In LEO/Mil

December 01, 2004

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What does CrossFit training have in common with Stoic philosophy and the story of an American Prisoner Of War (POW)? Mental toughness. The ability to tolerate discomfort for a higher purpose. The strength of will to not be broken by adversity. Of course, the demands of a CrossFit workout can’t compare in intensity to being tortured as a POW for military secrets, but it does compare in kind. CrossFit is all about scalability. As Coach has always said, the demands of an elite athlete are different from a deconditioned senior only in degree and not in kind.

Vice Admiral (VADM) James B. Stockdale, United States Navy (retired, b.1923-), was the senior-ranking Naval Officer within the Vietnamese prison camp system. He spent nearly eight years as a POW, four of which were in solitary confinement, cloaked in total darkness. His imprisonment was one of the longest such ordeals in American history. How did he survive the torture, the isolation, and the uncertainty of his future?

Before answering the question, is the relevance to CrossFit already obvious? If you read the daily WOD (Workout Of the Day) comments, the sense of torture, isolation and uncertainty are definitely present. Again, the intensity and degree of suffering of a WOD are self-chosen and ultimately fun (“It doesn’t have to be fun to be fun”), whereas the intensity and suffering of a POW are frankly unimaginable in comparison. Our hats are off in gratitude for all those who serve our country, especially the POWs.

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1 Comment on “CrossFit, Stoicism, and an American Prisoner of War”


wrote …

Good article. I knew the late Admiral as the President for a year at my college (The Citadel). I took his course on "Man in Crisis-The conflict of good and evil" which was co-instructed by our campus chaplain, Father Sam Miglarese. I remember seeing Admiral Stockdale walking to our college pool at "0-dark thirty" almost every morning to swim his laps...he had a bum leg from his time in the POW cell...but that didn't stop him. The man, his beliefs and his life example made a huge impact on me. That's one reason why, with three fused vertabrae in my lower back, three fused vertabrae in my neck and a pin in my shoulder I can still "do" crossfit oriented exercise...and out-do kids half my age. Why waltz when you can rock-and-roll? Ooh-RAH!
Best Regards,
Mark W. Johnson

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