From Core to Extremity: CrossFit And the Church

Two years ago when I walked into CrossFit WigWag I was super intimidated. I signed up for a summer nutrition challenge and it was the best and worst experience of my life. I was overweight, a washed-up college athlete (and an even more washed up high school athletic hall of famer), who had a pumpkin belly and a large head. I’d ‘lifted’ weights before in college, but mostly they were isometric machines (think leg curls or those pec-butterfly machines) because I was a long distance runner. Our strength training was more centered on our core than anything and for me…well, I wasn’t really the best at that either.

One of the things I’ve learned from my coaches (Aleks & Mav & Shana & Melissa) has been that the technique and way that you lift a barbell or kettlebell is more important than the weight you lift. If you’re not set up right from the beginning, your pull will be wrong, you’ll starfish like nobody has ever starfish-ed before, and you may actually complete a rep, but is it worth getting the right answer if you messed up all of the work that goes into it before?

Before you can lift the heavy stuff, perfecting the lighter stuff is not just helpful, but crucial. Every lift, pull-up, toes-to-bar, box jump, Handstand Push-up, and (from what I’ve heard because I’ve never done one) muscle-up, starts in the core. Every movement starts with us bracing our abs, obliques, and rib muscles (intercostals and whatever else is in there) so that when we are moving whatever object, we can transfer that energy to our extremities (arms or legs). Imagine how silly we’d look if we tried to only use our arms for pull-ups without using our core. Imagine how painful it would be if we deadlifted but only used our legs. Starting from core and moving from extremity is a way to help us transfer energy from one place to the other and is a way for us to stay safe in our lifts. Rounding our backs is hard to do if we are set up with a braced core.

While bracing your core is important, the second half of the saying is important as well: to extremities. we have to move from our core; the energy can’t only stay there. From Core to extremity is more than a technique or saying thrown about in the CrossFit manuals or the CrossFit boxes; it’s a lifestyle lived out communally by the people in the box.

Inside the box are all kinds of athletes, I mean that in the most sincere and non-condescending way possible. Pastors turned Brewery owners, Chefs, College staff and professors, and so…many…moms show up daily to sweat, move, and be friends. But from the inside (core) of the box, a lot of those friendships move to the extremities. Without the help of those in my box, I’d still be trying to figure out how to tape my house to paint it. Without my WigWag family and their embracing of the ‘core to extremity’ lifestyle, I’d never have had the opportunity to casually and unintentionally interrupt many dates at Knox County Brewing Company, owned and operated by our friends the Hansen’s. From the core of the box, our energy and friendship moves to the extremities–be it a Brewery or a kickball field or anywhere that we can be ourselves.

In this light, I think CrossFit is outpacing the church in ways that are more supportive, more creative, and more ‘other’ focused. The Church is busy looking for new ideas, new ways to reach the community but they’re doing it with poor form and a flabby core. We have churches who are throwing thousands of dollars into programming rather than engaging with their core people and hearing what their needs are. We have churches trying to

When the church steps up to the bar with a braced core, I hope she is ready to move to the extremities. I hope she is ready to find a way to partner with the local Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) home. I hope she is ready to find a way to help the neighbors around her get out of debt or provide opportunities to families to further their education. I hope that the church moves from the core of who they are to the extremities of loving others like Christ.

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