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Dr. Darrell White's Personal Blog

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Posts Tagged ‘crossfit games’

Sunday musings 7/26/15

Sunday musings…

1) Spectator. I am missing my friends in Carson as Mrs. bingo and I must remain home for family reasons.

Reasonably sure Mike and Deanna have the whole med team thing covered without the eye doc, though.

2) Milestones. Are you on Linked-In? Among the automatic notifications one receives is the announcement of work anniversaries. For example, this year my connections were informed that I had a 10 year anniversary at SkyVision Centers (aside: huge upset victory).

This morning my FB feed informed me that The Daigle has been Facebook friends with so-and-so for 5 years. Like it’s significant.

I’m going with FB friend anniversaries as a Sign of the Apocalypse.

3) Size. You know the old saw: size matters. In certain settings saying this will set the audience a-twitter, in others it may make one twitterpated. Here, in CrossFit, but specifically while viewing the CrossFit Games, we are seeing that size does, indeed, matter.

I continually return to the classic treatise “What is Fitness” in CFJ #2, Coach Glassman’s seminal article introducing the principles upon which CrossFit has been built. Early in the article he references the differences in build, in size, between various types of athletes, singling out for particular praise those who run the 400 and 800M at the highest levels. Here, at this size and build, is likely to be found the prototype for the ideal expression of fitness as we define it.

What are you seeing this weekend as you watch the Games? What strikes me is the reinforcement of the concepts so elegantly described in CFJ #2. TheDaveCastro has once again put together a witches brew of tests that are revealing the importance of balance in training and its effect on size. Over-emphasize strength, and by doing so emphasize an increase in size? Gonna be tough to haul that extra muscle mass on both a run and 31 times up on a bar muscle-up. Sub-6:00 miles and flying through 100 pull-ups? The size you’ve shed would surely have helped in Heavy DT.

Some things are simply given and cannot be manipulated. The tallest and shortest competitors have all faired less well at the highest levels through no fault of training, for example. While you watch the final day of Games 2015, especially if you have followed this sport for awhile, pay a bit of attention to the changes in size of both the men and the women over the years. I found myself telling Mrs. bingo that so-and-so had gained too much mass this year, obviously over-weighting strength and with performance on other measures correspondingly suffering.

There’s a sweet spot when it comes to performance, one that changes if you value different outcomes. If we are talking about CrossFit and the CrossFit Games, the theoretic sweet spot was predicted years ago by Coach in CFJ #2. Finding the proper size that balances the emphasis among all of the essential characteristics of fitness is part of what it takes to win the CrossFit Games.

4) Change. While we’re on the topic of sweet spots, there’s probably a timeline over which there are optimal times to effect major life changes. For example, true entrepreneurship is quite rare after the age of 45 or so. Most people who are viewed as entrepreneurs don’t really start anything new, or even have any truly new ideas after that age. There are exceptions of course, but they prove the rule for the most part. If you ask them about their breakthrough most will say they are just now acting on something that came to them years earlier.

Which makes me want to ask those exceptions: “why now?”

Change is hard. Even evolutionary change (a catcher is turned into a 3rd baseman in the minors) can be gut-wrenching. The longer you wait to make that change the harder it can be to pull the trigger. Especially if change means leaving something that is OK, or good, or even great. Change is not any easier if you are leaving something less than OK or good, it’s just a bit more…I dunno…inevitable I guess.

And why 45? What’s significant about that mid-40′s thing? Probably the multiplying effect of 25 years of adult connections and the fact that every change you might make now imposes change on someone else I guess. You’re 20 and you walk away from a D1 track scholarship to pursue the CrossFit Games–pretty much just you in that equation. You don’t want to wake up at mid-life and wonder if you could have made a pro team, run with that invention, performed on Broadway, or earned a living as a writer. At 25 you’ll have years to bounce back if it doesn’t turn out. 45, family, comfortable job with a pretty clear and secure 15 years ahead? What a daunting proposition, to consider departing from good for only the chance of great.

Who’s to say which is the harder choice with the greatest personal consequences, to make the change or to walk away, forever unsure of what might have been.

I’ll see you next week…

Sunday musings 6/22/14

Sunday musings…

1) Bruce Lee. “Obey the principles without being bound by them.” Now there’s something to chew on for a bit.

2) Simplicity. Travel advice to young people on the road: If hungry, eat. If tired, sleep.

Reminds me of the 3 essential rules of a surgery residency: Eat when you can, drink when you can, and don’t [mess] with the pancreas.

