Random Thoughts from a Restless Mind

Dr. Darrell White's Personal Blog

Cape Cod

The Lonely Athlete

My CrossFit INTERVIEW (you can find it on CrossFit.com) starts off like this: “I was bored and lonely in the gym.” 6 years ago I discovered CrossFit and now I am no longer bored. The CrossFit mantra, constantly varied, has seen to that. But the lonely part? That’s a little more complicated.

CrossFit has a couple other mantras that apply. We seek a type of “broad, inclusive fitness” that we define as “Work Capacity Across Broad Time and Modal Domains.” To achieve this the CrossFit programming utilizes “full-body functional movements performed at relatively high intensity”, and the order in which we engage the program is “form followed by consistency, and then intensity.” Here’s the complicated part: in order to achieve “consistency” I work out in a commercial gym that is exactly 2 miles from my office and 2 miles from my home. Smack dab in the center, it’s on my way to everywhere. It’s not a CrossFit gym, so I work out alone.

I’m still lonely.

For the longest time the online CrossFit community was where I found my gym “mates”. I’d log on, post my results, and check in on everyone else. I know…I know…it’s not the same as being there with everyone, but it was close enough in the beginning, and it was enough when the early gains of the programming came so quickly and reliably. Converging trends have combined to render the cyber-gym the pale substitute it probaby always was: 6 years in the gains come more slowly and at a much greater “price” without the support of collaborators, and the denizens of the online community have emigrated to real, live CrossFit gyms.

I’m alone, again, in the gym.

What makes a successful CrossFit Affiliate gym has little to do with the stuff in the gym. It has little to do with the address, the structure, or the decor. What makes an Affiliate successful is the manner in which it combats the loneliness that exists in most commercial gyms.

Think about it. What is it like where you are working out if you, like me, are working out in a commercial gym? You’re doing CrossFit, which almost certainly means that you are doing it alone. How many other solo exercisers are faithfully there? Not many, huh? It kinda explains the whole “personal trainer” thing to me, the “training” that goes on in the commercial gym. Most “personal trainers” are simply keeping the customer company, at least the ones I observe. They combat the loneliness.

The successful athletes I see in non-CrossFit gyms work out with one or several partners. This collaboration cuts the essential loneliness in half, at least. There’s a kind of sterile safety that loneliness confers, in the gym and elsewhere. It explains, I think, the endless plateau occupied by most exercisers.

Not in a CrossFit gym, though. No, Sir. Not even in a commercial gym where two or more CrossFitters work together. The essential collaboration of spirit inherent in the CrossFit group instills a tiny dollop of courage, of fortitude, a dash of valor to the spirit that allows one to forge ahead and beyond.┬áIt’s there, beyond the boundaries of loneliness, that we succeed. It’s there, lifted by the collective spirit of the group sharing our particular type of discomfort, that we break through.

The magic of CrossFit is in the movements. The genius of CrossFit is in the programming. The soul of CrossFit is wherever two CrossFitters collaborate to break free of the lonely athlete’s safety zone.


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4 Responses to “The Lonely Athlete”

  1. January 30th, 2012 at 3:11 am

    Anisha says:

    Dr White –
    Just wanted to tell you what a fan I am! I’m a 3rd year medical student and CrossFitter, and I will be applying to ophthalmology residency programs this summer. The fact that you can be a physician and have time for CF and for blogging is a huge inspiration to me.


  2. January 30th, 2012 at 7:51 am

    darrellwhite says:

    Hi Anisha! Thanks for your kind words. I’ll drop you an email later today. You need to be introduced to Julie Foucher, another med student/CrossFitter.

  3. January 30th, 2012 at 11:03 am

    paul says:

    On the money Dr. White!! We have a lot of med students and law students that come through looking to stay in shape and get fitter. But, time is always an issue. Cross fit has been a great way for them to come in and utilize the most out of their time and build camaraderie. Thanks for the great insight !!

  4. January 30th, 2012 at 11:12 am

    darrellwhite says:

    My pleasure, Paul! Encourage your med students to spread the word about the importance of fitness!

    Darrell (bingo)

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