I wish someone had told me to eat more.

When I stepped into a CrossFit gym three-and-half years ago, I wish I had known that you build muscle by eating, not just from lifting weights. I wish someone had told me carbs were OK and all those late nights at the bar were not. That exercise doesn’t “undo” your crappy lifestyle but it can inspire you to change it.

I wish I had known that not everyone is destined to have visible abs and defined arms, but if you spend years focused on becoming as strong as possible, and forget all that, you can have the body you always wanted. You can look better at 30 than you did at 20. And the funny thing is, it won’t even matter as much to you by then. Those abs are for bracing you on heavy squats, those arms are for holding well over your bodyweight overhead on a jerk. They are for bench pressing- yes, you bench press now, too. I wish someone had told me how much I’d enjoy powerlifting.

I wish I had known that muscle was cool, and how hard those people I saw on my first day at CrossFit had to work to look a certain way. That “being “bulky” is incredibly challenging as a female and taking creatine in your post-workout shake isn’t going to get you there. I wish I had started taking creatine earlier.

I wish I had focused more on technique. I wish someone had handed me a PVC pipe for a solid month and forced me to complete everything with just that. I paid for that later on.

I wish I had known that nearly four years later, I’d still be doing this and there was no rush to learn to snatch or a pull-up faster than anyone else. What I should have been concentrating on was doing things right, and not trying to write RX next to my name. I learned the hard way.

I wish I had known that mobility is not always the answer. That the pinching in the front of my hip wasn’t going to be fixed with stretching and all the range of motion in the world won’t stabilize a weak shoulder. I wish someone had told me to stop stretching and start strengthening. It would have saved me a world of hurt.

I wish someone had told me to celebrate the small victories. To write everything down. To look back on the times when I couldn’t get into an overheard squat or up a rope and remember that when I’m having a “bad day” and failing a 270 lb. squat.

I wish someone had told me to listen to my body. That it’s O.K. to take an unscheduled rest day or scale a workout. It doesn’t make you weak to dial things back, it makes you a smarter athlete. A better athlete.

I wish someone had told me how much this would change my life.

How I’d start to pack my lunches, sneak in workouts and spend all my free time and money on the gym. How I’d sacrifice sleep and social events to get in a squat session. How, even when my world was spinning, everything would get so quiet and peaceful when I loaded up that barbell. How it would get me through my dad’s death, problems at work, and that over-riding feeling that my life wasn’t going as I planned.

I wish I had known. I would’ve started earlier.

But, most of all, I wish someone had told me to eat more.

Brittany Ghiroli is the co-founder of Athlete Daily. All images courtesy of Fresh Burst Photography.

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