3) Participate. My friend Scott has been bitten by the CrossFit as Sport bug. He’a a former wrestler and 400M runner, so the guy has a history of physical suffering going way back. He seems to enjoy this new competition, enough so that he headed to the far, far side of the other side of our city for a competition. His pre-comp jitters notwithstanding (I can’t figure out if this is a good part of the experience for him, or a bad part), he came away victorious.

The pre-game jitters are an indication that my friend was preparing to compete, not just to participate. Me? I’m done with true competition against others, at least athletically. I occasionally jump into events, but for me it’s for the purpose of participation. Kinda like the Open, I’m there for the camaraderie, to be part of an enjoyable conversation. CrossFit for me is a means to an end, a vehicle to drive me to a healthier, more fit version of mid-life bingo. When push comes to shove I am no longer willing, or maybe even able, to do what is necessary to really try to win at CrossFit, the sport.

Is Scott right, or am I? The answer, of course, is “yes”.

4) Essential. There were, once upon a time, epic conversations that took place here about all manner of topics. The most memorable ones were about CrossFit. Back in the day folks who were there at the beginning, some from the original CrossFit Santa Cruz including Coach himself, would weigh in on fundamentals, programming, progressions and the like. It could get pretty hairy at times; there were some awfully strong personalities hanging around. These conversations are now occurring elsewhere, which is a shame, but they still go on. I’d like to share my thoughts on one of them.

The issue of programming is always on the table. Is there an optimal version of CrossFit programming? People take turns at supporting and denigrating the programming here on the Main Page, and countless efforts are made to “improve” on the model you see here. Some of these alternatives make sense, while others IMO are not really alternative CrossFit programming but alternatives TO CrossFit. Most of these, indeed most of the conversations in general, have to do with strength and strength training. Are you (is anyone) strong enough? Will CrossFit.com or another version of CrossFit make you strong enough?

Here’s a little bit of homework for you: look up “The 10 Essential Elements of Fitness.” They can be found in CFJ #2, “What is Fitness”, and they are also posted on 030530 ( ironically on a day when heavy Deadlifts were prescribed). Pretty much all of the conversations noted above revolve around the premise that strength is somehow more important than other elements of fitness. Reasonable people can disagree on this point, but as a premise in discussing CrossFit the notion that strength is a, or the, primary element of fitness has no standing. There are 10 elements of Fitness, each no more and no less important than any other if we are seeking a broad, inclusive general physical preparedness that we call “fitness”. Full stop.

Whoa, wait a minute there bingo, aren’t you the guy who co-wrote an article called “Strong Medicine” introducing a programming alternative called “CrossFit Strength Bias”? Isn’t that statement there just a bit, oh, duplicitous? Forked-tongue typing?

Nope. Not at all. You see, if you read the article you will see that CFSB is one way to address a DEFICIT in strength relative to the other 9 Essential Elements, not a program meant to gain strength at the EXPENSE of the other 9. As such it, like some others, is a program for the common CrossFitter who perceives a hole in his/her fitness that needs to be addressed, not at all unlike a CrossFitter who does supplemental work in gymnastics or Oly lifting or mobility. Additional Element-specific work, be it strength or agility or whatnot, that drives continued balance and improvement in all 10 Elements is very much CrossFit.

CrossFit is outcome based. The outcome desired is a broad-based fitness comprised of equal quantities of each of 10 Essential Elements. What goes into the left side of the hypothetical Black Box should produce Work Capacity Across Broad Time and Modal Domains if the Black Box is a CrossFit athlete of any type. An increase in your Deadlift should be accompanied by a decrease in your 5K run and your “Fran” time.

Programming for CrossFit should aim for CrossFit outcomes. Full stop.

I’ll see you next week…

Posted by bingo at June 22, 2014 5:34 AM

Agreeable?

When did a difference of opinion become a de facto conflict? When did the evaluation of another come down to whether or not they hue to a fine line of agreement on a single, or a few, or G0d forbid, every issue? When did this phenomenon morph into one in which a difference of opinion then becomes the basis for labeling another as ‘good’ or bad’?

Am I the only one who’s noticed this?

I’m not talking about a difference of opinion which is then followed by a concerted attack, one that forces you to identify the holder of the other opinion as ‘bad’ and enemy. There’s nothing new to see there. One only has so many cheeks to turn. Eventually you need to fight or flee an attack, but that’s not what I’m talking about.

On a personal, local, and national level we could once identify broad stroke issues on which we could generally base a level of agreement or disagreement, very few of which would be a ‘deal-breaker’ when it came to civil discourse. The first part of this, the existence of broad stroke issues, remains true. What is fundamentally different in my mind is how un-moveable many of us have become on ever more minute details as we drill down from the 30,000 foot view. All well and good, I suppose, to seek fidelity to an ever more granular level of agreement on whatever issue is at hand, especially in this age when we have ever greater ways in which to find and connect with people of a like mind.

