I recently had a conversation with a friend regarding various, dogmatic movements in the name of health. One of the topics we discussed was CrossFit. I was a fairly avid CrossFitter for a few years. With so many arguments for and against this form of exercise, I was obviously on the defensive team when approached about the risks or inefficiencies involved with some of the repetitive movements performed in the WODs. (workout of the day.) I just touched a nerve on part of the turn-off for non-CrossFitters begins with the vernacular. If you aren’t into it, there is a good chance the words, “Murph,” “Box,” “Kipping,” “AMRAP,” “Snatch” and “Wall balls,” are meaningless jargon. (Murph is a challenging WOD, beginning with a one mile run, 100 pullups, 200 pushups, 300 squats and another one mile run, often in a 20 lb vest or body armor.) It’s a memorial named for Lt. Michael P. Murphy, a Navy SEAL, KIA in 2005. And, one of the most difficult workouts I’ve ever attempted. To summarize the terminology, AMRAP stands for “As many reps as possible.” The physical space, a CrossFit “gym” is called a “box.” Kipping pullups are either an abomination or a part of your normal routine, depending on your place, or lack thereof in CrossFit…suffice to say, CrossFit is one of THE most polarized movements in the world of exercise. When performing demanding, physically or emotionally intense tasks as a group, bonding and camaraderie become an effortless end. Personalities that, before, may have grated on you, suddenly are overshadowed by the blood, sweat and tears shed, together. Knowing nods, slaps on the back, high-fives all around, and, suddenly, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. When I participated in CrossFit, I found myself defending the strain required in WODs, when those who’d never stepped into a box were demonizing, not only the exercises, but the participants. A personal attack based on how we did pull ups…Seriously? Did you JUST reduce me to a sandbag burpee? It was ON. If I wasn’t a crusader for this particular fitness regimen before, I just became one. It was insensitive. It was BEYOND insensitive. It was invasive, judgmental, ignorant and useless. To me, to that individual. I learned nothing from anyone who came at me armed with a few memorized bullet points from an anti-CrossFit article. It remains, to date, the most challenging topic in the world of fitness, in which to have an intelligent, mutually beneficial exchange of information. Information. We were essentially arguing over “information,” or the lack thereof. I couldn’t offer a dissertation on all the ways CrossFit was benefitting my body and mind. My “opponent” on the topic couldn’t offer the polarized equivalent in all the ways it was harming me. Arrival: Impasse. At precisely the moment we shut down all openness to new ideas, theories or proven facts, we cease to learn. That irrefutable fact humbled me. It’s human nature to become defensive when another goes on the offensive, towards ANY otherwise insignificant thing to which we are partial. We all look embarrassingly ridiculous. Case in point: In 2009, I underwent a 3 1/2 heart procedure. Upon being discharged, I was directed to go straight to the ER if I awoke with chest pains that night. Just before midnight, exactly that, happened. As we rushed into the hospital to rule out a possible heart attack, damage sustained from the surgery itself, or any life threatening complication, sirens filled the air. Coming in behind me were not one or two, but 12 men on gurneys, bleeding, seemingly from head to toe. I was shocked to see so many bodies, so much blood, many unresponsive. As my doctor and nurse rushed into my room for what would be the last time over the next 8 hours, I asked if they were permitted tell me what tragedy had just entered the building. It was a knife fight between Raider fans and Bronco fans. Yep. I was thoroughly livid. I couldn’t leave the hospital because, after ruling out the immediate risks, I had to wait behind 12 grown-ass man-boys who’d gotten into a KNIFE FIGHT OVER FOOTBALL. I wasn’t feeling very empathetic. As it turned out, I had a painful but non-threatening bout of pleurisy, given some IV pain meds and sent home. The “point” of that little story, is (drunk or not) if we’re not careful, we’ll end up defending some detached entity, inanimate object, sport or food plan far beyond our human intelligence would normally allow. Why? Why are we so incredibly threatened by opinions that differ from our own? Brace yourselves…here comes the unpopular answer: WE’RE NOT. We are not threatened by other’s views that don’t match our own. We’re threatened by the THREATS. By the aggressive APPROACH. By the INSISTENCE that my way MUST be totally right and yours, wrong. How small does it make ME if I reduce you to the food plan you follow? Mocking and scorning you for being paleo, keto, primal, or vegan speaks volumes about me, and much less about you. And, if you’re brandishing your menus around like a weapon, just stop it. Knock that shit off. Seriously. The only time anyone cares that you haven’t eaten a gram of sugar since 1997 is when you start shoving it down our throats and damning the rest of us for eating an Oreo. CrossFit taught me a lot about life, in this respect. I saw a few of the flock, (not mine, of course) evangelizing the CrossFit movement as if it were the cure for all plagues AND they were sponsored by Nike to be a spokesperson. The fact is, nothing works for everyone. Nothing. Listening to your body, reflecting on your lifestyle and figuring out what you need more of, or less of, is such a personal choice that anyone who dares trample the boundary of how you manage your life may need a swift introduction to the exit. Everyone I meet knows something I don’t. And, the same is true for you, of me. Softening our rigid, needlessly arrogant (often, ignorant) agendas enough that others can tolerate and potentially absorb some useful tips for their own life bypasses the futility and self-inflicted frustration of always trying to prove your way is the only way. It’s not. Mine is not. My “way” today, is a conglomeration of numerous tidbits that I’ve found work for my body. I’m not a devout CrossFitter. I’m not dogmatic about a food plan. The things my mind and body need today, this week, this month can and will change and I will alter, accordingly. I’ve learned about myself, that any food plan derived of restriction and deprivation sets me up for failure. Some have no real issue eliminating, totally, any given caloric goodie…carbs, sugar, dairy. To ye I toast. But, know that I am doing really well reducing my sugar intake down to a fraction of what it was a year ago, and my dairy is down to a couple tablespoons of half and half in my coffee. My reasons are not as important as the fact that this is what’s working for my total well-being. I will not debate or defend my choices, but I’m always up for learning what hacks have worked for you and if I can help you by sharing my experiences, failures and fits…I’m always down. We could all be smarter humans if we softened to other smart humans. Everyone has something to offer. If you feel angry when you discuss your life choices, ask yourself if you’re “sharing” or “shoving.” Because, seriously, one torchures your listener and the other teaches them. Break bread, not bonds, Warriors.