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Archive for October, 2015

Sunday musings 10/25/15: The Third Space

Sunday musings…

1) Technium. Science writer Kevin Kelly’s term for the “organism” that is our connected technology.

Once again, Asimov was right.

2) Signage. In this era of connectedness, where I can answer a question about the terminal from which my flight will depart or re-route my lost cabdriver, isn’t it fascinating that the sign on your building is still never lower than number 2 on the list of answers to “how did you find us”?

3) 3rd Space. I’ve been thinking about this a ton lately. We all have 3 spaces: home, work, and our 3rd space, that place we spend a substantial amount of the rest of our time. Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks, is quite famous for declaring that his coffee shops thrive because they become the 3rd space for so many of their customers. Having just spent a couple of hours killing time in a Starbucks waiting for a meeting I can certainly attest to this, at least in that rather large one.

For my folks and many in their generation the 3rd space was a club of some sort. My Mom and Dad have belonged to the same country club for 40 years and the majority of their social life has revolved around friendships made there. This kind of 3rd space need not be as fancy as a country club, though. Mrs. bingo and I were invited to a birthday party for one of our associates at a VFW outpost. When our friend walked in it was like a scene out or “Cheers”: everyone knew them there. Like my folks, that VFW has been a gathering place for this couple, a place for them to make and commune with friends.

One of the essential characteristics of a CrossFit Affiliate gym is that it very often becomes the 3rd space for its members and trainers. Everything about that must have come as a bit of a surprise to Coach, at least in the beginning, since his original business model was predicated on the close interaction between a trainer and 1, 2 or 3 clients. Indeed, you can see vestiges of these early teachings in the rising number of calls to return CrossFit training to something that more closely resembles what we’ve come to call “Personal Training”.

While I have a deep understanding of both Coach’s original intent when he discussed his earliest classes and the economic imperative behind at least some of the recent calls to move toward fewer clients paying higher fees, I think this would be a mistake if it means the death of the CrossFit class. Aside from the obvious, that CrossFit is simply a superior way to gain a general physical fitness, what has driven the explosive growth of all things CrossFit is this creation of a new 3rd space in the Box. While I don’t at all question the merits of one-on-one training, my bid is that this personal approach should be in addition to classic CrossFit workouts done in a group.

What we share in the Box is stronger than any differences that may separate us. Vocation, income, address…all of these things become irrelevant once we cross the threshold of the CrossFit gym. Like any true 3rd space we not only enter a zone where we are comfortable enough to be ourselves, but we exit this comfort zone in the company of friends and friendships that extend beyond the walls of the gym.

The magic may be in the movements, but the ability to bring together people from all walks of life into a new 3rd space is magical as well.

I’ll see you next week…

Comment – Posted by: bingo at October 25, 2015 7:26 AM

Dad Wisdom #17: Actions Make the Man

When it came time to pick a location for their CrossFit Affiliate my sons were adamant that there be no question that they were opening their Box in a truly new, unserved area. They disqualified several fertile locations, only doing market research in areas well outside of the catchment zone of the Boxes then open. Their intent was righteous and above reproach.

Interestingly, although the boys were quite vocal about why they opened where they did, only one of the established Affiliate owners ever acknowledged this. “The Heir” and Lil’bingo walked away from their home town and all of their parents’ contacts, a simply terrible business decision. They felt it was somehow wrong, unseemly even, to move into the close proximity of gyms they felt were doing CrossFit the right way.

We’ve been parsing the lessons taught by my Dad over the years. On his 75th birthday we gathered 75 of them, and the list has been making the rounds this week among people he’d touched in life. One of them was an admonition to judge a man based on what he did, not what he said he’d do. The lesson was deep, deeper than any of us knew at the time. Folks make all kinds of promises and give all kinds of assurances, but in the end you only know who they really are by what they actually do. One can divine intent only when one can examine action.

In the end we will understand what is important to you not by what you declare but by what you’ve done. You may make the wrong decision for the right reason, but experience teaches that this is quite rare on a micro, personal level. No amount of explanation or rationalization will provide shelter from the glaring sun shining upon your actions. That was the follow-up lesson from my Dad: you can’t talk away what you’ve done forever. “The Heir” and Lil’bingo told the world who they are by what they did. Few people listened, and fewer still understood. Their example has been honored only in the breech.

