So … this happened last week:
10 Dumbbell Snatches
15 Box over burpees
20 Dumbbell Snatches
15 Box over burpees
30 Dumbbell Snatches
15 Box over burpees
40 Dumbbell Snatches
15 Box over burpees
50 Dumbbell Snatches
15 Box over burpees
20 minute time cap
Yeah, it happened. And when I say it happened, IT. HAPPENED. I mean, it happened on a scale of epic proportions. And some of you may be wondering if I do workouts like this all the time. The answer is: yes I do. Once a year, once a week, for five weeks. For the uninitiated, allow me to explain. This once a week, for five weeks thing is called the CrossFit Open and it’s an open workout competition designed to cull what CrossFit dubs “the fittest athletes on earth” from gyms, or “boxes” as we call them, from around the world. And hoo boy, these suckers are tough. I’m serious! The workouts are grueling, the rep schemes and time caps are long, and the weights are somewhat excessive, but it tends to fill even the most novice of CrossFitters with a masochistic sense of glee. Personally, I love it. Everyone I know in the community loves it. Hey man, say what you want about us. The CrossFit community suffers together, my friends.
So would you like to know what this workout did to me? It destroyed me. In the best possible way, and you wanna know what the best part is? I didn’t finish the workout in the time cap. I got 158 of 225 reps in the 20 minute time cap and I was so exhausted and in so much pain I was screaming, literally screaming at the end of it. These guttural, animal, savage yells came from somewhere deep inside me, and they unleashed these—these hidden resevoirs of anger. I’m never like that. Like, ever… After the workout ended, all I could do was cry. I went outside and cried. I cried for like, ten to fifteen minutes. Just these angry, red hot tears. Then I almost passed out. I hit just below that red line and I was paying for it. My girlfriend (Asa for those who don’t know) came over to me and asked me if I was okay and I told her I wasn’t but that I would be. She told me I had done a good job, heck, multiple people did, and I really only even cared if she thought I did well and if God was proud of me too. Or that’s what I thought. When I went back in after I had cooled down, I watched and judged other people perform this same Herculean task of efficiency and endurance. I saw some finish in the time cap, and I saw others put up higher reps than I had done. I thought back to my tears outside. Asa asked if I was sad. She said I shouldn’t be. She said she was proud of me for not quitting. She hugged me and wouldn’t let go. I told Asa, who was very, VERY concerned for me, that I was fine. These were tears of relief (anger) and that OF COURSE I was proud of myself (I wasn’t). She probably knew but I thought I was hiding the fact pretty well that I was already comparing my performance to everyone else’s on the whiteboard. What a good way to start the open. I lied to the love of my life and I tried lying to my God and myself. Safe to say I entered the weekend on a bit of a low point.
Saturday passed and I seemed all right. I judged a few people’s open workouts (which is new for me this year, and it’s so much fun), spent time relaxing and trying to recover, but the workout loomed in the back of my head …
Then Sunday rolled around and I saw that people who had done it on Friday were doing it again! Why? Did they hate themselves? Did they not remember what happened when they did it the first time? Was I in the wrong? I did NOT want to do that workout again. At LEAST not until my muscles had recovered …
Sunday night, as I scrolled through Facebook I saw a friend had done it again and had improved his score by 20 reps and I was impressed but also mad. I wanted to do better than him (I apologize, that’s really petty) and I wanted everyone to like me the most! I wanted to feel special and important and strong and fast and impressive and—and—
Do you see the trend here?
So I decided I was going to have to do it again. I told Asa I was going to do it again, and I texted my coach, Andrew, to ask if I could. He said yes and instead of getting excited when I heard his response, my stomach dropped. I was anxious. Scared. Nervous all over again. Why? I just wanted to beat my friend. Nothing wrong with a little healthy competition, right?
Yeah, right. Healthy? Please. This wasn’t healthy. This was obsessive and insecure. Nothing like the irony of working out to an unhealthy extreme, right?
Then I made probably the best decision I would make that entire weekend. I prayed about it.
You know what I prayed for right before I went to sleep?
“God, if you don’t want me to do this, give me a sign.” Don’t say God never answers prayers.
