When the .1 is Worth 1,000,000

TomKat knows both the Open and how to cut a rug!

Next week, the world’s largest fitness competition commences. It’s Open season. I could provide you with a barrage of reasons why you should register, how it’s one of the most rewarding experiences for any CrossFitter. I could outline the benefit of friendly competition, or why, yes, even YOU, are good enough to participate – but, I shan’t. I do, contrastingly, hope to elicit an observable change in your approach. In years’ past, some of you have, undoubtedly, heard my haranguing centered on the Open and the importance of the ‘point 1’. 15.1, like 14.1, 13.1 or any previous year’s .1, is the most valuable workout you will perform during the 2015 open season. It probably won’t be the hardest, longest or shortest, heaviest, skill-rich or most entertaining, but its importance cannot be overestimated. Why? Because of attrition. Attrition, in definitive terms, is a gradual reduction in strength or effectiveness over time. And, for this article’s purposes, the strength and effectiveness of the CrossFit Open is exploited annually, vis a vis the occurrence and sequential forfeit of eligibility from injury, user error, travel, indifference and a host of other reasons.

For my uses, these reasons permit attrition to take root. How? It’s simple, every year, hoards of motivated people acting unitarily, as the strength and effectiveness for the Open, register. History has indeed, through successive years, revealed the pool of participants grows somewhat exponentially. For example’s sake, let’s say 1 million people register in 2015. Let us not reference, less we be indefinitely distracted, how much revenue is generated for HQ via team, judge, and athlete fees. Regardless, of that 1 million person ‘pie’, it’s fair to assume 95% of them will actually submit a to-be-validated score for 15.1. I assume this less-than-whole participation based on what I’ve seen first hand. Yes, it may be anecdotal, but I dare say the trend is universally prevailing. Therefore, we are left with 950 thousand scores and their appropriate points/rankings to be appointed – all before the initial week of the competition concludes.

This leads us directly into the second week. Again, to be fair, let’s assume the same percentage of participation occurs (remembering, of course, that 50 thousand people have already disqualified themselves following 15.1). Enter: week 2, 15.2; currently, we would be left a bolus of 900 thousand participants and subsequent points/rankings. Assuming this generous notion, a weekly participation rate of 95%, by the Open’s culmination, 15.5, a mere 770 thousand contributors remain – a reduction of almost 250 thousand participants. Ipso facto, the strength and effectiveness of the Open, 1 million spritely, optimistic folk, has fallen victim to a war of attrition (a theoretical war, of course). Ultimately, realizing a decline of (roughly) 25% participation and, more importantly for this article, the resulting erosion of previously legitimate scores. Sure. But, what does this really mean for 15.1? In the most simple terms, it means the points from 15.1 are weighted most heavily – by default, more than any weeks to follow. Furthermore, the preciousness of each point you are able to amass within the first workout cannot easily be described. I would even wager that one’s ranking, following the conclusion of week 1, can forecast one’s final placing, save a tens place or two. With a considerable amount of one-time contributors to the pie, the pie will be at its richest. And, inevitably, 180 thousand pieces of that pie will be sullied. Gone to waste. Points that could have served you, instead of Jane and John Doe. Sadly, the weekly wasting of points and rank, through this sort of attrition, continue upon their point-devaluing path throughout the entirety of the Open. It is after all, from those points that we are, by default, ranked. This ranking, as we know, eventually determines the best, but only of those still eligible. Ineligible scores, points, and athletes from previous weeks live to provide a perdition-like reminder of performances past, squandering points and gapping the week’s rank.

I posit it was CrossFit’s founder, Greg Gassman, that once said, “It is our observation that men will die for points…by keeping accurate scores and…defining the rules..we [are rewarded]…data [that] has important value well beyond motivation.” Such would arise a rare-but-worthy case deserving all the eggs and just one basket. Can it spell doom if our 15.1 performance is a flub? Maybe, but I’d reference Hate The Runs’ rise from the lackluster performance ashes of 14.1 to evince a regional berth – another anecdote. Perhaps, .1 can, by some manipulative prose, be as valuable as the 1 million. Perhaps, not. It is my optimistic hope that you are left with a two-fold lesson upon the completion of this petite read. One, whatever the hopper delivers on the eve of 2/26, you are physically and, more importantly, emotionally prepared to ‘die for points’ during your stab(s) at 15.1 – truly, in all the Open workouts. And, two, I implore that you not spoil any pieces of pie for those eyeing the entirety of 5 helpings – don’t be the statistic. Now, with all my love, go register and let us onward to the Open!


