Posts Tagged ‘Patience’

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“It’s a marathon, not a sprint.”

We’ve all heard that saying, and for most things in life, I agree with it. When it comes to fitness, it’s almost always true! People who buy magazines, download ebooks, and perform google searches with titles like, “Shredded Abs in 4 weeks” and “Arms Like Arnold By Summer,” likely hate hearing that though. There’s a time and a place to be “Type A,” and situations that require patience usually aren’t at the top of that list!

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“If it seems too good to be true, it probably is…”

The human body (and mind) should be viewed as a canvas. One, that through years of proper care, maintenance, and training, can develop into an incredible and useful vessel to get us through a long and happy life. Can I help a client lose 20lbs in 20 days? Probably. But will that weight loss be sustainable, and will it be done through healthy means? Probably not. So come because you want that six pack in time for your vacation, but stay to work towards physical independence long into your 70’s and 80’s!

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“Incremental Progress is STILL Progress”

A lot of the movements we do in CrossFit make up entire disciplines by themselves. For Running, Rowing, and Cycling, there are thousands of professionals around the world who devote their time to improve at just ONE of those skills. For professionals, a ONE SECOND Personal Record on a half-marathon can represent a huge success due to hundreds of hours of training! Olympic Weightlifters squat, snatch, clean, and jerk 5 to 7 days per week. During their competitive careers, it can sometimes take years to attain a one kilogram PR! Yogis work on balance and breath control constantly in hopes of improving their practice. It could take months of dedication to improve enough to finally get a single new pose. Climbers work on pull-ups and strengthening their grip in order to be more effective at getting up their mountain or wall. So then here we come, CrossFit athletes extraordinaire, and we want to get better at all of the things. All of the time. Forever. It’s simply not realistic.

Have you ever heard of an athlete going on a Strength or an Olympic Lifting Cycle? Maybe a phase during their training geared towards improving Aerobic Capacity? What about a Deloading Phase, where weights and volume stay fairly low to allow the body to rebuild and recover! There is a reason for these cycles. When an athlete is new at a sport, it can be easy to improve “all of the things” for a while since you’re just learning proper movement patterns. Once basic proficiency is gained, it will take more focus and specific training to continually make large improvements. As I said above, CrossFit can basically include ANY physical activity. Since there are only 24 hours in a day, and since most of us should also devote time to eating, sleeping, working, and anything other than CrossFit, it is literally impossible to improve everything forever. I’ve talked about it before, and will bring it up again, but there are people out there who need regular reminders!

Pick a few things to improve, devise a plan of attack, and most of all… Celebrate every victory!! If you’ve been working on Handstand Walking and take two extra steps, that’s an improvement. Are your knees caving in less when you squat because you’ve been thinking about it, well then great job! And do you want to put 50lbs onto your Deadlift 1RM? That’s a great goal to have, just make sure you’re happy when you “only” PR by 5lbs along the way.

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It really is a marathon. By taking care of your body, training smart, and giving yourself a pat on the back when you deserve it all along the way, you’re likely to be able to keep playing for a long time.

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First of all, I’m not sure if I’ve ever written the word don’ts before, but it looks weird!

Ok, back to the focus of the post: Accessory Work

If you are an athlete that steps foot into a CrossFit gym on a regular basis, odds are that there are three to four-hundred things you’d like to improve to become a better athlete. Identifying some, or all, of those things typically leads athletes down one of three paths.

Path Number One

“That’s way too many things to try and improve… therefore, I shall choose to improve none of them!”

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Path Number Two

“I want to get better at Handstand Push-Ups. My legs need to get stronger. If I can improve my engine, I’ll get more rounds in workouts. With more flexible ankles, my rowing will get better. I want to get a PR on Murph next year. But I’d also like to beat my Fran time. ROM WOD 8 days per week will help me. I think I want to go that Double-Under clinic next weekend.” ~ The consecutive thoughts of one person

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Yes, there is a laundry list of things we can all improve upon, but trying to attack too much at once is unrealistic and really not smart. Why, you ask? Because some people (yes, I’m talking to you) will spend 30 minutes after class every day working on Muscle-Ups. Thirty minutes. Hanging and swinging from rings or a bar. After they’re tired from a workout. Not only will that likely lead to tearing hands, but trying to be explosive and technically precise after 60 minutes of torture (excuse me, I mean intense physical exertion) isn’t usually the best plan.

