"There's No Elevator to Success, You Have to Take the Stairs…."
One of the first things I learned in CrossFit was to execute sound mechanics of a movement before adding intensity. It is a lot safer to first use speed as an intensifier before weight. Only add load once movements are sound and consistent. Sounds simple right?
I have worked in a few different gyms in London and have seen people adding more and more load to a barbell, when their movement is poor. I’ve witnessed people loading 100kg onto a barbell and trying to squat with poor ankle mobility, or a tight thoracic spine. The hip hinges, the shoulders lean forward over the knees and no depth is hit. It’s hard to sit back and watch but sometimes it hasn’t been my place to say anything. It is one of the reasons why I fell in love with CrossFit so early on, because of the attention to detail and mechanics of movement. Having said that, it is also very easy to get caught up in ‘PB moments’, and mechanics fly out the window. Swapping form for a few extra kilos. It is very easy to get caught up in that moment just to get a higher score on the board and a pat on the back. Trouble is, when we then start basing our percentages off these PBs, our body hasn’t learned to move correctly and bad form starts to set in at lighter loads, leading to injury. There is only so much weight you will be able to lift with poor mechanics before you either injure yourself or your body simply won’t be able to move the weight. What happens next is that your numbers start to plateau and you start to get disheartened when you haven’t hit a new PB in months. Either that or you seriously injure yourself and are out for weeks.
I am the first to admit that my squat is far from perfect. I have a decade worth of boxing behind me and with that I have developed a tight thoracic spine, poor ankle mobility and tight hip flexors. I had very rounded shoulders and it’s affected the lumbar curve in my spine. For a while I just worked around it, but there was only so far I could push my body into these awkward positions until it wouldn’t go any further. Small aches and pains I had have now started to develop into bigger problems that I can’t hide from anymore. This is a sure path to injury. I see Mesut on a regular basis (our resident sports therapist) who is helping me work on these issues. I have also been lucky enough to work with Michael Blevins who has been training with us for the past couple of months. Michael is a lifetime student of the human body and his wealth of knowledge is vast. Both Michael and Mesut have helped me take things back to square one. Fix the problem and you will be able to move more weight, over a longer distance in a shorter amount of time. Basically you’ll become fitter. And isn’t that what we are all here to do? Now does it sound simple?
Yes, in theory it does. But here’s the hard part. Implementing these changes. Doing the ‘boring’ stuff. This is the boring part of CrossFit that none of us really want to get out of bed for. The trouble is that without it we can’t have the fun stuff. Look at it like two opposites. Neither can exist without the other because without one we have no comparison to know what the other one is. You can’t be happy unless you know what it is like to be sad. You can’t feel cold unless you know what being hot feels like. Same principal applies here. You can’t do the fun stuff unless you do the boring stuff. One won’t work without the other. These boring tasks that are required to fix our bodies take time and effort. But with that comes huge rewards. I am testament to this. I worked my ass off for 10 years to get to the top of my sport as a Thai Boxer. I didn’t get there by just turning up to classes in the middle of the day, sparring & hitting pads. Having a few bouts and winning a World title. Sure I did those things but I also spent hours and hours in the gym on my own at stupid times in the morning. I’d work on technique to improve flexibility in my hips, or just throwing my left hook so that the wrist turned in the right way to connect with the target. Getting up at 5am to do a 10km run before my 3 hour training session started. That wasn’t fun. But winning 5 World titles at the end of it was.
These types of things take mental strength. Believing that one day all this will pay off. Going through the grind knowing that you will one day reap the benefits. I still live every day by the same moto: If the mind is strong, the physical possibilities are endless. We have one body, look after it and it will look after you. I am not saying that we all have to aspire to winning a world title or competing in order to achieve something. Everyone has their own goals. What was one of the first questions you were asked when you came in to do your intro session at Perpetua? “What are your goals?” Your goals are just as important as the next person’s. So go after them. Go back and ask yourself why you are here, what brought you to CrossFit? But do it properly and be smart. If there is a problem address it. Go to your coach and ask for help. I guarantee you that as soon as you start to fix the small issues a whole new set of doors will be open to you. Have fun out there but be smart and be safe.