The Caribbean sea surrounds me. The sun beats down and I can hear the clink of glasses from a nearby waterside restaurant. My boyfriend, who easily completed the required task for this stage of scuba training, explores the underwater paradise around us without hesitation. Tropical fish are probably swimming below my feet, but I can’t see them past the tears fogging up my mask. I’m supposed to be sitting on the ocean floor 20 feet below, removing, replacing, and clearing my mask of water to pass this test. Our instructor bobs up and down next to me as I try to pull myself together. She’s probably thinking “can’t this girl find another hobby?” but her warm smile and ability to take my emotions in stride reminds me of Sabrina Nedab…so I try to slow my breathing the same way I do in the middle of a tough workout. Okay, count to 3, then go, 1, 2…okay, you can go to 5 but that’s it…3, 4, 5…damnit, just keep breathing and start again. My logical brain knows I can do this but the anxiety fights back.

Unfortunately this anxiety doesn’t only appear in brand new situations such as struggling to breathe while underwater wearing a bunch of unfamiliar gear. It strikes pretty much anytime a task or skill doesn’t instantly “click” (which happens a lot at the gym) or I “fail” at something I wasn’t expecting to. It gets magnified by lack of sleep, a bad day at work, or other stressors. I’ve struggled with this my whole life and while that teary-eyed, hyperventilating place is not one I like to frequent, it’s necessary that I go there sometimes to push past the boundaries I’ve imposed upon myself. My second or third on-ramp class at CrossFit SteadFast included going over the snatch which just MADE NO FREAKING SENSE, so on came the tears. I knew then I was in the right place because Sabrina handled them like a champ (I could go on and on about that but let’s just say shout out to both her and Brian for their continued management of my waterworks, even though I’m pretty sure Brian’s first thought is always oh shit, Sabrina where you at, Sabrina get over here and handle these emotions, SABRINA!).

Logically, working out at SteadFast consistently for a year and a half has pushed and bettered me physically, but an increased mental and emotional strength is a hidden benefit I would advertise to any newcomers. It used to be missing a lift or being told my form was wrong was game-over mentally for me. Now (usually after a coach says YOU GOT THIS) I can more and more push past the “I can’t” to visualize myself dropping lower underneath that heavy bar, and proceed to make it a reality. And as much as I enjoy those highs from crushing a workout, every low from getting time-capped or failing to hit a PR is just as important for my growth. While I don’t think I’m ever going to be fully “comfortable being uncomfortable,” each time I keep myself from breaking down mid-WOD (because I’m gasping for air, or the number of reps in front of me feels like an insurmountable mountain, or I can’t actually do more than ten toes-to-bar and the competition calls for 30) is a victory because I beat my own mind.

I came to SteadFast simply looking for a workout routine I could stick to before 12-hour shifts. If you had told me that in a year and a half I’d see the same number on the scale but have twice the confidence, I would have said “there’s no way.” If you had told this introvert that she would be a) beating people in workouts with enough time to catch her breath and proceed to b) scream and cheer for those other people to finish, she would have said “you’re crazy.” If you had told me I would still be checking the workouts daily and missing the gym while I was on vacation, I would have laughed. I used to laugh at these sappy posts. CrossFit SteadFast was way more than I bargained for and I can’t imagine my life in Savannah without it.

-Spencer