Dear Willow: How Do I Fit In At My Gym?
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I am a 17-year-old female rower who just joined a CrossFit gym to take some time to recover from recent injuries before I can row competitively again. I feel a little awkward at my box because everyone is significantly older than me. The only people I have really connected with are the coaches because they are younger and love talking about fitness, almost as much as I do. Everyone talks about the great CrossFit community, but I have yet to find my place in it. How do I fit in at a gym when I’m a lot younger than everyone else?
Dear New CrossFitter,
Your question is an interesting one in that typically people are intimidated by people younger than themselves, especially with regards to physical exercise. Perhaps you are looking at the situation rather than what is really important here. You are 17 years in age. Fit in? To what and why? Really, who cares? How about looking at the flip side of the coin. What are the benefits to your youth in the CrossFit world? How might the CrossFit peers be enlightened by your presence?
What I really see in this scenario is a strategy for you to walk through your fear of “fitting in” to an already established community. Feeling like the other-than-the-norm person in a situation can be thrilling. Just think - you are special. People will acknowledge your presence and give you accolades for being unique and doing something no one else similar to you does. Congratulations. You are a trailblazing inspiration for others your age. Clearly you are a person of influence and a double minority: female doing grunting athletics and a 17-year-old amongst a sea of elders. What a profound opportunity to take your lessons and be a leader to your peers.
Fitting in is a rite of passage all people go through that helps affirm esteem. But the star-bellied Sneetches of Dr. Seuss may provide you with a different perspective. People will be more apt to respect and cherish you when you proudly display your uniqueness. You may even gain status in your sphere of influence for “going against the grain” and doing something no one else around you is doing. Who knows, maybe you will have a group of your friends join you.
Persistence is key. Do not give in to insecurity, especially not here. It will only teach you to take the path of least resistance and comfort in times where there is an opportunity for you to grow, not just in physical strength, but emotional and psychological maturity. Do it, girl! Become a woman by doing what you want to do because it is what you want to do, for you.