Monday, October 12, 2015

Patience & Consistency: Things I learned on the road of improvement

"Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out"

For those of you who don't know, I coach classes at three different gyms. Being a coach is the best job in the world, I love it so much and I look forward to coaching my classes every day. I am always inspired by my athletes and I really enjoying helping them reach their fitness goals. 

A lot of people are now "regulars" and have been coming to class for quite awhile. There are a few people who I've been coaching for almost two years now. We also have new people joining the gym every month, which is awesome. I love when new people come into the classes because it's always enjoyable coaching someone through the basics of CrossFit and watching them get excited when things start to "click" during a lift or skill work. 

I've definitely seen a trend with some of the new athletes that join the classes over the years and I guess that's why I was inspired to write this post. I noticed some people tend to get discouraged when they're the "new" person in class. As I'm explaining the basics of a snatch to someone or putting someone through an assessment, I hear things like "this is embarrassing, I can barely do push ups" or "I feel like I'm never going to get this." They see more experienced athletes in the class lifting more weight or doing muscle ups and get discouraged because they're not there yet. I've noticed some people are always so quick to feel bad about themselves when they first start CrossFit, even though most of them are doing movements they've never done in their life. 

I always have to remind people that almost everyone started the same way. Almost every single athlete that I'm now coaching walked into the gym at one point and knew almost nothing about CrossFit and the movements that go along with it. There are always a few people who have an athletic background and can already do pull ups or have solid aerobic capacity, but for the most part we all started from ground zero. In fact, I am one of the biggest examples of literally starting from nothing and putting in the time and effort to ensure improvement, and I always share this story with my athletes when they get frustrated. 

First, let's all take a trip down memory lane.......

This was me in the summer of 2010. Bad hair and baggy clothes aside, I was in terrible shape. I was overweight and had exactly zero self-confidence. My dad dragged me to a CrossFit class in the park while I was home from college because he recognized that I needed to get in shape and get healthy. My first CrossFit workout consisted of all the basic movements- step ups, push ups, sit ups, and lunges. I fucking hated it. I could barely do any of it. I did the push ups on my knees, I had to do the step ups on the smallest of steps, and I was extremely winded and ready to quit two minutes into the workout. I remember constantly asking the coach if we were close to being finished. We did lunges with a PVC pipe and I could barely hold it overhead. I was sore for a week, I could barely bend over and tie my shoes. It was the actual worst. It made me realize how out of shape I was, and I decided to make a change and started coming to classes four or five times a week. 

And now, let us fast forward to the summer of 2015.....

This is me 5 years later with my awesome team at the 2015 Central Regional. I am a completely different person than the chick in the first picture. I have so much more confidence and I am a lot stronger, both mentally and physically. If I could back in time and tell my out of shape self that in five years I would be competing at the regional level, I wouldn't have believed it. No way. I've done things over the past few years that I never thought I would be able to do. There's really no secret to getting better, I basically just did three things:

I stuck to one program. I listened to my coach. I trained consistently. 

That's it. There's really no secret formula to improving and reaching your goals. You just have to put in the work and you have to do it every day. 

I always like to sort my thoughts into list format, so here are a few things I've learned over the years as an athlete who was once starting from scratch: 

1. Don't bounce around between programs
If you're constantly jumping between different programs, chances are it will take you a lot longer to reach your goals. Choose a program that works for you and stick with it. Each day is part of a bigger plan to help you get where you need to be. If you're going between three different programs because you're just doing what you "feel like" doing, you're not going to get any better and you definitely won't be hammering your weaknesses as much as you need to. Your programming should be small pieces that fit together to form a bigger picture. Talk with your coach and decide what is best for you. It might be the classes, the competition track, or even individualized programming. Whatever it is, stick with it. You will see more progress if you're patient and follow one program. 

2. Write everything down. Seriously, everything.
I have been keeping a blog of all my workouts since February 2013. Writing down all of your workouts and PRs is a great way to see just how far you've progressed over the years. Here's something I wrote in my blog from September 2013:

"The muscle ups felt awesome today! I am getting a lot more comfortable stringing them together, I didn't have any misses, they are getting a lot smoother and faster. Yay! Hopefully I'll be able to string three together soon"

Now here's a post from June 2014:

"My muscle ups are feeling so much easier lately, I was really happy that I was able to string 5 together for 5 out of 6 rounds. Now I just need to learn how to breathe during longer sets of MUs"

And now a post from January 2015:

"Muscle ups were EASY, my PR is 8 in a row, and for a moment I thought I would be able to hit 9"

Writing everything down helps you see progress over time. It's very easy to get discouraged on a bad training day, and when things aren't going well I tend to look back at old posts just to see how far I've come in the past few years. It's important to look at the bigger picture instead of day to day. Maybe you're getting frustrated because you're having trouble stringing more than six pull ups together, but if you look in your notebook you'll realize you couldn't even do a single pull up one year ago. It's all about the journey and seeing how far you've come. If you're a new athlete starting CrossFit, go buy a notebook and start writing down every workout from now on. 

Writing everything down is also important going week to week. If Stephen gives me 1-arm DB row, 3x8-10/arm, and this week I have 1-arm DB row, 3x6-8/arm, I'm going to have to look back at last week so I know where I ended last week and where to start this week. It's very important to my training so I can stay consistent and increase the weight correctly. 

Just write it all down man. 

3. Train consistently
My training really improved when I started sticking with a schedule and began training five days a week. It's hard to improve and get stronger when you're skipping training days. Your programming is a specific long-term plan, and if you come for a few weeks and then disappear for a few weeks you probably won't see much improvement. Make a schedule and stick with it. This is probably the most important thing. If you want to get better at something, you have to do it every day. This was ingrained in my brain when I was a jazz studies major at college. My college experience was a lot like my CrossFit experience. When I first showed up as a freshman, I basically sucked at jazz trumpet. My professors told me the only way I would get better was to practice. Every day. So that's what I did. I practiced for hours every day, and by the time I graduated I had a lot more confidence in my playing ability, my sound was bigger, and I was a lot better. You just have to come in and put in the work, and you have to do it on a regular basis. 

Here's me playing at a jazz club as a timid freshman

Here's me playing jazz with my pals at my senior recital

4. Be patient
CrossFit can be very frustrating. Sometimes there are days when shit is just not going well and things don't make sense. The important thing is to just stick with it and see it through. Progress isn't going to happen overnight, but six months from now you'll look back at your old numbers and realize just how much you've improved. The same thing will happen a year from now. Put in the time, listen to your coaches, and be patient. You have to look at it as a journey, really. That's the way I see it. I've been doing this for six years and I still have a long way to go, but I'm proud of how far I've come. I'm proud of how far everyone has come. I've seen athletes walk into the gym that couldn't do pull ups and now they're stringing bar muscle ups together. I've seen females that never thought of themselves as strong and now they can do handstand push ups and front squat 180. Progress will come if you stick with it and have patience. It worked for me and I know it can work for you. 

So I guess the point of this entire blog post is: be proud and be patient. Be proud of yourself for taking your fitness into your own hands and for putting in the time and effort to get better. Be patient with your training and improvement will come. Set goals for yourself and always have fun. 

That's all I got. 

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