“Strength is never a weakness”
This is one of my favorite quotes from Mark Bell.
Strength is one of the basic 10 physical elements of fitness (Cardiovascular / respiratory endurance, Stamina, Strength, Flexibility, Power, Speed, Coordination, Agility, Balance, Accuracy).
It’s an essential component to life and has always fascinated us.
Strength is part of our genetic coding that ensures our survival and ensures our reproduction.
In nature the strongest and smartest thrive.
Strength will make you less likely to die…die from ANY cause.
Cancer, heart attack, AIDS, car wreck, gunshot, you name the demise, it doesn’t matter.
If you are weak you will not survive the nastiness the world can throw at you as well as if you are strong. The strongest of us are the best survivors.
The strongest third of the population dies at a lower rate from all causes than the weaker two thirds of the population.
Look it up for yourself:
British Medical Journal – 2008 July 12:337(7661): 92-95
Your strength to weight ratio is also an important indicator of health and fitness.
The lighter and more powerful you are, the better you’re likely to be at CrossFit and life too.
You may be able to shift more total weight as a heavier person but it’s also less likely that you’ll perform well on bodyweight and gymnastic movements and general conditioning.
Of course our goal as CrossFitters is to become the best we can can be and the ideal athlete is balanced in all areas of fitness.
In Olympic Weightlifting media coverage tends to focus on the heavyweight guys – simply because they end up moving fantastic total weights. I think it’s fair to say however that the general public view “weightlifting” either mistakenly as bodybuilding or a fat guys in singlets.
CrossFit has done a lot to dispel this myth and anyone who actually follows Olympic Weightlifting is always impressed by the lighter weight classes, where these boys and girls regularly put 3 times their bodyweight over their heads.
Physical strength aside, this blog post is really about the mental fortitude that is needed to overcome physical obstacles.
This for me is particularly important when it comes to us regular folks tackling our weaknesses in the gym because usually if you can make a weakness a strength, it’s a demonstration of your abilities far beyond the walls of the CrossFit box.
Everyone has something to be working on and typically these weaknesses fall into 3 categories or a mix of 2 or 3 of them.
–Skills – double unders, handstand holds, pistol squats, overhead squats
–Strength – lifting your bodyweight in multiple ways – deadlift, backsquat, strict pullups, handstand pushups
–Conditioning – for example doing something requiring skill and strength for more than 6 minutes at high intensity without slowing down or passing out.
Conditioning also implies being able to do skill and/or strength based movements multiple times.
Of course any number of ‘obstacles’ could prevent you from mastering these weaknesses.
Injury, tightness and immobility, the wrong pants, having a bad day, stress at work or home, traffic or the Del Taco burrito you shouldn’t have eaten that’s about to come up and decorate the restroom in the gym.
The worst kind of obstacle is:
“Can’t do that, so I’ll avoid it”
“I give up..I’m gonna go for a bike ride instead”
This conscious or subconscious decision to avoid a movement or a workout because you know you’re not very good at it, is ultimately a reflection of how you handle things in life when they don’t go your way.
I knew a former pro rugby player in England who was a big man. A strong, powerful big man who couldn’t overhead squat.
Every attempt to overhead squat with an empty barbell was like watching a elephant try to walk the trapeze. Graceful it was not.
Arms bent, barbell coming forward, face like someone was giving him a rectal examination… Like a car crash, you just couldn’t turn away at the spectacle.
For a professional sportsman this was a big blow to his ego. Someone who had accomplished significant results in his sport, couldn’t do a ‘simple’ movement with even an empty barbell.
Over the next 7 months however, his man demonstrated the kind of strength that made him a champion. He realized that he was pretty awful at this movement and was determined to make it ‘his bitch’.
For 10 minutes before and after every single class he attended (averaging 5 days a week) he worked on all of the coaching points that his coach told him to…
Seven months later, he kept asking me when we were doing overhead squats and snatches again…not because he was dreading the humiliation again but because he was looking forward to getting another PR each time.
It wasn’t over though when he was better at overhead squats…I found out he had a list of stuff that he was in the process of conquering. The list could possibly take him years to complete but this individual was made of tougher stuff than most.
He recently sent me an email saying that he never forgot something I said to him:
“Just because you can do something once, it doesn’t mean you can do it again or that you can do it in a workout so we shouldn’t be complacent. That’s why I love CrossFit”.
Don’t dodge your weaknesses in the gym.
It’s a reflection of how you approach things outside of the gym!
If it’s hard, work on it and your efforts will be rewarded. Maybe not in a day or a week but eventually they will. It’s how the human body has evolved over millions of years.
Don’t ignore the power of adaptation!!
Ask your coach how you can get better at your weaknesses and ask for a plan today.