From ‘get rich quick’ schemes to ‘rapid fat loss’ our society encourages us to believe that success in whatever we choose is instantly available (for the right price).
This wonderful new world means that we really don’t have to wait anymore for anything. And so we come to expect it.
There is a cost that comes with these elevanted expectations however: patience & humility, will-power and mastery. My perception is that people are less willing than ever to take their time to learn, to push through difficulties and get really good at doing stuff.
We see this at the gym, too. People who don’t want to “waste time” doing the Level 1 programme. People who are more interested in ‘intensity’ than quality. People who try it once, find it hard and give up on the spot.
Why does health and fitness have to be something you need to achieve immediately? What will you do once you have it? Stop?
Health, fitness, strength, flexibility and so on are lifetime achievements. To crudely paraphrase Dan John, you know probably got them about right if you were able to walk to the shops on your dying day – as opposed to wasting away in a hospital bed for weeks, months…
So I ask: what’s the rush? This is long game.
Patience & humility
Our gymnastics classes are hugely popular. For those of you CrossFitters who have never been, you really should. We have four incredible coaches in Amelia, Aggie, Rachel and now Alex J. Obviously you’ll need to start in the Beginners classes.
But you’re a top level crossfitter? Still need to start in beginners.
You’re a talented martial artist, you say? Oh well, then. Beginners.
A dancer…? You know the answer.
What’s gone missing? The humility and patience to accept that you might still have something to learn. That you are a beginner in this field and that for all your ‘can do’ attitude and physical talents you should take the time to acquire the skills before progressing.
And ever better than this? You should love being a beginner. What is better than learning, and having a skilled team of coaches (and they are highly skilled at CrossFit London) helping you do this? Where else in your life are you gifted time to just learn?
Patience and humility will prepare you for the long game that is lifelong learning.
So the thing that I didn’t mention about the gymnastics classes is that they also have a sizeable drop-out rate. Every week we have brand new people booking in which wouldn’t be possible if everyone came back each week.
Why? Our coaches are great and our facilities are pretty good. There’s not much choice for adult gymnastics in London as it happens, so they’re probably not leaving us for someone else.
Well it’s because starting gymnastics as an adult – especially if you have never done it before – is hard. Really hard. I personally think it is harder than starting CrossFit, and you all know how that was.
And because it is hard, because they aren’t doing back flips and tumbles at the end of their first class, some people give up. Hey, it looked easy enough when those kids on TV were doing it, right?
If you’ve never done adult gymnastics, then substitute pull-ups or ring dips, or muscle-ups and you’ll get the idea.
Will-power is perseverance. It is making sacrifices in order to achieve the things that you want. Those sacrifices may be blood, sweat and tears, they may be doing one more rep when you feel exhausted, or they may just be saying “no” to that cookie.
But they all add up. This is a long game, after all.
A few weeks ago I was watching a class in the gym. I can’t remember what the WOD was but it involved muscle-ups as part of a triplet. One of the individuals in the session didn’t have full muscle-ups so was ‘scaling’ them…and when I say ‘scaling’ I mean doing something else entirely; some sort of jumping dip maybe?
When I challenged this and why they weren’t sticking with a muscle-up transition that they could actually do, I was informed that they wanted to “keep the intensity of the WOD up”.
Will practising 50 of those jumping dips get the individual a muscle-up? 500? 5,000? Of course not.
How can you expect to get good at something if you don’t practise actually being good at it?
(This goes for half depth air squats, caterpiller push-ups, hairline to the bar kipping pull-ups, olympic lifts with a press out at the top, and the all the half-assed stuff we do when we think no-one is watching)
Next time you get a chance, go and look at last year’s CrossFit Games footage, or high level gymnastics competition or an international olympic weightlifting meet. Look closely and notice – really notice – how well they move. Efficiently, gracefully, powerfully.
Now consider the hours, weeks, months and years that went into moving that well. You can only get that good by focusing on mastery.
Mastery is a journey, not a destination. Funnily enough, it is also a long game.
I wanted to write this article to reassure you that there is no rush; you don’t need to complete WODs with RX’d weights straight out of Level 1, you don’t need to blaze a path to Level 3 classes, and you don’t need hurt yourself in order to get that one last rep. There is nothing to rush for.
Take your time, enjoy learning, savour your battles, cherish mastery.
Life is a long game. Play it wisely.