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Dr. Darrell White's Personal Blog

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Posts Tagged ‘kettlebell’

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.

 

 

CrossFit Transference

What have you done, or what are you doing, to make yourself better? Not just in the Box, not just more fit, but in general.

We talk about the transference of the stress response from the WOD to life, how our willingness to put ourselves under significant physical duress teaches us that we can, indeed, perform at times of stress. This really happens; your neuro-endocrine stress response really does require a bigger stimulus to fire in that way that makes you “freeze up” after you’ve been dosed with the CrossFit prescription.

There is more to be learned in the Box or wherever you do your own version of CrossFit, of course. We learn to look at people differently once we’ve done CrossFit side-by-side, or once we’ve shared our results here. It becomes less “what do you look like?” and “what did you say?” but more “what did you do?” and “how did you do it?”. This trait has gone with me out of the gym, been transferred to the larger and more inclusive domains of my non-CrossFit worlds.

Every day, in countless Affiliates, commercial gyms, and garages, folks who do CrossFit are engaged in the active pursuit of “better.” A thinner band, a first Pull-up, a kip, a butterfly…an endless pursuit of ‘better’ at what we do in our pursuit of fitness. This, too, should transfer, eh?

There is a willingness to try new things in CrossFit, often things that are at first glance simply unimaginable. “You want me to do WHAT with that Kettlebell?!” It’s a kind of knowing fearlessness, a faith in self and a belief in self that comes from choosing to enter that dark place where we know it will be hard, but we’ve learned it will be worth it. This openness to trying new things, to learn new stuff in the pursuit of a generally better you should transfer too.

The concept of transference from Box to life is one more of those things which was discovered after the fact of CrossFit. In my day job I deal with neuroplasticity, the re-wiring of the adult brain in response to purposeful stimuli. Al!ison Be!ger’s work shows us that our pre-wiring for connection in response to shared experience explains the CrossFit community. My experience with neural training to enhance vision explains in part the transference of the stress response.

Our willingness to try new things, to learn new things in the pursuit of greater fitness, can also become ingrained. Wired. It can become just one more example of transference. “Constantly learn” need not apply only to “new sports”, nor does “and play” necessarily have to apply only to “new sports”. I’ve found not only an increase in my curiosity about things far removed from my knowns and knowables, but also a willingness to brave what it takes to learn and play new ones in the pursuit of some better version of me.

So, what are you doing today to apply what you have learned in the gym in the pursuit of a better ‘you’ tomorrow?