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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Stay The Course

Every now and then you need a course correction. After a raucous holiday season, a stretch of weekends out on the town or a big life changing event. Sometimes focus on being fit and healthy gets a little blurry. Although we stray, we always tack around to the right course.

It’ll happen. Sure as the bomb I drop at work every morning, which recently resulted in a team of plumbers being called to deal with the damage. Each of us will go off course. What makes those of us who are dedicated to fitness different is we can step back and say, “Enough.” We take stock, and move on to the next.

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Redemption awaits.

A friend and coworker posted something short and to the point and it got me thinking. It bears repeating (see below) because it’s a decision we constantly revisit.

By “we,” I mean those of us who’ve told easy to go fuck itself; We, the Motherfuckers.

Google maps isn’t going to give you turn-by-turn for this one; the street signs don’t exist. The path of a fit, healthy life is more like an ocean voyage than a road trip. These course corrections aren’t as distinct as hangin’ a left onto Elm Street (and stay the fuck off Elm street–don’t you watch movies?). You can’t pull over to take a piss and there are no speed limits. You have to find your own way. And, if you get off track, you don’t shit-house a telephone pole or end up in a ditch. You just give it a little rudder and get back on course–today.

It’s an element of life we fuck up all too often. Every moment, every second of every day is an opportunity to get better. You can choose to move toward where you want to be or away from it. We get into trouble when we look and see the seemingly endless ocean of opportunities and think, “tomorrow.”

The problem with tomorrow is sometimes there isn’t one. Tomorrow is always in the future. Today will always be right now. We always have that. In fact it’s the only thing we have. Sailing ships do not shift into reverse. So instead, decide to be grateful for the opportunity and do what you can to honor it. Sail onward.

Intensity matters. Not the burning in your lungs and legs, but in your mind. During a recent workout my legs reached total muscular failure around 15 touch-n-go power cleans. There have been times I could do that for a fucking hour. It was frustrating, but what matters is my mind was willing to do them until it was no longer a choice. My hands slipped right off the bar and I almost ate shit. As long as you’ve chosen to sail on until it’s not up to you anymore, you’re doing amazing things for yourself that go far beyond the physical. Stay bad, mofo.

“Sometimes we take a week off, we justify our cheats, we stay up past our bed times, we forget mobility, and we skip a day that we shouldn’t. But, when you lose sight of your goals, and stop taking ownership of your decision, you’ve got no one to blame but the dude in the mirror.

Some days you slay the WOD, some days the WOD slays you. There has been too much of the latter. Time for a change.

Suffer the pain of discipline, or suffer the pain of regret.”

-Kyle Moschetto, CrossFit Staff

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Waffle night won’t make you fitter, but life isn’t always fair winds and following seas.

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The Last Workout

The motherfucking switch has been flipped from
“training” to “game-time.”

BeastModeShirt

From the 2009 CrossFit Games, in Aromas, California.

It’s coming. Whether you know it or not, it’s barreling down on you without pity or remorse. You might even be doing it right now.

The last workout.

Even if you don’t realize it, even if you believe emphatically you are not; You are training. We fail to look at our day to day workouts this way. If you think that way, you just haven’t realized what you’re training for. You’re studying for a surprise test on an unknown subject with hidden stakes which can be up to and including your life.

You are probably sitting idly, reading this on the sidewalk at some trendy café, and then BOOM. Some cheesedick snatches your laptop or your bag and makes a run for it.

Just because you didn’t know you were going to have to come off the bench today and deadlift a car off some snot-nosed kid, doesn’t mean it isn’t game-day.

The motherfucking switch has been flipped from “training” to “game-time.” When you catch the fucker, and pummel them about the head, neck and chest, know you trained for this, perhaps without even realizing it.

There is a powerful mindset, forcing you to live in the spartan, painful present–the now. In competition we know when game day is. We spend our time consciously training for that day, cognizant of it’s terminal, finite nature. There’s a timeline. As we rumble towards that inevitability we frantically squeeze every drop of strength, adaptation and preparation out of it.

