CrossFit: More Than a Workout or a Sport

Even after all these years, I’m still amazed at how 13 minutes and 33 seconds of CrossFit can break my soul. That was the length of my WOD the other morning and it felt like 13 hours of doubting my worth as a human being, followed by 13 glorious seconds of celebrating before I turned again to improving my movement, my workout, my work, my love — to improving all of my life. All that from 13:33.

CrossFit doesn’t just take me up and down. CrossFit takes me deep. And up and down repeatedly, constantly, exasperatingly, and exhilaratingly throughout the WOD. In the span of time it takes most people to get through the Starbucks line, I become a queen and a peasant and every station in between. All because of a workout. All from a workout. All from my mind.

So when people say CrossFit is a just a workout or just a sport, I want to say, “Oh no. You’re just doing it wrong.” Or maybe I should say they are doing it on only one level. It’s okay if all you want is a workout, but it seems to me that CrossFit gets sweeter the deeper you go. You have to open your heart more, then your lungs. Open your soul more than your grip. Let the movement flood your moment. Flood your brain. Flood your spirit. Come up to the surface, take a breath, dive back down. Hold your breath. Hold your life. Hold whoever the hell you are, and accept those realities and those truths. Accept all of it.

Before you start to think this is just a bunch of spiritual nonsense or sexual innuendo (or both) consider just a few of the things that CrossFit does beyond workout or sport:

1.) CrossFit helps you figure out — truly — where you are at in so many ways. People talk about CrossFit helping them to manage their fears (and it does) but maybe it’s more than that. CrossFit helps people to manage their expectations. You learn to assess your strengths and weaknesses, before the WOD, during the WOD, and after the WOD. You effectively learn to intelligently inform your own thought process about what you can do and where your performance should rank. If you’re lucky (or determined) this attitude carries over into your work and your relationships.

2.) CrossFit keeps you centered. Through CrossFit, you are training yourself to celebrate achievement in small ways, but not rest on your laurels. There is always something more to achieve, something else to learn, and another skill to master. So you set a PR on your clean, but what about your jerk? What about your handstand push-ups? What about your double-unders? This outlook bleeds into your workday and your home life. Achievement is noted, but not considered the end. More learning and more skill work are expected everywhere.

3.) CrossFit teaches the lessons of sport, but it also carries that sport into your life in a comprehensive manner. Some people think this is a good thing, and some people think it’s a bit nuts. Zealots are popular guests often only in their own nation. But the truth is that, perhaps more than any other sport out there today, CrossFit encourages you to take what you learn inside the box to outside the box– into your nutrition, into your education, into your relationships, into your family, into your community, and into communities half a world away. Many workouts and sports have never seen anything close to the comprehensive human care exhibited by the CrossFit community.

You can’t breathe the air at your CrossFit affiliate and not inhale the intoxicating determination of a group of people committed to making themselves and their communities better. During the Open, it’s a contact high. Similarly, it’s impossible to watch the CrossFit Games and not be moved by the human spectacle of effort, triumph, loss, and love. CrossFit is more than a sport or workout, always has been and always will be. The community is what assures that reality and safeguards it.

Like Nicole Carroll said back in 2011: “I think what makes the Woodstock of fitness is the community. As long as the top competitors keep coming off the bar and they keep turning around and they keep cheering everybody else on to do the best they can, that spirit will never die.”

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