Up Downs

The people who are interested in talking about my challenging workout this morning: my coach; M. and S., who did the workout beside me; Lisa (because we tell each other about our workouts).

The people who are not interested: everyone else.

Like hearing how awesome the Gate of Heaven tour at the Duomo in Siena is, there are things that fall apart in the telling, experiences that are meant to be experienced, and not retold.

So consider this, kind reader, a note to myself.

This morning’s workout at Kinetic was described like this:

2 Jumping Chest to Bar
3 Thrusters (95/65)
6 Burpees
(Score is Time)

To translate this into human language:

  1. MYMC is “mid-year mini-comp,” described as “a 3-week mid-year challenge we run in the middle of the programming year.”
  2. We do 15 rounds of what follows. Our “score” is our time to complete all 15.
  3. Each “round” consists of:
  • 2 “jumping chest to bar,” which is kind of like a “super pull-up.”
  • 3 “thrusters,” with a barbell with a recommended weight of 95 pounds for men and 65 pounds for women.
  • 6 “burpees,” which essentially involves throwing ones body to the floor and getting back up again.

Because everyone is different, we all adapt the workout to our real (or perceived) capabilities. In this case, I did a more aspirational than real ”chest to bar,” I did my thrusters with a 55 lb. barbell, and I did “up-downs” instead of burpees (up-downs are a more sedate, measured version, with less unrestrained flopping).

But this is not what I’m here to write about.

I’m here to write about a brief moment, in the middle of an up-down (oddly, the most taxing of the three movements for me), where I realized that the only way to finish 15 rounds was going to be to treat each and every movement as an accomplishment unto itself. I wasn’t going to get to the end by focusing on what I’d done, or how much was to come; all I could do is one up-down. Or one thruster. Or one chest to bar.


And only then would I even begin to conceive of my next move.

In doing so, I found an unusual sense of “presence,” for lack of a better word.

This morning, unrelated, but also rather related, I read this in Against Optimization:

Another way to look at this is that you cannot optimize for resilience. Resilience requires a kind of elasticity, an ability to stretch and reach but then to return, to spring back into a former shape—or perhaps to shapeshift into something new if the circumstances require it. Resilience is stretchy where optimization is brittle; resilience invites change where optimization demands continuity. But whether we’re talking about our public infrastructure or our workplaces, our streets or our lives, it’s change we need to be ready for. Whatever is ahead for us, it’s not more of the same.

It seems like this sense of presence I describe, of being in the moment and reacting to conditions as they are in the moment, might be this “stretchy resilience.”

Optimizing” my workout, which is how I started out this morning, was hearing my coach’s “you need to do one round every minute and ten seconds to finish with a good time” and then throwing myself into the (overwhelming, impossible, exhausting) workout all at once.

And it was exhausting: by five tick-marks on the whiteboard I was near-spent. I could no longer finish with an optimized attitude.

And so.



Just one.

And, only then, the next.

I finished.

I did the 15 rounds in 17 minutes and 30 seconds.

I am proud.

And I also feel like I’ve learned a much-more-broadly-applicable life lesson.


Rob's picture
Rob on June 6, 2024 - 10:11 Permalink

I’m here for this. Happy to see you excited about fitness. You’re doing CrossFit and all crossfitters get excited about CrossFit because it’s hard but fun and social, and you do things you didn’t realize you were capable of, and you can measure tangible progress in your physical health, and you feel great!

Peter Rukavina's picture
Peter Rukavina on June 6, 2024 - 14:55 Permalink

A few days ago I was having coffee with my old friend Dan, and we were comparing fitness notes. Dan said “I looked around for people who had a fitness regime that they’d stuck to, and it was CrossFit people like Rob and Dave who stuck out.” Which is true: y’all are good models.

So, yes, I agree: it is hard, it is fun and social, I do indeed do things I didn’t realize I was capable of, and I can measure tangible progress in my physical health. And I do feel great (and capable).