What I don’t get is the subsequent labeling of any and all others as “bad”. Unworthy. Lesser in some way because they do not agree at every level with a particular–very particular–point of view. As I remember it the “80-20″ Rule pretty much applied to belief systems as well as business: if you shared 80% of your beliefs with another that was plenty good enough to allow a friendship, and certainly enough to inoculate against a conflict. Now? Seems like something more like the “980-20″ rule: only the smallest amount of the most trivial difference of opinion is permissible. Anything more than nuance between people and they’re going to the mattresses. Anything more than nuance and we’ve identified something other, something lesser, something to destroy.

What’s up with that?

You could say that anything other than full devotion to a cause , concept or worldview is not pragmatism but something more akin to weakness. An inferiority of spirit, perhaps. You could say that nothing other than total fidelity to some grand theme or concept is acceptable and brook no deviation from a one, true path. I would say that the world is infinitely too complex to approach life in this manner. I would further say that to do so needlessly isolates you from people who might very well bring infinite joy to your life despite differential nuance or even a fundamental disagreement on any one issue. Living and letting live rather than seeing a difference of opinion as identifying the other as an enemy might just mean a more pleasant life filled with more people who might be better described as friends, or at least friendly.

At the very least perhaps we could just agree to disagree and be on our way.

 

CrossFit is for Whom?

It’s really incredible what’s been said about our CrossFit on the information highways this week. The amount of opinion masquerading as fact-based advice is off the charts. Anyone’s who’s been here for more than 2 years will realize that it’s just that part of the cycle, that time when CrossFit has reached another Tipping Point size-wise and has therefore come to the attention of another outwardly spiraling circle of “experts.” Trust me, it’s Groundhog Day in the gym, so to speak.

This is a wonderful opportunity to take a moment to reflect upon what CrossFit actually is, what it is not, and for whom CrossFit is appropriate. Let’s start with the last and work forward. CrossFit is appropriate for almost everyone. The group for whom it may not be really the best option is actually counter-intuitive: elite single sport athletes in highly skilled endeavors. Waaaiiiit at minute here, you might be saying. The highest-skilled elite athletes may NOT be the best CrossFit candidates, but the great unwashed masses of the obese, unfit, and unhealthy ARE?! You bet, Bucky. That’s exactly what I’m saying. The .01% probably need to spend 100% of their time on their specialty.

CrossFit is for the other 99.9%.

Why? How can that be? Well, that runs into what CrossFit is not, namely a dangerous, hyper-intense program that has a high injury rate, something too over-the-top for “regular” folks. Uh, uh. The real “dirty little secret” of CrossFit (if I may crib a rather recently famous phrase) is that scaling the stimulus and subbing in favor of more approachable movements is decidedly the norm in almost every setting where CrossFit is done. Technique. Then consistency. Then, and only then, intensity. Says so everywhere. Are there small pockets of CrossFit or CrossFitters who jump the gun and go straight to intensity? Sure. But that is hardly an indictment of the program, especially since the program and the company incessantly beat the drum: technique, then consistency, and only then intensity.

Which brings me to what it is that CrossFit can actually be said to be: the solution to the adverse effects of overabundance. A viable answer to the problems created by an unhealthy population. While the CrossFit Games have been an incredibly effective PR vehicle for the CrossFit Affiliates (which is also true, paradoxically, of all this silliness on the web right now!), they have confused a vocal segment of the opinionators about CrossFit and CrossFitters. Peek through the door of any CF Box and guess at who’s inside. Here’s a tip: it ain’t Jason Khalipa and Miranda Oldroyd! It is, however, everyone else. What do you think they will be caught doing? Again, likely not what Jason and Miranda are doing that day! They will rather be doing approximately an hour’s worth of work, some of it skill-based, some of it directed toward some hole in their fitness, and almost certainly culminating in something that we would all recognize as a WOD. Look very closely, though, because if you do you will also see that there will be many subtle variations of that particular WOD going on, maybe as many subtle variations as there are CrossFitters in the gym.

CrossFit is a highly customizable system built on the core principles elucidated in the Classic CrossFit Journal Issue no.2, “What is Fitness”, for which there is a link on the left side of the Main Page of CrossFit.com. A prescription for not only fitness but also health that includes a universally scalable program of exercise in combination with an easily followed guideline for nutrition, all geared to produce incremental and sustainable gains in 10 very specific physical domains. All of this results in health, and when we combine this individual health with the wonders of the communities that have grown out of gatherings of CrossFitters we end up with something that could be called Wellness.

