Making others feel welcome

When I wrote about being the Old Skinny during a bout of insomnia (much like tonight) I had no idea anyone was going to read it.  Frankly, I am too sensitive to put myself out there to be judged by that many people :).  But I did and I am, so I might as well try to use my attention for good.

Being new is hard.  As a kid, I was home schooled, but my parents would send me to various schools for PE and other activities for socialization.  Basically, it was torture for me.  Being a homeschooler means you are different, and kids hate different, so I was ignored or teased.  Occasionally, someone would take pity and be nice to me, and I can’t tell you how wonderful that felt.  To this day, I am extra-appreciative for my friends, and anyone that is nice to me, because I know all too well how it feels to be the outsider.

Now I am an adult and I am stronger and more sympathetic because of that experience.  But that doesn’t mean being new is easy.  What I realized from the Old Skinny post and the reactions it got is that I am not alone in being intimidated.  I am going to frame this post in the context of Crossfit because that is what I know, but I think the same can be applied to any group workout experience.

Can we all agree that it is fucking hard to walk into a gym where you don’t know anyone, especially when you feel out-of-shape, weak, fat, flabby, ugly, etc.?  Talk about confronting the Flinch.  I would guess intimidation is the main obstacle preventing people from trying Crossfit.

I think, as gym-goers, we can really make a difference with this obstacle.  We each have so much power to make people feel welcome.  At Oregon Crossfit, if you didn’t introduce yourself to a new person by the time warmup started, you did burpees.  What a great idea!  We have all been in the situation where someone new walks in (to work, school, the box, wherever) and you just don’t have it in you to introduce yourself- maybe you are having a horrible day, maybe you feel self-conscious because you have a big zit, maybe you are exhausted and can’t bring yourself to be social.  Whatever.  When you are in the box, I am asking you to put aside your personal shit and just say “Hi!  My name is ____,” accompanied with a smile.  That is all.  But think about what a difference that smile and few words means to the new person.

I got some comments on my post saying things like, “you just have to focus on you, don’t worry about anyone else” when I expressed how I felt like an outsider at the box.  Well, yes and no.  Because, really, if all we cared about was ourselves, shouldn’t we be working out by ourselves?  Crossfit is wonderful because it is a group environment- which means camaraderie, a team feeling, the possibly of friendships.  So yes, we should just worry about our own weight and times, but we shouldn’t pretend that we are there alone, or just with our clique.

So I am begging you to say “hi,” smile, and be inclusive to everyone who steps foot in your box.  You don’t have to have a beer with them afterwards, but wouldn’t it be cool if you made a couple new friends along the way?  And think of how many people we could help get healthy just by being welcoming.

What are your experiences with being new?  I would love to hear from you!

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3 Responses to Making others feel welcome

  1. grokgrub says:

    I’m psyching myself up to try a free introductory class at my local Crossfit. I consider myself a confident person, but Crossfit is a special kind of intimidating.

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