Tales of a Former Crossfitter

As I fought the escape of a fat tear, I responded “I’m fine” in a voice that clearly indicated that my pride was damaged.
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Years ago, I was a member of a CrossFit gym — a box, which situates in a warehouse. The echoes of slamming weights, grunting athletes, and squeaky sneakers joined together with intense music to create a symphony of sweat.

I enjoyed being a member of this gym. Over some time, you start getting to know your fellow athletes — enough that your hellos become more authentic, and your conversations slightly deepen. It was these relationships that made me comfortable enough to go at my own pace and not fear the judgment of not lifting as much as some of the other men in the box. I challenged myself, but I knew not to do too much at once; if I let others’ progress pressure me, I could get hurt — literally.

One day, I, unfortunately, did just that.

The Incident

The WOD, or workout of the day, at the box one day was an AMRAP (as many rounds as possible) that included an exercise called a clean and jerk. As usual, I wasn’t lifting what the coaches recommended for men because I was still reasonably amateur. Things changed, however, sometime between the third and fourth rounds. I was about to start the clean and jerk exercise when I noticed a woman a few feet away from me performing the same task. The only difference? She was lifting thirty or forty pounds more than I was.

As aforementioned, I usually do not feel peer pressured to complete more than what I can handle; but unfortunately, the cultural nurturing that makes men believe that they must outperform women physically kicked into my brain in a moment that changed my life.

I confidently walked towards the free weights, grabbed a pair of 40-pounders (they were pretty strenuous to carry, which should have been a sign of what was to come), and slapped them on either side of the barbell and got prepared to break my clean-and-jerk record.

As I bent over to lift the bar, I tried to pump myself up with faux-testosterone rage (my facial expression must have been a frightening sight for anyone who happened to look upon it at that moment). I lifted, and, unsurprisingly, the bar was too heavy; so, rather than using my legs and shoulders, I awkwardly used my lower back to lift. I immediately felt a tug in my lower left back area. The sound that then escaped my mouth is hard to describe. My voice cracked as I made a sound that indicated that I was in pain, and it echoed around the box (remember that this is a warehouse) as I fell to the ground with the bar.

I was immobilized.

The woman I was trying to outdo/impress ran over, moved my barbell out of the way (with relative ease I may add) and asked if I was all right. As I fought the escape of a fat tear, I responded “I’m fine” in a voice that clearly indicated that my pride was damaged. I left the box that day, and maybe returned only a couple of more times before cancelling my membership.

The Tether

I re-learned a valuable lesson that day. Challenges are great, but the challenge must be within reach. I could have motivated myself to maybe add less weight to my load, rather than attempting to triple it. In comparison to business, a company shouldn’t go all-in on a product that it hasn’t incrementally tested.

For example, Apollo 11’s successful moon landing was the result of many missions that incrementally helped NASA develop the technology to land human beings safely on the moon and return them to Earth. Some tasks revolved around thermal vacuum tests, others were drills for emergencies, and all the crewed missions before Apollo 11 were designed to test a human being’s ability to live in space for a specified period.

There’s no doubt that I could have completed the clean and jerk workout with the added weight, too — eventually. I had to get stronger first. Our very nature as human beings is one of incremental progress. Enlightenment philosopher Georg Hegel argued something similar in his Hegelian dialect. We progress by overcoming our limitations (Hegel would say that this is conflict) little by little.

But there is the risk of a setback, especially if you jump in too quickly. That’s what Juror #9 in 12 Angry Men knew. When one doesn’t have all the facts, abilities, technology, or whatever the limitation, it’s essential to pump the brakes temporarily.

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