So every Friday my CrossFit Box performs one of the various Benchmark WOD’s that riddle the sport with the chance to measure your fitness and improvement. The idea is that you do the WOD, let’s say, on this particular Friday, that it is Diane (21-15-9 of Deadlifts and Handstand Push Ups for time). The idea is that you perform Diane to the best of your abilities today and when it comes up again three months from now, you see how much your time improved, how much closer you are to doing it Rx, or how far over Rx you can do it. My goal is always to do a heavier weight and see a lower time, or at the very least not have my time go up by much.
I participated in the LuRong Paleo Challenge this year and one of the best WOD’s that came along with the clean eating was 21-18-15-12-9-6-3 of Deadlifts, Box Jumps, and Wall Balls. That was a few months ago. When I retested this WOD three weeks ago, I added thirty pounds and my time went up by a minute. I will take that sort of improvement. If you ask me, and I’m sure many would agree, that’s not a bad trade off. That minute is worth it.
It’s a strange dynamic, being patient with your fitness. You have to commit so much time to it. You have to be willing to go into the gym, do the work and do it as well as you can, and you have to be willing to do that often and withe consistency. Anything less simply does not work. Unless you’re a genetic freak, but how many of us actually are?
I remember when I started working out three years ago, I would work at it for a month, not see the results I was certain should have been happening and get discouraged and want to quit. I would become convinced that there was something I was missing. Even to the point of telling myself that maybe I was just genetically inclined to be almost four hundred pounds for the rest of my life.
What I was missing was the right level of patience. Genetically speaking, my family is a little heavy. Well, some of us are. Some of us are also small as sticks. But as for me and my father, well, we’re broad shouldered and barrel chested. I have a 32 inch waist and you can see my hip bones. My shoulders poke off the sides of the seats in my car and my chest is something like 38 inches around. I’m a big guy. I hide weight well.
Now, I’m not a huge fan of watching the scale anymore. I go by how I feel, how my clothes fit, and how I perform in the WOD’s (at the recommendation of the head coach at CrossFit Thunder. Thanks, Drew!). But when I first started exercising, I should have looked at the scale more. You see, when you have a bigger build, you can honestly hide weight, in a way. The first time I kept track of pounds lost, I lost twenty in six weeks and the only physical difference I saw was that my double chin was a little smaller. That’s it. No one told me or even noticed that I had started working out until maybe the forty or fifty pound mark because they couldn’t tell. I literally looked exactly the same until that much weight had been lost. I may not look at the scale anymore, but what looking at it taught me was that patience comes through progress and progress comes through patience.
21 days, It takes 21 days to form a habit. I always tell people that if you can just make yourself exercise and be careful about what you eat for a month, just one month, you will be hooked. Think about it; thirty days? What is that? That’s a blip on the screen that shows your life. It’s nothing, but that nothing can lead to a life changing habit. It can lead you to something better. When I got serious about losing the last fifty pounds I really wanted to, I challenged myself: go to the gym everyday for six weeks. All seven days out of the week. Spend six days working out hard and then on that seventh day, just get some kind of movement in (I played racquetball or basketball or would spend thirty minutes kickboxing). I’d been working out for a year and a half already and I’ll be damned if that challenge didn’t about burn me out. It was hard some days to crawl out of bed and go to the gym and lift weights for an hour or two and then do an hour of cardio. It was hard to drive home and pass Wendy’s and other fast food and not stop to eat. It was difficult to shop on only the edges of the grocery store. I wanted to binge eat. I wanted to cheat every day. But I grit my teeth and kept chipping away at the challenge. (Interestingly enough, my favorite type of WOD’s are Chippers. Filthy Fifty and Fight Gone Bad are my favorites).
Here’s what happened: I lost the weight… but I also ended up going to the gym for two months straight like that. Two full months. I completely forgot about the challenge. That’s because in the fourth week, I started to see and feel the changes. I fell in love with the weights and my body had developed the urge, or need, whichever you prefer to use when describing a habit, to go to the gym everyday. I just… needed to now. It wasn’t even a conscious choice I was making. I would get up, put on gym clothes, and go. That was that. I actually remember taking my first full rest day and thinking that I was going to crawl out of my own skin. It was terrible.
Of course, I’m still in love with exercise. Even more so since I found CrossFit, to be honest. But I have found the value in the rest day and have come to appreciate that “active rest” is a thing. So maybe instead of a full 24 hours off, just do some easy-intervals of five hundred or two-fifty on the rower. Maybe hop on the AirDyne bike for a bit. Hell, I love to run, my active rest days are usually made up of an easy trail run where I’m not trying to burn myself out, just trying to work up a sweat.
Either way, I’ve learned to be more patient with myself when it comes to fitness. I’ve realized that really taking the time to appreciate where you’re at and what you’re doing will allow you to move forward beyond it. If you’re constantly in a place of resentment towards your lifting numbers or mile time, you’re competition can become negative internally. It goes from being a challenge to yourself to being a fight inside of you. Sure, when you’ve had a bad day, use some of that annoyance or anger lift some of the weight for you, but every time that barbell hits the ground, let that negative energy seep out of you a little bit more. Anger only leads to more anger and anger has no place in a place of self-improvement like a CrossFit Box. Staying zen and having fun. Those are my two biggest philosophies when I walk into the Box. “Find your happy place,” as my coach told me while doing wall sits the other night. Fitness is a happy life style. It’s an occasion for joy and enjoyment.
What staying zen and enjoying yourself allows you to do is stay constructive and, more importantly, patient. If you actively enjoy what you’re doing, you’re not going to be wildly disappointed when maybe you miss the lift and have to stay ten pounds lighter for a few weeks longer. You’re going to understand that you’ll be able to lift what you want one day. You’ll be able to clean your body weight and back squat double your body weight. You will and you can. You just have to build to it and enjoy the ride.
Patience leads to progress and at the same time, seeing that progress can make you more patient. You see that what you’re doing is working. You can feel that taking your time and not getting too worked up about what’s happening in your log book is the right thing to do. It’s the positive and healthier thing to do, psychologically and physically.
Sure, challenges are awesome. They’re great. But what’s even better? Staying calm, doing Diane, and then after three months of enjoying yourself, hitting the Rx weight. Trading anger and stress for an Rx weight and feeling of accomplishment?
Yeah… that trade off is definitely worth it.