CrossFit is tough because there is no place to hide. You cannot fake fitness. You are fit or you are not. And these workouts will seek out and showcase your weaknesses. That’s why many CrossFit gyms have the motto “Leave your ego at the door” posted at the entrance. It’s not a macho, tough guy thing, it is just solid coaching advice. Approaching these WODs with an ego is a mistake and will be your undoing. I have seen a lot of talented athletes ignore this advice, get their ego stuffed by a workout, walk out our doors and never come back.
Sure, everyone wants to be a champion but the road to becoming a champion requires you to eat humble pie as your main course every day. Because the road to becoming a champion requires you to confront your weaknesses. Most people would rather avoid their weaknesses and revel in their strengths.
When egos get busted and people quit on themselves, walk out of the workout or storm out of the gym, they rarely have the self reflection or humility to recognize that their own ego was their undoing. Instead they are apt to blame their meltdown on external factors: CrossFit is stupid, the workout was too hard, the coach was unfair, I forgot my chalk, someone else had the good rower, the gym was too cold, I couldn’t breathe through my mask, the pull up bar was too high. Believe me, I know, I have been there too. Of course none of the reasons above acknowledges the reality that everyone else who completed the workout without quitting managed to do so despite all the same conditions.
Many of you already know my own infamous story about the Dumbbell Bear Complex EMOM and my first, biggest and life altering CrossFit meltdown. Today I’ll share another story. It was 2008 and Leon and I were in Virginia Beach doing a modified version of Fight Gone Bad in a 28,000 square foot training facility (no, you read that right, I did not add one too many zeros) filled with about 150 elite operators: Special Forces, Self Defense Experts, Police and Military Trainers, Bodyguards, a collection of elite men and women, hard asses all of them.
If you know Fight Gone Bad it is three 5-minute rounds of work where you cycle through one minute of work at each of 5 stations before taking a 1 minute rest. The goal is to accumulate as many reps as possible at each station. Invariably, folks new to CrossFit come out too hard and the reps achieved in each round quickly diminish as the realities of the WOD and your capacity for continued force production are quickly realized. So what happens when tough guys run head-long into their physical limitations?
You guessed it. Most of them quit. By round three less than 50 of us (one third) were still in the workout. Guys in my cohort standing panting on the sideline excused themselves by gasping “I can’t do any more, that’s it, I’m done.”
I didn’t have the wind to argue but I thought “Really? You can’t sit on the rower and grind out one or two more calories in a minute? You can’t squeeze out a couple wall balls in 60 seconds?” Look, I get it, you aren’t going to be able to maintain the pace you set in round one. Neither can I. My round three was pathetic as I struggled just to squeeze out single digits at each station. Rounds two and three are going to kick your ass and obliterate your ego. It isn’t that they couldn’t do it, it was that their ego could not take looking like crap as they got their asses handed to them. Better to crush round one then tap out before anyone sees how pathetically out of shape they actually are. If it had been cold, they would have blamed the cold. If we’d been wearing masks they would have blamed the masks. They would have grasped at any excuse to preserve their fragile egos. Hey, we’ve all been there and done that. That’s a way to hide from the truth but it is certainly not the road to becoming a champion.
The next morning less than 30 of the original 150 people showed up for the workout. How’s that for tough guys and gals? I was among them and so was a very hungover Leon who’d slept only a few hours after a night out drinking. This, by the way, was Leon’s second CrossFit workout. The first was the Fight Gone Bad we’d done just the day before. I think that episode itself tells you everything you need to know about The Touch’s mental grit. In a room filled with 150 elite operators from around the world, UN Security Forces, Military Contractors and Navy SEALS there were maybe half a dozen men or women who could match his grit. And later, when it came to actual combat, he’d prove himself again, but that is a whole different set of stories. Enough to say I would never bet money against The Touch when it comes to a battle of grit!
It reminds me of this quote “Sport doesn’t build character, it reveals it.” CrossFit WODs certainly reveal character but in my experience they also provide the opportunity to build character. Character is how you respond to challenging circumstances and like any ability, it is developed one rep at a time. Each time a workout is kicking my ass I am given the opportunity to prove that I’m not a quitter, that I have the grit to hang in there and the humility to finish round three of Fight Gone Bad even if it means looking like a pathetic, slobbering mess instead of the superstar my ego desperately wants me to pretend that I am.
So as a coach, what do I feel when I see our Empower athletes struggling through a particularly grueling workout? Pride. My Mom may not have special forces training, Dauntless may not have served in an elite military unit, Sprite might not be a self defense expert, but I can tell you that they – and most of our Empower members – display daily a grit and mental toughness that far exceeds not just the average citizen but some of the best of the best with whom I’ve trained!
CrossFit workouts aren’t easy. They aren’t comfortable. They aren’t supposed to be. Some CrossFit workouts will go your way. Other workouts will drive you to your limits and ask you point blank if you are a quitter or if you are made of sterner stuff. What will your answer be?
Saturday Make Up Day
1) Hero WOD Laura
21 Minute Amrap ( with a partner)
30 cal Row
20 Burpees over the rower
10 power cleans 105/155
Front Squat 95/135
1 Rope Climb each round
3) CrossFit Open 12.3
18 min AMRAP
15 Box Jumps @20/24″
12 Push Presses @75/115#
Score = Total Reps
4) 1 min Belly Breathing Lying Face down
30 sec Head Nods
30 sec Head Rotations
1 min Upper-Body Rolls
1 min Lower-Body Rolls
20 Dead Bugs
20 Windshield Wipers
20 Bird Dogs
Forward & Backward Hands And Knees Crawling