Bleargh. Today was kind of a doozy at work. The end of the semester creates this kind of euphoric-panic, where I’m happy things are finishing up but frantic that I don’t have enough time to finish what needs to be done. So in Decembers and Aprils, I work 120 weeks for a couple of weeks, knowing that soon I’ll be able to breathe.
I recognize a similar effect during CrossFit workouts: once we near the end of a workout I reassure myself that it’s almost over. Therefore, I can usually work extra hard during the last round or last minute and get quite a bit done, but only because I know the END IS NEAR.
Today’s workout, however, didn’t allow me to do that. It was 2 rounds of 45 seconds of floor-to-shoulder with the stones and 45 seconds of burpees; then 2 rounds of 45 seconds of box jumps and 45 seconds of sit-ups. The operative term was maximum effort. That is, for each of those 3 minute sets, we were to go all out.
It reminded me of what world-record marathoner Steve Jones said: “If I am still standing at the end of the race, hit me with a board and knock me down, because that means I didn’t run hard enough.”
With running, I think I know what my maximum effort is. I think. It’s as fast as I can move my feet, right? With CrossFit, though, it’s all different. Maximum effort might be measured in speed, as it is in running, or it might be measured by something else, like weight. So, for instance, during the first set (stone-to-shoulder + burpees), I knew that with the burpees I was definitely going all out. Constant motion. The minute my chest hits the floor, my arms push up and my feet draw forward and I leap; the minute my feet hit the ground, my hands reach for the floor and my feet are behind me and I’m prone again. Repeat. I know I’m working as hard as I can because I’m not thinking, just heaving and moving. It’s a kind of letting go. It’s rhythmic. It’s running.
But the stone-to-ground? Good gravy. The thinking! The fear! Fear of dropping the stone over my shoulder, or on my finger (which I did), or just plain dropping it and breaking it. The fear and thinking make hesitation. I slow. I stop. I collect myself and regroup. That is not all out. It’s self-(and stone-) preservation.
Interestingly (and I suppose purposefully), the second set had two similar moves: one that I could do without thinking, and one that required constant brain-work. While I am not fast with the sit-ups [See instead: Colbey \ˈkoʊl-biː\. Definition: sit-up ninja], I can do them repeatedly with little thought. I can work until I can’t breathe and still keep working. But the box jumps make me think and make me afraid. Thoughtlessness means box bites on the shins. And though I *like* box jumps, I am afraid. Afraid to go all out.
To go all out, there has to be a kind of letting go. A kind of productive wrecklessness. The gain is the risk, and the risk is the gain.
I used to feel — and engage with — that kind of wrecklessness when I first started CrossFit. I would feel my belly flutter as I turned down the block, and then I’d sit in my car for a moment or two, convincing myself to turn the car off and go in. The risk and gain were simply the act of showing up each day. The risk and gain were surviving the most difficult workouts I’ve ever completed. Every workout was all out, because it was all I had to simply show up and do them. But at some point showing up and completing the workouts became less risky. I walk into the box like it’s my home. My framework of risk/gain has shifted, but I haven’t shifted to inhabit those new spaces of risk/gain. I need to re-find that space where I can go all out.