OUTLIERS AND AVERAGES
The 2016 Reebok CrossFit Games is finishing up today. Once again, the sport has reached new levels, with individual athletes tackling 14 events over 5 days.
And every time you think the organisers may have gone too far, a few athletes step up and make it look like child’s play….. I remember watching the 2009 Games, where the first event was a 7km desert run that had people dropping from heat exhaustion (including 2008 winner Jason Khalipa), immediately followed by a deadlift ladder in which multiple people PR’d and about 16 guys used up all the weights…. this sort of thing was actually thought to be scientifically impossible at the time.
This year, as a tribute to 10 years of the events existence, athletes returned to the 2009's hot, dusty, farm location and tackled the above two events, only the 7km was steeper, and the deadlift ladder went 40kg heavier than 2009. The 2016 competitors ate it up and spat it out.
I was reminded of a story told by a close friend of Bruce Lee’s.
Bruce had me up to three miles a day, really at a good pace. We’d run the three miles in twenty-one or twenty-two minutes. Just under eight minutes a mile. So this morning he said to me “We’re going to go five miles.” I said, “Bruce, I can’t go five. I’m a helluva lot older than you are, and I can’t do five.” He said, “When we get to three, we’ll shift gears and it’s only two more and you’ll do it.” I said “Okay, hell, I’ll go for it.” So we get to three, we go into the fourth mile and I’m okay for three or four minutes, and then I really begin to give out. I’m tired, my heart’s pounding, I can’t go any more and so I say to him, “Bruce if I run any more,” — and we’re still running — “if I run any more I’m liable to have a heart attack and die.” He said, “Then die.” It made me so mad that I went the full five miles. Afterward I went to the shower and then I wanted to talk to him about it. I said, you know, “Why did you say that?” He said, “Because you might as well be dead. Seriously, if you always put limits on what you can do, physical or anything else, it’ll spread over into the rest of your life. It’ll spread into your work, into your morality, into your entire being. There are no limits. There are plateaus, but you must not stay there, you must go beyond them. If it kills you, it kills you. A man must constantly exceed his level.
Of course I’m not suggesting that the Games organisers push until someone dies. And I don’t think Bruce Lee was suggesting anyone pushes until they die either. It was simply a blunt way of making a point that imposing limitations doesn’t help anyone. I don’t think the Games athletes would want that. I don’t think you should want that in your daily life.
When we have people drop by for a membership consultation, they almost always say the exact same thing when watching a class in action, "I don't know if I can do that..." Six months later, and that person is now the one in class, while someone else stands at the door in awe and doubt of their abilities..
What I'm seeing now is not only Games athletes doing things that were impossible just a few years ago, but our everyday athletes too.
Often the larger the outlier, the more it drags the average up too.