This article started out as a “how-to” on tackling goal setting, then it morphed into to being about consistency, then it went meandered into looking at people’s desire to find short cuts.
I believe at the heart of all three of these topics is the need for patience.
My coaching philosophy is anchored in the idea of patience, consistency, and external reflection (see the latter half of last week’s post here).
This isn’t a newsflash to anyone who has met me, but I wrestle with being perfect. Before the guffaws come (loudly, I’d hope), I’m referring to the expectation of performing a task perfectly. I’m a harsh critic of my own work and I often expect perfection from myself.
Coaching adults is a tall order because I am not the only one who wrestles with this. In fact, every adult I have seen walk through the doors here at Slate carries this mindset. Each person in our Elements class has the desire to change themselves. They want to be more healthy, lift better, lose weight, be a better human and that is an amazing thing.
Problem is we are cursed with the expectation that we can do something new and complex, perfectly, from the first try.
Yeah, like that will happen.
Teaching the olympic movements (snatch, clean, and jerk) brings this out in everyone. They are highly complex movement patterns. Technique building is not an A+B world like strength building. It takes time and repetitions to achieve the fluidity seen from some of our better lifters. I spent countless hours on a driving range learning how to hit fades, draws and pull backspin. Technique simply takes reps and time. And a lot of failure.
It also applies to attendance, and coming in four times a week, every week, every month, rain, snow, uphill both ways…. FOREVER.
I often catch myself telling my coaches and clients that coaching/teaching kids is easy. They go a hundred miles an hour, failing left and right. When they hit their move, their faces light up and their primary expression is joy.
On the other hand, coaching/teaching adults is hard. They over-think, over-analyze, and internally berate themselves through entire movements. When they hit their move, there is a 50-50 chance they will find something to be critical about anyways.
Somewhere along the way we learn that our failed efforts have consequences that reach further than the moment. “Failing to learn to lift correctly could produce an injury that would affect life outside the gym.”
I watch my clients wrestle with this over and over. Some are harder cases than others. Some have had significant experiences in the past that make them timid, yet others line up ready to fall on their face. Patience guides my style for both types. We grow and develop slowly.
Sure, sure, sure.
The most fascinating response is that most people will stop, will quit, will freeze, will walk away rather than fail. I do it all the time. I have about 30 half started, yet “poorly crafted” blog posts just sitting in some email file on Google somewhere. Up until recently I avoided snatching like the plague because I’m not great at it and it’s uncomfortable.
Our response is to walk away and quit when failing and allowing ourselves to be imperfect is a part of the process.
Client 1 comes in consistently for her first two months. Something comes up at work and she is out for say 2-3 weeks. Rather than coming back in and continuing where she left off, she never really comes back and two months later quits the gym. A patient mindset realizes that fitness is something that should be a part of your life, as much as work is. You have to work and sometimes it goes awry and dominates your schedule. You also have a body and you still have to exercise. Perhaps instead of a mindset focused in on the perfect summer body, we need to think long term, five to thirty years down the road of a habit.
Client 2 consistently says he wants a 30 unbroken double unders. He practices, get four or five in row then misses. Frustration builds, he storms off, flinging the ropes across the room. Rather than see the progress from the time he could barely get one, he focuses on the short-comings of his new goal. Patient and consistency means that if he works on it and practices, he will get better. Even if in the moment it feels off.
I can’t lose/add 20lbs today, all I can do is work as hard as I can in this moment, go home and go about my day. Rinse and repeat, consistently, being patient that the results will come. I might miss a day, miss a lift, miss a week, and yet the task is still there.
CrossFit is not magic, it won’t whip you into shape quickly. Slate aims to give you a chance to practice in a supportive environment. Our coaches will also ask you to stop thinking so much, to let yourself fail, and to stop yelling at yourself. They might even smile and high-five you after you made that last squat clean, even though it wasn’t perfect. You’ll get angry, and they’ll smile, which will infuriate you further. We have patience in our movement progressions and exercise development, rather than the unachievable holistic perfection.