Monday, 23 November 2009

If you PR, you PR.

I can't recall waking up one day, walking into the gym, and suddenly being a whole lot fitter. Nor can I recall that happening to anyone I've trained.

When I look through my training log over the last four years, there isn't one day, or week, or month, that makes me stop and say "Oh, so that's when I stopped sucking"

The reason I can't remember that happening, or find it in my training log, is that it didn't happen.

Something interesting happens when I skip a big section of my training log, however. If I look at my numbers a year apart...holy crap.

See what I'm getting at?

Too many CrossFitters hope one day they'll roll out of bed and BOOM, they're keeping up with Greg Amundson. I use the word "hope" because I don't think anyone actually believes that it'll happen like this. But it bears repeating that it won't, and it's not supposed to.

To quote Mark Rippetoe, "Training is a process, not the events of one day." This is an important thing to remember. Too often, my athletes are disappointed with adding 5lbs to their deadlift or 1 round to their "Cindy" or only taking 5 seconds off their "Fran." But here's the thing: Add 5lbs to your deadlift, 1 round to your "Cindy" and take 5 seconds off your "Fran" every 2 months for a year, and you've gone from deadlifting 405lbs, doing 20 rounds of "Cindy," and a 3:30 "Fran," to a 435lb deadlift, 26 round "Cindy," and a 3:00 "Fran."

That's a pretty significant increase in work capacity across broad time and modal domains, wouldn't you say?

In his book "Starting Strength," Rippetoe talks about linear progression: the idea that the ideal way to make progress is through small, but frequent increases in your capacity. This doesn't only apply to heavy lifts: it applies to everything we do in CrossFit. Sure, when you're brand new to CrossFit, especially if you're deconditioned, you can make extreme progress really fast. But that can't last, and a lot of CrossFitters get discouraged when that rapid improvement slows.

In a few recent posts, Blair Morrison talks about a "new competitive standard": Athlete vs WOD, rather than Athlete vs. Athlete. This is an important concept to grasp, because really what we are trying to do is be better than we were yesterday, not be better than the guy next to us. I've learned (the hard way, as I generally do) that trying to be better than someone else can't last. It doesn't matter if that other person is Mikko Salo or your training partner. Depending on another person for your motivation is no different than depending on another person for your happiness. Only you can make you happy, and only you can inspire in yourself the willpower and strength of character necessary to become the best athlete you possibly can.

Be encouraged by every new PR. Celebrate every increase in your work capacity, no matter how small. Don't ask yourself, "Am I better than the guy next to me." Instead ask yourself, every single day, "Am I a little bit better than I was yesterday?"

And if you need a little extra encouragement, grab your training log and look at where you were a year ago. You'll probably find yourself saying "holy crap."


Jay Ashman said...

exactly right, the more advanced we get in our training the less the PR's come and the smaller the margin is... every once in a while you will blow a PR away, but be happy with a few seconds or a few pounds... progress is progress

Serge said...

I too get frustrated when my PR's aren't big enough. If I only improved by 5 pounds or I only got one addition round on an AMRAP workout. Then I realized that I was better, despite the time that had passed or the details of my training. I had gotten a result that was desired. I was able to move heavier loads, faster. As long as I kept improving that every week, month, year. I would be a better athlete.

Edwin said...

Most certainly. I sometimes get caught up on what I "should" be able to lift or do based on similar lifts or workouts. It's helpful to recognize the progress and keep working. I also appreciate the point of reading across months or even years in workout logs, it really shows progress while also exposing places where you aren't progressing.

Whitney said...

I also really like the idea of Athlete vs. WOD and not Athlete vs. Athlete. I know that sometimes I get frustrated because I'm the last person finishing the WOD or I'm the first done, but it was with less weight than anyone else. I find that when I don't compare myself to what other people are doing and just look back at my progress I do have that HOLY CRAP moment. It might take me longer to get up to rx'd weights and workouts, but I've come so far and done so much more than I ever thought I was capable of... THAT is what I need to spend more time focusing on. Not what other people are doing.

Wichi Woman said...

Excellent post and thanks for posting it and to Crossfit Unlimited for reposting it so I could find it! You guys rock!! I still rave about the great coaching I got from you all in my one visit to CF Monterey!