When I think of the term “Friday Night Lights,” my mind immediately goes to the countless high school football games I attended to watch my two older brothers play. Friday nights meant dressing up in the true green and white of St. Pete High to cheer on my fellow Green Devils. “If you want to win, put Joey Waechter in!” remains my favorite cheer, and I still remember Donny’s number 81 jersey sprinting across the field.
So when my coaches at Burg CrossFit mention Friday Night Lights as part of the CrossFit Open, I’m all ears.
The Open is an annual competition in CrossFit gyms around the world. Athletes of all fitness levels are encouraged to enroll and participate. More elite athletes take the CrossFit Open very seriously; it is the first qualifying stage of the more exclusive CrossFit Games competitions. Less competitive but still serious CrossFitters use the Open as a chance to improve upon last year’s scores; beginners like myself use the Open as a benchmark to look back on in the future and see where I started out.
For the five weeks of the Open, a workout is released each Thursday night and must be completed and logged by Monday. Most affiliates make teams to add a sense of fun, friendly competition.
Like many CrossFit affiliates, Burg hosts Friday Night Lights during each of the Open’s five weeks. I am assured FNL is full of energy, fun and motivation. My coaches and fellow gym members encourage me to go at least once and give it a fair shot.
And so I do. As I walk through the oversized garage doors of our warehouse-turned-gym, I am thrown into a sea of sweat, adrenaline and pure mayhem. My nerves run strong and I try my best to channel anxiety into energy. Tonight’s workout includes jump ropes, squats with the barbell overhead, snatching up dumbbells and dozens of pull-ups. I know going into it that despite CrossFitting for several months, I am still unable to get even one single pull-up. I do the workout anyway.
There is a 14-minute time cap and I don’t even get halfway through the scaled version. It doesn’t matter. I give it my best and remain afterwards to support others. I cheer on my peers for the next two-and-a-half hours, spirits lifting as I realize what Friday Night Lights is all about: pushing ourselves past our individual comfort zones, together. Tonight we cheer each other on because we believe in one another. Tonight we are a team.
I am honestly in awe of the things the human body is capable of. The more I watch, the more amazed I grow. Athletes of various levels are pushing themselves to their limits: Some get a pull-up for the first time, others cycle through several hundred double-under rope jumps. The space is filled with excitement; I feel like I’m watching some sort of olympic gladiator show. Emotions run high and my voice grows more hoarse with each passing round. I know I will be back next week.
Friday Night Lights today is not so different from my brothers’ football games those years ago after all. We are all here to support one another. We celebrate our successes as well as our failures. We are a community. I hear “Good job, Resie!” and “Get it grrl!” from taped-off corners.
I am seen. I am heard. I am supported.
I stumble and fall — and will continue to do so — but I will always get back up. Even if it means starting from square one.
This is why I CrossFit.