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Confessions Of A Squataholic

Know Thyself to Better Thyself

 How’s your training going?  Let me hear from you.

This week’s message is about understanding yourself as a trainee…your strengths and weaknesses both mentally and physically, and learning where you are in terms of work capacity in order to optimize your workout.

CrossFit can breed a mentality of always bigger, stronger, faster, more, and that’s great – but it’s not always the best course of action.  Consider what the ultimate personal point of participating in any athletic endeavor is (considering, of course, that these may differ from person to person): to adequately and preferably safely exercise the body and mind to its betterment.

I’ve often gotten caught in the ego trap of using a weight too heavy for a workout or pushing too hard for some movement that I was not physically prepared for.  The results were often injury, frustration and even taking steps back in physical progress.  Over time I’ve learned to treat the gym and fitness in general as a long term journey, which will be filled with peaks and valleys, and that the best course of action is to take the time to learn about yourself and where you are with your skills and strength.

Please do not get me wrong, I am not at all suggesting or recommending that you don’t push yourself to your limits.  If you’re not doing this you’re simply not getting the most out of your CrossFit experience.  What I am suggesting is to become aware of those limits and to train smarter in order to transcend them.  Pay attention to your body and don’t let ego take over.  When you’re doing a workout, pick the weight that will challenge you but that you are able to consistently and safely perform.  By doing so, you’re much more likely to get the maximum benefit out of any given workout.  It’s painful to look around the gym and see people flailing around weight unsafely and in nearly all cases, to their ultimate detriment.  Taking 40 minutes to complete what should be a 15 minute workout may build character, but it ain’t buildin’ much else.

From my limited experience coaching weightlifting, I’ve found so much benefit in scaling a lifter back to the basics. Breaking down the movements into smaller parts, perfecting those parts, and then putting them back together.  I can promise you that you will never improve your technique on any lift at or near max effort.  The only way to do that is through challenging yourself to strive for technique on manageable repetitions.  The same applies to any given workout: if you can run 200m for rounds and keep up a good pace as opposed to trudging wheezily in molasses for 400m – which do you think will provide the better workout?  If you can swing a 53# kettlebell unbroken and safely as opposed to ripping your shoulder out of the socket with a 70# one rep every :30, which do you think will provide the better workout?  Again – I’m not recommending not to push yourself.  But push yourself with what you are physically prepared to handle, not with injurious weight, technique and repetition.

A notion from CrossFit past that has been somewhat lost in the current “sport of fitness” stream is virtuosity.  I’m not really one to quote Greg Glassman, but in his words: “performing the common uncommonly well.”  I’m not going to turn this into a back-in-the-good-old-days rant, but that’s an idea that I would love to see the everyday trainee return to.  Strive for virtuosity of motion, progress naturally and safely.

Know thyself, and to thine own health, be true.

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