At 64″ tall, with a 28″ inseam, you might think that I would be scared of a 20″ box jump: that’s a big height for a small gal. But I’m not. I have no fear of the box jump. Never have. I don’t know why. Maybe it was all those years of basketball practice and those jumping drills, when they tried desperately to improve my vertical leap but, it seemed at the time, to no avail. I remained a power forward’s heart in a point guard’s body: the story of my life. Still.
Anyway, I may not have a fear of the box jump but I know that most of my clients do. Usually, they tell me outright but, with a few, I can see it in their faces as they stand, hesitating, before the box, looking, edging forward, backing away a bit, seemingly waiting for courage to stand up and take their hands.
I can understand. Most of us don’t jump as adults.
We did as kids, but somewhere we put jumping to the side. It wasn’t very practical, I guess. Think about it. Outside of CrossFit, when was the last time you jumped as high as you could into the air? Maybe if you play basketball or you’re in the military, but for everybody else (particularly for women) the need to jump just doesn’t seem to come up that often. The last time you jumped as high as you could might have been at an age that ended in the word “teen” and so you might have some apprehension when the WOD calls for box jumps. So here are some tips for successful box jumping:
1.) Start small. It doesn’t matter if the WOD is “Fight Gone Bad” and the standard is a 20″ box jump. If you’re not a comfortable, experienced jumper, then use the 12″ box and nail it repeatedly. Then move to the 16″, then the 20″, and beyond. Progress slowly if you have to — but continue to repeatedly challenge yourself and your limits.
2.) Focus on the top of the box at first. Stare at it and visualize your feet planted firmly in the middle of the top. Do this for every jump. As you progress, you can move your gaze forward until you’re jumping with the box in your peripheral vision but don’t worry about that at first. Just worry about planting your feet in the middle of the top.
3.) Get mad at the box. It’s a stupid piece of lumber and, if you’re scared to do it, that means the box is conquering you. It owns you. How pathetic is that? In my house, we have a saying: “Today, I will not be defeated by inanimate objects.” It sounds really stupid but, the next time you’re struggling with a stubborn jar lid, repeat this saying to yourself and you’ll find yourself twisting off that lid like you’re Superman.
4.) When you’re really tired, deep in the WOD, and you still have to box jump, revert to #2, even if you think you’ve licked this box jump fear. Fatigue can do funny things to your mind, as we all know. Focus and refocus and you’ll get through it.
5.) Add the box jump to your warm-up at least once a week, preferably twice. It doesn’t have to be a lot of jumps: just 10 at a time. Repeated exposure at low levels will help.
6.) If you fall, do it again right away. Jump immediately. Really. The more you postpone the activity, or avoid it, the worse the fear will become. It doesn’t matter if your shin has a bruise 3″ wide and you’ve left skin on the floor, jump again right away. Don’t wait.
Fear is a funny thing. Not “ha-ha” funny but you know what I mean. Last summer, I was speaking with Robyn, an old college chum (who now happens to be a psychologist) and I mentioned my anxiety over the swim portion of triathlons. “The more fear I have, the more compelled I am to do it,” I told her, expecting a very concerned look and perhaps a step backward. (I was confessing to being a whack job, after all.) Instead, she reached out and touched my arm. “Oh, Lis, that’s actually really healthy,” she said, “Expose yourself to your fears at manageable levels and eventually you will take away the power of your fears and give that power to yourself.” Okay, so maybe Robyn’s nuts too. (Which is very possible, she did go to Vassar with me.) But her point was that when you fear something you should do it again and again in a controlled manner, instead of avoiding it. Then, it won’t own you but you’ll own it.
Once you’ve mastered your fear of the box jump, it becomes addictive. You’ll want to jump more, and higher, and you’ll find that you no longer want to limit your jumping to the inside of a CrossFit gym. That bench at the park? Jump it. That chair in your dining room? Nail it. Climbing into bed at night? So much more fun than sitting down and swinging those legs over.
This obsession can, however, put you in an odd predicament as a jumping grown-up among those who no longer jump. People will look at you oddly so resist the urge to jump in public places. Really. Don’t be like me. Or else you’ll find yourself in a school gymnasium, right under the backboard, waiting to pick up your 8-year-old son after school, in a sea of non-jumping grown-ups, none of whom seem to have the urge that you do — that urge to jump up and touch the bottom of the net. The net is right over your head, after all, the threads hanging down so temptingly. But you are in a pair of dress pants and a shirt with French cuffs, looking to all the world like a serious English professor, and yet your internal dialogue goes something like this: Don’t do it. Don’t jump. Be normal. Nobody else is jumping in their business suit and their grown-up shoes. Really. Just blend in. Stop it. You’re only 5’4″ for God’s sake, you can’t reach the bottom of the net anyhow. Be normal. Be normal. BE NORMAL!
Oh, what the hell. Might as well jump!
(Text and photograph by Lisbeth Darsh/CrossFit Watertown in Connecticut.)