When it comes to sports and athletic pursuits, I'm really not a competitive person. Sure, back in college I once got into a fight with a boyfriend during a bowling outing, when he kept throwing strikes and I kept throwing gutter balls. And, okay, I might need more than one hand to count the number of times I've squabbled with my husband on the ski slopes after he's glided down the mountain like a swan crossing a lake and I've arrived ten minutes later, having had to make enormous S-curves to avoid certain death. But honestly, it's more about frustration with my own shortcomings than it is about competition with others. Really.
CrossFit should, in theory, be about competing with yourself. How can you beat your own record—complete a workout faster than last time, lift more weight than you did before? And yet, there's that little matter of the results of each day's workout, posted for all to see on the gym's web site in descending order of athletic prowess. Even if you're just a teensy-weensy little bit competitive, you want to see your name high up on that list. And yet, how much time are you really willing to put in to get it up there? Or, more precisely, how much time am I really willing to put in?
At Boulder CrossFit, many people work out five times a week. I aim for three. I'm just not hard-core enough; I like my days of rest. So lately I've been grappling with the question: How fit is fit enough? Back in the summer when I started CrossFit, my goal was to get back in shape. Yoga was great but I was only managing to practice once a week or so; the gym bores me to tears. So mainly I was hiking with my dogs—which had come to mean an hour-long walk on a flat trail. My laziness was showing, too: in too-tight clothes and a general lack of energy. Once I began doing CrossFit three or four times a week, the change was noticeable. The endorphin high made me feel like I could conquer the world. My clothes were too big. Formerly tiring tasks like shoveling snow were no harder than taking out the trash.
And yet, most days I'm still in the bottom half of that list. One day last week we did four rounds of "max thrusters," meaning you choose a barbell weight and then do four rounds of as many thrusters as you can manage. The weight should be light enough that you can do at least 10, but they shouldn’t be easy. I chose 45 pounds. A thruster involves holding the bar at shoulder height, squatting down, and then springing up to end with the bar all the way overhead with your arms straight. After five, each one was a challenge. I did 10 per round before my arms gave out. Consistent, if nothing else. And yet, once again I was on the bottom half of the list. Sure, a lot of women at the gym used a 35-pound bar. But just as many lifted 55 or 65 pounds. And virtually everyone did more than 40 reps.
So the question I'm left with is, am I working hard enough? I've certainly hit my initial goal. But do I need to push the bar higher? Does it matter how far up the list I rise? Tune in next week….