By Whitney Dean

I’ve had a hard day. I need a mantra, something to pull me out of the muck of self-pity.

On the Wonder Boys soundtrack, Bob Dylan crones the refrain, “I used to care but things have changed.” That’s the furthest from the truth for me, but I think it’s a mantra worth adopting in certain circumstances. You know, the ones where caring too much does more harm than good: worrying about my reputation, my setbacks, my shortcomings, my past, my future. 

So, I go to my gym, CrossFit Elevation, for a workout and to lift heavy things. There I’m given an hour of reprieve from all the self-doubt and agitation that can accompany the daily grind. I trade my job problems for the challenges written on the white board: what weights I can manage, how fast I can complete the repetitions prescribed. I exchange complications with relationships for an hour of time with my CrossFit community, all of who have also left their troubles at the door, intentionally or not, with the common purpose of just doing something good for themselves. There I get centered and create space for some perspective. If I can make it through a workout despite all the noise in my head, I know I’m capable of finding my way through the weeds outside the box.

Ultimately, it’s hard to think of anything but “heavy” with a loaded barbell over my head. Talk about staying in the moment.

Scott, my coach, boss, and friend, talks about pushing through the pain of physical exertion by concentrating on the mechanics of the movement, eliciting the most efficiency from form and function. What better mental exercise than to practice that discipline throughout the rest of my day? When difficulties present themselves, I can consider the placement of one foot directly in front of the other, concentrating on the actions that move toward progress rather than the emotions that invariably hang on the problem.

Resisting the freak-out, drawing myself out of the “red zone,” strategizing about how to extract the best performance from of my body and mind are all exercises in how to deal with the curve balls and stressors that life throws at me. Perseverance through exhaustion on the mat somehow makes hard days in the world feel less impossible. Remaining rational when self-doubt and discouragement mount higher and higher is a habit I’m developing through physical challenges with the help of my people inside and outside the gym.

Keeping with the theme of soundtracks for my life, the Murder City Devils have a great song, “Dear Hearts,” the lyrics of which read, “Somewhere between the round and the square, there’s a spiral/Take it to the top.” Another mantra, I suppose. Something to hold on to when the storms set in.

Because, as another good friend, Hannah, told me just the other day, “Weights are really heavy.”

10 minutes to 3RM Push Jerks
EMOM for 5 minutes: 3 Push jerks @ 85% of above

4 Rounds
Run 400m
15 V-ups
12 Overhead squat 95/65#