Ever play softball? There are three types of outfielders in softball, and I don’t mean right fielder, center fielder, and left fielder. You can’t tell the type of outfielder by where they stand: it’s what’s in their mind that matters. The same standard applies to every CrossFitter but, first, to understand this concept, let’s go mentally to the softball field …
Green grass, warm sunshine, a slight breeze – and this horrible sinking pit in your stomach. You’re Outfielder #1: the “Please, God, don’t let them hit it to me” player. You’re not certain you can catch the hard-hit ball, not certain that you have a strong enough arm to get the ball back to the second baseman, not certain that the grounder won’t just dribble through your legs and to the fence. You don’t want that ball. Better that they hit to the left-fielder – she can catch it. Just not to you. Please, God, not to you.
This outfielder is the beginning CrossFitter, and, often, the overweight CrossFitter. You can tell just by the way they walk through the door and glance at the Workout of the Day posting. It’s a quick glance, a frightened glance, a deer-just-before-it-hits-your-bumper look. They’re scared of the WOD, just the same way that outfielder is scared of the ball, because they don’t know if they have the skills or the stamina to handle what’s coming at them. They move a bit hesitantly and awkwardly through the workout, often apologizing for their mistakes, somewhat embarrassed by their performance. They give effort, but sometimes not enough; their fear just plain whups their output. But there’s hope! With time and effort, this CrossFitter can gain enough confidence, become more certain of their capabilities, and, eventually, reduce the time needed to complete the WOD. Through repeated effort, they advance out of their comfort zone and into a new realm of achievement.
Now the CrossFitter moves into the next dimension and becomes the middle-tier outfielder: the glove no longer sits on their hip, they lean a little forward in the outfield, and their eyes are locked on the batter, not in fear, but in anticipation. It’s okay if they hit it to me, runs through the mind, I can handle it. I’m pretty sure I can. This CrossFitter studies the WOD posting, breaking down the sequence in their mind, visualizing their task and time completion. This is a comfortable state for the CrossFitter, and, arguably, where the majority of CrossFit Nation resides. It is also the most dangerous threat to higher achievement: some people will be stuck in this spot forever. Confident but not aggressive, this CrossFitter is happy if the WOD is “Karen” but even happier if the WOD is “Run 5K.” Lots of people suck at running so there will be company today for the middle-tier performer. Often the victim of the highs and lows of their own moods, this CrossFitter may excel one day and tank the next. Their effort level is uneven but they are reasonably confident that they can handle most things that are thrown at them. Great achievement, or lack of it, does not haunt them nor does it drive them. The middle of the pack is a safe place to be.
Then there’s the last type of outfielder: standing in the grass, pawing at the ground with one foot, body arched forward, weight evenly balanced, eyes fixed not on the batter but on the ball as it leaves the pitcher’s hand. You can almost see their breath, feel their surging power, and hear the words they’re spitting from between their teeth as they challenge the batter: Hit it to me, Meat! Hit it to me! This is the CrossFitter with “Fran” tattooed somewhere on their soul. They’re not just confident or ready, they actually welcome the pain of the WOD. They seek not just to compare themselves to others but to ultimately test the very marrow of their being, to find out just what they are made of, to see if somehow, in some way, today they are worthy of breathing the air on planet Earth. Effort reigns supreme: this is the CrossFit athlete.
And this is who we seek to become – all of us, whether we realize it or not. It’s why we watch the videos, why we study the CrossFit Journal, why we converse on the boards. “Fran” times may vary but “Fran” souls do not: hard-charging, purpose-driven, aggressive in pursuit of their goals, and, always, confident in their ability to complete the task at hand, even when they fail, which they often do. But failure does not matter to the CrossFit athlete. Failure is just another method of learning: they will use those lessons wisely. What matters is effort: this is the secret of success. These athletes understand that which the other levels of CrossFitters fail to fully grasp: effort matters every single time. Repeated effort and dedication will eventually achieve results. It is not enough to catch the ball when it is hit towards you; you have to want the ball more than anyone else on the field. Why are we so captivated by the “Nasty Girls” video? Because Nicole Carroll never abandons her effort, no matter how much her body starts to fail: we are watching effort personified. There simply is no quit in her. The psychologist William James once said, “The decisive thing about us is not strength, intelligence, or wealth: these are things we carry. The real question posed to us is the effort we are willing to make.”
What kind of effort are you willing to make? How are you going to progress (or help your clients progress) from being a deer in the WOD headlights? How will you become a strong, capable performer, and, eventually, the “Hit it to me, Meat!” athlete, ready to tackle not just CrossFit but all of life? Effort. Refusal to quit. Chutzpah. Give it whatever name you like: it is what defines us. Go forth and give some. No, give a lot. Hit it to me, Meat.
Strong Starts in the Mind
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