Every now and then, I spent a little too much time on CrossFit HQ on YouTube. They have a great variety of videos from competition, local stories, WODs, etc. I love the videos that detail people’s personal stories with finding CrossFit. Although I only do CF as part of my local gym, I feel a connection to the culture of CF. I am still new, and there is still a lot I don’t know how to do, but I want to learn, and the community surrounding CF is a positive one. There seems to be a lot of hate surrounding the CF world as well. With all things, there will be people who are opposed to a certain way of life, for whatever reason. I saw the following video a few minutes ago and I thought the story was rather touching.

Now, if you look below at the comments, you get your normal mix of YouTube opinions (you know experts), but several of the comments angered me. Particularly, “he needs to take those earrings out and maybe people will perceive him in a positive light he’s not going get a good job like that” and “typical crossfit rejects. thank you for not polluting the local gyms.”

Although I rarely comment on YouTube, as it is a wasteland for self-entitled opinion, I decided to respond to the first comment : “People with tattoos and piercings can get jobs. Body modification discrimination is no different than any other and doesn’t implicate the type of person or the type of work someone can do. I work as a counselor who travels to schools and works with underprivileged students – I have stretched ears, microdermals, and tattoos. It doesn’t make someone a bad person or dictate the quality of their “professionalism”. I also CrossFit. Compartmentalizing and stereotyping doesn’t help anyone.”

This really hit my hot button, as someone who is modified and, has held modification as a core piece of my identity. Although I am not nearly as pierced as I used to be, the value judgement that choosing to look a certain way qualifies you or gives you the right to more treatment is what is wrong with our treatment of other people. It is obvious that this teenager did befall on some shaky behaviors, but not everyone who engages in a culture of modification chooses this lifestyle. Growing up, I always felt different, and part of my expression through modification had to do with this. I was clean and straight-edge throughout my teenage years, never a detention, and never in trouble. 

The part about the story that grinds my nerves is that the progress of another human, one that proves to be triumphant, could endure the snide remarks of people who are judging based on looks alone. The story dictates that the teenager is not interested in leading a certain troubled lifestyle, and found something to move away from it. Having known students in gangs, it is very hard to make it in intercity culture, at times, without the support of your peers, which many people do not understand. Leaving a gang can have grave consequences, and although this particular person did not mention gangs, the peer pressure of leading a risky lifestyle can have similar implications. 

Even though the internet is shrouded with self-proclaimed know-it-alls, the social issues behind the video, those that transcend CrossFit are important to our culture. Regardless of the opinion of CF, this young person found something to keep them off of the streets. With the prevalence of crime, alcoholism, and violence, it seems like a rather remarkable story that this teenager was able to find something to push them away from that lifestyle. Honestly, I wish growing up that I had found fitness a lot sooner, I think it would have helped me through some difficult years as a teenager, as I know how it makes me feel today. The sense of accomplishment, maintaining and achieving goals, and perseverance are all the cornerstones of good education. 

With the attitude that these “rejects” should stay out of a typical gym presupposes that they are of less value. It is obvious from their homemade gym, that they probably cannot even afford an actual CrossFit gym (although that is a complete assumption on my part), which are normally more expensive than a regular gym – so the jugement on class seems to be uneducated and unformulated. The topic of poverty and education is one that is close to home and close to my work. The amount of obesity within the lower class is certainly higher than those with higher levels of education. Growing up without the know-how of fitness and health can greatly disadvantage someone later in life, and not having the resources can make things even more difficult. I was at the gym a few weeks ago, and someone there was talking about CF, and said when she was in high school her parents paid for the CF gym for her. Now, I have to admit, my knee-jerk reaction was “damn, someone had money”. Coming from very little, there is not a way that my my family could have afforded a CF gym. Despite the positive things CF can bring, the monetary costs of a box can keep people away. Part of that lies in an excuse though – fitness can be free, it may be more difficult and it may favor the higher educated and those with more money, but growing up what stopped me was not the access to a gym, it was the education and motivation. The kid in this video obviously has the motivation, and the family was resourceful with how to do workouts. I don’t think the judgement of “CrossFit rejects” belongs anywhere – who cares how you obtain your health and happiness if it is not hurting another person? The issues surrounding poverty, education, and fitness should be examined on a wider scope, and we should be commending families and individuals who are rising above despite their circumstance and being healthy at the same time. 

This is not so much about CrossFit or fitness, but rather a story about changing a life. Having undergone my own internal battle and finding a new piece of my identity, I find these stories to be inspiring, and above this, as an activist and someone who cares deeply about education and the alleviation of social pressures, stereotypes, and small mindset, I think that the people commenting should step outside of their narrow opinions and views for a minute to look at the larger social implications, the positive health benefits, and the changes that are happening for this family.