What I Learned About Commitment From The CrossFit Games

Photo: Courtesy Of Reebok
On July 23, Christina Moore, 30, and Oliver Drewes, 36, of Brooklyn, gazed into each other’s eyes and took vows in front of their closest family and friends in an intimate outdoor ceremony. The bride wore a white tennis skirt, sports bra, and custom bridal Reeboks. The groom had a boutonnière pinned on his black tee. Both Moore and Drewes were utterly ripped, their lean, sinewy bodies gleaming in the midday California sun. They exchanged Qalo rings (thin, flexible, barbell-safe wedding bands designed for gym junkies). This was the first-ever official CrossFit wedding: the couple, venue, and vows all reflected the culture of commitment that the fitness movement imparts from day one of training.

“I promise to push you to achieve PRs while still no-repping you when you don’t break parallel. For better, for worse, for richer, for poorer,” Christina said, grinning.

The nuptials, playfully dubbed the “WODWedding,” took place at the 2016 Reebok CrossFit Games, a weeklong competition to find the “fittest man and woman in the world” based on high-intensity tests of strength, agility, and endurance. Moore and Drewes’ ceremony took place in the middle of it all, at the 10th anniversary of the Games at the StubHub Arena in Carson, CA. The couple won a social-media contest that Reebok set up to find an engaged couple who got together at CrossFit and have continued to train as partners.

PRs are personal records, by the way; “breaking parallel” refers to achieving a properly deep squat; and WOD stands for “Workout of the Day,” which is the core timed drill in every CrossFit class. And the gyms are called “boxes.” I didn’t know any of this until fairly recently, when I took my first CrossFit class, which was terrifying. Or so I imagined until I was actually in the thick of it.
Photo: Courtesy Of Reebok
Advertisement
“What’s the nervousness about?” asked Matt, one of the coaches at Lock Box Fitness Center in Los Angeles, as I watched the red-lit numbers on the clock tick dangerously close to the class’ start time. How could he tell? Journalists are supposed to be stealthy.

“I’m a yogi. I don’t know what this stuff is,” I said, motioning to a medieval looking contraption which I learned later, was a pull-up station. “I don’t like doing things I’m not good at.”

And I meant that with every fiber of my being. In my career, relationships, and fitness — starting something new is stressful. But that’s where the commitment comes in. Regarding her own link between fitness and relationships, Moore says, “Recognize that if you want to get better at something — if it’s important to you — you’ve got to dedicate some time and energy to making it good and to keeping it good.”

Who has the time and energy, though? I want both a relationship and abs that are watertight, and I want them now. Watching all the muscled bodies parading around at the Games is like seeing a secure couple, comfortable getting under each other’s skin and not taking into consideration the work it took to get there.

“Swolemates” Moore and Drewes grew began dating three-and-a-half years ago and started working out together just a month in, their fitness goals a catalyst to strengthening their bond. “The patience part of it, certainly [was an important element]. You never go into a gym, start lifting on day one and by day five, you’re ready to go into competition,” says Moore. “It’s always a work in progress, so [have] patience with yourself, patience with your partner.”
Photo: Courtesy Of Reebok
Back at the CrossFit class, my palms were sweaty. Matt had a disarming Zen vibe, though. Just 10 minutes into the workout, when I realized I could actually do all the warm-up circuits, he came over and told me to slow it down. He wanted me to remain strong and energetic through the hour, which later included kettle-bell goblet squats that my thighs cursed me out for the next day.

I quickly came to find that the pacing was the whole point. This type of fitness regimen is a process. CrossFitters commit to a very established mission of external and in turn, internal strength. At the Games, I found myself staring at the signature CrossFit bodies of women and men (broad shoulders, cut abs, legs so muscular that there’s a distinct swagger/waddle that goes along with them), and a little cultural immersion led me to find that the discipline and confidence seeps significantly deeper than the muscle.

Strength can be terribly sexy. During one of the events — the squat cleans — my lower jaw hung open in awe as I watched one of the athletes, Katrín Davíðsdóttir (who ended up winning the whole women’s competition), lift a barbell loaded up with 215 pounds of weight over her head and then release it in her version of a mic drop. She wore a graceful grimace, beads of sweat rolling down her thighs, which were solid like tree trunks. Her triumph in the competition indicated to me what so many of the athletes there exemplified: a quest for unbreakable strength and willpower, both physical and mental. Despite the fact that females have less upper-body muscle mass, biologically deeming them underdogs, this woman merked rep upon rep of unfathomable weight. I imagine she could handle real life just as well, including relationships that tested her patience and character.
“When you’re constantly testing yourself all the time, you are constantly failing,” says Moore about pursuing a fitness goal. “You have to learn to accept failure, embrace failure, and figure out from that failure, how can I get better next time? It’s not the end of the world that I failed this time. I might fail again tomorrow. And that’s okay. Let’s move forward. It’s the same in relationships. There are going to be hiccups. There are going to be bumps.”

I couldn’t help but reflect on my own past relationship hiccups and bumps — and how real that mind-body connection is. I’ve known mental anguish that has made me physically weak, willowy, and sluggish, and sometimes, literally sick. It’s fine to feel and emote, of course. But I saw these female contenders and suddenly wanted more for myself. When sadness, anxiety, or depression hits, I want my body to rescue my mind, not suffer along with it.

Committing to better yourself physically, mentally, spiritually — it’s very much like committing to another person. And so I began to unpack the significance of two people devoting their lives to each other in that context. Standing up and saying the words “in sickness and in health” in front of people holds a person accountable. The responsibility of such a promise is daunting, but it’s a necessary precursor to a journey. Moore elaborates: rough terrain could shake you, but won’t necessarily break you.
Photo: Courtesy Of Reebok
Advertisement
At a small wedding reception after the ceremony, Moore and Drewes posed for pictures in front of a Reebok Delta (the brand’s signature triangular red symbol) made of vibrant red roses and towering white floral letters that read, “Better Together,” all specially made for the couple. They cut a chocolate Paleo cake (commitment, I’m telling you) and made a toast to their progress and their promise to each other.

“It’s given us a lot of direction as to how we want to live our lives,” Drewes said of their joint devotion to CrossFit as a lifestyle.

Inspired, I googled Box locations in New York on my flight home, researched Paleo recipes and scrolled through pages of sleek CrossFit athleisure attire. I had officially drunk the Kool-Aid. Yoga is cool, but I wanted the outlandish calf muscles and everything else golden that seemed to adorn the CrossFitters I met. Weeks later, I sit meditating on all this with a glistening pile of Trader Joe’s dark chocolate peanut butter cup foils next to the laptop. Clearly not Paleo.

But I bought a kettle bell. Some nights, I mimic the WOD I learned at my first class with goblet squats and swings. Other nights, I watch it mock me while I lie binge-watching Netflix on the couch. Still, I can feel a craving for strength that I’ve never experienced. So baby steps may well become box jumps as I explore new commitments to myself, in sickness and in health.
Advertisement