Church and Crossfit and what they have in common.


I can’t lift my arms.

They scream in muscle soreness after 3 weeks of Crossfit workouts.  At the age 43 I’ve found myself in poor physical condition; my career having taken over my usually fit body.  But a block behind our house in a slightly ghetto strip of businesses along a sidewalk dotted with empty gin bottles and crushed packs of generic cigarettes is a little white building with red trim. Inside this vintage garage which 2 years ago was where most of the neighborhood dope slinging happened, is now a Crossfit gym.

When walking my dog I’d pass by the crazy people lifting weights and stepping up and down on giant tractor tires and pulling themselves up over steel bars and I thought I surely was not in good enough shape to show up.

But 3 weeks ago I did just that.  I hauled my out of shape middle-aged ass over to the gym and have worked out 4 days a week for the past 3 weeks.  Now I can’t lift my arms.

I was talking to my husband about why I am loving crossfit and it make me realize that they are some of the reasons I love church.

This is admittedly far from a perfect analogy, but….

  1. I love working out with other people. The experience is fuller when shared.
  2. These are people I normally would not mix with but our common purpose brings us together.
  3. The coach is always there reminding us of the basics over and over because we forget.  He’s not the coach because he’s the best at all the exercises, he’s the coach because he’s studied this stuff and we trust him.
  4. Everyone pitches in financially.
  5. Even when the workout is over it stays with me.  It is shaping me and sometimes that hurts but in the end, it’s good.
  6. If anyone gets proud and show-offy they look foolish and might hurt themselves or others.
  7. We spot each other on the heavy stuff.
  8. If I stop showing up, it stops helping me
  9. If I stop showing up, I stop being able to spot someone else.
  10. Sometimes I hate the coach for telling me “that push-up didn’t count – you’re cheating” because I know he’s right.
  11. No one ever “arrives” – there is always something new to learn.
  12. Sometimes people show up and say “man, I skipped my workouts, ate layer cake and drank beer all last week” and the response is always “we’re glad you’re back!”
  13. People laugh there.


Basically if I was working out at 24 hour fitness alone with an ipod I would not be getting into shape like I am now.  And if I were staying at home just reading about fitness alone on my sofa I would not be getting into shape like I am now. I would not be pushing myself and allowing someone else to teach me and encouraging someone to keep going and laughing the whole time.

But crossfit gyms, as great as they are, have a disappointing lack of bread and wine, and hymn singing, so I’ll keep showing up to church too.





Not sure if you want to go to Holy Week services?
Sermon on John 3:16
Sermon on How Hard It Is Being Spiritual Without You
A Sermon on Addiction and the Problem With Our Me-based Solutions
About Nadia Bolz Weber

I am the founding Pastor at House for All Sinners and Saints in Denver, Colorado. We are an urban liturgical community with a progressive yet deeply rooted theological imagination. Learn more at

  • Ann

    I’ve really got to find a “spiritual gym”. This is not true where I am now.

  • Jeff

    Great post. It’s funny you drew that comparison. My box is in a church. The senior pastor and the executive pastor are two of the coaches. I attend a different church myself but I know that it’s been an amazing outreach for them. Also, it’s comparatively inexpensive as it’s a non-profit.

    • Mike

      Say – would you mind giving me a link to the pastors in question? I’m a pastor in Switzerland, and I’m looking at setting up a box in the basement of my manse …

  • Charlie

    Nadia – great post that echoes some of what I’ve been feeling lately about crossfit… not just the can’t lift my arms part. Thanks for taking the time and thought to capture what working out and being in a community offers. We’ll see you at the gas station transformed to crossfit gym or church soon!

  • Jon Spangler


    A great post. When I rode my first AIDS/LifeCycle ride (ALC 1, 2002) I was welcomed as warmly into that mostly-LGBTQ community of cyclists as i had been welcomed years earlier at St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church, which has now been my “spiritual gym” for 14 years. As a long-time cyclists who has always struggled to keep up, stay in shape,and climb hills, I “get” the connection you make between sweat and hymn-singing… :-) In fact, I have always felt a bit “left out” of cycling because I was always in church on Sundays when all my cycling friends were out racing, riding centuries, or doing their long training rides of the week…

  • Dixie

    Yes, if I don’t show up, it stops helping me…reminded me of my mother’s frequent statement that her week went better when she went to church. Of course I don’t remember her ever missing church, but that’s one of the multitude of life lessons she bequeathed!

  • Kristi

    #7 wow! I couldn’t get through life w/o all the heavy lifting my church friends share with me. Great post!

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  • Marty Jones

    > as great as they are, have a disappointing lack of bread and wine, and hymn singing, so I’ll keep showing up to church too.
    :o) me too

  • Steve Martin

    Interesting take.

    i guess we could look at it that way. God keeps us in ‘spiritual shape’ through the reps of His Word…and sacraments.


  • Rachel Jones

    As a fellow cross-fitter (sometimes) and a regular church-goer, I enjoyed this. Thanks!

  • Joe R

    Wow I can’t believe a cross fit gym was compared to church, really ? I guess so is the supermarket everyone there has a common purpose too or a swingers club right everyone there spots eachother and have a common purpose too right ? cross fit has nothing to do with church and I think d comparison is a bit of a marketing technique. I am an ex marine and crossfit is basically just like marine corp boot camp that’s more of a comparison not church.

  • Steve Horwatt

    This would be a great article to post to all the blogs where I’ve been seeing so many discussions about “why I left church.” Especially the points about spotting. Sometimes it’s not so much about whether you need to be at church as it is whether someone else needs you to be there for them.

    Of course, I’m also now wracked with guilt about not exercising. Dad gummit!

  • Erica

    So true! I have a Crossfit family and a Church family. Not sure where I’d be without either…Joe I’m sorry that your Crossfit experience wasn’t a community experience. My advice to you is find a different box.

  • Tony Johnson

    ‘But crossfit gyms, as great as they are, have a disappointing lack of bread and wine, and hymn singing, so I’ll keep showing up to church too.’

    I love going to the gym each day and entering into another world for that 60-90 minutes. But like you and for the same reasons I keep showing to church and ministering in the joint. :-)

    Thank you for an interesting blog! I like visiting these parts of the web.


  • John

    Nadia, thank you for this insightful commentary on Crossfit. I’m also a pastor, and have been doing Crossfit WODs (mostly from the mainsite) for just over a year. The local box is prohibitively expensive for us (with three young children on a pastor’s pay), so I miss the community and coaching. There is still a feeling of solidarity, knowing that as I sweat my way through Fran, there are thousands of other athletes working out with me in spirit.

  • Gunfighter

    Well said, Nadia. I don’t do Crossfit (although a number of my colleagues do) because I have REALLY bad kneews, but I get the analogy.