Path Number Three

Be a planner. Pick a few things you’d like to start improving. Find a person, or people, who can help you create an intelligent training plan or progression. If applicable, have someone who can watch you practice, or if you video your attempts, those who can give you constructive feedback. Too often “we don’t know what we don’t know,” and having a more experienced person in your corner can help foster huge breakthroughs. After a few weeks, note your progress on those items in your training log (yay, progress!) and create a new list!

Now, I’ve got Good News and Bad News:

The Good News is that in our sport of CrossFit, you LITERALLY have an ENDLESS list of things you can choose to improve at any given moment.

The Bad News, is that you’ll never be good at ALL of it. So don’t even try.

But, really, that’s also still the Good News! I’m telling you that (for most people in nearly every circumstance) you can work on a single skill foreverrrr, and still be able to keep improving over time! That is so awesome. Most things that are worth keeping don’t happen overnight, either.

If there’s anything I can do to help you on your journey, let me know. Set realistic goals. Have a plan. And actually try your best to enjoy the journey. If all goes well, we’ll be on it for a long time!

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I’m not sure why, but for some reason I’ve always had a really strong opinion as to whether or not people should have programming written specifically for them. For the purposes of this post, let me be clear and explain my definition of Personalized Programming. I am not defining it as “How-To” progressions for certain advanced movements. If someone wants to learn how do their first pull-up, muscle up, handstand push-up, double-under, etc, there are a plethora of guides out there to help. Those are helpful and appropriate for anyone who wants to get better! Personalized Programming means exactly that. It could include warm-ups, strength cycles, extra workouts, multiple sets of accessory work, etc. A full suite of activities to do in order to help you attain and surpass whatever goals you’ve set for yourself.

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A lot of people who pay for this service still belong at a CrossFit gym. These athletes follow their gym’s programming when they take class, and then add in their Personalized work before or after class, or on their rest days. The reason I feel so strongly about not mixing and matching, is because a very common way of getting hurt is by overdoing it. If you train at a good gym, there should be a progression found in your training. Micro and Macro cycles, a gymnastics-focused wave versus a strength block. If an athlete comes in and throws in 3 extra days of heavy back squats when their gym is on a rest week before re-testing a 1 rep max, can you see how mixing and matching could lead to injury?

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In order to define fitness, CrossFit categorized human performance into 10 Physical Skills. They are:

  1. Cardiovascular/respiratory endurance – The ability of body systems to gather, process, and deliver oxygen.
  2. Stamina – The ability of body systems to process, deliver, store, and utilize energy.
  3. Strength – The ability of a muscular unit, or combination of muscular units, to apply force.
  4. Flexibility – the ability to maximize the range of motion at a given joint.
  5. Power – The ability of a muscular unit, or combination of muscular units, to apply maximum force in minimum time.
  6. Speed – The ability to minimize the time cycle of a repeated movement.
  7. Coordination – The ability to combine several distinct movement patterns into a singular distinct movement.
  8. Agility – The ability to minimize transition time from one movement pattern to another.
  9. Balance – The ability to control the placement of the bodies center of gravity in relation to its support base.
  10. Accuracy – The ability to control movement in a given direction or at a given intensity.

The entire CrossFit methodology is founded upon a concept that an athlete is only as strong as their weakest link out of those 10 movements. Therefore, if you’re really strong but not great with balance, you’ve got a glaring error in your fitness. The example I always remember hearing included two male athletes; one who could deadlift 500lbs but couldn’t jog a mile without stopping, and the other could run a sub-5 minute mile, but couldn’t deadlift twice his body weight. The purpose of the comparison was to say that just because someone may have been incredible at one thing, their deficiency in another thing could severely impact their overall effectiveness as an athlete. In CrossFit, the goal is to be more of a jack of all trades and a master of none. That way, no matter what is thrown at you (the unknown and the unknowable), you’d be more adequately prepared to handle it successfully. (Click here to read the incredible “What is Fitness” article that essentially serves as the Manifesto of the entire program)

Why bring in all of this CrossFit history if I’m writing a post about personalized programming? It’s simple, really. If people are trying to get better at CrossFit, and CrossFit says, “Do everything, all the time, and keep trying new things,” but people spend hours and hours focusing on one specific thing instead, doesn’t that seem kind of counter-intuitive? As I’ve said many times before, most people who are at the gym are there simply to get in better shape. That demographic will benefit just fine from belonging to a gym that has a decent idea of how to make people more fit. In my opinion, they do not require personalized programming.

