the spaz of fitness has arrived

CrossFit: Lessons in How to Live

In General, Training, WOD on September 9, 2012 at 2:59 pm

Today, a friend of mine was tagged in a Facebook photo. He’s doing a handstand on a bridge in Pittsburgh. Actually, he’s doing a handstand on the railing of a bridge in Pittsburgh. He’s gripping a steel bar, inverted hundreds of feet above the Pittsburgh skyline, with nothing between him and a fateful plummet but 20-odd years as a gymnast. That’s probably enough… that trust, and familiarity with his body and balance must give him the confidence to do such a thing (such a thing that most people would still call stupid). Regardless of how I train, I still don’t endorse death-defying handstands. But the photo looked so carefree, so bold and celebratory, that it reminded me of a sentiment that frequently delights me in CrossFit. This sport hasn’t just taught me how to train, or how to be fit. The athletes around me so often remind me of how I want to live.

I have a strange relationship with my fears. As a child, I was terrified of heights. A memory that I still don’t entirely know what to do with… on a hiking trip with my family, my father picked me up and held me over the Grand Canyon until I stopped crying. It didn’t cure me of my fear. In fact, I shirked from the railings on the second stories of shopping malls for years. I was thrown from horseback at age 12, and decided that that– too– was too high. But as I got older, that fear became an obnoxious impediment. And though my day above the Grand Canyon did nothing to dispel my terror, it’s instilled in me a will to confront my demons. In order to become certified as a stage technician, I had to scale 15′ up a ladder to hang a stage lamp. I did it, hands shaking, teeth clenched, remembering my father’s grip beneath my arms and the way the hard, desert earth gaped open beneath my swinging feet. Even during my first rope climb, my heart skipped a beat the first time I reached the top and looked down. (For those that are curious, I also avidly avoided horses for two years before enrolling as a stablehand at the zoo, where I became a competent rider… and fantastically good at cleaning hooves).

That said… I’m still a very cautious– overly cautious– individual. I plan for everything. I start assignments the day they’re given. I cannot relax unless I’ve checked off my entire to-do list– and, since to-do lists in graduate school are actually neverending, I live in a perpetual, overly-wound psychosis. But the gym allows me moments of reprieve. We did “Wood” on Monday (5 Rounds for time of: Run 400 meters,10 Burpee box jumps, 10 sumo-deadlift high-pulls, 10 thrusters, rest 1 minute between rounds) and– despite the inconquerable mountain of work I had awaiting atop my desk, I felt entirely weightless by my 4th round. I was running through the rain, soaked to the point that I could feel the water splashing off my sneakers each time I landed a box jump, but for those twenty-some minutes, nothing mattered but this moment and the strength of the athletes beside me.

Some athletes like the Gymnast remind me to live, occasionally, with abandon. To shed our fears and celebrate what we have. To break free of my chronic timidity. Others, like Jefe, remind me to live with integrity. Some members were discussing– in good-nature– this coach’s high standards earlier this week, about how he’ll “no rep” anything short of perfect form. But the thing is, he does so because he holds himself to those same standards– or higher. I’ve never seen an athlete more honest about good form, solid reps, refusing to let anything count unless it’s completed 100% in compliance with the spirit of the movement. I think I’ve also (in a possibly tipsy stupor) told Coach Zebrapants that I want to live like he WODs… which is still entirely true. An absurdly gifted athlete, he’s now a hell of a competitor and likely to make a sincere splash in the professional world of CrossFit soon. However, I was lucky enough to be there at the start of his CrossFit career– when he had nothing going for him but sheer strength and dedication. It was actually a hell of a sight to see someone with no sense of technique, no finesse, just plow through workouts with sheer will. (I can say this now, because his form and technique and well beyond anything I could critique these days). But regardless… I want to live like that– to approach the things that I don’t yet have the knowledge of skill for with enough heart and determination to make it, with enough enthusiasm to absorb technique and finesse and the finer details along the way, with passion and wild abandon.

But it’s not just the gifted athletes that are inspiring. I know I mention it lots, but there’s always a soft spot in my heart (or perhaps a shared camaraderie/inborn empathy) for the not-at-all-natural-athletes at our box– for those that have never seen a barbell before, picking one up for the first time. With the wealth of new members we’ve acquired this month, I love seeing the ones that come in during open gym times to drill their power cleans or double-unders, to strap bands to the pull-up bars and work their way to their first kip. I love all that CrossFit teaches us about persistence, about picking ourselves back up after we’ve stumbled, or fallen, or smashed our shins against the plyo box (so many sympathetic hugs for Scotchy who did just that this week).

Anyway… that’s my thought for the week.

Also, this morning, I repeated a WOD I do on a fairly regular basis now:

4x prowler push 40m

25 burpees

4x prowler push 40m

200m sprint

4x prowler push 40m

25 burpees

As I mentioned a while ago, I’m trying to learn to “push through the suck,” so I tried giving myself less rest time this go-around. Anytime I stopped, I only let myself count thirty seconds before I started again– which, if you’ve ever done prowler pushes, you’ll know is fantastically awful. At some point, I may have actually lost the ability to count… my brain was spinning circles in: “twenty-six mississippi… twenty fi-six mississippi… twenty-eight missisipi… twenty— should I be going now?” But I still love this workout. It gets my heart working, but doesn’t leave me trashed for the rest of the day.

Also, a little bit of bookkeeping:

Friday marked the end of my Coconut oil giveaway. Many thanks, hugs, and general good karma to all those who entered. Also thanks again to Tropical Traditions for the fantastic opportunity to share their lovely product. To keep my process transparent, here’s what I did for entirely randomized winner selection: I inputted the number of entries into a “True Random Number Generator” (thank you internets) to determine the winner. So don’t blame me. Blame computers.

As it so happens, 8 is my favorite number. 8 also belongs to a lucky lady named Krista, who’s about to enjoy a wealth of coconutty goodness in her life. Congratulations Krista, do let us know what you make with your delicious winnings!

  1. soooo excited to have won!!! (and i’m literally just a day or two from being completely out of coconut oil!)

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