For the Love of the Sport
Written by Justin Wright
The 2019 CrossFit Open is upon us and, despite marked drops in registration numbers on the Games site, the spirit of the Open is still strong in countless gyms around the world. Until this year, the Open was something that I genuinely dreaded. It was 5 weeks of constant stress and poor sleep. Worst of all, it was a time of year that reminded me, every week, how I was not the type of person I wanted to be.
I noticed something Friday night when we ran our Open event here at Invictus Boston: for the first time ever, I was happy for people who beat me on the workout. My best memory from that night wasn’t even my own performance, it was pacing someone through their workout and helping them reach their goal. I realized that the way I had acted in previous years was not in line with the person I aim to be today.
I was genuinely bitter at anyone who outperformed me in each workout, and if we’re being honest, that happened quite often. This negativity pervaded my thoughts for the entire week; I rode an emotional roller-coaster that adversely affected my friendships and relationships. Furthermore, I failed at being present for the gym community I love. Instead of supporting their efforts, I was bitter and upset at not living up to my own expectations. I was always physically present for our Friday events, but I lacked in both mental and emotional commitment.
The Three Pillars
One concept that has shaped my coaching and my own evolution is that of the three pillars of self-development: the mental, the physical, and the emotional. They represent the three main areas that must be strengthened in order for us to have a strong foundation. If we lack in any of these three areas, this foundation crumbles and our state of health and wellness is adversely affected.
Flash back to previous years of the Open – my foundation was a mess and my health was deteriorating. As should be no surprise, this culminated in the worst Open performance of my career in 2017. No matter what I did, I couldn’t pull myself out of the negativity and each week was its own nightmare. Worse than this, my negative attitude came out during our community events. I offered no support to anyone else and did an awful job of suppressing my emotions to applaud the amazing accomplishments happening in our community. Everyone around me was pushing themselves to new heights and the energy in the air was incredible. Instead of absorbing this and focusing on others, I stayed in my own head and enhanced my own misery.
I had spent an entire year focusing on the physical, but had let my mental and emotional health lag behind. Only one pillar was standing strong, and the other two could not bear the load. How many of you are currently neglecting one or more pillars in your own life? Heed this warning, and focus on improving in these neglected areas to improve your overall health and happiness.
It’s Not a Zero-Sum Game
One thing that influenced my negative mindset in previous years was the thought that life is a zero-sum game. This is a common viewpoint from sports: someone wins and someone loses. One person or team winning negates the chance for another person or team to win. Black and white, positive or negative; you win, I lose.
I saw everyone else in the gym as my enemy. If someone was on pace to beat my score I would still cheer for them, but I was apprehensive. I didn’t truly want their success, because it meant that they would be taking it from the same pool available to me. This is a terrible way to view the world! The reality is that there is plenty to go around; as long as you work towards your goals then the success of others provides a chance for you to be successful as well.
This is even true in sports. Before Roger Bannister ran the first sub-4 mile on May 6, 1954, this feat was considered impossible. He paved the way, and his initial success led to others accomplishing the same task. As one athlete elevates the standard, it provides a new bar that others can now reach for. This competition drives progress, and this progress further enhances the competition along the way. It is not a zero-sum system. Doors for other athletes are opened, not closed, by massive accomplishments. The mutual desire to be the best elevates the performances of everyone involved.
Finding Fun Again
This past Friday, for the first time in years, I found fun again in the Open. I truly enjoyed judging, cheering, yelling until I lost my voice, and simply being in our community. I can’t tell you how long it has been since I felt this magic. The Open is a wonderful time that unifies our gym communities and helps us appreciate the accomplishments of the weekend warrior, the mother of four, the student, the person competing for the first time.
As fun as it was to be an athlete, it altered my viewpoint and made it harder for me to appreciate these moments: the high fives, the smiles, the pride and joy experienced by everyone who participated. Many said that the change to the Open and the Games would hurt the everyday person participating. After watching Friday night, I can truly say that these people are alive and well. While registration may have dropped, while sanctioned events are taking the focus off of the Open this year, the love of the sport is still alive in these four walls. And, for the first time, I just let myself be present and embrace that energy. I was reminded of all the little reasons I love our community, and of all the little reasons I fell in love with this sport in the first place.