of challenges with my gyms in Ohio. It’s easy to daydream sometimes and think “if I had it to do all over, it could be so much easier with all of these lessons in my purse of experience!” That’s so not the case. Sure, some pitfalls are easier to avoid the second (third, fifth?!) time around. Some challenges are easier to surmount because I’ve seen them before. But it’s still hard work. It’s still devastating some days. And overwhelmingly rewarding every day.

I’m always a student

“Coach, you don’t have a muscle up yet? Let’s get one together!”

A smaller gym, with a smaller schedule and zero staff gave me the chance to get back to my own training. I had a dedicated hour or two every day when my only focus was on becoming a better athlete. And I learned new things from my new athletes. I became a better coach by getting back to learning.

But it’s more than that. I learned new things about running a gym. About organizing a space. About managing a team from afar. About the strengths of the people I’d temporarily left behind. For 11 weeks, I took a step back from being who I was used to being, and gave myself the opportunity to learn some new things, and some old things over again.

I can live with far fewer resources than I’m accustomed to

I lived at the gym. A lot of us joke that we live at our jobs. But I mean it. Bed in an upstairs office. Grill out back. Fridge full of groceries. And a Jeep that never moved from its parking spot. When I had to coach 0600, I rolled down the stairs at 0550, brushed my teeth in the ladies’ room and shook up a Spark.

I didn’t need my 3200 square foot house with quartz counters and a 3-car garage. I prepped food on the front counter. I ate dinner on the floor or sitting on a plyo box. I walked my dog on the fringes of a parking lot every day. I hung out in a camp chair in a parking lot and listened to music every night. Life was simple. It was limited. And it was fulfilling.

I’m 5 parts solitary, 2 parts social

I’ve always been a bit introverted and I love my alone time. I never thought I’d get an alone-time overdose. But it happened.

For 7 days a week, for about 7 weeks, the monk’s lifestyle was a welcome reprieve. And then…I hit a solitude wall. My final month in Virginia, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays were like quiet sad reminders that I’d left a social life behind and hadn’t quite forged a complete one in my new temporary home.

Really, the worst part might’ve been that it was a reminder that my new home was temporary.

I love what I do

Except for the excruciating emotional experience of leaving newly-forged relationships, I could coach at a different facility every month and be beyond happy. Doesn’t matter who, where, how often, or under what circumstances. I’m happiest when I’m helping other people learn what amazing things they’re capable of doing.

Greener grass is about perspective and sunglasses

At least once a week, I was accused of falling in love with my new place and suspected of wanting to never come back to Ohio. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t consider never coming back. But what I realized was, both sides of the fence had things I wanted in my life. The plan was never to stay in Virginia. But there were parts of my life and professional experience in Virginia that absolutely needed to stay in my life going forward, wherever that is. I sat down one night and made a list called “what I want to keep from my VA experience” and I’m trying every day to find pieces of it in my Ohio life.

The grass wasn’t universally greener in either place. Both lives afforded me different benefits and challenges. When I was struggling to find new members and make ends meet in VA, the stability of a well-established business in OH was appealing. When I was listening to the OH headaches of “this person called out and this other coach has to flip between two locations just to pull off our schedule this weekend,” the quiet simplicity of VA calmed my spirit.

Loving something new doesn’t mean you’re abandoning what you had up till then. And leaving something new behind doesn’t mean you won’t miss it once you’re back home.

11 weeks in Virginia was professionally, emotionally and physically challenging and rewarding. It seemed crazy. Most people probably still don’t get it. Some days, I’m not sure I do. But I would do it again. And much of my experience will live on, whether or not I ever leave Ohio again.

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It must be easy…everyone’s doing it

“Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.”

—Theodore Roosevelt

I love IPAs. Which is good, because they seem to be popping up everywhere on the craft beer scene right now. There’s nothing quite like a mouthful of dirt and grapefruit to make me smile on a breezy afternoon. I wondered aloud one day, “why are IPAs so popular?” and a friend who is clearly more brew-ducated than I am said it’s because they’re the easiest type of beer to make.

So let me get this straight…it’s popular because it’s easy? No way, dude. It’s popular because of a ton of marketing money and a bearded hipster culture of lemmings.

(Wait…are we still talking about beer? You know I’m bringing this around to CrossFit somehow!)

Maybe the IPA ingredient list is simpler. Maybe the flavor profile is so aggressive that it’s more forgiving of mis-steps. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy.

I’m sure if you ask a brewmaster, he’ll take offense at the implication that his craft is easy. But, from the outside, I bet the perception is there. That perception might even lead some aspiring brewfolk to try their hand at the craft. Some will explode their fermentation tanks before ever yielding beer, some will hold out for that first sip only to discover it is absolutely vile, and some will produce a fantastically delicious IPA.

OK, we get it. Not everyone can brew good beer. What’s this got to do with CrossFit?

Well…on the outside, it appears relatively easy to start a CrossFit gym. Go to a weekend-long training, get a piece of paper and a $1000 t-shirt. Spend another $3000 on a name and maybe another $10,000 on some shiny new stuff, and people will flock to your sprawling warehouse, begging you to make them work out till they throw up.

Easy, right? That’s some real Field of Dreams shit right there.

Um, no.

But that doesn’t stop every bearded, tattooed, stocky-cocky little shit from trying. And some of them end up very successful. Like Dogfish Head 90-minute successful. Far too many others, however, end up with something more like a dirty, bitter, flat pint of “what the hell did I just sip?”

And then, all of a sudden, everyone thinks all IPAs are disgusting and all CrossFit gyms are full of douchebag coaches who hurt people.

Newsflash: it’s not easy. And not everyone will be good at it. But you can’t judge the entire category by your first sip. If you’re a consumer, do research. Shop around. Find the right fit for you. If you’re an aspiring owner-coach, talk to other owners in your area. New ones, long-standing ones, and even some failed ones. Learn everything you can before just dumping a bunch of fungus and fruit into a dirty barrel.