Is My Slow Progress TOO Slow?
Photos provided by Danette "Dizzle" Rivera.
I’ve been CrossFitting for over two years now. Much to my surprise, I cannot handstand walk to the grocery store. Or churn out butterfly pull ups at the park. I can’t muscle up to get stuff off a top shelf in the kitchen. Okay, that last sentence is ridiculous because I haven’t installed gymnastic rings in the kitchen yet. My thirteen-year-old daughter did four handstand pushups the other day, on a whim, when I’m still getting past the awkwardness of being upside down. Newer people at the gym sometimes do the same weight as me. Many who started CrossFit the same time I did have had a faster rate of progress and now beat my times in workouts. It all makes me wonder: is there such a thing as progressing too slowly?
It’s not always easy to remember that progress is progress. Ninety-five percent of the time I know that every bit forward counts and is not insignificant. But this doesn’t mean I don’t sometimes compare myself to the best in my gym, the best online, and sometimes the best in the world. The 2012 CrossFit Games are playing on ESPN now and it’s hard to not want to be like those athletes. Most of the photos online of CrossFit women are ones of chiseled beauties who can snatch their bodyweight or muscle up like hell. Some are handstand walking to the grocery store. Not really, but the point is that my relative reality becomes skewed. I wonder how some athletes who started CrossFit six months ago are already Games material when I still feel strict pull ups are a mother-effer.
Sometimes I forget these amazing athletes are not the majority. There are arguably about a half-million CrossFitters at present time at affiliates alone, not even counting people in their home gyms. And only a very small percentage of that number is phenomenal. The rest of us - the majority of us - are average or relatively new, scaling some, many, or all of our workouts. It’s ridiculous to compare myself to anyone. Of course I know this. I kick myself for allowing myself to feel any less than my magnificent self. But seriously, why when I overhead squat do I feel like my entire insides are about to explode, not to mention my shoulders and ankles?
I am not trying out for the fire academy any time soon nor am I making a run for the 2016 Olympics, so sometimes I wonder why constantly smashing personal records becomes so important. I get that bypassing PRs is part of the CrossFit culture, but I suppose that personally I always want to be better at whatever I love and spend so much time doing.
I don’t like to wallow in this type of mentality especially when I am still progressing. I’m not one to badmouth my performances usually, but I do think it’s important to acknowledge these kinds of days and not pretend like they don’t happen. I’m sure they happen to a lot of us especially when we see so much strength and greatness around us in the CrossFit world. Many of us are competitive spirits and it’s only natural to feel a need to keep up with the extraordinary no matter how out of reach. We can’t help ourselves. But we then tend to forget our own extraordinariness. There are a ton of reasons why we’re great in and out of the athletic realm.
After the acknowledgement of my perceived stagnation - and maybe a tiny bit of self-pity - I move on. There’s nothing else to do but just keep going. If I still love it, I’ll plod forward. Snail’s pace be damned.
My daughter, Mina, the one who can do handstand pushups, is a tennis player. That’s her passion and she practices five days a week. She works hard on her game. She just started playing more tournaments and she’s had very little success. A couple wins here and there, but she has never advanced past the second round. She puts in the work on the court, she cross trains, she works on her serve, but her progress when it comes to winning matches is very slow. My husband and I tell her to keep going.
Mina squashes her frustration well, a lot like me in a way, because she believes us when we tell her that if she still loves it and still wants to put in the time, then she should just keep going. She believes us because we are one hundred percent sincere. Each tournament, she gets a fraction better. The mental side of her game is starting to gel with the physical. This last Saturday she lost pretty badly to a strong opponent. She took the loss well. She kept her chin up, but most likely she didn’t want to hear “keep going” after that kind of match. I only said, “I love you very much, Mina, and I’m so proud of the athlete you are right now and the one you are becoming.” She hugged me and thanked me.
I think I’m going to text myself that note. Because really, I shouldn’t feel any less understanding of the athlete that I am than I do of Mina. I don’t tell her things like that because it’s bullshit. And if I really mean it, then it holds the same weight for me. I am proud of the athlete I am right now and the one I’m becoming. In two years, I’ve learned so much about my strength and what I’m able to still accomplish. Two years is relatively nothing in a quest to be good at something.
I daydream about competing sometimes, but ultimately I started all of this so I could sustain a very high quality of life for a long time. I want to ride my bike until I’m so old I can’t see the road. They’re going to have to kick me off. I want to wrestle grocery bags away from bag boys determined to help me to my car. Beat it, kid, I got it. I want to be one of those crazy old people doing pull ups in the park because I can, much to the embarrassment of my grandkids. Shoot, maybe by then I’ll finally be able to churn out some butterfly pull ups.
Let me know if you’d like me to text that note to you, too.