My wife and I bought our first house last year. Initially, I got caught up in all the numbers that accompany buying a home. I was obsessed with quantifying what we were getting. How many square feet? How expensive is it per square foot? How big is the lot? Etc…
Once we found a home that was the right size, on the right size lot, at the right price, we had to get it inspected. We had to qualify the house. What do the electrical and plumbing look like? How’s the foundation? What’s up with the roof?
As CrossFitters, we often get caught up in quantifying our fitness. CrossFit defines intensity (that thing we’re always chasing) as power output (Force x Distance / Time). How much weight did I lift, how many times, and how fast?
Do those numbers tell the whole story? What happens when they stop improving? What if, instead of simply quantifying our results, we also qualify them?
Step 1: Qualify CrossFit’s 10 General Physical Skills (Cardiovascular Endurance; Muscular Stamina; Strength; Flexibility; Power; Speed; Coordination; Agility; Balance; and Accuracy) are a great place to start.
As a novice or intermediate athlete reading through that list (I include myself in the intermediate camp), there are likely a couple of those skills that you know you’re better at than others. Are you an endurance athlete that found CrossFit after years of training long distance running? Odds are, cardiovascular endurance is pretty darn good compared to your absolute strength. Maybe you’re a former powerlifter and your strength is off the charts but you struggle with overhead squats because you’re just not that flexible.
Let’s look at the first four, which we call Organic Adaptations; and the last four, which we can Neurological Adaptations.
Organic adaptations occur when we train. We can measure physiological change in our bodies when we stretch consistently or lift weights on a regular basis.
Neurological adaptations occur when we practice. The coordination and balance required to handstand walk 20 feet can only be acquired by diligent practice for a few minutes at a time, several times per week.
Strength training requires us to spend more time per session than does handstand practice, but we perform those sessions less frequently. Our bodies need time to recover from the strain of a 5x5 back squat day. Conversely, it is virtually impossible to improve our handstand or double under skills if we are not practicing them several times per week, often for just 5-10 minutes per session. The physical toll of skill acquisition and practice is often much lower than the stress of improving our strength, muscular stamina, or cardiovascular endurance.
Take a couple minutes and give yourself a grade on each of those skills. Think about specific movements where you might struggle. For example, let’s say your 1RM back squat is 190kg (Strength: A); you go unbroken on your thrusters in Fran (Muscular Stamina: A); and your 3RM overhead squat is 40kg because you have trouble achieving and maintaining a solid overhead position with the barbell (Flexibility: D).
Step 2: Prioritize Decide which of those skills do you think is most important to improve on in the near future. If you’re unsure, ask a coach! In the case of our example, flexibility takes priority.
Step 3: Plan Take ownership of those skills where you excel and attack those areas that are limiting you. In our example, you could talk to a coach about mobility drills to improve your overhead position or check out mobilitywod.com or movementrx ideas.
You can improve in many of these areas with just a few minutes of practice and training per day, especially if you are looking to acquire new skills or improve your flexibility in a certain area.
Make your plan something you can stick to: 3-5 minutes of targeted mobility or skill work before or after class every day is a great place to start!
Step 4: Act Start next time you’re in class. Tell us (your coaches) what you’re working on and ask us to hold you accountable!
Step 5: Repeat Once you’ve achieved that 20-foot handstand walk or mastered double unders, go back to those 10 General Physical Skills and see where you stand!