Patience

Chocolate chip cookies are one of life’s simple, sugary, Maillard-reaction delivering pleasures. There’s a thorough treatise by J. Kenji López-Alt on the scientific manipulation of the ingredients and processes to create the ultimate chocolate chip cookie. It’s dense (oooooh), but worth the read. The lesson, though, is in the very last section–should you ironically decide to skip ahead. The single most influential part of the cookie making process is–you guessed it–patience. Letting the dough rest in the fridge over night or longer deepens and enriches the flavor and texture of the finished product more than any other adjustment.

“If there’s one single thing you can do improve the flavor of your cookies, it’s to let the dough rest. They bake up darker and more flavorful. That butterscotch note that was barely hinted at when you baked the dough right after mixing? It’ll blow you away with its intensity and complexity by the second day.”

-J. Kenji López-Alt

We’ve been told our whole lives that patience is a virtue, and we should have it. Lots of it. I could speculate forever as to why, but with only a little introspection it becomes clear just how powerful patience really is.

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You must wait. The pay-off will be worth it.

 

You just have to wait. If you want instant gratification, you can’t have the best. You must develop a sense of satisfaction in the waiting. The anticipation can be a pleasurable part of the experience.

We learn this lesson through fitness all the time. Counter-intuitively, you can’t get to a two-minute Fran in a hurry. One of the worst things you can do with a barbell is rush it–like you’re pulling a baby our of a pool of acid. You know goddamn well what happens when you slow down the pull off the floor. When you just keep waiting; until that bar is right in the pocket. Then you jump. When you exercise that patience the lift feels like you know what the fuck you’re doing.

Patience in everything. Training, cookies, barbells, relationships. Approach all things like a lovingly crafted cookie dough. When you’ve finished making it, it’s not to time to unceremoniously devour it. Let that barbell rest, like the dough in the fridge. Much like playing the lottery, half the fun is the anticipation. The 24-48 hours of “what if” and imagining just how good those cookies are going to be when you finally make them.

Whether it be a cookie or a clean, not only will you appreciate it more for the patience, it actually will be better. Better, and more appreciated–with patience.

Happy Thanksgiving.

-DBF

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The Zen Buddhism of Jump Ropes

The Rogue SR-2 speed rope is a thing of mechanical beauty. To be lusted after, attachment be damned.

The trouble with attachment is that it’s much harder to undo than it is to avoid. This is clear in even the smallest of things. I learned this, quite innocently from a speed rope.

It was quite possible to live with nothing more than the badass monkly robes on their backs. Boom. Freedom from attachment to anything but your zenned out monk-piece.

Buddhism teaches that attachment leads to suffering. Anyone who’s been around other humans knows that. It’s not interpersonal, per se, but attachment to anything which is the source of suffering; people, stuff, ideas, etc.

There’s a CrossFit parallel with buddhism. As there is with everything. I’ll make one if I have to. I could probably find a way to relate Dr. Loren Cordain to bran muffins.

This was an easy concept for early buddhists. It was expected people would welcome traveling holy men and offer them hospitality. So then and there, it was quite possible to live with nothing more than the badass monkly robes on their backs. Boom. Freedom from attachment to anything but your zenned out monk-piece.

Things aren’t so simple these days, here in Santa Cruz. Despite their earnest claims otherwise, the unkempt, attachment-less gentlemen downtown are not holy men.

This thing was a gleaming, anodized beacon of machined, aircraft aluminum and precision ball bearings.

My first 4.5 or so years in CrossFit, I never owned a jumprope. I just used what was available wherever I was working out. It was an easy, attachment-free existence. There was no (jumprope related) suffering of any kind. Well, except for that time I did that last chance qualifier workout with the Berg in 2009. It was very free; I didn’t need any specific rope. I was even somewhat flexible on the length (that’s what she said).

Then I caved in. I ordered a Rogue SR-2 speed rope

I’m a gear head. What can I say? This thing was a gleaming, anodized beacon of machined, aircraft aluminum and precision ball bearings. Being a speed junky and builder of race cars I’m about as able to resist that as I am a Nutella and peanut butter waffle (you fucking heard me).

