The Open has come and gone and our fitness world is returning to normal. CrossFitters the world over are breathing a sigh of relief and are ready to get back to “normal training” again, whatever that really means. Don’t get me wrong though, I also share that liberating exhale and rejoice in feeling like my fitness is not being held hostage every Thursday night.
But before we just sweep the 2016 Open under the rug of the past, I feel it’s of great benefit if we use this moment to take stock of everything we experienced, learned, and faced during the Open.
How did it go for you?
What did you learn about yourself or your current level of fitness and capacity that surprised you or caught you off-guard?
Much like paying taxes, I firmly believe that no one escapes a trial of mental and physical strain like the Open unscathed. Disappointment, triumph, pain, elation, discomfort, joy—all of these emotions go hand in hand with the obstacles that the Open presents to us, both mentally and physically.
And, it is in that light, that ever-present reality that there will always be obstacles to where we want to be and what we want to achieve, that I want to share something with you all, my CrossFit family, that not very many people know about me. I share these things not to elicit sympathy or empathy, and definitely not pity, but so that you can have a clearer understanding of where I am coming from and why I will look every single one of you in the eye and, with every ounce of my being, tell you what I believe to be a fundamental truth:
Obstacles are good.
My mother had me when she was very young. And because of her youth, there were certain complications with the pregnancy and with my delivery. Due to the nature of those complications, my heart stopped beating late in the delivery; I was born into this world dead.
Thanks to the tireless efforts of the doctors and nurses, however, I was revived.
My mother, who also had to be resuscitated after the delivery, was told that she may not have a “normal” son and that there could be persistent side-effects due to my prolonged lack of oxygen and higher brain functions.
The doctor was actually spot-on with his assessment, as you’ll soon discover.
For the first three years of my life I did not speak (hard to imagine given how I loquacious I am now, I know). As mentioned in a previous post on CrossFit OKC, I could dribble a basketball before I could walk. Well, the full context of that story is that, in addition to my muteness, I was born with severely clubbed feet and had to wear corrective (and painful) leg braces until the age of six. Think Forrest Gump but without the uplifting running as the braces fall off scene and you’re on the right track.
Early on, doctors told my mother it would be highly doubtful that I would ever be able to walk on my own without some form of assistance. Running or jumping, well, those were beyond the realm of possibility for a boy like me.
When my inability to speak inched closer to my fourth birthday, the doctors finally suggested that my mother take me in for a full gamut of aptitude tests. Now these tests were where I would nod my head or point to the correct object or answer in an attempt to try and rule out if my lack of speech was the result of limited intelligence. After all, it was long feared that my intelligence was most likely stunted or even permanently damaged because of the lack of blood-flow to my brain during delivery.
Somewhat surprisingly, my intelligence scores came back exceptionally high.
As the story goes, after going over the results and the rest of my physiological examinations, the doctor put down my chart and simply asked me, “Joey, can you talk?”
“Then why don’t you?”
After a brief pause, I cleared my throat and proceeded to try and say the word “Because” but could not get past the hard “C” sound and after a full ten seconds of trying, abandoned the attempt as my gaze fell to the floor and tears filled my eyes.
I had a debilitating stutter.
Some people are just born lucky.
So picture if you will, a small, underweight, club-footed, big-eared, extremely freckled, stuttering little boy who can understand perfectly well that everyone around him expects him to be slow or disabled, at the very least abnormal, but cannot communicate with them that he does not agree with their assessment.
In fact, he strongly disagrees with them.
And he will show them one day.
I spent five years of my youth in dedicated speech therapy. I still have my stutter, you’ll be able to spot it if I get excited or try to say some difficult alliterated sentence of hard consonants, but I can at least communicate with people now and I would probably wage that my love of language began because I had to know multiple ways of saying the same word just in case that combination of sounds would stop me in my tracks (“So I can’t say false right now as I’m getting hung up on the “f” sound…okay, I can say untrue, wrong, incorrect. Yeah, incorrect is the best choice for this usage”).
Sadly, I can only keep that monster at bay instead of conquering it. But even keeping it at bay is a level of happiness I can barely communicate (ah, irony).
I spent years in those creaky, skin-tearing leg braces. The worst parts were after the adjustments. I understand why they had to do it, the science behind corrective twisting and pretty much shaping my bones to how they should be versus how I was born.
But that didn’t make the pain any less intense. Especially at night. Why is everything (sickness, aches, sadness) always worse at night?
I remember the day I was told that I could walk without them, that I would never have to wear them again if I was lucky. That I should be careful and not overdo it.
The second we reached the exit of the doctor’s office I ran down that sidewalk as fast as my little feet could take me to the car. My mother was simultaneously furious and elated. After all, she was told that running and jumping just weren’t in the cards for a boy like me.
As all of you who have met me and know me, there are still some things that I (that we all) deal with and make the most of no matter how hard we try otherwise. I was and still am undersized. I was always the smallest kid in elementary school and middle school, and only escaped that prize in high school when I hit an exceptionally late growth spurt Junior year and went from 5’1 to 5’8.
Despite being told otherwise, that growth spurt did not help me grow into my ears. And the freckles are still there in all their spotted glory. And, no, Mom, they’re not kisses from angels.
Being undersized throughout most of my adolescence and life, I got cut from more athletic teams than I would like to remember. Oh yeah, I went out for every single sport I could once I broke free of those leg braces. And I got cut from every single one of them at some point.
But, I also won All-City, All-Conference, and All-State honors under the very same coach that cut me from the soccer team three years earlier.
A little closer to home, when I started CrossFit I could not snatch 75#, I could not clean 115#, and I could not back squat 200#. And my very first workout at CrossFit OKC (“Filthy Fifty”—thanks for that, Jason), I came in dead last (37:50 I believe) and very nearly passed out at least ten times.
If you’re noticing a trend, yes, I kept coming back to CrossFit OKC.
To be brutally honest, my entire life can be defined as almost nothing ever coming easy. And really wouldn’t have had it any other way. I am who I am, I believe what I believe, because of the road I had to take to get here. Yes, I have encountered my fair share of obstacles and setbacks, from a downright lack of physical ability to even devastating injuries. But who hasn’t?
I am positive that you have. We all have.
And you know what…
Obstacles are good. They push you. They demand more of you. They make you better. Shoot, they force you to be better. The strongest steel is forged in the hottest fires.
Not only that, obstacles require you to be 100% certain that what you’re doing is what you really want to be doing. They let you know that what you’re doing means something. That what you are attempting to accomplish is not the easy way out and is not devoid of value or substance.
Nothing worthwhile comes easy.
Let me repeat that another way because it bears repeating.
Nothing worth having in this life comes without struggle.
So if the Open was hard for you, if CrossFit is hard for you, if you learned that you have some things to work on and that it’s going to be a struggle because you want to get better, because you will be better, because you will become the best version of you that you possibly can be.
We wouldn’t have it any other way.
So, let’s get to work.