None of this is new. Nothing I’ve said here is unique or original. It does bear repeating, though, because you might be relatively new, and this latest round of “CrossFit is dangerous” or “CrossFit is only for people like Jason and Miranda” might actually be your first rodeo. It’s OK. Relax. It’s still technique, then consistency, and only then intensity. It’s still eat to support performance in the gym but not production of fat. Still learn and play new games. It’s still CrossFit.

CrossFit is still the answer.

 

When CrossFitters Compete

Registration for the CrossFit Open, the largest simultaneous participatory athletic event in the world, begins January 15th. Are you in? Of course you are! It only costs a few bucks (sorry Dave Castro, I haven’t actually been to the Games site yet so I don’t know the actual entry fee!), and you get to take part right alongside everyone. Even Rich, Annie, Julie, Sam, Jason, and, you know, EVERYONE.

Competing in CrossFit, CrossFit as a sport, is not really my thing. I have too many old injuries that take all of the fun out of “unknown and unknowable” as a game, but I totally get the whole “it’s fun to compete at my thing” aspect of CrossFitters competing . The Open is one cool way to compete, and for me it’s the only one that is enough fun for me to throw my hat into the ring, too. Even at that I will approach each event with safety as my priority. I want to be a part of the whole Open experience, but at the same time I don’t want to get injured and miss any training time in the gym because, let’s face it, I really like begin in the Box.

Injuries in competitions pitting CrossFitters against one another have been on my mind lately. Not crazy, freak injuries that are just bad luck, but injuries that appear to be predictable, at least to me. I’ve been a spectator at almost every CrossFit Games, multiple Regionals and Sectionals (when we had them), and many local competitions set up just for the fun of the competition and the gathering. I’ve been to a number of one’s locally very recently. There’s a trend in these non-HQ sanctioned events that I’ve noticed, and I think we need to talk about it. Now, with the Open almost upon us, is a really good time to do that.

The Open as you know, or are about to know, is one WOD per week posted each week for 5 consecutive weeks. That’s it. One WOD. Not 3 WODs with an hour between each, or a weekend’s worth of work that includes epics like “Elizabeth” followed by “Grace” followed by “Fran”, or a Sprint Tri followed by the BUDs obstacle course. One WOD per week. On top of that you will discover that the WODs chosen will allow for the maximum amount of participation; almost no one will be excluded by a movement or a load that is beyond them because of the structure of the WODs to come. This has been the signature of the Open and there is no reason to expect that the wide-open funnel at the entrance to the Games will be any narrower in 2014.

Yet, when I visit a Box or attend an event as a spectator, or even just look at the WODs posted for a competition, I invariably cringe at what I see. There might be enough volume to make even the hale and heartiest from the NC Lab blanch. The loads on familiar movements are so extreme that they are almost self-parody. To top it off there appears to be an “arms race” between competitions to see who can program the most obscure movements in our entire CrossFit quiver, stuff we do on only the rarest of occasions, and even then only for the unique training effects to be garnered more through mastering the movement than maximizing work with the exercise. Think heavy Turkish Get-Ups or ambushes with axel C&J. These competitions are supposed to be fun for Heaven’s sake!

The “Gamesification” of local competitions is a tragedy in the making. Looking at the events in some of them makes me think of some of the WODs I see posted in various places, long chippers with ever more clever names, each meant to out-do the last. These WODs as an Odyssey have been aptly called “Any Asshole” WODs, as in “any asshole” can put together a bunch of exercises and thrash a group of CrossFitters with them. Even worse is programming for regular CrossFitters that simply pounds away, day after day, with this kind of stuff, or pounds away at them in a local competition. People are getting hurt, missing work, missing time in the gym. It’s not OK.

I am confident that this year’s CrossFit Open will be like the last. It will include standard issue exercises and loads we can handle. Coach Glassman will see to that. For the rest of you who are holding “friendly” competitions around the world I am throwing down the gauntlet: stop hurting my people! Think CrossFit Open more than CrossFit Games when you program for your event. Be inclusive with movements and loads–you can very adequately test your competitors fitness with exercises and weights we use all the time. Save those weird and wacky events (100M backward sprints! One-arm barbell Cleans!) for the controlled setting of a training session under the direction of a trainer concentrating on technique.

It’s supposed to be fun, but as we say in my day job: it’s all fun and games until someone pokes an eye out.

 

CrossFit and Recovery.

