by Jake Thompson

The Barbell Doesn’t Care

Skinny. Large. The barbell doesn’t care what size you are. The barb...

Skinny. Large. The barbell doesn’t care what size you are. The barbell doesn’t care what color your hair is, or if you even have hair on your head. Games strong. Rookie “strong.” The barbell doesn’t care.

It doesn’t judge you based on physical appearance. It doesn’t judge you based on what your body fat percentage is. It judges you on if you can lift it. It judges you if you have the heart to keep lifting it when you get tired and worn out. It judges you when you set it down and face whatever life throws at you head-on. Lift it heavy. Lift it light and fast. Move it up and down or side to side.

Just move the damn barbell.

I spent this past weekend at the Europa Dallas Fitness Expo. All types of fitness events took place at the Dallas Convention Center. Jiu-jitsu. 3-on-3 basketball. Bodybuilding. Fitness competition. CrossFit.

And our CrossFit community stood out. We came in all shapes and sizes. We came from all over the southern United States. We didn’t all have six-packs. (some of us would, but not all) A lot of us wouldn’t win a swimsuit contest. And a lot of us are like me – very pasty white. But man, could we compete.

Throwing barbells around. Grunting and screaming as we threw barbells around, setting personal records in power snatch. Conquering bar muscleups any way necessary. Unlike some of the other events at Europa, our community’s competition wasn’t based on how little body fat we had or how big our muscles were. We didn’t care about that either. And guess what?

The barbell didn’t care either. It didn’t care that I’d never look half as good with my shirt off as some of the fitness competitors. Or that I was pasty white. It only cared if I could pick it up and throw some weight around. It only cared if I could jump, squat, run, push, or pull. The same movements I make on a daily basis in my everyday life. The barbell (and CrossFit) cares more about how well our body will function than how we look with our shirts off. But don’t get me wrong – functional fitness training will make you look damn good with your shirt off. I used to see the men on the cover of Muscle & Fitness and wish I could put on that much muscle. To be that big and that strong. To bench 300. Curl 100. Oh, and don’t even get me started on the Smith machine. Then I found CrossFit and it all changed. Now I care more about how fast can I complete burpees and pushups than how heavy my max bench press is. I care how mobile my body can be for overhead squats than how big my calves are. What I once wanted – giant shoulders, arms, and chest – would now only be hindrances to my body’s natural function. They would prohibit me from putting a bar over my head or front squat.

Yea, I’d love to be strong like Easton Evans or a breathe fire like Rich Froning. Both guys are killing it in our sport. I’d love to get to the point where I smile during workouts like Iceland Annie. (Speaking of which, ever seen someone just laughing and smiling – enjoying him/ herself – during a workout other than CrossFit?) But the difference between our athletes and a lot of models in considered “fit” – our athletes build strength to enhance their everyday life, not just “look pretty.” They’d CrossFit even if there wasn’t the Reebok Games or prize money. If no one ever saw them complete a WOD or lift heavy, they’d still CrossFit. They work to be stronger for life.

They work to be stronger to compete against lifeAnd everything it throws at them. They bust their tail in workouts just like the mother of four next to you this morning did – to feel better, to look better, but more importantly, to help them get through life better. Functionally better. To conquer whatever life throws at them. It’s not about how tan, how shiny, or how chiseled we look. It’s about how we feel. How well we can lift our kids into the air when playing with them. How much easier it is to walk up three flights of stairs and not be completely gassed. How well our bodies move. Up and down. Side to side. Jumping. Running. Rowing. You know, every day activities. CrossFit is growing because it is changing lives. Creating confidence. Building functional fitness. We aren’t consumed with physical appearances – although we see amazing results physically from CrossFit.

We are consumed with getting better every day. With competing against the barbell, the clock, and ourselves. The barbell does not discriminate. It does not profile. It doesn’t care if you look like models on TV or what the world says is “hot.” The barbell doesn’t care if you’re skinny, large, or muscular. Because to the barbell you’re all the same. CrossFit doesn’t care what you look like or where you came from. The barbell doesn’t either. Both just care where you’re going. What you plan to do when you pick up that barbell. What you plan to do when life tries to knock you down. The barbell just cares if you’re willing to give it your all for 5, 10, 15, or 60 minutes in a WOD… …and then keep giving it your all for the remaining 23 hours in the day.

If you’re willing to compete. Every day. That’s all the barbell cares about. That’s all we should care about.

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