Last night I dragged myself through the misery of this Minnesotan winter to my Crossfit gym. My brain protested like a little kid being taken to the doctor, digging in its heels and pouting. My brain is regressing as my body softens.

Arriving in the darkness of 530, I realized I had forgotten my shoes. I sat in my car for a full minute contemplating turning around. Just getting back to that warm couch. No, I thought, I’ve made it this far. I’ll go in and row a bit – maybe lift something in my sock feet – but surely I’ll have to leave before the workout.

Inside, half the people warming up I’ve known for more than year. Where you been? How the hell are you? Isn’t this winter a bitch? They are clad in stocking caps and running shorts, faded t-shirts and leggings.

As I settle into the rowing machine, sock-footed and self-conscious, a trainer stops to chat and suggests I borrow a pair from the left behind pile. I hesitate but the girl on the rower beside me and the boy doing pull-ups across the room urge me to say yes – these people I’ve known for a year, these people I’ve never seen outside the gym. Stay and play, they say. I give in. I stay.

The shoe pile demands it:

shoes

This community, the generosity of their encouragement, can quietly shock me sometimes. They didn’t turn away, they didn’t put their heads down, turn up their iPods and lift the heavy things. No, they looked at me. They recognized my face and smiled. I need this kind of encouragement and accountability. I need those goddamn smiles from my crossfit friends.

I can’t be trusted alone. This winter and my couch have proven that.

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