This weekend the CrossFit community was rocked by a terrible injury sustained by a big name athlete at a large scale competition. Kevin Ogar from Crossfit Unbroken in Denver, CO missed a 235# Snatch which ricocheted off plates stacked behind him — striking his back, and severing his spinal cord at T11/T12. Currently, he is paralyzed from the waist down. I do not know Kevin. My only connection is through groups of athletes and coaches that know him well. However, that really does not matter here. When I heard this news I froze and immediately got chills. I am in a community of people who perform these lifts at high intensity and heavy load almost everyday, he is no different than any of us. This was not out of the ordinary. That is the most frightening part of all of this.
I think the biggest thing here is that we understand what we are doing, this exercising, this “CrossFit”, is now a full blown sport – one that is growing and growing by the minute. Just like in any sport, there is an unavoidable risk of injury – sprained ligaments, torn muscles, broken bones, and unfortunately, the ones that are much much worse, like the one we all learned about this weekend. It is important for us all to understand that there is no one or nothing to blame here. That may be difficult for some of us. When something bad happens our natural human instinct is to try our hardest to find someone or something to blame. It is usually our way of trying to comes to terms with how and why something so awful could happen. We need to find the strength to trust in a larger plan – even if that seems so ridiculous. We cannot blame the sport, or the equipment, or the event. Even in the safest place and under the safest circumstances we can create, there is an undeniable amount of risk involved in any sport.
I was a junior in college when Eric LeGrand of Rutgers University’s football team suffered a similar injury during a game. I remember reacting both physically and emotionally in almost the same way I am after Kevin’s injury. I realized that LeGrand was no different than me. He put his uniform on, taped his ankles, laced his shoes up, and put his game face on to take the field in the same way I did before every game. But he never made it to the next one. I couldn’t help but make that connection when I heard about Kevin. The open is approaching and from what I hear about him, I know he must have had big plans to make a run at his region. Like the rest of us, he had to have been training hard for countless hours a week, dedicating his life to becoming stronger, faster, and better at our sport. He went out to compete this weekend as a “precursor to the season” to test himself against the best in the sport. The unthinkable then happened, life got put in perspective, and now goals have been significantly altered.
As a community of athletes, we could react to this in two ways. The first, we could live in fear every time we walk into a gym or touch a barbell. Understandable, but not productive, beneficial, or the way I would imagine Kevin would want us to react from his incident. To be as good as he is in the sport, one must carry a strong passion for it. I believe he would not want this incident to deter anyone else’s passion for the sport or for exercise in general. The second, would be with a fierce and grateful disposition every time we walk into a gym or touch a barbell. Personally, I woke up this morning looking forward to getting in the gym and snatching. I felt like I had a duty to uphold. I didn’t care that I didn’t know him, I needed to honor him. I knew, for a fact, that there was a great athlete out there that would probably do anything right now to be able to wake up this morning, head to the gym, and put a barbell above his head, to sit and analyze his lifts, then get back on the bar and make the next one better. He would probably do anything to jump on a bar and do a set of pull-ups, or grab some rings and do some muscle ups, throw himself on the floor and get back up over and over and over again, and then go out on a run. We cannot live in fear stemming from an incident like this, we need to become even more motivated. We need to be grateful for the ability to move in the amazing way we do. We are fortunate every day to be blessed with the gift of movement. Our sport honors this gift and we need to honor it back.
I want this post to serve as a reminder while everyone is training hard this preseason. When our muscles are real sore, when we are having a bad day, when conditions aren’t optimal, when we don’t do as well as we wanted to on a workout, when we just want to stop or we are just not in the mood – there’s someone out there that would fully appreciate every single second of it and would probably kill to be in your position. We are doing Kevin an injustice by succumbing to that negativity. Be grateful. Understand how lucky you are. Realize the gift your body has. Do not take it for granted, not even for a second. Go out and destroy whatever is in front of you. Leave nothing. We need to approach the gym and the sport everyday with a reverence for our abilities and a knowledge that we are blessed to be able to do what we do, and a strong desire to Move For Kevin.
