Time Again

May 17, 2015
The Alarm Clock.  Fernand Leger, 1918.

The Alarm Clock. Fernand Leger, 1918.

Time is on my mind. Measuring my performance by reps per minute, pacing my lifts so they start slow and finish fast, all in a matter of two elapsed seconds, noting the skills that need to be mastered before competition—is there enough time for me to master this? Time expands—when I’m working at my best, the ten seconds from setup to lockout in the deadlift feel like an hour—and contracts. Only three months until the Games.

In the gym, I’m constantly surrounded by time. The analogue clock on the wall, the countdown timer, my wristwatch, my timer app, a stopwatch: I use them all, sometimes simultaneously. I break hours into minutes, minutes into ten second intervals, those intervals into second-long movements. I turn my body into a metronome. The sound of my own breath keeps pace.

Whenever I lose myself in the physicality of time, I’m pulled back into the awareness that time equals achievement. Can I fit more pull-ups into a minute than I did last week? Can I shave time off my mile run before the Games? Even as time suspends during an intense workout, the countdown clock is ticking away in my mind.

L'horloge (The Clock).  Fernand Leger, 1918

L’horloge (The Clock). Fernand Leger, 1918

Claudia Hammond, in “Time Warped,” talks about the many ways in which we perceive time: “We construct the experience of time in our minds, so it follows that we are able to change the elements we find troubling — whether it’s trying to stop the years racing past, or speeding up time when we’re stuck in a queue, trying to live more in the present, or working out how long ago we last saw our old friends. Time can be a friend, but it can also be an enemy.”

The constraint to be the very best I can be on July 21—the day the 2015 CrossFit Games begin—could seem hostile and looming, but I actually find it exhilarating. Urgency makes every moment feel vital, which makes the days feel slower, more meaningful. I feel, as Joseph Campbell put it, “the rapture of being alive.”

 

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2 Comments

  • Reply Peter May 18, 2015 at 3:57 pm

    Great post.

  • Reply Rev. Cathleen Cox May 25, 2015 at 11:05 am

    This struck me because time and how it was perceived in the ancient world is the subject of Blythe’s dissertation for her Ph.D. in Philosophy down at UCSD – where she is in the fourth year. She is about to defend her prospectus on this topic to her dissertation committee before she is permitted to spend the next three years writing the thing. A taste for excellence in one’s chosen field of endeavor seems to run in the blood.
    As someone for whom mindfulness is a spiritual practice, I’m fascinated by (and often grateful for) how experience changes when one’s focus is brought only to the moment lived rather than being caught in the past or future.

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