So it was pretty good. And by pretty good I mean it was absolutely fucking amazing. I loved it so hard. Then, I lost it while traveling. I found myself sneering at those plastic handled (yet perfectly capable) ropes you find everywhere. I avoided jumping rope–because I didn’t have my precious. I was attached to it. To it’s beauty, it’s quality. That attachment–not appreciation–became a hinderance instead of an advantage.

The path is to accept, not need. Welcome and enjoy conferred advantage, when it comes to you. But do not become dependent on it. Appreciate but don’t become attached. Or, as my spiritual advisor, Tyler Durden said, “The things you own end up owning you.”

You can also read this on Medium, here: https://medium.com/@DaigleBrthsFire/the-zen-buddhism-of-jump-ropes-c2641d01b5e9

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Reaffirmation of Faith

What matters: CrossFit affilites.

What matters: CrossFit affiliates.

Every once in awhile you need a reaffirmation that you’re walking the right path. Every so often the universe lobs one over the plate–funny how that works. Not just by showing the fruits of our labor and our successes, but by seeing just how much work is left to do.

“CrossFit makes people better.” That will never change. However, the ways in which we get there are always being honed like the edge on the business end of a razor sharp knife of fitness.

They wouldn’t be sent to bottom of the pit with the inventor of the Shake Weight and the big soda companies. They’d be in the very top ring of CrossFit Hell, the “Virtuous Non-Level-One.”

In recent months this has happened for me in a few different but equally important and telling ways.

In July we had the most amazing CrossFit Games yet. The very best parts of CrossFit methodology, the very best athletes who live it, and the the ultimate expression of our community–all happening in once place. Each year it’s grown like Mark McGwire kept in a petri dish with plenty of sunlight. You can’t help but know in your heart that it’s working. But there’s more.

When the aforementioned Virtuous-Non-Level-Ones come around they’ll bring people with them. Lots of people.

I’ve had the good fortune of meeting and talking to lots of fitness-oriented people–some from outside the CrossFit community (I know, right?). Not everyone gets it. Yet. Most of us are so involved in CrossFit, if we don’t peer far enough down range it can seem like the whole world gets it. It looks that way because our whole world gets it. We’ve grown magnificently, for sure. But we have to be careful not to become victims of our own success.

It seems, “hey, we’ve got this thing nailed down.” And we do, to an extent. But, when you see what the rest of the world (as in most people) believe fitness is, you realize that we still have lots of work to do. This is something that the CrossFit Seminar staff–the SEAL Team Six of fitness–never forgets, because they work on the front line all the time. For those of us who don’t do that, and spend most of our time around CrossFit gyms and other CrossFitters, it’s important to remind yourself that not everyone has seen the light yet. We need to keep spreading the word.

It’s grown like Mark McGwire kept in a petri dish with plenty of sunlight.

Mostly, these people aren’t subversive to our cause. If this were the “CrossFit Divine Comedy” They wouldn’t be sent to bottom of the pit with the inventor of the Shake Weight and the big soda companies. They’d be in the very top ring of CrossFit Hell, the “Virtuous Non-Level-One.” They’re not to be punished. Maybe they just don’t become a sweat angel or get to party with Pukie until the end of time. Despite their ab-crunching and booty-lift classes, they mean well; They just haven’t seen the CVFMHI light yet. We have to show it to them, and when they’re ready they will join us.

It’s helped by those who’ve left behind their CrossFit adolescence and the hubris which leads to dumping on other methodologies, instead of simply elevating CrossFit. Once there, they can show people the way without shoving them down the path. It’s really fucking zen and shit.

The CrossFit affiliates are the key to this whole thing; that’s where the magic happens. Everything we do is to support the 11,000+ affiliates around the world. Because, when the aforementioned Virtuous-Non-Level-Ones come around they’ll bring people with them. Lots of people. Those people will end up walking through the door of a CrossFit affiliate and find themselves in the most capable hands we have.

They’ll be baptized in sweat and born again hard–and happy. We are most certainly on the right path. All we have to do is keep moving, and to paraphrase The Matrix, take care of that which matters most; The CrossFit affiliates.

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The Feels: Why Robin Williams’ Death Stings

The late Maya Angelou said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

And this happened in Boston. Oh man. This bench was in a scene in Good Will Hunting. Photo shared by Craig Martin

And this happened in Boston. Oh man. This bench was in a scene in Good Will Hunting. Photo shared by Craig Martin. Williams made people feel all the feels.

