5 Lessons on Understanding Ego's Role in Crossfit

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There is an old album by Snoop Dogg titled “ego trippin” that I used to really like. After experiencing first hand what it means to "ego trip" this past week, I have a little less love for that LP.

And of course, it came after a long string of wins...

My first Crossfit Regionals

250 Snatch PR

315 Clean and Jerk PR

1:17 500 m row PR

Yup... I was feeling pretty good about myself. Like I had proven something and earned the right to skip all of the little things I pride myself in.

My ego was starting to hear the music.

Then, against my better judgment I decided to squeeze in a 7AM workout before heading out of town for the weekend. I have been very explicit with myself that I am currently in "off-season". This means that while I will continue to push myself to make gains, I am not competing against anyone else. There are no expectations, no pressure.

In hindsight I also see that this relaxed mindset crept into all areas of my Crossfit training... I started to neglect and sacrifice things like showing up early, focusing on mobility and warm up, being intentional with every movement and workout. The things that I constantly preach to myself and others.

Whoops.

So after walking in a few minutes before 7AM (and after the WOD's warmup) I started the first portion of  the strength component which was a 10 minute warmup to 90% back squat. Immediately my spidey senses went off sensing that 10 minutes was not enough time to work up to a #350 back squat. My coach reaffirmed that internal voice explicitly telling us me to take my time warming up and don’t push 90% if it is rushed.

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That’s when my ego started to trip.

I can literally picture it dancing to Snoop Dogg as it blindly starts whispering in my head “you can do it, your taking 3 days off, you better get a good workout in, you just PR’ed your backsquat, this is no big deal”.

I blindly followed.

Blitzing through a quick, un-intentional set with the bar, I quickly moved to 135, 225, 275, 295. I wasn’t focusing on speed, knees out, upright torso, aggressive bounce out of the bottom. Nope, I was simply trying to get up to weight, regardless of what that looked or felt like.

At 7 minutes I had grinded my way up to a set of 3 at 295. What I didn’t realize is that while I was going through the motions when the bar was light, I was being forced to fall back on my good habits as the bar got heavy. The only problem was that this piece of the movement (aggressive bounce out of the bottom) hadn’t been warmed up or primed because I neglected it through my first sets.

Sure enough as I dropped to the bottom of that first squat at 295 I felt my back soften, my weight shift slightly forward, my core not fully engaged, and an uncomfortable compression through my low back.

Whoops.

And in an instant my ego was nowhere to be found.

But it was too late. In a sobering moment I realized how foolish the last 8 minutes had been and that I had just paid a much bigger price than had I taken 10 minutes to intentionally warm up to 75%.

I made the right decision to stop immediately. Unfortunately the damage had been done,  and it took me about 5 days to rehab, stretch, mobilize, and rest my back up to normal.

So what is the learning that came out of this frustrating experience:

  1. A strong pre-WOD routine including foam rolling, mobility, stretching, and warming up should never be compromised.

  2. Being acutely aware of your “ego” after experiencing big wins such as PR’s, great workouts, and even wins outside of Crossfit. In my experience, this is where I am most vulnerable to compromising intentionality.

  3. It is NEVER worth sacrificing a thorough strength warm up when lifting heavy (know what this looks like for your training and your body).

  4. Accepting that some days you may not have the time, energy, or capacity to work up to 90-100% is OKAY - be accepting of yourself and your body and take steps to ensure the recovery of that capacity.

  5. Defining an “off-season” in Crossfit is OKAY. Blurring the lines and compromising intentional perfection, even in something as small as mobility and warm-up, IS NOT.

Last week I wrote a post on how striving for Rx is not what Crossfit is all about, this week I find myself taking my own advice.

And that is okay.

Ultimately those who excel at this sport (and in life) are the ones who are able to go through the spectrum of experiences that Crossfit provides and maintain a learning attitude.

My encouragement to you is to look for the learning in every workout being conscious that those hard, frustrating workouts may provide your biggest opportunity for improvement!

Oh yea, and don't let your 'ego trip' no matter how good the music sounds!

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Join me on the journey to competing at the 2014 Crossfit Games

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Tyrell MaraComment