Lacing Up and Showing Up

Published on Wed, 2014-04-02 17:00
Lisbeth Darsh

One of the major reasons the Open matters so much is that it changes people’s attitudes about themselves.

Photo by Ruby Wolff

The 2014 Open Leaderboard is set in stone by now, and we have totals and pounds and times and rankings and infographics. We also have invitations being readied for regionals. These are all good for facts, but facts never tell the whole story. There’s so much more that goes on in the Open.

If the Open was just about who goes to regionals, I’d never sign up. If the Open was only about who’s on the top of the Leaderboard, I wouldn’t give a damn. If all that came out of the Open were qualifiers, I’d hunker down in a local box and watch average Julies and Jasons instead.

But the best stories of the Open aren’t always at the top of the rankings. The best stories don’t always make it to our ears. Sometimes, they never make it out of the boxes in which they happen. And, sometimes, they never even make it past the lips of the people who are the heroes in their own stories. But they know. They know.

One of the major reasons the Open matters so much is that it changes people’s attitudes about themselves. Think about that. If “the greatest adaptation to CrossFit takes place between the ears” then the Open is a catalyst for personal adaptations for thousands of people who never qualify for regionals.

Week after week, we hear the groans in the CrossFit world when the workout is announced, the fears of the people who signed up to do it, and (surprise!) the anger of some folks who think the workout is unfair for (fill in the blank) reason.

And then athletes around the world do the workout. We hear their exclamations, their shouts of joy and accomplishment and sometimes simply the pure exhale of relief. What they thought could not be done? Done. What scared them? Not a factor anymore.

To those with guts enough to accept the challenge, the Open helps them to look fear in the eye and then walk right through it.

We see it again and again—these stories of small accomplishments that are in some way gigantic. Like labor and delivery nurse Paula Reynolds getting her first pull-ups and admitting, “I’m excited and nervous, but my goal remains the same: just go out there and do it. If I have to learn a new skill along the way, I’ll be better for it.”

These stories don’t just come from athletes on the top of the Leaderboard. They come from the students and the moms and the grandpas. Their double-unders were double-undered. Impossible deadlifts became possible. Toes-to-bars appeared. Skills that were budding or nascent or doubted suddenly became present. All because there was a workout to do, and people had signed up, and they now felt compelled to practice and try.

Would they have learned these skills without the Open? Maybe. But the Open put their feet to the fire, and then these athletes walked through it. If you’ve ever entered a 5-km run or raced your mountain bike or slapped on a number in a triathlon, you know what happens when it’s “go” time. You GO. Harder and faster than you ever did before.

Same thing happens in the Open. But now that movement you might have subbed in your daily workout? You try it. That snatch you never thought you could get over your head once? You got it 15 times. The chest-to-bar pull-ups that seemed too hard? Boom. Nipples on the bar.

Effort in the face of fear counts for something. It counts for a lot. Maybe it counts for more than all those regional invitations.

Yes, there’s money and fame for athletes in the CrossFit Games, but no price could ever be put on the raising of a spirit. No value was ever set on giving back confidence to someone who had lost it. No hug—real or virtual—from a community can ever really be measured. These are the things we can’t buy, but we must earn instead. The Open gave us that, and more.

Let the world measure the Open in terms of athlete numbers or top scores. I’m going to measure the Open in spirit. And the view of personal achievement in the CrossFit community at the end of this Open is absolutely breathtaking.

Thank you, CrossFitters. Once again, you showed us the good things that happen when you lace up and show up. Effort still means something in this world, and it means a hell of a lot in the CrossFit Games Open. And that’s really cool.

Also read Celebrating Gladiators by Andréa Maria Cecil.

View the 2014 Open in Photos.



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