Hard Work Doesn’t Pay Off
No, hard work does not always pay off – but smart hard work does.
Take it from someone who’s spent plenty of time in the gym. I have run into the same problem time and time again: I want to do what I think is best for ME. Is the same true for you? If you don’t understand your needs or your limits, you will end up making very little progress, or worse, injure yourself trying. Trust me, it is better to check your pride and walk away from a bar that is too heavy, or even to take a few extra seconds to reset before finishing those last few snatches on Isabel, than to stubbornly push through and hurt yourself. This is where you need to remember the objective of the workout: Improve FITNESS! The WOD is where we are trying to push hard to get through the workout and improve aerobic capacity, and sometimes that means lowering the weight so you can simply keep moving! Otherwise, you’ll end up watching from the sidelines while your best friends, grandparents, and thumbless pets smoke you on your favorite workouts until you recover.
But doesn’t it sound like Coach is giving us the green light to sandbag our workouts? NO. I am saying be smarter than the sandbag. Let’s talk about progress in the realm of fitness, and how to make it most efficiently!
By it’s very definition, CrossFit operates as “Constantly varied, functional movements, performed at high intensity.” Maybe you’re the guy who has had this phrase memorized since the year 2000, or maybe this is the first time you’ve heard it – regardless, it wouldn’t hurt to set the scene of this iconic text to illuminate it’s designated purpose. The word “intensity” is here used under the parameters of Mechanics, Consistency, and Intensity.
- STEP 1 – Mechanics: Can you perform the movement well? For example, when you do a box jump, do you sprint to the box, leap from one foot, tackle the cube with your head down as you dream about beating Mat Fraser in the Open, -OR- do you practice good technique? Such as facing the box, taking off with both feet simultaneously, and landing on top of it to then extend your hips before returning to the ground? This may sound like an exaggeration; but we must understand that before cranking up the intensity on our reps, we need sound, safe movements.
- STEP 2 – Consistency: Can you repeat the mechanics under stress? Are you the athlete who approaches that first rep in Grace with blinding beauty as you move seemingly in slow motion, completing your first rep with a smile, wink, and hair flip – only to find yourself eight reps later slamming pre-workout in the corner, painting yourself with chalk, and scaring small children as you psych yourself up for that ninth rep? Again, exaggeration. BUT, you cannot expect to improve your fitness levels without consistently demonstrating good, mechanical movements that your body is designed to withstand. When form breaks down, other muscle groups that are not intended to work start taking over, which causes over-use. A prime example of this would be a rounded back in a deadlift; if you do one deadlift with a rounded back, most likely you’ll be okay. BUT, think about 100 of them at a high rate. Good luck getting out of bed tomorrow.
- STEP 3 – Intensity: Can you overload your body according to your abilities? This is the magic pill for improvement. No games athlete, weekend warrior, or professional of any caliber ever progressed without dedicating some effort and thought toward their practice. As a person with goals, you have to have a plan of action for reaching them, otherwise they are just wishes. The key, however, is not to snatch 155lbs, strut over to the whiteboard, and write “275×2 snatch” for your goals that month. You must approach your aspirations realistically, by methodically overloading your body ONE STEP AT A TIME. No matter how hard you work, you will be left frustrated and defeated if you expect to get to the next level of fitness without using the very steps that lead you there. Don’t forget, intensity is the key. We just need to know how to use it.
“This all sounds really great, coach, but just tell me how to get a muscle up.”
Given that progress is only made through intensity, and intensity only works under the right dosages, it’s time to evaluate our weaknesses and prescribe accordingly.
1. The first step to solving any problem is acknowledging that you have one. What do you want to work on?
–This includes setting up goals and identifying the major barriers to those goals, which are your weaknesses.
2. Categorize your weaknesses to their varying degrees. Does your weakness require practice, training, or perfecting?
3. Attack each category with just the right amount of intensity!
PRACTICE ~ OVERCOMING FRUSTRATION
- If you need to practice something, your mechanics need some work. This should be performed at 30-40% intensity, or in other words, it will use a lot MORE rest time and a lot LESS sweat. Practice is for training your body to get used to a movement, not for showing one off. Use a PVC pipe instead of a barbell. Use resistance bands instead of total body weight. Use smaller sets instead of larger ones. You don’t need to learn how to do something at 100 miles per hour! Remember, driver’s ed began in a parking lot, not on the freeway. It also required an instructor. USE YOUR RESOURCES. You have access to multiple experienced coaches who would love to spend individualized time with you and target weaknesses (it’s what we do for a living!) Ask a coach about setting up a time to work on your specific goals through personal training sessions, because this gives you access to their undivided attention, care, and expertise to guide you on your path to success.
TRAINING ~ FINDING BALANCE
- This is where the majority of our time should be spent. When you need to train something, your consistency needs work. Training is done at 75-90% intensity. “But why not 110%, coach? I wanna be the champ!” Well if you have the goal of doing really well in the Open, for example, the quickest way to not get there is by under or over doing your training. You will either be smacked with the hand of humility when the workouts are announced – because you’ve been slacking off – or you will be worn down and likely unmotivated from the eleven months you spent trying to overwork yourself in preparation for it. There is a happy medium! SEEK HELP. Speaking from experience, it is far better to follow a program that is designed to hone in on your weaknesses than it is to cherry pick what you think would be best for you. The truth is, MORE WORKOUTS DOESN’T ALWAYS MEAN BETTER RESULTS. “But coach, Rich works out 10 times a day, why shouldn’t I?” Rich’s goals are much different than yours; wanting to be HEALTHY and LOOK GOOD requires a different approach! He is training for a durability stimulus, the Crossfit Games, where athletes are asked to workout for 6 hours straight. Know your goals and how to get there. The person in the corner of the gym doing their own thing everyday usually just needs to go harder for one hour of class instead of doing extra workouts. If you need balance, listen to your coaches, and trust the process! Confess your aspirations – we will gladly sit down with you and develop a balanced program to prescribe the right intensity that best fits your needs, and walk with you every step of the way to see your triumphs through.
PERFECTING ~ PEAKING IN PERFORMANCE
- It’s encouraged that you dream big. In fact, it would be odd if you didn’t have an ever growing list of skills you wanted to improve upon on in the gym. We are a community of people who love facing and overcoming challenges together, so let’s do this together. Since you’ve grasped mechanics, consistency, and intensity – and applied that intensity to their respective categories of practice, training, and perfecting – it’s time to tap into that 110% everyone is so eager to live by! Whether it is Olympic lifting, gymnastics work, or metabolic conditioning, there comes a point in time when you need to push your limits to become a better version of yourself. As long as you have established the foundation of safe, consistent movement, you are ready to venture into the exciting territory of personal records. Surround yourself with like minded people who want to see you succeed, and feed off of their energy. Equally as important, utilize the watchful eye of a qualified trainer to give you the encouragement and pointers you need to give everything you have! We will probably celebrate your victory more than you do – partially because we are crazy, but mostly because we love watching people succeed. We are no strangers to pushing athletes past what they believed they could be, so reach out to a coach to hold you accountable to your goals, find ways to set new personal records, and enjoy every victory along the way.
LONG STORY SHORT
If you do not understand the importance of training at the right intensity according to YOUR specific needs, you will learn the hard way eventually. As someone who suffered a 9 month injury because of an ego that outweighed my deadlift, listen to me when I say that if there is anything that you can do to maximize your training, it is to seek guidance, knowledge, and a community that cares about you as a person. That is what will allow you to both progress as an athlete, AND enjoy the journey! No, hard work does not always pay off – but smart work does.