Here is the fund that has been setup to donate to Kevin’s road to recovery. He is without health insurance and has a long road of medical treatment ahead of him. We can all do our part in his progress. Kevin Ogar’s Recovery Fund
*You can find this post and other posts by my peers and I at:
As the cliche New Year blog post would go, I am going to take a minute to reflect on the past 365 days and what it has provided. In all honesty, this has been the most educational year of my life and ironically, I did not spend one day of it in a classroom. This past year has provided me with experiences I never would have thought I’d face — both negative and positive equally. It has made me smarter, stronger, and closer to my dreams.
About a year ago, I contacted Dan and told him I wanted to start training out of his gym – Crossfit Lindy in West Babylon, NY. I had been exercising in a crossfit gym for a few months at that point and had this idea that I wanted to participate in the worldwide Crossfit Open. I had been around some competitors, heard them talk about it, and thought it seemed pretty cool. I also knew Dan was the best in my area and knew his coaching and guidance would put me in the right direction. I was right, he has been nothing short of an amazing coach.
The first weekend of March 2013, the first weekend of the Open, I attended The Outlaw Way camp because one of my training partners was going and signed me up as well. Coincidentally, Dan is an Outlaw athlete and was there working/coaching as well. This is where I met Rudy Nielsen and was introduced to his “way”. I was blown away that this crossfit thing was actually a sport and could be practiced, planned, and seasoned as any other sport. I was then interested in this whole thing and I wanted to work hard to be good at the new sport that I found. I faithfully stuck to following The Way, worked with Dan daily and saw huge improvements. Months later I would join team Outlaw as one of about 20 athletes who are coached directly by Rudy and his staff.
My first four open weeks were pretty mediocre. I was sitting at 62nd in the region after week 4 when I got an awful stomach ache one day during training that just never went away – for about 30 hours. I finally headed to the hospital and had my appendix removed. Needless to say, week 5 never happened for me. I managed to squeak out 1 rep simply for a score. Fortunately, my intentions all along were to go to regionals on a team – specifically, the amazing team of athletes I had been training with at Lindy for the past months. I am thankful that my appendix (and also the case of shingles I got the day before we left for regionals) didn’t prevent me from experiencing and competing at the 2013 regionals with my team. It was for sure one of the coolest crossfit experiences I have had in my past year of doing this, and it made me hungry and motivated as ever to make a memorable impact in 2014.
Looking back, 2013 taught me 5 important lessons:
5. One will always be what one has always been.
Every time a new year approaches we hear the word “change” a sickening amount of times. For some reason, the date of 01/01 seems to signify a “time of change” for people. That is all well and good, however almost always people will revert back to their original form pretty quickly. I am going out on a limb here and saying, yes – actual true CHANGE is very rare. People will always be what they have always been. Maybe they grow, maybe they learn some lessons, maybe they gain some insight on their actions or whatnot. But I have learned this year, that one will always be what one has always been. I experienced this directly in other people as well as in myself. At the beginning of 2013 I honestly thought my “career as an athlete” was over. At the beginning of 2014 I now see that it is basically just starting over. I have always been a high level competitive athlete, and I will always be. Even when the day finally comes when I cannot physically do what I want anymore, my mind will never be able to snap out of it. My mentality and daily actions will always be that of an athlete. Those that can understand and identify with me in that way will be with me, and those that can’t will watch me from a distance.