You can’t do a search for “CrossFit” without wading through countless articles about CrossFit “injuries” and whether CrossFit is safe, or how to do CrossFit safely. Heck, half of my “Zite” CrossFit section is polluted with that genre. The CrossFit community itself is awash in comments and stories of folks who are over-worked. Rashes of niddling little injuries pile one upon another until the recipe brews up not a finely tuned soufflé but rather something more like the cheesy crust rimming the pan that contains the remnants of over-baked mac n’cheese.

How can this possibly be? We watch our Games athletes in this run-up season to our Games, parse their programs and compare their 3-a-days to our 3-a-weeks, and yet it is we who fall apart, not them. We marvel at the Princes and Princesses of our kingdom like the wondrous Christmas above, see them parachute into view leaving behind shock and awe, only to find ourselves reading about this or that danger or catastrophe or calamity from an “over-trained” CrossFitter. How come?

It’s simple, really, and that’s probably why it’s so hard. The sensational stories about danger? Meh, nothing more than tabloid folderal, no more common in reality than teenage vampires in bikinis on page 3 of some magazine at CVS. Oh sure, they both exist, but the noise made about their existence is laughably out of proportion to their true numbers.

No, the real reason we as a group struggle with this is that we forget a couple of really fundamental things about CrossFit, the fitness and health program. The WODs here on CrossFit.com are openly described as created to challenge the fittest athletes on earth. Period. Sorry, but that’s not you, and that’s not me. If we do these as Rx’d and as scheduled the vast majority of us will have a “wheels come off” experience, either a little at a time or in one spectacular crash.

Again, why? Well, because of the other CrossFit fundamental that we all too frequently forget: OUR CrossFit is a training program to allow us to be fitter, healthier, and therefore better at LIFE. Christmas, Jason, Rich, Julie et al are our equivalents of Andy Murray (now playing in the Wimbledon Finals) or Danica Patrick (driving a car and turning left this afternoon): they are paid in part to excel at CrossFit. Each day is carefully planned and includes a healthy dose of rest and recovery.

Ah, there it is. Rest and recovery. Not only that but carefully planned rest and recovery. You talk to your Coach about loads and time domains but when’s the last time you sat down and talked with your trainer about your schedule? Have you EVER discussed recovery? Whether you work out in a Box or on your own, do you have an injury prevention plan? Think about it. If we are doing Crossfit in order to be better at something…anything…whenever we have some sort of Crossfit malady that decreases our functionality we’ve achieved the exact opposite of our goals. Maybe we can’t go to work. Even worse, maybe we can’t go to the Box. CrossFit is FUN and the gym is FUN; not being able to go to the gym stinks.

Here’s my bid: pushing ourselves to our limit 3 days on/1 day off is part of who we are, and we should continue to do just that. Go ahead and take a full dose of the CrossFit prescription. Be inspired by Christmas and her peers and occasionally give in to the temptation to do something extraordinary like “CrossFit for Hope” as Rx’d. Or really crazy, like “Eva”!

At the same time follow their example and consciously build recovery into your own CrossFit program. Can’t fit 10 hours of sleep into your 24 hour day like Jason? No time or money for a couple of massages and the chiropractor every week? Me either. My day job really messes up my CrossFit, ya know? I can’t remember the last time I took a nap. So go hard when you workout, but schedule in breaks. Make them mandatory. Allow those little aches and pains that prove that you are, indeed, working hard to heal before they become an unstoppable cascade of real injury. (Do a search on the Message Board for “Larry Lindenman” and “rest”, “scheduled rest”, or “de-load”). Accept that you may need to make tiny compromises in order to prevent injuries. For example, if you can’t afford to have your hands rip from pull-ups, do whatever it takes to prevent them regardless of the sniping you may encounter here or elsewhere about gloves, wraps, or tape.

There are three fundamental aspects of CrossFit: business, sport, and fitness. The few and fortunate among us who participate at the highest levels of the first two often have the luxury of fewer non-CF priorities and can apply laser-like focus on training, including recovery. You and I, on the other hand, must remember that CrossFit is a tool, the best tool, that we use to make ourselves better. Like all powerful tools it must be accorded respect.

We must plan our recovery lest we recover from our wreck.

 

The CrossFit Games Effect and the Traveling CrossFitter

Do you travel at all? For work or for fun? If so, do you drop in on local CrossFit Affiliates for a WOD? Some folks do this just for fun on their home turf, bop around and visit local Boxes for variety, community, whatever. What has your experience been like? Did you feel welcome, regardless of your experience or your expertise?

The answers to this question will likely drive the conversation about our community’s next iteration. You know, CrossFit.com to Affiliate to international phenomenon, or something like that. What I hear is mostly something along the lines of “everyone was really friendly and I was welcomed by the owners”, and the collective experience of Clan bingo has been just that. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anything other than that from any CrossFitter who can reasonably be described as “average” or more advanced.

