Shrugged Collective


I’ve made this morning swim a daily habit. It started with clear intent – “I’d be better off if I weren’t so large. For happiness, career, health, mobility, there’s plenty of evidence. Why not start by moving around more?”For now, I’m large, some two-hundred and seventy-five pounds. Gravity rides my ass pretty hard. Against hot pavement, I quite literally begin to wear away like cold cheddar against grater. The tissue below can’t take the pounding, baby. I need the water.

For me, swimming is a rare moment of physical freedom. After some twenty-three years of heavy lifting and sport, this is the only time I am fully mobile and without joint pain. That’s just the truth. Free of restriction, I can be something else for a little while, something much lighter.

The exercise itself has always felt ideal. I stroke comfortably, shooting my hands forward like a spear into still water ahead. I grab what I can, making sure to get my giant head as far forward and down between my shoulders as possible. That might sound excessive, but keep in mind that while this motion is the goal, the reality is that my shoulders have really high mileage. They barely move at all, which is the second reason I love the water so much. I can really work on myself here, protected.

Maybe the safety and freedom of the water is what supports the magic. The rhythm of the strokes. The continual cool of the water. It’s easy to go Zen, on account of the lack of gravity. Maybe you’re mind becomes primed. Burdened with less it’s free to consider more, which would explain why I seem to get so many ideas in between laps.

Not all are noteworthy, but some are good enough to make me forget what I’m doing. Just today I pondered away ten minutes whilst chewing on one particular random thought nugget. Just there are the end of the lanes, bobbing, starring off to the far wall. “Holy shit, everyone really is special, powerful, to one degree or another.”

I know that sounds cliche has hell, but it’s true. Let me explain my view. We tend to wonder if we’re all that unique, capable, smart, durable, what have you, but we almost always choose to believe that we are not. We just don’t feel that way, so it must not be true. “How divine could I be if I feel so average, or worse?”

For years, I wondered those things, but always fell backwards against fear and doubt and my own naivety. That caused a lot of damage. It’s probably the real reason that I allowed myself to pack on so much weight. If you asked me at the time, I would have brashly told you that, “Hey, I have a goal of being as strong as possible, OK? I know that I’m not the best physical specimen around, but I’ve been training very hard for a very long time. I’m close. If this is the price, it’s the price.”

The truth is that it’s easy to create a character that you can hide behind or deeply within, but it’s really hard and heart breaking to face yourself, your fuck-ups, inherited limitations, wounds, insecurities, social imprints, parental baggage, self-image skew, you fucking name it. For me it took many years to get around it, it’s taking time now to peel back the big, loud guy. He was a really great shield, I have to admit.

I’m trying my best. I’m doing it, very slowly. I’m not worried because I now believe that I’m super-talented, and driven, and very smart. How else could I spend so many years out in my wilderness? You might share that experience. Have you ever had a job that you were really good at, but you hated? Every day felt at least a little bit wrong. Sometimes it would be cool, just enough to make you push back your departure. I’ve been spent a lot of time right there in that spot, at various stages here and there. At the time, I felt trapped and without opportunity, but looking back I’m fascinated with how dumb and talented I really was!

Imagine, getting really good at something you fucking hate? Enough to do it for a career, to somehow keep that gig till you pop up sixty-five and well-done? That’s a really hard thing. It’s so hard, in fact, that I decided that I wouldn’t do that sort of work anymore. I was working harder and harder and harder to pretend, at each and every stage. To be the Football player, Researcher, Powerlifter, the Teddy Bear big guy. For a time, it was fine, but the literal and figurative weight is hard to carry around forever. And that’s when it hits me.

“If I’m going to pretend, why not do the easy thing and imagine that I’m whatever I want to be? I’ve been doing it so long, I must be incredibly good at this game by now. I’ve received paychecks in the past, so you could even call me professional.

The skill is there, so I should make this choice final – I’m done working really hard to be something, anything that I’m not. Not more creativity will be spilled. It’s too tough of a thing to keep up. Instead, I’ll be something that I haven’t been in a very long time. Something much lighter, free and mobile enough to become whatever I want.”

I won’t hide it. Whatever’s hiding down under the Big Guy is about as beat-up and sore as these shoulders. It’s going to take to see real movement, but that’s fine. At least I’m working on myself, right?


Chris Moore is a writer, recovering meathead, fledgling raconteur and rabid imbiber. He's also cohost and resident potty mouth on Barbell Shrugged, a weekly podcast devoted to Crossfit, strength, fitness and all things brash. His experience is drawn from over twenty-years spent training for and competing in American Football, Powerlifting, a bit of strongman and a dash of mixed martial arts. Also, it's possible that he's had one too many cups of coffee. A caffeine fever is a hell of a thing, you know?

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