The tribe

The community

It has been a long two weeks. As you may recall from my previous post, Rebooting Fitness, I am fighting to recover from a pretty bad upper respiratory illness. The other factor that life has thrown in the way has been work. It has been a professionally satisfying week; I managed to complete several challenging cases and the patients have done well. But long nights at the hospital have meant that my planned workouts have not happened.

I am also struggling right now to figure out the exact right mix of WODs at Crossfit and individual workouts at home. I have leaned towards doing almost everything at home since that gives me more freedom. But what it does not give me is community.

I am a member of the Crossfit tribe. Specifically, the Crossfit Great Bridge tribe. I also belong to a couple other groups associated with work. While that may sound strange or even a bit corny, there is a definite cultural dimension to pursuing a fitness lifestyle. It is not nearly as satisfying to hit a PR when you are at home alone compared to being surrounded by a group of supportive friends. When you are part of a community, they can make you believe. When you try to go it alone, your belief begins to fade. You wither on the vine.

I had the same problem when I was in Afghanistan in 2014. I had plenty of gym equipment but I did not have the tribe with me that would push me every day to work harder and to see beyond my own limits. It has taken me a long time to figure this out, and I am still working through it. The downside of the Crossfit gym, especially for me, is twofold. First, my schedule can be so unpredictable that it can interfere with regular attendance at the gym. And there is an inherent means of avoidance that has admittedly been used by the lazy part of me. It is very easy to skip a day at the gym and let people assume that it is just work getting in the way. In order to be honest with myself, I have to set this ready-made excuse aside. And most times it is not even as simple as skipping a workout and going home early. There is subtlety to it…I decide to go check on a patient one more time or read a few more studies, aware that this will make me late for a workout, but not even having the courage to admit to myself what I am doing.

The other downside of focusing on the WODs at the gym is that they cannot, of necessity, be individualized. My coach Chris has been working very hard to program around my weaknesses so that I see progress. Starting to load on a bunch of gym workouts will overload my body and make it that much harder for him to get me where I need to go.

But I miss the athletes. I miss the environment. I miss the feeling of accomplishment at the end of a tough workout. I miss beating a buddy by a few seconds and smiling on the inside. I miss winning.

There is a definite truth in the idea that we become those we surround ourselves with. When we see ourselves in the group we associate with, we mold ourselves closer into this image and take on their characteristics. It is when I try to go it alone that I really start to have problems.

So while I am still one hundred percent committed to Chris’s programming and I am willing to trust where he is taking me, I did tell him that I want to get back to CFGB and workout with friends again. I need that to drive me.

Habits and rapid changes

Another problem from the past two weeks is that I have let my previous good habits slide. I am still working on improving my sleep quality, but I have let my nutrition, food preparation, supplementation, and even my morning recording of heart rate variability fall by the wayside. I probably let myself get overwhelmed by trying to add too much to the routine early on and I started to extinguish the whole pattern.

I will return to the cue-routine-reward pattern. The best cues for me are prestaging things for the next day. When I set out my breakfast, supplements, and protein shake, I just eat them without thinking. One meal down. When I set out my clothes, I put on whatever I set out and then follow the routine, such as going to the gym. When I prepare food for the day, I tend to eat it. It is when I do not prepare that I fall off the wagon.

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