7 years ago. I finished Blast Off and made Celia touch a barbell for the first time. She hated it.
Okay, it’s been 7 years. SEVEN YEARS that Rocket CrossFit has been open. That’s amazing to me. I can’t count (mostly because we’ve changed software systems a few times) how many people have been through our doors. It’s humbling. I’m even more humbled by the ones who walked through when we first opened, and are still with us.
I’ve learned a lot of life lessons. None of which are specific to running a gym, all of which seem to be good life rules in general.
Brady, getting a 15# PR on his clean.
SUPPORT THE DREAMERS. They’re the ones who will change the world. Rocket is, and always will be, the truest manifestation of my husband, Brady. We went on our first date the same week that he opened the doors to Rocket. As we sipped our first (of millions of) cups of coffee together, he rambled on about the power of community. About this workout that was efficient and powerful, but that was much more about relationships, and supporting each other. How people who live near each other but don’t know each other will create community and support each other outside the gym. About helping people through disease and injury and addiction. About how people of any shape, size and condition can be on a “team” together and that’s how we save the world. I’m always willing to admit that I thought he was a delusional (but smokin’ hot) hippie who was going to be very disappointed. 7 years later, he was right. We’ve done all that, and more. I have never experienced anything like this, and I’m hooked. We must always support the dreamers. If they can see it, find the path, and we support them, they will change the world.
Even our walls were broken, back in the day.
WE ARE ALL BROKEN. Our bodies are broken. Our souls are broken. I have yet to have one single person who didn’t have some sort of body or soul owie that we didn’t have to work around. The physical ones are easy, we can scale any move. Hell, I did CrossFit with one arm for almost 2 years while waiting for each shoulder to be surgically repaired from injuries I sustained long before CrossFit. The emotional ones are harder to scale for, until you realize that all you have to do is be there with an open heart. I literally cannot count the number of times people have cried in the gym. Sometimes from stuff happening outside the gym, sometimes from doing – or not being able to do – something in the gym. And then they go to our secret Facebook page and say “thanks for letting me cry” and dozens of people chime in, supporting them, and then I cry like a baby. Or like a grown ass adult who is moved to tears by the power of people being raw, honest and open. These are not things that I ever associated with a gym. I thought gyms were about shame, fear and towel-snapping.
WE ARE STRONGER TOGETHER. See above. And above. But it’s more than that. We’ll have a member post that they’re doing some competition or race or something, and then others join. And suddenly you have all these people out in the world doing stuff they wouldn’t have done otherwise. We’ve had members go through major life changes – divorce, childbirth, illness, addiction, suicide – and ask for help in our community. We’ve had dogs walked, plants watered, moving assisted….. Ask for help. Help when you can. That’s how the world works best.
BODY SHAME IS CRIPPLING. I used to always coach the Blast Off classes, in which we bring in total beginners and slowly acclimate them to our particular brand of sweaty awesomeness. As part of that, we always asked people to share their goals. 90% of the time, the goal was to lose a certain amount of weight, or be a particular size from their past – or that magazines have told them they should be. This is the #1 thing we work against. After years of being told their bodies are bad, we do the opposite. We tell them their bodies are amazing, and can do incredible things. We shift goal setting from “look a certain way” to “do particular things and feel a certain way.” I have never hated the fitness industry as much as I did once I became part of it. We are so guilty of setting up goals based on looking a certain way and being “the best” at everything, meaning being better than other people. At Rocket, we’ve 10000% committed to not doing that, ever. We take the focus away from appearance and competition, and instead put it on helping people find joy and power in their own bodies, their own lives, their own way. Have people lost weight and stuff at Rocket? You bet. But it’s a side-effect, and nothing more. Fat loss without addressing the underlying issues is just a band-aid. Fat loss as a result of addressing the underlying issues is a lifestyle. Do not ever talk to me about fat. THIS HAS BECOME MY LIFE’S MISSION. And I’ll be working on this for the rest of my life. That’s the biggest gift that Rocket, and CrossFit, has given me.
First workout ever in Rocket, Ryan!
THE MYTH OF THE BEST IS KILLING US. As a society, we are totally focused on being the best. It’s an unnecessary hierarchy that inherently creates masses of people who feel like losers and a handful of winners who have to do anything possible to stay on top, lest they be treated like the losers they created. We focus on having more money, more muscles, more toys more….. It is killing us. We are stressed, depressed and in debt in pursuit of the myth of the best, as proven by having the most. At Rocket, we ask people to track their progress and workouts in an app so that they can be tuned in with their process. But we will often go months without writing scores on the ubiquitous white boards, because for many people, comparing themselves to others is really harmful. It will, physically, cause people to do sloppy reps in pursuit of getting the most reps. Emotionally, it can be a constant reminder for some of “not being good enough.” So we go back and forth. Personally, I always put a smiley face on the board, because I’m just happy, truly, to have this place.