There is a somewhat newer experience we hear of though, one that has become a bit more common as the Games have grown, and it usually comes from the less experienced or less talented CrossFitters. There are some Boxes that are focused on coaching only those folks for whom the Main Page CrossFit.com WOD’s as Rx’d are considered the CrossFit “starter kit”. Kinda like “unless you can do 95% of .com WOD’s as Rx’d we don’t have room for you” stuff. Pretty harsh, especially if you are an average CrossFitter (like me) and you are not aware of this before arriving at the garage door and getting ambushed.

By and large the CrossFit Games are a unifying force for our community of CrossFitters. One need only look at the FB pages of CrossFitters attending the Regionals these last few weeks, littered as they are with posts and pictures of their experiences. The universal thread is the thrill of meeting like-minded individuals en masse, the ease of talking with people who don’t need a translator to interpret the lingo. The advent of competition at an international level seems to have had a different effect on occasion in some quarters.

We have had a culture of inclusiveness, “CrossFit is for everyone”. The work being done by the mad scientists behind the curtain at HQ is very much geared toward measuring and enhancing the effect of CrossFit on the middle of the Bell Curve and below, attempting to answer the questions surrounding fitness as a measure and producer of health for the masses, not just the elite performers. This “CrossFit is for everyone” ethic typically extends to the classes at most Affiliates in which the Newbie just out of his on-ramp class does a scaled WOD on the platform next to last year’s Regional Team competitor. Boxes have traditionally been open and welcoming (for a drop-in fee, which is cool) to all traveling CrossFitters looking for a dose of the CrossFit Rx in the company of the like-minded.

I’m not saying that this has changed so much as maybe just saying I’ve heard a canary or two around the mines as it were. A chirp here, a squeak there. Nothing really, as long as the stories of average CrossFitters who felt unwelcome remain rare enough to be considered a kind of “urban legend”. It’s important to remember that the Games-worthy athlete is the exception, even in gyms that consider themselves the birthing grounds of such rare and wonderful creatures.

The true power of CrossFit and the true measure of CrossFit’s worth is STILL the fact that CrossFit really IS for everyone. It’s not the “man bites dog” phenomenon of a victor at the Regionals coaching and cheering for the stragglers, it’s the fact that the faster and stronger do that at every CrossFit class at every Affiliate every day. Allison Belger talks about the shared struggle as the foundation for our community and this is partly true; what builds the community is the support that radiates from the fittest to the still unfit, the message that you really can share this sruggle with us. The community is functional in much the same way that our movements are functional, from core (members and owners) to extremity (visitors, newcomers).

While we are all blessed (or cursed) with different abilities and potentials we shouldn’t forget that we were all once new to this wonderful CrossFit thing, too. The beauty of it all is that we are still more alike than we are different despite the fact that there are now so many more of us. Wanna know my “Fran” time or 1RM Deadlift before I jump into your 5:30 class as a visitor? Sure. No problem. Just use it to figure out how I’m gonna fit in, not wether I’m gonna be allowed.

Because ya never know, if you do I might be sitting right next to you at the Regionals cheering for that woman in your Box who kicked my a$$ in the WOD and then stood right next to me and cheered me on to the finish.

 

 

The CrossFit Games: Defining Moments

“Defining moment”: a point at which the the essential nature or character of a person, or a group, etc. is revealed or identified.

Buzzfeed reported that Rich Froning signed an endorsement contract with Oakley, calling it a “the defining moment in CrossFit’s history.” Think about that for a moment. The signing of a single endorsement contract by Rich is being called THE defining moment in CrossFit’s, not the CrossFit Games’ mind you but CROSSFIT’s entire history.

I prefer to think of Rich’s Oakley signing as just one more milepost along the maturational highway of the CrossFit Games, CrossFit as sport. When we eventually have a Nike sponsored athlete or a Gatorade commercial (hmmm…who do you want to see with the fluorescent perspiration cascading down the body after a clip of butterfly PU?) then we will know that CrossFit the sport has broken through to the masses, not unlike that snowboard kid–what’s his name, the Floating Eggplant or something like that–getting an Amex commercial in the Olympics OFF season.

No, I think there actually have been a couple of defining moments this past year or so, one that is CrossFit in general and bridges the CrossFit/Non-CrossFit divide, and one which is specific to CrossFit, the sport and is confined for the moment within the CrossFit community. I don’t think either one of them is a promotional deal.

