It takes a lot to impress anyone these days.
It used to be enough to do something extraordinary. Athletic ability, especially, was easily identified as unique and a skill that could garner you life’s coveted treasures – notoriety and money.
You could dream of going to the Olympics and actually have a shot, if you had the talent and the right guidance.
Perhaps paramount was whether or not you had the inner flame – did you want it badly enough?
Back in the day (hash tag old lady status), passion was a real, nearly tangible thing you could sense in others. These days, all it takes is a few pecks at the keyboard and suddenly everyone is “passionate, driven and enthusiastic.”
I’m sick of seeing people today profess their passion.
Most of the time, all this entails is an Instagram photo with an inspiring caption chronicling how the person is “hustling,” working “so hard,” and/or overcoming adversity. Huge thank you to their sponsors and insert at least 30 hash tags, more in the comments.
And who the heck are these people, anyway? Are they even anything special?
Nowadays, it’s very easy to identify athletic people who have talent. Many of them are easy on the eyes, and some of them actually have talent.
But for the most part, there are a lot of people who think they work hard and are good at exercising (and they are), and that these factors qualify them as passionate. This is becoming CrossFit.
I had an interesting conversation with a colleague after a recent CrossFit event, the CrossFit East Regional in Albany, NY.
This event is where the top 20 fittest men and women, respectively, across two regions combine and duke it out on the exercise floor to determine the top 5 men and women who will go to the CrossFit Games later this summer in California (to gain a little perspective, think of it as the Olympics of our sport).
The top 30 teams across the same two regions also compete for a chance at 5 spots to Carson, Calif., where the Games take place.
To put this in better perspective: more than 324,000 people across 175 countries participated in the 2016 CrossFit Games Open, according to Games.CrossFit.com.
The Open is where athletes are sorted according to geographic location – your region – and ranked among any other exercisers out there who are also participating in the 5-week competition. I participated in the Open this year, as I have for the past four years (this was my fifth).
According to the CrossFit Games Leaderboard (also online), there were more than 8,600 male and just over 7,600 female athletes who participated in the Open competition and were given a ranking in our region, the NorthEast. The top 20 of each gender were granted a ticket to the Regional, which combined with the Canada East Region’s top men, women and teams.
In the small world of CrossFit, those top 20 spots are truly golden tickets. Not only have you earned the right to compete in the sport’s second largest event, but you’ve also been granted the digital privilege to “say” you are a Regional-level athlete.
Now, these individual athletes are generally talented and fit. They can exercise like no other. Many people who CrossFit for exercise joke about being “semi-pro exercises,” and there are shirts that tout the same.
The reality is that very, very few of us are actually good enough to compete at the CrossFit Games, according to the standards and our performances in the Open.
What does that make us, then? Aren’t we all something special in our own right? (I’m recalling some paradigm about snowflakes right about now.)
What I’m beginning to realize is, it’s not that CrossFit Regional and Games athletes are special. They’re not.
You don’t watch the top athletes compete and think, “Wow, they’re the next (insert professional athlete who achieved greatness here).” This isn’t how we view our sport, and it shouldn’t be.
CrossFit is becoming the “sport” that truly defines our generation: prioritize something that only a small percentage of others also value, do nothing but that day in and day out (read: don’t hold a regular job or make a living), and then rank yourself among others who do the same.
It’s quickly becoming that, in order to make it to the Regional (let alone the Games), you have to do nothing but train and “hustle” and basically sell your soul on social media. This isn’t the case for all the top athletes, but for many of them, in my opinion.
Back to reality, where most of us dwell: here I am, an average Jane who loves to lift, sweat and work out. I also love to compete. I own and run a CrossFit gym. I’m a trainer. I’m a wife. I live in New York City. I have dreams. I believe I have what it takes to make it to Regionals some day; or maybe I did at one point. I’m not willing to give up on that goal just yet.
But I don’t often train more than 60-90 minutes a day, five or six days a week, if that. I enjoy spending quality time with the people I love, doing things we love. I don’t live and breathe for working out; it’s not the only thing I fit into my day.
Despite how some people might view this, I think it makes me special. I have a dream and I want to achieve it. I don’t operate under the circumstances of the so-called special people. Far from it, actually.
After watching the Regional and seeing what it takes, I’ve come to this conclusion: the sport is missing something special, and that’s because it hasn’t arrived yet.