The Greek and the Games

By Jane Drexler

In CrossFit Games, Rest Day/Theory

February 26, 2014

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Epictetus never did Karen or Fran, but he definitely would have understood your determination to get through the many tests of the CrossFit Games Open.

“Let others practice lawsuits, others study problems, others syllogisms; here you practice how to die, how to be enchained, how to be racked, how to be exiled.” —Epictetus, The Discourses

The 2014 Reebok CrossFit Games Open is almost here, and we are about to be tested again. The Open has always fulfilled its promise to push us to our limits and has called on us to dig deep and overcome pain and frustration. If you need a good example, look no further than Open Workout 13.3, a repeat of 12.4.

As many reps as possible in 12 minutes of:
150 wall-ball shots
90 double-unders
30 muscle-ups

The days preceding that workout were riddled with anxiety for me and many others. I remember the dread I felt knowing full well how much 150 walls balls would hurt, but it was only after I did it that I understood what 13.3 was really about. The workout’s real purpose was to test whether or not you could deal with mental torture—of grueling repetition, of frustration and despair—and stay calm, focused and self-contained as you worked.

That was the test of 13.3. And this unstated test is what makes 13.3 the perfect workout to introduce Epictetus’ philosophy of stoicism, and to illustrate how CrossFit’s tests of “fitness” are really, at their root, meant to test—and cultivate—a stoic character.

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1 Comment on “The Greek and the Games ”


wrote …

When I first found CrossFit, or should I say it found me (way back in 2005-6), it had a wonderful, quasi-intellectual bent to it. There were always pithy aphorisms posted directly below each day's WOD (I am sure Epictetus appeared more than once...). Long, semi-scientific articles were devoted to the intricacies of a single modality, such as the deadlift. New experts were regularly introduced, and offered their insight and experience in article and/or video format. Sometimes these experts even debated one another, openly, on camera. Definitions were created(!) For a brief period (am I remembering this correctly?) inspirational literature and (mostly classical) music were linked on the mainsite for us to discover, right there with the Pose Running Technique.
For a lifelong fitness guru like myself, who always thought of exercise as mostly about the body, and less about the mind, CrossFit was, in a word, Revelatory.
I do not mean to go on about the good old days of CrossFit, days when it was more about the product, and less about the brand. These days are still plenty good in my opinion...plenty good. CrossFit is by far the best in its field; in fact it stands alone. And CrossFit has done way too much for way too many people (none more than myself) for any rational person to criticize and fault-find.
That's not what this post is about, believe it or not. I am simply writing to sincerely thank Ms. Drexler, and the editors at CrossFit, for giving us something to chew on mentally, intellectually, and scholastically again. It's a welcome respite from, ahem, Mr. Danny Bro-flex;)

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