"CrossFit is torture." We’ve all heard that before.
And I couldn’t agree more with that statement.
My understanding of why torture works is that it makes a person so uncomfortable—puts them in so much physical pain—that they snap mentally and end up doing things like revealing information they would never otherwise reveal. When this happens, the torturer wins.
To a certain degree, self-induced torture is one to the main reasons I do CrossFit. My goal is to prevent the torturer—my brain—from winning. It’s a damn hard thing to do!
I’ll admit I do not love the pain like many athletes claim to. I watched an interview with Camille Leblanc-Bazinet, and she legitimately sounded excited about going to that dark place. She seems so confident that her mind will let her go to that place, and she knows that if someone wants to beat her, they will have to follow her down a path that is so damn painful, they often don’t even try.
Before a workout, my intention is always to take myself to that place. I want to let my body win over my mind, but often the pain in the heat of the moment causes me to negotiate with myself ands settle for less. Before a workout, I tell myself over and over, ‘Who gives a shit about the pain?’ But there I am 10 minutes later, in serious pain, and now my brain is telling me, ‘This isn’t that important. Don’t worry if you slow down a bit.’
One of the most disappointing brain wins I had was in 2013 during 13.5, a thruster and chest-to-bar pull-up workout similar to 15.2 in that it required you to finish a certain amount of work in a certain amount of time in order to buy yourself more work.
I had 15 chest-to-bar pull-ups to complete with just under a minute, I believe. I was breathing so hard. My hands had ripped badly. My legs hurt. Yet, I wasn’t so far gone that I was going to fail a pull-up. Physically, I had more, but in that moment the pain got the best of me. I watched the clock instead of focussing on my reps. In that moment I simply didn't care that much if I finished the reps. I cared about stopping the pain as soon as possible.
Needless to say, my mind won out and I didn’t get through to the next round of work. I repeated the workout three days later and it was almost a carbon copy of the first time.
It’s easy to work all year and want it so badly. Anybody can do that.
But to want it that badly despite the pain is another beast entirely. A beast that I beat during 15.2
There I was in the second round of 16 pull-ups. I had a little under a minute. I hit 5 or 6 off the top and then started to slow. I knew it would be tight. My back was seizing. My shoulders burned. My hands ached. My heartrate must have been at a 175. I was aware of the ticking time.
Then, with 4 pull-ups left, I had a flash back to 13.5.
I was suddenly overcome with a feeling of regret—the feeling I had in 13.5. It felt horrible all over again. And in that moment with 4 chest-to-bar pull-ups left, I realized that the feeling of anger I’d have if I didn’t find a way to do this was greater than the physical pain I was feeling in that moment. I told myself that the 200-plus reps I had just completed were all for nothing if I didn’t find a way.
I found a way.
Unfortunately the last bit of my mental, and probably physical, energy had been used up in the round of 16s that when I got to the 18s, I rested a full 30 seconds before getting on the bar.
“C’mon Em, get some reps,” Chris said, encouraging me to get moving again. “The rest is gravy now.”
I responded slowly, picked up the bar, knocked off 18 OHS and then stumbled around incoherently for the next two and a half minutes—humouring Chris by doing a pull-up here and there—until the buzzer went. Looking back, I’m a little disappointed I didn’t do more with those last three minutes, but in the moment I was thoroughly satisfied.