Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Do, or Do Not. There is No Try

I'm telling you, the older I get, the more I realize that some of the lines and philosophies in the shows and movies I grew up with actually had true merit. I don't know why I wouldn't have thought so in the first place... maybe because I knew Yoda was a puppet, that he had a hand in his head to make him move...maybe just the cool-sounding, but ultimately disappointing (for not existing) teachings about the force made me tune him out in general. For whatever reason, I never really noticed the salience of this rebuttal of Luke's half-hearted "Well alright, I'll try."

"No! Try not. Do. Or do not. There is no 'try.'"

I was reminded of this during a recent podcast with Jon Andersen, a guy I hadn't really heard of, despite his successes in professional wrestling and strongman competitions. (I haven't followed wrestling that closely since being a kid in the 80s, and never really knew most of the strongman competitors on ESPN beyond Bill Kazmeier and Magnus I might actually have been seeing him compete and just didn't know it.) He recently dove headfirst into bodybuilding (definitely not my cup of tea) and got his IFBB pro card in just two shows. Apparently, that's pretty impressive.

But beyond his professional credentials and experiences, he talked about a philosophy of attacking life and goals that really resonated with me. He talked about making decisions and sticking to them. Letting those decisions actually guide your actions. One of his examples was the decision to go to the gym. You could either say "I'm going to try to start going to the gym more," or "I'm going to the gym more." One has wiggle-room, escape clauses built in. One lets you get away with failing to follow through. The other is just a stated fact. The first, you still set your alarm at night, but when it goes off in the morning, you lie in bed, considering whether you're really going to try to get up and go to the gym or not. You have an out, conveniently built in. The second, the alarm goes off, you get up and go to the gym, because you ALREADY decided to do so.  There's no extra work to do, no thinking or considering needed. Alarm goes off; feet hit the floor.

It borders on splitting hairs, but its become a very obvious difference to me. Since hearing that, and processing it, I find it much easier to get out of bed at 4:50 in the morning and just go. I've made the decision, I've set the goal, its just time to go do it. I'm not making that decision at 4:50am, when the bed is warm and comfy, and the pillow is perfect, and my wife is sleeping soundly, and it would be so nice just to curl up next to her and go back to sleep. My decision has already been made. Its just a matter of following through. Its not a matter of "trying" to go to the gym. Its a matter of doing it.

Do. Or do not. There is no try.

This obviously has affected other areas of life, as well. Rather than putting together a list of things I'll try to get to in a day, I put together a list of things I'm going to do that day. Then I start hacking away at it, finishing up one thing and moving to another. Decisions have already been made, priorities are fairly obvious, and when they're not, doing everything at a certain priority level ought to do the trick. I don't try to get anything done. I just get things done. Simple.

Great summation from DFHobbs.
EDIT: This is what I get for writing this at night. I forgot some of the main points I was going to tie into this.

Whenever you see a kid (or even an adult) who is preposterously excellent at something, its easy to just shake your head in awe and write it off as a fluke. I submit to you that you're seeing someone who decided to be the best at something. Not to try to practice, or to try to improve, or to try to be the best. Just to BE the best. 

Look at the highest level athletes. While the talking heads on TV and the armchair analysts go nuts comparing their performance and discussing who's trying to win, every truly great athlete is just out there doing their best. They're NOT "trying to give it 110%, Coach!" because, at the very least, that implies they were really only giving it about 91% before, and are now nearing 100%.  Nope, you watch Olympic swimmers or sprinters or weight lifters or whatever, they're not doing enough just to try to win... they're digging deep and giving it everything they have. They are just DOING. Not trying. Doing. Trying is easy. Doing is MUCH harder. But ultimately, so much more rewarding. 

So the next time you look at an awful WoD on the board, don't think (you thought positively) "I'll try..."  That's just leaving off the "...if I can, I guess..."  Think "I'm doing this."  EVEN if it DOES chew you up and spit you out, at least you hit it with everything you had, rather than with the mental parking brake on, wondering why its just so damn hard.  Now, it might be hard, and you still might fail. Hey, it happens. Sometimes, someone else is doing their thing a little bit better than you (consider the Olympic example: every athlete who gets a Silver Medal is still better than literally 99.9999999999999...of all other humans in all of history. But not on that day. It happens.)

"Try not. Do. Or do not. There is no try."

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Not even just 'Frenemies?" CrossFit and the NPGL

The teams of the inaugural season of the NPGL. (adapted from
You ever notice how there are those combinations of things that just ought to be GREAT, but ultimately, just fail to stick together? Vinegar and oil. Mentos and Diet Coke. [Insert some trendy celebutant] and [Insert some other celebutant]?!

Who are these people?! (Just kidding, Ozzy rules!!)

I'd have thought, after 10 years of steady growth, of really enjoying the thrill of kicking pretty much the entire fitness industry in the collective nuts (1), CrossFit TM would enjoy a new bit of friendly competition. It certainly gives another aspect into the dominance they have over the performance fitness universe they ultimately built from the ground up (2). Or, given that seemingly 90+% of their on- and off-Grid talent is coming out of the CrossFit community, the NPGL would be eager (or at least not reluctant) to name what appears, at least for now, to be the very best way to get in shape for their new sport!

Instead, we get this weird radio silence. Which isn't EVEN as good as if there were outright hostilities, so at least we'd all know where we all stood. Nope, this is like when parents are fighting, but the shouting has stopped... and the house is now icily quiet. Every one keeps their heads down, tries not to drop anything, or in any way add to the tension...

