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Potential by Patrick Cummings - CrossFit Journal


By Patrick Cummings

In CrossFit, HD Videos

March 19, 2016

Video Article

In “Potential,” Patrick Cummings presents his poetic meditations on how women in CrossFit are transforming the definitions of strength and femininity, opening up new possibilities for women in general.

As women push their limits during workouts, he suggests, they become role models for other women seeking to discover what they can do.

“We can discover evidence of our own potential inside the actions of another,” he says.

He further underscores the intertwining of femininity and strength as he explains that the barbell “stands for everything a boy is taught to chase—power and bravery—but … in thousands of chalk-filled gyms, women are killing the preconceived conception of their own frailty.”

In the poem’s refrain, Cummings makes an assertion proven daily in CrossFit gyms around the world: “Toughness knows not gender.”

Video by Patrick Cummings.

4min 31sec

Additional reading: “Frailty, Thy Name Is Woman?” by Hilary Achauer, published Oct. 19, 2015.

Free Download


4 Comments on “Potential”


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A Warkentin, how about an updated version of A Beginner's Guide to CrossFit?


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In case anyone else wanted them. I thought this was poignant and powerful and wanted the be able to re-read the words but I could not find them online. If it is not appropriate to have them here, please feel free to remove them. Thanks! G

“If a women were no longer a fragile, timid group in need of protection, men could not be assured of their own role as powerful protectors, and consequently relations between the sexes would have to be reconsidered.” Susan Cahn, author of Coming on Strong

“Women as a class cannot stand a prolonged mental or physical strain as well as men. Exact it of them and they will try to do the work, but they will do it at a fearful cost to themselves and eventually their children.” Dudley Sargent, MD Ladies Home Journal – 1912

“While playing sports our bodies are used to do with as we please. If in that process our bodies look unfeminine – if they become bruised or bloody or simply unattractive – that seems irrelevant. Our bodies are ours. We own them.” Mariah Nelson, author of Are We Winning Yet?

By Patrick Cummings

Like spelunkers seeking sunlight, we can discover evidence of our own potential inside the actions of another. By the imitation of their ambition, by the using of their maps instead of our own, we can find freedom. We can relate to reality differently. We can borrow bravery. We can learn to wear bigger shoes and leave deeper prints.
I grew up in a world of unending potential. Grocery store overstocked with futures and histories credit card in my back pocket. Everywhere I looked looked like me and I have acted accordingly. Never once have I been hit in the heart by a sideways glance of someone’s doubt nor ever once worried my ambition might paint me unworthy of love. I grew up in a world of unending potential. I also grew up with a big sister. For a time, our world spun on an axis of sport. The basketball court, a textbook from which I learned a simple lesson toughness knows not gender. I grew up in a world of unending potential. Every time she hacked past the lazy password of my defense and drove her shoulder into mine she taught me something.
Grasping for the buoy of breath on the floor of my first CrossFit gym years later I lost no pride in conceding victory to any one of the women who finished faster, after all, I expected no less.
The playwrights in power have always told the story of female athletes using the language of men. But hard fought gains are changing that story. And the theater of our attention now has many more stages and many more revelers. If freedom comes when we discover evidence of our own potential inside the actions of another, then a flood of new actors telling new stories of strength might be the dynamite that collapses these mountains of common nonsense.
I believe we believe in what we see and no where do we watch more closely than the field of play with all its measurable displays of power, its winners and losers, its shower of data points that point to who we call strong and who we call weak. How many new cartographers there are now to chart our collective course, to draw the maps that any young lady looking may use to find her way to a world of un-ending potential. That any young lady looking may use to build upon like an architect of her own making. That any young lady looking may use to erect her own stage and recite the monolog of her own take.
Like words are weapons, the barbell is both a symbol and a tool. It is a symbol of strength and tool with which we reach for it like prospectors of possibilities. It stands for everything a boy is taught to chase; power and bravery. But thousands of chalk filled gyms are chalk full of a new class of athlete, all learning the barbells lessons of resilience and grit. With every rep she is re-wiring her resolve. With every barbaric “yah” at the top of a heavy lift she is hacking the regularly scheduled programming with this important message, toughness knows not gender.
In thousands of chalk filled gyms, the barbell sports are a counterpoint to the story we are told about women. That they are in need of our protection and therefor in need of our approval. Henry Rollins once wrote that “the best way to kill weakness is with strength.”
In thousands of chalk filled gyms, women are killing the preconceived perception of their own frailty, and with callous hands re-writing the story of expectations. They are killing our weakness by the exhibition of their own strength. Like modern day suffragettes of ambition. Like super heroes of potential.


replied to comment from Michael Warkentin

Thanks Mike!

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