Today, Why Are You Here?

By: Colin Farrell

The Hero workout “Nate” is an excellent one. If you have not done it, you should give it a go.  Here it is:

AMRAP in 20 Minutes
2 Muscle-up
4 Handstand Push-up
8 Kettlebell Swing (70/53)

The swings are heavy, and both of those gymnastics movements are ones that most of us have to pace, or they disappear. But, with such a small rep scheme, it becomes so difficult to move slowly and methodically. It’s an evil trap, and it is awesome.

How are you going to tackle this thing? Do you try to keep an even pace throughout? Push it a little bit at the outset while you are still fresh? Do you scale? Are you going to break any of the reps up?

Before considering any of the above questions, you have to first answer this one: Why are you here today? There are a lot of ways to answer that one, but let us answer it in this context:  Are you here to practice, train, or compete? There is a difference, and it is crucial to not only understand that difference, but to be able to understand which you are doing every time you step into the gym.  

Simon Sinek's book, “Start with Why” is one of my all time favorites. If you haven't read it, I highly recommend it. The TL;DR version: before embarking on any pursuit, sales pitch, project, or business endeavor, it is imperative that you define your why.

So, why are you here, in the gym, today?

If you are competing, you care about your score, the clock, the weight... the whiteboard. Whether it is The Open, SuperFit, Flex on the Mall, or just the 5:30pm class on a Wednesday—if you care about the whiteboard, you are competing. Most days, most of us are competing. I want to encourage people to compete less, and do more training and practice.

If you are practicing, the whiteboard and the clock might as well not even exist. There is no score. You are spending your time in the gym putting in some work on things that need it the most. What you are doing probably doesn’t look a whole lot like what’s written in the programming that day. For example: You suck at handstand push-ups, especially during long workouts, so “Nate” is most certainly not going to be in your wheelhouse. But, that is OK because—today—you are practicing.  Here is what your “workout” looks like:

20 Minutes to Practice Kipping Handstand Push-up*
*E4MO4M Complete 1 Muuscle-up and 4 Kettlebell Swings

You don’t have a score. Whatever you do for those 20 minutes won’t get written on a whiteboard. You just need to practice that kip, and practice it while a little fatigued.

If you are training, you will be somewhere between practicing and competing. There is a clock, there is a score, but you still don’t care about what you are going to write on the whiteboard at the end of the day.  Why don’t you care? Because your score is going to be terrible, so you might as well give up on it now. You’re going to sweat, you’re going into the pain cave, but your official result will not be near what it could be if you were competing.  For example, still using the workout “Nate”... your PR on this workout is 10 full rounds. However, those last couple of rounds take awhile, it’s the muscle-ups where you get stuck. You’ve got a strong kip, and you can get over the rings, but getting out of that really deep dip just absolutely destroys you.  Luckily, today you are training and have an opportunity to work on it. Your workout looks like this:

AMRAP in 20 Minutes
1 Muscle-up + 3 Ring Dip
1 Muscle-up + 3 Ring Dip
4 Handstand Push-up
8 Kettlebell Swing

At the top of each muscle-up, you’re going to knock out a couple of extra ring dips, and they are going to be deep. And you should probably pause for a moment at the bottom of each dip, just to be sure. Is your score going to be close to a PR, are you coming anywhere near 10 rounds? Not a chance. Did you get a good workout in anyway? You sure did, and you worked on a weakness while you were at it.

As casual CrossFitters, athletes who come in each day to stay healthy and fit for the long term, we should be spending most of our days training, if we had to choose one of the three.  A far smaller proportion of our time should be spent practicing and competing. Elite-level athletes spend the hours in the gym each day to probably dabble in all three quite often, but most of us mortals only have an hour a day, and a large majority of us it is not 7 days a week (nor should we be in for 7 straight days for weeks at a time). Practice is important, but to get truly healthy and fit, we need to up the pace, and put our workouts on a clock.  Competing is important, and fun, and to assess current fitness levels we occasionally need to turn it up to 11 and stomp the gas the pedal on a benchmark workout. But, to reiterate, most of us need to spend the majority of our time training.

If you're practicing, you'll likely have a low heart rate and most of your focus for the day will be on dialing one, singular aspect of your fitness. There is no score or clock. If you're training your here to sweat and punish yourself, but there is still some focus on training weakness. Still, you don't care much for your result on the whiteboard or at all whether or not you completed the workout as prescribed. If you're competing, you have your game face on, you have a strategy, and your ready to go the distance. You're going to belt out your score at the end of class to have Amon, or Sean, or Nick put it on the board.

So, the next time you are in the gym, ask yourself, “Am I practicing, training, or competing?” Once you’ve made the decision, then begin to ask yourself how you plan to go about tackling the day’s programming. And, as ever, if you need guidance, our coaches are here for you.

Happy training.

Andrew Killion