Consistency is key. Without any other goals or special effort, just the act of being consistent will elevate your results. Of course, no goal worth pursuing is easy. In fact, I believe there is an underlying natural order to the world such that the moment you set a goal, circumstances arise to thwart it. But, as Randy Pausch points out in his Last Lecture, these obstacles may themselves serve a purpose in helping determine just how committed you actually are to your goal. After all, if it were easy, everyone would do it.
During my coaching apprenticeship at CrossFit Vancouver, it was impressed upon us that we should do the workout before coaching it. Not only is there a level of integrity to this (be the product) but it also provides better insight into what your athletes are experiencing when they perform the workout. I still believe this to be very important.
Of course, it was an easy rule to follow when I was only responsible for coaching 4 or 5 workouts per week. But when we opened on Dunbar Street in 2013 and I was responsible for coaching every class, every day, meeting this professional standard became quite a bit more challenging. Truth be told, I didn’t believe it would be possible to perform every workout CrossFit HQ programmed in the year (272 to be precise) and because I didn’t believe it, I gave myself permission to fall short of achieving 100%. I skipped Navy SEAL when it got programmed for the second time in two months and I missed a 10x 100m sprint workout when I was sick with a fever.
December 31st 2013 I looked back at the year and realized that apart from those two missed workouts I had, in fact, completed every other workout programmed by CrossFit HQ. Had I not already mentally felt defeated by the prospect of doing them all, I could easily have made up those two missed workouts and had a 100% completion rate. I realized I’d sold myself short. I’d set my standards too low.
In 2014 I set myself a new goal: complete EVERY workout programmed by CrossFit HQ. It was not easily accomplished. Around October or November I injured my back in the rope climb- back squat workout and was required to make significant modifications in order to get through the rest of the year’s workouts. But it did teach me how to modify movements and keep moving through injury.
2015 I gave it another shot. My consistency was beginning to pay dividends. I was developing greater technical proficiency in all CrossFit movements and getting stronger too. Handstand walks, bar muscle ups, strict ring muscle ups, pistols, skills that had been beyond me for a decade were now achievable. I was in my 40’s but getting better and scoring personal bests across the board.
2016 the upward momentum accelerated. I was now the guy who could not be stopped. I may not be the most gifted athlete or the cleverest but I was the guy who would show up and get the workout done. Program it, and I would do it. No. Matter. What.
To be clear, I wasn’t always that guy. A mutual friend warned Leon when he first came to coach at Empower that I tended to be a bit flaky, someone who didn’t stick with things for very long. He wasn’t wrong. A gym rat since the age of 16, before CrossFit, I never stuck with a training program for more than a few months before changing things up. My 30 year Judo journey was filled with gaps of inactivity that sometimes stretched years. Prior to moving to Kits, Sunghee and I had never lived in one place longer than 4 years. I’d changed careers several times before becoming a CrossFit coach. I was an enthusiastic starter but seeing things through for the long haul was not my M.O. But now, in my 40’s, I was forging a new identity as the guy you could count on to show up and get the WOD done.
2017 a hip problem made for a tough year. But I struggled through and got it done.
By 2018 and 2019 it was just a habit. Like brushing your teeth everyday. Didn’t matter how I was feeling or what I was dealing with, the workouts would get done. Sure, there were setbacks but by now I knew how to navigate them. Finishing the WODs was never in question. Sometimes it meant going out to a local fitness equipment store and buying a skipping rope to use in my hotel room on New Year’s Eve as I squeezed in the last programmed workout of the year.
At this point you may think it sounds a bit obsessive and I’ll admit that it is. So why keep going? It keeps me honest. Doing every programmed workout means that I don’t get to pick and choose and I promise you that, left to my own devices I would find a clever excuse to avoid ever doing another Kelly again. Or any workout that involves L-Sits. Doing every workout means I am forced to work on ALL the skills. Regularly.
2020. You might imagine that the unexpected COVID closures would have posed a challenge but, not really. I’d already developed the discipline and unstoppable mindset. All that was required was the application of a little creativity in order to adapt workouts to my equipment-free environment. The sun was shining. Sunghee and I just moved to the park or the beach or the forest and improvised workouts. It wasn’t optimal but there was a fun playfulness to it.
2021 and 2022 were the easiest years of all. At this point completing the workouts was something I took for granted. It no longer felt like a daunting goal. Injury, illness, travel, gym closures, I’d been through it all and I knew how to navigate every obstacle that arose to derail my training routine.
As a result, I came into 2023 brimming with the confidence built on 9 consecutive years of 100% completion success. Nothing was going to stop me now. I was going to complete a full decade of CrossFit HQ programming without missing a single workout!
And then a retinal tear in February sent me into emergency eye surgery and an unprecedented 17 day layoff from training. Since the start of this training journey I’d never had a layoff that lasted more than a few days. Of course, I wasn’t going to let a 17 day setback stop me from completing a decade of unbroken WODs. It was still early in 2023 with lots of time to get caught up. As soon as the surgeon gave me the greenlight, I was back in the gym working to catch up on all those missed WODs and by spring I was back on track! Nice try 2023.
But 2023 was’t done with me yet. Remember the natural law regarding goal setting and obstacles? Last weekend in November I got very ill. A prolonged virus that interrupted my work for 10 days. I tried to train through it as best I could but I struggled to recover for 3 weeks and started to fall behind the programming. On top of that I tore my left calf muscle.
I was nearing the end of the year and was once again on the comeback trail struggling against the clock to make up for those missed workouts. I was one week into playing catch up when I damaged the ulnar tendon in my left arm.
Internally I gave a mental shrug and a sigh. Law of the universe. Remember what Randy Pausch said: “Obstacles are there to test how badly we want something.” Finishing WODs had become easy. A skill I’d begun to take for granted. Nothing easily accomplished is worth celebrating. 2023 was obviously determined to make my 10th consecutive unbroken year, an accomplishment worth cherishing.
A wrist brace and more workout modifications and I was back on track. 10am Open Gym Saturday December 30th 2023 I finished the last programmed CFHQ workout of the year. That night CFHQ programmed a rest day for Sunday December 31st and I was done. A full decade without missing a single workout. That’s somewhere in the neighbourhood of 2700 workouts.
Sunghee asked if I felt proud of my accomplishment. I’m not sure that proud is the word that describes the deep sense of satisfaction I feel. Proud sounds too braggy. I think that this little boy on Youtube best sums up how I feel about it. To paraphrase: “I feel happy of myself!”
And I’m not writing about it because I crave recognition or praise. Internally I feel fulfilled and satisfied but, like the little boy in the video I feel I have an important message to share though I think he delivers it more eloquently than I ever could: “Everybody, I know you can believe in yourself! If you believe in yourself you will know how to ride a bike. If you don’t, you just keep practicing!”
So that is it. 10 unbroken years of CFHQ WODs. What now? Sunday the 31st Sunghee and I did some hill repeats and Monday January 1st 2024 we will wake up at 7am, go open the gym for our New Year’s crew, look at whatever CFHQ programmed and join our members for the first WOD of 2024. See you in 2024!
“Thumbs up everybody for rock & roll!”
New Years Morning
It is an Open Gym but, if you are looking for workout ideas let me recommend:
A Touch Crazy
800 m med ball run 20/14
400m Farmers Carry 50/35
800m med ball run 20/14
400m farmers carry 50/35
200m med ball run 20/14
200m med ball lunges 20/14
Angie Backward Pyramid
100 Sit Ups
100 Push Ups
100 Pull Ups
100 Push Ups
100 Sit Ups