The “Whole-Man” Concept

2011 Cold War Mid Atlantic




I’d like to share with you a concept that was taught to me when I was first trying out for Special Forces back in 1999. This concept can serve to help you in many different ways along your fitness journey to greatness. It’s known as the “Whole-Man Concept” and this thought process was how the US Army made its final decision on all of us soldiers that were still there, broken, beaten, malnourished and beyond tired (And most importantly never said the words, “I quit”) as we crossed the final finish line. They couldn’t keep all of us…or maybe they could but instead chose to STILL trim some more fat off the top before they announced who would be permitted into the next phase of training.

I speculated as I stood there in the cold looking at the others who finished with me. They had split us into 3 separate groups so we had no way of knowing which group or groups would be staying. So many thoughts went through my head, “That guy was the first to finish EVERY run…”, “He was so much stronger than me during log PT…”, or, “That guy’s a complete idiot!”, “No way they will pick him and not me”.

I have to be honest, I was weak in some things, and they tested us on SO MANY different areas… Running, climbing, swimming, land navigation, the ability to function under sleep deprivation, mental acuity, I.Q. tests, rucksack marches, food deprivation, leadership, ability to work as a team, etc.

What I didn’t fully recognize at the time was that what they were looking for were the aspects of a “Whole-Man” that they could further train to become an elite member of Special Forces, not one that already was. That doesn’t mean a “Super Man” or “Iron Man”…what it means is a man with an all-around ABILITY TO BE ABLE TO FIRST ADAPT, GROW, AND THEN EXCEL in all of these different areas (Sound like anything familiar? I’ll give you a hint…CrossFit). They knew we all had weaknesses. They also knew which ones could be fixed and how to fix them.

Except they didn’t have the time like we do here at the gym. Time to allow a man/woman to progress from ANY level and at whatever pace they are able to handle. We can work with anyone. At selection, if a guy panicked in the water, he had to go. If a guy failed to move across land quickly enough and in the right direction, he was gone. If he couldn’t show a certain level of intelligence and aptitude, he was let go. They didn’t have time to teach these these things to us. These things already had to be instilled in us.

There was one major thing in Special Forces selection that mattered above everything else though (Exactly like it matters here in this gym and with CrossFit). If a man wasn’t willing to endure some hardship, falling down, potential embarrassment, pain, bruises, and a little blood-letting…all he had to do is say, “I quit”, go back home, and never come back. Quitting means never giving yourself the chance to say, “What if…”. Quitting equals failure.

Men and women can do the same exact thing with CrossFit. They can simply choose to not do it because it hurts a little and you have to learn new skills…or go the the other, preferred route and stick around to do it BECAUSE it hurts a little and you will GET to learn new skills. Have you ever done anything in your life that you claimed as a personal success or victory that didn’t involve at least a little bit of pain and hardship? I haven’t. We know you might be a little intimidated by CrossFit, we know you have weaknesses. That’s what we’re here for. We want to help you. It actually matters to us to see you improve.

As for me, I’ll take the beatings to call myself a CrossFitter. I expect to be bruised repeatedly. I smile to myself when I bleed in the gym. When I work strength I plan to go until I fail otherwise I won’t know my current limitations. I do Met-Cons hard enough to burn my lungs out. I hold static gymnastics positions to the point of tears. I do all these things because I know it will make the next thing I have to endure easier. Improvement requires you to do work. Period.

…And all my members do these things right along side me (Many of them better than me) because they seek more and choose to be more. I have seen the true potential of man within CrossFit, within our very gym, and we get to push our potential every single day. They seek to improve their “Whole-Man” everyday working on both strengths AND weaknesses. We endeavor to teach every potential CrossFitter that it’s progress not perfection and that you CAN be better.

You CAN do it. You just have to be willing to stick around long enough to learn. You have to be willing to be coached. You have to endure some pain…you have to DO THE WORK.



Comments on The “Whole-Man” Concept

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