Everybody can use a little fitness and sweat in their lives. Working out helps the heart, the mind and builds the muscles that help you maintain mobility as you age. While there’s a wide array of fitness options people pursue, CrossFit is one of the most unique workout regimes because it is scalable across generations.
To get a local perspective, we spent some time talking to BeckyJo Bourgeois, co-owner with her husband of CrossFitRE in Seattle. In this Q&A, we talked to BeckyJo about the notion of Crossfit tribes, the health benefits and the philosophy behind what she calls Everyday Better.
Q: People say CrossFit is a lifestyle. What does that mean to you?
A: From the beginning, we talked about our gym as a "third place" (coined by Ray Oldenburg). People have home, they have work, and we hope to be their third place - a community and extended family. Our box - that’s what Crossfitters call the place where they work out - offers a space where people can find the confidence to be their true selves, where they can connect and where they can grow.
For our personal lives and our business, my husband Darrick and I holistically embrace the philosophy that loving people makes us and those around us better people. Every day, we ask ourselves "How can we love?" "Where can we serve?" "With whom can we connect?" It's so easy to get lost in bottom lines and ROIs, but for us it always comes back to loving people and changing lives. We want to make people every day better.
Q: What is it about this form of fitness that gets you excited?
A: I believe I have a unique perspective on this question as a woman. I spent the majority of my life hating my body. No matter how thin I got, I was never thin enough. Being in the gym was more of a punishment than anything else, and there was so much guilt associated with interplay between exercise and food.
Shortly after starting CrossFit, I saw a Reebok commercial with a young woman saying, "I never thought I would be able to throw a hundred pounds over my head." Immediately I thought, "I want to throw a hundred pounds over MY head!" The first time I did it was exhilarating. I was completely in awe of the power my body and mind were capable of. And in the gym my effort was celebrated, not my shape and not even my specific accomplishments. You should see someone get their first pull-up or set a new personal record. It's like a party, and I’m a sap so sometimes I tear up. CrossFit empowers people more than anything else I've ever seen.
Q: You mentioned “everyday better,” what exactly does that mean?
A: When it comes to growth, our philosophy is "Everyday Better." People often get excited about the idea of transformation of the body or mind. That's the hook that gets them into fitness. But such transformation takes time, and it’s a gradual ascent.
Darrick tells the story of when he was in his 20s and weighed 300 pounds. One day he woke up and decided "no more" and he started to jog. It was incredibly painful and frustrating, but on that first day, he put a stick down where he stopped to turn around (about a block from his house). Every day, he ran past that stick. Sometimes two steps; sometimes two blocks. This is the attitude we hope to spread to our tribe at CrossFitRE. Take a step toward your goals every single day.
One of the things that most gratifies me is when Facebook shows me a photo “memory” of a member from 2-3 years ago, and I can see the physical transformation that happened so gradually they hardly noticed. They may have joined looking for that physical transformation, but the mental transformation shifted their focus. I take great pride knowing that in some small way I helped them be happier. The critical element to the transformation process is infusing fun into the workouts - fun, of course, being a relative concept because throwing 100 pounds over your head may not be fun to some folks.
Q: The workout part is part of the equation, but what about diet and nutrition? How do you work that into your programming?
A: For people who need to lose weight, nutrition is going to be the number one factor in whatever workout regime they subscribe to. We actually host an online weekly nutrition class for our members, and we do a nutrition challenge at least once a year. Over the years, we’ve gathered a ton of knowledge and tools as it relates to nutrition, and we try to educate our members about the importance of feeding their bodies the good stuff.
We know that not every member is ready to overhaul their eating habits, let alone letting go of their affinity for wine. We slowly roll nutrition into our programming, specifically our introductory classes. We use our intro programs called Start Strong and Everyday Better Boot Camp to teach nutrition as part of our Everyday Better philosophy. We have new members track their food, and then we teach a new concept every few days. Gradual changes over a month lessens the burden of drastically altering eating habits, and in the final two-week challenge we eliminate grains, sugar and alcohol. Gasp!
Q: Everyone across every age group could benefit from a little fitness. How do you think about helping both the old and the young?
A: Greg Glassman, founder of CrossFit, says it perfectly: "The needs of Olympic athletes and our grandparents differ by degree not kind." We coach a couple in their 80s who are so strong and determined! We often have them do the same programming we do at the box. However, we simply modify the movements and lessen the intensity. The thing I love about CrossFit is that it’s endlessly scalable. Whether you’re in your 80s, going through a mid-life crisis, or a teenager, we can create a whole-body workout for anybody.
Even my 5-year old daughter, Olivia, is embracing the fitness world Darrick and I have created, both in the box and out in nature. For instance, we take a "family day" every Wednesday, which typically includes some type of hike. I love watching Olivia attempt to climb on and over anything and everything. Kids are heroes when it comes to functional fitness, and I love exposing our daughter to various types of exercise. We also talk to her a lot about how nutritious food benefits our bodies ... but we still have ice cream when we want it. I hope she grows up with the ability to enjoy food free from guilt and shame.
Q: In closing, what advice do you have for people considering CrossFit?
A: Go meet the owners of a box near you. It may not be as scary as you think! Most CrossFit gyms offer intro programs or personal training, where you can learn how to move safely and how to scale movements to your current level of fitness. We can also scale around any limitation ... there's a whole community of adaptive athletes within the world of CrossFit, and resources are aplenty! We personally have been honored to host Seize the Oar – an inclusive rowing club for athletes of any ability. It's made us more confident to train para-athletes, which is one of the most inspiring experiences you can imagine.
We hope you’ve enjoyed BeckyJo’s story about her CrossFit journey. Hopefully you’ve found some inspiration, and whether it’s CrossFit or some other type of workout regime, remember that being active is good for both the body and mind.
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