Evolution of a CrossFitter

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Originally posted on CrossFitLittleton.net

For those of us that make it past the early, formative phases of training and continue our strength and conditioning into it’s maturity (long term training as a lifestyle), there are many ups and downs. Most people won’t do anything that takes committed hard work to keep progressing for very long i.e more than 6 months-1 year. Once the honeymoon phase is over and the PR’s and remarkable progress stop coming every time you train, it’s much easier to switch to the next activity. So that takes care of 80% of folks and leaves the remaining 20% (us).

I have noticed in my own training which admittedly is quite short (CrossFit for the last 4.5 years but much longer if you include martial arts) some noteworthy phases or things worth mentioning, all of which I have experienced. I’ll use CrossFit training as an example since we are a CrossFit Gym, but I’m certain it applies to other disciplines and areas of life.

Falling in Love: You discovered CrossFit, showed up at the gym, signed up and now you are completely bonkers for it. Several pitchers of the kool-aid have been consumed and friends and family want nothing more than for you to STOP talking about CrossFit.

The Honeymoon: You are learning so much everyday! You’re getting stronger and stronger and your capacity is increasing week after week after week. Each time you lift or do a Benchmark workout you PR. You are adding a new movement or skill to your repertoire constantly and marveling at your progress. Not to mention the way your body is changing cuz you’re doing a pretty decent impersonation of Paleo.

Realizing your Strengths and Weaknesses: CrossFit is great at pointing out our weaknesses. If you’re a skinny endurance nut you CRUSH people on running, rowing and body weight stuff but it finally starts to dawn on you that strong CrossFitters lift a lot more than their bodyweight, repetitiously even. Turns out you are a LONG way from a bodyweight power clean and apparently that’s some kind of deficiency in CrossFit land.

Or, maybe you’re a powerhouse built more like a square than a rectangle. You’ve discovered a natural affinity or a rekindled interest in lifting weights and you’re pretty strong! Your deadlift and clean fall squarely in the advanced category of CFL’s Athletic Levels but apparently you also need to be able to do muscle up’s and run a 6:10 mile to be an “advanced” athlete. Doh!

Discovering Plateaus: After a year and a half of consistent training you start to run up against some walls. PR’s are elusive. You have gained some perspective over the last year and you realize your Oly lifts are still grade school level. Your most recent Fran time was actually 25 seconds SLOWER than your personal best and that really chaps your hide.

The Bale Out: You have considered quitting and moving on to Zumba or something else. (We have definitely lost the 80% at this point.) Cynicism starts to take hold of your perception. You have completely given up on getting better at the modalities you suck at or achieving goals you set for yourself in the past (“Forget it, I’ll never get a muscle up.”) You don’t even try anymore. Rather, you have taken to training on your own, or not at all, cherry picking workouts that fit well into your wheelhouse and avoiding your weaknesses or higher skill stuff as it’s just too hard. Every now and then you show up at a class if it suits you or you’re in the mood for some “coaching”. You start and prematurely stop a number of protocols on your own, always on the watch for that silver bullet that will inspire you and bring the PR’s flooding back.

I’m sure there are plenty of other phases and emotions but these are a few I’m familiar with. All of that being said, here are some things for your consideration:

1. Settle down! You know at this point that you’re training as a lifestyle. Don’t be too hard on yourself. It’s important that you enjoy your training since you plan on doing it for  a long time and you need to figure out how to make it fun each day.

2. Focus on refining your technique and skill. Lot’s of people have great capacity or are just naturally strong but when it comes to Olympic lifting or gymnastics skills…not so much. How’s your quality of movement in and out of the metcon? Watch a workout sometime and see how many people you see with a partial range of motion, on their toes, off balance, backs rounded doing 1/2 pull-ups etc. Make it a goal to start doing every workout with perfect range of motion and quality of movement. This is a different practice than “go as fast as possible”, think about it… This alone will put you in the top 10% of the gym.

If you’ve been training consistently for 3 years you’re probably not going to take your Fran time from 5.5 minutes to 2. It’s not that you still can’t make gains, just that you’re time may be spent better elsewhere.

3. Sign up for a competitive/sporting event – anything! If you are not competing in the Sport of Exercising, or anything else, it can become very difficult to know what the hell you are training for as the years pass. It’s great to train for your health, for your sanity, for the sanity of your spouse etc. But it gets hard. You may find yourself very unfocused in the gym and wonder “what the ef am I doing!?”

Setting a deadline (the event) and directing your training towards optimum performance during that event will give you renewed focus. It’s fine if you never compete but you need to know that the pinnacle of your performance and achievement will only be reached by going through this process.

4. It gets fun all over again. In case you haven’t noticed things in life tend to be cyclical. Training by yourself starts to suck (you know, like before you came to the gym). You finally let it all go and resolve to show up to class having no clue what the WOD is. Turns out it’s fun to train with your friends and some coach that helps you have a breakthrough realization about the squat snatch – a movement you have skillfully avoided for the last year. And…CrossFit is fun again!

Good training to you!

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