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There's nothing we love more than seeing all of you learn new skills and fill up that PR board at the gym each month! In all the excitement of learning new skills and being able to do things you couldn't before, here are some important things to remember as you progress in CrossFit:
Day to day training is just that--training. Every day is not a competition.
Yes, it can be motivating to see how others are doing. You scan the board for that person you know who happens to be around your level so you know what you "have to beat." You see the guy next to you move on from his box jumps and run over to his pull up bar, so you move a little faster to catch up. That girl in front of you is resting for a moment, so it's your chance to pass her... you've played this game in your head. We all have--and it can be a great way to push the intensity in our workouts to the next level. (It can also inspire some people to miscount reps or short their standards to keep up--don't let that be you!!! There's no pride in winning if you cheat to get there.)
But let's not forget why we're here. We are here to be stronger, faster, and healthier than we were yesterday. Remember that guy or gal who walked into a CrossFit gym for the first time (weeks, months, maybe years ago)--that was you. Remember how you struggled with the same WOD or lift last time, and this time it doesn't feel as bad as you recall. Remember when you couldn't do a pull up to save your life, and your max overhead squat was an empty bar (and that was a challenge).
You may not always come in first, you may never come in first, but next time you are feeling like the slowest or the weakest person in class or just not at your best, remember how far you've come. Chances are you could kick your old self's ass. And for that, you should be damn proud. Don't let competition rule your world. You are here to train--so lighten up, and have fun! Don't worry so much about what the folks around you are doing--they're on their own journey, and all they need is your encouragement (and shared suffering).
Strict movement is a win-win!
It's really tempting to start kipping your movements (pull ups, muscle ups, dips, hspu) as soon as you possibly can. Of course you'd want to--you get your work done faster in addition to getting that shiny RX next to your name. Before you start kipping away, let's look at the benefits of strict movement:
1) You significantly decrease your chances of injury if you build the strength to do movements strict before kipping. When you do a kipping pull up, you have a lot of momentum and force on the way down (where most injuries occur), and if you are not in control of that descent, you run the risk of shoulder injuries. Any time you are kipping, you must be in full control of the negative portion of the movement. If you don't have the required strength to pull your bodyweight up, what are the chances you have the strength to control yourself on the way down?
2) You will get stronger faster. Strict movements will develop strength more quickly than kipping. Your reps may take longer to complete in the present, but in the long run, that strength will allow you to do more work in less time. As Mark Bell says, "Strength is never a weakness." So get strong--really strong, and you'll be flying through your metcons as well as putting up bigger numbers.
Scale with pride.
The biggest risk of injury in CrossFit comes out of too much pride. People feel shame in scaling workouts, as though they aren't doing the full workout or they aren't doing it right. It would be absurd to think that one workout (with one designated weight) would be the perfect workout for everyone. Why should a 220 pound man be lifting the same weight as a man who weighs 130 pounds? Why should a woman who is 6 feet tall jump the same height as a woman who is 4 feet tall? The differences among us are many (age, gender, height, weight, body composition, experience, etc.)--and our workout prescription should account for as many of these as needed.
CrossFit is programmed for the elite athlete and meant to be scaled down from there. When we plan a workout, we aim for a middle to upper end of the road approach. Sometimes we shift the weights/movements up a bit to a more advanced level, and sometimes we aim for something we think will be an appropriate challenge or goal for a majority of members. But with the idea of one WOD planned for all, there is the assumption of scaling. We can make recommendations for how you should scale the workout, but if 60 people walk through the door on a given day, it's not unreasonable to think that workout could take on 60 different forms. Some will need to scale the weight or the amount of reps, some will modify difficult movements, some will have to shorten the time, and others may even be better suited to adding weight or rounds. This is what it should look like. The notes after your name are not a list of things you did wrong, they are a record of achievement (and one which you should record for tracking your progress and accomplishments). Consider it a responsibility to scale wisely so that you can keep coming in, stay healthy, and make gains. A little patience can go a long way in CrossFit.
Let's take an example: If a workout calls for 95# overhead squats, and my one rep max is 105#, I could look at the board and say "Sweet! I can RX this one!" But more likely, I should look at the board and say "Hmm, this workout is taking an average of 10 minutes. It would take me 10 minutes just to get through the first round of squats, I think I'll scale." This is the purpose of time caps, to give you an idea of the goal of the workout. Some WODs are meant to be quick sprints where you can keep moving, and others are meant to test your endurance and will require some pacing and short breaks. If you aren't certain of what a WOD should feel like, ask your trainer. Keep the integrity of the workout, and you'll see better results. Don't turn your sprint days into grinders, but also, don't leave without breaking a sweat!
And above all, have a good time! We have so much to be grateful for with the wonderfully supportive community at GRCF. Let's all help each other to make smart choices at the gym and remind each other that it's okay to be wherever we are in our journey to being healthy and fit!