Success is Sacrifice
For those of you who did your CrossFit fundamentals with me or have heard my first day speech, you will have heard me talk about the difference between CrossFit as a mass population training programme, and CrossFit as a sport. As someone who has seen both sides of the coin, from elite sport to general training for health gains this is a topic I find extremely interesting and love to talk about.
With the 2014 CrossFit Games still fresh in our minds, most of us have caught a glimpse into the world of CrossFit as a sport. My bet is for the majority of us this was an awe-inspiring and eye-opening experience, punctuated by regular comments like ‘…are you kidding me?’, ‘these athletes are insane’, ‘there’s no way that’s even possible’ or ‘they’re definitely juicing’. These were from people who’ve been involved in CrossFit from 6 months to 6 years, including myself, and highlights to me the extent to which the Sport of CrossFit sits alone. A world away from 99% of the CrossFit community out there striving to be healthy and feel fit.
For me, the defining characteristic of this side of CrossFit revolves around the motivation behind the athletes. We should all be aware by now that CrossFit is about providing each other with the tools to achieve optimal levels of health. For the majority of us that is our motivation behind being part of this community. We hold our health and fitness at the top of our priority list, which is why we get out of bed at 5.30am, pay a premium for a high level of service and subscribe to things like mobilityWOD. For the remaining 1% of our community the motivation is rather different. Success. This can be an internal or an external force and is as pure a motivation as optimal health and fitness. That said, success as a driving force leads to a vastly different set of rules to play by day-to-day. I’ll use the concept of pain to elaborate here.
Obviously pain has no place when we talk about optimal health. In fact some people define health as an absence of pain or disease. As such, deciding whether to train through pain or injury, versus modifying and scaling your workout is (or at least should be) a no-brainer.
Train for longevity.
Now view that decision when the motivator is winning. Not so straight-forward.
My shoulder is painful if I have weight overhead. I think I can definitely block that out when the adrenalin kicks in and the clock starts…and I can’t win if I don’t compete…
Another no-brainer and an extremely common occurrence for competitors in any sport.
Two very different outcomes both of which can be viewed as correct when held up against their decision-making criteria, and as any successful elite athlete in the world will tell you, success is sacrifice.
Games athlete Lucas Parker was forced to play-out this scenario for real during the Games when he came down with a suspected case of Rhabdo. Below is a link to a great video of Lucas talking candidly about his decision making process at the time.
Additionally he admits to competing through a wrist injury in 2012, which left him unable to train properly for the 8 months following the event.
Ok, so what?
The reason I wanted to blog on this isn’t just because I love talking about it or find it interesting. I see similar scenarios being played out every week in our gym. Members weighing up whether to train on a sore shoulder or not, or take a rest day when their hammies are still on fire from deadlifts 3 days before. So my message is this. What are your criteria when you make your decision? What is your motivation behind your CrossFit training? What is your long-term goal? There are no right and wrong answers. It is something that is very relative to each individual. That said, for 99% of us, the answer will most likely revolve around longevity and health. If that’s the case, the aforementioned scenario will involve scaling ground to overheads to front squats to save that shoulder or modifying the workout to finish on the air dyne bike instead of a run to save your sore knees or shin splints.
To wrap this up I’d like to make the point that I’d happily bet all the money I have that most of the elite athletes we see struggling through pain or injury to make the Games or compete at the top level would tell you it’s very worth it and they’d be right. It’s what they live for and why they train. It’s part of the reason we get wowed each year with feats of incredible strength and endurance and it’s part and parcel of being successful in any elite sport. It’s a brutal and beautiful world of DOMS, countless supplements, pain, injury, suffering, harsh lows and incomparable highs. But is it healthy?
I’d urge everyone to take some time to decide exactly what it is they train for. If the answer is to compete and win, that’s awesome, but recognize what that world involves and go in with your eyes wide open. The rewards are massive and hugely satisfying, but be prepared to make decisions that may be in conflict with the idea of optimal health.
Train for longevity.