Friday, August 25, 2006

Eat The Biggest Frog First

On Tuesday, I published “For Love of the Game”. In response to my post, Will Tagye created an epic comment that transcended the traditional comment board. I thought I’d share it with you.

Will is a good friend, a philosopher, a warrior, and the walking embodiment of everything that is right in the world of elite fitness.

He sent me this diatribe via email, the subject line reading: “Great post!” His comments deserve the same moniker.

I too originally came to rip off some knowledge and then head back to my own gym. I was sold 5 min into “Chelsea”, and now I have my own facility. I think, for the people that truly want self- improvement, the connection is almost immediate. One week and they see, and in actuality, feel what it is all about. It is the missing link.

On a similar note I was speaking with small business person who works with children and I was amazed at how strongly opposed to competition the parents are. They are opposed to the extent that she wasn't allowed to have any sort of ranking or competition at all. How are children supposed to learn to deal with failure or being a good loser if they are all "winners"? In fact, what value does being the best have if there is no recognition? Why improve if it is for no reason?

Some of the best lessons come from picking yourself up after being knocked down. Has society become so sensitive that the fragile ego of a first grader finishing last in a foot race is too much to bear? Should we tell this child that he still won the race and forget the effort of the people who finished ahead?

This whole concept is appalling to me. The thing I love about CrossFit is that we do recognize the fastest time and we do build competition within the classes, but we do it for improvement. Having a “Fran” time 5 seconds slower than someone else drives me to improve. If we didn't record this, we could not congratulate ourselves as we became stronger and faster.

Generally, that person with the fastest time gets a high five or a hand shake and a "great work", but the person finishing last gets the support of the entire team. Shouts of encouragement, pats on the back and true team support are pouring on in an inverse relationship to the finishing ranks. It is almost the antithesis of what is considered the norm, but it is for two reasons. It is humility and high expectations.

Let's talk a little about humility. Almost everyone has been last, and almost everyone has been first. We all know what it feels like to drag yourself through a workout that makes you want to throw down the weights and storm off. Fighting the urge to scream out swears that would make a sailor blush or just holding back the tears. These experiences are essential. This is where growth comes from. This is where you will find enlightenment.

I may squat a lot but when I see a lot of running on the board I just cringe. 200 meter repeats, OK I can deal. 400 meter repeats, this is going to hurt a bit. 800, Please God make my ankle break in the first 5 steps. Mile repeats, I'm coaching! So guess what that means--that is probably what I need to do the most.

Dan John likes to say "When you have a plate of frogs to eat, eat the biggest one first." Everyone there has had a plate of frogs to eat so when they watch someone shoveling down that big one they all know how tough it is. That is why when we are running up and down the block the CrossFitters I pass give me a "good job Will" but not many people have enough wind to yell up to Eva Claire.

Now let's look at expectations, especially high expectations. When I get my “Fran” time a few seconds faster I get happy and I enjoy seeing my time on the board. But you know what? That’s what is supposed to happen. I am good at “Fran” so everyone expects me to improve. This is why we look to the people that are struggling and pour on the support. Now that the people who "can" are out of the way, the real test begins. When people step up to the plate and push through exhaustion or grit their teeth and get a new PR on something that they have been struggling with, that is the time to celebrate. What is better: 35 consecutive pull-ups or a first pull-up, or even more so the first 2 consecutive pull-ups?

High expectations are what keep us from becoming specialized. I bet if I tried I could be a “Fran” ninja--a “Fran” ninja that ran like sh*t. Unfortunately, real life doesn't revolve around thrusters and pull-ups. High expectations allow us to focus on those that are really pushing themselves and keep us from focusing on only what we are best at.

The real world has all kinds of demands and we need to try to make our training reflect that. If you are a powerlifter, then by all means train to be a powerlifter. I am just an everyday guy, but I want to be an elite everyday guy. I want to be very good at everything. I want to be able to run in a 5k and be able to pick up heavy stuff. I don't have to win the 5k, but I would like to at least be near the front. I don't have to be able to pick up everything I see, but I would like to know how to do it in the most safe and biomechanically efficient manner.

That is what CrossFit is all about, improving yourself while all the people around you support one another. Competition is fine and it happens in the real world. What makes CrossFit unique is that while we still compete, respect is earned through effort not rankings. It is only with humility, high expectations, and the camaraderie built through laughter and agony can you find this.

Ever wonder why boxers hug each other after spending rounds and rounds beating each other, or why rugby teams all drink together after spending an entire game cheap-shoting each other? Come to a CrossFit near you and find out.

It is a beautiful thing.

Photo courtesy of Neal Thompson and Crossfit Boston. I never get sick of posting that picture!


Blogger Kim said...

Grrr...tried to leave a blogger post on the Xfit MW website but it's giving me problems. Jon, superb post; Will, great email. Everyday I have to remind myself to check my ego at the door. Will, it was great to meet you last week. Maybe now we can get you to come out for a cocktail (or 10) with the 630pm Crossfit crew.

8/25/2006 08:48:00 PM  

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