CrossFit found me late in 2008 just when my then chosen endurance sport had started to reject me in the form of never ending body aches and pains, not to mention two chronic injuries I sustained. I was training in excess of 25 hours a week for triathlon and I owned a Group Personal Training Franchise which had me running with groups of people everyday for 2-3 hours.
Running produces more physical and health issues than any other single sport. 70% of recreational runners sustain overuse injuries during any one 12 month period of training. The biggest reason is due to running frequency, duration, running technical errors and lack of strength. After completing a marathon your health will NEVER restore itself to its’ pre-marathon status, no matter how many green smoothies you have.
My greatest memories of that job was running along side individuals whilst they completed their first half or full marathon. I got enormous joy out of joining a new client who said they couldn’t run the full length of the oval, as I knew I could transform their fitness in weeks. The progression for each member was never a question for me, I knew beyond a doubt that I could help them run to improve their fitness and when they were ready I would enrol them in a fun run and we would nail it together. From there I would increase the runs they did until ultimately I guided them through a race that took some real fitness, either a half or full marathon. I never stopped getting joy out of helping people reach those goals we set together, but I could never have anticipated how my view of fitness would so radically change once I started CrossFit.
Choosing Fitness For Your Health
At the end of my four year franchise contract, I enjoyed running for people rather than for myself. This may seem endearing to some, but now as I look back, I wander if I was nothing but a cheerleader. I designed good running programs, but apart from that, I cheered and pushed a willing protégée along the road. I took them out of their comfort zones, but I never really taught them how fitness could be the centre of their health, and that they have the power to influence that over their lifetime.
It was also hard to have long term clients in such a training program because the lack of variance and strength became a glaring issue and resulted in people completing a run and then having 6-8 weeks off to ‘recover’.
After completing my level 1 CrossFit Training Course in 2009, my perspective on health and training would be forever changed. Greg Glassman had attended our course and instantly upon listening to him I knew he was the smartest person I had ever met. The energy and knowledge he transferred to me still buzzes in my ears all these years later. I 100% prescribe to the CrossFit training methodology of constantly varied, functional movement executed at high intensity; and I also prescribe to virtuosity in sport.
There are sports that embody virtuosity like gymnastics, olympic weightlifting, high speed (airborne) extreme sports, diving and dance. There are others but this gives you enough examples to give my point context. Athletes involved in such sports are not able to just rely on muscle memory, they execute movements with almost wizardry. There is a level of finish, a polished affect that illustrates their mastery – it is brilliance, genius and can be mesmorizing to watch.
CrossFit is a sport whereby individuals are not just training in one genre, therefore, they must be committed to a process of development that takes time and commitment. We speak of virtuosity in our sport because to truly progress, one must execute the most basic of movements with the highest of technical skill. This takes time, diligence, commitment and a huge amount of self discipline.
Too much for some
When you train at a CrossFit box you are taken on a journey, a quest if you will. The journey is unknown and unknowable. It is constantly changing and the challenges are great. The attention to detail is painstaking and this alone can be lost on some people and cuts their quest short. You don’t just get taught a few new movements, you get taught a whole new dictionary of movements and a whole new language to match. It’s not for the impatient, nor is it for the ‘near enough is good enough’.
CrossFit gets blamed for many things. ‘I did CrossFit and it made me bulky’ (insert emoji with the rolling eyes), ‘CrossFit gave me an injury’, ‘I can’t get to the CrossFit session times cause I work long days’, ‘my CrossFit box doesn’t have open gym time so I don’t get to work my weaknesses’. I’m sure you’ve heard many more but you get the point. What is actually happening here is that the person has decided that the voyage takes way too much commitment, sacrifice, patience, practice, repetition and guidance. Their ego suggests that there is a quicker and better way.
Consider the person who is always ‘seeking’ happiness. My question to them is, “in your daily life, what type of happiness do you put out into the world?” If you are not putting happiness out into the world, then how can you expect to receive it? This is relevant to anything in your life, including your training/health.
CrossFit doesn’t give, it gives back.
The individual that commits to actually turning up 4 times a week, commits to eating an un-processed diet, commits to receiving teaching, commits to being an active part of a community that would just about do anything to see you flourish; is continuously depositing into their account which will give back with interest. Fitness and strength gains are only a scratch on the surface of the true gold that is repaid for genuine effort.
Life may throw a CrossFitter a curve ball and they have the resolve to hold their ground, the resolve to widen their stance as the ground becomes unsteady, the resolve to take the hit and go down but not be held down. Life just like CrossFit throws things at you that you may not be good at, things that actually take some time to resonate and take some time to master. I learnt the piano as a child for over 10 years and when I sit down at the piano now to read music I still commence with my scales and then move onto my music. And it’s not Mozart I can tell you, I still chip away at some modest classic music that just brings some peace to my soul and keeps me challenged to improve. Those that meditate will understand the feeling of a busy mind at the beginning of a meditation, the slow process could quickly frustrate you, or you could surrender to a process that is beyond your control and wait for the magic to happen. The one thing you can be sure of with anything that requires time to master, it’s benefits will stay with you a lifetime. If mastery is not achieved then the constant pursuit of it is a worthy quest in itself.
So if we explore the concept of what goes around comes around, take some time to contemplate what you want in life and health. If your not happy with your weight then truly be accountable for what you eat, don’t blame your training regime. If you are injured then examine how you attend to your rehab and your lifestyle choices (like sitting in a chair for 10 hours a day and before you say well that’s my job I can’t avoid that please just think…. there is actually a way around everything). If your not reaching your strength goals then examine your training schedule and see if you have been actually attending enough sessions and the right sessions to meet that goal. If you are frustrated with any part of your health or fitness please take sometime to see what you are putting in before looking at what you are getting out.
Once you have examined your side of the investment then lets re-examine the importance of virtuosity in CrossFit. For the CrossFitter who’s been around a while, never be doing CrossFit so long that you don’t need to be virtuous. When skills are programmed along side a strength piece, perhaps re-visit the basics, I guarantee you will get something new out of it! It’s awesome to lift heavy, and some days will require that. But it is more awesome that you can hold a perfect air squat with no shoes on, or hold a perfect hollow position in a strict pull-up. Keep working the basics – you are never too good for them.
For my new CrossFitter’s coming through the ranks, don’t be scared to take your time learning the ropes. Your fitness will not be defined in one month or one year. Once a week put yourself into a Gymnastics session and work the basic skills and body positions that you will find relate to even the barbell movements. Learn the basics well and let them guide you to mastery.
If you take this mindset on in the gym before long it will flow on into your life and you’ll never be afraid to go into new endeavours. Hurdles will just become an exciting challenge, what seemed impossible is now possible, and what seemed hard now seems like a worthy quest.
I’ll leave you will a quote from Coach Glassman:
Stick to the basics and when you feel you’ve mastered them it’s time to start all over again, begin anew – again with the basics – this time paying closer attention