This post is meant to get you thinking. It might be controversial, and you might disagree. Good. I like to argue debate. Post away in the comments!
The 2015 CrossFit Open will wrap up this week.
This year, with the introduction of the scaled and RX divisions, CrossFit HQ really started to divide the larger CrossFit masses with the inclusion of more advanced movements in nearly every workout. The social media realm lit up with debate of whether or not these workouts were in the spirit of CrossFit or not (which is a whole other ball of wax). Readers and writers lamented the handstand push up standards. They exclaimed indignation at the divisive tactic of including muscle ups first in the workout. They shook their virtual fists in frustration at the repeat of what was arguably one the hardest and most exclusionary workouts from 2014 (14.2 and 15.2).
Comfort zone, consider yourself shook.
Very few people to whom I talked or read their posts had stopped to look at this from another perspective. They spent all their time and energy focused on what CrossFit HQ had done with the inclusion of movements outside their ability level.
Very few people looked at what they themselves had done.
All the movements that appeared in this year's Open have been CrossFit staples for a long time. There was nothing new. This was only a surprise because previous years included only a small subset of movements. Toes to bar? Yes, they are difficult, and with an even more resounding yes, they can be learned by just about anyone.
Here's some food for thought if this year's Open left a sour taste in your mouth:
- How long have you been doing CrossFit? What was your ability level when you started? Never lose sight of this. Chances are, you're a completely different athlete than when you started.
- I apologize in advance if this bursts your bubble, but CrossFit, i.e. the sport of fitness, isn't meant to be all inclusive. That's how sports are. I can't even throw a regulation NFL football.
- How much extra time have you spent to learn new things? Have you spent extra time or sought out coaching for movements you struggle with? Nicole wrote about this previously. Be honest here. Standing under the pull up rig and shooting the shit with friends, and doing a few kips every five minutes isn't practicing.
- Do you show up everyday to just go through the motions and expect magic to happen?
This last point is something that really resonates with me because it's a subtle nuance that gets lost in the chalk, barbells, and sweat. Virtuosity, as defined by CrossFit, is doing the common uncommonly well. Many of us just show up to do our squats, our deadlifts, our pull ups and handstands. Very few of us show up to work on how we do those movements. If you don't pay attention to how your executing each rep, how can you improve? Maybe you get lucky and you're so good that it just happens. Or, more likely, you're the same as the rest of us and you hit walls, plateaus, and frustration. The same shitty clean that took you from 95 to 135 pounds will not take you from 135 to 225.
We're not recommending that you stop lifting heavy things or doing challenging movements and tell us that you're "working on form today." That would miss the point. Sure, getting your chin over the bar will count as a pull up if the only thing that matters is the competitive standard. But, unless you're competing, there is a lot more to that pull up than just a competitive standard. From a fitness, athleticism and longevity perspective, are you getting the most out of that pull up? Are you using full range of motion through your shoulder? Can you pull yourself all the way up without reaching your chin? If you're kipping, do your arms bend and internally rotate in the forward most part of the swing? When you squat, can you maintain good position or do you simply try to hit depth by any means necessary?
Your responsibility as an athlete isn't to show up and go through the motions. You could that without coaching and without a community to support you. Your responsibility is to get better at the movements that make you a better athlete. I can almost guarantee that if you start focusing on how you can get better at the actual execution of any given movement, particularly on those you struggle with, you'll make more steady and consistent progress than simply satisfying a competitive standard. But, as a nice side effect, suddenly those standards will be much more attainable.
Getting better at CrossFit is a frustrating step function of time, patience, and failure. As soon as you own a certain movement regression or progression, and I mean really own, you'll move onto the next variation. And guess what? You'll probably experience plenty of failure at that next level as you learn what it takes to own it. It's just what happens. Training is a long and non-linear journey.