Go Slow to Go Fast: Building a Solid Foundation in Sport and Life

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Innocent beginnings

It was 8 o'clock on a beautiful summer evening in our family's cul-de-sac. The sun was beginning to set, and like every night that week I was out in our front yard with my parents, perfecting my new found love, the basketball "layup". The going was slow, literally one step at a time between the chalk marks laid out on the ground and my mom and dad giving me the verbal cues to help solidify the learning of this new skill.

"Left, right, up". "Left, right, up". "Left, right, up".

Who knew I would be re-living this same experience all over again some 20 years later.

Fast forward

I approached the bar on my last max effort set of a Wendler back-squat cycle at 315 pounds. I slowly walked through my cues to ensure perfect movement and mechanics. "Deep breath, load back, knees out, tight core, bounce out of the bottom, knees out, drive". Repeat.

For the past 2 years I have intentionally spent every lift and every movement working through the same cue-ing process my parents engrained in me as a young boy out in the cul-de-sac.

"Left, right, up". "Deep breath, tight, knees out, bounce, drive".

The weight moved smoothly and reps 4-7 went up easy.

Then something happened. After my 7th rep I decided to rack the bar.

I immediately knew I had left reps on the table and began questioning why in that split second I decided to stop short. And then I realized another similar pattern to that young boy learning his first layup - while going slow to go fast is critical to creating a strong foundation to build upon - at some point you actually have to go fast.

Connecting the dots

Thinking back to my first few months and years of basketball, this did not come easy. I had spent so much time drilling the perfect layup under a controlled and safe environment that my mind and body had a hard time translating this into game-time intensity. I remember frustrating practices and awkward games where it seemed my mind was yelling at my body to get my legs to hurry up with their "left, right, up" so I didn't fall flat on my face. Needless to say I became intimate with the gym floor after the first several attempts, but once I started to transition the speed and intensity needed, I quickly surpassed my peers on the court.

While the downfall (no pun intended) of learning slow to ensure a foundation of quality in the sport of Crossfit has not been as embarrassing, the effects are stunningly similar. And the initial feeling that I was doing the right thing by racking the bar after 7 reps quickly dissipated to confusion, and ultimately a greater understanding.

I had more in the tank and I was still moving effectively - the movement foundation I had drilled over and over was kicking in.

Today I realized it is time to start pushing harder. Albeit selectively.

And at a time where the sport of Crossfit has a million different perspectives on it's merit, value and safety, I am confident in the decision to push my body, yet again, to the next level. This confidence comes from the foundation building strategy my parents instilled in me along with the group of coaches and mentors I've surrounded myself with over the past year. They have helped me understand what success in this sport looks like and I have literally made this my daily practice and religion (and will continue this) which I've written about at length along the way.

Tyrell Mara- Canada West Crossfit - Crossfit 604 - Snatch movement pre

Your turn

As you consider your own athletic pursuit here are my challenges for you:

  1. How are you creating great habits that will become the foundation of your practice?

  2. Have you identified the support group that can guide you on your path to defined success?

  3. What area of sport or life have you built your foundation and are ready to push to the next level?

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

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