I'm a Veteran. Now what?

When you first start CrossFit it is very exciting.  CrossFit is something completely different from what most people have ever done, and there are many different aspects to it.  This can be overwhelming at first, but also extremely cool.  It feels like a whole new world has been opened to you and you want to explore all of it.  However, there can be a point in your CrossFit journey when the novelty has worn off and you might start to wonder why you are still doing it.  Why are you putting yourself through this pain day in and day out?  Maybe you saw somebody doing something really cool when you first started and thought that you would be able to do it after a couple of years.  Now, you are a CrossFit veteran and you still can’t do it and don’t know if you will ever be able to.  Maybe you thought you would look a certain way after two years, but it seems like you are not any closer to your goal.  What should you do at this point?  I want to address three common thoughts that people have once they have been doing CrossFit a few years, and four ways that you can change your daily routine and your mindset to get where you want to be.

1.  I’m not where I thought I would be at this point
Many people start CrossFit and take a look at the people in the gym.  They might pick out the most fit guy or girl in the gym and say that they want to look like them.  They might have seen the CrossFit Games on ESPN and say they want to look like one of those athletes.  However, what they underestimate is the amount of work those people have put in, as well as their backgrounds.  Most of these people are putting in 20+ hours of work a week at the gym, and have been doing so for years (some more than ten years).  Most of them also have a background of high levels of sports, whether college or professional, and have been training at a high level for most of their lives.  You need to be realistic about your expectations.  If you have a full time job, are 35 years old, can only take 4 classes a week, haven’t worked out much in your life before CrossFit, and aren’t willing to give up your Saturday night trips to the bar, then you probably aren’t going to be able to do what the people on TV can do or look like them.  However, that is ok.  Those people have made huge sacrifices to get to where they are, and most of us aren’t willing or able to make these sacrifices.  Keep that in mind when you are comparing to these people.  Stop comparing yourself to others and focus on improving yourself day to day.  If you are better than you were six months ago then you are headed in the right direction.

2.  I am tired of the hard workouts
CrossFit is hard.  No one is arguing that.  I talked about why we appreciate how hard it is in a previous post, but let’s address this issue.  Everyone gets to the point in their CrossFit career where they start thinking to themselves “Man this is hard.  Maybe CrossFit isn’t for me.  I don’t think I can keep doing this much longer.”  I personally got to that point a year ago-I was tired of pushing my body to the limit every day.  However, I think the best thing to do when you get to this point is to look at how far you have come, which we will discuss a little later on.  Also, keep in mind that everyone goes through this feeling at some point.  The ones that push through and keep going are glad they did, and the ones who stop always regret it.  I can’t tell you how many people have quit coming and a year later are telling me how much they regret stopping.  I will tell you that I am glad I didn’t stop because I am having more fun than ever now.

3.  My body doesn’t look like I thought it would
This is a very common complaint.  Whenever I hear this, I always tell people to start looking at what they are doing outside the gym.  What is your diet like?  Are you tracking it?  If you aren’t tracking everyday then I promise you you don’t have any idea what you are eating.  I can also promise you that “pretty good” is not healthy at all.  How much sleep are you getting?  If you are are not getting at least 7-8 hours a night then your body is not going to perform very well.  How much alcohol are you drinking?  One or two drinks a night can completely sabotage your training.  A night of drinking at the bar can set you back a week, if not more.  Your body is going to metabolize that alcohol as sugar and then store it all as fat.  The alcohol is also going to slow down your recovery.  What are your stress levels like?  If you have a stressful job and/or a stressful home life then your body is not going to recover well or perform well.  The body composition changes are made more outside the gym than inside, and if you are not taking care of these aspects of your health then you will never see the results that you want.

Now that we have discussed three common problems from veteran CrossFitters, let’s discuss four things that you can implement to change your CrossFit experience and your mindset.

1.  Get serious about your diet
If you have never tracked your food then I would highly recommend that you start.  Write down everything that you eat for a week and see what it looks like.  Add up your calories and macros (protein, carbs, and fat) for each day.  If you are like most people then you are probably eating way too much fat and not nearly enough protein.  You are probably very inconsistent with the amount you eat each day-one day you might be way over on calories and another day way under.  Once you have an idea of what you are eating then you can start making a plan to change.  There are plenty of resources online for what you should be eating, or you can talk to a coach and they can point you in the right direction.  In my opinion diet is the single biggest limiter in progress for the majority of our clients.  If you commit to get your diet down then you will see tremendous results in your performance as well as your body composition.

2.  Specialize your goals
Once you have been doing CrossFit for a while and the beginner gains start to slow down, it is hard to keep pushing when you don’t see as much progress as you used to.  I encourage people at this point to start specializing your goals.  What I mean by this is to pick a few aspects of CrossFit and start really putting in extra work on improving those.  Maybe you really enjoy olympic weightlifting and want to improve your snatch and clean and jerk.  Maybe you want to get stronger by increasing your back squat and deadlift.  Maybe you want to improve your 2k row time.  By putting in extra work in the area you choose it can keep things fresh and give you something to work towards.  Now it is important that we do not specialize at the detriment of our other areas of fitness.  We do not want to completely quit doing conditioning or gymnastics in order to get our lifts up.  CrossFit is all about being good at everything, and if we only focus on one area then we sacrifice a lot of general health and fitness.  I encourage you to focus on one or two areas that you want to improve but still work on the other areas as well.  This way you can continue to progress in all areas, but really focus on one or two areas to see faster progress there.  If you want to specialize but are not sure on what to do then talk to a coach.  There are many different options, including additional programs that we offer or one on one training.  If nothing else the coach can point you in the right direction to resources that will help you.

3.  Look how far you have come
It is so easy for us to look at how far we still have left to go and forget about how far we have come.  Whenever you start feeling like you aren’t making progress look back at where you were before you started.  Find some old pictures of yourself before you started CrossFit and see how much your body has changed.  Look back at your old training logs and see what type of numbers you were putting up.  If you don’t have any logs then try to remember some of the workouts you did when you started.  Were you having to scale the weight?  Were you struggling to get through a workout that would be a warmup now.  Think about how you felt on a day to day basis.  Were you a lot more irritable?  Were your energy levels a lot lower?  What did your social life look like?  How many more friends have you made through CrossFit?  How much harder were physical activities outside the gym then as opposed to now? I encourage people to look back at how far they have come consistently.  It is a great way to keep us happy with our progress as well as motivated.

4.  Remember why you started
Why did you start CrossFit in the first place?  What caused you to step through those doors on the first day?  What did you want to get out of CrossFit, and have you achieved that?  If the person who stepped through the doors on their first day of CrossFit saw you today, what would they think?  If you told that person where you would be today would they believe you?  I think if our past selves saw our present selves they would say “There is no way I could ever do that.”  Also keep that in mind too when you are thinking about the future.  We always underestimate what we can do over several years.  Be the person who, three years from now, looks back on today and says “Man there is no way back then that I would have ever thought I would get this far.”  Your future self will thank you.