Monday, November 6, 2006


Your body will betray you. Neurons will stop firing, muscles won’t contract, and you’ll end up flat on your back. Panting and staring into space, you’ll stagger to your feet, wondering why the hell you started in the first place.

You’ll spit guttural noises with each repetition, but you’ll push on. Amid the pain of a full-body mutiny, you’ll find your zen puddle, a place where nothing hurts.

I’ve been looking for my puddle for two days.

At 8:50 yesterday morning, we were grinding through the last seconds of Painstorm XIX. A nasty little creation, the Painstorm turned my shoulders to mush. Despite the help of my legs, my push presses were stalling out beside my head.

The grass in front of me was ripped and torn, a sad monument to sixty pounds of dropped dumbbell. The thud came every five repetitions toward the end, my right shoulder refusing to bear any burden.

The alarm was sweet relief. All of a sudden, the morning sun made the 30-degree air feel like a Hawaiian heat wave. Euphoric hallucinations crossed my eyeballs, induced by the sudden change in altitude as I crashed to the ground. We’d made it through twenty-plus rounds of Hell, and this was the reward.

Midway through today’s WOD, my legs quit. I was dragging lead down Terrace Street, my stride length reminiscent of a punch-drunk power-walker. I wanted to stop after Round Two.

Twenty-some-odd minutes later, I was lying on a canted rubber mat, mumbling incoherently and sweating profusely.

Crossfit is based on the physical. Metabolic conditioning, endurance, and limit strength are built through escalating intensity of effort. We're quick to credit the physical for the success of the Program. Ask the average Crossfitter how he attained his capacity, and you’ll hear workouts and rep schemes and recovery methods.

You won’t hear a word about his mind.

In truth, your body isn’t what keeps you floating through five-round death-fests. Unless you’re blasting though every set unbroken, Crossfit workouts are beyond your immediate bodily capacity. Mental fortitude makes up for your shortcomings.

Mental state is the only variable worth considering during truly difficult WODs. The degree to which you can force your recalcitrant body to behave will determine your success or lack thereof.

An athlete in the throes of an epic blaster will regain composure awfully quickly when confronted with a breakdown in form—rep 452 looks exactly like rep 1 after a gentle "DOESN'T COUNT!!!"

This phenomenon is not a product of a sudden change in physiology. The athlete doesn’t magically produce more ATP on command. They focus. They narrow their eyes to thin slits and make their bodies do it right. The lower lumbar arch returns, the knees track the toes, and the wall ball hits its target.

When my shoulders staged a coup during Round Eighteen on Sunday morning, they got a General Patton pep talk. When my legs refused to run this morning, I gave them a bullwhip to the back. Mental power is real, and it’s more important than any rep scheme on Earth.

When your body says no, your form gets sloppy, your knees buckle, and you want to quit, override your slanderous flesh. Find your zen puddle, and reset your expectations as to what pain feels like.

The Crossfit Battle resides in the mind. Embrace this fact, and the Grinders get a whole lot easier.

Go faster!

Photo courtesy of "The test of success is not what you do when you're on top. Success is how high you bounce when you hit bottom." --General George S. Patton


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