A couple weekends ago I had the opportunity to take the Crossfit Level 1 certification course at my home gym, Trident Crossfit, in Alexandria, VA. The two days of classroom lecture, breakout sessions, surprise workouts, and a fill-in-the-bubble Scantron exam left me surprisingly drained and sore. But I had a blast – and more importantly, I PASSED – and walked away with a few life lessons I didn’t expect to get out of the course.
Here are 5 things I learned from Crossfit Level 1:
1. Any Crossfit gym worth its membership fee will teach you everything in the L1 seminar before you ever take the cert. Over the course of the 2 days, there were very few things the instructors taught that I hadn’t heard previously or seen displayed prominently on the wall in my 2+ years attending regular workouts at Trident. I say this not to diminish the quality of instruction in the cert (because it was, in fact, excellent); but rather, to highlight the sustained superior instruction I get every day at Trident. Points of performance for a deadlift? The cert instructors wrote them on the board, but I could pretty much say them in my sleep because our coaches drill them into us. Coaching cues to fix an ugly squat? I know them; I love them; I hear them on a daily basis because I still have an ugly squat. If you’re in the process of choosing a Crossfit gym to make your home, download the Level 1 study guide, and then pick your gym based on how often you hear the things contained in the guide. If the coaches stick to the principles contained in the guide, you can’t go wrong.
2. You have to trust the process and give it enough time to work. This came up specifically during the discussion on nutrition. Crossfit recommends an eating plan that supports eating for wellness – “meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch, and no sugar.” The Paleo and Zone diets are also popular among Crossfitters, and the instructors recommended strictly adhering to these diets for at least 3 weeks before deciding whether or not they are right for you. Now, when you are a major grump because your food intake is all dorked up, 3 weeks is a looooong time. You may want an oompa-loompa nnnnnooooooowwwwwww, but you have to give your body time to adjust; enduring change doesn’t happen overnight. This applies to fitness, work, and relationships, just as much as it does to food.
3. Respect the weight, all the time. It’s easy for me to walk up to a 265-pound bar and know that I’m going to have to put in my maximum effort to deadlift it. I’ll have to set up in my power position, pull my shoulders back, keep my back flat, load my hamstrings, push the floor away from me, raise my shoulders and hips at the same rate till the bar passes my knees, and then finally push my hips through to stand up the bar. Big bar = big mental and physical effort. But if there’s a workout with, say, sets of 10 reps of a 135-pound bar, I can guarantee my back is going to round and my shoulders are going to come forward, and things are gonna get ugly. Why? Because I’m not respecting the weight all the time. I’ve mentally checked out because I know that bar is light and I can get away with being sloppy and still move the weight. But this is the wrong way to go about it! In life, as in Crossfit, you need to apply equal mental and physical effort to the easy tasks, as well as the hard tasks. Light bar still = big mental and physical effort. Doing so will grow your strength and you’ll find those harder tasks are easier than you thought.
4. Train your weaknesses; don’t bias to your strengths. We’ve all done it: skipped a workout because we either don’t like or aren’t good at one of the movements in it. (Personally, I could gladly skip every workout with wallballs in it and not feel the least bit guilty.) But we’re only hurting ourselves by doing so, because we will continue to be less-than-awesome at that movement. You will only get better at what you work on. If you want to get better at handstand pushups, you have to DO handstand pushups. If you want to be a better shooter, you actually have to practice shooting. If you want to get better at public speaking, you actually have to…speak…in public. (Are you catching on?) It’s pretty simple, really. Don’t avoid your weaknesses. Target them. Focus on them. Train the crap out of them until they become your strength; then go find a new weakness to work on.
5. Crossfit helps you PR at LIFE. Crossfitters are all about setting new personal records (PRs). We get excited at a 10-pound jump in our max clean & jerk. We giggle when we’re able to do multiple reps of a weight that was our max 6 months ago. And then, of course, we brag about it on Facebook. Yes, Crossfit makes you strong, but it also makes you good at LIFE. Why? Because Crossfit aims to build a person’s “general physical preparedness” – the ability to handle whatever physical tasks life may throw at you. It means you’re the go-to guy to carry boxes on moving day. It means you don’t get exhausted after all day on your feet on the range in the heat. It means you don’t really mind lugging groceries up 4 flights of stairs, and in fact, you probably took the stairs on purpose. It means you are strong and you are confident because you’ve tackled every challenge that Crossfit has thrown at you, and you’ve overcome it, so you can easily take on life’s challenges as well.
Now get off the computer and go get to work!