performance vs complexity graph

A Game of Inches… I Wish

The following quote has some naughty language, you’ve been warned:

“ I don’t know what to say, really. Three minutes to the biggest battle of our professional lives. All comes down to today, and either, we heal as a team, or we’re gonna crumble. Inch by inch, play by play. Until we’re finished. We’re in hell right now, gentlemen. Believe me. And, we can stay here, get the shit kicked out of us, or we can fight our way back into the light. We can climb outta hell… one inch at a time. Now I can’t do it for ya, I’m too old. I look around, I see these young faces and I think, I mean, I’ve made every wrong choice a middle-aged man can make. I, uh, I’ve pissed away all my money, believe it or not. I chased off anyone who’s ever loved me. And lately, I can’t even stand the face I see in the mirror. You know, when you get old, in life, things get taken from you. I mean, that’s… that’s… that’s a part of life. But, you only learn that when you start losin’ stuff. You find out life’s this game of inches, so is football. Because in either game – life or football – the margin for error is so small. I mean, one half a step too late or too early and you don’t quite make it. One half second too slow, too fast and you don’t quite catch it. The inches we need are everywhere around us. They’re in every break of the game, every minute, every second. On this team we fight for that inch. On this team we tear ourselves and everyone else around us to pieces for that inch. We claw with our fingernails for that inch. Because we know when add up all those inches, that’s gonna make the fucking difference between winning and losing! Between living and dying! I’ll tell you this, in any fight it’s the guy whose willing to die whose gonna win that inch. And I know, if I’m gonna have any life anymore it’s because I’m still willing to fight and die for that inch, because that’s what living is, the six inches in front of your face. Now I can’t make you do it. You’ve got to look at the guy next to you, look into his eyes. Now I think ya going to see a guy who will go that inch with you. Your gonna see a guy who will sacrifice himself for this team, because he knows when it comes down to it your gonna do the same for him. That’s a team, gentlemen, and either, we heal, now, as a team, or we will die as individuals. That’s football guys, that’s all it is. Now, what are you gonna do?”

-Al Pacino “Tony D’Amato” Any Given Sunday


Lots of pieces in there that apply to life, but the context of this post is the fitness game.

When you first jump into CrossFit, it’s a game of miles. This is especially true if you don’t have an athletic background or if your diet has been abysmal for years. Every single workout is some kind of success, every single week your body composition is better, and every time you touch a bar you set a PR. These are the good times where life is easy and you can do no wrong. A handful of complex movements and a 70% diet puts you in the best shape that you’ve ever been. This is the high school of your CrossFit experience.

coach chuck fly exercises

This road paved in yellow bricks gives way to games of yards and feet. But hey now, turn that frown upside down, life is still good! You’re still hitting more lifts than you’re missing. You’re still catching sweet glimpses of your new found abs in random reflections. You’ve actually learned how to move both your body and external objects. Hell, you’ve done some things that you never thought were possible. You still get to taste success on a regular basis, you just have to work a little bit harder for it. This is the college of your CrossFit experience.

You’re working hard now and not all days are fun, but you’re proud. You’ve earned some awesome PRs, but they’re getting smaller these days. You still get to make sweet notes to yourself in your workout log, but the pages are getting a little frayed around the edges. Compared to where you started, you’ve become superhuman. You can muscle up, snatch, and handstand. The high school kids want to be you. It’s not all fun and games, but you know that the difficulty and sacrifice are necessary. In this life-cycle metaphor, the game of inches is your first real job.

chuck jerk
The game of inches in CrossFit? That’s a short lived experience. Most of us that have been around for a while aren’t really sure where that went. It’s time to move in centimeters. You’ll look back at your workout log and try to remember what it felt like to write “PR!” on page after page. Oh, and that workout log? The pages are wrinkled, torn, and stained some off color of brown that’s only found in hotels built in the 1950′s; years, coffee, sweat, and blood have taken their toll. The sweet notes to yourself? They’ve been replaced with things like: “Shitty day.” “Try harder.” “FINISH BACK!” “WTF!?!?” and the simple minded math of percentage work that is always just rounded up regardless of where it falls. You forget what it’s like to not be sore. You miss lifts, often. You throw things and scream, often. You’ve kicked the plates on a loaded bar, hard. This is your dead-end job that has you leaving Fight Club on repeat.

But you know what?

“It is always darkest just before the Day dawneth.” -Thomas Fuller A Pisgah-Sight Of Palestine And The Confines Thereof

This symphony of failure and frustration breaks and reveals a beautiful paradigm shift. You start to realize how awesome it is that you can recognize the minor faults in your Snatch and Clean & Jerk. You’re okay with planning and running a 6 week cycle to PR a single lift. You’re happy with very literal inches, centimeters, and seconds of progress in your Front Lever and Planche. You hang out with the “high school” and “college” kids to let them know just how good they have it and to give them advice for their “first job.”

You realize that you’re the best version of yourself that you’ve ever been, not because of your body composition or your lifts, but because of your character and determination. This is the career. This is the perfect spouse and beautiful baby. This is the white picket fence. This is home.

siesta sunset

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