Tending Our Pride (and Prejudices) Ver. 2.0


When you cannot be just through virtue, be so with pride. -Eugenio Maria de Hostos

What are the first thoughts to arise when you hear or see the word ‘pride’? Are they thoughts of virtue or of vice? Do they produce a tone of disdain or one of admiration? Without dispute, there are compelling arguments for both responses. And, for my purposes, I dare say you are correct, unambiguously, despite any prevailing theme. Externally, pride attempts to tells the world who we are. It exclaims our worth and offerings. Conversely, its tune can malign, tell-taling of insecurity, egocentrism and pompousness. One that decries that I am the center of my world and, if descrying my behavior, I am of all importance. When we begin witnessing said ‘pride’ during our approaches to fitness, or life in general, through innate behavior, we are bound to witness heroic success and crippling failure.

As a Virtue:

Virtuoso: (noun) – a person who has a cultivated appreciation of excellence, as a connoisseur or collector of all things interesting and tasteful.

With an understanding of the lexicon, it’s not ironic that CrossFit institutionalizes such a definitive stance on virtuosity (CF Journal: Virtuosity). And, to be honest, we are undeterred, still pursuing vetted, virtuous efforts of our own. With patience and thorough mindfulness, we can venture towards perfecting our prideful and, moreover, a reflective approach to taming the pride within ourselves. And, similarly, when internalizing this notion, are then afforded the utility of our pride in it’s purest, unadulterated state. In such a state, it is quite powerful. When viewed through the lenses of our fitness pursuits, a governed control of our pride can serve as an ally. It’s mirrored in the quality of our movements (not just the sexy ones like Snatch and C&J, but in air squats, pushups, and dislocates; in the warm-up, for God’s sake). Pride, healthily harnessed, maintains integrity and honesty in recording scores/times, contributes to the preservation of our training area, and controls the ‘checking’ of our subjective opinions on programming. When successful, we have exploited a legitimate and providential power within the canons of these pious ideas on pride. Success here will only generate pleasing and…wait for it…virtuous outcomes. Take pride in your gym. There are countless other places where you can whittle away at this nebulous idea of fitness, but you have chosen us. Why? I’d like to believe it’s because of our (and particularly, my own) intoxicating personalities, exquisite beards, fashion sense, and well-developed calves. However, I would be amiss if I failed to mention the overwhelming support of our ever-flowering community, the diversity seen within our programming, and the boon of friendly competition experienced daily (with others and yourself). Not to mention, enumerable other descriptors concerning the distinctiveness of all places 423. So with gusto, I say, take pride in your training and your training space alike! There is no other place quite like it. Can you recount the times have you shared a success story about CrossFit or Weightlifting with a friend? More than you realize, I’m sure. Why? I choose to believe it spurns from a deep-rooted sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. You achieved something you didn’t otherwise think you could. And the result? A swelling of your pride. Bravo! Pride can, and often will, lead to virtuous endings. It fuels competitors when they need it the most and catalyzes all things related to peak, athletic performance. It fosters a calm, internal strength that provides solace and grit during times of desolation. Simply put, it aids in the tempering of specific personality traits that we, collectively, admire (Monte Bowen, anyone?). It develops leaders. In life and in sport, leaders are the lynchpin of success. And successful people wield such pride to fortify their perseverance, resilience, and resolve. Dare I say, defining characteristics, indeed.

As a Vice:

Vice: (noun) – a fault, defect, or shortcoming; a particular form of depravity.

