Overcoming Impossible

My CrossFit Story – by Mike Ekstrom

I enjoy CrossFit for multiple reasons.  There are the obvious ones like getting in the best shape of my life, having a trainer to program my work outs for me, the community aspect, the challenge and motivation generated through friendly competition, and other similarly outward reasons.  I believe the greatest reason, however, is something much deeper.  It is a fundamental change that took place at some point during my journey.  Something that happened inside of me that changed what I think is possible, not only in CrossFit, but relating to all aspects of life.  I’ve learned that the challenges and struggles that must be overcome in the pursuit of fitness are far more than just physical.  This is my story.

Growing up, I was the kid who didn’t even think about trying football because I knew that I’d snap like a toothpick upon first contact.  Let’s just say I was a skinny distance runner, because that was true.  I had impressive best times in the 1 mile, 2 mile, and 5K.  My whole childhood and early adulthood I pretty much weighed nothing.  After settling into a stressful, sit at your desk all day type of career I finally started to see some changes.  Since I was stressed, over worked, under slept, eating terrible, and drinking more cans of pop than I’ll ever admit too, I was putting on pounds at a fairly high rate.  When I was about 30 years old I’d gained 50 pounds since getting married at age 22, which on my frame looked pretty bloated.  Let’s just say that it wasn’t a lot of muscle weight and among my close friends, I was pretty sure a “who ate Mike” joke was floating around.  I felt terrible and I looked terrible, so I made a change.  I went back to what I used to be good at.  I started running again.

It didn’t take long to trim down to my old thin self after I started running.  I did overnight relays, half marathons, long trail runs, and every local 5K I could squeeze in.  I even tried mixing in lifting weights from time to time.  On certain days I’d make my way around the weight machines circuit, never really finding a program that I thought was awesome or one that kept me from becoming bored.  Then one day, just over 4 years ago now, a co-worker wanted me to check out something called CrossFit.  He convinced me to try out a free intro session, but when I found out the monthly cost I was put off.  At the time I had a $10 per month membership to Planet Fitness that I used on occasion.  However, even with that barrier, I was still intrigued enough to go try the “scaled down” intro workout.  After that session I could barely walk or put on a jacket for the following week due to extreme soreness, but I was hooked, sold, and in for the long haul.  I realized right away that CrossFit wasn’t a typical gym membership.  This was more like having an elite personal trainer in a group setting.  All of a sudden the cost came into perspective and I was good with it.

Even though I was a new and excited convert I still had one pretty big issue.  Being a skinny weakling I thought the workouts were borderline psychotic.  Over my years as a distance runner I had developed endurance and mental strength, which I’m sure are the only things that kept me coming back.  However, CrossFit seemed to be on a whole different level and I was struggling with it.  Nearly every time I walked into the box and read the workout of the day I thought, “This is impossible.  There is no way I’ll be able to do all of that even with the weights and movements scaled.”  Time after time I showed up, read the workout, and thought the exact same thing, “This is impossible.”  The incredible thing was, however, as I left each time I’d say to myself, “I can’t believe I did that.”  This cycle continued for months.  Going in and thinking that what was being asked of me was crazy and impossible and leaving in disbelief that I had in fact done it.  It definitely wasn’t easy though.  I remember being able to do about 2 pull ups before I needed to use the thickest band available to assist me.  When the band wasn’t enough help I’d find the highest box I could to jump the rest.  I also remember a time when my knees were on the top of a box with my hands on the ground doing scaled hand stand pushups.  My trainer looked at me and said, “There’s no shame in getting strong.”  I thought, “Thanks a lot tough guy!”  But he was one hundred percent right and deep down I knew it.  Since starting CrossFit I estimate that I’ve lost 10 pounds of fat and gained 20 pounds of muscle.  The need to scale the movements and weights in the workouts became less and less frequent and over time has become pretty rare.  Through persistence and determination I was in fact doing what I thought was impossible and I was doing it better and better with each and every try.

That fundamental change I mentioned earlier had taken place.  I don’t know how many times I had to prove to myself over and over again that what I thought was impossible wasn’t, but at some point it finally happened.  As I grew stronger physically, mentally, and even in spirit, I now realize that how I see things has changed.  Instead of seeing things as impossible I now see them as an exciting challenge that I will, through determination and persistence, conquer.   Now, the harder and crazier the workout sounds the more excited I get about taking it on.  From time to time I’ll describe my morning workout to some co-workers.  Half of them think I’m nuts and the other half think I’m a liar, but I don’t mind because I know where they are coming from.  I used to be there.  For example, I too once thought it was impossible to do 100 pull ups in a workout, but I’ve now done that on multiple occasions.  I don’t believe in limits anymore, and the most amazing thing about this new outlook or perspective that I have gained is that it doesn’t just apply to a difficult workout.  It applies to every kind of challenge that life brings and that is powerful.  I now realize that impossible is just an excuse for people not to try something, because I overcame impossible and I think that’s priceless.

Posted on: February 16, 2014admin

3 thoughts on “Overcoming Impossible

  1. Very cool Mike! Such a good example of what happens if you can dedicate yourself to a goal, eliminate doubt and open your mind up to what IS possible if you simply try.

  2. Pretty interesting. So it was the attitude you developed that really was most beneficial. The workout was just part of the program, almost a side effect of what you can really accomplish if you decide to. Well written.

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