A CrossFitter's Identity Crisis

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Chief Encouragement Officer Jake Thompson prior to CrossFit Open workout 12.2

This past weekend was a big one for all of our readers who CrossFit. The 2012 Reebok CrossFit Games entered its second week of The Open workouts. For those unfamiliar with The Open, it's a five-week competition that trims the field of 68,000+ competitors down to the top 60 men/women from each region (and top 30 teams) for its regionals competitions - the stepping stone on the way to the 2012 CrossFit Games in Los Angeles in July.

This week's workout, 12.2 as its known, was a 10-minute workout of max snatches. A snatch is an olympic lift that consists of moving a barbell from the ground to overhead in one swift movement. The snatch is a very technical lift. You can be a beast of a man, but if your technique sucks, you will not be able to snatch much weight. The snatch is a powerfully explosive movement. And it's a movement I severely struggle with.

After doing well in the first week's workout, I knew 12.2 would be tough. I overestimated my technique (and strength) coming into the workout, and left clearly deflated. I was completely frustrated about my performance after my second attempt at the workout on Saturday morning. I hit my ceiling of 60 reps, with my goal of 61 just slightly out of my time (and weight) range. I felt like I needed more reps to help our team as we compete to qualify for regionals, and just wasn't able to come through. I encouraged the other competitors, even watched Compete Every Day friend Jeremy Calahan throw up a ridiculous 93 reps, including his last three at 210 pounds, but I still left the box that day with a sour taste in my mouth.

One of the struggles I have with CrossFit is that I will sometimes put too much stock into the sport. Like I had done with football and team sports in high school, I battle the desire to attach my own self-worth with how well I perform a CrossFit WOD (workout of the day). After having a half hour to unwind from the competition workout, I posted a Facebook update as a way to simply remind myself that my identity is not found in CrossFit. Never has been, never will be. No matter how well or poorly I do in the sport.


But it's the danger I face of being so active in a sport driven by its pursuit of performance excellence.


We are measured daily by how fast, how strong, how quick we are. It is very easy to be swept up into believing it reflects how you are perceived as a person or where your identity truly resides.

I think we're all guilty of obsessing over our workout times and who we did or didn't beat. We train, train, and train some more to beat the competitor in our gym, our age group, our conference. They become an obsession and measuring stick by which we constantly compare ourselves. Even to the point of negatively affecting our self-confidence when we fail to match or surpass their performance. Being bigger...stronger...faster dominates our thoughts instead of what should be our focus: Being more forgiving...loving...encouraging. Getting better each and every day...compared to where we were yesterday.

Our focus is better spent on improving "us" - insuring a better "me" from yesterday and improving more by tomorrow. I put too much stock into my physical performance at CrossFit, and my attitude reflects as much. It's an uphill battle for anyone and you can never find satisfaction in it because you'll always believe you can do more. It can be an overwhelming feeling. And even when you do reach one milestone, you feel a slight bit of emptiness because there's another one just out of reach.

You'll never find full satisfaction if you rely on CrossFit...a marathon...a triathlon...any competition for your identity. We all have down days working out - there are some days that no matter how determined we are, we physically aren't ready to perform a certain movement or we just "don't have it" for some reason. But that doesn't discount us as individuals.

It's a workout, plain and simple. It isn't what defines our lives. No matter what someone else tells you, I promise it's supposed to be fun. Otherwise, why would you do it?

I left the workout and met some non-CrossFitting buddies at the golf course for my best friend's bachelor party. We spent the afternoon slicing golf balls all over the course (and at each other!), and the only mention of CrossFit was them asking how I did on the workout when I first showed up. Other than that, they gave me an encouraging word for the next week and that was it. No more talk of snatches, WODs, or CrossFit. They didn't care that I had only gotten 60 reps. It just didn't matter to them. Heck, I could've thrown up 2 reps or 102 reps, and they still would've reacted the same way.

And that's probably the one thing I needed Saturday. A gentle reminder that those who love you and care for you could care less about your Fran time or your Opens ranking. Yes, it'd be great to qualify for Regionals as an individual or team, but your friends don't care. And that's why they are your friends. And regardless of if we do or if we don't, our affiliate community still supports us. Our goal as a community is "to prepare for anything" - being better than we were yesterday but knowing we're not quite as good as we'll be tomorrow.

CrossFit Games champion or not, our community is what strengthens us and keeps us going. They remind us of who we are, of who we have the power to become, and are those individuals who keep us positive and focused when we struggle with an identity crisis. Ironically, it's our CrossFit family that keeps us grounded in the fact that there is more to life than CrossFit. I could post a two-minute Fran time tomorrow or never come close in my lifetime, but I'm continually going to be encouraged to keep steadily improving by my community. They will continually expect more of me, pushing me to grow stronger, but they will also encourage me when it doesn't happen. And when we walk out of the box, they'll remind me of all the amazing things in this life worth competing for that have nothing to do with CrossFit.

And thank God for those friendly reminders.


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