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Hard Work Pays off

-From CrossFit.com:

A CrossFit Affiliate Viewpoint: “Excellence” by Cody Limbaugh of CrossFit Excellence

Definitions are important. We in the CrossFit community take pride in our commitment to define the terms that we use. “Core Strength” is not a buzz-word phrase for us. “Intensity” is not a subjective effort based on how you feel that day (or how loud you yell). “Excellence” should not be thrown around lightly either.

Coach Glassman’s flagship article that launched the CrossFit Journal was an attempt to define fitness. One of the many revelations I have experienced while listening to Coach is his pointing out that when a word is used by many people who each intend a different definition, the word ceases to have any meaning at all. This is one of the things that first drew me to CrossFit: a commitment to knowledge and truth that is made apparent by being bold enough to define enigmatic terms like “fitness.”

Only with clear definitions can you have clear objectives. After all, how can you pursue fitness if you don’t really know what fitness is? Your goals can only be as effective as they are well defined. The achievement of any goal requires intentional focus. The intentions are up to you. A clear definition provides the focal point.

Just as we require a definition for fitness in order to obtain it, so we must strive to clearly define excellence if we are to pursue it. So let’s take a look at some definitions that are out there now . . .

Google defines excellence as:

The quality of being outstanding or extremely good.

An outstanding feature or quality.

That is actually one of the better definitions I could find on-line. The first part hints at excellence as being a favorable attribute. The second part is utterly useless: “Outstanding feature or quality.” Really? That could be describing my nose–doesn’t mean it’s a good thing!

Dictionary.com says excellence is:

1. the fact or state of excelling; superiority; eminence

2. an excellent quality or feature

I seem to remember an assignment in grade school that asked students to define words, but we were not allowed to use a form of the word in our attempt to define it. Why is this not the standard for dictionaries? Again, this definition is useless.

Wikipedia defines excellence as “A talent or quality which is unusually good and so surpasses ordinary standards. It is also an aimed for standard of performance.”

We’re getting better here. At least we are starting to get a hint that excellence is a standard that must be achieved through effort, and not just an inherent “feature.”

I have lately taken a deep interest in philosophy (thanks to CrossFit rest day topics) with one of my favorite philosophers so far being Aristotle. He has something to say about the nature of virtues, including excellence: “Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do.” As a good friend recently pointed out to me, it is important to note here that there is an often attributed line that follows this quote, but is not Aristotle: “Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” This last phrase that is often attributed to Aristotle is actually by Will Durant in his attempt to analyze Aristotle’s writings.

I think Durant got it wrong, at least in our current use of the word “habit”. Aristotle used the word habituation in conjunction with the word training. He seems to be emphasizing an intentional practicing of higher standards–training as a lifestyle, where Durant just uses the word habit, as if excellence can be achieved automatically. I don’t think we can strive for excellence on auto-pilot.

Earlier I mentioned a couple of terms I believe are necessary to achieve a goal: “Intentional” and “Focus”. I don’t believe excellence can be a habit. In fact, I think the terms are at odds with each other. As habit sets in, excellence withers. Excellence requires vigilance. Excellence does not occur arbitrarily, it requires intention. If focus is lost, intention becomes apathy.

We all know what is required of us to achieve fitness. It is work. It requires focus. It requires us to continually push the boundaries of our comfort zone. It is not obtained automatically or through apathy. Sure, we may aquire good habits, but we must continuously, consciously redirect our attention toward bettering ourselves. Excellence, as a concept, is much the same. Without a focused intention toward excellence, we tend to do work that is “good enough.”

The Ancient Greeks had a concept of excellence they called arete which meant an outstanding fitness for purpose. I really love this definition! “An outstanding fitness for purpose.” How awesome is that?

When we combine Coach Glassman’s definition of fitness into the concept of arete we get:

Excellence: as in arete.

Fitness: increased work capacity across broad time, modal and age domains.

Purpose: a result, end, mean, aim, or goal of an action intentionally undertaken

So then, we get a definition that describes the effort, focus and intention as well as the attributes of the word: Excellence is an increase in the work capacity over time, for intentionally undertaken aims.

What does “excellence” mean to you? How are you intentionally pursuing it?

10-25-11

CrossFit:

Complete 3 rounds:

10 one arm KB Power Snatches – right
Max walking distance w/ single KB in overhead position – right
10 one arm KB Power Snatches – left
Max walking distance w/ single KB in overhead position – left

*Rest 45 seconds between rounds
*Walk outside and down the sidewalk, when you stop, perform snatches on your left side then walk back with over head.

Strength:

Max Plank on elbows and toes

WhipCON:

8 rounds each movement then move to next
30 seconds on 30 seconds off:

Burpee Box Jumps
Jump Rope: 10 singles, 10 doubles, 10 singles, 10 doubles etc…
Hollow Rock
High Knees
Med Ball Clean
Superman Isolated hold
Med Ball Ab twist (sit with feet up, hold ball with hands, and twist TORSO to move ball from side to side touching on ground,…. do not just simply move your arms)

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