#1: Odds are you aren’t qualifying for the Games.
The 2020 CrossFit® Open had 126,000 males compete in the Open Division. The female side had over 90,000. The top 20 of each of those qualified for the Games via the Open. That’s 0.016% and 0.022%. Now, let’s put that in perspective.
Let’s say you put in a year or two of work and turns out you’re really good. As in, you’re in the top 1% of athletes who competed in the Open. Most people would say you’re an incredible athlete, but even now you have about a 2% chance of qualifying through the Open.
The bottom line is lots of athletes have their eyes set on going to the Games and the vast majority of them never make it there.
Even if you’re incredibly gifted, have the right frame and anthropometrics and all the physical qualities that make a great CrossFit® athlete, it’s going to take years of work.
In 2010 or 2012, an athletic college athlete with some Weightlifting capacity and an engine could make it to Regionals in a season or two of dedicated training.
But that just doesn’t happen anymore. The best athletes in the world have been in the Sport for years. And this is mainly because it takes years to develop all the physical qualities necessary for consistently elite performances in a variety of tests.
I’m not saying that you shouldn’t have the goal of going to the Games, just don’t be surprised to work your entire athletic career to maybe -just maybe- get an outside shot of going.
#2: It takes years to develop the necessary capacities.
As I already alluded to, the development of a CrossFit® athlete simply can’t happen in a year or two. Sure, you can see huge progress, and if you’re the right type of athlete, you will be ahead of most others “in the game,” but overcoming your unique individual limitations is a long-term process.
Learning the testing battery of movements is not enough. Movement proficiency is not enough. You must be elite in each individual movement to be an elite athlete in the Sport of Fitness.
What does that mean? It means learning the nuances of each movement, knowing how to conserve energy, and syncing your breath to varying cycle speed and during different levels of fatigue. Dedicating the level of attention necessary to your movement is something that I talk about in this article.
Even once you have the skills, you have to have the ability to simultaneously exhibit the characteristics of absolute strength and incredible aerobic capacity.
Few athletes are good enough in either area, but to reach your potential in the Sport of Fitness, you must have both.
#3: Everyone is bad at something.
(& you spend most of your time doing what you’re bad at)
Some big, powerful athletes like Football players and Sprinters come into CrossFit® having most or all the strength and power they need. Other athletes, like rowers, cyclists, triathletes or runners have the engine and cyclical prowess necessary. Still others, like gymnastics or wrestlers have great body awareness and strength-to-bodyweight ratios allowing them to excel at gymnastics movements in the Sport.
However, no one coming into CrossFit® is good at everything. The truth is it takes years to develop the necessary skills to be well rounded.
And here’s the thing: you will need to spend most of your training time, energy and “adaptation currency” on the things you are bad at.
If you’re super strong and powerful, you will spend most of your days doing conditioning work and bringing up your lagging aerobic qualities.
If you have a massive engine and have crush a 5k Row or Run, you’ll probably spend most of your time developing your Weightlifting strength and positions.
If you are a great mover with your own bodyweight, you’ll spend much more time moving external loads like barbell, dumbbells and spinning ergs.
For some athletes, the opportunity to learn and develop new skills is an exciting part of their journey. For others, this feels like “I’m constantly doing things that I’m bad at,” which doesn’t stroke your ego on a day-to-day basis.
This may sound obvious, but I know many athletes who only enjoy doing the things they are already good at so they can put forth a certain persona to the other people in their social circle or gym.
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#4: New movements are introduced frequently.
Just when you think you’ve put in the time and effort to overcome your weaknesses, CrossFit® will throw a new movement into the mix. A perfect example of this was the Handstand Ramp in 2018 Regional Event 3. Being strong, fit and expressing mastery of movement in the currently testing movements is still not enough. You must also be athletic in the purest essence of the word: the ability to be able to learn more movement quickly.
This idea of the unknown and unknowable is at the core of the CrossFit® philosophy. Other examples of these unannounced movements at the CrossFit® Open level where dumbbells in 2017 (dumbbell snatch, double dumbbell power clean, and front rack walking lunges), Handstand Walks in 18.4, Strict Handstand Push-Ups in 19.3 and Pistols in 20.4.
The moral of the story is skill acquisition is never complete. There is always a new movement to master.
#5: Jack of all trades means master of none.
The idea that you can concurrently lift massive weights, exhibit high levels of fitness, manipulate your body with ease, and quickly master new skills is obviously super appealing to most people.
However, working on all these different qualities means you will never be able to completely optimize your body for any one task. You will never be able to sprint as fast as a track star, lift as much a Olympic Weightlifter or produce as much sustained power on a rowing erg as a crew member.
Sometimes driving for physiology in one direction automatically means you are losing ground somewhere else. Yes, most people have room to grow in multiple areas at once, which is the whole idea of Functional Fitness, but it’s important to remember there are limitations to your ability to improve all relevant qualities at once.
#6: The Joy is in the Journey.
You’ve probably heard that before. But in my experience, athletes who are super competitive typically find less joy and fulfillment in the process of becoming the person you ultimately want to be. It is easy to get fixated on what numbers you need to hit, what event you want to qualify for or what place you finish.
The truth is if / when you achieve those extrinsic goals, you will continue to search for the next thing because it did not fulfill you. You must have a why that is above beating the competition and winning.
In my experience working with athletes in the Sport of Fitness, the athletes who can stay focused on small, incremental improvements day-to-day (aka. “The process”) do much better in CrossFit® and continue to get better and stay healthy for longer. Focus on the process (what you do and who you are becoming) and the outcomes will happen as a result. Act in accordance with who you want to be in the future and that self is much more likely to come to fruition.
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