9am Saturday morning. They arrive in singles and in pairs; in SUVs and on bicycles and on foot, and one in a biodiesel Jetta. They banter in the dressing rooms. They compare thoughts on the day’s challenge while tightening shoes and doing warmups. Some are comparing game-time strategy; some are just glad they didn’t check the daily WOD before they left the house.
When all have gathered, the coach explains the rules of the rumble. Now, he’s the coach. Soon, he’ll be referee. But mostly, he’s a cheerleader.
Heart rates rise toward the end of the workout summary. As the last exercise is demonstrated, nerves are steeled, guts braced, and hands chalked. Fingers open and close. Athletes move to their starting blocks. Jaws tighten. Sweat breaks. Heart rates climb. The coach’s thumb twitches over the ‘start/stop’ button. The countdown: 3,2…. and everything in the periphery fades. Work-related stress is forgotten. Spousal arguments about money: gone. Kids’ poor report card? What kid?
Adrenaline clears the brain like a hard brush on a chalkboard. Focus shifts to “move, move, keep going!” Numbers are counted. Times are guessed; can’t waste a second to glance. Other athletes are watched from corners of eyes. Strategies are shifted as muscles tire. To some in the room, the workout is a public stoning. To others, it’s revelation.
To the coach, it’s temptation. You think OUR heart rates don’t rise? You think our yelling, coaxing, cheering is an act? Then you haven’t seen my knees twitch when you’re doing cleans. You haven’t seen my hand squeeze into a fist when you’re doing deadlifts. You haven’t seen me rise to my toes when you’re hopping onto that big box. You haven’t heard me bore my wife with the gory details later, when the lights have gone down and the kids are sleeping.
You haven’t seen me, pacing, at 1:45pm, when it’s almost MY turn to hit the WOD. You haven’t felt my heart beating in my throat as I plan my strategy for dropping the stopwatch and starting to move as quickly as possible (hey, seconds count when you’re trying to beat Mike and Tyler!) You haven’t heard the ‘tick, tick, tick’ ricocheting around my head while I’m trying to top Clint’s lunchtime record. But I do.
There’s a good reason why we call Crossfit, “The Sport of Fitness.” It’s timed, it’s competitive. It’s for keeps. Those records you see, written in blue and pink Crayola, are etched in our history. Holding a record means holding a place in time, even if short. Holding the record TODAY is a sip of ambrosia. If your friends don’t do Crossfit, they won’t get it. They likely won’t understand why having your initials in pink chalk on some wall up in the Industrial Park, with a little star beside it, is important. They won’t see the relevance of your very best Fran. They may think bragging about your best Diane is a bit eccentric. They may ask why you’re not repeating ‘3 sets of 8’ like a parrot. They may take their ball and go home. Here’s what you can tell them:
Crossfit is a sport. Crossfitters, by extension, are athletes. We’re athletes in a sport that makes them better at other sports. Runners and powerlifters and gymnasts and welders and accountants, we use Crossfit as a springboard. Our goals are broad, and our reach is long. We’re strong and fast and powerful, and we can tell you exactly how much, how fast, how many, or for how long. We know our all-time bests, and we know where we’re weak. We know how to eat for maximal performance. We know who else is close to that record.
Crossfit is definitely a sport. And for the record, coaching ain’t easy. It’s not fun to take that squat PR away from you because you weren’t deep enough. It’s not easy to watch everyone else rip it up, and hover like a hummingbird, waiting for our turn. We probably burn up more energy coaching than most exercisers use in their most intense workout. But we thank you for every minute of it. And we’re nicer to referees, too.