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Archive for December, 2013|Monthly archive page

Of Superhumans and Humanity…

In General, Training on December 21, 2013 at 9:00 pm

I want to share my past few days with you, but honestly… no words would suffice. I’ve been in Northern California from Monday – Thursday, working with Coach and getting to know the CSA CrossFit family. Honestly, it’s been one of the best parts of my year. But the reason for this is not at all CrossFit related. I mean—yes, I had some fantastic CrossFit moments. It took a few tactile cues (and a few friendly racial epithets) from PowerWod for me to finally understand the feeling of “knees out” because mine still always cave in on my squats. I learned to put myself in a stable, freestanding headstand. I finally understood what Coach wants me to do with the rings when working on my muscle-up kips. I got to work out alongside legends… Regionals and Games athletes—a child among superheroes.

But what I’m going to remember most about this trip has much less to do with the fitness and much more to do with the people.

Let’s back up a bit more. I know my posts have lagged a bit in the past few months. To be entirely honest, I’ve been struggling. The dreariness of winter always gets to me. The monotony of sunless days—the perpetual cold. But it’s been worse this year. I haven’t been home for a year, and I haven’t spent more than a few days out of State College in that time.

I’m not complaining. I’m lucky. I know I am. I could be in far worse places, in far worse situations. But sometimes I (we?) get so trapped in the everyday that it becomes suffocating. We forget about the humans around us—and the fact that we, too, are people—not just cogs in machines, students producing papers, teachers writing lesson plans, athletes working for that next one rep max. We’re complicated, and needy, and full of magnificent, heartrending feeling.

I think I needed to leave State College to get my head out of my ass work and really appreciate everything around me. I think it’s a struggle sometimes because we (as a species) tend to become fixated on our goals and productivity. Students expect instant feedback. Teachers can’t understand why their classes aren’t picking up concepts. Athletes are impatient for progress. Coaches want their clients to translate words into physicality sometimes in a body that just doesn’t respond to those cues. I’ve had days in State College when I feel like only a convenient step to someone’s objective—or worse, an impediment to that objective—days when I’m either a tool or an obstacle, but definitely not a person. And I know I’m probably oversensitive, so, take that for what it is.

But visiting NorCal was different. Because I was out of my environment, and a definite imposition on everyone’s lives, we all had to respond to and accommodate that. We had no choice but to break routine, to see beyond our tunnel vision. And what I saw was so overwhelming.

I can’t say enough good things about the generosity and humility of all of CSA CrossFit. Something I’ve loved about being a member of the CrossFit community is that it makes me feel a little less homeless everywhere I go. If you can find a box, you can find people that share a language with you—and a work ethic, and a slightly twisted sense of masochism. The thing about CSA… this is a gym that actually produces monsters. Its MMA gym—where it all began—boasts an array of world-class trainers and fighters. It has a powerlifting sector overseen by one of the best lifting coaches in the country—a man who’s totaled elite in 6 weight classes. The CrossFit gym sends a team to regionals every year and houses two major NorCal individual competitors. But that’s not a thing you think about when you’re in there. You’re too busy laughing at their jokes, talking to them about their day jobs away from the gym, or their past careers as figure skaters or gymnasts or volleyball players.

There’s something comfortingly familiar about the way CrossFitters construct a community—a reassuring universality I’ve found that soothes the Jo far from home: the way the coach dances along to the warm-up music while you’re still trying to stretch the reluctance from your limbs at an odd hour of the morning. Or, the way athletes joke and stall and whine between sets when things get heavy. The way everyone cheers loudest for the last athlete to finish—counting reps, calling cues, understanding exactly how much pain you’re in and willing you through.

I appreciated so much how CSA treated me as one of their own—no belittling explanations, no overwrought introductions. I was just expected to make myself at home. And so, it felt like home. I love friendships and relationships that seem to begin in medias res. You’re already immersed, the journey is well on its way, just go with it.

Beyond the awesomeness of CSA, though, it was also a fantastic week for just… people in Jo’s life. I got to catch up with some former State College-ites who’ve built an admirable life for themselves out in California. I’m entirely grateful for old friends willing to drive out of their way and remove themselves from their daily responsibilities for a Jo visit—though who knows, they probably just wanted to come watch the Supple Leopard himself move serious weight at Supertraining.

The next day, I caught up with another old friend—this time, a girl I’d grown up with in Arizona. We went to elementary, middle, and high school together. We’ve known each other since the age of eight and in that time, we’ve been best friends and bitter “enemies” (in that teenage, melodramatic sense of the word) and all sorts of messy in-between. These days, even though we don’t talk nearly as often as we live on opposite sides of the country, we’re still people who really care about each other… people who’ve been through a lot of shit together and put each other through even more shit. The funny thing was—what we were discussing at dinner—I don’t have the mental or emotional space to hold grudges or to really… resent, anymore. I can’t believe the amount of energy we wasted feuding with each other—when at the end of the day we actually just cared a fucking lot and didn’t know how to deal with the ways we worried about each other.

I’m back in Arizona now—it’s good yet strange to be back in the city where I grew up. I intend to spend the next few weeks getting back to work and finding my place amid all the reading I need to do for comps. But I also intend to give plenty of attention to the friends and family I get to see only once a year nowadays. Perhaps I’m late to this realization, or perhaps we all need a bit of reminder sometimes—people are incredible things. Embrace them.

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