Athlete Journal: Michael Winchester, Entry 7 – 4/8/12

Michael Winchester journals about the common pitfalls he sees that a CrossFitter (or any athlete) runs into as they progress – and his key to success, staying the course.

Schedule of CrossFit Athlete Journals:

Mondays – Ingrid Kantola

Wednesdays – Travis Holley

Sundays – Michael Winchester

Michael Winchester – Athlete Journal 4/8/12

(Read Michael’s Bio here)

Stay the Course

It happens every month in the gym: Someone gets frustrated and upset by their progress (or lack thereof) in CrossFit. Generally speaking, this frustration arises out of a false sense that all progress has come to a halt and that he or she feels their strength, fitness and skills are retrograding.

As a coach, it is your duty to quell these fears and show (not tell) the athlete how and why they are improving and then show (not tell) them about the journey they are on and the path they must forge to see the results and performance they want to see.

In my experience, there are three vital concepts that the beginner, intermediate, advanced, and even elite crossfitter must keep in mind if progress is to be maintained and sanity kept.

1) Beginner’s Success

Everyone involved in any almost any kind of learning or training has gone through what I call “Beginner’s Success”. This is where you are learning something new – something completely outside of the normal scope of learning or adaptation, and growth can (and many times does) occur exponentially. In CrossFit, the beginner will very quickly see body composition changes with the incorporation of the paleo diet and performance changes when it come to max efforts ie: back squat max moves from 155 to 225 pounds in six months. While this is great in terms of physical and mental growth, it can often be misleading: the beginner now has the taste of success, and they want more… more… more…

The problem comes when the PRs stop coming, and when every pound of muscle they want to put on or the next pound of body fat they want to shed becomes harder and harder. What needs to be made very clear is that the better you become and the closer to your true potential you reach, the harder it gets – the more you have to work, the more you have to sacrifice, the longer you have to wait for new PRs and new achievements. It is not possible to continue to PR your deadlift, back squat or press by 20 or 30 pounds every 6 months. Top level Olympic lifters train for months and even years to hit new PRs of maybe one or two kilos or pounds!

Not to worry! Results come only with hard work, smart work, dedication and consistency. Stay the course.

2) “Big Fish, Little Pond Moves to a Bigger Pond”

This happens when a CrossFitter starts crushing workouts, sets PRs above and beyond their classmates and becomes the leader in their class. The often if not always win the WOD and people look to them for the time of the day.

But then something happens. This person moves into the “elite” class and RX weights start to get heavier and the workouts become more advanced. They are expected to do everything as prescribed and find that the option of scaling makes them move more slowly through the workout they used to dominate when they scaled. The people around them are also very good, and have probably been crossfitting longer than they have.

Another scenario is this: the same person enters into a local or regional competition and finds they do not stack up so well against the best their city, state, or region has to offer.

They quickly become upset and frustrated because they are no longer “winning.” You will see this when an athlete moves from the high school varsity team to NCAA Division I sports. If you want to be the best in your class, gym, city, etc. you have to keep chasing the men and women in front of you. Always reaching for the next level.

Q: What is needed?

A: Time, practice, work, dedication, sacrifice, and consistency. Stay the course.

3) Detailed Records

Do you keep a log of your workouts? If not, WTF?

I have had athletes approach me telling tall tales of decreased performance, loss of muscle, feelings of inadequacy…the list of woes goes on. Very rarely these feelings are well founded, and if that is the case, a serious re-evaluation of training and diet is in order.

But almost always, what this person is experiencing is a combination of numbers 1 and 2 above. So I ask them to give me their workout logs (show me the evidence!), and just as I suspect, their lifts and benchmark times are actually improving.

What does this tell me? A) Keep a detailed workout log (and food log) if necessary. B) Refer back to this log in times of doubt or dismay. Stay the course.

The very nature of CrossFit demands we as athletes choose to be well rounded in as many time and modal domains as possible. If you go through a three-month strength cycle, your work capacity and metabolic conditioning will almost always take a hit. When you prep for a competition and start ramping up on work capacity and metcon, your 1 RMs might take a dip. These are not rules set in stone; this is just what generally happens.

It is vital to understand in any endeavor (strength and conditioning, learning a new language, living life) you will move through peaks and valleys. You will not always be at one hundred percent You will have days that are great and days that are complete disasters. You will plateau and then immediately hit new records. Some days you will feel great and fail to perform – others you will be sick, tired and depressed and absolutely dominate the WOD and everything in your path.

This is CrossFit! And this is life!

Stay the course.

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