When we’re not training mindfully, this is lost on us. The lever often stays on “training” and it gets rusted and frozen there. You could will suddenly be confronted by an attack or an accident and then panic will overwhelm you because the fucking lever won’t move to “go-time.”

Embrace that shit. There’s no time like go-time. Grope it like a prom date and get all up in its business.

CrossFitters talk a lot about “training for life.” If you believe that (and you should), live it. Just because you don’t have a taper, or a pre-game warm up, or you ate fifteen waffles last night; just because you didn’t know you were going to have to come off the bench today and deadlift a car off some snot-nosed kid, doesn’t mean it isn’t game-day. Whoops, now it is–no wraps, no belts, no tape.

You might never get to come down here again. Enjoy the view, and the ride back up.

You might never get to come down here again. Enjoy the view, and the ride back up.

This is your training, motherfucker, and it’s ending one second at a time. Anything could change how earnestly you train and snap the lever from foam rolling to fucking beast mode in no time flat. But, then it’ll be too late; it’s already the end.

You just haven’t realized what you’re training for.

Sometimes there is a deadline: A competition, an event, a surgery date–something–which punctuates the progression of workouts, forcing us to contemplate the meaning within each WOD, each rep, each breath. But most times, there is not.

Realize every single pull-up and power clean could be the last preparation you’ll ever get for the greatest moment of your life. In fact, it could be the last rep period. That perspective will change what you take from each training session. CrossFit–training in general–is a gift, not a burden. Treat it as such.

Approach each day as if it’s the last big workout before game-day–it’s your last day of training before whatever the fuck happens in the next moment. Get every last drop of fun, camaraderie, and enjoyment out of it.

Game-day is now.

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Relativity of Perspective

Objects seen through your aviators may not appear actual size.

Not accepting congratulation dishonors them. You’ve shown contempt for something they wish they could do.

One athlete’s monstrous success is the frustrating failure of another. Think about that for a moment. The “sub-par” Grace time you turned in the day after you partied hard enough to look like Nick Nolte the next morning; It made you borderline despondent–even though you deserved it. Meanwhile, Johnny-CrossFit-Lately turned in the same time after eating super-strict paleo-zone for a month and doing mobility every day. It was a five-minute PR for him, so he took 10 of his closest classmates out for dinner and drinks to celebrate.

You, Dan Bailey, and the little old lady that started elements last week all fit within the “visible” band on the fitness spectrum.

It’s all relative. We operate in a very narrow band of the physical world. It’s like visible light on the electromagnetic spectrum. That tiny fraction of a percentile is where Rich Froning and Julie Foucher live. Your grandma who started CrossFit last week lives there, too.

That second which seems full of embittered disappointment to you, is a brass ring for the athlete next to you. Don’t forget that.

Missed that 405 lbs. back squat? Remember; someone at your gym would do the fucking Ickey Shuffle touchdown dance if they could load the necessary plates on the bar to do a 405 lbs. back squat. The Lloyd Christmas moment of clarity here is you both live within this tiny little swath of the population. Your scale–your perspective–is wildly skewed. The shittiest day you’ve ever had in the box bottoms out at about the 99.5th percentile of human movement.

If your Fran PR is 3:30, and today you clock in at 3:45 you are still in the 0.5%. You still got dosed. Stimulus achieved. It’s ok to be a little miffed over a poor performance, but keep it on the rails, chief. Your reaction to the time on the clock is purely derived from whether you’ve gone faster before, or not. Completing the workout in 3:29 is euphoric while 3:31 leads to depression and self loathing. Don’t let that shit creep into your heart, homeslice.

This stuff is not precise enough for the interplay of those three seconds to tell you anything meaningful. That second which seems full of embittered disappointment to you, is a brass ring for the athlete next to you. Don’t forget that.

Winning with grace and losing with dignity are important to being a good person. When you realize that your “losing” is someone else’s “winning” it becomes necessary. When you understand that from the point of view of 99.5% of people in existence, both are exactly the same, it becomes essential.

