We are closing in on the last week of the CrossFit Open. As you are probably aware, muscle ups are predicted to be in the final week’s workout. During the 5 weeks of the Open we see a lot of movements that people don’t like so much – usually because we think we aren’t good at them (and may never be!) You know the things – handstands, muscle ups, even double unders.
But a ton of people hit their first strict handstand push up or muscle up or double under over the last few weeks during the Open Competition – which is so much fun for all involved!
I was moved by the realization of the metaphorical (and sometimes literal) importance that these higher skill movements have for all of us in our pursuit of health and fitness.
While we all started (and continue to do) CrossFit for different specific reasons, all those reasons are for the same generic purpose – to live a healthier life.
On a superficial level, achieving a muscle up (or any of the higher skill movements) has absolutely nothing to do directly with living a healthier life. In fact, many more people will live an incredibly healthy life without EVER successfully completing a muscle up, and handstand push up, or a double under.
Certainly there is a positive correlation between degree of fitness and ability to do these things, but by no means are they required to be fit. So, why does it matter? And why on earth is a muscle up as important to the 25 year old young as it is to the 85 year old grandmother?!?!?
Simple – it’s the motivation of the pursuit and satisfaction of the achievement.
For most I’m not talking about the higher skill movement literally, but instead I am referring to what it represents – a meaningful, tangible, physical goal. Something to practice and works towards.
For the 85 year old grandmother, that might be walking up 3 stairs without assistance. For others it may be a 400lb back squat. And for some, it’s moving without pain.
In essence, we all need that unicorn to chase. We all need that meaningful something to keep us coming back day in and day out. It will be a journey filled with ups and downs. It will be a journey that requires consistency and commitment.
And, honestly, this will be a journey that involves some failure. BUT, it is in that pursuit and even in that failure that we progress, grow, and succeed in some way! (And these successes will be both directly ad indirectly related to those goals.)
For 99% of us, we’ve stayed committed to CrossFit longer than any other fitness routine in our lives. For many of us, we are fitter now than we were 1, 5, 10, and even 20 years ago. For most of us, going to the gym has become something we WANT to do instead of something we HAVE to do.
All of this is great, but we need to acknowledge some things…
As humans we naturally seek newness and growth.
The first year or two of CrossFit is intoxicating. You’ve never done half the movements and while scary, it’s also exhilarating. You never knew how awful 5 minutes of working out could feel, but somehow it’s awesome. You were never a group class person but all of the sudden you couldn’t imagine doing anything else.
Inevitably, all of that becomes the new normal. It’s no longer new, it’s now your routine. It’s still better than any other routine, but like anything else in life we do for years, it becomes routine indeed.
Measurable success creates new motivation. (Or does motivation create success?)
In the first 2 years of CrossFit, you look at a barbell and you PR. Not just PR but PR by HUGE jumps. 30 lbs on a snatch in 1 month. 50 lbs on your deadlift the next. Then the gains slow.
Suddenly it’s 5 lbs on your clean in 6 months. 10 lbs on your squat in a year. Let’s be clear, improving at a decreasing rate happens to everyone in any fitness program, especially as their fitness and age increases. BUT, it still sucks and can be demotivating!
We can easily combat these issues by chasing our own unicorn! (And learning to appreciate small steps along the way – Bright Spots!)
The main driver for the success of the people that got those first movements during the Open this year was their commitment to the journey and the goal. During that process what do you think their attendance looked like? Stellar, or course. Why? They had a goal.
Now that they hit their goal, how do you think they feel? Amazing! Are they motivated to find another one and continue to improve their fitness? Absolutely!
But what about the people that didn’t reach their most recent goals, or get that first handstand or muscle up during the Open? Has the pursuit of that goal fueled their commitment to their health? Of course! Is that a success in itself? Absolutely!
In other words my friends, find a meaningful, physical goal and go get it! Maybe it’s your first pull up or muscle up. Perhaps it’s a bodyweight snatch. I don’t know what it is for you, but I know you need one. It needs to matter. You need to chase it. You need to celebrate it when you reach it!