In every manner previously described, and countless others, we can contrast the vice-like vagaries of pride. Here, we edge towards egocentric malevolence. I have, at my own liberty, given the thinly-veiled brother of pride a the proper moniker of ‘arrogance’. Arrogance is ‘cocky’s’ older, and mildly more cultured, brother. Examples, it seems, are all but obvious, but humor me nonetheless. In truth, and permit me to fully disclaim, I’ve never witnessed these literal murmurings or anything of the like. But I like to think have perchance (remember, I’m no soothsayer), witnessed similar unspoken monologues. Admittedly or not, some of you may have soliloquized identical pieces of prose during fleeting moments of prideful frustration. “It’s just a warm-up/mobility. I don’t need to fret with attention to detail or quality unless it’s for time or…”– too prideful to concern ourselves with small stuff. This small stuff, or otherwise known as the dynamic and purpose-driven warm-up, is intended to be preventative, injury-wise and more importantly, elicit higher levels of performance. Have you experienced a nagging knee, elbow, shoulder issue? Yes? There’s likely a correlation to your habitual warming-up and successive mobility focus, or lack thereof. Marty Stern once wrote about taking a ’60 minute approach’ to each class we attend. I thought his ideas were brilliant (foreshadowing of another piece worth revisiting? Yes, quite plausible). “Someone will probably put this notebook, water bottle, loaded barbell, and my curious child away.” – no pride in taking care of your gym and more importantly your comrades’ too. The gym not only belongs to you, but everyone else. Let me elaborate here: we don’t expect the halls of any 423 facility to resemble the Taj Mahal, the Vatican, or JoJo’s best lift (super Clean 😉 ). We only ask that you leave it a little better than before you arrived. “There’s no way that so-and-so had a better score or time than me, I must have miscounted.” – that insecure voice of pride impedes our ability to see the bigger picture and, worse, improvement in others. When viewing training subjectively, ours and our peers’ feelings often find themselves between the crosshairs of judgement and frustration. But, when we can remove ourselves from the humdrum of these common mishaps and bad days in the gym, we’ll soon ascend towards objectivity. Hopefully, then, permitting ourselves to comprehend the frivolity of such emotion. For our purposes and for most any individualistic purposes, n=1. You are your own experiment and you control the variables. The progress, digress, or otherwise of your peers may lay no claim to the control of your purpose. “This training doesn’t serve my purposes, I’ll take a pass today and do what I prefer.” – my pride tells me I know better than those whom I have entrusted with my fitness. In the most emphatic manner, I say, our success hinges on yours! You may take issue with certain decisions along the programming path. And you may even dislike or distrust some of our requests. That’s ok. In these cases, talk to a coach about those concerns. Ask questions – we (all of us) love to talk-shop. Our way isn’t exclusive. There are scores of trails that lead to a promised, utopian fitland. But, mind you, ours has proven a successful one. Embrace your struggle and trust the journey.

Pride of the 423:

Our tallest task is finding the balance between permitting our pride to propel us towards virtuous summits and allowing it to drag us to the vice-rich caverns of dissolution. In life and in the gym, pride is a double-edged, melodramatic sword. One edge serving as our ally. The other, our nightmare antagonist, piercing every throw at progress. Chances are great that you’ve once heard the aphorism, “check your ego at the door.” But, I might suggest a small edit – “check your ego and start honing your pride after entering the door.” Learn to apply your pride to advantageous endings. If you do things right every time, you’re bound do things right all the time. Take pride in the quality of your air squat. Prove how attuned you are to a nurturing gym atmosphere. Reinforce a habit that’s actually worth reinforcing. Yes, these ideas seem trite, but in practice, still present a noble challenge. At its best (and worst), pride sets an example for others to follow. What can be said about your approach today? Yesterday? How about tomorrow? I’ll be the first to admit – there are days when my vigor vanishes, leaving me with a most loathsome temperament. Undoubtedly, at times, my pride turns vice and leaves me depraved. And far be it from me, to claim any profound state of enlightenment on the matter. But, I realize we must always leave room for improvement. I’ll never recoup enough time to reflect on the outcomes of my behavior, but I guarantee – I’m seeking solutions. And I’m doing so with…you guessed it, pride. Tomorrow is a blank page. Chase your felicity and do so proudly.




Post Script: Don’t think for one second that I wasn’t burning to make the theoretical lion reference. I know, I know – big surprise coming from the guy with a couple of lion tattoos and hair that may (or may not) mimic a mane. Pride is also the term used to describe a functioning, social group of lions. A group that suffers and succeeds together. Honestly, I didn’t need one, but you’re free to insert any pun-rich segue of your choosing here. As my group of ‘lions’ you provide me, unequivocally, with copious pride. Watching you struggle and, consequently, evolve daily is an experience most cannot comprehend. And unknowingly, you’ve allowed me to take small part in those lessons. It’s grand – this consummate learning. How fortunate am I, to have been afforded such a precious perch? It’s a position to be envied. Rarw.