Kris and I believe strongly in the idea that all of us (coaches, experienced athletes, newbies, and everyone in between) should continually be striving to learn as much as we can in order to improve our knowledge and athletic performance. CrossFit is such an inclusive program that in order to really master the movements of gymnastics, powerlifting, olympic lifting, running, rowing, and more, we have to be patient, open-minded, and ready to learn at all times. We may never be the best at any one sport, as that isn’t the aim in CrossFit training, but we sure don’t need to settle for stopping at a basic level of understanding–we should all be aiming to continually improve across the board. It’s easy to make quick gains when you’re new to something, but in order to see progress for years and years, it’s crucial to ask ourselves, how coachable am I? Am I constantly seeking a deeper understanding and open to changing the way I’ve been doing things, no matter how comfortable they’ve become, in an effort to be a better athlete down the road? Do I ask for help when I have questions or when I want to know how my form is looking?
Being coachable means accepting that we don’t know everything about everything. It’s easy to say, I know how to run, I’ve been running for years. I am fast enough–I don’t need to change the way I run. Or, I know how to squat. I can squat X amount of weight, and I’ve squatted thousands of times; therefore, I don’t need a lecture on the basics of squatting. But being coachable means always being ready to review the basics, listening carefully for new tips and cues, trying to play around with our positions and technique (sometimes to our benefit, and other times not) just to see if it makes any difference. There are times when changing the way we are doing something doesn’t pay off with immediate gains, but it may make us better, more efficient, safer athletes in the long run.
For example, for years I snatched with my grip too narrow. I got comfortable with my grip and was too stubborn to change it, even though the bar would never make it to my hips. Once I accepted that I needed to really hone in on my technique in order to make further gains, I had to make several changes to the way I’d gotten used to doing things. Initially, I couldn’t move as much weight with the new setup, and I had to practice at lower weights until the new form started to feel more natural, but ultimately this is what will make me a better lifter. It can be frustrating when change doesn’t produce immediate results or even makes an athlete take a few steps backwards before progressing, but this is a necessary part of the training process.
Kris and I had the pleasure of hosting the CrossFit Endurance seminar a few weeks ago, and we spent many hours practicing POSE running drills, which require very different movement patterns than we are used to. I can bet that if we ran a 5k tomorrow trying to use the new skills we learned, we’d be much slower than our personal records. If we were only looking at our training one day at a time, this would seem like a negative impact on our running–we’d be slower than before. However, if we can practice enough to become comfortable with the new form, we will not only become more efficient, faster runners, but we’ll do so with less risk of injury. In the long term, efficiency and technique pay off. Remember this when we start incorporating running drills into your warm-ups and workouts. The payoff may not be immediate (in fact it may seem counterproductive at first glance if you are moving a little slower than before), but we are after long term mastery.
I have been CrossFitting for over four years now, and I feel like I’m coming across new information and new ideas all the time. Kris and I are taking every opportunity to learn from experts in different areas. I’ve already shared some of the insights I got out of the strongman course we took up in Washington, and over the past few weeks, we’ve had the chance to learn from some other amazing coaches. The USAW course we took at Cal Strength in San Ramon helped us refine our lifting positions. The CrossFit Endurance course gave us new ways to work on running and training endurance athletes. Coming up in the next few months, we’ll be taking Kelly Starrett’s CrossFit Movement and Mobility Seminar in Napa on February 28th. Then in March, we are hosting the CrossFit Powerlifting Course. We are excited to learn from so many amazing coaches each with different backgrounds and perspectives. We encourage anyone who is serious about becoming the best athlete they can be to seize opportunities like these to get exposed to as many coaches and ideas as possible. I get excited every time I hear about a new opportunity to become a better coach and athlete. While many of you may not want to devote the time and money to specialty courses, you can reap plenty of benefits from simply working on your ability to be coachable during classes. Ask for someone to come check your form when you’re about to perform a lift, listen carefully to tips and cues, and remember that every coach has their own way of explaining things and thinking about things; some may resonate with you more than others, but take them all in and see what works best for you.
So many articles on the internet these days are focused on arguing about the right way to squat, the best lifting positions, the perfect gymnastics progressions, etc., claiming there is one right way to do something and attacking philosophies that don’t match their own. We can all rant about what we think we know, but perhaps there is more to gain from priding ourselves on our abilities to be coachable, to keep an open mind, to try new ways of doing things, and to continually learn from what each other has to offer.