The first one is easy: CrossFit, Inc produces and sells the CrossFit Games to ESPN. Now THAT, boys and girls, is a defining moment. There is no Oakley contract for Rich, heck there’s probably no Reebok without the gut check Greg Glassman (universally know in the CrossFit world as simply “Coach”) and the CrossFit HQ staff made when they went it alone at the Home Depot Center for the 4rd rendition of the CrossFit Games. I’d had some conversations with Coach that winter as he worked through the various options available to CrossFit as media companies started to circle the new phenomenon that was CrossFit (my role and impact were trivial; I was simply a sounding board as Coach thought out loud).  Year 1 at the HDC was live-streamed to CrossFit Nation for free, and done so at a substantial financial loss.

Signing that ESPN deal is the very essence of a defining moment: CrossFit and Greg Glassman would control all things CrossFit, including how its signature event would be produced, and they were willing to not only walk away from silly money to do so, they were willing to LOSE money.

Think Adidas is happy about that? The Reebok/CrossFit Games and the Reebok/CrossFit deal are also a defining moment for the second largest athletic company on the planet, let alone just CrossFit. The international awareness of Reebok and its growing association with the pursuit of fitness may actually save the original Adidas deal to purchase Reebok, thus far a money loser. Reebok benefits from the buzz generated by CrossFitters talking about CrossFit, something we are known to do on occasion! Reebok has been re-defined in part as a fitness company. Now that the CrossFit Games are on “The Deuce” almost all of my conversations about CrossFit occur without the need for an introductory explanation, a true paradigm shift for CrossFit. I’ll bet that’s changed for most other CrossFitters, too.

The other defining moment is an internal one and involves CrossFit the sport, the CrossFit Games, for both participants and CrossFitting spectators. It speaks to the growth and continued maturation of both the sport and CrossFit. Each year the Games season has had an “issue” that in retrospect has made perfect sense as it related to the particular stage of development of both CrossFit and the Games. We had entries cut off at a particular number without a qualifier, and CrossFit Inc. was excoriated by the excluded. We had locally-run Regionals which generated controversy about WOD choices, and CrossFit HQ was accused of favoring certain Affiliates and athletes. We had the first Open and the surprising number of participants straining the resources of the Games staff, which was taken to task as unprepared (in truth, the volume and growth was impossible to forecast). We had Regional venue variability and therefore presumed issues of fairness. All of these were acknowledged by HQ, and ALL of them were resolved in each subsequent year. None of these, however, constituted “defining moments”, so provincial was each one.

Now we have folks at home making rules calls. Evaluating judges’ calls no differently than we see people talking about balls and strikes, one foot inbounds or two, charging or a block. This feels an awful lot like the “Big Time”. The event and the audience have now grown so big, and both have become so sophisticated, that this year people are talking, arguing,  about pretty darned subtle judging issues. The Games have grown and CrossFit has separated along the lines of those who compete in the Major Leagues and those who compete for fun (if at all). Not unlike golf or tennis or any manner of endurance sport, the divide between the 0.1% and the rest of us now exists in CrossFit, too. As far as The Sport of Fitness (R) goes, we are now all witnesses.

The gulf between Games Athlete and CrossFitter is no less wide than that which exists in any professional sport you can name, and its existence or significance does not rest on an endorsement contract. The power of this defining moment in my opinion (no endorsement, here or ever, from HQ) is that we have reached a point where we all understand the nuance of CrossFit to the degree that we are knowledgeable enough to comment on judging. We watch the events and we care enough to argue calls. At the Games, at the Regionals, and at the Open. The fact that some of us choose to do so may or may not be a good thing, but the depth of knowledge that is now present across the spectrum of people doing CrossFit, manifested by our collective awareness of the act of judging, is a significant defining moment for CrossFit, the sport.

So best of luck to Rich and all of the athletes going through the Regionals right now. Congrats to Rich on signing a landmark endorsement deal, whether or not it is a “defining moment” for CrossFit (I loved his Oakley toss to the crowd at 13.5 in Santa Cruz, by the way!). Good luck to anyone who wants to buy a pair of Rich Froening Oakleys though–in my day job we sell the brand, and let’s just say that they haven’t figured out the inventory/customer service thing.

But mostly, best of luck to all of the judges at all of the Games events. Let’s remember that every year HQ has evaluated the Games experience and come back better the next, solving each year’s issue as the Games grow into next year’s. This year will be no different. Each one of those judges is you, and they will be back with you in the Box next week in the never-ending struggle of you vs. you.

Each of you looking for your own, personal, CrossFit “defining moment” each time you walk through the door.

