Wall balls, Wusses, and Winning

March 15, 2018

Wall balls are a staple in a CrossFit program. Typically, one drops into a deep squat and then, engaging the glutes, stands up while at the same time throwing a 14 or 20 lb ball straight up toward a line on a wall, then catching the ball and simultaneously dropping into a low squat.

Wall balls are hard, but it’s a good hard. I love the feeling of catching and dropping at the same time. I’m not very coordinated generally so when the drop and catch happen simultaneously, I feel almost graceful. (Yes, you can feel graceful and like you’re dying, or at least about to puke, at the same time.)

Seven months ago my relationship with wall balls changed. I broke 3 transverse processes in my back and fractured my shoulder when the off billet on my saddle came undone while I was loping my horse and I landed on my back. I had to modify a lot of things at CrossFit as stuff healed. Eventually, I started doing wall balls again but using only an 8 lb ball.

The catching part of the maneuver was hard on my shoulder, hence the need to modify. The upside was that using the lighter ball allowed me to focus on the fundamentals of form. I definitely got a better handle on the rhythm of the maneuver. That was good.

Every now and then I have tried going back to using the 14 lb ball. If I felt a twinge in my shoulder, I simply went back to using the 8 lb ball. Scaling until twinge free is a smart plan; I don’t feel guilty about protecting my shoulder from reinjury. However, there is something I feel guilty about and justifiably so. You see, I like doing wall balls with the 8-pound ball. It’s challenging but in a comfortable way.

Comfort is not conducive to the growth and development of anything. Still, the feeling of success that comes with using the 8 lb ball is kind of nice. It seems I have been stricken with a bad case of next-time-itis; “next time I will use the 14 lb ball.”

Yesterday, the WOD consisted of 5 sets of 15 wall balls and 5 sets of 20 lunges. “That’s a lot of sets,” I said to myself when I saw the board. “Better stick with the 8 lb ball, you poor delicate petal you. No sense risking reinjury.” I stuck with the 8 lb ball.

Sure, I was tired when we finished. Truth be told, though, I sold myself out by not even attempting to use the 14 lb ball. Instead, I played it safe. I took no risks. I chose comfort. That choice had nothing to do with being a delicate petal. Please. It had everything to do with embracing my inner wuss. I would say I became a world champion wuss, but such a thing can’t exist.

I know this because my horse Tiffany Two Spots and I won four World Championships and a bunch of Reserve World Championships together.

Our success came from being aggressive in the show pen and that meant risking failure. It did not come from playing it safe. Playing it safely brings no rewards. The only title playing it safe will get you is Wuss of the WOD.

Don’t get me wrong. It was not a mistake to work with the 8 lb ball as my shoulder healed. But lately, I have chosen to play it safe by not risking the discomfort (note: I did not say pain) that using an appropriately heavy ball creates. I have played it safe by not testing and trusting myself to handle the next step. I have chosen comfort over growth and development at the Crossfit box. In the world of Crossfit, that is nothing to be proud of.

Fortunately, next-time-itis has a cure. The cure is to decide to attempt the heavier ball. Note I didn’t say “plan” to attempt it; I said “decide” to attempt it.

A decision to pick up the 14 lb ball before a lighter one means that I’m going to hold myself accountable instead of giving myself a pass. Oh, sure, there will be some aching arms and wobbly legs on wall ball days as I begin using, or at least attempting to use, the 14 lb ball. But I’ve got to leave my comfort zone to progress. I’ve got to embrace the suck.

Here’s the thing. This isn’t just about wall balls. If I’ve chosen comfort over growth and development at the CrossFit box, chances are I’m doing the same thing elsewhere in my life. I imagine we all do that from time to time in realms that invite us to challenge ourselves. The next time the WOD includes wall balls I have decided to pick up that 14 lb ball and see what I can do. The 8 lb ball will be there if I need it. But it’s time to stop playing it safe for reasons that are not legit. It’s time to elevate my game at the box and elsewhere and that’s exactly what I have decided to do.

As always, thank you for reading. I appreciate you.

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