I was introduced to a new acronym on Tuesday and promptly fell in love. I should probably acknowledge that my life-long excitement over spelling with alphabet noodles in soup may be the basis of my new love affair. But regardless, it is a great acronym.
WFO. It has a few incarnations but fellow CrossFitter and former Army Ranger, James, said it was “Wide Full Open” although “Wide Freaking Open” is basically the same thing, just more excited sounding. (Of course, that is the PG version. You know what freaking really means here, right?) Anyhoo, it is a fun alternative to the sentiment “b@lls to the wall” but gets at the same basic idea – pushing yourself as hard as you possibly can. I love this acronym because I tend to be a WFOer more than anything else. I’d like to think it’s part of my charm, but I rather doubt others see it quite that way.
WFO became part of my life on Tuesday morning as I embarked upon my day’s workout at CrossFit Fort Vancouver with my trainer Bridget and the 10:00 am crew. As we warmed-up, Bridget explained that the work-out “Michael” was in honor of a fallen US soldier whose nickname was Groove and that the work-out would require us to not go WFO but instead find our groove and stay there. So as I was groovin’ through the lactic acid burn during the first 800 meter run, I did what I always do when running. I thought. And what I thought about was the need for everyone to know when to go WFO and when to groove.
Most of us can easily put together a list of times when we’ve been challenged, either physically or mentally. Sometimes those challenges are just hurdles to get over and other times those challenges seem likely to sink us. In fact, our lives are made of a series of challenges, great and small, that leave us different people for having met them. Unfortunately, just how we react to a challenge often has a lot more to do with outside forces than any inherent traits. I’m thinking of those little camel-back-breaking straws right about now. Those little things that if we met them on a different day we’d hardly even blink, but meeting them at the wrong time and place can reduce us to a puddle of goo. As a parent, I’ve witnessed my children have these kinds of reactions to challenges – one day, when well-fed and well-rested, a challenge such as crawling or playing a new song on the piano is just a tiny hurdle. Take away nap time or allow too much sugar, and there’s going to be a melt-down. We grown-ups have much the same reactions, just minus the kicking and screaming, I hope.
It took me until I was in my early 30s to really understand a bit more about myself. I’d been told back in college that in times of uncertainty or challenge, I’m the type to just jump in and get it over versus taking a more methodical approach. In other words, totally WFO, all the way. I didn’t necessarily disagree with that assessment, I just didn’t pay much attention to it. But the labor and delivery of my first child got my attention, big time. Because, it turns out, I’m not a very good groover. I’m stubborn, quick-tempered, and impatient. Especially with myself. And so, I really do prefer to just get through a challenge, typically at WFO.
I approached labor and delivery much like every other challenge in my previous 32 years. Learn about the process, get a plan, and get it done. You work hard enough, you will be successful. But labor and delivery is a better teacher than I was learner. And so it took me 47 hours of primarily back labor to finally learn about finding a groove and working through a challenge…not by sheer bravado and speed, but by strength and patience. It turns out that the Groove is a good place to be sometimes.
You see, the human body is much like the human spirit. It is much stronger than we think it is. Yes, both can be broken. And yet, it is possible to bend both and reach a new limit rather than a breaking point.
Since CrossFitting for about a month now, I have found that it is possible for me to achieve physical challenges I never before thought possible. Just this week, I’ve done more sit-ups and push-ups than in my entire lifetime. No, that isn’t hyperbole. If at the rollicking age of 18 and a size 3, someone would have told me I’d be stronger at 41 and a size, ulp, 12, I would have laughed long and loud. But it is true. I may have been thin then, but there was no way my thin self could have done 139 push-ups in a day, let alone in an hour. And I credit a few things with creating that kind of success.
First off, my fellow CrossFit buddies and trainers give me strength to keep working even when I feel like I have given as much as I can. People need cheerleaders to rally their flagging spirits and aching muscles, and the CrossFitters at Fort Vancouver dish up the cheering like its nobody’s business. But more importantly, CrossFit has helped me hone my ability to see the appropriateness for using WFO or the Groove. Each has its time and place and the wise person learns when to use both in order to overcome even the toughest challenge.
There are perfect times to go WFO – the last stretch of a race is a classic example. Runners train for being able to “kick it” at the end of a race. Serious runners run a race so that they “empty the tank” or use up the very last of their reserves while crossing the finish line. The trick is to know your whole self well enough to have a damn accurate “gas gauge”.
But there are also times when the smart athlete finds his/her groove and just settles in. This is like sweet little Dory telling us to “just keep swimming, just keep swimming”. Dante said that the only way out is through and he was so correct. Sometimes the only way to make it is to just groove through the challenge, whether it is physical pain or emotional suffering, until eventually you get through to the other side.
These are the things I thought about while listening to my own breath in-two-three-four-out-two-three-four. I also thought about the two folks who live across the street from my gym and who like to drag out their lawn chairs and watch us run while sipping on their Pabst Blue Ribbons. Sometimes they offer suggestions on what we could be doing to more effectively use our time here on earth. Other times they make mention of our flair for fashion. To those two people, I just want to say, “put down your beer and come join the race!”
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter if you are the slowest grooving turtle or the fastest WFO hare, just be part of the race. Because sitting on the sideline means you’ll never see the whole thing. And the whole thing that you’re going to miss out on? It’s knowing who you really are and just what you’ve got. Me? Turns out I’ve got a little bit of that good ole 70s R&B Groove rockin’ out with my Big Hair Metal.
How about you? A WFOer? A Groover? A solid mix of the two in an “as needed” kind of way? What have been your biggest challenges and how did you make it through them?
*Edit: I read back over this and thought I should clarify. I actually did 139 push-ups in three batches. 78 before the Work Out for the Day (WOD) and the remainder in two heats for the Baseline. I have a shoulder injury so I have to substitute push-ups for some other shoulder exercises. Try a “diamond” push-up and tell me how you like them! 🙂