People often gravitate towards the familiar; we like what we’re able to do. We all have our favourite movements at Crossfit, and playing to strengths is often a good idea. But can it go too far? Are we missing out?
When I was younger, and learning to play the piano, I always had a favourite exam piece (usually the fun jazzy one). I would play it over and over, getting faster and faster, until I knew it from memory and could probably play it backwards. It became annoying to my family, and rhythmically all-over-the-place, but that’s beside the point! The joy I had playing those pieces fluently is not to be dismissed, but I know that I was choosing the easy option. Learning my scales properly would have been a far bigger achievement, and I would have become a better player.
It’s the same with Crossfit. There is great joy in a workout that consists of movements which are within your comfort zone. But Crossfit is about ‘constantly varied, high intensity, functional movement’ – it is designed to train the whole person, not just to repeat the things we find easy.
I have come to realise that part of the nature of Crossfit is being able to face the unexpected. Recently my Coach explained why he wasn’t always putting up the WOD (Workout of the Day) on the Crossfit website. He wanted to encourage people to turn up to the gym, whatever was on the programme. You don’t know what you’re made of until you delve into your weaknesses, and neither do you become a better all-round athlete.
Of course, it’s nice when workouts come naturally, though they are not the ones that I treasure the most. I’d be lying if I said that I don’t enjoy front squats – my hypermobility makes the raised elbows an easy position (although I must be careful that they don’t go too far!). But if you ask which means more to me, my smug front squats, or the first time I managed a 5km run, it would be the run every single time. I cried from exhaustion. And I cried with joy.
Playing to strengths gives confidence and pleasure. But it’s nowhere near as satisfying as when you push yourself out of your comfort zone and, through sheer hard work and determination, manage the ‘impossible’. This is only achieved through practising something that you can’t do.
I tell my brass pupils that if they don’t know what they’re trying to improve then they’re not really practising; they’re playing. Music involves playing and practising. Crossfit does too.
Play what you’re good at. Then practise your burpees.