Early last December, about nine months after joining CrossFit, I was mid-WOD when it occurred to me that it wasn’t hurting as much as it should. I was still huffing and puffing, and sweat was pouring off me, but the real burn wasn’t there. And when the WOD ended, after a few quick deep breaths, I was fine. Too fine. Either I had turned into an elite CrossFit athlete without noticing, or I had started just going through the paces. Crap.
It made sense. I was still CrossFitting five days a week, yet I wasn’t seeing the progress I had enjoyed during my first six months. Instead of feeling each rep and each second on the clock, I had begun to drift, to lose my focus. I was no longer working with purpose.
During my first two weeks of CrossFit, when I was still in On Ramp, I used to arrive a few minutes early so I could watch the class before mine finish the WOD. Towards the end of a workout that included walking lunges and planks, one woman yelled out “Why do we do this to ourselves?”
At the time I thought she was being a bit melodramatic and loud, but I’ve asked myself the same thing quite a few times in the past year.
We give all kinds of reasons to justify our CrossFit addiction. Getting in shape, developing mental strength, controlling weight, boosting energy and mood, looking good, striving for greatness. But CrossFit isn’t the only way to achieve these goals. So why do we CrossFit?
Because we like it. Because we freakin’ love it.
For some people, that’s enough. They join CrossFit, experience the initial changes to their physique, notice the improvement in their health, annoy their family and friends just a bit with some CrossFit talk, get comfortable and enjoy a few WODs a week to maintain the benefits.
Most likely they’re not doing Google Searches for CrossFit-related articles and information on how to become a Firebreather.
Back in December when I realized I had started just going through the motions (which still isn’t easy, it just isn’t the way to progress), I took a vow to become a newbie again. When you start on a new mission of self-improvement, you pay attention – because you care, because you’re determined, because you’re going to succeed. The starting part is easy; keeping the enthusiasm and sticking with it day after day is the kicker. And I had succeeded in sticking with it. In fact, I still loved it. So I had to figure out how to experience my first few months over and over. Here are a few things I did.
I asked my coach if he would help me set some challenging (yet realistic) goals for the next year. We decided to set a goal of 200 lbs for my front squat and 250 lbs for my back squat. He also threw in a goal of 20 unbroken unassisted pull ups.
How this helped: I broke down each of these large goals into monthly goals – 5 lbs a month increase for my front squat, one to two more pull ups per month, ect. Each time I do these movements, I keep a running tab on whether I’m on schedule to meet my goal at the end of 2014. So far, so good. It’s much easier to manage incremental goals than a large one.
Pick a Project
There is so much to learn in CrossFit and so many movements to conquer. It never ends. So I picked one that I wanted to do: pull ups. I set a mini-goal of 5 sets of 5 strict pull ups with the blue band (1 1/8”) five times a week – usually after a WOD (unless the WOD included a ton of pull ups). Once I achieved the 5 x 5 with the blue band, I set the same mini-goal with the red band (3/4”). On January 1, 2014 I could do one unassisted kipping pull up…sometimes. Now I can do unassisted strict pull ups and five unbroken kipping.
How this helped: There may be endless skills to learn in CrossFit, but I am now capable of doing one of the important gymnastic movements that is a foundation for many others. Knees to elbow, toes to bar, muscle ups – all will be easier now that I have lat strength and a good kipping rhythm.
Add Some Everydays
There are several movements that just make you better at everything. I’ve started doing these regularly after class and have seen progress across the board:
Some other good ones are ring dips, farmer carries and handstands.
Don’t Scale or Scale Better
Most of us have to scale. Some of us use scaling as a crutch. Yes, going heavier or doing pushups on your toes may cost you some time. You may come in last the first time you do it. But eventually you’ll be able to do Rx movements as fast as you’re doing the scaled ones. Don’t cheat yourself by going lighter than you need to. And use good form. Each rep is important. Since I’ve achieved unassisted pull ups, I have not used a band. It’s slowed down my times, but it’s the only way to truly work the skill.
By focusing on these key points for the last several months, I’ve seen exciting progress in strength and movement in general. I feel less overwhelmed by how far I have to go and more confident in what I can do.
The reasons I joined CrossFit over a year ago are not completely the same reasons I CrossFit today. Achieving goals and progressing means we need to reevaluate where we are on a consistent basis. Recommit. Renew. Find the drive you walked in with and recreate it with new purpose.
Because we love it.