Here’s a phrase we’ve all heard before: “Trust the process.” It’s a phrase that goes against everything that I, a human living in the age of immediate gratification, want to hear. I get annoyed when my coach says it to me and can see the same reactions on my clients’ faces when I say it to them. It’s typically followed up with a response of, “I know, but…” by whoever it was said to. I don’t want to believe that the process pertains to me. I want to believe that somehow I will miraculously acquire strength and skills because of some magical program written by some guru of fitness (I’ll have a future post on this). Earlier in my career I didn’t even know what “the process” was, but I knew I didn’t like it. It means working on weaknesses. It means putting in hours of training (not exercise, but training) to improve technical skills, strength imbalances, or incorrect motor patterns. It’s the small, daily work that doesn’t seem to make any change in the short term but pays off in the long run. This is often hard for my ego because I want to be able to do things now. It’s really easy for me to get down on myself if I don’t feel like I’m making progress in the day-to-day when I’m in the middle of “the process”. More than a few times I’ve written my coach a message with some obscenities, the word frustrated in there somewhere, finished with: I’m never going to get this! Giving up feels like it would be the easier way to go in that particular moment because I have lost sight of how much I have improved over time. I’m so caught up in my own perceived failure in that moment that I can’t see anything else.
There’s a lot to unpack in that last sentence. First of all, the perception of failure. What is that? That’s me mentally beating myself into a pulp for not being perfect at something the first time that I try it. It’s me believing that I didn’t make as much progress as I thought I should have. Telling myself that my training session was worthless. Thinking that I will never be as good as (insert name of whoever that person is for you here). My personal rabbit hole with this kind of thinking can go very deep very quickly. Ok. Let’s take a step back. The important question to ask myself is why do I show up to the gym every day? I go to try to improve on the skills that are important to me. I go to learn how to move more efficiently. I go to feel healthy. To give myself a break from the responsibilities of my day. To get stronger. To ensure that I will have a body that continues to function well as I age. Because sometimes it just feels good to lift heavy shit or to crush myself with a hard WOD and then high five all the people who just suffered through it with me. If all of those things are true, as I imagine they are for most people, then every day that I show up to the gym I am accomplishing exactly what I set out to do. My answer did not include anything about perfection or meeting expectations. Why then am I so quick to get negative? I’m not trusting the process. I want to be stronger, better, and faster RIGHT NOW. I can guarantee that if I regularly show up and do the work, at this time next year I will have improved. By how much? Who knows. But it’ll definitely be more improvement than if I decided to give up.
I was on the phone outside of our box last summer, no shirt on, enjoying the sun when a young guy came up to me and said:
“Man! How do I get big like you?”
“Well, I spent two hours a day, six days a week for five years bodybuilding. Just takes time, dedication, and eating A LOT,” I replied.
“Awwww, no man,” he laughed, “That’s not for me.”
Back then, I showed up to the globo gym every day because I simply enjoyed lifting weights. For some reason, now that I do CrossFit, I can relate to the young man on the street. Maybe it’s because I’m really competitive or have very specific goals now. At any rate, now I want to believe that I am the one special person in the world that doesn’t have to do the daily work in order to achieve the results I want. I don’t really want to do Snatch Pulls off of blocks to work on my Snatch technique (not sexy) but I want to be able to snatch 1.5x my body weight (super sexy). I don’t really want to do the interval repeats on the Assault Bike (not sexy AND feels really bad) but I want to have the lactic endurance to maintain high levels of intensity for a workout like Fran (sexy). If you’ve ever said to yourself, “I’ll never be able to do that,” or, “I should be able to do this by now,” then the process, aka the training, the work, the grind, the day-to-day, is where these things will go from being impossibilities to possibilities to eventualities.
If your goal is to move better, to move without pain, or to live a healthier lifestyle and you are showing up regularly to the gym, then give yourself a little credit. The other things will come with dedication to the process of improvement, not the process of perfection. I love being a coach because I have the opportunity to help people with all of these things. It’s hard when I see people get really harsh with themselves about something that they feel wasn’t good enough. The fact is that they showed up to fight for what they wanted. They showed up the day before and they will likely show up the day after. So, I’ll say this to you but know that I also say this to myself on a regular basis: cut yourself some slack. Try to enjoy your training. Enjoy the people in your community that you regularly see in group classes. Enjoy the coaches who are there for you. Trust and enjoy the process.