The Lion's Ovation

By Jon Gilson

[Editor's Note: This article was originally published July 28, 2009.]

The contention, like most that endure, made perfect sense.   Get too strong, and your endurance will suffer.  Too much endurance, and your strength will drop.  You can’t have everything.

Fortunately, perfect sense and reality do not always occupy the same space, their neat relationship thrown askew by the inexorable march of athletic evolution.

The fact that we missed:  previous feats of athleticism will always be surpassed.  Sprinters will sprint faster, lifters will lift more.  Quarterbacks will throw more accurately, batters will hit more home runs.  CrossFitters will get stronger and faster. 

Perfect sense and reality do not always occupy the same space, their neat relationship thrown askew by the inexorable march of athletic evolution.

Once, we said that developing the capacity of a novice across a variety of physical disciplines would create the fittest men and women on the planet.  Unavoidably, we’re being forced to remove the word “novice” from this definition; it no longer applies.  Our fittest are not novices, but legitimate contenders in nearly every arena.

For the first time, we’re seeing the strong, the fast, the enduring, occupying the same space.  The guy with the 5-minute mile is deadlifting 500 pounds.  He’s putting out half a horsepower for ten straight minutes.  He’s jumping four feet in the air.  He’s running eighty miles.  He is world class; his accomplishments are not a compromise.

Simultaneously, we are seeing adaption to imposed demand that does not follow traditional pathways.  Now, the strongest are not the largest, the fastest not the most waiflike.  Strength is achieved through increased neurological efficiency rather than mass.    Speed is achieved by getting stronger, not running more.  Athletes are borne from variety rather than specificity, exhibiting unheard of strength-to-bodyweight ratios.

We are throwing training on its ear, and this is just the beginning.  This discipline is in its infancy, still far from widespread, still the province of few.   There may come a day when our definition of fitness is not a compromise, when we no longer sacrifice mastery in one domain for competency in many, instead choosing mastery in all.

That day has started to dawn.


Jon Gilson is the founder of Again Faster and former member of CrossFit’s Level I Seminar staff. Photo courtesy of CrossFit.com