Accept praise and accolade with grace, even if you don’t think you deserve it. People are always well-meaning when they give it. They are seeing things from the other side of the aisle. What you just did–missed your Grace PR by 30 seconds–could have been a four-minute PR for them. Not accepting congratulation dishonors them. You’ve shown contempt for something they wish they could do. Don’t be that guy.

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Don’t Walk–Run

Don’t walk in workouts. Even moving from your barbell to the pull-up bar or the GHD; do it on the hop. I’m not saying break hard and jam, hell bent for leather, but don’t walk. If it’s a WOD with a run in it–don’t even.


Don’t listen to the ventures. Running>walking.

After the play you ran back to the huddle, and went off the field on the hop when it was time. No walking. It’s something beaten into me through years of football; walking on the field was expressly prohibited. Not just in games–in practice, too. You ran onto the field, to the huddle and to the line of scrimmage.

Breakdown

Running hurts. Do it anyways.

Of course, it’s not the running which is important, it’s the attitude it represents. Dedication to doing small, seemingly innocuous things right even when it’s the last thing you want to do. My high school football coach once open-palmed a guy in the back of the helmet for walking between drills.

“Move with some alacrity, son!,” shouted Coach Stecchi. Still not finding him in compliance, he cuffed the player in the back of the helmet with an open hand, which knocked him the fuck out. The TKO wasn’t intentional, but it was fucking awesome. So, no one walked. Ever.

It’s an irrational reaction I have. I don’t only get mad when I see someone with the requisite fitness for the task deciding to walk because they’re tired. It could be grandma. Or someone’s first day. It just incenses me.

I say this half kidding as I’m guilty of one, but never of the other. I’ve walked around inside the gym before, between movements. I’ve never–because of pride, stubbornness, or otherwise–walked during a “run” in a workout. So, I guess that makes me sort of hypocritical as the two aren’t any different.

I want to stop and walk every single fucking moment. I just will not bend to that impulse. Even at def-con five, cardiac arrest with respiratory failure in the middle of a mile run, thinking, “I’m going to frican die.” At times I’m barely shuffling–but I won’t walk.

I’ve come to realize I’m not pissed at other people walking. I’m pissed at myself  because they remind me of the part of me who wants to slow down when it hurts. I cannot eliminate it. No one can. The best CrossFitters among us are just much better at overcoming the voice.

See, everyone is at a different point in their journey. They’ll soon learn to want more. There will be a springing forth of pride in their work, from within.

The irremovable desire to to take it easy pisses me off. Not the fact that someone is moving at a pace which doesn’t involve both feet leaving the ground simultaneously. It reminds me of what I don’t like about myself.

When something makes you irrationally irritated, ask yourself why. The answer might surprise you, and you’ll definitely learn something about yourself.

 

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Zero Tolerance: Infinite Bullshit

Zero Tolerance policies are fucking bullshit. They sound like a great idea. I mean, who doesn’t think there should zero fucking tolerance of child abuse? Of rape? No one. But the problem is how these things are defined in bureaucratic terms. Zero tolerance of what? We have cases of six-and-seven-year-old children being removed from school and branded sexual predators because they did something benign.

Suddenly mindless adherence to some code doesn’t sound so good.

The implied depravity–sexual, violent, threatening in nature–comes from adults. They have it and imagine all creatures–even the innocent–have it.

From Suspensionstories.com

Are you shitting me? There is no way in bloody-fucking-hell that a six-year-old kid is having sleazy thoughts while smooching a classmate on the playground. Simply because adults think other adults would be thinking a certain way, given a certain action, it follows that small children are too? Makes no sense at all.

The person making the judgement in that case, is the one with the morbid thoughts.

If you’re going to have zero-tolerance of something, it has to be sharply, pointedly and unambiguously defined (and not stupidly). But that is not the case.

These rules are created to placate unreasonable people, and therefore, are unreasonable themselves.

These policies, by and large, are enacted by sycophantic political shitbags engaged in knee-jerk reactions to an incensed mob. Something bad happens, people freak out and get emotional. Then policy makers create some asinine, over-reaching solution and slap a zero-tolerance tag on it to make them feel warm and fuzzy for five minutes. All by projecting their perverse, imaginary motivations upon innocent children.

