CrossFit Your Life

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-by Andrea Volpe

One of the reasons I love CrossFit is that I love physical challenges. Once a midfielder, always a midfielder--I love long, endurance workouts that remind me of the challenge and camaraderie of soccer practice. Give me a 40-minute time cap, and I’m happy.

But it’s not just about what happens during the WOD. It’s about the entire framework that CrossFit offers: the minute I walk into the gym, I know what is expected of me, and I’m able to focus on what is being asked of me for the next 60 minutes: single-minded attention to the task at hand, determination, and follow-through.

Coaches and programming do a lot of the work for us by defining the task and helping us accomplish it, but as we develop, what we can do for ourselves changes. We know from our log books what weight we should be lifting, we post our goals and PRs, and our progress is measurable.

CrossFit has made me physically stronger and more fit. It's also made me more generous, with myself and others. The strength I need to handle life outside of the gym comes from a better place—the resilience I can call up in stressful moments is more optimistic. I've surprised myself with what I can accomplish.

Once I started to notice what CrossFit was doing for my physical and emotional resilience, I started to think about how the CrossFit framework could be applied outside of the gym to help me progress in other parts of my life.  I call this CrossFitting my life.  Here’s how it works:

·      Set a goal. This goal should slightly or really scare you.
·      Then tell someone.
·      Create work habits that will allow you to accomplish your goal. It’s so boring, I know. But it’s all about the habit.  Research says it takes 3 weeks to set up a new habit, so schedule the new habit like you do going to the gym to help it stick. You have a set time for working out, whether it's 6:30am or 7:00 pm. Do the same for your non-gym habit.
·      Identify the skills you need to reach the goal, and then acquire them. If you want to do something you can’t do, whether it’s a pull-up or writing a novel, then you have to get the skills you need to do it. Take a class. Get a coach. Google it and teach yourself.
·      Scale your skill work. Ask yourself, what is the 3 x10 Bulgarian split squat-equivalent for what I want to accomplish? Do that. On the same schedule you go to the gym.  
·      Then show up for yourself. I don’t think twice about what it takes for me to get the gym 5x a week. I make this happen without doubting anything about it. If I have that kind of discipline for CrossFit, then what else can I summon with it?
·      Find (or create) a community.  Surround yourself with good people who share your interests.  Work on your goal with them. Find a colleague to go to that professional development conference with you.  Meet at a coffee shop with a friend to revise your LinkedIn profile. Find a class on EdX.
·      Don’t leave anything in the tank. Once you’ve broken your goal into incremental pieces, and you’ve identified the habits you need to reach it, do your best work. Whatever those tasks are, like a WOD, it’s time limited, so give it everything when you are in it.
·      Log your work. Seriously. We know PRs come from incremental work over time. The rest of our lives and goals aren’t that different.
·      Give yourself credit. At CFCL, we track goals, PRs, and WODs every month. Do the same for your out-of-the-box goal. Track your non-CrossFit PRs on a real or metaphorical White Board of your own.
·      Notice your mindset. Be honest with yourself about what is holding you back. Because there will be something.  The fix is not glamorous: go back to habits and set them up to support the goal.  It’s also probably about taking the time for the self-talk to confront what you’re afraid of might happen if you actually do reach for what you want.

There is one final CrossFit truth to speak: all or some of this will be uncomfortable. But it’s finding out where you’re uncomfortable that will unlock results. When I’m in the midst of a difficult WOD (those short met-cons are my nemesis), I say to myself, “I can do anything for a minute.” And if I can do bar-over-burpees for a minute, then really, sitting at my desk to write what I want to write should not be that hard. Even though right now it is.

Here’s my goal: by August, I want to have created a writing practice where I am writing for an hour each morning 5x a week. The first step actually has nothing to do with writing. It's about having the focus, and caring enough about the work, to be prepared to do it. For that, I have set a new bed time so I can i wake up early and show up for myself.

What about you?

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A little more about Andrea: My athletic journey starts in 7th grade, when my English teacher (who happened to be a phenomenal racquetball coach), suggested I get out of my head and onto a court or field (I was reading too much Emily Dickinson). Since then books and sports have been my thing. In the '80s I played Div. III soccer on a team that was created as the result of a Title IX lawsuit to establish equity in athletics. Later, I earned a PhD in history, which requires the mindset of solitary distance training while thinking and writing. These days I split my time between writing, running my own strategic communications/writing coaching practice and running the postdoctoral program Harvard’s humanities center. I love museums, photography, travel and teaching myself how to do new things.