Athlete Journal: Pat McCarty, Entry 13 – 5/22/2013

Shortly after I started CrossFit, I decided to stop avoiding pain during workouts and take myself to my limit. After that everything improved. It all reminds me of a Star Trek episode I saw once.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Welcome to the athlete journal of CrossFit trainer and masters athlete Patrick McCarty. Patrick competed in the 2011 Reebok CrossFit Games in the 45-49 age bracket and has his sights set on the Games again this year. Follow Patrick’s journals here every Wednesday.

Athlete Journal Entry 13: 5/22/2013

There is a great Star Trek: The Next Generation episode called “Time Squared” where the USS Enterprise is being sucked into a huge energy vortex in space. The harder they try to pull against the vortex, the harder it pulls them in. Eventually it takes 100% of their power just to maintain their position. Acting on a hunch and willing to take a risk, Captain Picard orders the ship to turn into the vortex and head straight to the center of it, full speed ahead. Only by flying into the storm are they able to break free.

When I first started CrossFit, I used to cheat.

Meaning, my goal was simply to make it through a workout with as little pain as possible. Mainly because CrossFit hurt. A workout like “Chelsea,” for example, requires 5 pull ups, 10 push ups and 15 squats every minute on the minute for 30 minutes. Hence, in order to maximize the rest I would shave off at least one push up, and a squat or two.

Other workouts were similar. I realized that I could go faster and with less agony by shorting range of motion or reps, so I just cut corners whenever I could.

What I realized, though, is that I was not getting any better. Everything still sucked. So, one day I made a decision: I was going to do every rep as perfectly as possible and complete every workout as legitimately as possible, regardless of how much it hurt and how long it took.

What began to happen was that by pushing myself a little further into the zone of pain, I began to improve. Movements became easier, my breathing got better, I got stronger, and I started pulling ahead of other people at the gym not because I was shaving reps, but because I was actually getting better at CrossFit. There’s no real magic here, it’s just common sense.

The idea of standing at the precipice of discomfort but refusing to jump into it is the tipping point of what allows us to improve our game, or simply remain the same. It’s a willingness to take risks.

One thing I have learned about CrossFit is that it’s never going to not suck. The only thing that changes is my willingness to suffer. How much I am willing to suffer is directly related to how willing I am to simply turn into the vortex and take the risk. It’s very counterintuitive. Our natural tendency is to resist being pulled into what will surely be a painful experience so we hover at the edge of the storm, willing to accept slower times, lighter reps, and a plateaued result.

As I continue my training for the CrossFit Games in July, I have to constantly remind myself to embrace the suck. It’s too easy on a day-to-day basis to walk away with only a moderate amount of discomfort, which means I have simply delayed improving by one more day. With every training session, I need to remind myself to get comfortable with being very uncomfortable or risk walking into the Home Depot Center unprepared to take on the challenge of going toe to toe with nineteen other guys who have gone to that dark place. Time to turn the ship toward the center of the storm – warp factor nine.

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