You Need Me

By Jon Gilson

[Editor's Note: This was originally published here on November 4, 2008.]

You are not wired for progress. You seek a state of sameness, one where mental and physical stressors are nonexistent, and every day is just like the one before. Routine is bliss for your underperforming ass.

It’s not your fault. Evolution left you ready to do battle with nature, and civilization gave you a neutron bomb.

You should be outside, spear in one hand and shield in the other, looking for something to kill. Instead, you’ve got forty-five aisles of floor-to-ceiling shrink-wrapped grub, obtainable with nothing more than a plastic card and a smile.

The pull of a painless life is too great to get here alone. You need me, the harbinger of change, the bullwhip, the irresistible rush of progress. I am your ticket to growth, and I’m sending you to battle civilization’s paradox with nothing more than a pointy stick. Ironically, you’ll win, and if that apocalypse ever comes, you’ll be ready. You should be sprinting away from predators, seeking safety, but you’ve got fences, freeways, and a fifteen-digit algorithmically protected front door. You’ve got two guns, a can of mace, four layers of body armor, and nothing to worry about.

Unfortunately, your DNA doesn’t know this. Your hindbrain is programmed to save your resources for another day, conserving energy for an apocalyptic event that will never come. “Eat more, move less,” it says, and you’re eager to comply. The result is a forty-five inch waist and a mean case of diabetes.

You need a prod. A thousand volt, fifty-milliamp foot to the backside, designed to override your nonsensical attachments to comfort. You need me.

I am the stress that humanity has removed from your existence. I’m a grizzly bear charging at twenty miles an hour, the uncertainty of your next meal, and the reason you sleep with one eye open. I’m your coach.

I’m not yelling at you because I’m angry. I’m yelling because you need to be shoved away from calm and toward performance, brought to a place where death is imminent and action is the only option, and it’s my job to bring you there.

When my volume goes up and my tone gets clipped, you move rapidly. You execute. You drive faster and further into physiological discomfort, and you stay there. You leave six-way adjustable leather seats and lumbar support for the weak, and transport yourself to a place where ease is a distant memory.

Your hindbrain wakes up, and those resources, heretofore held for Armageddon, know that it’s go time. Fat melts, lungs sear, and muscles break down, all in service of getting away from me.

Day after day, you undergo this process, overcoming unreasonable obstacles until your recalcitrant brain is born again hard. Embracing pain and shunning comfort, you’re ready to kill or be killed. You’re rewired, no longer subject to the temptations of easy living and all-you-can eat buffets. You’re an athlete.

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