Growing Your Life Muscles: Lessons from Crossfit Workouts
© 2012 by Aurelio Locsin.
As a non-athletic nerd, I’ve always thought that fitness success applied only to athletics or physical activity. Achievement with the body did not translate to accomplishment for the mind because they involved two different instruments. I then started Crossfit workouts, which led to improvements in my middle-aged body.
These achievements also benefited my life muscles, which included work, social relationships and learning. (You can read about my physical efforts in How I Lost Weight and Gained Health with Crossfit Workouts) The following are some of the lessons I’ve discovered from going to the gym.
Consistency is the Key
Newbies come into my Crossfit gym all the time with high physical hopes.
- They work out faithfully three days a week for about a week.
- They continue once a week for the next two weeks.
- And finally they come in once more two weeks later.
They then complain bitterly that even though they've been working out for six weeks, they've shown no progress in losing weight, building muscle or increasing fitness. In that same period of time, others who've been coming in regularly for three times a week have boasted measurable gains.
The only way you're going to achieve a goal is to set a schedule for it and stick with that time consistently. Your current efforts can thus build on previous ones and lay the foundation for future success. If you do things only when you feel like it, your individual acts can never join together to produce something bigger.
Write Down Long Term Goals
At my gym, the trainers encourage everybody to write their long-term fitness goals on the whiteboard. Perhaps it’s running a marathon, dead-lifting double your body weight, or losing 100 pounds. Displaying these declarations for the entire world to see transforms an intangible desire into a concrete goal. Crossfitters can then spend extra time with endurance movements if their goal is running a marathon, or increase barbell exercises if they want to lift heavier.
Write down your ultimate dream on a sheet of paper and place it where you and others can see it. Having this destination allows you to plan what steps it will take to best get there. You can then easily judge if any activities you are currently performing will help you reach success or hinder with obstacles.
But Break It Up Into Little Pieces
Lifting your bodyweight overhead or running three miles are impossible goals for the non-athlete. However, Crossfit makes these actions achievable by emphasizing scalability. This principle reduces movements down until the newbie can perform them.
- For example, lifting a heavy weight might begin with using a wooden dowel.
- As you gain more skill, you can move through different sizes of weight bars.
- Finally, you can add plates to the heaviest bar until you reach your goal.
You can easily reduce your insurmountable goals smaller pieces that are easily achievable. For example, finding the love of your life might begin with joining a hobby club where you can meet suitable dates. Or getting a better paying job as an administrator can start with business classes at your local community college.
Give and Get Support
I’ve come and gone through many gyms over the years because the trainers and other participants have either ignored me, or mocked my fitness efforts. In two years of Crossfit workouts, I have yet to hear an unkind word even if I fail to complete a workout or do a movement incorrectly. Instead, they celebrate even an increase of five pounds in weightlifting. When my inner critic voices his frustrations out loud, more skilled fitness buffs are quick to say that they’ve been there before. They kindly offer guidance and support, encouraging me to do the same for newbies.
You’re going to suffer from enough self-doubt when trying something new. You don’t need to hang out with others who do nothing but bring you down. Find those who can celebrate your victories, or offer constructive lessons if you fail. Spread that support around and help others who are starting toward their destinations. By helping each other out, you can all achieve your goals.
Technique is Everything
New Crossfitters who happen to be young school athletes like to show off by muscling weights into position, such as when hoisting a barbell overhead in the snatch. They usually get tired and reach their weight limits quickly. They then wonder why the middle-aged soccer mom with Crossfit experience can lift for longer periods, sometimes with heavier weights. They don’t realize that she’s learned the proper technique of using her hips to thrust the weight upward, while using the arms simply to guide it into place.
Entrepeneurs who launch businesses with nothing but hope and cash behind them will fail because it takes many other techniques to achieve viability. Learning those skills first, perhaps at community colleges, and then practicing them, perhaps as employees of larger businesses, will increase the chance of ultimate success.