Zach Ware

The Gym

Last August, after a few months into living my optimized nutrition lifestyle (I need to come up with a better name) I wanted to start exercising more frequently. I needed accountability and a plan so I went to Thumbtack and found a personal trainer.

For the next four months, he and I met starting three days a week, then four and later five. A few weeks in I started a 30 day no drinking experiment to test alcohol’s influence on my blood markers. At the end of the experience I felt so good I didn’t start drinking again.

My five-day routine included times I was traveling. I carried my routine and my diet to Boston, Raleigh, Ireland and Miami among other places. No matter where I was or what I had to do, early every morning I was at the gym. My gym sessions were hard and focused. And they energized my mind while challenging my body.

Since I started the journey I’ve lost 32 pounds, shaved my bodyfat to 12.5% and become a new person mentally and emotionally. In November, after a second mild back injury, I fired my trainer and designed my own routine, increasing my workout days to six.

But I was getting bored. So a few weeks ago I decided to try Crossfit. I chose Crossfit after extensive research on functional movement training. I was developing strength and my body was transformed, but I wanted more.

The two-week experiment was interesting. Crossfit workouts were among the hardest things I’ve ever done. They decimated my body early in my day, generally wiping me out for an entire morning. I expected that. I also injured my wrist, not directly because of Crossfit, just randomly in the midst of a workout. The workouts were great.

But the most important thing I learned was that I was very happy with my old routine. The rare day I missed my gym session in the past felt off. I wouldn’t be as mentally sharp.

Missing it for two weeks had unexpected mental consequences. I make a point every day to do something that scares me and journal about it. I journaled about Crossfit a lot. I assumed my shakiness came from fighting the naturally obsessive tendencies of my personality. I crave routine and change is hard.

My entire constitution was shaken over those two weeks and I only realized why at the end of the second week. Like a daily meditator who suddenly stops, I missed the hard mental focus of my gym sessions. I missed feeling pumped but incredibly energized after my strength and cardio (Jacob’s Ladder) workouts. I missed the challenge of beating my stats. I missed finishing an audiobook every ten days.

My gym time was my time. It was a time when I was completely and totally focused on myself with zero distractions. Losing that time and ceding access to my mind to a coach and a workout group carried consequences. I didn’t realize how much my solo sessions impacted my mental and emotional well-being until I didn’t have them.

If you struggle for motivation or routine, Crossfit, especially an entry level fitness-focused class, is great. Most of the people I’ve worked out with over the past two weeks do not look like people you would expect to be Crossfitters. They are motivated and working hard to increase their general fitness. For them and maybe for you, Crossfit is great.

After two weeks away and an additional two weeks at 50% to give my wrist a rest, I’m back to my old routine…if you can call something you did for six months old. Just thinking about getting back to it gives me calm.

You can follow my health data here.

First published on February 24, 2016