the spaz of fitness has arrived

Stepping Forward

In General, Training on June 24, 2013 at 9:33 pm

As I travel for work and for CrossFit, I find myself becoming more comfortable in the unfamiliar. In fact, I find myself excited by the unfamiliar– by being immersed in new, daunting environments wherein I have the humbling fortune of meeting people so much more knowledgeable and experienced than I am. This past weekend, Coach let me hang out with her and PowerWOD (her boyfriend/strength coach/elite powerlifter in five different weight classes/nicest guy I know with a 800+lb deadlift) while they were in Virginia to conduct a seminar. Though Coach has helped me a great deal just through video correspondence, emails, and my incessant text messaging, it was so much more helpful to be able to work in person. And just to absorb her knowledge and coaching techniques as well. It also restores my faith in the world to confirm that these athletes and trainers whose careers I’ve long admired are also genuine, down-to-earth people who will readily welcome a neurotic Asian chick as a friend. Furthermore, traveling to CrossFit Annandale, meeting their crew and staff and welcoming community– I’m still stunned by the way CrossFit gives people a shared language with which to connect so quickly.

I insist that, of the many cool things in CrossFit, the best thing it has to offer is the way it brings people together. It took fitness and made it accessible and communal– not that this is new. This has happened in group fitness classes, in yoga studios, in bodybuilding and powerlifting gyms long over time. But I think some athletes and coaches forget to take advantage of the robustness of this community. We become comfortable in our boxes, surrounded by our familiar faces. We’re used to our favorite pull-up bar and wall-ball target and afraid to look incompetent in a new gym. But it’s too easy to stagnate in the familiar– in what we already know. It’s in discovering what we don’t know and pursuing that knowledge that we grow.

Speaking of pursuing knowledge, Coach gave a piece of advice that really stuck with me. It was about the 100’s chipper (event 4). Coach didn’t brag about this during the seminar, but I’ll brag for her here. She took second place in her region. On a 400 rep workout. Her point, during the seminar, was that… during that workout, you can’t think about the 400 reps. You can’t start counting at one and expect to get to 400. All that matters is the rep right in front of you. Similarly, when you’re coaching that athlete, you don’t tell her to get 400. You applaud her one and tell her to get two. Then to do another two. Then get to five. Then six. Thinking about rep 400 at the beginning is soul-crushing. But if you rep it out one by one, you’ll get there.

I couldn’t help thinking about how that applied to my life. Or how I should apply that to my life. Calling myself a graduate student felt like a fantasy. Still, the idea of ever becoming “Dr. Jo” feels impossible and ridiculous. The idea that, at the end of all this, I’ll have been in school for a minimum of 19 years (not even counting preschool)… is beyond soul-crushing. If I woke up thinking about the fact that I still have to finish my coursework, and memorize hundreds of texts and spend days being tested on these texts and pass my comprehensive exams and then write an entire book-length dissertation (along with a second book-length project that my adviser and I have agreed I will try to complete concurrently) and defend that dissertation… and afterwards, throw myself at the mercy of a near-impossible job market and beg for a position at a respectable institution and pray that these 19 years of learning and writing and studying have been enough. Well, fuck, I’d never get out of bed in the morning. I get out of bed by deciding that today, I will get to my classroom and teach my class and hopefully those students will leave a little more excited about the power of language. I will go to my office in the writing center and work with students on individual pages and those individual pages will improve and hopefully they will draw from that something they can apply to future pages. I will get to the gym and I will lift something that will break me a little bit so that I can heal and grow stronger and bigger and lift a little more the next time. I will help coach this class and learn from the coaches and athletes around me so I can be a more experienced, more knowledgable coach tomorrow. And in these small ways, these tiny steps, I will inch my way towards the Jo I want to become.

I’ve noticed that we apply the words “it’s not a sprint– it’s a marathon” to just about everything that matters in life– as much as I love the sprint, it appears that the dreaded long, slow distance is a better metaphor for life. Most journeys towards self-improvement are long and soul-crushing. But despite our dread, we still readily undertake them– and like marathoners, we should approach these challenges not just to cross the finish line, but for every tortuous footfall that takes us there. It’s a marathon. But don’t think about mile 26 right now. Just lift your right foot. Then your left. And step forward.

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