Underneath the Hoodie - Nick Peterson
By Margie Lempert
Place of Birth: Brooklyn, NY
Place of Higher Learning: Harvard
Years in New York: almost 12
Years at SBK: 2.5
Nick was tired of being told to put on his shoes. That was the thing that finally sent him to the Lyceum. That and David’s advances. And pregnant Charlotte’s transition to SBK. And the fact that we weren’t assholes. He had been happily rebelling against his years of rowing regimen with capoeira; finally life was not so... sagittal. Why go back into the pit of discipline?
It started when we met at the co-op: Nick was doing a make-up on my shift and somehow or another we got to talking about CrossFit and rowing. Turned out his wife Charlotte had been doing CF on her own at the Slope Fitness, so he knew about it, but was not personally compelled. It seemed too pushy. Too much like the years and years he’d spent competing as a rower, including a trip to the 2000 Olympics in Australia. He was over the machismo, the drive to go harder than everyone else; he’d watched so many people beat their chests only to fail. Since his final year as a competitive athlete, he’d been fascinated by training efficiently. Good technique, coupled with laziness seemed to be key. The best rowers were lazy. They did just what they needed to in training, never more. But when game day came, they could turn on the fierce competitive focus and win.
Nick had the mental toughness for competition, but he was not a natural athlete - at least according to him. He didn’t feel that he was good at moving, couldn’t really mimic movements, but rather had to rely on descriptive coaching in order to learn technique. Perhaps that’s where Nick the athlete and Nick the intellect collide.
Talking to Nick is not linear; he’s a holistic thinker, able to thread thoughts through various topics, and circle back to previous points fluidly. Maybe it’s in his blood: grandma was a major player in the women’s rights movement (Ralph Nader’s mentor, no less), and Dad’s profession as an architect took the family to Beirut when Nick was 5, where he studied at an international french school. They loved it there. The people were warm and it reminded Nick’s parents of Brooklyn. But several years later, after coming back from an intermission in Rome, the family decided it was time to leave: being caught in a bombing of the theater your Dad redesigned will do that.
The Peterson’s settled in DC and Nick reintegrated by attending another international french school. When he started public school in the 6th grade, he was thoroughly accustomed to co-mingling with kids of all nationalities, so it was a shock to be thrown into the mix of US racial politics. He knew right away that things were different; the racial divide in terms of academic tracking was obvious, and he had several social situations that reinforced his observations. All of this spawned his interest in understanding race relations, which prompted him to major in African-American studies at Harvard.
The other major life interest that Nick discovered at that school was rowing, and really sport in general. Perhaps because he didn’t feel like a natural athlete, Nick’s attitude is different from what you might expect from an Olympian. He’s very equal opportunity when it comes to learning sport. He says that anyone can be taught to be an athlete because everyone has capacity. Yes, hard work is involved and the ability to make connections between different movements, but the reality is that there is no functional limit to what one can do. One can always push harder or refine technique more; the compelling and repulsive truth to competition as well.
Technique is paramount for Nick, which is why he finally got drawn into CFSBK. That and the fact that we didn’t care if he worked out barefoot. He was extremely impressed by David and Shane’s eye for detail. He felt that the quality of instruction was higher than what he’d experienced at the various olympic centers he’d trained at. In contrast to his overall impression of CrossFit as a practice, our gym emphasized good movement and smart training. And it was fun!
If not a rower, then an artist.
Secret ability to identify the decade a building was constructed.
Loves watches, coffee, ties and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Knows a lot about movies he hasn’t seen.
His relationship with Charlotte is the definition of “meant to be”, but we’ll save that story for another time...
Favorite way to eat eggs:
What is your greatest strength as an athlete? Where have you seen the most improvement since training at SBK?
John Welbourn answers Rob I.'s Question Talk to Me Johnnie
How I Overcame BiPolar II (And Saved My Own Life) Forbes.com (Via Hunter-Gatherer)