CrossFit in Prison: From a Prisoner's Perspective
"You can't believe in CrossFit and not believe in redemption."
These words were coined by Greg Glassman, founder and CEO of CrossFit Inc. To me these are more than just words. As I stare at them I ask myself, "can a person rehabilitate themselves in prison? Is redemption possible or are we just making criminals stronger?". From these stem the ultimate question, "can people change?".
With the recidivism rate in America reaching nearly 70%, the answer to these questions do not look promising, I admit. If we look at this problem from a business point of view, and prison was a business selling a product, based strictly on the numbers, 7 out of 10 of their products are returned unusable. Let's face it, if 7 out of 10 athletes in your box do not return because they did not see results or were not happy with the training, you would either be out of business in a very short amount of time or you would try something new. It is true there are many cognitive education classes offered to us by the state, as well as different classes in one construction field or another, and if a person takes these seriously and endeavors to better himself or herself they have tremendous value. But who is to say a person is not taking these classes simply for the certificate, or to pad their files for the parole board? I think it is time to try something new. Over the years, I have sought many different ways of bettering myself. I have found that a healthy balance of faith and fitness is the best way for me to live.
You see, prison has many walls. There are the obvious ones that prevent us from enjoying the liberties freedom has to offer. But there are also more subtle, self-imposed walls that are not exclusive to a person in prison. These self-imposed walls are keeping us just as far from our families and society as the concrete ones. These are the walls I see CrossFit breaking down in the lives of men here and I imagine in the lives of CrossFitters everywhere. I have seen a very diverse group of men come together, suffer together and ultimately grow together in all aspects of their lives. I believe in the regenerative work that CrossFit promotes in a person's life. I believe that humanity exists and I believe the community that CrossFit builds is the prescription for healing in a broken person's life. CrossFit does not just bring out the best in people; it has a way of brutally showing a person exactly what their best is and how to get there through good old-fashioned American stick-to-it-ness. Anybody that has ever told themselves they could not finish Murph, and finished it anyway, gains an unflappable fixity of purpose that is hard to match, in or out of prison. To put it simply, CrossFitters succeed at what they put their minds to, in or out of the gym.
Integrity, self-discipline, maturity, accountability; you just can't get these from a book. However, we have found that with a few rusty barbells, some well-worn bumper plates, a handful of pull-up bars and the CrossFit methodology, these values have no choice but to weave themselves into the habits of those who willingly seek to better themselves, not for any sort of recognition, but for the satisfaction of doing better than we did yesterday in every area of life. We have learned that if the overhead squat exposes every fault in the air squat, CrossFit exposes every fault in life. To me, surrendering your lumbar curve during the deadlift is synonymous with not keeping your word to a friend or loved one. Both problems must be eradicated in order for success to be achieved.
Here at Redemption Road CrossFit we do not offer certificates, only PRs. There are no free lessons in our classes, only hard-won battles in the gym that transfers seamlessly into daily life. You can not fake your way through 30 rounds of "Cindy", or a sub-3 minute "Fran". You just can't. These things require a certain commitment that must be constantly strived for, and once achieved must be continually strived for day in and day out. So, can a person change for the better? Absolutely. Is it easy? Absolutely not. The secret ingredients - support and community. Behind the walls of Redemption Road CrossFit, without the support and community of the fittest people on earth, we would probably be just another group of criminals making themselves stronger, but we are not. We are a group of men that have acknowledged the gravity of the mistakes we have made and are seeking to somehow, in some small way, redeem our pasts, reform our present and rejuvenate our futures.
From everyone at Redemption Road CrossFit, we sincerely thank the entire CrossFit staff and community for their support and encouragement.