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Monday, April 22, 2013

Refuge in a Community of Strength: My Boston SFG Experience

At the end of last year, I wrote about my intention to make this a "Year of Strength." The idea has been to focus a lot of my energy on studying the art and science of getting stronger, and applying those ideas to myself.

It seems appropriate then, that the first course I should attend this year would be called StrongFirst. (Okay, second, but the CrossFit Defense course was not a strength training course. But I digress.)

I planned and trained very hard for this course. Very hard. I started prepping for this at the end of last year, and spent from January until the week of the course working under the amazing coaching of Mike Perry, the owner of Skill of Strength in Chelmsford. Several people are getting shout-outs during this post, but Mike might get a lot of them. I would not have made it through this course without him.

So I planned, trained, prepared.

And then the weekend went sideways.

When I left for the SFG course on Friday morning, I noticed that there seemed to be a lot of cop cars on the road. A few minutes later, frantic text messages came in from my wife. I called her (since I was driving), and learned that my entire city was on lockdown. There were armed men running around near my neighborhood.

Thankfully, my wife was making this call from her parent's house, far away on Cape Cod.

But still. In a matter of seconds, home went from being the place I was going to go sleep that night to being a small scale warzone that I couldn't get back into, even if I wanted to.

That first day of the course was stressful. Not because of demanding pace, or the in-depth information, but because in addition to all of that, there was a constant stream of worry in the back of my mind. Background noise. I could, at times, shut if off. A set of swings here, a set of cleans there. In the moments where I was moving iron, I could get the world out. When I wasn't, the world would try to creep back in. Not to the point where it crippled my ability to learn, but enough that I'm not sure I appreciated the first day as much as I might have.

That was a long day.

But I made it through, learned that the lockdown was over and that I would, in fact, be able to sleep in my own bed that night and went home. Ate dinner, did the epsom salt bath thing, reviewed my manual. And, very foolishly, went online.

It took less than five minutes for me to shut everything down in complete disgust. Conspiracy theories, gleeful calls for torture, people riding some dangerously high moral horses...and that was just Facebook. I didn't dare venture anywhere else.

So I shut it down, and went back to my manual. And then, back to StrongFirst for days two and three of the course.

It was an excellent course. I would say that regardless of the events that were going on around it. The instructors were knowledgeable, professional, and inspiring. While the SFG (and it's predecessor, the RKC) is justifiably known for being a tough course, I think it's easy to get the impression that it must be some kind of macho boot camp, filled with screaming drill-sergeant wannabees and muscle heads. It was far from that. The instructors that I worked with all exuded a quiet sense of professionalism. They pushed us hard, absolutely...but not in an unreasonable or insane fashion. It was a great course, and I learned a lot.


It also became my place of refuge.

At the SFG, I got to hide in a community focused on learning and getting stronger. And yes, I hid. Not from the bad guy, who was already caught, but from the attendant bullshit and chest-thumping that was being spewed by the media and far too many people. I felt no need for minute-by-minute updates about the bad guy's fate. I didn't want them.

I just wanted life to move forward, and at the Boston SFG, that is precisely what we did. We moved forward. We worked together to get stronger, smarter, better.

Times of stress have a way of clarifying what matters to you. Family, friends, community. Training. These things matter to me. The latest update on the fate of a bad guy who terrorized my city? Nah. Not important. I can catch up on his fate when I feel like it.

I'm really grateful I was able to spend the weekend in the company of strong people. It made my weekend much more sane.

Some final thoughts.
  • I am proud to say I passed the course, and am officially a level one SFG. 
  • Have I said thanks to Mike Perry yet? Because seriously, from the bottom of my heart...I would not have survived this course without his prep.
  • TEAM Heinz rocked.
  • Thanks to Amber Lee, who said "yes, go check out the HKC" a couple of years ago and got me going on all of this.
  • And Dan John, who got me curious about all of this stuff in the first place.
  • I've actually got some more thoughts, but I'll save them for some other posts.

1 comment:

Maija said...

We are just a bunch of monkeys in the end ... swinging in the trees ... One sees threat and starts to yell .. and suddenly everyone is at it.
Our access to instant communication over the whole planet has just made it more obvious, shows us just how close to being prey we really still feel we are ...
It's just fear .. Lots of noise ... nothing more .... As they say in the UK - All mouth, no trousers ... :-)