The men and women who compete at the CrossFit Games each year are the pinnacle of fitness. They can hoist monstrous weights over their head, move faster on their hands than some of us on our feet and they are able to repeat these efforts multiple times in a given day for consecutive days. We get to see their feats on a daily basis, just scroll through any of their Instagram pages and you will see right away how talented they are. This usually beckons the question, “how do I get to that level?” The answer is actually really simple, it is just a question of whether you can handle the simple and mundane routines that they follow.
There are three key qualities, in my opinion, that take an athlete to the next level:
Being a good student is not simply paying attention in class and following directions. The separator from a well-behaved student and someone who is a great learner is that they continuously implement the lessons into their routines. For an example, let’s take an athlete who has technical issues in an olympic lift (snatch or clean & jerk) and a coach offers some drills or tips on how to correct it. A well behaved student will incorporate those drills/tips for that day and be satisfied with the micro-success of the day. The likelihood that they were able to master the new technique in a one hour session is very unlikely (although life would be pretty grand if that were the case). This is where athletes who are the best learners will see more improvement; a good learner will absorb the given information and continue drilling it every time it comes up in the programming. They will repeat this for days, weeks, sometimes months until they feel that the skill has truly been mastered.
Dedication is a word whose severity is sometimes undervalued. Lots of athletes are dedicated, lots of athletes show up 5 days a week to train and lots of athletes work hard when they are in the gym. The difference between a dedicated athlete and the level of dedication that has gone into qualifying for the CrossFit Games is that, theirs is around the clock. It never shuts off. Everything they do has a purpose; what they eat, how they warm up, how much sleep they get, it all has a purpose. An athlete who is looking to qualify for the Games or an athlete who is looking to do the Open RX will need more than just a few hours per week of training hard. Ring muscle ups show up in the class programming, you don’t have one yet. Coach goes through some drills to begin working on that skill and so you do those drills for 15 minutes, but it stops there. The likelihood that the next time muscle ups are programmed and you’re going to get one is unlikely. Just as with any skill, they take time and practice to master. A certain level of dedication is required to eventually land yourself on top of those rings without any assistance.
The ability to see the big picture is a combination of being a good learner and having unparalleled dedication. An athlete who is able to see into the future understands that all of the drills, movements and workouts will help lead to future successes. This allows them to maintain a certain level of dedication, they know that one day their hard work will pay off. This is the limiting factor for a lot of athletes; they either do not understand how what they’re doing now will benefit them down the road or they don’t care. Take an athlete who is exceptionally strong, but has some movement issues that could lead to an injury or overall bad movement patterns. One day the programming calls for establishing a 1 rep max back squat, but coach says he/she would prefer them to work some technique sets at lower weights. An athlete who fails to see the big picture will opt to chase that new PR, no matter what the costs. An athlete who can see into the future will understand that setting aside the ego for the day to focus on higher movement quality will pay dividends in the long run.
In the end, CrossFit Games athletes have a lot of intangibles that help make them the incredible athletes that they are. However, that doesn’t mean that the same basic principles that help yield their successes cannot be applied to our practices to boost our performances. Game’s athletes are some of the best learners who don’t just nod their head to what the coach is saying, but they regularly implement those lessons into their training. This leads to their unparalleled dedication. These athletes don’t settle for the few hours spent in the gym to be enough; they focus on better recovery, nutrition, sleep and are not content only practicing something once to accomplish their goals. Lastly, these athletes can see into the future. They are aware of what they are doing now, will only benefit them in the long run. So, whether you’re looking to be an athlete at 2019 CrossFit Games or just tryna stay fit, start implementing these three traits into your training. You might be surprised at how even the most simple and mundane things can lead to greater successes.