We have started down the road of the 2020 CrossFit Games Open and as successfully as our first Friday Night Lights went, I inevitably find myself emotionally conflicted. I’m not sure how to explain what my conflict is. For someone who loves the power of words, I find that I butt up against the inadequacy of language in this case. How do I describe feeling
while also feeling
about what I know will be an exhausting five weeks of fitness.
In poetry, experts call this an objective correlative – the artistic and literary technique of representing or evoking a particular emotion by means of symbols that objectify that emotion and are associated with it. Generally, we respond to details rather than the ideas behind the details. If I try to EXPLAIN the emotions in the two pictures above, the explanation will eventually fall well short of the emotional response of LOOKING at the pictures.
How do I capture the objective correlative of the Open in just a few hundred words? How do I write about it in a way that is authentic? How do I convince you that I appreciate how the Open makes our community better and gives us an excuse to come together to celebrate everyone’s fitness while at the same time making me both love and hate everything about the competitive aspect of CrossFit?
Put those questions on hold. We’ll come back to them.
Earlier this week, I read an essay by Robin Dunbar, the author of Grooming, Gossip and the Evolution of Language. In the essay, and in even greater detail in his books, Dunbar argues that the evolution of language, like the evolution of all physical and emotional traits, is a confluence of external evolutionary factors that selected for and yielded the most effective version of our species based on its Environment of Evolutionary Adaptedness, EEA.
For Dunbar, language was a social technological development that provided a new medium for our early hominid ancestors’ social interaction. Members of almost every great ape species spend an average of 20% of their day socializing. Other than humans, this socialization primarily manifests as grooming, coupling, and fighting. We do that stuff too, but we also have the gift of gab because, as our brains grew, our need/desire/ability for social interaction grew. As that need/desire/ability continued to take up more time of the day, we reached a tipping point where too much time would be spent socially interacting via physical means alone and we’d have less time to hunt, gather, eat, rest, and survive. In response to this evolutionary need, a non-physical equivalent of primate grooming emerged: language.
What we do at Fairwinds is a social experience. For some of us, it takes up way more than 20% of our our daily socialization. But for most of you, I bet if you added up the amount of time you are at Fairwinds, thinking about Fairwinds, talking about Fairwinds, or in some other way involved in Fairwinds-based activity, it probably comes out to 20% or so. This is because we aren’t actually in the exercise business, we are in the relationship business. I’d love to take credit for making that up, but I didn’t.
When I think about the Open, I only really understand it because I’ve experienced it. I feel as if my language can’t quite capture the power the next five weeks have in deepening the relationships we have built within our community. And I feel like one of my most important responsibilities with the gym is to provide an opportunity for those relationships to grow and broaden. I could spend hours writing about how meaningful these next five weeks can be or I could just give you a barbell and let you get there yourself.
So my public-facing narrative for the Open is something like
because “it’s all about the people and the fun.”
But my inner narrative of the Open is more in line with
The Open scratches an itch that I often try to ignore and keep under control. When Open season comes around, I feel an overwhelming need to let my competitive juices flow. This urge, when left unchecked, quickly undermines months of preaching balance and moderation. I hear 3-2-1….Go and
Over the next five weeks, the many different versions of me – supportive coach, competitive athlete, long-time friend, or bitter rival will all struggle for dominance.
And I will tell you that after I do the WOD the first time, I will secretly troll the leaderboard, hitting my refresh button again, and again, and again. Deep down, I will know it doesn’t REALLY matter, but I won’t listen to that voice. I will get sucked into the fantasy of being Top 200. Maybe Top 100. Maybe top 10? Nah, that’s just ridiculous. Is it?
I am left without words, emotionally exhausted, and as I said earlier, my language falls short.
Luckily, at Fairwinds, we celebrate making people better versions of themselves. We try to create an environment where everyone can feel comfortable being vulnerable. We recognize that the process of learning new and difficult things outweighs some definitive level of performance. The people who impress us the most are the ones who push their own limits while keeping things in perspective and honestly celebrating everyone’s effort, including their own.
So I guess I am asking for a favor, Fairwinds.
If, at some point in the next 5 weeks, I seem to be saying
I am sorry.
Or, if it’s after 7pm and I start to
I am sorry.
Please know that deep down inside, I am really saying
because I am very happy to be doing this Open with the Fairwinds community. I am happy to have a place where I can figure this stuff out and know that, no matter the result of this year’s Open or any other challenge that comes our way, we’ve all got a place to land.
See you in the box.