The secret to success in CrossFit is not dependent on conditions and objects found external to the body, nor is it dependent on heaven sent DNA. The barbell doesn’t care how bad your lungs hurt and the pull-up bar certainly doesn’t care how fried your forearms are. Likewise, most of us don’t hit the genetic jackpot for athletic ability and are instead left to toil with our mediocre abilities. However, accepting mediocrity without ever having the desire to improve is an admission of laziness and shows apathy for our well-being and health. The rest of this article will be used to delve into the deeper nature of CrossFit and self improvement.
There is only one requirement for being a better CrossFitter and living a healthier life and anyone can meet it: work hard at the things that are important to you. That’s it. There are no tricks and gimmicks and there’s no elixir that’s going to make you breathe fire. Accept that there is no short cut to strength and power, accept that your inflexibility will remain inflexible unless you mobilize, and accept that you won’t ever run 26.22 miles unless you train intelligently.
Once you recognize your weaknesses and deficiencies and the path laid before you, realize you have the power to change if you want it bad enough for yourself. There’s no amount of urging and cheerleading that someone else can do to make you deadlift 500 pounds. Only you
can prevent forest fires can put the work in on the front end to prepare your body properly (i.e. your muscles and central nervous system). And I know that there’s no amount of pleading that I can do that will make you want to come to the gym (maybe offering high fives to people with good attendance will help?). You have to want to be at the gym. Once you realize that you can be a better human and decide that you want to change for yourself and no one else, we can help you. We have the technology tools to make you better.
Here are some keys to improving your performance (and your life):
1. Work as hard as you can in the gym and you will never be a failure. Your health is an individual pursuit and therefore, success is subjective. You don’t have to do a sub-3 minute Fran to gain respect from anyone. Our favorite (and most successful) athletes and trainees are the ones who push themselves harder and further every day they step foot in the gym. They work just as hard at the movements they suck at as they do at the movements they are naturally inclined to perform perfectly. You don’t need a PhD in rocket science to understand the necessity of commitment.
2. Practice technical movements that require coordination outside of workout time. Do you really think you’re going to magically acquire the ability to do double unders at the end of a Filthy 50 if you haven’t practiced for weeks beforehand? Practice is practice and performance is performance. Workout time is the time for you to perform; the time for you to showcase your skills. If you haven’t developed the skills (double unders, pistols, Olympic lifts, bo staff skills, computer hacking skills, etc.) with practice, expect to be mediocre. How many takes did it take to make this awesome version of “Chopsticks”? More than one and lots of practice beforehand.
3. Nutrition. Input = output. Your body is a machine. If you think of yourself as a high octane vehicle such as this one and you think about what type fuel would be optimal for maximum performance, I’m guessing you wouldn’t choose peanut oil. Sure the car might run, but why would you want to put crap (if you use google chat, type in “~@~” minus the quotation marks to your friends for funzies) into a fine tuned system? Likewise, you can’t expect to put garbage into your system and expect it to operate at maximum efficiency. Your output (performance) is directly related to what you put in (food). Food is fuel, yo.
4. Your flexibility is murdering your performance. Unless you are a yogi, which I know you’re not, you can improve your flexibility. Better positions equate to better biomechanics, which equate to better expression of power and movement. If I told you that you could add 25 pounds to your deadlift by mobilizing and stretching your posterior chain for 10 minutes a day, would you do it? Take responsibility for your nasty, crunchy, tight bits.
5. Consistent attendance. If you come in once a week to work out, sorry, you’re never going to get better at anything. Your lifts will always be sub par and your conditioning will be awful until you decide you want to take advantage of the program for which you are paying. Any program worth its weight in salt is dependent on adherence. In other words, the program doesn’t work and can’t work unless it is executed as written. The program is in place, we just need you to do it.
6. Recovery. Rest and recovery is so much more than getting your measly six hours of sleep a night. We see you for approximately one hour a day, maybe five days a week (unless we like you and you like us enough to hang out extra). For all you math whizzes out there, that’s five hours a week out of a total one hundred sixty-eight hours. You’ve got one hundred sixty-three hours to do with as you please. Your muscles don’t get stronger when you’re ripping them to shreds moving heavy things around at the gym, they get stronger when you are at home relaxing, recovering, and eating paleo treats. If you’re feeling worn out, ask yourself if you are giving your body adequate time to recover.
7. Be stronger today than you were yesterday. Mark Rippetoe sums up strength best with this quote, “strong people are harder to kill than weak people and more useful in general.” We know that there is intense love for long chippers and lung burning CrossFit style workouts, but we also know that the most difficult thing to develop in any individual is strength; it takes freaking forever and a half to get strong. Imagine for a moment that your max deadlift is 250 pounds. Now do (in your brain) “Diane” which is 21-15-9 deadlifts (225#) and handstand push-ups. Now imagine your max deadlift is 500 pounds. Now do (in your brain again) “Diane.” Which was faster? Corollary: stronger people do metcons faster (metcon stands for metabolic conditioning, basically, your cardio workouts) and are cooler and better looking. Only part of that corollary is actually true, you can decide which part is chaff. We want you to love 3×3 strength days as much as Fran and we want you to be totally enamored with max effort single days because that is your opportunity to show off your stuff. Strength and conditioning are inevitably tied together, don’t neglect either. Do your due diligence on lift days for more power.
8. Performance based fitness. Do you know why New Year’s resolutions fail and why people don’t stick to diets for more than a week or two at a time? First, because they are weak minded (suck it up, people), and secondly, and much more importantly, they don’t see change. CrossFit workouts are measured by a clock, by number of repetitions, and by weights. Conditions are repeatable and re-testable. I’m no science master (I only have my brown belt), but I’d say that’s solid experimental design. From workout to workout, our athletes can SEE that they are getting stronger and faster because they all have log books (right?). Tied in with performance, you should be setting goals for yourself. Training with no purpose is silly and it doesn’t do you any good. Want to deadlift 500 pounds? Write it down. Want to overhead squat your body weight 15 times? Write it down. Hold yourself accountable by telling other people your goals. You’d be surprised at how willing people are to help you achieve and who knows, you might inspire someone else to achieve at the same level.
Last, but certainly not least, we (the trainers) look at your health as a long term endeavor. We observe your performance on a day to day basis so that we can adjust it and make it better tomorrow. We look at the potential end product, not just the current “not as good as you could be” version. We always want more from you and while you should be proud of every accomplishment, you should ALWAYS be thirsting for more.
Work hard, RVA.