You are hereSteve P Sums It Up
Steve P Sums It Up
Steve P in mid-pull-up during WOD 3 of the Masters Competition
I asked Steve P to sum up his experience at this past weekend's Masters competition in Irvine. He competed along with our team from CFO.
He gave me much, much more than what I expected, and went way above and beyond the call of duty, so to speak. What follows is a little over 3 pages (pulled from a Word doc Steve emailed me), and I highly encourage everyone to read every word. It's well worth your time.
I'd also encourage everyone to take up Steve's advice on testing yourself in competition every so often (3 to 4 times a year). Ask me about ideas on how to make this happen.
Without further ado, here is Steve's story.
(Be sure to click on the "Read More" link below and read all of Steve's piece.)
Fitness Relativity and Quantum Leaps
Post-Regional Musings of a Master (aka “Old Fart”)
About 6 months after starting at CFO I remember commenting to Brandon one night about his incredible performance on one of the WODs. He casually (and humbly) answered “it’s all relative, man.” I doubt he gave it a second thought or realized how profound a statement he had just made. When I thought about it, I realized that our strength, skill and fitness are relative for each and every one of us. They’re relative to where we began, where we’re at and where we’re going. In the end, that’s what it’s about and what matters most.
We humans make and play games to compete with others for lots of reasons…fun and entertainment, ego, the satisfaction of pushing and testing ourselves. Many have said that the real competition is the one you’re having with yourself. The one that motivates you to put your heart into every move, focus on your form, stay in the moment and push yourself through it when that small but loud part of your brain is screaming at you to stop and rest or go home and push hard another day. Brandon’s theory of relativity is where it’s at. You go to the gym day after day, engage fully, work hard, sometimes (okay oftentimes) getting frustrated, tired and sore. And in the middle of the WOD when oxygen seems to be in short supply you think “why the hell am I doing this?!” But then someday when you look back 3, 6, 12 months later, you think “holy $#!^”, I never thought I’d be able to dead lift or clean or press nnn pounds. And before you know it, it’s “Wow, my first band-less pull up!” By the way, I couldn’t do one single chin-over-bar pull-up when I started two years ago. Now some of my favorite WODs are ones that are full of C2Bs.
So you keep participating in this apparent insanity and before you know it, the small, incremental, seemingly invisible improvements in skill and fitness begin to look and feel like quantum leaps…especially when others who know you take notice or you realize you need to buy new pants because the ones you’ve been wearing are all bunched up under your belt. And for those of us over 40 or 50, we know all about the dreaded annual check-up. But when you get to your doc’s office for the results of the latest blood work, it’s so cool when you hear that your cholesterol and other numbers are significantly improved over last year’s.
It’s tough to get off our butts and move. That’s where the group dynamic at CFO comes in. So many times I’m tired and just want to go home after work, put my feet up, feed my face and veg out. Making the choice every day (well, three out of four) to show up is the hardest part. Even starting the group warm-up is often hard because the mind is still thinking “geez, I don’t feel like doing this today.” But by the time the warm-up is over and the WOD’s about to begin, the worries and cares of the day have already begun to dissipate. When you’re in the middle of that pull-up or lift, the everyday cortisol-producing stresses, offenses, and crap we all feel like we have to put up with are gone. There’s only now, this rep. A little later, that post-WOD endorphin high may be really subtle but somehow life’s problems don’t seem quite so ominous. How could they be? You just overcame a barbell that didn’t give a damn if you succeeded or failed.
Ten years ago, humor writer Dave Barry published a book called “Stay Fit and Healthy Until You’re Dead.” Ironic? Absolutely! Can we avoid the inevitable? No. But having been to senior care facilities to visit family and friends who were in some way incapacitated and too much for their loved ones to keep them at home gives me serious motivation to do everything possible to keep the machine in as good of working order as possible. All of us have lost family members and friends who were way too young and it’s made me realize how important it is to take responsibility for my own health. Over time, these small, daily CrossFit efforts add up to apparently quantum leaps in overall fitness and health.
So for the past two years I’ve thought of the CrossFit Games as something for elite athletes only. Always proud that I trained at the home of the 2008 Affiliate Champions, the games were still something for only those few elite folks who had special athletic abilities and the incredible drive to train hard and compete fiercely. In a way, it certainly is. It’s a tiered, qualifying system designed to filter and reward for overall fitness. It shouldn’t be any other way. Then earlier this year when they announced the Masters (over 50) category I figured it was for those recently 49 year-old guys who’d been athletes their whole lives. It wasn’t for somebody who had been diagnosed with degenerative disk disease 16 years prior and had permanent nerve damage. It certainly wasn’t for a guy who two years ago was told by his docs that the best chance he had to escape the chronic, near-crippling pain was to have highly invasive surgery in the form of two experimental titanium-cobalt replacement disks inserted between his vertebrae. They said it would take a year for them to fully fuse to the vertebrae and the list of things they said I wouldn’t be able to do seemed endless.