When I woke up the next morning at 5 am I was already afraid of the workout. I had trepidation and fear about it like I’ve never felt before ANY workout. But instead of treating that as a divine sign, trusting my intuition, or anything remotely intelligent, I decided that it was probably just nerves and I should go ahead with redoing the workout anyway. Haha! Aren’t I intuitive?
Moving on …
So, I get to the box, and I warm up. I stare at the box that I’d be doing box jumps over and the dumbbell I’d be snatching and I can feel this nervousness start to bead on my forehead. I try to walk it off. I talk to my friends. I talk to Andrew. He seems irritated. I ask why. He says he doesn’t like retesting. I ask why again. He says he dislikes retesting the Open workouts and his reply is simple, sage, and most of all convicting:
“It’s silly. It’s a workout, man. If you didn’t give your all the first time, doing it again won’t make it any better. Also, why do you want a better number than anybody else? I don’t like it when being healthy becomes a competition.”
I felt my face grow hot and I felt childish. My natural response was to immediately agree with him, even though I was about to go and do the exact opposite of what I had just agreed with.
I think he noticed cause he asked if he had gotten to me. I lied again, saying no (Lord forgive me, I was incredibly dishonest during this whole affair wasn’t I?) and I got ready to do the workout again, even though I was in a lot of muscle pain. I tried to push past it and steady myself. I unknowingly had just placed a ton of pressure on myself to do well.
Andrew said he’d judge me, so he started the clock …
I felt that fear and trepidation in the pit of my stomach again and I tried to ignore it.
I thought to myself, “just try not to fall over the box. You’ll be fine.”
Off I went. The first ten snatches were about as difficult as they were the last time. Okay. Not too bad. Keep going.
Then I started on the burpee box overs.
The first five went fine, but on my sixth one, something went wrong.
My shin banged into the corner of the box and I fell (which is nothing new to any who’ve done the box jump) but I fell harder than ever before (I have matching shin scars) and I tried to hop back up and go right back to doing burpees.
Then the fire started. Intense pain shot up my leg from base of my shin to the bottom of my knee. I looked down and saw blood running from my knee to the ground, my forearm was bruised and I could see a familiar knot beginning to form on my shin.
I felt some relief and anger well up. I knew I couldn’t keep going. Breathlessly I began motioning for Andrew to stop the clock. I was done. I couldn’t do it anymore and I didn’t want to. Why would I?
I started crying again right there in front of Andrew and my friends who were there that morning. I didn’t care that they saw. I mean, I did a little but not enough to stop. I was in so much pain and I was so frustrated. So, I sat there and let it out.
And you know, it’s kind of funny …
Some of you might see this as a really bad thing that happened …
Not me. I think it’s one of the best things that ever happened to me.
No, seriously! I do! As I sat there, I was surrounded by warmth and care. Andrew sat with me and asked me questions. He’s a really good coach and a really good friend, although if you ask him he will deny it and I’ll deny that I wrote this, but the talk was really good. We talked about it being okay. We talked about how I really didn’t want to do it again. I felt pretty accomplished doing it the first time.
I was really frustrated that I wasn’t in shape and I didn’t have the abs I want and Andrew stopped me to ask:
“How long have you been trying to be healthy?”
“How long have you been alive?”
“Okay. So, you’re telling me three years of even minimal good choices does not remove a lifetime of bad choices, and you’ve got health problems to boot. So stop beating yourself up.”
And God said, LET THERE BE LIGHT!!!!
The light bulb came on for the first time in three years. The people who love me have been shouting it for years and I couldn’t hear them over all the noise in my head.
I’ve come an incredibly long way from the person I was and in one year I’m able to do much more than I could before.
Why is it not okay for me to accept that? I have completely ignored a years-worth of positive growth in order to focus on other people’s growth and assuming that their growth somehow makes mine negative and less impressive!! How wacky is that? Such a dangerous mindset to have!
The point is, it is okay! I can accept my score and my improvements and myself! I don’t have to compare myself to other people and make myself a slave to their numbers and scores or even my own. All of this probably won’t happen overnight but that’s okay.
I am happy with what I did and I will continue to improve myself. No one can take what I did from me, not even me.
And that is why I say, to all of those signed up for the Crossfit Open or anyone doing anything healthy for any of the multitude of reasons we exercise: You do you, Boo Boo.