This one hit close to home. Celebrities and artists die every week. Sometimes with fantastical, dramatic flair. Robin Williams seemingly slipped into the great beyond quietly, and by his own hand. The loss of his larger-than-life footprint on this moral coil rings louder than most because of the affect he had on us.

All great art makes people feel something strongly. Williams’ career is one long string of that kind of art.

He wasn’t someone most people thought about every day. He wasn’t constantly embroiled in scandal or grandiose events the news felt compelled to report. He never stopped though. With 0ver 100 films to his credit, a well respected involvement with the USO, and famously putting Jessica Chastain through his alma mater of Julliard on his own dime. He touched so many lives. But it’s how he did it which made him special.

People remember Robin Williams for his flurried, exhausting comic flair and a blue-collar acting style that made every one of the characters he brought to life seem as real as the person sitting next to you. He had so many great quotes; but it’s not the soundbite he’s remembered for.

When I learned of his death I felt grief, sharply. I realized just how culturally pervasive the man was–at least in my world. He was in a good number of my all-time favorite movies and now it makes perfect sense to me. He was a robustly, artfully emotional actor, which appeals to my extreme empathetic nature. He created characters you could feel–and I felt them. That’s why we’ll miss him the way we do, and why his passing affected us so strongly.

The scene actually filmed on the aforementioned bench, in Boston. This image was part of the inspiration for "Choose The Wrench."

The scene filmed on the aforementioned bench, in Boston. This image was part of the inspiration for “Choose The Wrench” because its performance created a deeply empathetic experience.

Many of his most memorable roles were deeply emotional performances. Good Will Hunting, Patch Adams, Dead Poet’s Society, Awakenings, The Fisher King, What Dreams May Come. He made us feel with every one of these characters in ways vulnerable, expressive and often bittersweet. “O’ Captain! My Captain!” anyone?

All great art makes people feel something strongly. Williams’ career is one long string of that kind of art. I can’t forget his performances or his humor. I might not remember what he said or even the things he did. I will always remember how he made me feel.

The people who make us laugh the hardest, the loudest, feel the deepest, and appreciate the most are often the saddest, most tormented, and silently incapable of seeing themselves as we see them. That’s a goddamn Greek tragedy. But thank the deity of your choosing Robin Williams graced us with his presence, and left us with his legacy.

“Your move, chief.”

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Taking It Easy: F*** That

Challenges, ailments, illnesses, injuries, even surgical procedures cannot destroy your fitness on their own–they need your help.

Pimp your sling. Yes, that's a mil-spec green laser.

Pimp your sling. Yes, that’s a mil-spec green laser.

On June 11th, I had arthroscopic shoulder surgery to begin my transformation into a homicidal cyborg. Or to repair a type-2 tear in my labrum, an rotator cuff debridement, and a sub-acromial decompression (that’s scooping out decades of shit collected under the AC joint), whichever. It was the result of eight years of high school/college football, multiple injuries back then, not taking care of it like an ass, and abusing it recklessly for years afterwards.

Then, I was faced with a question; how do I fix this? What do I do now? This is the only time I’ve been completely sidelined in my entire life.

Just how bad could it really be? If you tuck tail and make an excuse about why

You have to start someplace. Log. Everything.

You have to start someplace. Log. Everything.

you can’t train today? Well, if it’s just today; not that bad. But it’s not just today. It’s the insidious attitude and permissiveness you’re allowing into your life that’s problematic.

The second day is easier. The third even more so. Suddenly, it’s harder to come back and face the work than to stay on the couch. We’ve all felt it before. Don’t be a bitch and go there. It’s easy to realize how good you’re going to feel when it’s over. You know you’re going to be pleased with yourself when you slog through those burpees instead of sitting on the couch and watching MacGyver on Netflix.

Get off you’re fucking candy ass, and move some heavy shit. Rapidly.

Rationalizing doing nothing after a serious injury (or in my case, a surgery) is astonishingly easy. You will hear, incessantly, “Take it easy, take a load off, heal up.” If your doctor sucks, you’ll hear it from them, and then it reads like gospel. Thankfully, I didn’t have that problem. I was fortunate to be surrounded by sports specific medical professionals, many of whom are CrossFitters. Like most things, surgical repairs (within reason) are healed by moving them, intelligently, in ways that do not re-damage them.

