The Physicist Moché Feldenkrais once said:
“Movement is life, life is process, improve the quality of the process, and you improve the quality of life itself”.
I think this is a great phrase to keep in mind, to keep you on the right track and develop self-awareness more efficient ways of moving and ultimately, a more healthy life.
I have witnessed impressive transformations since I started coaching CrossFit. However sometimes, I see people missing the point, as they progress along their journey, and they seem to forget why they started practicing in the first place.
What I am referring to is an attitude that develops, which is related to accomplishment, competition and external validation.
After a few months of practicing CrossFit, it is common for a “rah, rah PR” attitude to take shape and rule the roost. By this, I am referring to an attitude of being more interested in the numbers that you lift, rather than the lifts and movements themselves.
Human movement is a beautiful and creative thing. And as the great “mover” Ido Portal explains so well: “humans are designed to move”.
When “equipment” is involved with movement, lifting things, throwing things, pulling and pushing things, techniques of incorporating these things can become more complex than moving just the human body alone. In the sport of CrossFit, this is the case, with Olympic lifts and gymnastics being an integral part of the sport.
Over the past 5 years of learning about these movements we use in CrossFit, I have come to appreciate their subtleties above and beyond, the loads I am lifting or the number of reps I am performing. After taking a year and a half to really take a step back and put time to understand the O-lift movements in particular, which I had never encountered before I started CrossFit, I have learned to appreciate how much skill is required to lift a load overhead efficiently. And ultimately, how much complexity is involved, on many levels, to arrive at a very simple and clean result.
I want to draw attention to this “appreciation”, because I think all too often the appreciation of movement is bypassed in the name of making a PR (personal record) or wanting to do butterfly pull ups even before a good set of strict pull ups can be accomplished. Efficiency is lost, and the quality of movement is often in question, when actually it is this quality and efficiency, that can ultimately produce the extra weight or the extra volume of reps that is required in CrossFit workouts. Unfortunately, in my opinion, in the Sport of CrossFit, movement standards are very minimal. Unlike what exists in the sports of Olympic Weightlifting and Gymnastics, which have very strict and complex movement standards, resulting in highly skilled athletes performing high quality movements very efficiently. The lack of standards in Crossfit, sometimes gives rise to cutting corners in technique, rushing through progressions and often not taking the time to patiently understand movements or to prepare the body, for example, practicing mobility. It also can give rise to an attitude towards accomplishment which can lead people astray from why they even started the sport in the first place.
Let’s take a moment to recap on what the definition of some words, which are often thrown around in the context of CrossFit are.
- Accomplishment (according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary)
: something done, achieved, or accomplished successfully
: the successful completion of something : the act of accomplishing something
: a special skill or ability gained by practice or training
: the act or process of trying to get or win something (such as a prize or a higher level of success) that someone else is also trying to get or win : the act or process of competing.
1a : peculiar and essential character
b : an inherent feature
c : capacity, role
2a : degree of excellence : grade
b : superiority in kind
3a : social status : rank
b : aristocracy
4a : a distinguishing attribute
b archaic : an acquired skill : accomplishment
: a level of quality, achievement, etc., that is considered acceptable or desirable
standards : ideas about morally correct and acceptable behavior
: something that is very good and that is used to make judgments about the quality of other things.
Accomplishment and competition go well together. I would say that humans naturally seek accomplishment and that leads to seeking validation in many cases. Competition is a great context to test out skills with the aim of accomplishment. I think that sometimes in the sport of CrossFit the focus can often become too centered on accomplishment and results, and not enough on quality and standards.
So to conclude, next time you are in a WOD, or a competition, or training session, instead of getting stressed because you don’t know if you are good enough or you don’t know if you will be able to perform a certain movement, or you get mad (at yourself) because you aren’t as good as you expected or as you want to be, take a step back and think back to why you started CrossFit in the first place. Look at and appreciate, all the things you can now do that you couldn’t do before. Take a moment to enjoy performing a movement as perfectly as you know how at a lower weight, just for the pleasure of appreciating the movement. You chose to do something positive, that you enjoyed and that is making you a healthier, stronger human. Watch out not to fall into the trap of external validation, and comparing yourself to others. Watch out not to make the focus the achievement, rather than the process. Enjoy learning the movements that you perform, because competition and accomplishment is just the testing ground. The best part is living the journey and working the process leading up to the final game.
Have fun during this season of competition, don’t get negative about what you can’t do yet, and appreciate what you have accomplished now.