To the Athletes of Cross Fit Belmont:
As I sit writing this to you, it has been 3 weeks since I have chalked my hands and gripped a bar, and that is painful for me. Soon I will be undergoing some procedures and possibly surgery to repair a “significantly herniated” disc in my spine, the infamous S-1/L-5 disc that has plagued the bodies of many athletes. It is actually a disc extrusion, think of a dog’s tongue licking his snout, which is what is exactly what is going on…Yay me! Surgery is not my most favored option, but it is potentially the only way that will get me back in fighting shape.
The point at which I injured myself is unclear, and for a while I struggled to determine the exact moment it happened, but that knowledge remains a mystery. Was it a bad pull on a dead-lift, or a missed snatch? Nope, I’m certain I would have remembered that. How about landing wrong coming off of the rings? Possibly, but I can’t be sure. Perhaps it just came from a life that was lived hard but happily, carrying acres of lumber as a carpenter, stretching miles of hose as a fireman for almost 2 decades, and lifting sheer tons of plates and kettle bells over the years as a Cross Fit Athlete. Hell, it could have been from stepping on a Lego left in the floor by my children. Is the cause important? Honestly, no, because that won’t change a thing. Knowing will only add to the frustration.
So here is what I want you to gain from my misfortune. It’s like anything, take it or leave it.
#1 Don’t take yourself too seriously: There’s no point in getting so caught up in the clock that you’ll step over your dying grandmother to shave 8 seconds off of your Helen time. Also, sacrificing good form on a movement to speed yourself up will only cause you injury and set up poor muscle memory for the future. Don’t compromise your form on lifts or movements for ANYTHING. It sounds so cliché, but you really are only competing with yourself. Sure, having a partner that is close to you in your fitness level that you compete with is good, but sacrificing form on movements for a better time or score is only a recipe for disaster. Eventually it will catch up with you. Besides, nobody in our box is tougher person to beat than that damned incessant demon in my mind that is always urging me to “Stop. Take a break. Drop a rep, nobody is watching anyway.” Competing daily with that (you know you do) and overcoming it is victory in itself, so your time or score no matter where it falls is a win. And don’t beat yourself up by ranking where you stand on any particular workout with the rest of the folks who did it. RX’d? PR’d? Scaled? It matters not, know why? Because it gets erased. Every. Single. Night.
#2 Have Fun: There’s no point in dreading anything we do. Well, at least dreading it so much that it gives you undue anxiety. Believe me, there are workouts we will do in the future that already make me want to vomit, and I don’t even know what they are, but don’t let what you see posted the night before worry you to the point that you lose sleep. For instance, if you are afraid of heights, you may never be the person that reaches the top of the rope. And that’s cool. Honestly, I could go the rest of my life and never do another handstand pushup. They suck and I suck at them. But I won’t let them get me so wired up that I can’t think of anything else the hours leading up to the workout. Despite the bravado a lot of us show, in my opinion a person should have the right to WOD shop once in a while. Okay, maybe not. But consider this; the beauty of our sport is the universal scalability. So, if you’re that person who will never overcome the fear of being suspended 15’ above the gym floor, then who gives a crap if you scale the rope climb to seated up downs. I’m not going to give you grief, and shame on anyone that does. God knows when pistols are programmed, I’m gonna scale the Hell out of them because I’m fat, but that’s a post for another day.
#3 Listen to your body: I knew when something was wrong with my back, and thankfully I didn’t ignore it and continue to grind my bones into dust. Know the difference between “hurt” and “injured.” Hurt means you are dinged up, a bit sore, and need a few hours or days off. Injured means something is actually wrong and you need to see a doctor. When you are hurt, take care of it. Ice, rest, ice again. Take a few days off with a cold beverage and a side of Ibuprofen. Who gives a damn if you miss a workout like “Fran”? I promise you we will do it again. And again. You can always make it up. When you are injured, don’t fool yourself into believing that you are only “hurt”. Go see someone you trust in the medical profession to help you get right. A good chiropractor and a good physical therapist are as equally important as a good primary care physician and great orthopedist.
#4 You will eventually get hurt: How hurt you get is up to you. I don’t say this to scare you, it is just reality. Some of you will actually get injured. That’s okay. Any time a person is active, the propensity for injury will always be lurking around the corner. When I went for my MRI, the tech saw that I was wearing a CrossFit shirt, and he smarmily said, “I know why you are here…” I could have choke slammed him, set him on fire, danced on his corpse, and walked out, y’all know my temper. Do CrossFit athletes get hurt? Yes, every day, but then again so do people that play softball, basketball, those that jog and hike, even those wispy-bearded dudes in the park playing Frisbee golf get hurt. The key is, when you get hurt- stop. If you tweak your ankle running a 400m lap, stop for a second. If you catch a clean wrong and feel a burn in your shoulder, drop the bar. If you tear a callous off doing pull-ups, let go. Do a systems check, and if you are hurt, who cares if you walk away from a workout to preserve your body and prevent turning something that is hurt into something that is injured. I learned the hard way the reason you do not feel pain sometimes in a hurt body part during a workout: Your brain is focused on breathing and moving and ignores the pain signals being sent. That’s how you pound a hurt ankle or shoulder into an injured one. Believe me, the coaches are watching you like a hawk, and they strive to prevent anyone from doing something dangerous. But, once in a while someone is going to miss a max effort box jump. Someone is surely going to fold under a PR attempt snatching. When you put people moving heavy weights over distance through space under time constraints, there is always the chance that something will come unhinged. Accept that, and don’t be fearful of it. But if you are hurt, rehab it well before coming back. Trust me, I found out the hard way with a pesky Achilles tendon.
Why I wrote all of this is beyond me. I have an active imagination and a ton of idle time. In truth, CrossFit Belmont is a place we all love. There are a handful of us that were here before it was even a thing, just a dream of Marc’s. Hell, he blames his obsession with the sport on me. I just told him about a website 6 years ago and now look at him, all fancy with his own affiliate…Seriously though, CF Belmont is a community. Even though Marc’s name is on the joint, it is ours. The work we put in, the hardships we endure, and the friendships we make are not like anywhere else. You don’t get this a Planet Fitness. So with that said, look out for one another. Take rest days. Always greet people who are new. Work with intensity and integrity. Encourage one another, especially when you finish first. In fact, the first to finish should be the loudest cheerleader for the rest of the group. Watch one another, correct bad form, and take cues from other athletes on your bad form as constructive criticism. And don’t forget to have fun.
Not long from now (I hope) I’ll be back. My numbers will be way down and I’m sure my engine will feel like it’s full of sludge. I’m positive that the first workout will leave me light headed, feeling like I’m going to puke and poop all at the same time, and that will be during the warm up. I can’t wait. Until then….get your ass back on the bar.