That’s why they have physical therapy.

The thought of sitting on the couch with a limitless supply of cookies and peanut butter cups is thrilling when you can’t see the barbells through the percocet-induced funk.

One of the beautiful things about the diversity of movement we have in CrossFit, is we can train around anything. There is always a way, motherfucker. You can intelligently and safely work on your fitness with an impediment. Don’t make me show you videos of adaptive athletes making you look like a pussoir.

Just taking it easy is such a terrible fucking idea North Korea won’t even do it. I’ll show you why, visually, in a moment. Of course, you’re not going to jump off the fucking operating table and hit some tabata squats before you go home to sleep off the anesthesia. I took one week off after my shoulder repair. It was a struggle just to get off the couch (I had to sleep in a recliner for about a month to not compromise my slinged arm). If not for friends and coworkers bringing me amazing food, I’d probably look like Paul from the Wonder Years right now. After a week I felt OK, I wasn’t on any pain medication and I wasn’t in any pain at all, really.

What’s the greater risk? Hurting something, or ruining everything?

It was time to man-up and fucking rock. I headed down to the HQ gym, and slowly started messing around with stuff until I found things I could do. Occasionally, a frustrated observer (Mr. Sherwood) would get sick of watching me engineer things and just move plates around for me. Thanks buddy.

So, I set forth at doing the work of the fitness. Here is the body of work I’ve collected in the last eight weeks since surgery:

This could very easily read "Shoulder Surgery" then a smattering of cupcakes, cookies, and porn hub. But instead: Fitness.

This could very easily read “Shoulder Surgery” then a smattering of cupcakes, cookies, and porn hub. But instead: Fitness.

That’s a lot of work. Or, if I had pulled the ‘chute, it’d look like this:

The alternatives are not acceptable.

The alternatives are not acceptable. Unless you’re the Comic Book Guy from “The Simpsons.”

I’ve been on about the same protocol from then to now:

  • Don’t fuck up the shoulder.
  • Don’t use the left arm.
  • Don’t fall on it.
  • Don’t do things that hurt (the shoulder).

Right now I program (or not, as it were) for myself Rich Froning style. I come into the gym, and extemporaneously create a workout. What did I do yesterday? What haven’t I done in awhile? What energy systems have I been working the last week or two? What movements can I physically do? And then boom, come up with a workout and do it. There’s been lots of one-arm dumbbell snatching, jerking, thrustering, rowing, ring rows, box jumps, and recently even burpees (regretting figuring out how to do these with 1-arm), barbell snatches and enough GHD sit-ups to give Jesus Christ Rhabdo.

“What about imbalances?”

Are you alive? Do you move? Congrats, you have imbalances. Let me watch you perform the nine foundational movements and I’ll show you all sorts of imbalances; we’ve all got them. If you have two arms and only use one in training, your imbalance is going to be more obvious, but it’s temporary. The choice is simple:

  • Possibly develop somewhat of an imbalance on one side.
  • Definitely get weak, fat and out of shape on both sides.

“You should take it easy,” they say. Fuck y’all motherfuckers. The alternatives speak for themselves. How fucking out of shape, miserable, and depressed would I be right now if I had done nothing? I’d be as frustratingly, infuriatingly wrapped in my own myopic Hell as Robin Williams’ wife in What Dreams May Come. Risk is perceived and relative. What’s the greater risk? Hurting something, or ruining everything? The decisions is black and white.

Move what you can, how you can. Constantly varied is relative, just like intensity. Work through movements you can do; don’t worry about the ones you can’t. Mechanics, consistency, intensity.

Fuck taking it easy. 

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One of the beautiful things about the diversity of movement we have in CrossFit, is we can train around anything. There is always a way, motherfucker.

 

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The Best Yet

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Iphones suck in the dark. The soccer stadium is rather peaceful at night.

The Games are a time for reaffirmation of who we are, and why we’re here. It’s a celebration of the CrossFit lifestyle. A time to see old friends and make new ones. A time to marvel at the ridiculous, super-hero shit that these weapons-grade-human Games athletes are capable of; Ya’ll motherfuckers are crazy.

You’ll always learn something new at the CrossFit Games. You’ll relearn a lot of shit you knew, but may have taken for granted. This was my sixth, and I can say without reservation that each subsequent year has been orders of magnitude bigger, better, more exciting, more rewarding and infinitely more work.

