As a coach I’ve had this conversation with almost every athlete including myself. More than once. I know you think I’m talking about you – I am – but not only you, because though you may be a unique snowflake special in your own way, this particular conversation is not unique to you. It starts like this:
“Coach, I’ve been trying for hours/days/weeks/months/years and still can’t do x. Everyone else seems to be getting better except me. I’m really struggling. I’ve suffered so many set backs. I just can’t seem to get it.
Let’s break this down to unpack the whole host of errors in this internal dialogue you’ve been having with yourself:
1) I’ve been trying so long to….
Yup. Some skills are going to come easily to you, others will not. Some of us are built to excel at wall balls, others find the deadlift easy. I promise you there are things you are good at and others at which you will suck. If you think 5 years of toil is going to impress me you forget that it took me 8 years to get a handstand walk and 11 years to get a pistol and my pistols are still not very good. If you haven’t got it yet, keep trying.
2) Once I can do this I’ll be happy.
This road is never ending. Sure, right now you think that the only thing missing in your life is a body weight back squat and once you get it the world will be perfect and you will be satisfied. But you won’t. Now that I can handstand walk with confidence I want to be able to handstand walk over obstacles. There will always be another skill just beyond your current reach. The day you’re satisfied is the day you stop growing. This is a process, there is no destination just road markers along the way.
3) So you may as well enjoy the journey.
If you’re only in it for the outcome, you’re going to be pretty frustrated with the long, drawn out process because progress can be very slow and often incremental. The neurological components aren’t even measurable which is why skills sometimes happen without warning. After years of practice, something just finally clicks. As an athlete I am nowhere near my goals. I’m a work in progress. And I understand the growth is in the effort. The reward is not the achievement of the goal, it is the character I forge in the hours of effort.
4) You need to have faith.
If you don’t believe in the process it will be very difficult to forge ahead in the face of repeated failure. Because the road to success is a series of failed attempts. It’s the endless practice of the skills that will ultimately lead to your goal.
5) So patience is essential.
We’re an “I want” generation. We want instant gratification. Food on demand, entertainment at our fingertips. We’ve forgotten the way of artisans and farmers and craftsman, the slow ways of mastering skills and creating master pieces. You are a master piece in progress, you cannot rush a master piece.
6) This is not about anyone else.
Stop comparing yourself to other people. Silk and Hard Rock were gymnasts, should I compare my self-taught handstand walk to theirs? We are not all equal. It seems an unpopular opinion these days but it’s just a cold, hard fact. Some people are born stronger, faster, taller, shorter. Some people have been playing sports all their lives. Do you think my CrossFit-developed running skills will compare to some new CrossFitter who has been training track & field for a decade? I’m a good Olympic Lifter but can I compare to someone who specializes in that sport? Of course not. Do I want to? Hell yes! If you don’t learn to put away your ego you are going to spend a lot of time beating yourself up because people are going to be better than you in a lot of things. It isn’t productive to compare, it will just make you unhappy. Do you think you’re the only one that feels this way? Well, you’re wrong. We all feel this way.
7) The grass isn’t greener.
Everyone is struggling with something. Somewhere there is someone watching you with envy because you perform with ease a skill that they are struggling with. Of course this means nothing to you because this skill came to you easily so you take it for granted and do not value it at all. All you care about is that skill that seems just out of your reach.
8) Progress isn’t linear.
The first year of CrossFit is fun because every day is a personal best and progress seems so easy but around year 2 the law of diminishing returns sets in. Guess what? Your deadlift won’t keep going up every workout. Some days your deadlift will go down. Some years your deadlift will go down. And then suddenly you’ll have a great day, the stars will align and the training session will be perfect and you’ll hit a new high….and then you won’t hit that number again for a couple years. You’ll assume your progress has stalled but has it? If your deadlift average in 2015 was 95lbs and you averaged 125lbs in 2016 and in 2019 you average 180lbs have you gotten worse just because you once pulled 195lbs in 2017? Sometimes you will rock the workout, some days you won’t, as long as you’re trending up over the years, you are on the right track.
9) Set backs are part of the journey.
I really wish the journey was smooth. It won’t be. Active people suffer set backs. Whether you break your toe on a coffee table or develop frozen shoulder in your sleep, there will be obstacles in your path that prevent you from pursuing the goals you planned to achieve. Here’s where a flexible mindset proves invaluable. You need to learn to adapt to circumstance. It’s lemons and lemonade. If my busted knee won’t let me squat I’m going to work on my floor press and handstand push up and pull ups instead. I wish there weren’t set backs but they’re inevitable. Plan for them, prepare for them, and then deal with them as they come.
