Yesterday, I inadvertently spawned the age-old Crossfit versus Endurance Sports debate with my cousin, who happens to be a professional rugby player as well as a Crossfit coach himself.
I can’t recall exactly how we stumbled upon the topic, but I remember trying to make a sarcastic remark about the overzealous segment of the Crossfit population who predictably and routinely injure themselves by overtraining and/or using improper form. The wise words of my father immediately echoed in my head: Avoid giving advice and criticism–even tongue-in-cheek, apparently. Whoops.
Lo and behold, the comment I made struck a nerve with Mikey. In my defense, the same can certainly be said for a segment of triathletes, who possess a similar type A personality that simply manifests differently, which I later added. As Aristotle would argue, anything out of moderation disrupts the balance that brings about the most fulfilling human existence.
We spent the next twenty or so minutes engaging in a discussion about the role of training in the lives of these two types of athletes, and how sometimes the obsession with the individual’s sport can ruin not only his or her physical well-being, but also impair their relationships with family and friends, too. A tragic consequence of what should be a life-enhancing activity.
Serendipitously, this morning I stumbled upon this excellent and well-informed article that takes the discussion back to where it belongs. Regardless of whether you’re a Crossfitter, an Iron-distance triathlete or a weekend warrior, the bottom line is that the discipline of training and the development of the skill of “being comfortable being uncomfortable” yields benefits far beyond improving health outcomes; it teaches us how to navigate through adversity in life as well.
While she obviously didn’t coin the phrase, I’ll always attribute the concept of “being comfortable being uncomfortable” to Dani Grabol—a superhuman endurance athlete who, along with Kacie Darden, holds the record as the fastest AND youngest the two-women’s team of Race Across America cycling competition [yup, two women take turns riding 24/7 from the west coast to the east coast] as well as recently completing the Epic 5 challenege in which she executed five full iron-distance triathlon [140.6 miles, for those counting] in five days on five different Hawaiian islands! Appropriately featured in the news, she makes mention of this concept in her commentary.
Endurance sports for me has provided me with a community of amazingly supportive, like-minded and high quality individuals who continually challenge me to improve myself not only physically, but also intellectually and professionally as well–Coach Chris Rotelli among the many. It takes a highly well rounded individual to participate in long-distance triathlon, as you need the discipline and grit to withstand the physical demands in addition to the time and money to fund the expensive and time-consuming endeavor. It’s no surprise, therefore, that triathletes tend to represent higher levels of income and success outside the sport than athletes in other sports.
However, this article raises the poignant point that one need not subject his/herself to this intensity of athleticism in order to reap the external benefits associated with exercise. Do anything that brings you outside of your comfort zone renders these benefits. The feeling you subsequently experience after overcoming both the mental and physical demands will propel you forward in realms far beyond those immediately tangible. Start with something small and work your way up to greater challenges. Run a few sprints. Go for a swim. Hike. Row. Get out and do something! Anything!