So it’s no secret to anyone who knows me that I’m into fitness. I’ve actually been an athlete my whole life. I played sports all through high school. In college, I ran cross country (I hate running now) and began to seriously lift weights. By the time I started my law enforcement career, I was what the kids called a “fitness nut.” I was always on the hunt for the newest and best training techniques to get me fit and keep me that way.
As a police officer, my life depended on me being fit. Now, before you say it, yes, there are a lot of fat, out of shape police officers out there. I fought that battle with my fellow officers for 16 years. My thirst for fitness became really sharp when I made SWAT. Well, we called it SRT (Special Response Team) but you get the point. I was a SWAT operator for almost twelve years of my sixteen year career. It was as a tactical operator that I came to understand that fitness could literally mean the difference between life and death.
Don’t get me wrong, you needed to be well trained. You needed to be proficient with all your weapon systems and tactically sound and you needed to train and train and train. The real world crucible of a live operation where bullets start flying necessitate hard training. The more I got into it, the more intensely I pursued physical training as well. I wanted to find something that was functional and would serve me as a street officer and operator and get me to my sharpest edge.
Around the twelve year mark of my career, I was getting bored with the same old thing when it came to fitness. It was around then that I discovered CrossFit. Now, before we go any further, let me throw in some caveats. This is not a plug for CrossFit. Nor is this a bashing session for CrossFit. This is merely me stating my opinion based on my own experience as an athlete, affiliate owner and full on CrossFit junkie.
CrossFit was what I had been looking for (or so I thought). I could achieve a very high level of fitness without spending two hours at the gym. Heck, I loved it so much I started my own affiliate that my wife and I owned and operated for three years. I saw lives changed, made so many great friends and got to compete against some very high level athletes. But along the way some things happened. Number one, I started getting older. The closer I crept to 40 the more this stuff was hurting. I was constantly sore and some minor thing was always injured.
The second thing that happened is that I began to question the efficacy of it as truly being “functional” specifically as it related to law enforcement. Don’t get me wrong, as I’ve said, you can achieve a very high level of fitness utilizing CrossFit methodology. But I was asking myself questions like, “What the point exactly, functionally, of muscle ups?” I mean, aside from being cool and fun, what was their functional purpose.
Fast forward almost five years. I’m now 45 years old and no longer in the CrossFit world. Not because I think it’s bad or anything. It’s just that my desires have changed and I don’t care about being a competitive level athlete anymore or how much I can clean and jerk. What I do care about is longevity and functionality. And that brings me to what I really wanted to say today.
I discovered sandbag training a little while ago. In fact, a friend sent me a sandbag so that I could do some of these workouts for myself. I also, around that time, discovered the Brute Force app. This app is solely designed for the use of sandbags in training. Can I just tell you something? This stuff is awesome! I love training with a sandbag. Here are some reasons.
A good quality sandbag is not super expensive. You don’t need to spend thousands of dollars on barbells and squats racks and rings and wall balls and all those cool toys you find in CrossFit gyms around the world. You can spend around $200 or less (mostly less) and get a really high quality sandbag. Then go to Home Depot and get play sand. That’s right, play sand. Like what you would put in your kids sandbox. You can get 100 pounds for less than $10.
Voila. You now have your very own home gym. The only limitation is your imagination. You can carry it, clean it, squat it, press it, swing it, throw it…etc. etc! And if you don’t want to do your own programming, download the Brute Force app. You’re welcome.
I can now carry my gym with me anywhere I go. If I have to get on an airplane, I can just dump my sand out and find a Home Depot or something like that where I’m going and I’m in business! No more worrying about lugging heavy equipment with you when you travel or searching for a gym where you’re going. Dump the sand, fold it up, put it in your luggage. You’re welcome.
This might be my favorite part. There is literally almost nothing you can’t do with a sandbag and here’s another really cool thing. Water won’t hurt it. Unlike barbells and kettlebells which can rust, these won’t. I’d still suggest you dry them out if they get really soaking wet but water won’t hurt ‘em. But the really cool part of functionality here is that it relates to real life, especially for those who operate in tactical venues. The use of sandbags forces you to deal with things that move, which forces you to stabilize your body in a totally different way than a barbell does. A barbell is static, a sandbag’s contents shift around making it really difficult to handle. Again, the practicality of sandbag training for tactical use is hard to overstate.
So, for my fellow police officers out there, for the military folks and firefighters (had a hard time choking that out ‘cause let’s be honest, firefighters really wanna be cops), go get you a sandbag, load it up and get after it. Commanders, looking for something to help get your people in shape and don’t want to spend a ton of money, get them some sandbags.
There are times in our lives that things aren’t going the way we planned. At least for me and my family that has been the case for a few years now. After awhile of doing what you feel is the right thing and in obedience to the call of God on our lives, we expect certain things to happen. I mean, let’s be honest here. Whether it’s biblical or not (spoiler alert: it’s not) we have a tendency to think that when we “do the right thing” then good things will come to us.
That’s just simply not true. The entire testimony of Scripture, if we’re paying attention, points us to the fact that obedience to God does not always equal earthly reward.
Can I just be honest with ya’ll? I’m really struggling hard with this right now. I’ve been really wrestling with some bitterness toward God. I’ve said some unkind things to and about him. I’ve wondered, privately and publicly, why we feel like we’ve done the right things and things haven’t worked out well for us.
You come to a place where you ask yourself:
What’s the point?
Does any of the things that I’ve done in obedience and faith matter?
I’m here to tell you that it does. It matters what you do and how you do things in obedience to God and it matters how you treat people along the way. I want to give you an example of something that happened recently in my family’s life.
Once upon a time, my wife and I owned a CrossFit gym…a “box” as we call it in our CrossFit cultish world. We owned and operated the gym while I was in seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina. We worked harder and more hours than I care to remember. It was a really hard time in our lives. We got up way before sunrise, coached and trained all day, sweated and cheered our clients on and then I’d go home and do homework and get like four hours of sleep and get up and do it all over again the next day.
It was incredibly hard.
And incredibly rewarding.
We had more community and friendship with those folks than we have ever had before or since. Our clients were some of our closest friends. As an aside, it makes me sad that the Church doesn’t serve this function as often as it should. Most churches don’t do this very well at all. Anyways…
I told my wife the other day that our time owning that gym was the only time in my life when I felt like I was actually making a difference in people’s lives. Despite all those years as a police officer and even time as a pastor and it was the gym that felt like we were actually changing people’s lives.
Fast forward three years. It’s been a hard three years. Disappointment after disappointment has come about, what has seemed like failure and after failure, pain and tears and lots of questions like:
What’s the point? Does anything I’m doing matter?
And then the other day I got a gift in the mail. It was from a former client and friend from our gym in NC who shall remain nameless. This person had been observing from a distance our struggles over the last three years and so they sent a gift. It was to encourage me/us and to let us know what a difference we had made in their life during their time with us at the gym.
Can I just tell you how wonderful that felt? To know that we had made a real and tangible difference in someone’s life was precisely the encouragement I needed in that moment. So I want to pass along to you the encouragement I received. I want you to not be discouraged. Those little things you do for others are not in vain and they are not unnoticed. Jesus talked about this in Matthew 25:40 when he says,
“The King will answer and say to them, “Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.”” (NASB)
Be encouraged today, brothers and sisters, your work is not in vain. You are making a difference. Your Master is watching and he is pleased.
Soli Deo Gloria!