Inspiration: 3 things to learn from the CrossFit Games
The last weekend of July we were in Los Angeles experiencing the CrossFit Games. I deliberately don’t use the word ‘watch’, because that was not all we were there to do. We went to get inspired for ourselves and our work.
For people who do not know what CrossFit is: it is a sport that basically searches for the fittest person on earth, using events in which gymnastics, athletics (track&field) and weight lifting are combined. A CrossFitter has to be prepared to face any challenge that is thrown at them. There is also an element of surprise: the events are different every year and sometimes the athletes are told what an event is just hours (or minutes) before it starts. The Games resemble the world championships.
A few of this years events: swimming and paddling on open sea, carrying heavy sandbags down and up the stairs in a tennis stadion, climbing up a thick rope without using your legs, finding their max ‘clean & jerk’, getting up a peg board (a wall with holes and you have to use 2 sticks to get up it), and a standard work ou with the name Murph: 1 mile run, 100 pull ups, 200 push ups, 300 squats and another mile run… wearing a weight vest.
Of course the elite athletes are the center of most attention. It’s sport with drama: wins, not getting past some part of the event, excelling. But there was more to experience: inspiration for training and life. Here is our top 3:
3. Age: doesn’t matter
Before the elites took the floor, the competition for the teens and the masters had already started. Those competitions were equally amazing to watch, because it send a clear message: there is no age limit in fitness.
In the teens competition boys and girls were in age groups 14-15 and 17-18 years old. Those are the kids that we here mostly about when they don’t want to do or accomplish anything: hang on the couch, watch tv, play video games. Well, not these ones!
CrossFit starts their ‘kids’ program as early as 3 years old. And in this teens division is was very noticeable what you can do when you start off young, when you were taught proper (weight lifting) form through play… than you can amaze the crowds at 15.
But also the complete other side of the age spectrum was on the competition floor.
Here, also, the stereotypes of frail old people were smashed. In the paper and on tv you mainly see stories about how weak and vulnerable seniors are. You see mainly walkers and sick people. At the CrossFit Games there were heaps of senior citizens that could run circles around you and me in the gym. For us, that gave the great relieve of there being another possible outcome for the future. We had a lengthy conversation in the tennis stadium with a guy named Mario, who was supposed to compete in the men over 60 category, but had to withdraw due to a injury. But that was basically his only health problem, otherwise he was fit as a chicken (Dutch expression 🙂 ) and in the center of the action in his life. See, that way you don’t have to fear getting older, it might even be fun!
2. Body image: any shape is perfect!
Almost everybody who comes to train with us, has weight loss as a (sub)goal; a few pound to a lot. WIth some people their sense of self worth is very connected with the number on the scale or the circumference of their thighs.
And we get that! For a very long time we battled the same battle (and sometimes still, even we are not always immune). The female elite athletes in CrossFit are really taking the lead in tackling body acceptance. They share how it (used to) affect them. Kara Webb (on the right in the picture, in the bright yellow capri tights) shares that she was born with short, firm legs and that she was bullied because of it. But now, she is really happy that younger girls walk up to her and share that they would like to squat like her and would like to have legs like hers for it.
Still, these athletes (and other girl with fit bodies) are still beining trolled on the internet because of how they look. For that reason it is both great and a pity that at the press conference there is a question about body image, mind you: only asked at the female athletes. But their grace in answering it, makes it all right (Watch video).
1. Sport = support
Of course: everybody in a competition wants to win. Nothing wrong with that. But we all have seen images of foul play, kicking people, biting ears, headbutting or the famous soccer “schwalbe”: dramticly falling to the ground, hoping to get a penalty kick. We consider that the quickest way to ruin a good game.
So it was very good to see another way to have competition: everyone stays on the field until the last person is finished or time is up. When you finish, catch your breath, turn around, cheer for your competitors and maybe even offer some advice. Even if that someone is above you on the leader board and them being stuck is something you could use to gain some points to catch up. The sportsmanship on the field was truly inspiring. A beautiful example of that was when Samantha Briggs won ‘Murph’, on a blistering hot Friday afternoon… during the last mile running she high-fived almost every other competitor that she meets on her way back to the finish. Once finished, she stayed in the heat to help the rest of the field out of their weight vests, give them water and cool them down. We consider that one of the highlights of the Games. An example to follow in our own training, work and live.
Watch the finish of Murph in this video, the high-fives start at 01:38:40