Last year a good friend pointed out to me how patience is not one of my strong suits. It was an observation delivered to me without judgement and that allowed my stubborn side to actually listen. After a lot of reflection about it I could see the pitfalls of the trait and so I wrote down my intention to practice being more patient. It came at a time in my life when uncertainty and stress were high which I believe made the intention not only daunting but also necessary. It is a quality so deeply ingrained in me that I knew it wouldn’t change quickly. There are many pieces of my life in which I have had the opportunity to try practicing patience. It turns out it’s not as impossible as it might seem once it’s in your conscious brain. At least I am able to recognize it and call myself out. The idea of patience also seems to go along strongly with identifying what things in life are worth “giving a f&#$ about”, or maybe just toning down how much you give a f&*$ about those things at that particular time based on greater circumstances.
I’ll leave the more personal side of this journey out of this post but I do want to share the fitness component of the story. I have the luxury (and it really is an amazing part of my “job”) of having some really personal conversations with people about their lives. I am very grateful for what people share with me or ask for my advice on. Because of these conversations I am a collector of trends, themes and shared thoughts. What I am hearing a lot about lately I can identify with. I thought there might be a benefit to sharing.
Regardless of role at CFSQ (athlete, coach, owner) we all share the training floor and the understanding of what the equipment and movements demand of us. Like we tell you in Foundations 1, WE do what you do. We are not hands off as owners and coaches, we are all on some variation of a program we offer at CFSQ. We do this because we love it, because we wholeheartedly believe in it, but also so we can learn first hand about what you are experiencing. This shared experience is part of how we learn. In my 9ish years of CrossFit I’ve learned a lot about learning curves and setbacks (my own and other people’s).
There are so many reasons that our training/fitness takes a turn for the worse at some point (realistically many many points) in our lives. The most common reasons I see are new family members, loss of family members, injury, work demands, or changes that we just don’t see coming in our daily lives. Sometimes life just stacks up in a really demanding way. The common theme is a disruption (planned or not) to our routine and flow of training. We are results driven people. The problem? We think that when life gets tough we can still do it all. The expectation of ourselves stays high. Generally the type of person who thrives in an intense program like CrossFit is someone who prefers a results data curve that goes up over one that goes down. The more engaged you are in something, the more affected you are by the result of your effort and feedback of data. Short story: we are pumped when we are getting PRs and seeing signs of improvement, we are choked when we don’t. What we are not good at is being fair to ourselves about why we might be in a lull or downturn. The luxury of being in it for the long haul is that the larger patterns become more clear. The daily results are slightly less significant when they are misses and are extra significant when they are wins. A general downturn in your results curve should only really be baffling to you when there is no reasonable or fair explanation. That said, we’re human and we aren’t often good at seeing ourselves in a fair light.
A year ago today I achieved a goal I had attempted and failed at 2 times prior in PRO/AM powerlifting meets. I got an elite powerlifting total for my weight class at the PRO/AM in Cincinnati. It was perhaps the strongest (and maybe even fittest) I have ever been. Not long after, life took an unexpected turn and my stress level went into a uniquely high zone. Although I was able to compete at the GPC Worlds in September (I think maybe only because of adrenaline) my system couldn’t handle any more physical or emotional exertion. Regular consistent training has been and will always be a priority for me, but when weeks of poor motivation and effort turns into months and the numbers and results start to dip below 4-5 year old numbers it’s pretty tough to stay happy in the gym. It’s hard to quiet the little voice in your head that expects that you should be able to match or beat old results. Missing lifts that are 30-50# below old numbers is quite demoralizing. I deadlifted 336# at worlds in September and in December barely got 275# off the floor.
So one day when the “why bother” voice kicked in I decided to just stop caring. That didn’t mean that I stopped training… it just meant that I stopped focusing on the thing that was making me upset (the numbers that went into my log book). I reminded myself that the feeling I love the most in the gym (or trail running or whatever) is feeling good about my movement and feeling like I got a good workout in. I switched back over the CrossFit side of the gym and pretended that I was a new person starting with light weights and measuring my success based on how I felt I was moving and the recent progressions only. My bar (no pun intended) has been reset and it’s super low. The last 7 weeks have been really fun for me. I only care about my numbers in a way that shows that I’m progressing over the last 7 weeks. Today I camber bar squat 20# under my PR as a pretty legit max effort. I was happy. It felt good. It was better than my bow bar last week that was 30# under my old number.
To those of you who are dealing with a set back… I get it, it’s really frustrating. But I have learned first hand that how you feel about yourself and your training on a daily basis is relative to your perspective… which is relative to your ability to go easy on yourself when life and circumstance aren’t favourable. It is completely unrealistic to be awesome all the time. Years ago I would have disagreed with that as a general goal, but I have grown since then. Being in it for the long haul means understanding that lulls can last an exceptionally long time (which in the big picture is probably still not that long). I’m not as patient yet as I’d like to be but I’ve definitely made some improvements.
If you’re in a lull ask yourself what it is about fitness that makes you feel good. Then find a way to feel pieces of that again. Make a plan.
Stay the course…. it’s a very long life of training. I promise you there are little wins to be had no matter what you are dealing with.