I was watching the 2011 Crossfit Games this past week. While only the men were featured, I was reminded of an interview where "Iceland Annie" explained that she was happy when she was doing Crossfit. During the suckfest, she smiles because it makes it "all go away." She furthermore said that, when she is working the hardest, she is the happiest.
Tonight, in the middle of the second mile of running, I realized exactly what Annie was trying to say. I was struggling to get to the top of a hill, however I refused to stop. I was free and unrestrained. It was my choice to sandbag the run, or to take it to another gear. When I pushed through, I claimed a small victory. This victory belonged to me - this victory is one that many people don't have the capability to claim - this victory made me smile.
Now, I don't claim to be a doctor (of medicine), claim to know the nuances of endorphins, or claim to have read any studies substantiating my theories. However, I can say from my experience that(while there are very few things I can control in life) I can control the effort I put into keeping my self healthy.
To explain this a little better:
Two years ago, I claimed to be in shape. I claimed that I was 225, and honestly thought that I was a tough guy. But this "tough guy" couldn't run a full mile without having to stop and catch his breath. This "tough guy" was really on the heavier end of 235, and this "tough guy" was not happy.
One random day in January (January 16, 2010, to be precise) I decided that I was going to change. I was sleepy, lazy, working out MAYBE once a week. I had no excuse. I had no control, and wanted to gain that back. My goal was to run a 5K in 3 months. If I were to do that, I would in my mind) reach the "pinnacle" of fitness for somebody like me. So... I started P90X, faithfully followed Tony Horton's quirky jokes, and his seemingly egregious workout regimen. I finished the program, and ran that 5K. I paced at 8:20 per mile and it took me three days to recover.
Now that I successfully completed P90X, and that 5K, I realized three things: 1) I didn't reach any pinnacle of fitness. Many people smoked me, and didn't need three days to recover. 2) I needed to continue my fitness journey because 3) the journey of fitness was making me a happier person.
It was now time to take total control. With a little persuasion from my wifie, some coaching, and a lot of mentoring, I drank deep in the Crossfit Kool-Aid. I hated the WODs, but I loved doing them. I dreaded starting a WOD, but was happy I did it. I didn't think I could complete the WODs, but wished I went faster when I finished.
It wasn't because I was becoming a "tough guy". Far from it. There were many people I would never realistically be on their physical level, but I saw small victories in myself. Five more pounds here, two seconds there, one more inch... I became better. I was freeing myself from the shackles I placed on myself from years of menial exercise routines.
While I can't control many things like the economy, the weather, politicians, other people, the job market, I can control me.
Therein lies why Iceland Annie, myself, and thousands of Crossfitters embrace the suck, why we come back for more every day, why we are okay with rips in our hands, why we are chronically sore, why we frequently work ourselves to exhaustion, and why we smile.