…the faithful must also be encouraged to do outward acts of penance, both to keep their bodies under the strict control of reason and faith and to make amends for their own and other people’s sins. …It is right, too, to seek example and inspiration from the great Saints of the Church. Pure as they were, they inflicted such mortifications upon themselves as to leave us almost aghast with admiration. And as we contemplate their saintly heroism, shall not we be moved by God’s grace to impose on ourselves some voluntary sufferings and deprivations, we whose consciences are perhaps weighed down by so heavy a burden of guilt?
–Blessed Pope John XXIII, Paenitentiam Agere, promulgated on July 1, 1962
He described it as “agony coupled with laughter,” and that’s often the vibe in the gym. Of course, the workouts themselves have an obvious likeness to boot camp. And, some of them are designated as “Hero Wods,” workouts that take their name from firefighters, cops and those in the military who had a connection to CrossFit and died in service….
When I started CrossFit, I was troubled by the hero wods. The prospect of doing pull-ups and push-ups to honor a dead American soldier struck me as suspect, if not morally bizarre. I got the idea: the intensity of the workout is meant as a sign of respect, and the small sacrifice you undergo in the workout is meant to venerate the ultimate sacrifice paid by the honoree. …our public rituals for reckoning with our dead, especially those who die in service to us, are insufficient. As our coach once put it, “During this workout, think about the fact that you’re not dead.” I got it and still I found doing a workout a strange way to memorialize a soldier.
“We are debtors, then, my brother—but not to the flesh, so that we should live according to the flesh. If you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the evil deeds of the body, you will live” (Rom.8:12-13).