This new series comes to us from Christian Fox, Head Coach and Programmer at CrossFit South Brooklyn in Brooklyn, NY. Christian has been a CrossFit trainer for 10+ years and has pioneered the Fit 55+ program at CFSBK, a class geared specifically towards “Master’s” age athletes. In this series, Christian shares what he’s learned from both his personal experience as a CrossFitter who has “matured” with the sport, and as someone with extensive training knowledge regarding older athletes. Read Part 1.
Last time around I asked you to figure out one small thing you could do better to improve. Were you able to spot something that could use a little work and turn that knowledge into action? Congrats, and high fives! If not, here’s your nudge in that direction with a few areas that your health and fitness might benefit from by addressing.
You Are (probably) Not A Well Balanced Human Being
Maybe you were when you were a tyke (ever see that perfect toddler squat?), but that was a long time ago. If you’ve been exercising on machines for years before CrossFit, you likely developed some asymmetry along the way (hellooooo, beach muscles). If you’ve been sedentary for a while, your posture likely sucks. If you competed in almost any sport, you’ve likely developed and strengthened unbalanced movement patterns that may have worked well for said sport, but maybe not so much for CrossFit (or, you know, for life). True story: I’ve worked with two Olympic level rowers and they were some of the worst examples of asymmetry I’ve seen. Turns out that being literally the best (one of these guys has two gold medals) at pulling an oar to one side, over and over, really hard, doesn’t set you up to be too balanced.
Some of us can self evaluate, assess where we need more work and flexibility, and get to it. Most of us, myself included, cannot. We tend to do the things we’re good at, the fun stuff. I know what I should do to shore up my weak points and balance myself out, but I am not very likely to choose to do those things unless someone tells me to and holds me accountable. Case in point, it took me three episodes of bad back spasms to wise up. I finally paid good money to have my movement evaluated by a great coach who worked with me to put together a plan to not have another one. Turns out my deadlift set up and mechanics needed some tweaking, I was embarrassingly weak on the right side of my torso, and my lats weren’t doing what they should have been. I had gotten plenty strong working with (or in spite of) those imbalances, and I would have immediately recognized this stuff in any of my clients or members. I just couldn’t see it in myself. Sure there are a lot of hacks and “internet experts” out there lying in wait to critique your double body-weight snatch, but there are also many credible coaches and physical therapists who understand human movement, understand what your goals are, and know how to help. Ask around, find someone, and go get see them. There might even be someone who fits the bill on staff at your gym. You’re only as strong as your weakest link and if you keep working the strong ones, you’re gonna break at some point.
Active Recovery Is Not A Race
This one is so simple and so silly that I just literally lol’d while typing it, but we screw it up all the time. You need to regularly chill out and your recovery day shouldn’t be spent doing “assistance work”. (What the hell are you assisting anyway?) Likewise, a hard 5K run doesn’t count as aerobic recovery. Everybody needs to recover from their training to benefit from and build upon it and you may need to focus more on recovery now than when you were 20 and could get away with just about anything (like that week in Vegas…). Get outside! The mental, emotional, and spiritual benefits of spending some non-gym time in nature will outweigh any crap you were going to do in the gym. Hiking in nature, or just walking or riding your bike at a leisurely pace is a great way to get in some true aerobic recovery. If scheduling some chill time doesn’t naturally appeal to you, then do it for your Fran time because increasing your aerobic fitness can have a positive impact on your recovery time from high intensity type training.
“Win the 9:30am Group Class”
This quote is taken directly from Rob Orlando at the CrossFit Strongman Specialty Course I recently took (and highly recommend, btw). It was a response to a query from someone who wanted to “go to the Games” and wanted special programming and resources to help her get there. Rob kindly suggested she could begin with being the best at the gym in regular classes. In other words, if you think the programming at your gym isn’t “hard” enough, maybe you need to re-learn what intensity is and bring it along to crush the 9:30 AM class. Maybe you’re not like 99.9% of us and are one of those 0.1% that could compete at the Games level… but the odds are slim. This is not an insult and please don’t be discouraged. In fact, be liberated. Now the pressure is off to try and do CrossFit as a sport and you can go back to just working out (hard) with your friends. It’s probably what drew you to CrossFit in the first place and snatching by yourself for an hour in the corner of the gym after your special 30 minute warm up and before your 2 metcons to follow, isn’t really much fun… is it?
To recap: have your movement evaluated by someone smarter than you every so often, work hard at the “regular” stuff, and relish the down time on your rest days.