4. You can never force the issue.
This was a big lesson to get a grasp on. One that I think I have been working on for years now and it probably is still a work in progress. The funny thing is that this is such a broad and inclusive lesson that it literally applies to EVERYTHING in life. I was a straight up scorer for my entire basketball career. My team always relied on me to put the ball in the basket. That was my role. Sometimes, on good days, that came easy for me. However on those days when it wasn’t coming so easy, I can’t even put a number on the amount of times I was told “don’t force it” or “let the game come to you.” Much easier said than done, however it is 100% applicable to everything in life. You cannot force something that is not meant to work, no matter how much you WANT it. Sometimes you just have to step away, relax, and let life come to you. Just like those days in the gym when the barbell does not want to go overhead – you cannot force the issue. Throwing 6 more attempts won’t help, in fact it will only make things worse. This year I learned that it’s okay to walk away from something even if you felt you haven’t succeeded – because forcing the issue will never make things better. Trust that it will happen when it is suppose to. That brings me right to my next lesson.
3. TRUST – in yourself, and the plan.
Trust is a funny thing. It’s a word that we LOVE to throw around. It sounds so noble and so easily attained, however it is one of the hardest things to get a grip on. We can talk about how we trust, or how we can be trusted, but the truth is that is not often the case. Most humans are creatures of doubt. I find this with myself sometimes. I say over and over again that I trust in a system or I trust what I am doing for myself is best or I trust myself that I actually am what I think I am. But then doubt finds it’s way in, and the trust bubble gets smaller. This year I feel I have learned how to ignore that doubt and just keep moving. I learned true trust in myself, the system I am following, and the life plan God has laid out for me. In the gym, I’ve learned to trust fully in my coaches and their advice – even when I see or hear of other coaches with different views. Finding a training system and trusting in it is a big deal amongst athletes, especially in this sport. However, I feel fully invested trust is the only way to give something a chance to work and the only way to achieve success. In life, I’ve learned to trust that the decisions I am making are good ones – even when they are confusing or unclear. And, in 2013 I have finally understood the meaning of everything happening for a reason. I just need to step back and trust in the reason.
2. Words are empty without action.
Yes, this is a cliche “lesson”, however it hit me like an 80mph baseball in the face this year. Sometimes, words seem to be put together SO well that we actually start to believe them without seeing any action. In my sport we say “if it’s not on video, it didn’t happen” – precisely because of that. No, I’m not saying everyone is a liar. What I’m saying is that it is a lot easier to talk about what you did or are going to do or have done or want to do – than to actually do it. Words require breath, actions actually require effort. I have learned this year that that effort is sometimes a hard thing to come by. This year I visited a gym that had the common military phrase “DEEDS NOT WORDS” painted across their wall. I found that phrase painted across my brain ever since. There are about a million cliche phrases I can insert in here that mean the same thing. But this year I have fully learned and understood the phrase. I no longer want to speak about what I feel I can accomplish – I just want to show people. I no longer want to hear what people have to tell me – I just want them to show me. Unfortunately, (and fortunately) words have lost a lot of their value in my life this year. I now need actions.
I have gotten stronger. I took a few minutes the other day to go back through my workout log and look at where I had started a year ago. It was actually incredible to see – so much that it brought a smile to my face. I’ve added 35 and 45 pounds to my clean and jerk and snatch respectively, 50 pounds to my squat, 30 pounds to my push press. I’ve cut almost 7 minutes from my Diane time, and almost 4 from my Fran time. I’ve gained movements that were nearly impossible for me simply because I put the time in to get stronger. That is all just the physical aspect of the strength I gained in 2013. My college coach spent four years of her life trying to get me to be “mentally stronger” and I wish she could see me now. 2013 left me no choice. It shook me around like a rag doll a bit, in a violent mix of amazing and awful. However, through each event I became stronger. Looking back, my increase in both physical and mental strength combined is something I will never take for granted. I am not who I was 12 months ago (actually that would be contradicting my first lesson of 2013 so let me rephrase that). I am exactly who I was 12 months ago, however, I have learned 5 invaluable life lessons that have now made me incredibly stronger both physically and mentally. I cannot wait for this upcoming year and everything I will have the ability to look in the eye and conquer.
*You can find this post and other posts by my peers and I at: