The more I do CrossFit, the more I realize the mental game is much more important than the physical game. Sure, you have to be in shape, but being in shape is an equalizer — the mental game is what will set you apart from others and allow you to win CrossFit competitions and just win your daily CrossFit WODs.
I woke up on Thursday with a plan to do CrossFit workouts that were simple but involved a barbell and burpees. No part of me wanted to do any of it. I was sore and just not feeling it. So, I didn’t. I just rowed and ran, a modified CrossFit Hero WOD Jerry, if you will. And I felt really good afterwards.
This was both a mental and a physical break. I could have done by planned CrossFit workout, but it would have sucked because my head wasn’t in the game. So why bother?
The Main Advantage to Doing Your Own CrossFit Programming
You can adjust your CrossFit programming to suit your needs. I adjust my CrossFit programming on a daily basis it seems. I get up and assess where I’m at. Towards the end of the week, I’m spent, and my CrossFit workouts often change. I believe this is the best part of doing your own CrossFit programming and of working out by yourself. Instead of constantly pushing and tweaking your body and pushing your mental game, you can take breaks. Breaks become especially important as you get older.
If you attend a CrossFit box, know when to take mental breaks from CrossFit. It’s okay to do a different workout than everyone else. It’s okay to let your mind rest, so you can attack the next workout. Doing your CrossFit workouts constantly half-heartedly is not going to benefit you in the long run. Breaks allow you to come back stronger and attack CrossFit workouts when you need to.
As I’ve slowly watched my weight increase (and not in a good way) over the past 6 months, I’ve been wondering this question: Can you plateau with CrossFit? In my mind, yes, I believe you can and here’s why:
Same movements, same weights. Sure, CrossFit is known for its variety in workouts. However, it’s still all the same movements and usually the Rx (the recommended weights) are the same each go-around.
Same format. Each CrossFit box is unique, but most stick to the same pattern. At my old CrossFit box (of which I have just now switched), we did a strength and then a workout or WOD that was usually under 20 minutes. Well, your body adapts to this over time (for me it was 3 years), and unless you push yourself further, you won’t see results.
Same mindset. It’s hard to push yourself when working out alone. Yet, I’m still moving but am I getting the same benefits?
Same perspective. A change in coaches is a good thing. Listening to different ideas is a good thing. Visiting other boxes and seeing how others do things will prompt you to do things differently. Go somewhere else. Get a different opinion and different idea. Let go of the idea “this is how it’s always done” and be open.
CHANGES IN CROSSFIT PROGRAMMING
As I said before, it’s time for a change. I’ve recently embraced HIIT training, which is training at high-intensity for short amounts of time with active recovery in-between. The theory goes HIIT training gets and keeps your heart rate up and burns more fat in less time, increasing your metabolism, which translates to more fat burn up to 48 hours after the workout. And this is what I need.
I want to improve my CrossFit game, and for the last 6 months, all I’ve been doing is maintaining. I’m adding in HIIT classes, swimming, and smaller does of CrossFit (sometimes twice a day) to see what happens. And when I do CrossFit, it will be different. Heavier weights. Odd objects. Something.
It takes something unusual to make me sore these days (this is part of the reason I love CrossFit Competitions so much — different exercises and multiple times in one day that make me sore). I miss that sore feeling — the knowledge in your brain you are changing instead of staying the same. And no one wants to stay the same.
I recently came across an article about how CrossFit women should be proud of their bodies, have less body issues than other women, and are strong. It was written very definitively about how women who CrossFit love their strong bodies.
I’m here with the counter-argument: CrossFit women have just as many body issues as other women (maybe more so since our bodies do change significantly when you continue with CrossFit). We struggle just as much with nutrition and food choices. We do care what we look like in terms of makeup. Clothes shopping is much harder with a CrossFit body.
There is one difference NOT noted in the article:
CrossFit women have a love/hate relationship with their bodies that other women do not.
WHY CROSSFIT WOMEN LOVE/HATE THEIR BODIES
We are stared at. Usually in a leering way, not in a healthy way. Women either are
jealous or think we look gross. Men look at us like men look at other women — they just stare longer since we DON’T look like other women they see too often.
Clothes don’t fit. I have given up trying to find jeans that will go over my calves and my thighs. I live in yoga pants. I have given up trying to find nice-fitting T-shirts that are small but fit my shoulders. Dresses have to be the right cut or my muscles look horrible in them.
Food is a real struggle. Adhering to a strict diet is a test of mental strength, which after doing a CrossFit WOD which puts us on the floor, is a battle many of us don’t have the strength for. How your body looks is all about food. Period. If you don’t eat right, you won’t look right no matter the hours you throw down at the gym.
We are strong but still want to be delicate flowers. I am strong. I can lift heavy items. But I don’t outside the box. Why? Because I’m a woman who wants a man to lift heavy things for me when the need arises. I don’t want to have to lift MORE heavy items after the gym.
Our changing bodies yield body insecurities. When people first started telling me, “Hey, Jen. You’re ripped!” I didn’t realize how muscular I had become. It was definitely an acceptance process. Now, as I lift heavier, my lats are thicker, my shoulders wider, my legs bigger. It’s an on-going battle women CrossFitters face.
It’s a fact if you lift heavy weights, you’ll gain muscle. Muscle is bulk. You will look different than your average woman. Some women I know quit CrossFit because they don’t like what CrossFit does to their bodies. Anyone who tells you you won’t bulk up is lying to you. This is part of accepting your body as it does gain muscle. And this is part of CrossFit.
CrossFit will Change Your Body
Go into CrossFit with your eyes open. Learn about it. Read and study about lifting weights. Read about the metabolic pathways. Then decide if CrossFit is for you.
You all know I love CrossFit. I love what CrossFit does for me. I love how my body looks. But that doesn’t mean it’s not a struggle to accept how I look, to not be critical, to think I’m fat, etc.
We all have baggage we carry from childhood into adulthood and from society. It’s a mindset we all have to overcome.
Ever since Sunday, I’ve been hitting my CrossFit workouts hard. This week has been all about heavy weights, which I haven’t done for a while, especially after coming back from surgery. My shoulders are trashed. My calves are trashed. Squatting down in the simple things like doing laundry is difficult.
This morning I had a workout planned. I did not do it. I was too sore, and my body was crying out for rest. Here’s some tips on how to know when to rest from exercise, CrossFit workouts, running, or whatever sport you do.
Tips to Know When to Rest from Exercise
Your body is crying out to you. This one should be intuitive, but I often ignore this one. When everything is sore and everyday movements become a challenge, it’s time for a break.
Your exhausted at the end of the day. Exercise causes trauma to our bodies that our bodies need rest and sleep in order to recover from. If you’re not giving your body rest, then you are not maximizing your time under the barbell. When you’re tired all the time, it’s your body crying out to rest, so it can do its job and repair muscle fibers and tissues, so you can be stronger for your next CrossFit workout.
Your mental game is affected. Loss of enthusiasm, motivation, and desire is a sure sign you need a rest day. If you’re only half into your CrossFit workout and you’re just going through the movements without any heart, then you’re not doing yourself any good. Rest and hit your workouts hard in the upcoming days.
You have a tweak that won’t go away. If you exercise or do CrossFit a lot, odds are you’re familiar with tweaks — some muscle feels a bit off and when you move it, you notice it. Most of the time, these tweaks resolve themselves on their own in a week or so. However, if you have a perpetual tweak that won’t go away, it’s time for a break. Take at least one rest day and then rest that muscle as much as possible. Modify the CrossFit programming to suit your needs or design your own CrossFit programming.
As you can see, the key is listening to your body. Rest is crucial to progress in sports, but it’s so hard to take that day when our passion is our sport. Below are tips for rest days.
Tips for Rest Days
Active recovery. It’s hard for some of us to not do anything physical on rest days. Active recovery is a great way to let your muscles recover but appease your mind that is nagging at you to work out. I personally like to walk my dog on rest days from CrossFit or go swimming, which is no impact and gets all your built-up lactic acid in your muscles.
Distraction. Plan rest days during the week instead of on weekends, so you’re busy all day long. Plan rest days during the weekend if your weekend is packed, and you won’t have time to exercise.
Plan your CrossFit programming or workouts. Planning my next workouts satisfies the need deep within me to workout. It gives me something to look forward to when it’s time to hit my CrossFit workouts hard again.
Read a book. Alternate worlds are always good to enter when trying to NOT do something like exercise.
Get a massage. Let’s face it, we all need massages if we lift heavy weights. Schedule your massage during your rest day if possible to maximize the effects of rest on the body.
Go to bed early that day. Get extra sleep to afford your body the time it needs to repair muscle tissue and grow stronger.
We only get stronger when we rest. Adequate rest and nutrition play a big part in our muscle gains and, odd enough, our muscle loss.
Working out and lifting heavy weights, whether you do CrossFit or a different sport, is only half the equation. Keep in mind the harder part — eating right and resting — and you’ll see results quicker.
U.S. Army First Lieutenant Dimitri Del Castillo, 24, of Tampa, Florida, died on June 25, 2011, in Kunar province, Afghanistan, from wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked his unit with small arms fire.
His CrossFit Hero Workout is:
400 m run with medicine ball
25 weighted pull ups
400 m run with medicine ball
25 handstand push ups
400 m run with medicine ball
25 chest-to-bar pull ups
400 m run with medicine ball
This was a great workout to do without utilizing a barbell. All body weight movements with added weight. Fun to do. A great recovery workout. Perfect at home workout as well.
I can’t believe it’s been three years doing CrossFit. It seems like such a long time when spoken out loud, but in my mind, it doesn’t seem that long at all.
I had no expectations going in. I began CrossFit because, honestly, I was at a level of fitness that wasn’t progressing doing the typical “gym routine” of exercise classes, cardio, and circuit training machines. My personal trainer suggested I try CrossFit — which I did — and I was immediately hooked.
CrossFit has grown into a lifestyle for me. I can’t imagine life without it, honestly. My life beforehand seems dull without it.
After three years of CrossFit, I’m happy with where I’m at except for one thing: I don’t have my ring muscle ups. It’s a bit depressing really.
So what did I get from 3 years doing CrossFit?
What 3 Years of CrossFit has done for me:
Given me an amazing sense of accomplishment. I’ll never forget the first time I climbed a rope or got my first pull up. Feats of strength most women only dream of — and I did them.
Given me a body I never dreamed I’d have, didn’t think I ever wanted, but now that I have it, I can’t imagine not having it.
Given me a self-confidence that intimidates others (so I’m told). I know what I want, and I either go do it or go get it. There’s nothing in-between.
Given me a focus that allows me to accomplish an amazing amount of work in a short time period.
Opened up possibilities of what is possible. I’ve learned everything is possible if you can overcome your mental barriers.
Honed my competitive skills. I love to compete, and I think I’m better at competing since starting CrossFit.
Made me different. We’re all unique in our own ways, but there’s something about those who CrossFit that is different than others. I not only look different; I am different.
Given me a determination that translates to all areas of my life. When I set my mind to do something, it gets done.
CrossFit is a Lifestyle
CrossFit is definitely a lifestyle. A lifestyle 3 years ago I never would have imagined or thought I needed.
Now, I need it like the moon needs the sun to shine. I’m smarter about it. Don’t go so hard. Try to minimize the tweaks and such. Because I want to still be CrossFitting in 15 years.
Yesterday, I did a workout that was 5 minutes of work with 5 minutes of rest for three rounds. It involved a 400 m run, pull ups, and a bike. It was a great workout and I really pushed myself.
Today, I just finished a workout of 30 power snatches, 1 mile run and then 30-20-10 reps of kettlebell swings and thrusters.
Both were great workouts. But the first one I pushed myself, went really fast, but had rest. The last one I concentrated on doing the reps of the snatches, a run, and then directly into the other reps with no break except to change weight on the bar.
Both felt great but I got different benefits from them.
BENEFITS OF MODALITIES IN CROSSFIT
Mental conditioning. Knowing a rest was coming allows you to push yourself more because you know you get a break. Knowing you don’t have any rest is more of a marathon/pace workout where you don’t want to run out of steam too quickly.
Physical conditioning. You need to work all your metabolic pathways (Short distance training- anaerobic training and Long distance training- aerobic training), which makes you better at both.
Constantly-varied, high-intensity workouts. The reason CrossFit is so successful is it is constantly-varied and you get an amazing workout. You constantly keep your body guessing as to what it will be working and you never get bored, so you’ll be more likely to stick to your exercise routine.
Pushing yourself is important if you want to progress. Equally important is finding your pace and sticking it when you need to–so you can push your long-distance (aerobic training). You need both in constantly-varied movements to accomplish your fitness goals. Happy Training!