With so much time, energy and effort going into the nutrition challenge, it has been an easy topic for me to write about. But today I’m going to switch gears a little and share some thoughts as it relates to what motivates me in the gym, day-to-day. When I first joined RVC, my primary focus was exercise, ‘getting in shape,’ looking and feeling better. It never occurred to me to have performance-related goals. It took a few months: becoming familiar with the movements, wrapping my mind around the strategy involved in getting a faster time, more reps, but I soon became hooked. I figured out my strengths and weaknesses, where I could make up time in workouts and what movements I’d have to scale. Seeing people around me reaching milestones like getting their first pull-up, or linking double unders was really powerful and encouraged me to believe in myself. When you are working towards these skills, struggling through workouts, it can very easily feel like you will never be able to achieve them. But when you witness the people around you, doing the same thing you are doing day in, day out and reaching those milestones, the impossible suddenly seems possible.
During my first few months of Crossfit, I believed with my whole heart that I was one of those people who would never do an unassisted pull-up. Remember the Presidential Physical Fitness Challenge from your middle school days? It was my worst nightmare. Forget pull ups – I couldn’t do the ‘flexed arm hang’ for more than 5 seconds! Pull-ups would never happen for me. What I didn’t understand was the progression of skills to get there, and that with a little work and a lot of consistency, anyone could work through those progressions. So, I settled into place in the scaled world as most newcomers do, assuming that’s where I would spend my ‘life.’ I was pleasantly surprised when I graduated from green band, to blue for my pull-ups. After that first step up, seeing the progress I made, and seeing others progress, I began to trust the process. I committed to doing a little bit of extra work a few times a week after class, with the goal of someday doing a pull-up without a band. Initially I worked slow negative pull-ups (jump up to bar from a box and s l o w l y lower down) for as many reps as I could do for 2-3 sets, generally each week that number would increase. After a couple of weeks, I decided it was time to try the red band and wouldn’t you know, it was a struggle, but I made it through most workouts. I continued with the negatives, also did volume on the bands and lots of push ups to help build upper body strength. Then one day in January (I remember it well – the day has been memorialized!), almost 6 months after starting Crossfit, I decided it was time to at least TRY an unassisted pull-up. To my utter disbelief, I cranked out not one, but three and then three again and three in a third set! I was so happy I could have cried (ok, I did cry – but only a little). And it really wasn’t about the pull-ups. I don’t think I fully realized it at the time, but that one little victory gave me the self-confidence to continue to set my sights higher, on goals I never would have thought to conceive of, let alone work towards, or achieve.
For me, this is what it is all about: picking a milestone – one that boggles my mind to think about, that scares me to verbalize – putting my faith in the process and dedicating myself to it every day. In many cases, the work is the easy part, it is the consistency that is the hard part. After failing to do a single muscle up in the Crossfit Open in 2015 (it would have been blind luck for me to get one since I hadn’t worked on them at all), I set my mind on getting comfortable doing at least 1 by the end of 2015. Several days a week I worked strict pull-ups, then strict chest to bars, then strict weighted pull-ups and strict weighted chest to bars, in addition to the transition and dip. Once a week, I’d attempt a MU and once week I’d fail. I spent about least 6 months, failing to do a muscle up on the rings. It is frustrating – agonizing – to work so hard, want something so badly, and not get it, over and over and over. It definitely requires a sense of humor. But more importantly, it requires persistence and determination. Give yourself permission to try, and to work at something even when there’s no sign of progress. Believe that you are getting better just by doing the work, and although your work may be consistent, improvement isn’t always linear or consistent. Know that the outcome is not certain, the only thing that IS certain is that you won’t get there without hard work. Thinking about things this way, the hard work IS the payoff. And it is what keeps me coming back for more.