Everyone puts down their pitchforks and torches.

Until their kid does some normal, juvenile thing that pretty much all of us have done at least ten times, and is branded as some kind of criminal. Their future shat on by the miscreants who created the problem in the first place. It’s a microcosm of modern legislation; making ordinary, decent people into criminals through policy. Suddenly mindless adherence to some code doesn’t sound so good.

These rules are created to placate unreasonable people, and therefore, are unreasonable themselves. They’re cop outs. An excuse for bureaucrats to be fucking idiots. They don’t have to think or potentially be responsible for making a decision. They just apply the rule. You broke rule-A, so you win punishment-B.” Repeat ad infinitum. It makes a position like a high school principle no different than a fast food line cook. Repeating the same refined, dictated, rote pattern over and over.

We’ve replaced administrative authority–reasoning itself–with fucking Knights Who Say Ni. “Bring us a shrubbery!” It doesn’t have to make sense, it’s the rule. The more often and loudly you say it, the truer it is. Bullshit.

It’s automating a system that requires human reasoning. That’s why we have courts in the first place. We’ve hamstrung them into not being able to do anything but regurgitate some bullshit rule, instead of making an actual judgement. Complete shit heads could handle that job. There is no need of judges and people with very pricey JD degrees to handle it.

But those people do exist because it shouldn’t be that simple. There’s an ongoing case with a high school kid in Ohio who was training as a first responder and had plans to enter the Army. He had a pocket knife in his car as part of his “EMT kit” and ended up in jail for almost two weeks, held on a half-million-dollar bond. He was removed from the school, charged with felonies and his dreams and future potentially destroyed.

Jesus-titty-fucking-christ. What are we thinking.

All that should be required is someone of reasonable intelligence–and I use the term reasonable loosely, as in enough brain power to not be lying on the floor drooling on shit–to say, “Whoa. Whoa. Wait a minute here. Oh, yeah that makes sense. We’re good here, thanks.” Case-fucking-closed.

Cowards who are afraid of their own shadow refuse to speak up and say, “Look something is not right here.” They can point to the zero-tolerance policy to cover their spineless inaction. To play dumb while allowing these things to escalate and destroy the lives of innocent children is unconscionable. These fuck sticks, who are reminiscent of the populace in Idiocracy just keep pointing to the rule book.

“I’m just following the rules,” they say. What they’re really saying is they take no responsibility. To that, I say, fuck you. If you’re an administrator your purpose is to be fucking responsible. You asshats. This isn’t limited to children, of course, but cases involving them are the most disturbing.

This situation is nearly incomprehensible. What. The. Fucking. Fuck are you assholes doing? Even if there was no video, how could someone not put a stop to this? And to criminalize the helpless, bullied child who is simply trying to survive? I can’t wrap my head around how any of that even starts. Students are verbally abusing the poor kid, a teacher is basically giving tacit approval of the behavior and the authorities charge the victim with an adult felony (wiretapping) which the kid can have no comprehension of. There is no reasoning here.

Every adult involved in this situation should be stripped of all authority, publicly humiliated, and made an example of. Not only should the abusers be punished. Their parents are likely terrible people, to have kids acting that way. They should be punished as well.

Any person can look at these situations and know that they’re not right. We need to stop this. It’s OK to be dumb. It’s not OK to pretend to be dumb. We have a system that allows this shit to continue. All that’s needed is for human decency and common sense to prevail.

People are starting to pump the brakes, thankfully.

There are many people in positions of authority who could put a foot down at any point and stop these runaway bullshit trains. If they chose to. By and large they decide to protect their own neck and not rock the boat. Of course, all under the guise of doing so for the greater good. I’m pretty sure they don’t sleep at night, but that’s a small consolation.

 

 

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Open Late: The 2014 Open

I’ve seen some shit during the 2014 Open. Amazing things. Terrible things. Inspiring things. The Open is a creation of our humanity that suits each person in the way they need to serve or be served.

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Jessa Lemoine takes on the row during 14.4 at CFNE.

We need to be inspired; to see what’s really possible.

