“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Teddy Roosevelt

January of 2022 will mark 9 years since I first walked into a CrossFit box. Two weeks past turning 21 years old and full steam ahead. A student and working close to 30 hours a week while going to school. I worked, partied, and did CrossFit with equal intensities, and at that age I could. 

Workouts were done at high intensity 5-6 times a week and I signed up for every competition that I could find. If I ran into you outside of the gym environment you still knew I did CrossFit because I told you about it.

As time went on however, my career changed I had to adapt what my day-to-day workout routine looked like. I knew a little about nutrition and experimented with different ways to not only eat healthy but “optimize” my energy levels throughout the day. I hit more workouts at 5 or 6am before hitting the road than I did at lunch or in the evening. Competing was out the door and health was the primary focus. 

In 2019 I finally listened to the voice that was telling me I wanted to be a coach. I went and got my L1 and before I had the paper copy in my hand I found and secured a coaching job. I was coming off of a few years now of garage gym-ing it and my motivation for fitness had completely changed. Fitness was a way to sharpen my life and give me the skills needed to be a high-achiever.  

Some people are naturally more competitive. These are the people that when given a task they will look around at the others completing the work and try to do it better, faster, and more. These people tend to quickly begin “competing” for spots on the gym’s whiteboard. Then there are some that view what we do here as only exercise, a way to add a few years and maybe take off a few pounds. These are the health-conscious who probably also optimize the other 23 hours of their day. Both of these groups need to do competitions or their progress will stagnate. 

Let’s take the competitor first. If they only ever compete in the gym and never on the competition floor, a problem will arise. The gym is for training. Training is not competing. Again for the people in the back – we train in the gym, we compete on the stage. Why does this matter? If we don’t have an external meet, or reason to train, then the gym becomes the competition. If everyday is a competition instead of training then we don’t progress. These aren’t semantics, these are rules. You can forgo them for a while but it will catch up to you in one way or another, physically or mentally. 

Now let’s look at the health-conscious gym-goer. Hopefully the community and the classes provide enough accountability to keep them coming into the gym, but progress takes a long time. The saying goes, 3 months for you to see a difference and 6 months for others. So if you come to the gym for 90 days and no one has commented on your new abilities, will you continue to push? Is the signal strong enough for you to continue making a change? Possibly, but data tends to say no. 

Either camp will grow physically and mentally from competing. A blade must go into the fire to forge a tempered edge, but unless you pull it out occasionally to check your progress the heat will eventually melt it away. Competition is this self-check. It can show you how far you’ve come and also what you need to do to continue progressing. It allows for a perspective that cannot be obtained in other ways – you must enter the arena. 

Competitions come in many forms nowadays. Everything from CrossFit to functional fitness, OCR to tactical games – fitness as a function is taking hold. If you are doing the work you owe it to yourself to put it out on the line for the world, and mainly yourself, to see. Don’t allow others egos or attitudes to muddle what is inherently beautiful. We are human creatures that grow out of adversity, allow yourself the chance. Get uncomfortable for a while, you’ll like what comes out of it. 

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