When you first dive into CrossFit, it can be an overwhelming experience. And one that many embrace wholeheartedly, like a freshman at a frat party. You find yourself watching muscle-up videos at work and your Facebook status revolves around workouts, new gear, and specifics on your muscle soreness that particular day. Regardless of where you start, most people progress quickly in the initial stages of their journey. Your technique improves, you notice physical changes, and achieving new personal bests and mastering movements is almost continuous. But like any athlete, after you have some experience under your belt and come into your sophomore stage, it’s easy to hit a plateau and lose some of that passion. No longer is progress measured in leaps and bounds, but in baby steps. So how do you stay motivated when your dedication dwindles? Here are a few thoughts for any athlete suffering from the Sophomore Slump.
Put Things In Perspective
There’s often the misconception that strength and speed improve drastically in just weeks of doing CrossFit. Although I won’t disagree that gains are made, I think most of the improvements seen in the first few weeks are due to technique. If you’d never done a power clean, it’s likely that even with Fundamentals it feels a little awkward. But after several weeks of many cleans, you develop a sense of comfort, and are, therefore, able to be more efficient and effective in your ability to move weight. So those leaps and bounds aren’t all associated with newfound strength and speed, some comes purely from movement mastery. After enough experience, your movements should be fairly sound, so lifting gains will be based more purely on physical improvements in strength. You’re working with less room for improvement, so keep that in mind when you assess your ongoing progress. A realistic perspective will keep disappointment at bay.
At first, there’s so much to learn that you never tire of setting goals and going after them. But if you find a comfort zone, you might get stuck. Continue to progress by being creative with your personal challenges. Maybe you never intended to compete, but signing up for a local competition might keep you motivated to stay on top of your game. Maybe you generally aim for speed, but putting more focus on challenging weights might help you identify weaknesses. Maybe you’re can rock most movements RX, but fine tuning those skills with technique work and modification can keep things interesting and improving.
Baby Steps Are Still Steps
When babies take their first steps, we celebrate with cheers and squeals and claps. Despite their wobbly walk, their tiny steps, and their fall to the ground, we acknowledge the first step as a pivotal moment. Learn to celebrate even the small achievements as milestones. Five pounds may not seem like a big gain, but when it’s taken you months and months to get there it doesn’t matter that the improvement seems small. It should be celebrated with as much enthusiasm and excitement as a 30-pound personal best. Don’t neglect the moments you work so hard for because any step forward is progress.
Know That There Will Be Days
You can’t possibly be at your best every single day. And in CrossFit, you can’t possibly be the best at everything. So acknowledge and accept that if you’re doing your best and always willing to learn, you are progressing, regardless of the pace. And things will come up…a new job, mono, a long vacation, a surgery…there will be setbacks and they will be frustrating; it’s part of life. The CrossFit journey is not just about moving forward, it’s also about the physical and mental ability to bounce back when you’ve fallen behind. It’s hard to walk into the gym knowing you’ve been better. But if you keep at it, and get through those less than motivating moments, you’ll find a personal peace with what CrossFit is for you. For some, it’s empowering. For some, it’s competitive. And for others, it’s a means to general health. All are good.
When the box seems blah and your CrossFit love is lackluster, remind yourself why you began: for the fun, for the excitement, for the community, and for the personal betterment. And regardless of the weight you move and the speed you exhibit, those things don’t ever have to disappear. Even on a bad day, do your best to bury any negative feelings and enjoy your journey.
Co-Owner/Trainer, CrossFit 8035
Director, The MAT Games
Author, Pretty N' Gritty