DNF vs. DFL – YOU Decide

When I started crossfit, my goal was to do the best I could with the strength, flexibility, and abilities I had at the time. Often that meant scaling workouts down a ton.

Guess what? Even after a year of crossfit, that’s still my goal and I still scale workouts down. No two days are the same. And even if I do the same workout on two different days, the old quote from Heraclitus holds true.

You cannot step into the same river twice. – Heraclitus

Day to day, moment to moment, workout to workout – you are not the same person exactly. We change. Our mental state changes. Our physical state changes. The people we are with is different. The weather, equipment, trainer… there are infinite variables. And it is simply not possible to recreate the same conditions again.

strength-comes-from-overcomingBut the one thing I try to do EVERY workout I participate in… is finish.

Sounds simple, but it’s not.

If you’ve seen “DNF” before on the board for someone’s workout, it means “Did Not Finish.” And it’s a mark of shame for many people. Sometimes there’s a legitimate reason such as the athlete gets hurt and can’t complete it. Or maybe they ran out of time (sometimes you have to set a time limit on a workout and just can’t complete in the time allotted).

And then there are the people who just give up…

It’s easy to get into that state. You get tired. Worn out. Sore. Hurt. And the reps you have left just seems like an insurmountable obstacle.

I’ve been there.  Many times.

That’s when I’m thankful for my trainers and my fellow athletes who offer encouragement. Sometimes they help me scale the workout. Sometimes they get down on the ground and help with those last few reps and do them AGAIN just to show their commitment to helping you achieve your goal.

Sometimes it’s my wife who is there by my side matching me rep for rep. Sometimes it’s my kids. Sometimes it’s that new person at the box whose name I can’t even remember.

And I do the same for them. Shouting “Woo hoo! Go So-and-So!” or “Great work!” across the room. Offering to help. Giving even a tiny nod that says “yup, I know it hurts and you’re tired, but keep up the great work and we all believe in you.”

In a year, I’ve only received a DNF twice that I can remember. They’re like little black marks on my mental report card of effort in each workout. I don’t regret them – like I said, sometimes things happen and you just can’t finish.  But I use them as motivation. I don’t want a third. Or a fourth. It’s a horrible habit to get into. Ultimately you’re not giving up on the workout but you’re giving up on yourself.

That said, I come in DFL on a regular basis. Dead Fricking Last.

There’s a bazillion reasons I could give, whether I’m competing against people half my age or doing a movement with weight that’s probably too heavy for me but I’m pushing through anyway or running another 400m at a turtle’s pace because I’m just out of juice.

But ultimately I’m not competing against anybody but myself. I may shoot for a particular time or number of reps. But so long as I finish – that’s ok.

So DFL is NOT the same as DNF. Same number of letters. Even a couple of the same letters. But they mean completely different things.

Every workout I’m thankful I have great people in my corner cheering me on, but ultimately it comes down to ME. Do I choose to give up or persevere? Only I can decide that.


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