I want to preface this post with a disclaimer of sorts. What I’m talking about here is the general, every day, intermediate CrossFit gym-goer who maybe does a competition here or there, if at all, but still wants to get better and do more advanced skills. What I’m NOT talking about is high-level competitive athletes who likely do need a specific program and coaching to match their higher-than-average goals. Carry on….
“I can’t do <insert skill here> because my gym doesn’t program them.”
This is something we hear a lot. Especially around the Open season. Here’s what happens:
Person comes to class every week and does the regularly scheduled workouts.
Person never asks for extra help or comes in early to drill muscle ups.
Person maybe comes in and jumps on the rings for five minutes every few weeks, tries muscle ups, fails.
Workout is announced that contains muscle ups.
Person spends the next five days doing incessant amounts of muscle up attempts.
Person does not get a muscle up.
Person complains and blames their coach. They can’t do a muscle up because it hasn’t been programmed all year.
You don’t need new programming to get better at skills. You need to schedule time either by yourself or with a coach to work on those skills if you want to get better at them.
Yes, you can rely on the set 1 hour classes to improve your overall fitness. When you approach those classes with intensity you WILL get better.
However, you have to remember that not everyone is there to learn how to handstand walk, or do a muscle up, and slating 20 minutes of class time to drill those skills is simply not feasible for most gyms. When you were first starting, would you want to spend 20 minutes of your class time training muscle up transitions when you couldn’t even do a pull up yet? Probably not.
Most CrossFit gyms will have gymnastics and skill work periodically programmed into the class. It may look something like this:
Every 2 minutes, for 18 minutes (3 rounds):
Minutes 1-2: 6-8 Muscle Ups, or muscle up transition work.
Minutes 2-4: 40 foot handstand walk, or partner assisted walks, or handstand wall holds, etc.
Minutes 4-6: 20 Alternating Pistol Squats, or roll to candlestick
This isn’t a bad way to allow for the individuals who HAVE these movements to spend some time working them, while forcing practice time on those who don’t. That all being said, simply waiting for these to pop up every few weeks is not going to be enough to gain those skills in any sort of reasonable time frame. You have to put in the extra time. Regularly. Consistently.
Here’s the dirty little secret about all of those magic pill programs out there. Be it nutrition, fitness, gymnastics, business, whatever. Ready? The big secret it that people get results from them because they stick to them. These programs that people spend money on get the people buying in to feel a responsibility to be consistent and stick with it. Suddenly, someone who never paid attention to what they ate is making sure they eat a certain amount of protein every day. Results happen. That guy who came in, did the WOD, and went home is staying after class and doing HSPU drills. Results. The business owner who never spent any time on social media and blogging every day, or sending out daily emails….more traffic follows. That’s all it is. These programs get people DOING something.
For example: Two years ago I signed up for a competition where one of the workouts was a max effort handstand walk. I could barely get a few feet at the time. So, instead of begging for walks to be programmed in the months leading up to the competition, I took it upon myself instead. After every single class, for the two months leading up to the competition, I would walk 40 feet. However long it took, however many times I had to kick back up. Little by little I got better. I ended up getting 24ft at the competition, which I was really happy with.
It sounds simple because it is. There’s no MAGIC program that is easy and super fun and will get you the ‘stupid human tricks’ in no time. It’s doing the simple shit over and over and over and over. If you are working towards a muscle up, you have to set aside time OFTEN to work on it, for more than a few minutes here and there when you feel like jumping on the rings.
If you have specific goals, you need specific help. You need to spend time on it outside of the hour of class.
The program should allow for more advanced athletes to be challenged, while helping coach up the fundamentals and fitness of the general gym population.
Getting caught in the ‘I need a better program’ thing is a trap. Don’t have some fancy party trick skill yet? It’s not your gyms programs fault, or your coaches fault. It’s your fault. It’s your fault for not asking for help. It’s your fault for not putting the EXTRA work in. For not staying after class, or coming in 20 minutes early. For not asking your coach for help with these movements.
Now, I will say that if you ARE asking your coach for extra help…if you ARE going in a few days a week and specifically training drills and skills for the specific goal that you set…if you’ve been doing this for months…and months…and still have not achieved your goal. Sure. Maybe it’s time to look at a new program. Situations like these, however, are few and far between. What’s more common, is people want to get high-level skills but are not willing to put the amount of work in (because spoiler: it’s a lot).
To the coaches. We can’t pass the buck, either. If we have athletes under our preview who are unhappy with their progress, it’s our job to point them in the right direction. When folks come to us and express their goals, we have to give them more than a passive, ‘just work on it’. We need to give them something to do. Maybe you are able to offer one on one skill sessions. Maybe they have a few friends with the same skill in mind that you can turn into a small specialty training group. If neither of those are options, simply offering ten minutes worth of ‘extra’ work the they can do before or after each class. That might mean we have to do some poking around to have something to offer. So yeah, it means some extra work for us as well.
We all need to collectively get away form the ‘it’s everyone’s fault my mine that I don’t have all of the things that I want to have. In everything, really. This isn’t just about CrossFit. We have to start taking responsibility and accountability for our lives, our health, and our fitness. Stop pointing the finger and assigning blame. Stop looking to answers outside of yourself. No one can solve these problems for you. You have to get it done yourself. No one can put the hours in for you. No one can do the drills for you. You have to do them yourself. Your sweat. Your boring, repetitive drills. Your job. Yours.