My heart sinks when I see what the day’s WOD (workout) is at the CrossFit gym:
2000 m run
100 kettle-bell swings (@ 35 lbs for me)
100 air squats
2000 m run
Cash out (“for extra fun!”): 4 minute Tabata “hollow rock”
I am NOT a runner. Any WOD with running in it terrifies me, even though I still do them and suffer my way through. The thought of running four kilometres is extremely daunting. I’ve never run that kind of distance before, only the usual 400m and 800m jogs that are interspersed with weight lifting. I have no choice but to sign up for the class. Scotty the coach brushes off my concern: “Just think of it as rest time!” Yeah, well, it’s not a rest for everyone.
I pace myself carefully. After all, my goal is not to get a killer time, but simply to finish the WOD. Once I’ve completed 400m it starts to get tough. The biggest problem is that I’m bored. There’s nothing to do when I’m running and, because it’s physically challenging, there’s nowhere for my brain to escape to. “This is easy,” I tell myself. “All I have to do is keep lifting my feet and pounding the pavement exactly like I’m doing. Just keep going.” So I do, and somehow manage to finish the first 2000 m.
Back at the gym, I get on the ground and start pushups. My arms are shaking as I fight through them and I keep sliding around on the rubber floor because there’s so much sweat on my hands and knees. The kettle bell swings are heavy; 35 lbs is a lot of weight to fling overhead 100 times and it takes me a while to figure out the breathing technique that Scotty is shouting at me: “Breathe out at the bottom and the top, and you’ll automatically pull in more air.” I try it, but at first it screws up my counting. I tear through the air squats, but start tipping forward on my toes from sheer exhaustion. Somehow I finish and limp toward the curb, gasping for breath. Scotty yells, “The run will get easier as you catch your breath. Just push through the first part.”
It takes every ounce of will to take that first running step. I feel like an elephant, heaving my body forward as I lumber down the sidewalk. I am anything but graceful. Quickly I realize that this WOD requires not just physical stamina but tremendous psychological determination. I know my body is capable; I’ve got the strength and power left in my body. I just need to believe it… and do it. I think the run goes faster when I look down at the ground because then I’m pleasantly surprised to look up and see I’m further along than I thought.
A strange thing happens as I run. I start to feel irrational anger at having to constantly check for traffic turning off the road; I feel anger at the lazy people who drive by in their stinky cars; I feel anger at the greasy exhaust floating out of the various fast food joints I pass along the way – McDonalds, Burger Trail, Pizza Delight. The smell honestly makes my stomach turn. Mostly I’m angry that Scotty chose this WOD because it sucks.
But then I reach the 1k mark, turn around, allow myself to walk a single block, then resume the incessant pounding. After an eternity, I reach the last 400 m mark, then 200 m, and then, in an exhilarated burst of energy, sprint to the doorway of the gym, collapsing amid cheers from the guys. “44:35,” Scotty calls out. I’ve never felt such satisfaction before. This was the toughest WOD I’ve done and I actually managed to finish it, with a decent time to boot.
Next on the list is a Tabata cash out, but it’s already 5:40 and I need to get home, not to mention that I’m happily satisfied with what I’ve already accomplished. I feel a bit dizzy, so I sit in my car for a minute. I can hardly push down the clutch with my left foot because I’m weak and shaky. But it all feels so good because I’ve pushed myself, successfully, way beyond my limits. Next time it will be just that much easier because I’ve already done it before.