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CrossFit Lessons for Life

The sport might not be perfect but doing it teaches us a few important life lessons.

By Joe McAvoyPublished 3 years ago 4 min read
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CrossFit Lessons for Life
Photo by Victor Freitas on Unsplash

So, CrossFit. You either love it or loathe it. Chances are, the former. This is probably due to the unfortunate reputation it has cast in recent years. You know what I mean, that image of a group of guys (and girls) ripping off their sweat-soaked T-shirt at the first available opportunity and grunting through heavy weightlifting exercises in a timed workout.

In its early days it had a cult following. It was the stomping ground for tattooed, hipster-bearded fitness freaks, keto diet fanatics who guzzled down bullet-proof coffee, has its own language (WODs, RXing, kipping) and more recently it has been tainted via a rather questionable attitude to recent political and societal events (more here).

That said, I have been strangely drawn to CrossFit for years and recently turned 50 – and today feel in better shape, physically and mentally, than ever. My career is on good track, my family life is great, I have stopped drinking alcohol and I have buckets of energy to take on the good and bad aspects of the daily grind.

CrossFit is at the core of my state of being right now, and I think it could help you too. So here’s my top Five CrossFit Life Lessons:

There are no mirrors in CrossFit

Okay, weird one to begin with but you will never find a mirror in any self-respecting CrossFit box (CrossFit speak for gym). This is because the main aim of CrossFit is not improving how to look (although that comes naturally) but how you perform. So much focus is placed in technique and proper form that as a beginner you will perform moves with a PVC pipe or an empty barbell before you are let loose on the weighted disks. Life Lesson No.1 – be patient and work on mastering your craft. Don’t place too much emphasis on how you look to others (and yourself).

Respect to those who finish last

CrossFit Workouts of the Day (WODs) are timed with a recommend limit on the weights used which you strive to achieve. However, the pros or the diehard regulars often fly through the prescribed WOD while for the majority it’s a grind to get through it as you are pushing yourself to the limit. This is why it is tradition in CrossFit to wait, watch and encourage those making up the rear in the timed WOD as their struggle is a great one. Not least for the person finishing last who gets the loudest cheer and applause from the others. Life Lesson No.2 - perseverance will be hugely rewarded. Just turn up and do and be your best – it’s more than enough.

By Victor Freitas on Unsplash

You are not alone

There is such a great communal spirit in CrossFit. People help. People shout encouragement. Everyone is united in a common purpose; their desire to work hard and improve on some part of their CrossFit game. If you need help with technique or have a question about form, someone in the gym will be happy to help. Life Lesson No.3 – don’t be afraid to ask for help, just put your hand up. You belong.

You can be a hero

CrossFit WODs are sometimes named after military personnel who have died in the line of duty and are referred to as Hero WODs. As fitness is key to military training, often troops develop their own WODs to enable them to keep in shape while on tour. The most famous hero WOD is the Murph, named after a fallen Navy Seal Michael P. Murphy, who developed it while in Afghanistan. It’s a grueling WOD in which you wear a 20kg weight vest (to simulate body armor) and involves a two mile run and many chin-ups, squats and push-ups. After which, while you are puffing your lungs out, you have time to reflect on life and loss. Life Lesson No.4 – if you really want to understand and empathize with others, you must run a mile (or two) in their shoes.

Chip away at your goals

Some CrossFit WODs are extremely long and are called ‘Chippers’. We you look on the board before a chipper WOD begins and see the amount of reps required, you can feel overwhelmed: ‘I will never get through this.’ But you learn to mentally break up the overall WOD into bite-sized sections, to gradually ‘chip’ away at the overall. So instead of thinking: ‘I need to do 200 burpees’ you break it down and set smaller goals such as 10 x 20 burpees. I’ve found this attitude to big tasks extremely useful outside of the gym, especially in my professional life. Life Lesson No.5 - instead of freaking out about how big the project is you can chip away and break it down to constituent parts while setting manageable goals. In other words: know that you will get to the end, eventually, and focus on enjoying the now.

As the reigning and four time CrossFit Games world champion Mat Fraser said recently, it’s all about ‘progress not perfection’. And I couldn’t agree more.

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Joe McAvoy

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