Goodbye CrossFit Gaspar. I love you all.
Hello Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. This going to be a wild ride.
I’ve had an open and communicative relationship with CrossFit for about five years now. It started with a big flurry of learning and changes: college buddies convinced me to train with them after the end of my competitive rower career. For those first years, it felt like everyday I learned a new movement or PRed an older one. The #gainz were strong and didn’t stop— I rounded out my fitness with a solid strength base and I felt better and more confident.
Then, about two years ago, with the help of EverProven CrossFit‘s Matt Michaud, I made the transition from athlete to coach, learning my craft and honing the skills necessary to lead a group of 15 through an hour long class with no lapses in attention or focus. From that springboard, I have coached at three crossfit gyms (EverProven, Juggernaut, and Gaspar), and reached hundreds of athletes.
It takes effort to maintain a practice. Daily consideration separates the hobbyist from the true practitioner— are you doing the thing every day? Are you attempting to find time or are you creating time? With the former, you say, “Not today, I have tomorrow.” With the latter, you say, “Tomorrow is another struggle. Only today.”
If you fall out of love with that practice, how can you maintain that discipline when the world is crashing in around you and demands your full attention? When you lose desire and drive, the only thing tethering you to the practice is effort and grit— which works well for a time, especially if the love is abated only momentarily, but this does not sustain you over mountains and through valleys.
Now, I feel that my journey as a crossfit coach has come to an end, or at least a long sabbatical. I fell out of love with the art of coaching. I no longer have the desire to head to the gym and drop knowledge bombs on athletes, I’ve become more of a baby-sitter than a teacher inspired to facilitate learning and growth in others.
Medical school has kicked into high-stakes mode: having failed the first two exams of Course 4 and sitting with a 68% average, 5pts away from passing the course, I am in dangerous territory. If I don’t crush the next exam, the anatomy practical, and the NBME final, I could fail the overall course and be required to remediate the coursework between MS1 and MS2— aka summer school.
I don’t believe that life is a balancing act. When folks talk about a work-life balance, I think of Lady Justice’s scales: an ounce on either side will tip the lever in one direction, which forces a specific and measured counter-correction to remain level. The implication: balance is static. To address an imbalance you correct the other side, and then boom, you’ve hit balance… until something in the future throws it off.
Instead, I look at life as a dance, following its own rhythm. Look at the weekday/weekend shift of responsibilities for most folks: work 40+hrs during the five weekdays and enjoy yourself fully on the weekends. There are naturally times in your life when priorities must shift— there’s a fellow that asks his wife to rate him in various partner-satisfaction dimensions on a monthly basis, from lover to father to provider.
In each category, he is scored from 1 to 10, and the stipulation is that he average an 8 across the board. This gives him the freedom to leave for a cross-country work conference instead of attending his daughter’s baseball game without guilt, and the knowledge that he should address that trade sometime down the line.
This rhythm is exemplified by the wobble on a slackline— there’s a certain amount of wiggle and jump within the slackline, whether it is pulled taut via ratchets or held long and loose with friction carabiners. As soon as you enter this system, by stepping on the line, you are accepting the wobble as an inherent aspect of the activity. Any attempts to dampen the wobble are only holding measures because the wobble will always return, usually with a vengeance.
For a beginner with a single slackline suspended between two anchor points, the wobble feels dangerous and entirely unpredictable. Any false step, and you’ll be thrown into the air and onto the ground. For an experienced slacker with multiple lines held in the air, the wobble provides a beautiful transition from one slackline to another— a jump following by a landing is all you need to traverse the airborne jungle gym. The wobble leads me to newer, more challenging lines, which demand growth and novel perspectives.
In order to embrace these challenges, rather than trying to hold them down with effort and ground teeth, I’ve decided to turn away from CrossFit in order to learn Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. BJJ is a grappling art developed by the Japanese and refined for broader applications by the Gracies of Brazil. And, there is a world class Jiu-Jitsu competitor 15min from my Tampa apartment.
For the past three Courses, I’ve coached 2hrs/wk at CrossFit Gaspar, totaling about 10hrs of committed time per month. Moving forward, I’m wholly shifting that time into my Jiu-Jitsu practice. BJJ is a fire which will sustain me through these academically trying times. Instead of trying to keep an old flame going throughout this school-based storm, I’m building a new furnace and learning along the way.
I cannot imagine where this BJJ slackline will take me— right now I’m focused on stabilizing my landing and appreciating the people and places that have brought me here.
Long Form Sundays
- On being alone versus being lonely (or coming to grips with the absence of invitations)
- On teaching a panda Kung Fu (or the dilemma of a medical education)
- On an abortion debate (or the benefits of controlled stress on a relationship)