CrossFit and the Warrior Within

Ancientgenerals_hoplites2_5 Most of us are not Marines or Navy SEALs. We’re not cops or firefighters. Most of us don’t live heroic lives or even talk about bravery in any real context. We know little of real need, and less of sacrifice. Instead of facing danger daily, most of us face boredom daily; there is too much of everything in America. We have wants and large appetites. Discipline is relegated to putting half a teaspoon of sugar in our tea, or buying a smaller car to save on gas, or skipping dessert. Like it or not, this is modern-day America. We are not warriors. Yet, within our microcosm of daily abundance, we CrossFit. We willingly subject ourselves to a rigorous, demanding program that brings us to our knees. Why?

Why CrossFit? Why not just go to a globo-gym and use the cupholder on the elliptical and watch the mindless television on the treadmill and push ourselves only as hard as we feel like? Why not take the easy path?  Why subject ourselves to an hour of agony each day, alone in our garages, or in a group at an affiliate, driven by some crazed trainer who asks questions like, “Doesn’t that suck?” And when we gasp, “Yes!” she laughs and hoots, “Faster!”  Why take the sweat-soaked, muscle-aching, tear-producing, hand-tremoring path of pain and perseverance that goes by the name CrossFit?

Because we must. Because CrossFit hurts. Because it makes us cry. Because it really sucks. Because it is the hardest thing we’ve ever had to do. Because it is the easiest thing we’ve ever had to do. Because we hate it. Because we love it. Because, ultimately, we want to know what courage really is. Because, in all of our time on this planet, we have never once put our lives on the line and learned what it really, really means to be afraid and step forward anyway. Because in the darkest depths of our workouts, in the minute of greatest pain, in that last ten Burpees of the Filthy Fifty, in the last Clean of “Linda”, in that airless, starry moment when we place one foot over the edge of the cliff and walk forward to see if the very clouds themselves will hold us up, in that moment – that moment alone — we are truly alive. Matraca Berg sang it best: “Leap. And a net will appear.” That net is us – the person we didn’t know we could be, the warrior within, the conqueror unleashed – that very part of us that forces perseverance, that demands discipline, no matter the consequences. CrossFit brings us to that place inside of ourselves.

In this plush, overfed part of the world that we live in, CrossFit strips us to the bone and lets us see the very marrow of our souls. And what lies there, inside of us, is not always pretty. Sometimes it is a bitter heart, or a quitter’s attitude, or a cheater’s nature.  It is raw and revealed and naked. But it is us. It is who we are, who we were, and, most importantly, who we will be if we do not work harder. In that realization of our own inadequacies, however, lies our very salvation. For, within the confines of the Workout of the Day, if we’re lucky, in that moment of dedication and drive, in that frenzy of encouragement, support, and love for our fellow CrossFitters, we also catch a glimpse of our very best selves – and, if we’re observant, we see it in others too. Through our CrossFitting efforts, we see who we could become, with a little more effort, a little more honesty, and a little more courage.  Just like a faster 5K time, that better self is within our grasp; if we try hard enough, if we do the work, if we believe. Try. Work. Believe.

This is the true challenge: to use CrossFit to become a better person, not just at CrossFit, but in life. Allow CrossFit to awaken that warrior within and then use this force to make a difference. How do we do this? By not settling for the easy option. By not using the phrase “good enough.” By learning to use — to live — words like “serve” and “sacrifice” and “community.” By doing the right thing. Always. Even when it hurts the most. Especially when it hurts the most. By living our lives so that thorough examination of our actions reveals only character, prudence, and honor. By living as a warrior should.

Now, more than ever, in this overindulgent society of ours, we need warriors.  We cannot continue to expect our warrior class – our Marines, soldiers, sailors, airmen, cops, and firefighters – to bear the entire burden of protecting the very fabric of our society. We all, in small ways, must do what we can in our communities to uphold values like honesty and justice and responsibility. We must be warriors in our hearts, willing to fight for what is right, and to face the enemy, even when the enemy is us. When we CrossFit, maybe in some small way, we take that first step toward mentally joining the warrior class. And then, hopefully, we take another step. Hopefully, we inspire those around us to join us in what could be described as a crusade for a better society, a better nation, and a better world. The future really is in our hands. Leap. And the net will appear.

(Text by Lisbeth Darsh/CrossFit Watertown in Connecticut.)

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