A squat-tastic tale from Stephanie Bales
A few years ago I spent some time helping teach absolute beginners to snowboard. This can be like trying to herd kittens. Sometimes people get it instantly and there is an amazing ‘aha!’ moment when they are turning and suddenly having a good time. Then there are the people who slam on their butt fifty times in a morning. When it gets to lunchtime, those people just don’t want to come out and slam on the icy, hard pack snow all over again for the afternoon session.
These experiences came back to me when I hit the wall at Crossfit last week. Nothing dramatic – nothing went spectacularly wrong, I didn’t break any bones/equipment/world landspeed records. I just came out of the gym wanting to throw things because I’m still far from getting the proper squat form and depth, three months down the line. I’d probably rather do a weighted Turkish getup than an air squat, any day.
(For those not drinking the Crossfit kool-aid, squatting is one of the most fundamental Crossfit movements.)
Psyching myself up for my return to the gym, I tried to remember some of the tricks I’d used to try and get those beginner snowboarders to come back out on the slopes on those icy days when it didn’t feel like things were ever going to get any better. I remembered pointing out to them the tiny incremental improvements they’d made already, asking them whether they’d been able to get off a lift without bailing this morning, and pointing out that now we were all making it off mostly all the time. (Yes, it totally counts if you hold on to your instructor.)
In a similar way I tried to point these little improvements out to myself this last week. I couldn’t do a pullup with a blue band a couple weeks ago, and now I’m wondering whether Mr Red Band and I might do a dance one of these days. I also distinctly remember facing off against a yellow box as if it were a mountain a couple of months ago. (Dear blue box: I’m coming for you, buddy.) This means that every time I do a squat onto a box and get my butt a little bit closer to the proper depth, I’m getting better.
Here are my top ‘get your butt back on that box’ points to remember when you hit the wall:
1) Remember, even if you don’t feel like you’re getting better – sometimes especially when you feel that way – you are. Your muscle memory is learning to get deeper in eagle pose, your body is starting to accept that, okay, we’re just going to jump on some boxes. Whatever your sport, if you’re showing up and putting in the time, you’re getting better.
2) The ball’s in your court. Yes, great teachers help a lot, and great genes would be nice, as well, but in my case I just had to accept that, as a naturally non-flexible, bendy-spined girl, I was going to have to put in some more graft to get there. That’s okay. I’ll get there.
3) It’s supposed to be fun! (unless you are an Olympian in training, and actually, I think even then it should be fun.) If you’re no longer enjoying your sport, take a step back and ask why. It could be time to take a week out. Some fellow instructors used to tell me they no longer enjoyed snowboarding on their day off because it just felt like work, and I think that’s a real shame. Take the time to remind yourself of the things you enjoy about your sport – whether it’s an amazing, crisp blue-sky morning, or the peace you can find in a perfectly-balanced dancer’s pose, or the amazing energy flowing through a Bikram studio at 6am on a Monday morning.
4) If all else fails, pump the tunes. For me it’s bad 80s rock all the way.
Hit the wall? Sure, that’s fine. Now start climbing!