Though it probably received the lowest views of any division, one of the greatest stories of the 2017 CrossFit Games came from the Masters 60+ group during the opening Run Swim Run event.
With 100 meters left in the swim, Robert Caslin heard a cry for help behind him. It was his friend and fellow competitor, Will Powell, sputtering, barely keeping his head above water.
“Help! Help! I’m drowning!”
Prior to the games, Powell discovered a benign mass in his lung. While he has since had it removed, surgery was not soon enough for the Games. For Caslin, going back for his friend was not a decision against finishing the event – it was his only choice. Caslin swam back and towed Powell as well as he could for a difficult seven-minute stretch before a rescue boat reached them. The pair later finished the final 1.5 mile run together, crossing the finish line hand-in-hand.
“At the end of the day, it’s CrossFit, and we’re all in this together,” Caslin said. “It’s not about one event, it’s not about one weekend—it’s a community.”
While we may never find ourselves in life-threatening situations, ask people who have been doing CrossFit for more than a couple months what it has done for them. They will likely tell you it’s changed their lives. Certainly physically, but moreso because of the CrossFit community. Like gardens, each community is colored differently, with its own blend of species blooming at different times – but given the right attention and resources, it flourishes.
So if you’re comparing gyms, I suggest you look past the equipment and focus on the community.
Trust your gut – for better or for worse
As I’ve mentioned before, I thought I was cut out for roller derby. I don’t mind a bump or a bruise, love roller skating and drool over the badass attitudes. I tried it. Maybe it was just the one team I practiced with, but it wasn’t for me. I didn’t get the right vibe.
And that’s okay. It works for them – those women DO have the community they need. It just wasn’t mine.
Don’t linger somewhere you don’t feel is right. You’re wasting time when you could be flourishing in your tribe.
On the flip side, I knew on my first day at Violet City CrossFit this was the community for me. It was a good feeling. After my first WOD, someone asked me, “So you plan on trying out a couple other gyms?”
I didn’t hesitate. For once, I didn’t overthink it.
“Nope. I’ll see you next week!”
And my gut was right. I found a group that’s rough and genuine, raw and honest, easy-going, yet dedicated; made up of parents, Bobcats, Texans and bookworms.
Sometimes you just know.
A safe place to free fall
For many, the gym is a sacred place: it’s where we gather under a shared respect of our health. It’s where we find catharsis and can channel the stress in our lives into strength. We are given free reign to push the bounds of authority: be loud, throw heavy shit around, curse, sweat and outrun our problems. Your brain literally makes feel-good drugs when you exercise. No wonder we love this place.
And that’s why it’s the place we let our guards down. As a good friend said to me this week, “When you take away people’s physical ability to keep a wall up, whatever is inside comes out!”
In the CrossFit community, the same people gather several times a week away from their families and jobs in an open forum. It’s a safe place to, at the very least, complain and let off steam. And, for some, it’s a place where they work through some deeper issues they can’t anywhere else.
In the box, and with the iron, we take risks. We risk the fail so we can set PRs. And we risk our pride when we open our hearts to others. The right community is a safety net for whatever free fall we might take – inside or outside the gym.
You get what you give
As a parent, there are many times I’ve wished we still lived in tribal communities and the old “it takes a village” adage applied. In these communities, no one had to be all things. You did your job and outsourced the rest – to someone one yurt down from you. If I write the tribal newsletter, someone blessed with the sick desire to organize can clean my yurt.
The beauty of a community is in its individual components. Where you may be weak, someone else may excel. We bring individual talents to the table so that as a unit, we can accomplish more. If you’re willing to let your guard down and go all in – help someone with a problem, show up for fundraisers and food drives, clean the equipment – you will be rewarded. Maybe not immediately, but when your bad day comes, your investment in the community will pay off.
We moved four times when I was a kid. My dad always said that home is not where the house is – it’s wherever family is. And that is certainly true when you find the right fitness community. Rigs can be unbolted, barbells can move, but a community built on the pillars of trust and virtue exists as long as there are people who are willing to help it grow. I am lucky to be a part of one. They are easy to find if you are willing to let down your guard and walk in ready to contribute.