So which groups of people should devote the extra time and money towards having something written specifically for them? I’ve created a partial list below:

  1. Competitors– CrossFit claims to be the physical fitness program that “specializes in not specializing.” That means you don’t really need to focus your efforts on any one thing in particular because at a good gym, over time you’ll do almost everything on a rotating basis. If you’re training specifically to compete in something, however, you’ll need to hone in on certain areas that you’ll likely see in competition. If you can’t perform the Olympic Lifts without some degree of efficiency, you’re not going to do well. Be clear of the distinction here: Competitive CrossFit athletes ARE specializing in a certain type of fitness, so they will benefit from personalized programming. Training for an Olympic Weightlifting or Strongman event? I completely support getting programming made just for you! In those cases, you’ll need it!
  2. Looking for Subject Matter Expert– You might love your gym’s regular class programming, but you’ve always wanted to improve your running technique or learn how to swim. If there isn’t someone around who can teach you those skills, of course it makes sense to find a professional somewhere else who can.
  3. Trust in a coach– Maybe someone who used to coach at your gym left but they know you really well. Perhaps a famous athlete you’ve always loved and followed posted online about offering customized plans just for you. There is nothing wrong with turning to people you know and trust to help make you better. That’s why we live in such a great time. We can be connected with people all over the world! 
  4. People training on their own– If you are paying for a program made just for you, and that’s the only thing you follow on a regular basis, that now becomes your only training. In this scenario, you’re less likely to overdo it. This option is great.
  5. Just for fun– I’ve written an 8 week rowing plan for someone who just liked rowing and wanted to get better. I’ve worked 1:1 with an athlete for 4 weeks who just wanted to learn how to do a muscle-up. You don’t need a reason to explain why you want to get better at something. I just don’t ever want it to lead to injury. If you’ve got time and money to follow a plan, more power to you!

Who do I think should NOT invest in Personalized Programming?

  1. Beginner athletes– A lot of gyms have a specific “On Ramp” program where they run new members through a basic overview of things they could experience in a given class. Once that’s done, give yourself a few months (years?) of following the daily workouts provided by your gym. Your average “Weekend Warrior” won’t need to work out for more than 4-5 hours per week at a good gym to get in better shape. Most people don’t need much more than  that! When the time comes that you decide your goals are more specific, and your gym isn’t providing resources to help you grow, then you can look for custom programs.
  2. Athletes who are going to overdo it– I understand you want to get better. That’s what’s crazy about this sport of ours. There are SO MANY THINGS we want to improve on, all the time. The good news in all of this, is that with good coaching, you can create a list of goals, and then set aside a reasonable action plan to attack them one at a time. Just don’t go to your home gym four times per week, try to do every workout you see Ben Smith do with your friends, follow Jason Khalipa’s EMOM of the day, attend every skills seminar your gym hosts, and compete every other weekend. It’s too much!

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When it comes to Personalized Programming, there’s also a big difference between in-person versus remote coaching. Thousands of “online coaches” offer training plans that are a one-size fits all offering. The reason I don’t like those as much is that it implies a few things. First, that the coach writing the programming understands the needs of the athlete following it. If I send the same plan to 10 people looking to get better at 10 different skills, there are going to be some things help you, and others that might not. Make sure that if you don’t have a set of eyes on you during your training, that you’ve got another way to ensure you’re moving properly and not establishing bad habits.

Most of my personal training clients who I don’t see every day either send me videos of their more technical movements so I can review them and provide feedback, or schedule in-person training once per week, or a few times per month to cover some more advanced movements with a coach present. That’s the way I prefer to do it, at least! If they are 100% remote clients, where I never see them, I just make sure the programming is safer for them to do on their own. If careful attention is paid to results, and the lines of communication are open between coach and athlete, everyone is likely to be ok.

To conclude the longest post in the world, let’s recap:

Personalized Programming is great and can help athletes everywhere. It can certainly help take performance to a new level if done properly. I am also NOT bashing companies and coaches who offer Personalized Programming to others. I am specifically referring to athletes who belong at one gym, and feel the need to do more and more and more to try and improve. More is not always better. Especially if there’s not specific reason for doing more, such as an upcoming competition.

Too many people think they need something special, when all they need is time to get better at things. It takes 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to become a “master” at something, remember that. If there was a magic pill or a proven short cut, I promise you more women would snatch 250lbs and more men would have sub-1:30 Fran times!

In the event that someone thinks they need more volume, the first thing I’ll typically suggest to them is to do slower volume. Moving slower and with more of a focus on technique and full range of motion can help speed up progress a lot more than rushing through more. (Read more about my philosophy on that here, if you’re interested.)

Be patient. This CrossFit thing is a marathon, not a sprint. Find coaches and training partners who can help you, but also keep your ambition in check. If you’re injured you can’t train, and nobody has time for that!

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