I attended Kokoro camp October 25-27 2013 and I officially affiliated Verdant CrossFit early 2014. Becca Voigt was in my fire team at Kokoro along with Elizabeth Akinwale. Becca later opened her own gym not long after Verdant. I haven’t changed a word of what I wrote back in November, 2013 about Sealfit. I was a few years into a PhD at the time I wrote this which is why the writing is what it is. I won my entry into Kokoro by winning the push up competition at the 2013 CrossFit Games, that was my second year in CrossFit. Like anything else in CrossFit there were people who were there that were stronger than I who did not represent themselves well under intense stress. We ran “Murph” at midnight on the first day and I believe my time was one of my fastest ever.
I wrote the following shortly before I opened Verdant CrossFit.
University of Southern California
Class of Kokoro 30
After two weeks there are still several aspects of the Sealfit Kokoro experience that I still cannot quite reconcile. And to some extent I believe that inexplicability is one of the takeaways from Kokoro. I am still surprised that I was able to sprint all-out and uphill multiple times on the third day. I haven’t lengthened my stride out to a sprint since college. The second part of that particular exercise that is honestly more surprising is that I found myself engaging emotionally with the requirements of the program. I wanted to “put out” and to show Chris Smith on the running evolution that I was the best runner in the class. To be honest, I haven’t looked up to anyone since my early years in college much less felt the desire to impress a superior or peer. Usually the knowledge that I am either better educated or more mentally tough is enough for me, but after only two days I wanted to prove myself to the men leading the camp.
At the outset of the camp I felt a greater sense of camaraderie to the other Kokoro 30 participants and felt a bridge between the participants and the instructors. I listened carefully to accents, logged ungrammaticalities, and watched movement patterns in the same way that I normally do everyday. What I didn’t know or necessarily trust was that all the instructors were there to build us up in some very nuanced and simultaneously monumental way. After a day of no sleep and pushing through the mental boundaries trapping physical potential I discarded the normal suppositions I make about people via their language and body type. I began to see the instructors completely differently and accepted their role as leaders of our group. It was hard for me to integrate the notion that there are people who are concurrently the demolishers and rebuilders of one’s mind and that you are letting them remake you. In Russian the phrase would be “Я весь переменился” (Ia ves’ pereminilsia; I am wholly changed/remade), it is hard to translate as the root of the verb lies in the verb to change but the prefix denotes transience, thereby implying a shift physically and mentally. As soon as I understood the symbiotic and ultimately organic relationship between participant and instructor I wanted to prove myself in a way that I have never experienced previously.
The second major aspect of my experience that took me by surprise was my own ability to conquer my greatest fear. I have stayed away from water my whole life; I have been six percent body fat or less my entire life because of wrestling and as a result I have avoided swimming and cold, wet activities. I grew up in Boston and lived in Siberia and I know how to handle dry cold, but being wet and cold is something that scares me and that I am not quite sure how to handle. I did my best on the two minute pushup contest at the Crossfit Games in order to win an entry to Kokoro because I knew it was going to involve water. I wanted to see how I would do against something I am afraid of. After the first few hours the surf zone was no longer a fear. The ice baths were a different story. I found that I couldn’t control my breathing properly with water poured over my head in the ice bath and it made the experience significantly harder. I also found that my muscles took a while to respond after being in the ice baths, though that may have had to do more with the sudden decrease in movement. I left Kokoro feeling like I had conquered a fear of water and cold, but I know that I need to continue putting myself in those conditions in order to maintain that gain.
I took about seven days off after Kokoro, only doing light active recovery because my ankles were swollen to twice their normal size. Earlier today I did three Crossfit WODs and I found myself remembering Kokoro and that the muscle burn that I have experienced for years can be overcome via different breathing techniques and mental focus. I have always prided myself on doing well as an athlete despite a number of physical disadvantages, but I think that I am about to find a whole new level of success. Kokoro was the hardest thing that I have ever done and it has the makings to be the most rewarding thing that I have ever accomplished as soon as my ankles start working again.