The first time I did the CrossFit “DT” workout, I was miserable. The workout is everything I dislike about the sport of CrossFit — what I call “barbell lifts as cardio”: complicated barbell lifts done at volume for speed.
It’s the opposite of how I like to train: I like to do my lifts slow and controlled, with focus and attention to form.
It wasn’t just the physical exhaustion; the first time I did the CrossFit DT workout, it shut down my nervous system for most of the day.
That’s exactly the opposite of what I’m looking for in my morning workouts.
It’s an understatement to say I wasn’t thrilled when I saw the CrossFit DT workout on my gym’s programming just 7 weeks later, at the end of a heavy week. The only reason I didn’t skip class that day was because I wanted to complete the cycle of bench press and retest my 1 rep max.
So there I was. Facing down the dreaded enemy that was the CrossFit DT workout.
This time, things went a little better: a 6-minute improvement in time, far less suffering during the workout itself, and a faster recovery after.
I got curious about how I was able to improve my time so significantly, so I dove in. I investigated the workout, my performance, and what lessons I could learn to apply to future workouts and to life beyond the gym. (And yes, there is life beyond the gym.)
In the process, I read several articles about the CrossFit DT workout and strategies people use to approach it. I considered for myself what makes this workout so deceptively complex.
Over the course of the past week, I leaned as far into this topic as I could, exploring the nuances of the workout, how I approached it, and what I could learn from it.
I’ve written about the results of my exploration in exacting detail, in a series that might appeal to you if you’re into CrossFit and/or productivity.
The Turning Point
Somewhere in that exploration, an interesting thing happened:
The CrossFit DT workout went from being a thing I disliked, dreaded, and feared, to something I’m actually excited to do again.
Maybe not next week, but I could see myself wanting to test this on a monthly basis.
I have a new relationship with this workout. I no longer dread it or fear it. I no longer dislike it.
Through curiosity, investigation, and leaning into learning about it, I’ve come to understand it better. I’ve come to understand myself better in my relationship to it.
As a result, my relationship to it has changed.
And this may be the most important lesson of this entire series.
Life is about patterns. When we see a pattern in one place, we know it repeats everywhere.
The reason I spent time diving into this case study was to extract the patterns of my improvement that I could apply to other parts of life.
This lesson is no different.
In the grand scheme of life and the problems we face in our world, the CrossFit DT workout is trivial. But patterns are patterns.
This is the truth about anything we dislike.
And it is an important message for the moment we are living in collectively.
How We Typically Handle Aversion
When we are averse to something — or someone — we tend to push it away.
We demonize it. We “other” it. We fear it. We shun it.
We become its victim or its oppressor. We moralize about it.
It’s bad. It’s stupid. It doesn’t make sense. They’re evil. They don’t belong. They’re manipulative. It’s not necessary. It’s a waste of time. It’s not going to get me anywhere.
We do this with workouts we don’t like.
We do this with work projects we don’t like.
We do this with people we don’t like.
And we do this with the parts of ourselves we don’t like.
Where does this get us?
Polarized. Torn apart. Separated.
From others, obviously. And also within ourselves.
The Key to Transforming Your Aversion
If, instead of pushing away what we dislike, we leaned into these things, these projects, these people — if we investigated them and tried to understand them, we might find that our exploration changes us.
And when we change, our relationships to the world and to the people around us change.
Nothing has changed about the DT workout, obviously. It’s an inanimate, static thing. That workout will be what it will be until the end of time.
But everything has changed about it for me because I’ve changed in my attitude toward it.
I no longer dread it. I embrace it. I’m excited for it.
This is what’s possible when we dare to get closer to the things we don’t like.
This is what’s possible when we lean into, instead of pulling away from, the parts of life that we find challenging.
This is what’s possible when we embrace, rather than shun, the people who trigger our most challenging emotions: fear, anger, resentment, ambivalence, indifference, hate, disdain.
This is what’s possible when we explore the parts of ourselves that we find most repugnant.
Ultimately our relationship to or with any thing or anyone is a mirror of our relationship to that part of ourselves.
What’s Possible When We Lean In
By seeking to understand DT, by looking at it in all its nuance, I found that it’s not the demon I made it out to be.
I discovered that it’s easily manageable with a solid strategy.
I learned that it doesn’t have to shut down my nervous system.
Imagine what’s possible in other realms when we lean into what we otherwise would be averse to.
To state the extremely obvious: it’s much easier to do this with an inanimate static and trivial thing like a workout.
It’s not a person who may be acting in a way that brings harm to me. It doesn’t have intentions. It hasn’t done anything to me other than exist. And, to be fair, I don’t have to change my opinions about it. I can choose to not do it.
I hear the argument that we can’t always say that about other people in the world. And it’s hard to argue with that in universal terms.
There are people in this world who are committed to the destruction of the Jewish people, just because. I don’t know that I can change my relationship to them so easily.
This is a practice, and I don’t believe anyone is perfect with this.
That said, there are far more circumstances in our daily lives where we encounter people who seem to be intent on making us miserable — an estranged spouse, a business colleague, a boss, an estranged friend.
And there are projects, events, and tasks we often avoid.
It may be easier to practice by directing our focus to those people, projects, and tasks.
Imagine what is possible if we approach all people and projects with this same objective intent to understand them.
What might we discover if we relax our grip on a story that people are doing something to us, and instead investigate their motives and their beliefs?
What might be possible if, rather than approaching other people with an intention to prove our point about who they are, we instead seek to understand who they are?
What would be possible if we got curious about what is driving them, what beliefs they hold?
How might our approach to our work change if we leaned into the tasks that trigger our most challenging emotions?
We may find that our relationship to them changes.
At the very least, we may find our relationship to ourselves changes.
And, really, that’s the most important relationship of all.