It had been a long day, even for a Monday, and I was tired. Weary. Just the thought of touching a barbell made me want to take a nap. But I had already taken my rest day for the week, and I had slept well the night before, so surely this bout of fatigue was simply mental weakness. I needed to work on my clean. I needed to work on my double unders. I needed to do some thrusters. I could rest after the WOD. I downed a late afternoon cup of coffee and drove to the box.
I was in the middle of an unbroken set of double unders when a severe pain in my left calf caused me to topple to the floor. A bit embarrassed, I stood back up, took a breath and started over…and once again landed on my butt. My calf simply gave out. Coach did a quick assessment and brought out the VooDoo Band and a lacrosse ball. I sat and watched the rest of the class transition from double unders to thrusters.
After I’d been VooDoo’d and lacrossed, Coach asked me if my calf was better. “Yes!” I said and jumped up to get in on the thrusters. And again hit the floor.
My calf was not better.
And way deep down – where we keep those ‘I rather not know’ thoughts – I was not surprised. For the last couple of weeks I had been working on rebounding my box jumps. A lot. Like after almost every class. In fact I had felt a tiny tinge of stress in my calves, so tiny that I convinced myself it wasn’t there. Now the twinge was a full-blown calf strain and couldn’t be ignored.
In my efforts to train harder, I had cut corners on my recovery. And now my training was temporarily derailed.
With so much to learn and a constant push for progress, it’s easy to cut corners. I asked four coaches about the corners we cut and how that sabotages what we’re ultimately trying to achieve.
John Rushin: Cutting Corners with Poor Form & Technique
As a coach I see athletes every day doing things to cut corners in an effort to make things easier on themselves. Hopefully, they realize that making things easier is not exactly in the spirit of why we train. One of the most common errors and acts of self-sabotage that I see in my athletes (especially at the beginner level) is execution of movements using poor form and/or technique. This is where the athlete’s form is improper or breaks down to the point of losing the benefit of the movement or risking injury. No one’s form is picture perfect all the time and I understand that. However, there is a significant difference between form slightly deteriorating due to fatigue and form that is flat out incorrect and dangerous.
So why do we as coaches and trainers want our athletes to focus so much on proper form? The answer is simple. Proper exercise form engages the muscles targeted by the movement and is the safest way to execute that specific movement! As coaches we need to ensure that our athletes are well versed in proper form and technique before we have them begin movements with weight and certainly before using weight combined with high intensity execution. This is absolutely vital in any training program as it promotes healthy growth and advancement of the athlete under safe conditions. Nothing is more debilitating to the progression of an athlete than an injury. This is quite a blow to any athlete and has the potential to create set backs physically, mentally, and emotionally. Our athletes need to realize the importance of proper form in every movement they do every day to maximize their benefit and minimize the risk in training. (For a more in-depth article on this topic from John Rushin, click here.)
Christopher Sortman: Cutting Corners By Not Setting Goals
In my opinion, clients cut corners by not setting goals for themselves, both short term and long term.
In just ‘working out’ and showing up for the WOD, there can be no true long term progress. In order to make progress, we need to ‘train’ and not just ‘work out’. Training involves benchmark testing followed by a well thought out plan followed by more testing. Many people just think that by ‘CrossFitting’ they can make consistent, long term progress. In the beginning this is true simply because they are so untrained. As time goes on though, we forget that new goals need to be set. “Not being the slowest one in a WOD” is not a good goal. Numbers make good goals. And in CrossFit, by nature, we need LOTS of numbers: benchmark lift numbers, desired bodyweight/bodyfat, run times, benchmark WOD times, skill acquiring, etc. If you have not taken the time to set out those goals for yourself, you’re cutting corners!
One of the most common ways I see people cutting corners is not warming up properly in their strength work. I’m not sure if it’s the pressure of time or just not knowing any better that causes athletes to do this. If your programming calls for a set at 80% of your max clean and jerk (or any lift, for that matter) you should work your way up to that percentage. Haphazardly throwing that much weight on a barbell is often a recipe for a crappy lifting day and more importantly putting you at a higher risk for injury.
Not everything is a hack.
We all have a little 007 in us. I get it. And, to be honest, this life hacking phenomenon we’re seeing these days is a result of the best intentions and an even greater trend in personal responsibility when it comes to fitness and health.
Nonetheless, not every mechanism of health and fitness has a secret-ninja-back-door. In that way, many of these hacks are an effort to cut corners, in my opinion. Sometimes performance, weight-loss, putting on muscle mass, or whatever else it is that you’re after is available with boring, old fashioned, tried and true methods.
Why not do it the regular way? It’s guaranteed to work, you know?
Most cleanses fall into the same boat, in my opinion. With the perspective that one can/should temporarily eat some odd concoction of food with the idea that it somehow impacts real life, one’s relationship with food, etc beyond the duration of the “cleanse” seems like broken logic to me. It sounds more like, “No, I’m not really interested in addressing the lifestyle habits, but I’m totally open to chewing on lemons and maple syrup for a few days if that will do the trick!” Cutting another corner with a temporary, radical approach to diet seems like it falls short of what’s available with a lifestyle of quality nutrition.
Let me place an asterisk here by saying that some odd, seemingly unconventional fitness and nutrition practices do have legs. My concern, however, is the approach that says we are willing to devote time and energy into a hack–any potential short cut–while being completely uninterested in traveling down the tried and true path of hard work and a pinch of adversity is misguided.
Do you tend to fantasize about an easier way to do things simply because the way is hard? Could that energy be spent more efficiently else where? This energy spent with positive change in mind often actually undermines its own purpose.