Lessons of the Medicine Ball

One of our athletes, brought this in for me to read after Thursday’s WOD beginning with 150 Wall balls, followed by 90 Double Unders and 30 Muscle ups…that is if you could get through the wall balls(which I didn’t). Wall balls are one of my achilles heels in CrossFit. Perhaps, my absolute least favorite movement. I know that I am not the only one that feels that way, so I wanted share this piece that Joseph wrote.

Lessons of the Medicine Ball
by Joseph Thompson

My first day back to CrossFit after a prolonged absence fell on the Ides of March. Go figure. I’m not superstitious, but I believe in literature. This is the day when bodies are punished, and the world brings down those with too much ambition. I had come in anticipating the previous day’s workout: a nice 1000 meter row, some burpees for fun, and a few dozen box jumps. While running the class through a menagerie of animal themed warm-ups, Coach Heather wrote the WOD on the whiteboard: 150 wall balls, 90 double unders, and 30 muscle ups—as many reps as possible in 12 minutes. Not what I had prepared for. That one little surprise provided all the invitation my nemesis needed to make an appearance.
I call him Joe, although he goes by a lot of names and both genders. It all depends on who’s listening to him. Joe usually whispers, but at the gym he shouts. Regardless of volume the script never varies. He reiterates the same litany of doubts, recites the endless checklists of all failings, and replays each misstep I’ve ever made. I believe athletes are people who have learned to silence their own Joe in pursuit of their passions.
On this day, Joe laughed when I picked up the fourteen pound medicine ball, rather than the prescribe twenty. He carefully recorded each time I missed the target or failed to squat properly. And with every squat, leap, and toss, he made the ten-foot target look higher and the ball feel heavier.
As I made my 70th throw, Joe reminded me why I’d been avoiding CrossFit. He showed me the job I had loved, and the new owner who’d fired everybody the week after New Years. He became the loneliness I still wrestled with after the adventure had worn off my 1,900 mile move from the East coast to the Southwest desert. He mocked the paralyzing impotence I let envelop me as I watched a dear companion die from cancer only a couple weeks ago.
The ball missed the target by a foot. Joe was right. In the three months I stopped working out, I quit smoking only because I had the flu. I gained about twenty-five pounds and not an ounce of it muscle. I was eating not to fuel, but to sedate. Who was I to waste Heather’s time as a coach? To hold back a class of achievers? To think that anybody at CrossFit would want to workout around the flabby mess I had made of my life? And then gravity refocused my attention as a fourteen pound medicine ball hit my face on its way back down.
I did not make it through all three exercises. I still don’t know if I can do a single muscle up, much less thirty. I never even got close to touching the jump rope for the double unders. And I only completed 95 of the 150 wall balls. But after that ball connected with my nose, I found myself listening only to the supporting calls as my classmates cheered each other on. The new soundscape silenced Joe. Over the next 25 throws, my world narrowed to the thwack of leather against concrete, the whitewater roar of blood in my ears, and the burn in my chest as I struggled to focus my erratic breathing.
For one moment, I knew the athlete I could be.


60 oh squats 75/55
30 double under
60 push press
30 double under
60 jerks
30 double unders
60 box jumps
30 double unders

Mobility WOD