You gotta work!

I am not perfect – far from it. I can’t get a muscle-up, my kipping handstand pushups are a joke and for a guy who can bench 300 pounds I can’t even squat 300 (which upsets me to no end because squatting is so much more cool in CrossFit than benching!). However, if I lead off with something like that you know I am about to complain or vent, right? You’re right. Vent forthcoming.

People need to look in the mirror. I hear the following quite often at my box:

  • I am not losing weight
  • I still cannot get a pullup
  • How come I cannot squat more
  • I have been doing CrossFit since x and still cannot do x (or worse, they cannot do “it”)
  • I need to work on my cardio

The first thing that I want to ask anyone who gives me any of the above statements is to provide their training log. Are they training consistently? No. Most of them are not. Many of them would have a training book that looks like this (visits per week): 3, 2, 4, 1, 0, 0, 3, 2, 4, 0, etc, etc. They get a fire under their rear and I see them three or four times a week, then I might not see them next week, or maybe I only see them once. Train consistently or don’t complain. You don’t need marathon sessions, but come into the gym and put in the work – regularly. If your goal is to lose weight (it shouldn’t be) you need to consistently put your body through stress to achieve change. Doing one month of consistent CrossFit (or any physical activity) and then taking two weeks off negates that month of work. Keep at it. It took years to put on the weight and it just might take years to take it off.

And, I hate to tell you this, but just showing up isn’t going to be enough. It is a step in the right direction, but it isn’t all you need to do. You need to show up and actually work. If during a seven minute AMRAP you take two water breaks, you aren’t working hard enough. If during a seven minute AMRAP you take ONE water break you aren’t working hard enough. You can survive for seven minutes without water and instead get in a few more reps. Getting that first pullup isn’t going to happen unless you work. A pullup might look easy to those who see people perform them that can, but they are not easy and the path that leads you to a pullup is not easy. Push yourself. If you have a day where you need to find your three-rep back squat, push yourself to failure. Yes, those back squat days WILL help your pullup. It’s all fitness and pushing those muscles will help you push other muscles and get you stronger to get that pullup.

Now you are showing up four or five times a week and when you work you work – HARD. You are working past the clock hitting zero (not stopping with four seconds left in that seven minute AMRAP – nothing drives me more crazy then those who quit before the clock), but you still cannot get that pullup, or hit that magic number in your clean, or run under your desired 5k time. What now? Check that programming. Is your gym programming towards your goals? Do you feel that the daily work is leading you towards your goal? If your goal is to lose weight, then most CrossFit programming is perfect, but if your goal is a PR in a lift or a pullup or a muscle-up or handstands or whatever – is the programming helping you? If you want to hit a 300 pound squat are you squatting heavy at least a few times a week? If you want a pullup are you doing work that leads to building strength in your back? If not, maybe you should…

Supplement your daily WOD with extra credit. I see people come in and stand around and chit-chat until I start the warmup. They half-ass it through the warmup. Then we do some instructional work and while I am trying to teach them they are chatting with their friend and half paying attention. Then, during the WOD they take breaks to chalk while doing double-unders and get water and tie their shoes and find any possible excuse to NOT work. Then the WOD is over and there is still 15 minutes left in the hour long session and they are putting on their jacket and walking out the door. Then, later that night over a beer they are complaining that they still haven’t deadlifted their weight or snatched 100 pounds or got their first pullup – AND I HAVE BEEN DOING CROSSFIT FOR A YEAR NOW?!?

ARG! Sorry, that rant came out of nowhere, but that is so, so, so frustrating.

Getting back on track….if you feel the programming is OK, but not quite hitting your target then you need to supplement with extra credit. If you wan a pullup then you should spend sometime after class doing scap pullups, ring rows, banded pull-downs, etc, something to build strength in your back. If your goal is a sub 10 minute mile then maybe you should spend sometime after class doing sprints or pulling a weighted sled. If you cannot snatch your desired weight then maybe after class you should do some snatch balance or snatch pulls or light snatch work. You will not achieve your goals magically, you will need to work for them and most often someone will not just give you the golden trail to find them, you will need to find that trail yourself.

Lastly, and, really more importantly, you will find your goals by the work you put in AWAY from the gym. Not to bury these two items because they are the most important, but my writing just flowed this way.

  • You cannot out-work a bad diet
  • Abs are found in the kitchen, not the gym
  • What you eat in private you wear in public
  • It doesn’t matter how hard you work in the gym if you don’t control what you put on your plate

If you work your A$$ off in the gym five days a week and then go home and eat crap then you will still look and feel like crap. Go to CrossFit for 18 solid months and eat junk and you will still look like junk. You more than likely will not meet any of your goals. You will not have a pullup. You will not squat one and a half times your body weight. Your Fran time will still be awful, if you can even RX it. You need to eat to support your goals. I am in no way saying you need to eat perfect all the time, but what I am saying is that if you enjoy beer, enjoy it like you do dessert. Don’t drink every night. You wouldn’t eat dessert every night, would you? But if you want to have a few beers on Friday, do it. Try to eat really, really, really good Monday-Friday and let yourself slip just a little bit on Friday or Saturday night and maybe have some french toast on Sunday morning, but get right back on track on Monday. And when I say “slip a little bit” that doesn’t mean you run to the pizza parlor and down half of a pie and follow it with a run to the ice cream shop for a large fudge sundae. It means you enjoy a little something extra at dinner. When you have your nice steak and asparagus let yourself have some calamari for an appetizer and then split a piece of pie for desert and wash it down with some wine. But if that sounds like what you eat three times a week you are ruining your work in the gym.

Finally, and second only in importance to what you eat is how much you sleep. I workout early in the morning and coach my boxes 5 and 6am classes once or twice a week and I can’t believe how often I hear people talk about being out until 10pm the night before or staying up to watch some show or whatever. They go to bed after 10 and wake up at 4:30am to come to the gym. If I check my math that is only six and a half hours of sleep and that is not near enough. I applaud the self control and motivation to get to the gym at 5am, but if you want that workout to count you need to get eight hours of sleep the night before. Wait, let me take that back, you need to get seven or more hours of GOOD sleep every night of the week. I understand we have families and other things so getting seven or more hours every night is not totally realistic for some of us, but do it six nights a week. Don’t fall asleep with your TV on, don’t check your phone just before falling asleep, just go to sleep and sleep good. Along with the food paragraph above I cannot stress how important sleeping is in one paragraph or even one blog post, just know that it is super important.

In order of importance to achieve your goals ranging from getting a pullup to losing weight to running a sub 1 hour 10k:

  • Eat well 95% of the week
  • Get eight hours of sleep a night
  • Train hard and heavy four or five times a week

In that order. If you aren’t doing bullet #1 or #2 don’t expect much out of bullet #3.

My rant is over. Now the debate is weather I post this to my boxes Facebook page and hope it hits home or leave it here because it will rub too many people the wrong way? How dare I accuse someone of not working hard enough to meet their goals……..when their goals haven’t been met in the past 24 months…..


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