“Back for another workout? You’re a junkie, man!” he smirked, shaking his head.
A bit later, someone asked, “Why are you here so much? It’s almost like you live here.”
“I’ve always been that guy that no one knows quite what to do with,” I said. “I’ve been competing in one form or another since I was seven, and have found it an escape of sorts. I just love to compete.”
Well. It wasn’t “another” workout, thank you very much. I just arrived late at the gym, later than my normal time, so he assumed I had previously been in.
I’ve been doing something called “Crossfit” for a little over three months now. I think its safe to say that I’ve dove in with both feet, no hesitation involved. Most folks, I think, aren’t used to seeing that, or maybe they are and have seen most guys like me fizz out quickly. Due to this, a few folks have looked askance at me with a skeptical lifted eyebrow or two, the conversation above being the latest skeptical episode. That was one too many, so I think I have some ‘splainin to do.
Allow me to explain a bit of my background. Most who’ve known me for a while, those who have known me long enough to observe me through the different stages in my life, aren’t surprised by the latest turn of events. They still shake their heads (as if to say, “there he goes again. When’s he just gonna hang it up?”), but my crossfitting makes total sense to them given all the other crap I’ve gotten myself into.
I had been doing Tae-Kwon-Do for a few years before I got into wrestling in fourth grade. It took a few years for me to catch the bug, but pretty soon I was competing year-round. In junior high, while others were wasting the days away at the pool, I was traveling to differing states wrestling in summer tournaments. In eighth grade, I would practice with the high school varsity (“practice” isn’t the best word for it, actually. “Get a beat down” would be a better description), then I would stay behind and practice with the youth club I was in.
It is at this point that things started to get a little crazy. In high school, the summer travelling continued, and increased, even. For example, when a tournament in New Mexico was cancelled my freshmen year due to the Haunta virus outbreak, I travelled to North Carolina (I lived in Missouri) and crashed a tournament there (the whole family travelled with, making a “vacation” out of it). We weren’t invited, so they didn’t let me into the tournament officially, but that didn’t stop me from bugging the entrants for exhibition matches on the side.
I was that guy in high school that would come into the wrestling room late at night during the season just to drill, sometimes alone. One of my teammates and I even devised a way to–get this–break into the wrestling room at night when it was locked. We used a coat hanger to do it. I even remembered this one time when we didn’t have a coat hanger, so we used a shoe string. After about 25 minutes or so, it worked. When the powers that be caught on to our antics, they fortified the place so we couldn’t break in…then we simply managed to get a copy of the room key. We were not to be deterred, you see. We used the key anytime: in sesason late at night, off season in the spring, pre-season in the summer. We even traveled to colleges in different towns in search of bodies to practice with: get out of school, go lift for two hours, get a quick bite to eat, then jump in the car and drive to a different city to practice for another two hours. Get home at about 10, go to sleep, do the same thing the next day.
Some would call this over the top behavior. We just saw it as two guys who loved wrestling and wanted to do what it took to be good at it.
On to college. Same theme: the team did 2-a-days. With a teammate buddy of mine, I would often do 3-a-days. Neither of us ever became that good: though we both lettered twice and would see competitive action here and there, neither of us held down starting spots. Still, for five years straight, we worked like we were All-Americans.
After college, one day I saw a jump rope competition on TV. “Hey, that looks fun,” I said. “I’m gonna try it.” And so I did, for four years. Simple as that. I managed to find a team that was kinda nearby (two hours away!), and I somehow convinced the coach to let me on the team. To this day, I don’t know what the heck got into her…against her better judgement, she let a 21 year old man who had never competed in jump rope before onto her team.
They were fortunate enough to have a national champion on the team, so every month I’d travel down there, videotape him doing some of the moves, then go back to my hometown and work on the moves..and work, and work, and work.
For some odd reason, one event sticks out in my head to this day, and it kinda encapsulates the whole jump rope experience. I had been doing it four about 3 months when I travelled with the team to a clinic in Indiana. During one of the breaks, I was off in the corner, working on an incredibly simple move (one of the beginner skills), except it wasn’t coming so simple to me. I mean I was floundering big time. At one point, this little seven year old waltzes over with his rope, shoots a confused sideways look at me, as if to say “what’s with this old guy?” does the trick like a pro, smiles a cocky smile at me, and skipped off to join his friends. I was bruised and battered, with rope marks on my back and sweat on my brow. All I could do was sigh and keep on with the slightly embarrassing flopping around.
To tell you the truth, like most other sporting ventures in my life, I never got that good. I was competing with men who had been doing it for ten plus years, so there was little chance of me actually winning anything. Still, I just wanted to see what I was capable of, so I pressed on. The only reason why I stopped a few years ago was because I kept getting injured (herniated disk in my back–in jump rope injured me more in four years than wrestling injured me in twenty. No exaggeration.).
After jump rope, I got into jiu jitsu. Went to a few competitions. Did ok, but not stellar.
Then over the summer I saw a crossfit competition online. Same theme. “Hey, that looks fun.” So I signed up.
It has been this way forever. I’ll see something crazy, and I’ll just jump in. I harbor no illusions that I’m this elite athlete. I just want to grab a hold, though, just to see what I can do. The same theme has been echoed my whole life even outside of sport: most of my high school classmates stayed in small town Missouri. Why did I move ten hours away to a colossally huge university? I dunno. Seemed like a challenge, so why not? To tell you the truth, wrestling-wise, I didn’t even belong in D1. Given my skills, a D3 college closer to home would have been the much wiser choice. But I still gave it a shot.
Why, when I had a future in Columbus (my hometown at the time) and a good friend base, did I suddenly pick up at the age of 23 and move across the country to California to pursue a Master’s degree in Philosophy? I dunno. Besides all the benefits to my walk with Christ (which I’ve talked about a lot on this blog), it just sounded fun.
This is kinda where I got the nickname that graces this blog: it’s not that I’m belligerent in conversation with people (at least I don’t think I am..you tell me. Well: one of my former roommates never tires of telling me that I’m an “intense guy.” Almost every time I talk to him. Reeeeally annoys me.), I just…well…kinda grab that proverbial bull by the horns, and go for it.
You see, I’ve always been THAT guy, that no one knows quite what to do with.