Athlete Journal: Michael Winchester, Entry 11 – 5/13/12

Michael discusses mastery of CrossFit in the context of the 10,000 hour theory. How do you get better at CrossFit? And how much time have YOU actually dedicated?

Schedule of CrossFit Athlete Journals:

Mondays – Ingrid Kantola

Wednesdays – Travis Holley

Sundays – Michael Winchester

Michael Winchester – Athlete Journal 5/13/12

(Read Michael’s Bio here)

An Overnight Success! (A Lifetime in the Making)

I like to write about the things I see and the themes or trends that I hear on a daily or weekly basis. This entry is the result of the comments and questions I have received over the course of the last month or so.

As in our society at large, there are many within the CrossFit community who seem to think success is something that can be achieved overnight. I am sure that if you ask anyone if this is possible, his or her first response would be “No! Of course not! Success is something that takes time, patience, and mastery of your trade.”

But when it comes time to put that sentiment into practice, that very person will be the first to ask why they are not progressing as fast as the person next to them – or why they are not “elite” yet – “But I work so hard!”

10,000 Hours

In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell details the success of individuals and companies who have achieved world renown for their exploits. His theory is that for someone to attain mastery in anything – from playing the violin to programming computers to reaching elite levels of sport – the common thread is that the person or organization must put in 10,000 hours.

This has come up recently in my CrossFit classes as my clients and athletes took on the Open and then witnessed Regionals. Many were awestruck by what they saw (“normal” people doing extraordinary things) and some were left wondering why they too could not perform at this level.

What they fail to understand is that the men and women who crushed the Open and performed so well at Regionals were not “overnight” successes. They seem this way because they had not been seen or heard of before. Many of the spectators had not had the opportunity to see so many individuals performing at such a high level.

Bill Gates started programming on computers at the age of thirteen. THIRTEEN. His success and subsequent fortune in founding Microsoft was no stroke of luck – and he was certainly not an overnight success. His was a fortune hard earned through hours and hours of practice.

10,000 Hours and CrossFit

Ours is a sport unlike any other. What makes CrossFit so alluring is also what makes it so hard. We want to be good at everything, and we want it now. But there are so many aspects of what we do (gymnastics, barbell movements, strength, metabolic conditioning, kettlebells, bodyweight control – to name a few) that it makes it very hard to become truly proficient at any.

This is where the 10,000 hours really comes into play, and it is imperative that anyone with dreams of being great at CrossFit takes note:

How may hours have you accumulated…

  • Practicing your squat, pushup and pullup (the foundational movements)?
  • Perfecting your snatch and clean and jerk (things it could take a lifetime to master)?
  • Dialing in body awareness and mobility?
  • Eating, sleeping and hydrating appropriately?
  • Fine-tuning your strength and work capacity game?

If the answer to any of these is “not 10,000” – you have work to do. Following this prescription, it could take you up to 50,000 hours to get close to mastering all of the varying aspects of CrossFit.

Sound like a lot? It is. So…

What do I do now?

What can you do now? “Do what you can, where you are, with what you have.” I have five simple (but not necessarily easy) guidelines you should follow:

  1. Find the best coach you can. If you want to do something, learn from the best.
  2. Practice everyday. There are no “off” days. Even on your off days, there is something you can do to improve. Foam roller anyone?
  3. Set goals. Without goals, you are driving a car without a steering wheel.
  4. Be diligent and consistent. These two attributes will take you as far as you want to go.
  5. Master your craft. If you choose to make CrossFit your craft, you must master it. 10,000 hours. No less.

The Bottom Line

No one told you it would be easy (and if they did, they lied). There is no such thing as a free meal! Everyone who has ever had success (with very few exceptions) has had to work long and hard to earn it. Stop making excuses for why you are not where you want to be – in CrossFit and in life. Step up to the plate and earn your hours!