I wrote a couple posts ago about having difficulty with getting aggressive in my heavy lifts at CrossFit. I think that participating in the Open over the past couple of weeks and some conversations I’ve had with other CrossFitters lately have shed some light on some of the other areas where I am getting in my own way. (Sometimes it feels like I’m not doing anything right in CrossFit!)
This, thankfully, is something I rarely do anymore, but for the first 6 months or so of doing CrossFit, I would always check the WOD and then make a decision about whether I was going to go to CrossFit or to go work out at my regular gym. Turkish get-ups? No thanks. Snatches? Oh heck no. Ring dips? Uh uh. If the WOD included movements that I wasn’t comfortable with or proficient in, I would run back to the safe harbor of traditional bodybuilding-style workouts where I could pick my own exercises, choose my weights, and work out in solitude with my headphones in and my music turned up.
The inevitable result is that I never got better at or more comfortable with the things I avoided. My confidence never improved (if anything, skipping the hard stuff actually made me feel less confident over time), and my participation in CrossFit was at the mercy of my gym’s programming. There is nothing rewarding about avoiding the stuff you suck at. You know what is rewarding? Showing up on max snatch day and adding 10 lbs to your PR for your weakest lift. I’ve shifted to picking the days I go to CrossFit (usually Monday-Wednesday and Friday, and sometimes Thursday or Saturday depending on how sore I am) instead of the workouts I go to. My attendance at CrossFit is scheduled and independent of the programming. As a result, I’ve improved globally much more in the past couple of months than I did in the 6 months of cherry-picking.
Not Progressing in Scaled Movements
This one became extremely relevant to me this past weekend. The second workout of this year’s Open was overhead squats and chest to bar pull-ups. I’m still a ways off from chest to bar, but kipping pull-ups are something I should be able to do – I have just put off learning them. There are several ways to scale pull-ups: ring rows, jumping pull-ups, and pull-ups with bands. In Charlotte, I always scaled to ring rows. In Chicago, I always do strict pull-ups with a band. I obviously could not complete 14.2 Rx because of the chest to bar pull-ups, so I had to complete one of the scaled options instead. The problem is, the first scaled option was still pull-ups (weight on the overhead squats was lighter too). So, I had to go with the second scaled option, which was jumping pull-ups instead of chest to bar, and a 45 lb front squat instead of a 65 lb overhead squat, which was far more scaled than I needed it to be. I decided to make the best of it and try to beast mode as many reps as possible, but it was disappointing have to complete the second scaled version knowing that I would have been capable of more had I made learning kipping pull-ups a priority sooner.
I think it’s easy to scale a movement like pull-ups and never feel that you are ready for the next level, so you just stay doing what you’re comfortable with. One of my CrossFit friends has been doing jumping pull-ups for a long time – she knows she is probably ready to progress to pull-ups with bands, but she gets anxious about doing that in a WOD because it will take her longer to do pull-ups with a band than it will to do jumping pull-ups. This leads me to my next stumbling block…
Being Afraid to Finish Last
I linked to another article about this in a previous post that really resonated with me. When looking at the Rx weights for a WOD, I usually scale to a weight that I know I can comfortably complete in a decent amount of time. I pretty much always finish in the middle of the pack, which is exactly where I like to be. I use enough weight to feel like I got a good workout, but not so heavy that I got slowed down and ended up finishing last, or even failing to finish by the time cap. But is that really in my best interest?
I asked myself, “What’s so wrong with finishing last?” I don’t judge or think badly of the people who are last to finish a WOD – in fact, those tend to be the people who are working the hardest in my opinion. Although many WOD’s are for time, it is detrimental to treat them all like a race where speed is the only indicator of success or hard work. I used to have the same problem when taking tests in school. I always felt like I needed to be a speed demon (maybe to push through my anxiety about taking the test) and pretty much always turned in my test first. The downside is that I got careless in making speed a priority over quality, and didn’t score as well as I could have if I had been willing to slow down and take my time. I think WOD’s are much the same way. Finishing last also lets you take advantage of the 4th and final stumbling block…
Not Letting Others Push You and Cheer You On
This one might be my biggest challenge. Group exercise has never been my thing and working out in a group has been a big adjustment for me in CrossFit. One of the perks to CrossFit is the community aspect and the fact that everyone wants to see everyone else succeed. So, as people are finishing the WOD, they are generally cheering on those of us still in the midst of completing it. I have to admit that when I am deep in the suck of a WOD and some of my CrossFit buddies who have already finished come over to tell me how good I’m doing and how awesome I am, my gut reaction is to tell them to leave me the hell alone so I can survive the remainder of my WOD misery in isolation. This is also the reason I don’t like finishing last – when everyone else but me is done, that means I have a full-blown audience and cheer squad coaching me through the rest of the WOD. I’ve realized that I have a choice in this though – I can resent the attention or I can use it to my advantage. I don’t have to let it make me uncomfortable. I have found that I can do a few extra reps or pick up the pace when I know someone else is watching me and encouraging me. I need to stop being such a snob and appreciate the support of those around me instead of resenting it.
I’m sure I would be a little further along in my CrossFit journey had I put these principles to use sooner, but all I can do is apply them moving forward. Kipping pull-ups, I’m coming for you!