“I was having nightmares about this.” One of my athletes, referring to Murph, shared this with me yesterday as the gym started to fill with people for the CrossFit community’s traditional Memorial Day WoD. I nodded, sympathetic to what he was feeling and acknowledging that feeling in myself as well – I’d woken up that morning a sweaty mess after having stress dreams about banging out 100 pull ups with a weighted vest.
The last time I remember hearing this much about CrossFit infiltrating night visions was before 13.1, the burpee/snatch ladder and the first workout of the 2013 Opens. The box was all of a month old, full of eager folks with lots of potential but limited technical proficiency. I was about to ask them to snatch weights they likely never even thought about putting overhead once before, and I was about to ask them to do it multiple times and under cardiovascular duress. Understandably, questions started rolling in: “What if I do it wrong? Can I rest? What if I can’t even lift it once?” Questions lead to ponderings, ponderings lead to expectations, expectations lead to anxiety. Anxiety doesn’t sleep, so all of a sudden, instead of counting sheep, you’re counting reps.
What is it about CrossFit? Both advocates and naysayers have described it as a cult or an addiction, and there’s partial truth to those claims. I suppose I prefer to see it as a commodity, something useful and valuable that you get to have. But there are other commodities in our lives that don’t break down the storm doors of our otherwise restful sleep, and CrossFit itself is just a series of movements that other people made up and we borrowed. It’s what’s happening at CrossFit that makes it so special, so dream-worthy.
There is a genuine, palpable magic to experience in a room filled with people pushing past their thresholds and exceeding their own expectations. A room filled with people momentarily not caring about the paperwork piled up on their desks, their gas bills, what they’re eating for dinner, or even the searing heat of every new breath they draw. All of it gets pushed aside and you get to just BE. Organically. No meditation, no four-count breathing, no hypnosis, no bullshit. There’s your purest self, your highest self, narrating your struggle. “Let’s go. One more. You can do it.” It’s transen-fucking-dental.
Anyone who’s bought in can watch a video of a stranger getting their first muscle up and be just as excited as that athlete and everyone who knows and supported that athlete through to the end. When the first firebreather to tear the doors off Murph yesterday came back into the gym, the room exploded with applause. When the last athlete was working through his final squats, he was surrounded by a dozen and a half others, cheering for him. We have all been at the peak of our performance and felt the cold, hard bottom of the well, so we are with each other in every moment. We are the monks of the fitness world. The community is our church, the suffering is our scripture.