The First Rule of Crossfit: Don’t Compare It to Fight Club

Many people who get involved with Crossfit equate it on some level with Fight Club. It’s hard to blame them when you see the places they overlap. You’ve got a group of people meeting in out-of-the-way places, punishing their bodies over and over, rebuilding their bodies, their minds and their entire outlook on life. Not to mention the fact that the first few workouts, you’re going to feel like you were on the losing end of a lopsided fight.

A guy came to fight club for the first time, his ass was a wad of cookie dough. After a few weeks, he was carved out of wood.

The further I’ve gone into the Crossfit world, the more I see another overlap. Crossfit is an amazing community. Some of the nicest, hard-working people you’ll run into. Some have likened the whole thing to a cult and, at times, that can be a little hard to dispute. But one thing you notice, the deeper you get in, the more these people are like you. Crossfit is definitely one of those things that takes a “certain kind of person” to understand and get into it. Sure, there are the occasional 50%’ers. The ones who just don’t quite get it yet or who haven’t quite finished that glass of Kool-Aid (of course, we give them a more Paleo-friendly form – Kool-Aid has way too much sugar). But you’ll have those wherever you go and even the 50%’ers are much closer to you than the people who don’t do Crossfit.

Last week was one of my eye-opening weeks (which seem to be happening on a much more frequent basis lately). I had my first seven days of three on and one off and had some rather crazy workouts in those three days on. I’d race home, hop in the shower, race back out the door, race back in and put some clothes on, then race back out and drive to work. “Race” is probably a misnomer, because I was seriously hurting for a good deal of the week.

After I messed up my shoulders, I started keeping two re-usable ice packs in the work freezer. I call ’em my adult-size Otter Pops. Unfortunately, the freezer is sort of at the other end of the office from my cube, so I have to hobble back and forth to change them out. On Monday, five people asked me if I’m okay. And not just a passing “are you okay, say it quick because I’m just trying to act interested” sort of way. They asked it in that “I just saw you cut off your finger and I’m afraid you’re going to bleed to death in front of me” way. In fact, once of those five people asked me the question twice. In a row.

“Are you okay?” “Yeah, I’m fine.” “No really, are you okay?”

The second time was asked in that sort of hushed tone reserved for Lifetime movies: “Did he hit you again, honey?” The thing that made it worse was, I was really really trying to suck it up and act as normal as I could and I still got the battered housewife treatment.

Later that week, one of our video editors saw me coming towards him and asked me, “So this training that you’re doing. At some point are you going to be able to walk normal again?” I gave him my best Harrison Ford smirk and told him “If I ever walk normal, I’m not trying hard enough.”

The look he gave me after that response is what made the connection in my brain. He didn’t get it. None of them get it. Not just my cheesy tough man comments, but the whole idea of doing something like this to yourself. When I’m at the box working out, I’m part of a community. When I’m at work, I’m all alone.

This morning, the WOD was Murph. For my non-CF friends who are still reading, that workout is a one mile run, 100 pull-ups, 200 push ups and 300 squats, followed by another 1 mile run. I had to make some adjustments due to my injuries (row instead of run for the shins, ring pull-ups instead of pull-ups for the shoulders and situps instead of push ups for the shoulders again), but I got through it. It took me 50 seconds shy of a full hour and I was the next-to-last finisher, but I did it.

And there’s not a single co-worker I can share this with tomorrow.

They seem to have no concept of doing something like this. Of putting your body through all of this hell almost every morning. If I were in my twenties, they’d probably attribute it to my naive youthfulness, perhaps with a “Oh, to be young again” kind of comment. But a guy who’s almost forty? Whose body definitely looks like it should be doing nothing more strenuous than sitting on the couch shoveling chips into my mouth? Am I retarded? The mere fact that this is me doing this to myself seems to astound them. That I am voluntarily waking up at the crack of dawn to abuse my body with no immediate benefit. No participant award. No cash prize.

I know this isn’t true for all Crossfitters, primarily because we have a lot of firemen and policemen and military types doing this and in those sorts of situations you’re probably a little more hard-pressed to find the people who don’t get it. But if you’re a crossfitter and you work in an office, take a look around. Walk around the floor, one lap for time. How many of these people do you think get it? Or would if you told them? How many of them would just stare at you like a little robin just flew out of your mouth and took a crap on their desk?

After fight club, everything else in your life gets the volume turned down. You can deal with anything.

Those are the scenes I think of when I think about Crossfit and Fight Club intersecting. When the narrator’s in the office, glorying in his new lifestyle and no one around him (except the mailboy) can even fathom doing the same thing.

Today, in my last 1600m row, I walked through the back door of the room and went in to my cave. Deep inside my cave, I found my power animal.

It was me.