CrossFit · Fitness · Friends

The Best Thing I Gained From the Gym

By Michelle Buglas

Eight years ago, at the age of 39, I swallowed my pride, dug deep to discover my courage, and stepped out from my comfort zone into a CrossFit gym.  I went because I wanted to get fit fast, but what I came away with was something far more valuable than a bikini body: I came away with friends.

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The group of 4 women that I met all those years ago while at the gym continue to be my friends today. Our ages span almost 20 years and our interests, careers, and lifestyles are incredibly different. Most of us no longer attend the same gym, yet we continue to help each other grow every day.

I used to see the gym as a superficial place: somewhere you go to look good and be seen.  The more mirrors, the better.  I thought the goal was to compare ourselves to others, and I would constantly judge and critique myself.  Can you relate?

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Now I see going to the gym completely different. I see that going to the gym calls on a set of traits that are grounded in authenticity.

  • To step into a gym and work your butt off requires you to be humble, to be willing to fail – and not only willing to fail but to be able to fail with a smile.
  • It requires you to be open to try new things, to push yourself beyond what you think you can do and to learn to be comfortable with being uncomfortable.
  • Going to the gym also requires the ability to be able to laugh at yourself and to laugh with others. It requires you to swallow your pride, and to be open to trying.

Most importantly, it takes a willingness to be vulnerable. To say “I’m not the best at this and that’s okay”.

Once I realized this and began to be more authentic at the gym, accepting who and where I was at and loving myself while doing it, it not only improved my fitness, but it opened me up to an even greater thing: friendships.

The interesting observation I made is this: the traits required to show up at a gym each day are the same traits required to cultivate and maintain friendships. When you spend time with people being your true self, there is a natural connection that occurs. No wonder the two fit so well together.

Going to the gym and making friends requires three similar qualities: integrity, caring, and plain old kindness.

1. Integrity 

Integrity is the ability to:

  • be heart-centred
  • be loyal and encouraging towards ourselves and others
  • refrain from judgement and to be able to trust

Showing up with integrity means you must be willing to share your authentic self (– not the you that shows up at the party all done up wearing your spanks, but the sweating, failing, bruising sometimes crying self!)

2. Caring:

  • involves listening to others
  • means supporting each other in good times and bad
  • is being free of judgement
  • requires personal insight, self-discipline, and unconditional positive vibes.

Work hard. Cheer on your friends. Celebrate their successes.

3. Kindness

Have you ever thought about kindness as it relates to your workouts?

Genuine kindness means being able to:

  • laugh at yourself and with others
  • have fun and be self-confident
  • like yourself for who you are, and do the same for those around you

The traits required to go to the gym and push through your limiting beliefs, and the qualities needed to cultivate friendships are the same. Both grow from being free of judgement, being willing to fail, being trustworthy, confident, positive and kind. Both require you to be your rawest, authentic self. To be truly you without trying to covering up or glossing over the uncomfortable. Just you, sweating and slugging it out, and loving yourself and those around you while doing so.

My group of friends have celebrated each other’s successes and challenged each other in countless ways. Much of it focuses on being our healthiest selves, but a lot of it is just plain fun! We spin together, run in mud together, kick together and stretch together. We laugh, eat, drink wine (or for some beer – hey they can’t all be perfect) together. We’ve cried, shared frustrations, fears and insecurities together. It’s not unusual to get a text saying, “Hey, I need you right now” and the reply is always the same, “I’m right here.”

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I stopped going to CrossFit a few years ago, but I didn’t stop exercising and living a healthy life. What I gained from my time there will stay with me for years to come: the courage to try and the willingness to fail with grace, the confidence to love and laugh at myself – but most importantly, what I gained was four beautiful friendships with four incredible women.

If you approach going to the gym using the same traits needed to foster friendships including integrity, caring, and kindness, you may surprise yourself. Not only will you leave the gym a little bit closer to that beach body, you may also leave a little bit closer to others, which is far more valuable.


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