 

 

Old Crow (Courtesy of John Brown)

You know those liquor ads, all sensitive and such, where they show you a picture of a bunch of young folks warm and close. “You save your good stuff (presumably THEIR stuff) for your best friends.” My friend John Brown thinks otherwise. Maybe you save your best stuff for your Mom or your Dad as sign of respect or as a thankful gesture, but your REAL friends are the one’s with whom you can drink the really bad stuff. The rot gut. The “Old Crow”.

If you think about it for just the littlest bit John is absolutely right. With your best friends, your real friends, it’s not at all about the what or the where but only about the who. You are sitting, standing, sweating…whatever…with your friend. “Old Crow” is just fine.

Try this. Someone, probably my Dad, told me long, long ago that your closest friends were the people you could hang out with in silence. If there’s nothing to say, you say…nothing. No awkward silences, just silence. That’s one way I knew my wife Beth was “the one” by the way.

(Lifts glass of Old Crow)

Cheers.

 

Choosing a CrossFit Gym: An Affiliate’s Role

Back in the day, before the astronomic growth of the CrossFit Affiliate program and before there were jokes about the number of CrossFit gyms vs. Starbucks, a CrossFit program was really a much more personal endeavor. Unless you were one of those very fortunate souls to belong to the first 100 or 200 gyms you did CrossFit alone, or in a very tiny group. Everything about CF was really “you vs. you” because the three people in your gym were “me, myself, and I”. We could truly say that the omnibus CrossFit really was for everyone, at least everyone who was willing to learn enough to adapt and scale the WOD. Only those given to self-loathing had any problems with the community aspect of their gyms.

Now? People new to CrossFit are often unaware that an online version even exists; they are clueless when you ask them about anything that might be on CrossFit.com. Some large percentage of people only know the CrossFit Affiliate model and are introduced to CrossFit by someone who knows someone at some CrossFit Somewhere. Their first exposure to CrossFit and the CrossFit community occurs when they walk through the front door of the Affiliate. This changes the conversation. With a very few, really unique exceptions CrossFit is STILL for everyone. However, every CrossFit Affiliate may not be for everyone.

In my son Lil’bingo’s Affiliate on Saturday I listened to one of the members who quite sadly related the tale of a good friend who was turned off by the vibe at the Affiliate he visited. He felt right away that he didn’t fit. Didn’t feel welcomed. Why he felt this way is probably not all that important because someone else surely walked in the next day and felt right at home. It is a bummer, though, because he has extrapolated his initial experience in this particular Box to ALL Boxes and to CrossFit itself. That’s really a shame because from all accounts he’s a guy who would not only benefit from CrossFit, he’s a guy who would really enjoy a CrossFit community.

What went wrong? No idea. Could have been any number of things, really. Maybe no one greeted him, or said hi. Maybe he’s a little far from his prior athletic peak and he was intimidated by an advanced class, or worse made to feel that he didn’t measure up. Might have been something as easy to understand as he showed up on a day when the Open was being judged and all of the trainers and member-ambassadors were just tightly focused on 13.5. Older than the group, younger than the group. Whatever.

I certainly don’t mean this to be a critique of this particular Affiliate, or even the vibe given off there. The beauty of the explosive growth to the CrossFit Affiliate model is precisely that you can find a Box that fits both your fitness goals and your “community comfort zone.” Each one of us should go out of our way to counsel newcomers to explore the various Affiliates in a community, go out of our way to tell them that how a place feels can be different for different people, and that they shouldn’t walk away from CrossFit if the first Box doesn’t feel right. Trust me, it’s a blast when a friend hits up the Affiliate you suggest and falls instantly in love with everything, so much so that they get a bit angry when you remind them to check out other Boxes! Your gym becomes your “third space” and we should all remember to include comfort in the community when we are making  CrossFit suggestions to our friends.

And that Affiliate? In my opinion an Affiliate does have a responsibility to be an ambassador for CrossFit “the fitness program” and the CrossFit community at large. Welcoming the newcomer to your gym might be welcoming them to CrossFit itself. Very little is actually asked of Affiliates in the way of CrossFit as a whole. No purchasing agreements or requirements, no mandatory programming or equipment. An annual check to mail in and an informal understanding not to disparage Crossfit. That’s pretty much it. My call is that there should be just a little more, a tiny bit of ambassadorship for the program and the community, and all that both can do for all of our friends and family, each time someone new graces your doorway. Greet them with a smile and answer a couple of questions. If you’re really busy ask them to come back when you both have a little time. Tell them about your particular version of CrossFit and your very particular CrossFit community.

Each Affiliate may not be for everyone, and that’s really OK. But CrossFit itself, with few exceptions, is STILL for everyone.