It’s not what you say you will do or why, it’s what you choose to do that tells us who you really are.

Richard E. “Dick” White 6/21/31-10/9/15

After a 2 1/2 year struggle, at 8:30 PM EDT on Friday I lost my Dad.

Four of us did, actually. Four middle-aged adults lost a father-in-law. 10 young adults are down one grandfather. Young Landon, the Lil’Prince, lost a great-grandfather whom he never met.

I am gutted.

My Dad’s been sick, really sick, for quite a long time. First hospitalized in January of 2013 he never recovered from an illness that we were told should have killed him every week since then. We’ve had two and a half years to prepare, a kind of “pre-mourning” if you will. Don’t believe it. There’s no such thing. Staring at the specter of a slow, tortuous decline with all of the indignities associated with it, I was still wholly unprepared for what turned out to be an unexpected and surprisingly quick demise. Nothing of these 2+ years of knowing left me the least bit prepared.

Some time ago I attended a talk on end of life care, the first in a lecture series honoring the friend I lost to cancer a few years ago. The talk was surprisingly moving, not only because it brought back memories of Ken but also because I knew I would likely lose my Dad in the not too far future, and I thought of my folks throughout the talk. What the speaker discussed as end of life care and end of life preparations also offered a very important take-away that I have tried try to apply every day since, especially with my parents.

The speakers thesis is that one should say 4 things often and with ease, not only in the course of completing a life’s work or concluding a life’s relationships, but in the course of living a life:

Please forgive me.
I forgive you.
Thank you.
I love you.

Sounds simple, huh? Maybe even a little trite. But each one of those little phrases is a bit of a minefield, each one laden with a hidden meaning and a back story, each one the mid-point in a little journey with a “before” you know, and an “after” you can’t possibly predict. There’s a little risk in that “after”, too, and that’s why those 4 little phrases aren’t really all that simple, and why considering this is not at all trivial. All 4 of those little phrases make you look outward, look at another, and in the stating they force you to put yourself at the mercy of that other. Each one of those phrases is a little opening in our guard, an invitation to accept or reject not only the sentiment but the sender.

I’ve now spent several years thinking about those 4 essential things and about how they fit in a life that is not necessarily concluding (at least I hope not!). We are, each of us, part of a tiny little ecosystem; thinking about using these phrases encourages us to look outward and see the others in our own worlds whether we are approaching the conclusion of a life or smack dab in the middle. How will my parents react if I approach this when I visit? Do they/did they know it’s now the 5th act, that we are tying up all of the loose ends in the story?

How about my friends, my kids, my darling bride? Actually, without really knowing it I’ve been on this path for some years now, probably guided by Beth and her inherent goodness. Friends come and go; either way I’ll likely feel a sense of completeness in any relationship if I remember these 4 things. Patients and staff do, too. I think I’m a pretty good boss and pretty user-friendly for patients as far as specialists go. Bet I’ll be better at both if I’m thinking about these, even just a little bit, even now.

Please forgive me.
I forgive you.
Thank you.
I love you.

I hope, sweet God do I hope, that I remembered enough, said these enough. I pray that I remembered to say them to my Dad before he lost the ability to remember that I said them. Don’t wait as the end of someone’s life approaches to say these four things. Don’t wait for the conclusion of your life before you think about these.

Richard E. “Dick” White 6/21/31-10/9/15. I really loved my Dad, and I will miss him every day of my life.


Transference in CrossFit

Transference is one of my favorite CrossFit topics, albeit one I’ve not touched on for a bit. Loosely defined transference is the effect of our particular type of exercise on aspects of life outside the gym that do not seem to be at all related to what we do when we train.

The most obvious examples are physical, of course. We train by performing full-body functional movements, and the more we do so the more the proper mechanics we demonstrate simply become just the way we move. You set your lower back before picking up even the smallest object, or send your hips back and load the posterior chain before you squat down to a low seat. I often smile when I catch myself doing this.

