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Depression and CrossFit

By June 11, 2016No Comments

For some, CrossFit is a way to get stronger. Others want to lose weight, or simply be more active. CrossFitting can be a way to get more involved in the community, a hobby, or a way to relieve stress. Sometimes it’s all of the above. The athletes at CrossFit 405 each have their own story, and we’re grateful we get to be a part of them. We know this is about more than a workout, and for one athlete, CrossFit is a vital part of dealing with depression.

Name: Julia Pezant

Age: 23


“You’re worthless. I hate you so much. You make everyone feel awkward. You’re ugly as fuck. I don’t understand why you keep staying alive. Everyone would have happier lives without you existing. You’re so weak—binge eating like that. Fatass. Please just end it all now, you selfish piece of shit.”


Depression, I’ve come to realize, is not a story that is ever fully resolved. Consequently, mine is not a story that resolves.

The hopeful part is that this is okay. I will always deal with depression, but now I have a safe place to confront that darkness daily, and a reason (or an external voice encouraging me) to keep fighting through it.

Before joining CrossFit a little more than two years ago, I had completed four half marathons and one full marathon. Running was therapeutic for me. It provided plenty of time to be in solitude. However, after realizing I didn’t have the upper-body strength to stand up on a surfboard in Chile, I decided that I should work on becoming more well-rounded with my fitness. And, hell, the possibility of gaining killer abs like my co-worker Kelley would totally not be the worst thing in the world.

Right before I joined her company, Kelley convinced some other ladies in the office (including my lifelong best friend Kayla) to try the intro course at CrossFit 405 South (then Ground Zero CrossFit). My true-blood “introvertism” (new word?) made me hate the idea of “group fitness,” but I succumbed to the peer pressure anyway.

After physically and mentally surviving “Fight Gone Bad” (the benchmark WOD the gym tested after the intro course), I was hooked.


Squats at the old box

I didn’t have a specific goal until I saw the CrossFit veterans of the box doing butterfly pull-ups—like, what are you doing with your body and how can I perform this magic?!

Back then, I literally couldn’t bend my arms past 180 degrees while hanging from a pull-up bar. I decided, “I just want to get a pull-up and ‘real’ push-ups.”

I (and the coaches) realized—real quick— that I struggle to “get out of my head” during challenging WODs. They relentlessly yelled that phrase at me in the middle of workouts, and I hated myself even more for not being able to do it.

I’ve dealt with depression and been pummeled by the war with my head for as long as I can remember. “You suck. You’re always going to be last. You’re a fucking fat-ass.” Many workouts saw my tears.

My medication helped me feel less, but eventually I ditched them and upped my CrossFit membership to “unlimited”—allowing the workouts, more or less, to take the place of my antidepressants. I started doing two-a-days, and I earned dramatic PR’s (“personal records” – yes, I got that pull-up!). I learned that every day could offer a guaranteed victory if I could just get to the box.


Pull-ups at Fittest in OK!

The easiest part was increasing the volume and frequency of my workouts – mostly because I have struggled with body dysmorphia since I was in daycare. People often commend my dedication and self-motivation—but honestly, I’m just terrified of becoming overweight. It’s hard to accept compliments because I know my whole story hasn’t been shared, and maybe that means my accomplishments are worth less.

So, I plateaued. The excessive volume exhausted me. Discouragement overwhelmed me when I looked at the Whiteboard and saw how so-and-so beat my score. “I do way more extra work than them, and yet, here I am. What the hell is wrong with me? Why do I suck so bad?”

More cuts on my arm.

I was forced to come to terms with the reality that the whole point isn’t how CrossFit can cure depression, but how it provides release for the suppression involved with having a mental illness.

I’ve accepted that I will never stop feeling things deeply. Losses will still wreck me, but the victories will also be loud reminders that I can surprise myself—that I am capable of accomplishing incredible things—that maybe it isn’t a waste of time to keep going, keep showing up, keep staying alive. Plateaus will come and go. That’s okay.


Competing with my 405 South team at Bricktown Throwdown

My main goal in at this point in CrossFit is to focus on the quality of my performances instead of where I land on the Whiteboard at 405 South—recognizing that sometimes my “best” is simply NOT quitting mid-WOD. (I also would be completely stoked to have ring dips by the end of the year.)  🙂

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