I’m showing my age with the title of this one, I know. I’m going to take you back a ways and tell you the story of how I got “unplugged.” I studied Sport Medicine in college and after college bounced around for most of my 20s before settling into working as a personal trainer. I loved it. I love it even more today. I’ve always loved helping people become more fit and all the stuff that goes along with that. I took every seminar or course that I could afford to become better at my craft. I was the nerd at home on the weekends writing programs or reading articles because it’s what I do for fun. What I didn’t love was that I was just a role player in the fitness universe made up of Muscle & Fitness, supplement sales, and Globo-gyms with thousands of members, most of whom were on the two times a month workout plan. Actually, back then they weren’t called “Globo-gyms”, they were just gyms because that was pretty much all there was. In that world the new member is always more important than the current member, the supplement the person doesn’t have is always more important than the one they do have, and the newest spaceship- shaped piece of exercise equipment is always the best way to get in shape. I remember feeling like there was a better way but not knowing exactly what it was, I could kinda see it but the picture was blurry. My dad had always worked out and I have old pictures of me crawling around on rusty plates and barbells in a diaper and I longed for that purity and simplicity (I’m not saying I want to wear diapers again).
It was in 2006 that a college buddy showed me the main site, crossfit.com. I was immediately fascinated. The workouts were different than I had experienced yet had basic movements, the videos were primitive, and they weren’t even in a gym; the workouts took place in someone’s garage or a driveway or parking lot. Mind you, at this time I was a typical meathead (I use that term fondly). I could bench a house but if I had needed to chase a run-a-way grocery cart in a parking lot I would have pulled a hamstring. As I started doing CrossFit workouts I realized I wasn’t quite the badass I was.
It was in 2007 that my college buddy and I flew to San Diego to take our CrossFit Level 1 Course. A guy named Dave Castro taught my L1. He used this little dude named Pat Barber as his whipping boy to demonstrate all the movements he taught.
The weekend devastated me physically and permanently altered the course of my life. This was my “Red Pill or Blue Pill” moment.
Either I would forget what I had been exposed to and tell myself they were a bunch of fringe wackos, or I would become a part of the resistance. I remember thinking over and over through the weekend, “these are my people, I have found what I’ve been looking for.” So, I joyfully joined the rebellion! I still had to work within The Matrix for several more years before freeing myself, but my eyes had been opened and I knew it wasn’t real.
Then came the evolution of CrossFit as the rebellion grew. Back in the 90s all the commercials on TV about living a healthy life involved skinny girls running, guys doing leg extensions or bicep curls on a machine, and eating a “healthy” cereal or drinking Diet Coke. Fast forward, today the sport and fitness commercials involve Wall Balls, Kettlebell Swings, and Box Jumps, and the girls are not quite as skinny…. You can see CrossFit’s effects everywhere. People who think they have no idea what CrossFitters do have a much better idea than they think because it has permeated our culture. CrossFit has grown up, it has become more refined and commercialized. This is not a bad thing.
I know a lot of people that would never have started working out if it weren’t for CrossFit becoming more accessible and civilized. These people are more fit and will live longer because of CrossFit’s commercialization.
Having said that, the question is, has CrossFit become “The Matrix”? Has the rebellion become the mainstream? Have we become that which we hated?
The genius of Glassman’s model is “The Box” concept. This is what keeps CrossFit (us) true to its roots. Glassman compared the CrossFit community to a bunch of motorcycle gangs and that comparison is right on. There may be a lot of us now but because we are all a part of our own little tribe, things stay more organic and visceral. It’s like The Baseball Furies or The Orphans from the movie “The Warriors” (really dating myself now). Our world is still primitive. The workouts may not be done in a driveway anymore but it’s still a world of chalk, sweat, metal, and really hard work. You know the other people in your tribe, you are loyal to them. I know the name of every person at the Box and I always want it to be that way. There are those people this will never appeal to, but for those of us who it does appeal to, we need it and it makes us the best versions of ourselves. I believe it keeps our perspective on life closer to the earth and more on what matters and what is real. We have calluses on our hands and scars on our shins, we eat food that looks like food. We are nervous before the WOD; and yes, we love to post to social media our weird physical feats in random places.
So when you see someone who is tired of the automated life and assembly line entertainment and wants something where there is no pre-designated path, tell them you have the answer. Here you can carve out your own identity. You are not “in-shape” just so as to be able to consume additional avenues of industry. Here being “fit” is a function of a better life and it is meant to be used. This is real.
“To deny our own impulses is to deny the very thing that makes us human. “ -Mouse