Not one person has called me to say they want to join our gym because they’re looking for a community. They come looking for a physical transformation. Those transformations are powerful to see. In the last year alone, we had one woman who had struggled with Diabetes for years who was finally able to completely get off her insulin pump. We had another woman who broke her back in an accident 17 years ago and largely lost the use of her legs. With the assistance of a walker, she had only ever traveled from one side of her kitchen to the other. Six weeks into her training, she walked the length of a football field. Virtually everyone has lost 10 pounds, many have lost 20, lots of lost 30-60. But what’s truly powerful to see is the intangible transformations that come as community is formed.
We have workouts where people run their hearts out and finish, lying in pools of sweat on the floor, only to see that there’s still one person left who has yet to start that last half-mile. And inevitably the first finishers will haul themselves up and run that whole distance again with whoever still has to do it. We see people take up collections when one of our members’ home was damaged in a storm, or when another was in a bad car accident, or when another did a charity walk in memory of her sister who passed away.
There are three men who met in our classes who train together before the sun comes up. One is an African-American vegetarian from California who ran track and played in the marching band all through college. One is a Mohawk Nation former competitive figure skater who sells high-quality olive oils. One is a white, Trump-supporting career Air Force veteran. These three men from radically different backgrounds are like brothers. They cheer for each other with all the enthusiasm of the most rabid sports fans. They go in late to work if one of them is still finishing the workout because they refuse to leave someone to struggle on their own.
We see people hold each other accountable, and encourage each other, and demand the best from one another. We see people blossom and grow in community and become happier, kinder, and more generous.
Nobody comes in looking for community. But community is what they find. From the moment they walk through the doors, they have 100 people who would literally give them the shirts off their backs or drive them to the gym or stand right by their side until they finish that last squat, that last run, that last sit-up of the workout. The Spirit binds them and moves through them, and it is a humbling, inspiring, life-giving privilege to witness it.
Michael is the pastor at First Presbyterian Church of Hudson Falls and he and Lauren own and operate Underwood Park CrossFit in Fort Edward. Michael, Lauren, their son, Harvey, and their dog and cat would all describe a perfect day as one spent together eating as many different delicious foods as possible.
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