The presence at the StubHub center begins growing like a giant, shredded, fitness tumor weeks before the first athlete checks in. For most people the Games are a three (or four or five) day experience. For those on staff, behind the scenes, and hundreds of volunteers they’re at least nine days. For some they’re much longer than that.

All of the metrics I’ve ever thought of for the Games have vertical graphs. One though, is moving in the opposite direction.

Stress.

I think we’re starting to figure this thing out. This year I saw the happiest, most well-adjusted, even-keeled, team ever. The professionalism and level-headed handling of every problem–and there are always problems–was remarkable. The media crew (where I work), Athlete Control, Team Judgement, and many more groups functioned like well-oiled machines. N0 one freaked out. No one panicked (in relative terms). We said fuck a lot, but then shit got done.

Working at the Games there are two things you do every chance you get, because you might not get another one: Shower and Work out.

Working at the Games there are two things you do every chance you get, because you might not get another one: Shower and work out.

This time, it wasn’t just hard; it was really fun. Perhaps that’s not a fair statement, as it’s always been fun. This time, though, there was levity among the chaos. Jokes and laughter permeated the intense focus. Personally, and I think others share this sentiment, emotional exhaustion was never reached–even at the tail end of a 100-hour work week.

It seems almost symbolic, with our group moving from last year’s spot under the bowels of the stadium up to the press box, center-field in the soccer stadium. I was still glued to a computer screen most of the time, but was able to look out the window and see the event. The most exceptional part was the crowd.

Smooth and easy.

Smooth and easy.

That roar, though. The crowd was really something. It was an instant, warm, visceral feeling of “here we are. This is where we should be.”

 

 

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Purpose

 

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At my sixth CrossFit Games I’ll get my fifth of these, because I found purpose at my first.

Purpose.

Not a dolphin-like sea creature, a raison d’etre–the reason we’re here.

That warm, fuzzy, the-world-is-beautiful-and-amazing-and-I-love-puppies-and-flowers feeling we get from our toils in CrossFit are certainly tied to results. Increased fitness, a sense of well being and accomplishment, and the oft touted but nebulous “community” which seems to defy explanation.

 

It is the ultimate justification for your own existence.

There is in fact a unifying agent tying this all together. From the new athlete to the Games competitor, the affiliate owner, and the worker bees here at CrossFit HQ:

We have purpose.

It is the ultimate justification for your own existence. Surely as having purpose smooths over the bumps, (seemingly) its loss tears our worlds asunder. Having a purpose–whether you’re consciously aware of it or not–trumps wealth, relationships, and physical comfort.

 “We’re here to take from you what you tried to take from us; purpose.” In The Matrix: Revolutions we see a visceral, perceived loss of purpose when the insidious, vengeful Agent Smith seeks retribution from Neo. This illustrates the necessity and attachment to purpose we experience as human beings.

Purpose is what separates CrossFit from everything else. Not that CrossFit is the only place or way to find purpose, but purpose is the element making it different from everything you tried in the past that “wasn’t this.” It’s not always obvious what that purpose is, though. Not everyone’s purpose is CrossFit. It’s mine and many of your’s, but for some it’s being a mother or a teacher.

CrossFit’s ability to surface and lay bare character is uniquely effective at clarifying purpose. The difficult things we endure in the name of fitness–the ethos of physicality–underpins and is revelatory of these things. It is the sole means by which austere, arduous experiences are made not just survivable, but pleasurable.

Purpose gives form to the indescribable feelings washing over us in CrossFit boxes since forever. Where high school kids and retirees, veterans and conscientious objectors, doctors, lawyers, garbage men, carpenters, ditch diggers, students, professors, parents, party animals and teetotalers–even Democrats and Republicans–fit together like chocolate and peanut butter. Purpose is a solvent which dissolves class, erases party lines, and is the means by which the most “different” of people become the best of friends, brothers and sisters-in-arms of fitness.

Purpose.

People with a reason are agreeable, positive, hard-working, nearly unstoppable and drawn to other people who have purpose. That purpose needn’t be the same. As long as everyone knows his or hers, this all works on it’s own.

Purpose is what drives us. It’s what brings us together (LOTR moment), and in the light binds us.

See you in Carson, motherfuckers.

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