Crossfit, Weaknesses, and 5 Steps Great Athletes Take to Be Better Than the Rest.

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We can all relate to those moments of victory in Crossfit. Laying on the floor savouring every breath of oxygen moving through your body after a gruelling workout. To many of us this becomes an addicting feeling representing success, accomplishment, and determination.

So much of Crossfit is about reaching those outer limits over the course of a class, workout, or competition. But does this same mentality translate to long term improvement and success?

While I think the ability to push the mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional limits is a critical skill, it is only one of the ingredients to longer term success.

In this post I'll share with you what I believe is more important...

The Talent and Potential Myth

Over my years of competing at an elite level I have time and time again watched the most talented athletes leap out ahead of the pack, only to be reeled in and surpassed over time. The basketball player with incredible potential that never translates into impact, the track athlete with phenom natural talent that hits an infinite plateau, and most relatable for us, the Crossfitter who has an incredible engine or outstanding natural strength, but can’t quite put it all together in the heat of the moment.

And so again, I find myself taking a step back and evaluating the missing links.

I see a clear trend repeating itself from basketball and track...

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The best athletes are the ones who are willing to do the little things, day in and day out,  that will have the greatest impact on performance.

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And this is a really good thing.

As many of you know, pushing beyond your limits and going to that dark place can be an extremely taxing process.

Pushing the Limits

Tyrell Mara Crossfit 604 Canada West Region

Earlier this week at Crossfit 604, we had a 10 set Every Minute On the Minute (EMOM) of 3 touch-and-go Power Clean and Jerks, working up in weight each set. After completing 9 sets working up from #195, I had reached my final set at #250.

Tired but focused I hit the first rep no problem moving right into my second clean. After cleaning the bar to the racked position I immediately failed the 2nd push jerk attempt (Uh Oh). Without dropping the bar I moved back to the front rack position, took a couple of deep breaths and put everything I had into driving myself under that bar. I made it.

Then realized I had one more full power clean to push jerk before I was done.

I paused in the front rack position and knew I was now running on fumes. I then refocused and began my descent for my last explosive clean. The bar barely made it up. Exhausted, I didn’t know how I was going to get this bar overhead and at the same time I knew I was going to do it, I couldn’t fail now. I took one deep breath summoning everything in my body, one explosion, and I somehow was able to slowly get to a lockout, stand-up position.

I was absolutely exhausted. Physically, mentally, and emotionally.

In those 30 seconds I had to explore a new dark place in my mind and spirit.

I can openly admit I don’t push myself that hard every single workout. And I do that for a very specific reason:

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In Crossfit, just like rest after a heavy lifting day, your mind needs to recovery after being pushed beyond it’s limits. 

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And that is the beauty of this sport, while the ability to push the limits is a clear skill, it is not what distinguishes the good from the great.

5 Steps Great Athletes Follow to Improve Weaknesses

1) Reflect and Assess

List all of the areas where you possess a weakness in the sport, and then systematically determine which weaknesses, if developed, will create the biggest improvement to your overall performance.

2) A Student Approach

Take those weaknesses and research, study, immerse in understanding how they most effectively can move you from where you are now, to a significantly higher level of performance. Know the most efficient path, improving in the least number of steps. (Read this post on 30 smart ways to improve as a Crossfitter)

3) Understanding Consistency

Take baby steps to improve that weakness over time -  yes baby steps. This is a pitfall I have been constantly guilty of in my athletic journey. I remember going through steps 1 and 2 in my basketball career and then spending 10+ hours over a weekend trying to turn that weakness into a strength, only to end up burnt out and frustrated.

In Crossfit we all have weaknesses for specific reasons, and typically part of that equation is because of how challenging the movements, skills, or capacities are to achieve. The development of perfect hollow body position, or bar path on a snatch don’t come over one weekend.

4) Celebrate the Journey

Celebrate small and big wins alike. Weather it is getting 2 unbroken bar muscle ups or spending 10 minutes before each class practicing hollow body for a whole week - these accomplishments need to be celebrated equally. To truly achieve greatness you need both of these components of the equation - the 10 minutes of hollow body isn’t as glamorous as the bar muscle ups, but it’s those 10 minutes that will be the catalyst to move you from 2 in a row to 10.

5) Big Picture Thinking

Listen to your body and see the bigger picture.  For Crossfit athletes new and old our ambitions are big and the road to that shiny goal is long.

This is a marathon, not a sprint.

Remind yourself of this fact on days when you feel exhausted and drained. Acknowledge the work you have put in and how far you have come. Be confident in knowing that rest is always more beneficial than pushing through it.

As for me.

After that intense power-clean push-jerk workout I took the next day off and focused on mobility.

Today I feel fantastic and am right back attacking those weaknesses on my own pursuit to greatness!

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

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