10) Live in the now.
You aren’t performing to your potential. Of course you’re not. Not even close. If you’ve already peaked, what’s the point of training at all. Potential is a past and future conversation. It has no place in the training hall. All that we can work with on any given day is your capacity in that moment. It is going to vary from day-to-day based on a myriad of factors both within and outside your control. Most days you won’t be at your absolute best so most days your performances will be well below your potential. But that is what we’re training for, to gradually improve your potential. Personal bests are fun and they feel good but they aren’t the goal, they’re happy accidents that occur along the way. Training is just putting in the work. Work to your capacity in that day. If you did your best that day, be satisfied. Come back, do the same tomorrow. If you waste your energy judging your capacity today with your capacity last week you will be frustrated, discouraged and actually derail your own progress.
11) Learning is a skill.
Coaching transformed me as an athlete when I realized the coaching voice I used with myself was vastly different than the one I used with my clients. With my clients I was positive, encouraging, affirmative. With myself I was impatient, belittling and offensive. Why the disparity? Why wouldn’t I speak harshly to my clients? Because it wouldn’t help them improve. So why would I speak to myself in such a way if I knew it would impair progress? I began learning the discipline of coaching myself as I would my athletes. I became patient, compassionate, encouraging. I highlighted the small victories, the slow progress. When it didn’t work out and things didn’t go my way, I applauded myself for the effort and reassured myself that I would come back another day and try again. And guess what happened? First, I began to really enjoy the process of training! And when training became enjoyable my progress began to take off. Anything became possible – handstand walks, pistols (well, they still took 11 years), strict muscle ups, back flips. When I started coaching myself positively I stopped fearing failure and I stopped believing in limitations. Maybe I am not capable today but if I keep working on it I know one day I will be. But if your inner voice is angry and impatient you will learn to hate learning because learning is based on a series of failures. And if you hate learning you’ll hate training. Maybe you’ll make yourself train anyhow but you won’t get much out of it because you’ll come to training negative, tense and afraid to make the inevitable mistakes that are part of the learning process.
12) Embrace failure.
As kids we fell down a lot. It didn’t annoy us. We didn’t get upset. We didn’t make up big stories about how we were just not gifted walkers like the adults around us and that we probably would never be able to learn how to walk properly and look at all the other toddlers who are so much better at walking than us. No, we just got back up and tried again confident in our determination that we would be walkers. Where did that confident determination go? Bring back that childhood mindset. Bring back the wonder and joy for learning new skills. You are going to fall down. Of course you are! We all do. So get back up.
13) Stop the storytelling.
Falling down isn’t the problem. Falling down is an inevitable part of the process. We all stumble and fall a lot on our way to mastering walking. The problem is the story you are telling yourself about falling down. The problem is the meaning you are attaching to falling down. Mindset isn’t magic. Your mind won’t suddenly start telling you happy stories. But those are reflexive stories that don’t have anything to do with the truth. It’s not a problem that your mind fills with negative thoughts, so does mine. The problem is that you believe them. Growing up I was ridiculed a lot by peers and family for my lack of athleticism. There are uncomplimentary songs in my honour. Those hurtful memories taunt me every time a fresh failure proves them right. And I could choose to believe them but I’ve decided not to because they’re just not empowering. Maybe they described someone that I used to be but I’m too busy becoming someone else to let them hold me back now. When they arise now I just shrug them off. Watch me, I’m going to prove them wrong. I know I’m only a dozen or so mistakes away from success.
You are not the first athlete to have these thoughts and feelings. Struggle isn’t some bad thing impeding your progress. The struggle is the progress. Because without the struggle, what is the point? Skills developed without struggle have no value.. Whether you achieve a goal or not, it is the struggle toward it, the daily toil as you push to become better, that forges your soul and your character. Muscle ups aren’t the goal. Double unders aren’t the goal. The goal is the struggle to become someone who embraces challenge with unwavering determination and a fiery joy in your heart! When you embrace the impossible challenge set before you with raw joy, then you are transformed into someone unstoppable!
1 min hip swings
1 min shoulder pass through
1 min pvc ohs
1 min high knees
Then clean drops And thruster
10 rnds 1 min on / 2 mins off
3 thrusters 185/ 125
60 m shuttle sprint
Pull up: bent over rows, banded, chin over, ring rows
Run: bike, row, ski ( distance should take about 20 secs)
Thruster: dumbbells, back pack, kettlebells.