I’ve seen people walking taller. They’ve participated in something which has left tens of thousands of people with more capabilities and skills than they had before it began. Like the “awakening” in The Matrix, they woke up and could suddenly see all the cheat codes. They discovered within themselves the mental fortitude to do things that scare them. To do things they’re not really sure they can do. It’s spurned them on to do those things in spite of those feelings, and to thrive.

See, the Open gives you what you need. It’s not necessarily what Rich and Sam need, per se, but what we need of them. On the surface, the Open may seem a tedious chore for these athletes. I assure you it is not. We need to be inspired; to see what’s really possible. We get to go play with them and aspire to the lofty bars they’ve set. Most of us won’t get close, but we’ll get much higher than we would’ve just toiling away in a corner someplace with blinders on.

There’s all this shit called life happening, which sometimes prevents killer strategies, optimized performance, and re-dos.

You likely wanted to get into a groove. A schedule. A routine to let you absorb the face-punch that is Dave Castro’s weekly announcement of the Open workouts. Then you can get over the shock and come up with a game plan. That gives you a few days to limber up, eat right and get it on, best you can.

There’s a problem with this plan, though: Life. People have things like jobs. And kids. As the sage Mike Tyson reportedly said, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.” Things refuse to comply with neat little plans for five minutes, never mind five weeks. We need to find a way to coexist with our addiction to fitness and sport. The Open gives us five weeks to practice.

I was in a nice groove for three weeks. Then, right after I finished 14.3, I got a face-punch; my grandfather had passed away. I needed to go back home to Boston. The Open changed from a priority to an escape. My neat little plans were no more. There were more important things.

Since I was in Boston, I got to do 14.4 at CrossFit New England, my home box. Each week they held a “Friday Night Lights” event in which they run the Open workouts like a full-on competition with judges and lane assignments. That week’s theme was “ladies night,” as they had a final heat full of female athletes who have competed at the CrossFit Games, including Stacy Kroon, Cheryl Nasso, Katrin Davidsdottir, Becca Voigt, Kaleena Laedarious, and Michele Letendre.

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Katrin Davidsdottir on the rings for Open 14.4 at CFNE’s Ladies Night.

The gym was packed to the gills with sweaty athletes standing on boxes, plates and benches to see the spectacle. It wasn’t just those ladies, though. There were 4 heats of athletes, who while they weren’t separated into any classifications, fit into three distinct groups.

The Games gals were there to put on a show. They need to get the workout done and punch the clock on their inevitable march towards the Regional. Put on a show they did. They inspired people who had come to see just what was possible. They came to do their part in the massive experiment in human performance which is the Open.

They got their first toes-to-bars and muscle-ups … they made it matter.

For others, myself included, the Open is a vicious twelve-six curve ball that we can’t help but try and put into orbit. It’s a measure of our last year of training. A tournament of bragging rights. Conversely, a lesson in moderation and humility. See, we’re not professional athletes. There’s all this shit called life happening, which sometimes prevents killer strategies, optimized performance, and re-dos. The Open teaches us how to manage these, life, and our own egos as best we can and still have fun–if we let it.

The third group of athletes were there to bask in the environment and spectacle–to feel the lights on the big stage; to take part. Some were hoping to get their first ever toes-to-bar–and they fucking did. They came to get outside of their comfort zone. To throw their hat in the ring, and do something they had never done before. They came to be part of the celebration of the sport of fitness.

Who won? Everyone who came out to play. The elite athletes got a first crack at the workout, and probably developed their strategy for a redo, all while thrilling the rest of us mere mortals. My group got our chances to go out and play with the big dogs. We got to turn off the bullshit and turn on the fun for awhile. We got to forget the sad things and just let go for fourteen minutes. Another group learned just what they can do; they got their first toes-to-bars and muscle-ups. They learned just what they’re capable of and became the most significant part of this whole process; they made it matter.

Every athlete got something different from that workout and the Open at large, but they all got something. What they got depends completely on what they needed. The Open is like an all night diner; you’re there because you need something. You might not get what you ordered, but if you have the right attitude you’ll get what you need.

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