I was chronically underweight for most of my life.
When I gained the fabled “freshman fifteen” at UCLA I was ecstatic — because, according to the faded charts on your doctor’s wall, a 5’10″ man shouldn’t weigh 135 pounds. For those of you reading who are overweight, you might be thinking that this is a good problem to have, but I assure you, it came with its own set of drawbacks.
Women judge you if you’re underweight — they never seem to want to date a man who’s smaller than they are. Men are supposed to have giant forearms and tree-trunk legs so we can get into bar fights and wrestle bears. At some point in my mid-20s, I resigned myself to the fact that I would be always be this skinny, so I tried to compensate by always wearing two layers of clothing or rarely taking my shirt off in front of others. I accepted that this was how life was going to be; I gave up.
Defeating the Skinny Kid Within
Four years of CrossFit later and I’m 170 pounds — and in the best shape of my life.
I didn’t play very many sports growing up, unless you count father-son baseball games and being the greatest dodgeball player ever to set foot at Atwater Elementary. It wasn’t until college that I really got in to sports, but by that time, working out wasn’t ingrained in me. I would put in the time and go to the gym, but I had no idea what I was doing when I got there. So going from vague workouts at globo gyms to doing something like Olympic lifting in CrossFit was a huge leap for me.
When I heard about CrossFit, I was as skeptical as many are — but I went in for an intro session because, well, what did I have to lose? When I arrived, the coach, Bryce, wasn’t a swole meathead who slammed Monster energy drinks and head-butted old ladies in the street. His temperament was similar to mine — so I signed up. Thirty days later, I was hooked.
Unlike what the negative propaganda on the Internet about CrossFit might have you believe, I’m not a roided-out douche bag that snorts lines of protein powder; I like wine and old Westerns. That’s not to say that I can’t growl into beast mode and destroy you in a workout at the gym, though. That part of my personality just doesn’t carry over to the rest of my life, because I don’t let it. There is a middle ground between chronically underweight and jacked meathead. With effort, I went from the scrawny guy that worked on his high school yearbook to a guy who can now do 200-pound cleans and 350-pound deadlifts.
If you read any fitness article that doesn’t have a marketing agenda, it’ll probably say that you should do whatever kind of physical activity is fun for you, because then you’ll keep doing it. It’s better to do any physical activity than none. If you like running, then go run. If you like cycling, go cycle. But if you want to change body composition enough to gain or lose weight, you’re going to have to lift barbells. CrossFit is fun for me because I’ve made it fun. I go to class at the same time each morning and work out with the same people because I love the family atmosphere and male camaraderie. We keep each other going and push each other to be better. Now CrossFit, to me, is just hanging out with my friends — with the byproduct of fitness. The moment I took the pressure off myself is when I really started to see results.
I’m in the best shape of my life in my 30s — not many men can say that. That’s not to say that you have to look like The Rock to be a man, but increasing your confidence in your looks can have a huge impact on your life. And although we’re not hunting saber-toothed tigers anymore, we are still lifting heavy objects and trying to extend our lives for our (potential) mates and children. CrossFit makes me more confident, frames my day with accomplishment and, oh yeah — now I look better naked. Now I just have to get rid of this farmer’s tan.