It’s crazy to think that every morning at 5:30 a.m., I start my day with a “3, 2, 1, go” at CrossFit Mahwah. I wasn’t athletic in high school or for the better part of my life, so categorizing myself now as an athlete seems foreign. And while I entered CrossFit in the summer of 2016 with superficial hopes of gaining muscle and improving my outward appearance, the truth is, it helped me repair my mind.

After my dad died in 2010, my anxiety came to the forefront of my life. I was left with unhealthy coping mechanisms that led me to gain a lot of weight in a short amount of time. I struggled for years while attempting to manage and restrict myself before I finally landed at CrossFit, and my whole relationship with fitness changed.

jeryl crossfit 2

Finally, for once in my life, I wasn’t weighing myself twice a day, fixated on each fraction of a pound I gained or lost. My goals suddenly became about gaining rather than losing. I started to realize that each plate I added to the bar, each “Holy s–t, I didn’t think I could do that” moment, each PR was more gratifying than the anxiety-inducing restriction-based “health” plan I was following in the past.

Now, my entire day comes after my workout. I’ve already dedicated my morning to pushing myself to the absolute limit. I’ve already been faced with the decision to give up or keep going. I’ve already failed and missed reps, but picked the bar back up and tried again. And I think that’s the mentality that’s helped me redirect my anxiety and use it in a more productive way.

jeryl crossfit

Me with the owners of CrossFit Mahwah, Steve and Denise.

I don’t pride myself in feeling hungry anymore. I can feed my body and feel the hunger that comes along with achieving goals. I’m now in constant competition with myself, and that fact is scary as hell, but it also frees me from the feeling that my fitness has anything to do with anyone besides myself. I’m not working out to reach a point where I meet someone else’s expectations or someone else’s standards. I’m fighting with myself to be better and fitter and stronger — mentally and physically — than I was in my last workout.

With each “3, 2, 1, go,” I’m left with a choice to either give that workout my full attention — emptying my tank — or to give up. And being at that crossroads every single morning has helped me realize my own full capacity. I have the option every day to just stop, but I don’t, and that’s a pretty powerful decision.

I’m not here to say that because of CrossFit I don’t have anxiety, because I most definitely still do. But CrossFit has given me the opportunity to develop a healthy outlet for the nervous energy I just don’t know what to do with sometimes. And it’s made me realize I’m way stronger than I ever even knew.