I've watched two 2-hour NPGL competitions so far. Wall-to-wall in CrossFitters. I literally JUST watched some of them at the CrossFit Regionals this year. They interviewed them. The C-word never ONCE came up. I can ONLY assume they've been banned (or at least strongly warned) against using it, but why? Marcus Hendren is on the DC Brawlers, who just edged out the NY Rhinos (still not sure about the name, kids). Why do I know who the goober with the iffy hair who exercises really well is? CrossFit. His interview? "I'm here with the team, we're gonna try to work together, communication, Grid, opportunity, Grid, Brawlers.... blah blah blah." Not one mention of "I came in fourth place to some seriously god-like MFers at the Central East Regionals, which means *I'm* pretty much god-like, and I'm gonna rip some shit up and show people what CrossFittians can do!! Hendren SMASH!! "

"Hendren SMASH!!" If he didn't yell that, it was a missed opportunity. (

On the other hand, the NPGL commentators were reduced to having ***NOTHING*** to talk about. Where did all these ridiculously fit young (and slightly older) fitness athletes come from? Apparently vomited forth from the Grid itself, given there was NO background given for anyone. There was much talk about "generalists" vs. "specialists," which *I* know meant "well-rounded CrossFitter" vs. "powerlifter/gymnast specialist." Which again, would be OK if there was enough discussion of that actually means, in other words, who's made what trade-offs in their training. 10 heavy deadlifts coming up? Gimme a cockstrong deadlifter who can lift 10x as much, so can bomb through them! Need someone to knock out 20 bar over burpees? Apparently (according to the DC/NY match) a gymnast is what you need to bomb them out in 20 seconds... but WHY is that the case over a generalist? You know, and *I* know, but to whoever might be discovering the sport on their own... there's just NO background, no discussion....

"So, this guy comes to us from... uh, whatever. You know? Just... whatever, man. You're not my dad." (

From the other camp, CrossFit has seen fit to try to hype up EVERY big name convert to the sport.... but to very little effect, so far.  Footballer Discovers CrossFit. Basketballer Discovers CrossFit. Opera Singer Discovers CrossFit. Oddly enough (as awesome as each of those stories was), there's never any follow up. Why? Probably because when someone from an EXTREMELY skill-based sport, which is also EXTREMELY competitive just to make it to the highest levels, who has already completed 99.9% of the work to be at the top, adding in some CrossFit to the mix won't make that much difference.(3)

Granted, the CrossFit influence on the world of Olympic weightlifting have been (and will continue to be) massive, with record-breaking attendance numbers and participation... and some pretty impressive numbers being posted by CrossFitters in their debut meets. And NO ONE shies away from saying what gym a competitor lifts at, CrossFit or not.

But NOW, here's an entire sport LITERALLY grown out of the fertile land Coach Glassman tilled and sewed with his free online workouts for crazy people. (OK, can you have a *literal* metaphor? Bah...)  Nearly every single competitor is from a CrossFit gym, and if NOT, *that's* interesting, too. Who ELSE is creating athletes good at this? Don't we want to know? I do!! Are ALL former-college gymnasts bound to be good? Former collegiate football players? Some sub-set? Where do they train? How do they train? Maybe its just me being a coach and all... but to me, the training is as exciting as the final competition. Maybe even more so. That one-second fault for a bad tag doesn't mean as much if I don't have a good feel for which team seems like they *ought* to win, based on training and experience. Which means constant and repeated mentions for various CrossFit (and other) gyms. Which means free advertising for the Mothership. But I guess that's a... bad thing? Also, athletes being paid to be athletes, which is a model CrossFit has never once even dabbled with, so does it still count as competition? Again... is that a bad thing? How many professional "CrossFitters" are there? Rich and Samantha clearly made good cash last year... how many others made enough to live on? Any?

I guess when I started writing this, I was sort of hoping I'd stumble into some sort of epiphany about why things are the way they are between CrossFit HQ and the NPGL. (For the record, every time I use both names in a single sentence, I get a thrill of excitement. I sort of assume I'll get a letter from the Russels or mocked by Drywall. This paragraph is made of pure internet win... and or fail. We'll see.) In the end, I don't know. I just don't know. How is Crossfit not a sponsor of the NPGL? Is Reebok planning on swooping in? Their CrossFittian shoes ought to be just as stellar for Grid workouts, no?

Oh, Flying Spaghetti Monster, my eyes, MY EYES!! Somewhere, Coach (Baby) Mark just started giggling and he doesn't know why. ( review of the Reebok ATV 19x, and they apparently LOVED them... oof. My eyes.)

In the end, I got nothing. I ought to have two things to really like, without worry that, like bickering parents, there's suddenly going to be an all-out war and eventual divorce... which would suck for everybody involved.

(1) Yes, for all the powerlifters and bodybuilders, and basically everyone else who ALREADY had a gym obsession, CrossFit has been and always will be stupid to you, because it doesn't meet your goals. That's perfectly OK. In the same way that doing the same three lifts (and an infinite number of accessory lifts) and wearing 3-ply canvas underwear is stupid to me (it really is), that doesn't mean that what powerlifters do in pursuit of a 1,000# squat is any less valid. Its my opinion. Yours is yours. Opinions are like assholes. Mine smells like roses.

(2) Yes, some other names helped build the foundation and provided competitive support along the way. This isn't about them, and not having TV, I don't have to hear their annoying-as-crap infomercials anymore, so I can't even remember the names. Q-80-Z? Linsanity? Was that a thing?

(3) Now, those kids we're building from the ground up with massively improved General Physical Preparedness and solution sets... gonna be monsters. Go google the Martin kids from CrossFit Brand X. MONSTERS.