"But you've been working out"

I’m a couple of weeks in with my new coach.  I’ve been somewhat taken aback by how challenging the transition has been.  Things are settling in, but it’s certainly a process.  The what, when and how of all the work I’m doing now could not be more different than what I had become accustomed to.  I LOVE IT, and there’s so much learning involved.  Establishing what weights I should be working at, re-learning movements I thought I had down, incorporating movements that are altogether new.  All of that is growth in the right direction.  The part that is killing me is my conditioning.  Well, the lack thereof, really.

I felt sort of “outed” last week when a video of me doing a sad job on some conditioning work was posted on The Crossfit Games Facebook page.  I’m sure it’s only in my narcissistic paranoid mind that anyone even gave the video a second thought.  Nevertheless, I was pretty embarrassed by the public display of my lacking conditioning and skill.  The purpose of videotaping my training is for my coach to see what I’m doing (and to document for myself, I think it’s really a useful training tool to watch yourself).  My normal practice had been to set those videos to private, but now that my paltry fitness level is on blast anyway, I think I will be sharing more videos.  There’s no shame in not being where you want to be, there’s only shame in not working for what you want.  Did I land in this conditioning abyss through laziness?  Nope, plain and simple, I was doing the wrong work to get me where I want to be.  Where I want to be is beyond simply seeing some improvements.  I think many of us could do almost any program and see improvement of some kind, but I want to find the limit of what my body can do. I haven’t even touched what intensity means in Crossfit.  I’m not sure that I’ve even gotten close enough to smell it.  As a trusted advisor once told me, “Good enough is f*cked.”  Sorry to be crass about it, but that speaks to me.  I’m doing this because I want to find out where my performance limit is and that is the goal that will guide how I train.  There is no good enough, good enough means you don’t care.

I would make disparaging comment about myself, but the video pretty much handles that job.

The good news for me is that with the training I’m currently doing, I literally feel like I’m getting better every day.  I  work best when I can put 100% trust in what I’m doing (who doesn’t?).  When I decided to make this move it felt largely like a leap of faith, a leap that is now being affirmed on a daily basis.  During the decision making process I put a good deal of thought into my Crossfit and training knowledge and what experiences I could draw on to determine the best course for me.  Turns out, as much as I love the physical work of training I’ve never made myself much of a student of it.  It’s my eventual goal to become more of an expert so I can pass on what I’ve learned, but thus far my exploration of training and physical development has been somewhat stunted- I’ve never read a single book on training, I’ve never been a trainer, I don’t have my Crossfit Level 1 Certification.  I’ve basically used the guess and check method.   Things have routinely gone like this; 1). Walk into your neighborhood globo gym/weight room/YMCA, 2).  Identify and befriend the biggest, strongest people, 3). Train with them and see if you achieve the desired results (however that was defined at the moment).  Through this “method” I’ve trained with all kinds of different people; body builders, professional athletes, and a parolee who was so fresh out he still had the electronic monitoring device on his leg.   He was the first person who ever taught me about squatting below parallel.  Things that intuitively make sense to me have, until now,  yielded a satisfactory outcome.

Fitness literature. No, she’s not doing a pistol.

So yeah, basically when it comes to training I’ve been a follower.  There’s probably no legitimate excuse for me not being more knowledgeable about my training, but to some extent I think my approach has been an outgrowth of being coached in structured athletics from the age of 4.  I believe you become accustomed to allowing a coach to make decisions for you.  Games athlete and former Gymnast Gretchen Kittelberger summed it up beautifully in a recent blog post:

As an athlete, you are conditioned to put full trust in your coach. This is especially true of gymnastics. If your coach tells you you are ready to do a skill, then you are going to do it, whether or not you truly believe you are ready. This sort of obedience and giving up of control to an authority figure is partly necessary on the road to great athletic achievement. Sometimes as an athlete, we don’t always believe in ourselves as much as we could or should, and to have that coach there to push you and “make” you do that new skill, or lift more weight, or run faster, or jump higher is how we push past that mental barrier.” 