By extension, proper movement mechanics transfer to physical tasks that we do not specifically train or practice. A CrossFit Bingo athlete executed near-perfect Atlas Stone lifts at a recent competition despite the fact that CFB neither trains nor teaches classic Strongman exercises; her basic, classic CrossFit training transferred to the lifting of an “odd” object. Coach Glassman has been known to use the example of pistols (one-legged squats) in a Box making linemen who work in underground tunnels move better with fewer injuries, another clear example of physical transference of our physical training to our physical real world.

It is the non-physical effects of CrossFit training that are actually more interesting, in part because they were rather surprising in the early years of CrossFit. We willingly put ourselves into states of physical duress, activating the neuro-chemical process of the stress response system. Doing so actually trains us to handle all kinds of duress outside of the gym through a combination of a blunting of the physiological effects of stress (elevated pulse, increased breath rate, etc) and the continued psychological boost we receive by completing an arduous task. For example, in the OR a sticky situation almost never produces that sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach after 10 years of CrossFit.

Each time we come out of the “dark place” we so willingly enter when we have achieved proper mechanics and consistency and then seek intensity, we reinforce the notion that we can handle stress. We come to expect that we will succeed, and this transfers to other, non-physical stressors.

This, in turn, changes how one views oneself, and that is at the same time the most profound and most unexpected element of transference in the CrossFit world. Men and women alike enter the CrossFit gym and accept the challenge of the WOD. Along with increased work capacity across broad time and modal domains they quite often find an increased understanding of just how worthy they are. Where once they would automatically defer they now add their voice. No longer do they stand silent when someone belittles them, especially when that someone does so in an attempt to maintain unearned power.

No more. The achievement of an unassisted pull-up seems trivial, but not to the woman who initially looked at a pull-up as little more than someone else’s fantasy. She’s no longer going to cower when someone gets loud, and she’s for sure not going to back down if she’s the one who is right. Uh uh…she can do a pull-up. That victory transferred out of the gym and it matters.

That guy who stood as far back as he could in gym class in high school who just did “Fran” Rx’d for the first time ever? When he looks in the mirror he sees a totally different guy. He’s up front now, thinking about his next “Fran” and getting a PR, convinced that he is not only ready for that promotion at work, but that he is going to rock that bigger gig to boot.

Constantly varied functional fitness performed at relatively high intensity produces a type of physical fitness that transfers to other physical tasks we encounter outside of the gym. Frequently applied physical stress and the mental fortitude necessary to handle it creates a strong sense of self-worth and a deeply held belief that one can succeed. That one is worthy of success.

Seeing the transference of that is perhaps the most meaningful thing I have witnessed in my 10+ years as a CrossFitter.


In Which We Become Grandparents

The circle of life. Kinda cliché that. No matter how seriously or frivolously I might be approaching it, just saying or writing those words always turns on a Lion King soundtrack. Can’t help it. Got it going on right now.

When you think about it, though, it not’s really a circle at all. More like a long and winding road (cue Beatles) with both an on-ramp and an exit, and plenty of blind curves in between. Of late I’ve been focused on the exits; I’m kinda in the middle of my own journey and the tiny trickle of people I know who’ve exited the route has now become a rather steady flow. Two friends lost fathers this week, and more than several of us see our own family members moving out of the left and center lanes as their vehicle lines up on the far right for the “exit only” lane.

Kind of a bummer, and for anyone my age those right lanes are only gonna get more and more crowded.

From where I sit it’s easy to forget that there are ON-ramps to this great journey, too. After all, the circle or the winding road has to start somewhere. It is here that we find joy, that unfettered joy that fairly bursts with the arrival of a new traveler. Rafiki holds Simba aloft and the kingdom erupts in cheer. A baby arrives and life begins anew. The circle glows and the winding road hums with the new energy.

The White family  has grown by one. Randy and his br!de welcomed our little prince, Landon, on Thursday. 40 weeks in the making and 40 hours (no typo) in the arriving, Beth and I are now grandparents. Babies change everything, man, for everyone. Now we’ve got us one for the first time in 23 years and I find myself as unprepared as I was when “the Heir” made his grand entrance.

The circle turns and the road winds. Sadness is balanced with joy as we spin along our way. I find it impossible to wipe this silly little smile off my face. Anybody know what the official grandparent soundtrack is?


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