Then over dinner and a discussion about dwindling workout intensity and our respective back pain, a friend visiting from out of town told me about something called “CrossFit.” He said one of the top CrossFit gyms in the world was in my back yard and that doing their prescribed “WODs” over the past six months had helped his back pain tremendously and I should check it out.
So fast-forward two years and I’m thinking that maybe this Masters competition would be a good way to focus on improving my skills and endurance. Forget about winning or placing. Just being able to participate and do the workouts would be an accomplishment to feel good about. Well of course as the games start to draw near, in spite of myself I start thinking about how to be more competitive. Mike kindly laid out some progressions for improving my endurance and work capacity. Then they announced the workouts and wouldn’t you know it, they included double-unders; one of the skills I had yet to focus on enough to master. Lydia told me about MJ’s advice on practicing them for 10 minutes a day and many others had helpful input, watching and giving counsel as needed.
So now that the weekend is over, my rank is currently 32nd overall out of the North Central & Southwest participants. Ran out of time (15 minute cap) and DNFed the first WOD due to double-under 'duh'...the way that life works is that for the first time ever, getting 10-12 in a row came relatively easy during tonight's WOD ;-) The 180 lb thruster in the second WOD was 22nd and the C2B Cindy WOD at 16.83 rounds was 12th. So it’s ho-hum from a competition/numbers/placement perspective. On the other hand, what an incredible experience! As Mini said to me the other night, performing at the games is like shining a bright light on each and every one of your weaknesses. And as we all know, having weaknesses exposed is about as much fun as ripping a bandage off a bloody wound it's bonded to. Even so, I feel more energized and motivated to improve than ever.
And what an eye opener. Performing at the games was incredibly different (much more challenging) than doing a WOD on home court. After experiencing this first hand, I have even more profound respect for each and every one of the Team CFO members and the way they've systematically and consistently trained all year and then went all-out and put it all together as a team so masterfully.
CrossFit has made an incredible reduction in my back pain and flare-ups are now a rare occurrence. And my experience is small potatoes compared to what some folks we know have gone through. My heroes are people like Jacques. The guy was undergoing chemo and radiation therapy for a month, all the while coming to the gym and nailing his WODs. I had no idea. The man is nothing short of amazing. And then we have Michael G. He’s got almost a decade on me and can bench 45 lbs more than I can. He’ll tell you that he’s not competitive, but I’m calling “bull” because I’ve watched him fiercely and relentlessly compete with himself and get his body to an amazing level of fitness and overall health.
At the games this weekend I was watching one of the Masters WOD 1 heats that went before mine. I saw a thinly grey-haired guy ripping through those double-unders like it was nothing. When I commented about how awesome he was, a person next to me who knew him said he was 62 years old. Damn, how cool is that! We may be older and can’t lift as heavy or run as fast and long as the younger folks but we can fight to be fit; and fight for our own health, independence and feeling good.
I feel a debt of gratitude to all the CFO members who have been amazingly generous in their support. Mike and the other coaches - you guys are the greatest! I can't begin to tell you how grateful I am for your skill, patience, ability to teach and well-placed kicks in the ass. CrossFit is real health care reform. You folks in the CF Elements classes, keep it up, it's the best gift you can give to yourself! When it hurts, just remember it's better to wear out than rust out ;-)
Not to get too esoteric or woo-woo, but I’ve read multiple accounts of Taoist masters whose intensive Kung Fu and Tai Chi practice kept them fit and capable right up to their last day on earth. At some point they recognized that it was their time, said their goodbyes, laid down and peacefully passed on. No chaotic smelly rest homes or chronic care facilities, no bed pans, no burden on anyone around them. I don’t have any scientific data, but I’m placing my bet that doing these crazy workouts will get us a lot closer to a better way of living and that ideal way of passing than what 99.999% of the population is doing.
Our chronological age is only one aspect of our real, let’s call it our ‘functional’ age. More importantly, it’s our state of health that matters most (at least to me) and overall fitness makes a huge contribution there. Sure, genetics plays a big role; and at the same time, I’m hearing reports that biomedical experts are learning that the environmental conditions in our bodies can make a huge difference in how our genes express themselves. Even when something goes awry and a condition of dis-ease manifests itself, the person with excellent fitness is going to have a much better chance of restoring their healthy state and recovering in a shorter amount of time. Pretty obvious stuff but I’ve got a family that depends on me and I want to be putting fuel into the tank instead of draining it; so when I’m feeling like slacking off, one of my motivators is to think about how much I care about them. Their willingness aside, I don’t want them to have to be providing chronic care for me, especially not before I turn 100.
So I'd encourage everyone young and less young to jump at the chance to compete at the sectionals, regionals or even throwdowns. Ain't never been an athlete, let alone a competitive one, but this was an experience not to be missed. Besides being a blast, it's a great mental device to focus your efforts and improve your skills, strength, and endurance. You might even look back on it as the catalyst that helped you make a quantum leap in your own fitness and health.