One thing that drives me in life, is to ALWAYS be growing, striving for more, striving to be a better human being, in all aspects of life, not just fitness. That means you must have awareness of all aspects and correlations in life. Our friend, Taylor Burns, has done just that with this amazing piece she put together. It might get a little deep for some of you, so hold onto your hat! Thank you for sharing Tay!
Many of my utterances begin with the phrase, “I was listening to NPR the other day…” I enjoy public radio. There are many programs on NPR that make me think. I like things that make me think, whether it is a radio program, a podcast, a book, people. After reading or listening to these things and being made to think, I like to share with others; sometimes I share with my spouse, other times with my parents or friends. In this case, I am going to share with you, my companions in CrossFit.
So, I was listening to NPR the other day, specifically Fresh Air with Teri Gross. Her guest was Esther Perel. Perel is a psychotherapist and she was talking with Teri about her new book, The State of Affairs. The book is about “rethinking infidelity” (which is also the title of a Ted Talk Perel gave in 2015). What does infidelity have to do with CrossFit, you ask? Well, Perel made a statement during the interview that made me think, hence I share. She said that after many years of living with the same partner, it’s not uncommon to lose parts of yourself, “parts of you that have virtually disappeared. The woman disappeared behind the mother. The man disappeared behind a caregiver. And there is an expression of longing and yearning - longing for connection, for intensity, for a sense of aliveness, which is really the word that many people all over the world would tell me when they are having an affair.”
After listening to Perel’s ideas about why people are unfaithful, it prompted me to think that people do CrossFit for the same reasons: for connection, intensity, and a sense of aliveness. Unless your significant other is as deeply involved in CrossFit as you are, they may think you are having an affair because all your free time is spent at the box. And why do you spend so much time at the box? My answer would be, “Because it makes me feel alive.” It’s ironic that after an intense workout I’ll hear someone say, “I felt like I was going to die.” Or, “I think I just died a little bit.” There’s something about being out of breath; about breathing hard; about not being able to breathe, that makes one feel like death is immanent while at the same time feeling invigorated, refreshed, and (dare I say) reborn. The intensity is palpable. After a 10 minute AMRAP of 12 barbell push presses, 15 chest-to-bar pull ups, and 18 box jump overs, I’m on the ground, breathing heavily. I’m breathing. I can hear my breath, strong and deep. I’m reminded that I am alive. Who wouldn’t want to feel this way as much as possible?
Those who exercise intensely feel this way often. Exercise literally makes you lose your breath, and then get it back; over and over again. I’m going so far as to posit that exercise fulfills in some that which has been figuratively lost. People choose to exercise for a plethora of reasons: to get back into shape, feel better about themselves, to feel younger, look younger, to feel like the athlete they once were. I know for me, it’s the latter. Before I joined C5, that feeling of being an athlete was evasive. I’d have it sometimes in whatever activity I was doing: running, swimming, cycling; but it wasn’t consistent. Maybe it’s the simple fact that the coaches call me an “athlete”, or that I am following a specific athletic program that a coach is constructing for me, or maybe it’s because I have someone that I can call “coach” again. “My coach says”, “Coach does this”, “My coach suggests that.” I’ve found my inner athlete.
Athletes, by nature, sense a connection to one another. So not only does the “re-born athlete” find herself/himself again, she/he also rediscovers that feeling of connection to other likeminded individuals. This is akin to Perel’s notes on why people cheat; they are looking for connection. I know some of my fellow CrossFitters better than others, but I feel connected to each and every one of them. There is something to be said of shared experience. I die a little everyday with someone at C5. I am not alone in my suffering. We “almost die” every time we “can’t breathe” together. In my opinion, there aren’t many other fitness programs out there that offer the same type of communal death and rebirth.
Perel says of the unfaithful, “And what they say is they feel alive as in vibrant, vital, as in a reclaiming of something that had gotten lost, a lost part of themselves or a lost sense of youth or a lost sense of possibility”. The similarities between what motivates a person to cheat on their partner, and what drives the mind of the CrossFitter are uncanny. Who doesn’t what to reclaim what was lost? We’ve all lost something. Who doesn’t want intensity and connection with others in their life (positive intensity and connection, of course)? Who doesn’t want a sense of aliveness on a daily basis? I think we all do. I like to think. Thanks for letting me share.