Who am I?

There is a philosophical theory known as determinism. It essentially says that while we might think that we have free will, our entire future is mapped out in advance. Different flavours of the theory are more dogmatic with regards to whether some divine order has laid everything out or whether our past experiences dictate our future decisions.
I must say, if it is in fact the case that our decisions are based on our experiences to date, maybe the determinists are right. If your future is like a giant decision tree, and the way you decide at every fork in the road is based on where you are in the tree and how you got there, and is therefore predictable, there is some merit to that theory.
Then again, if Jonah Lehrer has taught us anything, it’s that our decisions are not ‘unanimous’ but the conflict within our brains is masked by the time it gets to our conscious mind. Which of course makes me wonder: would I make the same decision twice? Or would I, faced by the same situation on two different days, respond in two different ways?
Hard to say, isn’t it, but I suspect the answer changes. Catch me when I’m already stressed out and I might bite your head off. Catch me when I’m more relaxed and I’ll give you a different response. Try and talk to me when I’m in competition mode and I won’t give you the time of day. Talk to me at any other time and I’ll be more friendly. Probably.
I once told someone that I’m like an onion. Get to know me better and peel the layers back. I think we all are. The question is, what are we at our core? Or are we even one thing, or does it change based on the circumstance?
Why I’ve been thinking about this is I’m wondering what I’m really like at the core … or again, are there just different aspects of personality that come out at different times? Someone was texting to me the other day that I intimidate the heck out of a number of people she knows, until they get to know me, then they realise I’m a sweetie at the core. But am I? I like to think I’m a good person, a nice person, but I have a pretty dark side. So … is perception reality? Or am I just fooling them? Or am I fooling myself, and I’m more nice than I am spiteful and selfish and vindictive?
Same person, same conversation (I love WhatsApp!), was commenting how I’m a super chilled and relaxed person. Which is not how I usually think of myself; I think of myself as a fast-moving highly-motivated driver (competitive much, right?). But I suppose I can be quite relaxed and chilled. Where you wanna go for dinner? I don’t care. What do you want to braai? I don’t care (long as it’s paleo).
So where does this leave me? As uncertain and complex as I was when I started. Boom.
Back? Feels pretty ok, although I probably overdid it yesterday. Tested it with some relatively heavy back squats. We were doing 5 rep max for day and I got up to 80% of my 1RM, before I ran out of time, but it was also good to be a liiiiitle bit careful. Then we were doing front squats to failure with a percent of that weight and WOW. Funny how your legs sometimes just won’t work … like trying to do split jerks after rowing 200m intervals. Hmm, imagine that. In happier news, I started practicing the butterfly kipping pullup and I’m rocking it … cranked out about 6 or 7 and only stopped because I was so excited that I was doing it (last few times I practiced, before my injury, I would completely lose rhythm after either 1 or 2 reps). Maybe once my back and ankle heal I’ll have the same magical improvement with my double unders.
Well hope springs eternal now doesn’t it?
In unrelated news, I’ve also been reflecting a bit on the dislike of CrossFit that seems at times to border on obsessive. Why do people hate it so much? Why do people love it so much?
Well … I think it’s the intensity of the thing. Most critiques of CrossFit that you read boil down to the trainers being shit, and people doing stupid things. Which is fair enough as far as it goes, except for that let me tell you I see some CRAZY stupid shit that the personal trainers at Virgin Active do. Like stupid useless and stupid dangerous. So if you can reduce the argument to people just don’t like bad trainers, fair enough. But hate the player not the game.
You can also dismiss it as jealousy of a formula that is successful (I think CrossFit gyms are now popping up as fast as Starbucks outlets at the peak of the Starbucks expansion … which should be a worry in its own right but that’s a whole other conversation). CrossFit has done a good job of turning exercising into a competitive sport, which is super weird when you think about it. But the combination of turning every workout into a mini-competition, and the camaraderie that forms around shared suffering in the form of group training is a pretty magical mix. Plus, the shit works.
But there’s more to it than that. I think it’s the intensity that turns a lot of people off. I mean, any brand that has cartoon characters for Pukie and Uncle Rhabdo is a bit strange. I wrote a while back about how I thought that being ‘WOD drunk’ (a state that resembles inebriation that comes from excessive exertion) was an urban legend until I experienced it. This is the CrossFit philosophy: with intensity comes results. But like anything, you can take it too far. It’s obviously up to the individual to figure out how far he or she wants to take it (again removing the shit trainers from the equation who might let newbies go too far too fast, because you can find shit trainers anywhere). It can be dangerous. It doesn’t have to be. But so is driving down the road, and have you watched a rugby game recently?
AND, form is important. This is one of my new goals in training is to focus on form more explicitly. I’m strong, and I get lazy, and my form suffers. But that’s a recipe for mediocrity, and it’s time to start walking the walk. Not sure without videoing myself how to what degree I succeeded but when we were doing hang power cleans in a metcon I specifically made sure I hang power cleaned the thing rather than just muscle cleaning it or reverse bicep curling it. Every time you do anything is a time when you can either create or re-enforce good neural pathways, or not-so-good ones.
So here’s to trying to be the best I can be at any given time. As I struggle to come to terms with my fans (this still amazes me …. big fish, small pond, that’s really all there is to it), one thing I will say is that in a way I’m a pretty cool role model. Why? Because I didn’t come to this sport as an ex-professional athlete or current professional athlete or ex-top SA performer in some form of athletic pursuit. I’m just a normal person who walked into a gym overweight and out of shape, just wanting to get healthy.
I’ve always wanted to be respected more for what I did than what natural talents I have (would I rather be lucky than good? Nope. Both!). So if people look up to me as an athlete, cool inasmuch as they should take inspiration from that if I can do it so can they. I’m more genetically gifted than some, sure, and less so than others. But hey as long as you’re having fun while doing it, that’s what matters most.
Speaking of fun, I’ve definitely been having some fun at work lately (despite some frustrations …. People can be hectic!!!!). The tunnel vision I had the beginning of this year is gone. I’m excited for new projects, new interns, and making sound business decisions. I LOVE some of my co-workers. Jeff’s way of thinking, Anton’s dry sense of humour, Hollie’s eternal cheer, Dean’s quiet determination, Jonathan’s undying passion and duty, Alex’s gentle thoroughness.
I feel a bit like a butterfly emerging from its chrysalis. This is gonna be fun.
  • “Well, I knew I had a dark side. I was just hoping that it didn’t show up as often.” – Jeff
  • “Some people are just priceless!” – Jeff
  • “You’re not really going to go to gym, are you?” – Jeremy
  • “You have a strong mind but sometimes it can try and control you.” – Debbie
  • “Calling him a bit strange is like calling me a bit athletic. …. Or Jeremy a bit musical!” – Ellie
  • “Before you started CrossFit.” – Jeff (I was wondering out loud when was the last time someone had actually shouted at me)


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