A coach/athlete relationship that is structured in this way is a gift because you learn early that your body can do more than you think it can.  In all honesty I prefer training this way.  I like putting the onus on my coach to tell me the right things to do so I can keep my focus on the mental and physical tasks at hand- not making programming decisions.  That’s this guy’s job. 

“The rewards I see from working made me an addict, There’s way more people that want it than people that have it.”- Drake

Author: Elisabeth Akinwale

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  • Great post Elisabeth! I am really happy that you feel that you are growing again! That is so important, because Crossfit is anything but stagnant! Giving up control to your coach is truly a leap of faith, but it helps me to do it when I understand why. I usually have a lot of questions, maybe not on a day to day basis but on a conceptual basis. Understanding why helps me push through, even when it’s hard and no fun.

    I have always seen in you the desire to learn more about this stuff…you are incredibly passionate and driven about it. I wonder if there are venues in which you can explore this- books, conferences, seminars, even more school? I know it sounds far off, but it seems like it really makes you happy to learn, as well as do. I have also seen in you the desire to help others through it at every level….I am hoping you will continue to explore this, when you are not training, being a mommy, or working! LOL!

    Finally, give your conditioning a couple of months. I’m sure you will be right where you need to be, and it will come back QUICK.

    Miss you!

  • Thanks Anj! Yes, you know I want to become more of a student and like you said, it’s all a matter of balancing priorities. My experiences with trying to be the highest level competitor I can, and also the recognition that my lack of knowledge has hurt me are definitely motivation to get that on track.

    I miss you too!

  • Thanks for putting yourself out there like that. I’ve also been following Rudy’s programming for the last month. There are some beasts who post to his site and it’s easy to get preoccupied by how good they all are and I think it’s only human to compare yourself. I feel like my conditioning isn’t quite there, too. But, I too, feel like I’m training smarter, learning more and getting stronger/better every day.

    • There is a GREAT Outlaw crew, and really with social networking, Games page, etc., it’s incredibly easy to compare yourself to everyone around the world. I love that, it keeps you pushing and doesn’t allow you to get too comfortable with where you are. Right now for me, it’s not just a matter of conditioning not being there. I literally have not trained metcons in months- I’m talking since the Games. Yeah. So I’m pretty objectively out of shape, not just in comparison to the bad boys and girls out there. But again, very confident in what we’re doing.

      BTW, are you going to be at any of the camps?

  • Great post! With social networks, it’s so easy to get caught up in what everyone else is doing and compare yourself to them. I just started following the Outlaw program this week because I’m not where I want to be. It is so humbling to post my efforts alongside you, Talayna, Cheryl and the other ladies. But, I’m going to keep looking ahead and working hard. You’re so right–there’s no shame in not being where you want to be. Words to live by, for sure. The truth: If you’re ever satisfied with where you are, you’ve never made it in the first place.Thanks for putting yourself out there and motivating and inspiring me to get better.

  • Awesome read Elisabeth! I can relate on the faith in a gymnastics coach for sure. Way too many times I fell from the high bar to my ass on a 4 inch mat doing reverse hechts only to look up at my coach who would say, we gotta do it again. There was definitely a point where I was doing it so he wouldn’t be disappointed more than I cared if I got through 5 full routines that day! This can be some what like that and I’m glad. I think it has helped me get to the next level. Can’t wait to meet you at the training camps!

    • Thanks for commenting Talayna! I think it’s so interesting to hear other gymnast’s take on the whole experience. It seems like it’s not just physical skills that carry over well from gymnastics to Crossfit, but also a certain personality or disposition that can serve a person well in both sports.

  • I don’t care what you say about your video, you looked great and perform WAY better than I do at Crossfit. I saw you on TV this weekend and have to say you did awesome at the games!

    Way to go….appreciate your honesty in your blog!