SEPARATE BUT EQUAL STILL ISN’T. I see this everywhere now, in a way that I didn’t before I became the shepard of a huge and diverse community. In our 1,500 s/f, 200+ member gym, I have been perpetually tasked with making sure that there’s a place for everyone. It manifested first in fighting for the right of trans athletes to compete evenly, which also meant realizing that by having leaderboards in our gym, we were part of the problem. But it’s also show up in not separating out the competitors from the beginners. Not segregating old people and young people. Not assigning gender to things like barbells, which are just pieces of metal and if someone isn’t competing and they want a narrower diameter bar they can use the 33# bar, which is neither “female” nor 35#, no matter how many gyms try to say otherwise. It means realizing that some people don’t have access to our gym because of the cost, and that as owners we can make less in order to offer “scholarships” to people who we value in our community who wouldn’t otherwise be in it. And all of that has changed my ability to see all the same issues everywhere I go. It’s made me more compassionate and more aggressive in my fight for equity everywhere.
PEOPLE OVER PROFIT. This is a big one. And I’ll forever say that if Brady and I, with our humble but obviously privileged lives, can make this choice every time, so can people who make far more money than we do. There were many months when we paid payroll out of the retirement savings that Brady had from decades as a firefighter. (And that is not a high-paying job, y’all.) We pay a living wage to every single person who works for us, including those who clean and manage our member software. One of the dirtiest secrets of CrossFit gyms across the country is that they will often not pay coaches, just have them work enough hours to work off the cost of membership. Or barely pay them minimum wage. FUCK THAT SHIT. We are trusting these people to empower the bodies and souls of our members. They are the most important thing in the world to us. We pay them really well, and we’re proud of that. Yes, we’d be making shit tons of money if we didn’t. We have enough, and believe that everyone else should have enough too. We’re proud of this.
ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. Being an employer has really driven home that point for me. I have enough. This society tries to force a perspective of scarcity on us. It’s tied to the “have to be the winner,” “have to have the most,” nonsense. And when I think about my duty to care for my employees, I realize how false that is. They should not have markedly less than I do. People like to say “but they wouldn’t have a job if it weren’t for me.” I mean sure, but I wouldn’t have a business if it weren’t for them. Just as notably, “enough is enough” applies to working out too. I’m not trying to win any competitions. I just want to be strong, healthy, capable and able to live independently as long as possible. I’ve been known to say “give me 85%” when I coach. I don’t want it all. I don’t want 100%. Giving 100% on the gym floor can be a path to injury if you do it all the time. And you’ll be so sore you won’t be able to come in tomorrow and do it again. Do enough. Enough to get stronger, stay healthier. Enough is enough.
Any random day at Rocket CrossFit, awesome people fitnessing together.
VARIETY IS THE SPICE OF LIFE. I get bored really easily. I have not yet gotten bored with CrossFit, because it’s different every time. But also, repetitive stress injury is a thing. And no, we’re not immune to it in CrossFit either. But I believe, with all my heart, that the diversity of training in CrossFit not only reduces such mundane injuries, but makes us stronger humans over all. If I gave into my tendencies, I would do nothing but watch TV on an elliptical trainer every day. Because, my dirty little secret is that I don’t really like to exercise. But CrossFit is shit tons of fun, I don’t have to think, and I use my muscles and joints in ways that I wouldn’t otherwise. Which, in turn, makes me more able to do things I enjoy, like Paddle Boarding and gardening and….. my body is truly ready for whatever life throws at it.
TRAIN YOUR WEAKNESS. We will inherently avoid doing the things we suck at. Which is fine if what you suck at is translating 14th century Spanish poetry. But if what you suck at is hanging from a bar, or deadlifts, or…. that’s probably because it’s a movement pattern that you’re not accustomed to and / or a muscle group that is weak. While there’s no reason to win a contest at those things, there are plenty of real life physical reasons not to have a weak lower back, and to be able to squat comfortably. Life will throw those reasons at you, and you want to be safe when you have to handle them.
When I look at my life right now, I am just blown away with blessings. I am so fortunate. I feel so connected to my community, so safe and empowered in my body. So much of it came from Rocket CrossFit. Hell, our daughter is in college on a Weightlifting scholarship because she discovered Oly lifting at Rocket. The people who make my daily life easier, happier and more fun, mostly came to me through CrossFit – both at Rocket and elsewhere.
Happy anniversary, Rocket. And happy anniversary to the drop-dead delicious blue-eyed dreamer with the most expansive heart I’ve ever known. You, Brady, are a beacon of love and compassion in a world that doesn’t seem to understand the power of either.
We are stronger together. All of us.