By: Adrian Theroux
Here are two fun little facts about me: One, I love making fun of CrossFit. Two, I also love coaching CrossFit.
CrossFit to me is like that friend who has all these silly quirks that you give them a hard time about, yet you couldn’t imagine your life without them and you would defend them to the end. CrossFit has this weird reputation all over the internet, but always by people who seem to know nothing about it. I’m glad I can live in the objective space where I can question, but also defend and advocate for it.
One of the amazing positives about CrossFit is the community. Few things in our lifetime have brought people together like CrossFit. All of the non-CrossFit gyms out there that have these “tight communities” pretty much owe their existence to CrossFit. The Open perfectly showcases this as well. As much as we can argue about whether the Open is “for everyone”, it always brings an awesome atmosphere and brings members together.
One unfortunate side effect of CrossFit is what I call Workout Anxiety. People see the WOD and immediately start panicking about this movement or that. I’ve literally had people message me three hours before class asking if they can modify something. Umm, yes. Yes you can. You always can. You always have been able to. I get members asking me about modifications for part B and we haven’t even started part A yet. I get people asking what the strength version of a workout is simply because they’re bad at ONE movement in the fitness version.
All these examples have a common theme: mindset. In all these examples, the individuals have zoned in on one thing they have trouble with, and have dedicated all of their focus on that one small thing. As a result, all of the other things in the workout that they don’t have as much trouble with will suffer.
This feeling of anxiety with regards to movements you struggle with will affect your progress and the enjoyment of your training. The one factor in every successful athlete is a positive training mindset. One must train with intensity, focus, vigor and tenacity.
“I can’t do this” will not do.
“I don’t really want to do this” is unacceptable.
“This is too hard” will slash your results.
Your emotional investment in your training will be directly proportional to your results. There really is no magic program. Results come from effort and investing yourself in your training. In fact, CrossFit’s official stance as per the Level 1 course is that greater intensity = greater results.
Now why bring all this up? To put it simply: it pains me to see people not enjoy their training. They may enjoy coming and seeing their friends and they may enjoy sweating and moving around, however I can see it in their eyes and body language that they’re not feeling the workouts. That right there tells me that there is a mindset disconnect.
If your mind isn’t in the right place, you will not attack the weights. You aren’t going to move with speed and conviction. Your workout will be sub-par because your intensity is sub-par. The truth, though, is that going through the motions isn’t good enough in the long-term. And while you may get results at first despite a lack of buy-in and intensity, at some point the only way to get better is to WANT to get better. To force yourself to get better.
Now the fact is that we all struggle with this sometimes. I know I do. There are times when I am just not mentally invested in my workout. There are times when I take as long as possible between sets because I know I have extra time. This is normal. However, if this happens more than 80% of the time, then mindset needs to change.
Now there’s no easy answer to this. Maybe you just need to get to the gym more often. Maybe you need to train a little less. Maybe you need to try Strength Club or Olympic Weightlifting. Maybe you need open gym to get more done. Maybe you just need to start thinking more positively.
Maybe you need to listen to more metal (wink, wink).
One strategy that I think is best for those with workout anxiety is to not check the workout beforehand. Just come in. The second thing is to listen to the coach’s full explanation before asking questions, ensuring your focus remains on the pertinent information that the coach is giving.
Also, avoid the trap of thinking “I’m not very good at this, maybe this isn’t for me”. Remember what I said about greater intensity = greater results? Well, that applies across all fitness levels with the concept of relative intensity. Meaning you are never really supposed to “get good” because if it becomes easier, then the relative intensity goes down. You need to be constantly finding ways to make the workouts harder in order to compensate.
Plus, I often hear worries like this from people with less than 6 months under their belt. Have you ever gotten good at anything in 6 months? Think about that for a second. We all have stuff we suck at, and since none of us are going to Regionals, we all relatively suck at CrossFit. And it’s ok to suck at things, we need to learn to be ok with that and not let it hold us back.
Now I mentioned the Open earlier for a reason. Every year I see people getting huge PRs during the Open, whether it be double unders, muscle ups, or more weight than they’ve ever touched before. Why is that do you think? Did you magically get stronger? Does Dave Castro virtually transmit performance enhancing drugs through the live announcement? Of course not! It’s obviously the result of a different mindset.
You upped the intensity, you forced yourself out of your comfort zone and you put in a truly maximal effort.
So here is the magic question? Why did you wait for the Open to up the intensity? And did you hold yourself back for 47 weeks of the year, only to give it your all during these five weeks?
I realize there are many factors to this. Part of this is that you can’t always be PRing in the gym and the idea of “training” is to allow the body to adapt to the stimulus so that you may demonstrate greater performance in the future. I mean, I compete in powerlifting and I try to save all my PRs for competition day. However, I like to think I keep my intensity during workouts brutally high, and when I do a CrossFit workout I usually make it so I have to work as hard as possible for the duration. In the end, this has nothing to do with weight lifted, your time, your rounds, etc. Again, this is about mindset and how you approach the workout.
As I said before, this is something I can see in your eyes, versus the weight on the bar.
While coming to the gym consistently is something to be proud of, we must all strive to set the bar a little higher. This is CrossFit, and we’re in the business of “Forging Elite Fitness” not “encouraging only slightly better than the lowest common denominator”.
If you’ve been coming to the gym consistently for a few months, you’ve gotten over that first hurdle, however that doesn’t mean you’re home free. You must become emotionally and mentally invested in your training if you want to see long-term commitment and long-term results. I have seen countless athletes cancel their membership, never to be seen again, and the common thing is always that look in their eyes.
I believe in you. It’s time for you to believe in you.