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Musings: On Fitness And Life

I have a tattoo on my arm that stems from the ancient Greek word for “virtue”. It refers to the ability to function and to function well, or excellence in functioning. More specifically, it refers to a tool or a person fulfilling one’s ultimate function.

CrossFit focuses on multi-joint, multi-muscle group, organic movements. These compound movements are how our bodies were designed and evolved to move, operate, and function. We practice them so that our bodies will function well, and as we desire them to function. Furthermore, we practice these movements so that our lives will function better as a whole.

We don’t go to the gym so we can get better at squatting, or push-ups, or to beat our neighbor in Wodify rankings. Okay, yes, we do want to improve our ability to squat heavy, and we do want to increase our push-up stamina, and I’m guilty of wanting to beat certain people in workouts. However, we practice these movements because they train us, prepare us, and equip us to handle life.

We deadlift so we can pick up a 50-pound bag of dog food at Costco without wrenching our backs. We squat so we can properly lower our friend’s dresser onto the ground as we help them move. We push-press so we can lift a toddler up in the air and gaze at their joyful smiles. We push sleds in the parking lot so we can push the mower. We row, swim, bike, hike, and run so we can go do those exact same movements in the non-gym setting. We can kayak down rivers, bike to the ice-cream parlor with our dates on a Friday night, hike up mountains for breathtaking views in the solitude of nature, and we train running so that bouncing up the stairs at the office doesn’t leave us winded and slightly sweaty in our meeting. In essence, we train at the gym so we can enjoy a higher quality of life outside of it.

We practice double-unders because this is a skill that takes patience, persistence, practice and intentionality. It requires us to be humble, engage in effortful work, and asks us to be willing to learn. It invites us to do the unnoticed, and unappreciated grunt work necessary for growth. It tells us to do what we can do now, in order to one day be able to do what we currently cannot do. The great attributes of character are built and developed the same way.

When I was first learning double-unders, Pope instructed me to be able to do 500 single-unders unbroken before I attempted double-unders. It took me several days of practice each week for several months to accomplish this goal. My single-unders improved immensely. My confidence in jump-roping improved greatly. My cardiovascular capacity in jump-roping workouts grew. And it helped me in my double-unders.

But, more than all of that, it taught me to focus on progress, not perfection. It taught me to endure, persevere, and press-on when I wanted to quit. It taught me to make small adaptations to my daily habits in order to achieve larger, more useful and beneficial gains. It showed me that great gains come through compiling tiny gains. One foot is made up of 12 smaller, individual and less-impressive inches. It taught me to cherish the insignificant, mundane, and ordinary tasks and realize their vast importance. When there is a pile of dirty dishes in the sink, laundry needs to be folded, or I need to balance the check-book, I can flex the muscle I strengthened during my single-under practice; namely, the muscle of pursuing excellence in the ordinary and routine because this is where life is mostly lived. If I can learn to appreciate and enjoy the mundane tasks of life, I will learn to appreciate and enjoy more of life. I practice jumping rope so I can better practice celebrating life.

We all desire for our lives to function well, healthily and happily. Continue to use your time at the gym to improve the quality of your life outside of it. Continue to seek excellence in your workouts, so you can live beautifully as a whole.

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