When I started working at Reebok, fitness taught me an unexpected lesson in the spirit of a true athlete. It’s ironic that I felt inadequate in something that has given me confidence all my life.

I grew up with an avid passion for sport, just as did many employees at Reebok and the adidas Group. I started varsity in six different high school sports – cross country, tennis, soccer, field hockey, basketball and track and field. I’ve always considered myself an athlete, even as a self-proclaimed retired one when I traded in organized team sports for college intramurals and internships in the field.

On-Ramp5 Melissa Conrad

Trying something new

I’m also no stranger to trying something athletically new, so when I started work at Reebok in July, it was evident that the next venture on my fitness bucket list would be CrossFit. Walking down the halls at the Canton, MA campus, the fitness culture is crystal clear around every corner and with every passing employee. At my cubicle, conversations discussing “today’s WOD” (Workout of the Day) can be heard within earshot at all hours of the work day. I knew I wanted to join those conversations, so I eagerly signed up for Reebok’s On-Ramp beginner CrossFit classes.

Cue: Day One of On-Ramp. New employees scattered around the 14,000 sq. ft. CrossFit ONE box, ready to learn from some of the best CrossFitters in the world. As if learning an entirely new fitness phenomenon wasn’t intimidating enough, Austin Malleolo and Kelley Jackson had just returned from COMPETING in the 2015 CrossFit Games… and were now teaching us the basics of an air squat and a pushup.

Defeated or spurred on?

For the first time in my life, I felt incapable of finding success in a particular sport. Through the first couple On-Ramp classes, I realized that being a natural team sports athlete would not be directly correlated to being a natural CrossFit athlete. I fell forward on my toes during squats, my tight hips and even tighter calves prohibited me from performing basic Olympic lifts, and I discovered just how much core strength I lack. Sure, I can swish a basketball from the 3-point line and juggle a soccer ball, but I quickly found out I can’t power clean more than 45-lbs or hold a hand stand against a wall for more than three seconds.

Plain and simple: I started to feel defeated. I had met my match with CrossFit, and I began to think maybe I’m just not cut out for that type of intense fitness.

An athlete has two choices when they reach this kind of fork in the road:

  1. Be proud that you at least tried something new, but return to finding success in what you know.
  2. Challenge yourself and get better.

Feeling inadequate for the first time made me better. I began stretching every night and watching CrossFit videos on YouTube. I started embracing modification techniques at On-Ramp and practicing different movements when the one-hour class ended. I took it personally that my squat wasn’t low enough and that my handstand wasn’t straight enough. I accepted the challenge of CrossFit.

On-Ramp class at Reebok headquarters
On-Ramp class at Reebok headquarters

The reward: know yourself better and grow

Accepting a new challenge in fitness has led to a newfound attitude in the office, as well.

“You never truly know what you are capable of until a project that seems beyond your professional boundaries comes across your desk or until you add those extra 10-lb plates to your barbell.”

By opening my eyes to the struggle of CrossFit, I’ve learned that working on something new (either in the gym or in the office) is the best avenue for growth as a human being.

I still have a long way to go before I feel as confident at the box as I do on the basketball court, but every CrossFit class is one step closer to being better at the sport and, in turn, better in my daily life.

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by Mike Cook 06.11.2015
Excellent. I'm no longer a crossfit beginner, but the struggle is still very much real. It's a zen thing: you may or may not choose to compete against everybody else in the box, but you're always competing against yourself. And there's nothing basic about Olympic lifting :)