May 4th marked the 9 year anniversary of my very first CrossFit workout. As I head into year 10, I've been reflecting on all the coaches I've had the opportunity to learn from, the people I've trained with, the books I've read, and courses I've completed. The lessons that stand out from the rest all came from people I respect very much. Their words were real, true, and definitely stung a little at first!
Here are 3 harsh truths and the story of the people who told me things I needed to hear.
"Your lifts are impeccable, you just move so poorly the rest of the time."
This was said to me directly by Stu McGill at a seminar for back health in weightlifters. Dr. McGill is widely regarded as the world expert in spinal mechanics for athletes of all types. He was kind enough to spend a few minutes with me at the end of the day to watch a handful of my lifts. At the time, I was at the high point of my olympic weightlifting training but also struggling with a lot of low back pain.
His bluntness stung a little as I'd always though of myself as someone who moved pretty well. But Dr. McGill had observed me all day moving poorly every time I grabbed my backpack, got up off the floor, slouched in my chair, etc. Sure, when I set up for a snatch my mechanics were fine, but the body doesn't differentiate between picking up a barbell "when it counts" and grabbing that 45lb plate off the floor to tidy up when it's over. Just because I can move well, doesn't mean I do all the time. Every movement matters. His observation hit home and was exactly the harsh truth that I needed to really address my movement problems.
"Stop maxing out everyday. You're not fucking Bulgarian"
This is a gem from my friend and weightlifting training partner from days past Troy Appleton. Troy has thrown many (many, many) harsh truths my way - in fact training with him was pretty hard on the self esteem! But he told me things I needed to hear, things that no one else would say out loud. After a few years of training together, I was a much better lifter thanks to his lack of filter.
My haphazard approach to my training in the early days drove him crazy. Almost everyday I would work up to a max. Heavy, heavy, heavy all the time. It was an ego-driven approach based on the satisfaction of seeing a big number of the bar and pursuing nothing but PRs. This outcome-oriented approach showed no respect for the process or the craft of weightlifting. It also led me down a path of stalled progress, bad habits, and nagging injuries.
The Bulgarian system of training frequently uses max lifts. But the Bulgarians use a lot of drugs and as Troy had to remind me, I am not fucking Bulgarian.
"You're not injured any more. Stop treating yourself like such a delicate flower"
For a prolonged period of time, I had a nagging back injury. I got used to being cautious around certain loads and certain movements. Eventually though, I wasn't actually injured anymore. My physical body was just fine, but I had a nagging mindset problem of treating myself delicately, resulting in a mental block at those certain weights/movements.
My friend, and 3x teammate on the BRIO Regional Team, Jon Barkman was the one that forced me to give my head a shake. Jon's an intense guy and has a way of getting up in your face to help you find a level of performance you didn't know was lurking in there. When it's max out day for back squats or bench press, Jon is the guy to call. He'll yell at you until you lift the damn weight and you'll love him for it. So when he told me flat out to quit being such a little bitch about things, you can bet that I listened! A good physio or a chiro can help you solve your physical injuries, but a good, honest friend is needed to solve your mental problems!