By: Coach Leah
The Open is officially over and my Thursday & Friday nights are strangely quiet again. Well, as quiet as they can be with a 4 year old, a 1 year old, and a dog running around the house. But despite the (somewhat) quiet around me, my brain is anything but. So, I sit here on a Thursday night writing this article about muscle-ups (spoiler alert…..it’s much more than that).
We saw a lot of firsts this year in the open. First Rx workouts, first handstand push ups, first bar muscle ups, first chest to bar pull ups, first Open in general; the list goes on and on. While these feats may seem insignificant to some, they left a lasting impression on me. I was moved by the realization of the metaphorical (and sometimes literal) importance the muscle up has for all of us in our pursuit of health and fitness.
While we all started and continue to do CrossFit for different reasons, all those reasons ladder up to the same generic purpose – to live a healthier life. On a superficial level, achieving a muscle up has absolutely nothing to do with that. In fact, many more people will live an incredibly healthy life without successfully completing a muscle up than those that do complete one. Certainly there is a positive correlation between degree of fitness and ability to do one, but by no means is one required to be fit.
So, why does it matter? Why is a muscle up as important to the 25 year old young gun as it is to the 85 year old grandmother?
Simple – it’s the motivation of the pursuit and the satisfaction of the achievement.
For most I’m not talking about the muscle up literally, but instead I am referring to what it represents – a meaningful, tangible, physical goal. For the 85 year old grandmother, that might be walking up 3 stairs without assistance. For others it may be a 400 lb back squat. And for some, it’s moving without pain.
In essence, we all need that Moby Dick to chase. We all need that meaningful something to keep us coming back day in and day out. As with the pursuit of Moby Dick, it will be a journey filled with ups and downs. Calm and rough seas. It will be a journey that requires devout (borderline obsessive) commitment. And it may even be a journey that ends in failure. BUT, it is in that pursuit and even in that failure that we progress, grow, and succeed in some way.
For 99% of us, we’ve stayed committed to CrossFit longer than any other fitness routine in our lives. For many of us, we are fitter now than we were 1, 5, 10, and even 20 years ago. For most of us, going to the gym has become something we want to do instead of something we have to do.
All of that is awesome, but we must acknowledge the facts.
Fact 1 – As humans we naturally seek newness and growth. The first year or two of CrossFit is intoxicating. You’ve never done half the movements and while scary, it’s also exhilarating. You never knew how awful 5 minutes of working out could feel, but somehow it’s awesome. You were never a group class person but all of a sudden you couldn’t imagine doing anything else. Inevitably, all of that becomes the new normal. It’s no longer new, it’s your routine. It’s still better than any other routine, but like anything else in life we do for years, it becomes routine indeed.
Fact 2 – Measurable success breeds motivation and it becomes a heck of a lot less frequent as the years pass. In the first 2 years of CrossFit, you look at a barbell and you PR. Not just PR but PR by HUGE jumps. 30 lbs on a snatch in 1 month. 50 lbs on your deadlift the next. Then the gains slow. Suddenly it’s 5 lbs on your clean in 6 months. 10 lbs on your squat in a year. Let’s be clear, improving at a decreasing rate happens to everyone in any fitness program especially as their fitness and age increases. BUT, it still sucks and can be demotivating!
Fact 3 – We can easily combat these issues by chasing our own version of Moby Dick! Our own muscle up so-to-speak. When was the last time you set a goal for yourself in the gym? I’m not talking about the wishy washy, “I want to get a muscle-up in 19.4” type of goals; I mean a goal that you’re committed to and willing to work for? Do you have that time in mind? Great! Now, during that process what did your attendance look like? Probably pretty stellar, right? Why? You had a goal.
Now once you hit that goal, how do you think you feel? Amazing! Are you motivated to find another one and continue to improve your fitness? Heck yes!
But guess what? Our goals require work in order to be achieved. That work may be as simple as telling someone your goal and asking for accountability. It may mean coming to the gym more consistently. It may even require specific skill/strength work in addition to regular group classes.
In other words my friends, find a meaningful, physical goal and go get it. Maybe it’s a first pull-up or muscle up. Perhaps it’s a 200 lb snatch. I don’t know what it is for you but all I know is you need one. It needs to matter. You need to chase it. And you need to celebrate it when you reach it.
In the next couple of weeks, I’m going to send out a 2 question survey. Question 1 will ask you to write down your own version of your Moby Dick or Muscle Up. Question 2 will ask you to write down the biggest obstacle in your way.
Take some time this week to think about those 2 questions. Take the 5 minutes next week to fill it out. Those 5 minutes could fuel your next 5 months.