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Philosophy for the CrossFitter: 3 Tenets to Become a Better Athlete

When the going gets tough, many people have difficulty coping with discomfort. I want to share with you three rules I’d recommend to anyone who wants to become a better athlete.

Philosophy for the CrossFitter: 3 Tenets to Become a Better Athlete

“This sucks.”

Words you will never stop hearing in a CrossFit gym, especially in the middle of a work out. And still, people flock to gyms like moths to a flame. Why? Because people inherently know that the path to greatness is like a sidewalk littered with dog poop: you’re going to walk through a lot of crap to get to exactly where you want go.

Even still, when the going gets tough, many people have difficulty coping with discomfort, let alone handling it gracefully. Although this list is by no means exhaustive, I want to share with you three rules, or a general philosophy, I’d recommend to anyone who wants to become a better athlete:

1. Get Comfortable With the Uncomfortable

Everyday at the gym, you put yourself in temporary discomfort to work toward a vision of your life that you’ve deemed worth sacrificing for. Not us. YOU. You have decided to sacrifice your time, momentary satisfaction, and comfort in the name of becoming a version of yourself you would rather be. So naturally, you understand that there is a level of discomfort in life you can expect to experience if you have goals you want to bring to fruition.

Even still, there are other elements of discomfort that people often overlook: emotional and psychological discomfort, both in and out of the gym.

Understand the repercussions that personal growth can have on the rest of your life, and do not be surprised if they are not always positive ones. From personal relationships to activities on the weekend, these parts of your life may change as you make health and fitness a priority. If you usually drink and eat to excess as a means of spending time with your friends, your friends may be shocked and disappointed to know that you’re now doing something that precludes them and their Tuesday night plans.

Understand that you may experience mental and emotional discomfort, in addition to the physical discomfort, as you get closer and closer to the person you want to become. Whether it’s working out, improving your diet, or any other number of changes, there is a real emotional and psychological battle you will face, too. Although some of your friends or family members may not understand why you’re suddenly “no fun” or have “joined a cult,” what you really have to worry about is your mind.

It’s one thing to deal with someone else’s confusion or disappointment in you. It’s another thing to navigate the insidious tricks your mind plays on you and the sabotaging efforts it makes as you try to plow forward. Your mind will act out, and your emotions will follow. Some days you might be angry, other days you plop down like a cat on a leash – you’re not going ANYWHERE today. You throw tempers, inwardly or outwardly, as you make forward progress in your life.

Understand the nature of your mind, your emotions, and how they want nothing more than for you to return to how you used to be, when you were less happy with yourself.

The most important thing to remember here, is that discomfort does not always imply something is wrong. Sometimes, it’s just a sign that things have changed.

Do not let the feeling of discomfort scare you from continuing to make positive changes in your life.

Speaking of discomfort…

2. Understand Life is Not One Big Up

When people come to me and talk about being in a rut or having lost motivation, I don’t echo their sense of panic. People think because they are in a rut, burned out, or no longer motivated means that a chapter has come to an end, but anyone who has been apart of a meaningful, long-term relationship (or commitment) knows that this is simply not true.

Lulls in any experience are inevitable.

Someone asked me awhile back if I was getting burned out, and I said no. The implication behind the phrase “getting burned out” is that you’re in an automated car, moving at a consistent speed, heading toward a wall, with no means of shifting gears, turning the wheel, or stepping on the brakes altogether. Do I experience burn out? Yes. Do I feel myself in a rut occasionally? Oh, absolutely. When this happens, I do a combination of badass NASCAR movements: I make a U-turn, I pump the brakes, and miraculously, I’m able to avoid collision altogether.

How does this apply to your CrossFit journey?

Number one, it’s not a matter of if you’re going to lose motivation but WHEN. After that, it’s a question of how you deal with it. There are a number of ways to attack a loss of motivation. Maybe there are issues you’re dealing with at home, at work, or even internally, all of which make the joy of going to the gym seem suddenly pointless. Maybe you’re really weighed down by the plateau you’ve been at for awhile, and you don’t know how to shake things up.

It takes a lot of maturity and self-awareness when you are at these points, but you have to ask yourself the tough questions. Where are these feelings coming from? Do they point to something valid? What can I change to positively improve my outlook? What can I embrace?

This leads me to my next point.

3. Take Ownership of Your Journey

What makes CrossFit so uniquely effective is the camaraderie and community that develop at a gym. This community is what emboldens you to get your first muscle up, surrounded, literally, by a cheering crowd. Is there a crowd cheering for you at work when you finally finish that Powerpoint brief you have to send to your boss? I didn’t think so. But they pay the bills, right?

CrossFit work outs are fun in their own masochistic way, but what really cinches the deal between you and showing up tomorrow are the people. You rely on them to check if you’re going below parallel, help you unload your barbell, and share the burden in a partner WOD. But when it comes to burdens of a more significant nature, you suddenly think your community will fail you.

Ask for help. Feeling unmotivated? Unsure of how to navigate a plateau? There are coaches that literally get paid to help you. Even more poignantly, CrossFit coaches are largely part-time, having jobs and lives outside of the gym, and they do not get paid enough to do this strictly for the money. They are by no means free labor, but make no mistake, they do it for the love of the sport and for the enjoyment they get in coaching others through it.

You are not the first person on earth to experience a plateau, lack of motivation, or difficulty prioritizing your needs. What will empower you most in these situations is reaching out to those around you. How did your fellow athletes handle being stuck at a plateau? Does your coach think your form is the reason for the lingering ache in your shoulder?

Take ownership of your journey. Here’s how:

Get very clear on your concerns, questions, and intentions.

Why are you here? Why did you join our CrossFit gym? Why CrossFit? When you have an answer, ask yourself three more times: Why? Drill down deep to get to the answers within you that underpin why you do what you do.

Embrace your answers as valid. 

You want to pick up heavy things in public without asking for help. You want your spouse to look at you the way s/he did 5 years ago. You want to keep your mortality at bay. Whatever it is, understand and trust that this is your truth.

Make your intentions and concerns known to those around you.

State exactly what it is you’re looking for. If you want more feedback, ask for it. If you want less feedback, ask for it!

Allow yourself to have conversations with people in your community about the things that mean most to you.

Whether it’s with a fellow athlete or a coach, allow your concerns, questions, and intentions to be addressed. They may not always be answered, but they will be addressed.

Now allow yourself to learn and grow.

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