For many, the CrossFit™ season is already over; a year of hard work culminated into five weeks of testing. For a select few, the season is just beginning. The Training Think Tank coaches have already started feverishly working on off-season templates, regional plans and new training protocols to better our athletes this upcoming year. This past week, before the chaos of off-season writing began, I sat down for a few hours to think back over the past year of training, the protocols I wrote, how I managed my athletes and what I could do better this next year. During my time of thought, and through many conversations with the other TTT coaches, I wanted to share some of my observations of the Open season. Below are three key takeaways I hope will help motivate each athlete to further their own success through training.
The best in the sport move well
The sport of CrossFit™ has grown significantly over the past 10 years. For each of the past six open seasons the participation rate has grown at a significant percentage. This year, over 380,000 people participated in the CrossFit Open (in 2014 - 209,000 people participated). The field is deeper than it ever has been. A few years ago the best in the sport could do the workouts once and then move on with their training. Now, many athletes are having to ‘game’ every workout to fight for a top 20 spot in their respective region.
Everyone at the top of the sport has developed their “capacity”. All of them have similar ventilatory thresholds, good cardiac systems, excellent muscle endurance and they can all handle pain better than the average human. In other words, if we were to do basic physiological tests on the top 200 male and female athletes in the world - most likely, the majority of them would have extremely similar results. So what is the difference between the “great” CrossFitters and the “good" Crossfitters? Those at the very top of the sport have the most efficient movement patterns, great breathing mechanics, better tissue quality and excellent technical proficiency while doing standard CrossFit™ movements. The best in the sport do not have drastically higher physiological markers or significantly better pain tolerances, rather, they are better at making each movement “cost less” — they can do work at a higher level before they have to start suffering because their movement economy allows each rep to cost less than the average athlete.
Learn how to move well. If your squatting mechanics are making thrusters more difficult than they should be or deadlifts are extremely taxing because you cannot breathe in a hinged position - start working on it NOW. Look at it this way - when Tiger Woods worked on his golf swing, he focused first on the perfect positions needed to achieve the swing he desired. He wasn’t aimlessly hitting golf balls down the driving range. Tiger hired a coach, spent hours focusing on video review of every angle and position of his swing and then perfected it. He went on to win 14 majors. If you want to gain an edge in this sport, start with your movement quality. Have a clear-cut purpose in mind during every training session. Practice how you intend to play. Fix your movement discrepancies first so you can express your true potential when the workout counts.
In the world of remote coaching, our view of our athletes comes almost exclusively from feedback, emails, texts, videos and consults. Without communication and consistent feedback from our athletes, the coaching process becomes extremely difficult. And one thing continues to ring true - the clients who report their results the most CONSISTENTLY and THOROUGHLY with QUALITATIVE feedback are the ones who have made the most progress over the past year. As I have said in previous blogs, it makes no sense why someone would pay for individualized coaching only to disappear after the assessment process. What a coaching process offers is far beyond programming protocols. When our athletes offer us quality feedback we can adjust, manage, and progress designs as needed to help our athletes gain the most amount of success as possible. When athletes neglect the simple responsibility of doing so, a coach is left to guess.
Here is the reality: those that truly care about their training and take their goals seriously are the same ones who give feedback to their coach. If you care, you will hold yourself responsible for giving consistent feedback. If you have failed to do so over the past year, start a new trend. Talk to your coach about your new commitment and ask them to hold you accountable as well. Stop making excuses and start doing.
Effort will continue to be a choice
The week before the open started I wrote a blog discussing several tips for the Open. One of those tips was to ‘not be tied to any outcome’. In that article I used a phrase Max discussed at our annual open camp - “Effort is a Choice”. I wrote:
Effort is a choice, winning is not. There will be times when your very best effort will earn you a victory and others where your very best effort may earn you last place. In either circumstance, don’t be tied to the outcome. Instead, tie yourself to your effort, will, determination and sacrifice. Judge your performance based on the effort you gave in preparation and execution, and not on the outcome of placement.
Those words mean even more now that the Open has concluded. Many of our athletes were disappointed with their performances on at least one of the workouts. Others may have been disappointed by their overall placement after it was all said and done. In both cases I asked my athletes to judge their performances based on their effort and not on their placement. If they gave their very best effort and executed the workout to their highest potential but came up short - I told them they should be thrilled. The reality is sometimes others are just better, and no coach can guarantee winning - see Max’s most recent video on that topic here.
Whether or not you reached your goal in the Open, effort will continue to be a choice. For those who are disappointed with their Open performance or who missed out on reaching their goal by only a few spots, now, more than ever, is the time to create the effort needed to become the athlete you want to be. As the offseason begins or as you start to prepare for the next step in the CrossFit™ season, let your effort stand out. Push yourself to do the small things necessary to make the next step. Collaborate with your coach, be intentional about your training and what needs to get done and give your best effort in everything that you do.