ASK ERIN: is this for me?

23 May

When you first start CrossFit, I’m pretty sure everything looks like this.

Hi Erin-

Thank you again for being such a great coach!  
I am having doubts about my ability to be anything but mediocre at Crossfit.  I left (almost) every class feeling weak and sorry for myself..   
I am definitely motivated by your enthusiasm for me to join, but are you sure this is for me?  I trust I am not the only person that has ever come to you with similar concerns. 
I know you are busy, but if you have a moment I would really appreciate your honest feedback.
Thanks so much.

So, let me say first that the feelings you are having are very familiar (to me personally) and also very common in the world of those who want to begin CrossFit, and who want to see what this world of crazy tall-sock-wearing people holds, but can’t seem to imagine how to get from A to Z.

I started CrossFit with a background in sports, a sincere interest to learn as much as I could, and honestly… nothing much else! I didn’t have a pull-up (not even close). I still characterize myself in terms of Gimli, the dwarf from the Lord of the Rings – “I’m wasted on cross-country! We Dwarves are natural sprinters, very dangerous over short distances.” I could barely overhead squat a bar and it kind of hurt to do so. I had no idea what Olympic Lifting was and I had never done a THING with a kettlebell before. I thought you would ACTUALLY die if you did 100 pullups, 100 pushups, 100 situps, and 100 squats (a workout I have now done in about 20 minutes). I nearly fainted the first time I tried to do a handstand longer than 20 seconds and I was also sure that I would definitely be embarrassing myself if I ever tried doing anything really hard in public – I mean, no one looks right when they’re squatting large amounts of weight. And for a while until I really mustered up the guts, I was really almost content to go on being some nobody in a gym with lots of mirrors, scarily skinny girls running on treadmills, and creepy dudes grunting in the basement.

The truth of the matter is that CrossFit, and I hope specifically CFCC, is really a place where a bunch of nobodies have come to become somebodies. Every person here started out unsure of their strengths, but extremely conscious of their weaknesses. The general progression is that each one of us, slowly but surely, one workout by one workout, one push-up by one push-up just does what’s in front of us… and that this leads to a development of a seed within each of us that we did not know existed.

I never expected to be able to do muscle-ups. I never expected to make it to 13th at the Regional Level of the CrossFit Games. I never expected to be able to clean well over my bodyweight, or snatch pretty dang close to it, or win a PA title in my weight class.  I never expected to love 20+ minute long “chippers” – workouts where you cut through a series of many tasks at a time.  I never expected to be a full 20lbs. lighter than I was without CrossFit. I never expected to OPEN and own a CrossFit gym. 

All of these things sprung from those few things that I had at the very beginning: a background, and a desire to learn.  To that I’d add that time, great teachers, and good friends have done more than just talent ever could.

Here is SPECIFICALLY why I think you fit into this category, but in the end, you know you much better than I do at this point!

1. From what I can tell, your mobility limitations are few. This is HUGE plus.  You have a little trouble getting into the bottom position of the squat, but not much else going on from there that is limiting.  Anything that should be fixed, will make you a more fit person for EVERYTHING in your life.  My principal on that is, if you’re not doing CrossFit, you should be doing something that at least pushes you towards doing the things that you will need to all your life: squat, pick up things (babies? suitcases?) from the ground, and put them over your head.

2. No you don’t have a pull-up, but YES you do have a basic level of conditioning.  Sometimes, when we give someone an easier variation of a movement, say… Ring Row vs. Banded Pull-up, the person takes this to mean that when they finish quickly the workout wasn’t that hard for them.  This couldn’t be farther than the truth.  When I give you a less tough version of a movement sometimes that is because I want to test your ability to bring intensity to a workout. That variation is relatively just as hard for you as it is for anyone else… you just literally finished faster with the same perceived percentage of what should have been harder for you! In a lot of cases, you were able to bring an amount of focus to your training that led you to finish first in the conditioning workouts, and some pretty keen attention to the details of your form as well – if I asked you to complete a movement one way, you really stuck to it!  Even if it was hard!  That kind of integrity and intensity is not easy to find – and it is, in my opinion, the mark of a committed athlete. 

3. You are going to be very strong.  You can’t tell right now, because everything is hard to apply your already existing strength to. You also can’t tell right now, because you won’t automatically be strong in EVERY position.  People who are THE BEST at deadlifting, squatting, benching, pressing, and Olympic Lifting (Clean n’ Jerk, Snatch) are not always the best at running, pull-ups, and push-ups!  The great thing about CrossFit though is that when you are strong, this is a place to embrace that as an asset!  When you are weak in other ways, this also a place where we don’t let you settle for that!  If you can get behind that idea – then you definitely belong here.

4. I can tell that you are not satisfied… and believe me, even though that’s not an awesome feeling – it is ALL you need to find yourself in a COMPLETELY different place in as little as a month.  The best athletes want more.  They want to be good at everything at once.  They want to come out on top when they can and do better next time when they don’t.  I think you’ve got this in you just because I do – it’s kind of a hunch.  Maybe it’s that the folks watching the Biggest Loser are clearly people who are into the idea of REAL change (even if it’s come by SUPER quickly for some and not-so-much in real life for others).  I absolutely LOVE that Bob Harper is responsible for sending you through our doors!  And just like all good Coaches should, I am obsessed with potential. I don’t doubt yours one bit when I see you train here.  

5. If you feel you need it, there is a community of Coaches and Members who are hugely supportive of each other here.  They know where you’re coming from and they are more than willing to relate to you as you struggle with learning so much and forming new habits. They will laugh with you when you inevitably load your barbell incorrectly a few times. They will high-five you when you get your first pull-up.  They will text you when they see your name at the top of the board every now and then (and who knows, maybe always???)  There is a Foundations class for those who feel they need it which simplifies our sessions and every Coach is also totally open to speaking with you about how best to attend CFCC to mold it to your own goals.  All you ever need to do, is ask!

All this said, and I apologize if this is TERRIBLY long-winded or too personal compared to what you were looking for – being concise is not my strong suit –  I hope you know that I definitely think you will love it here AND do well.  I’m in this business because I LIVE for the potential I see in others – it’s literally what makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up!  I’m also fine with whatever you decide is best for you! What I hope you will do is NEVER be satisfied with less than your best, but ALWAYS know that what you bring today, is more than enough to get you there.  If you ever need someone to help you plan that more specifically, never hesitate toask – that’s what I’m here for!



6 Responses to “ASK ERIN: is this for me?”

  1. arrus May 23, 2012 at 8:41 pm #

    Well said E, I feel the love everyday at CFCC!

  2. Kate May 23, 2012 at 9:17 pm #

    ummmmm DITTO! i ❤ cfcc

  3. phillyattorney May 23, 2012 at 10:30 pm #

    x – I was feeling the same way when I started crossfit 2 years ago. Now, I can do things that I couldn’t imagine I would be able to do when I first started.

  4. Annie Stone May 24, 2012 at 2:27 pm #

    Are you having expectations of yourself that are unrealistic at the moment? It can set you up for feeling like you “can’t”. Believe you “can” and continue doing the workouts and everything will change. CFCC is the best place to help you progress. The caring and attention you get to champion YOU is fantastic. Be your own “champion” hang in there!


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