My daughter came to me last November and said, “Dad, a co-worker in the ER wants me to join CrossFit; do you want to take the three week Foundations Class with me?”

Does it involve strenuous exercise and pain?” I asked. “No, thanks.”

She finished three weeks of training and couldn’t stop talking about the community she found there and how the competition just made it more fun. By the time she was finished, she had me convinced to sign up for the December Foundations Class.

The Vacation Is Over

My first lesson was an experience.

From the moment I walked into the gym I could sense a camaraderie that was unique and special. I looked up the history of CrossFit and learned that it started in the year 2000 with one gym in Santa Cruz, California and now has more than 13,000 gyms.

After I got home and sat down on the couch, I realized that I might not be able to make it up the stairs to my bedroom. It occurred to me that I might just have to sleep on the couch. I literally felt like I couldn’t move.

My wife came home from her Precepts Bible Study and said, “What are you doing sitting here in the dark in the living room in your workout clothes?

I don’t think there is a muscle in my body that doesn’t hurt right now.” I said, “I don’t think I should have given my muscles such a long vacation.” I made it upstairs and then threw up.

It is likely the only time she’s ever laughed at me getting sick.

Strangely, I went back five more times.

Just One of the Gang

And now, in February, I try to go four or more times a week. Why do I keep going back?

Well, it isn’t because I like pain. And it isn’t because I’m good at all the movements, because I definitely am not. It has way more to do with how I feel walking into the gym. Put simply, there is community and I feel included.

Nearly every day when I walk in, Scott yells out, “Gerryyyyyy,” and it makes me feel included.

When I am clueless about how to lift a bar bell or swing on the ‘rig’, the lead instructor, Shane, patiently shows me over and over again, making me feel like a part of something worthwhile.

No one ever makes me feel badly for being completely out of my element. Nobody ever makes me feel dumb for putting half as much weight on the bar as the women’s prescribed weight. Nobody ever makes me feel poorly for having the slowest time in the class. People are genuinely friendly.

What is it about an inclusive community that makes you feel so good about being a part of it?

Another thing that keeps me going back is the fact that I’m doing these workouts with other people. I know that I would never work this hard by myself. I’ve had an elliptical machine in my basement for five years and used it twice. I won’t say I can compete with these extraordinary athletes in any way, but I will say that I work hard because I’m with other hard working people.

That kind of competition keeps me going back.

Finally, the CrossFit gym in Abbotsford is led by extraordinary teachers. Shane is an exceptional communicator with a calm and magnetic personality. I’ve rarely seen an educator with better skills for teaching. He is patient, kind, inclusive, careful, has a sense of humour, conscientious, thorough, detail-oriented and an expert in his field.

And then I started thinking about ACS and what we do here.

We Are All ACS

I have heard many students and parents say all of these things about their experiences at ACS.

New students feel included by their peers and by the staff. All levels of ability are welcomed and encouraged. There is an ethos to look after the weakest members and make them feel valued and uplifted, whatever their abilities. And we have excellent teachers who are experts in their subject areas and love students. I could write many more paragraphs about how our athletic program (especially track and field with 88 students participating) creates this kind of intentional community on our teams.

A gym is like a school? Well, maybe both places succeed because of the same desire to see people reach their potential and feel a part of something bigger than themselves.