The 2012 CrossFit Games - Day 1

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Your lungs pump diesel exhaust, and your legs are just meat you’re trying to stand on.

It’s day one of the CrossFit Games. Around the world, 55,000 people are competing against you. Today’s workout is seven minutes of burpees, as many as you can. Just drop facedown on the ground, pop back up, then hop and slap a metal bar six inches above your head. That’s one rep. Collapse, then jump. Easy. “Over in Europe,” somebody says, “some guy just did 161.”

Group CrossFit

Packed into this converted garage, there are girls that warm up with your max, and guys that max with your car. High ceilings, no mirrors, stacks of weights, piles of medicine balls, and an average of 7% body fat. The room is hot with bodies, and there’s that fried chicken smell of sweat, pumped through industrial air conditioners, mixed with the smell of week-old snow bank coming in from the open garage door. Six people compete at a time, and the other 30 people cheer. Some yell encouragement, some just yell. The stereo is up so loud, it’s hard to tell what song is playing.

There’s always one more rep, don’t stop, you’re doing awesome, come on. Seven minutes drags on into a few hours, and everyone is their own enemy. Everyone is their own hero.

Collapse and jump. Collapse and jump. The dull punch of sternum on rubber flooring, then the ringing slap of skin on metal. “You’re doing great!” somebody says. Collapse and jump. “Keep going!”

Under the crowd screaming and the bass thump of some pop song and your own heaving lungs, you hear one thing: yourself. The crowd yelling together, and under all this noise, you hear your own voice, and it’s saying, why the fuck am I doing this? Humans are hardwired to avoid pain, and that little voice, drowning in lactic acid, keeps yelling, stop, this is all wrong. What are you doing?

Female Contender

Collapse and jump. Muscles you didn’t know existed, they cramp in protest. Your ribcage aches from being dropped against the floor. That little voice, it’s begging for you to lie down and be still. Please. The rubber mats feel cool against your cheek, and not getting back up seems like a better idea each time you crash back down.

Seven minutes burns down to the last few moments. You can do a million more burpees in your lifetime, but they won’t matter unless you do them right now.

Ten seconds. One more.

Five seconds. One more.

One second. Just one more rep.

The roar simmers to words again, a few people clap, athletes fold to the ground like they’ve been shot. Seven minutes of tension releases all at once. Furrowed brows relax and pained sneers turn back into smiles. The next six competitors start getting ready, stretching their arms up to find a bar six inches higher than their fingers.

CrossFit Group 2

And as you lie there, eyes rolling unfocused at the ceiling, you hear that little voice again, and it says, I can probably do better next time.

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