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Lessons learned about body, mind

The author, Beth Leipholtz, during week three of the Crossfit Open.

Author's note: The Open is a five-week-long, worldwide Crossfit competition. On Thursday nights, the week's workout is announced, and athletes have a window of a few days to complete it at their Crossfit gym, then submit their score online.

My lungs screamed. My legs locked. My arms burned. But oddly enough, my biggest problem wasn't my body. It was my mind.

After 60 burpee box jump-overs and 150 dumbbell snatches, completing 15 more burpee box jump-overs felt nearly impossible. But it was all that was separating me from finishing my first Open workout, and quitting simply wasn't an option.

In that moment, I took in the faces around me, the voices cheering me on. I made the choice to shut my mind down. I focused on moving. And I kept moving, until I hit number 15. Then I collapsed and I cried, knowing my body had been pushed to its absolute limits in this first workout. But, more unexpectedly, so had my mind.

I was only three months into my Crossfit journey when I decided to take part in the Open. Prior to signing up, I found many reasons why I shouldn't. I was new. I couldn't lift as heavy as some people. I may not know what every movement was. I didn't want to embarrass myself. The list went on.

But there was something inside me that knew I needed this challenge. It burned deeper than all my doubts combined. Whatever that force was, it lead me to the Open website, and before I knew it, I had clicked the register button. There was no going back.

Six weeks later, I can say that clicking that register button was easily one of the best decisions I have ever made. Each of the five Open workouts taught me something different — about myself, about the people around me, about support, about perseverance.

Week one: Sometimes it's all in your head.

This workout was cardio heavy, and it left my lungs burning, my legs like jelly. The trick was just to not stop, to shut down my mind and its doubts, to push through, to let my body do what I knew it was capable of. It was about overcoming my mind, not my body.

Week two: Pain is temporary, failure is necessary.

When pull-ups were announced as part of the workout, I panicked. I'd never done a pull-up in my life. I got a crash course that afternoon, and in the process, I ripped my hand for the first time. That night during the workout, I threw some tape on it, chalked up, and worked as hard as I could for a pull-up. During those attempts, I ripped my hands in five other spots, and had no pull-up to show for it. Still, I learned. My hands healed. A few weeks later, I got that pull-up, all because I failed first.

Week three: There are days it's just not going to go your way.

This week's workout included a somewhat complicated barbell movement I had never tried before. I felt OK at the beginning. But as the weight increased and my body tired, I became frustrated, physically and mentally. I locked eyes with my coach, and she kept me going. But when time was up, I stormed out, mad at myself. Then the next heat began, and I quickly forgot about my own "failure." I became focused on the success of those competing instead.

Week four: Sometimes slow and steady is the way to go.

This week consisted of 55 reps of four different movements. Because I was too focused on going quickly, I forgot about my form and the movement requirements. I wasted energy and had about 20 no-reps, meaning the movement didn't count because I didn't execute it correctly. I rushed through, and I paid for it, learning the importance of slowing down.

Week five: It's really not about the workouts.

Though I felt good about the workout this week, my nerves were at an all-time high because this was the week my family had come to watch the Open. I did better than I anticipated with this workout but found that I didn't really even care. In watching my family and my teammates interact, I realized that being surrounded by the people I love most in this world far outweighed the success of a workout. You know that feeling when your heart literally feels full of love and gratitude? My heart felt that way, and I knew it had nothing to do with a workout.

The Open is unlike anything I have ever been part of in my life, and it taught me a multitude of lessons. But above all, it taught me that we all need people. People to push us, to cheer us on, to count our reps, to love us in the ugly moments, to hold us up when we're falling — both inside and outside of the gym.

Beth Leipholtz

Beth is a reporter at the Echo Press. She graduated from the College of Saint Benedict in May 2015 with a degree in Communication and Hispanic Studies. Journalism has always been her passion, but she also enjoys blogging and graphic design. In her spare time, she's most likely at Crossfit or at home with her boyfriend and three dogs.

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