On January 21st, CrossFit West Houston turned ten years old. Ten years in business is a pretty big milestone. Big milestones offer a time to reflect on the good, the bad and the ugly. Certainly, there has been all those things in the last decade, but from all of that there were lessons. The last year was arguably one of my toughest years personally as there was lots of travel back and forth to care for my ailing parents. Losing my dad to cancer is certainly one of the most profound events of my life. But through all of that, it certainly made me want to double down on my efforts in fitness and health, especially in helping the CrossFit West Houston community drive forward to those ends. So I put together a list of ten things that were big lessons over the last decade. However, while it has been 10 years as owner of CrossFit West Houston, it has been 20 years this year in the fitness business (there may be a bonus additional ten lessons to come!).
# 10 Primal Movements Are The Basis of Any Movement
While we do many different exercises in CrossFit, they can all be traced back to just a few Primal (Basic) Movements. Most things come down to squat, hinge/deadlift, vertical/horizontal press, vertical/horizontal pull, lunge, step up and carries. These movements are combined in an array of different ways to create exercises. For instance, a thruster is a squat to a vertical press, a burpee is a squat and horizontal press. Master the primal movements and you will be successful at any movement.
# 9 Progression Is The Key To Mastery
In CrossFit there are so many things to learn from basic push-ups to Handstand push-ups, from basic pull ups to muscle ups, from basic deadlifts to snatch, from basic air squats to overhead squats. The more time you spend in the basics, the easier it will be to pick up the more advanced versions later. There are steps and progressions to move up to more advanced exercises. Master each progression and you will unlock the more advanced versions.
# 8 Bad Things Can Be Opportunities
This is a life lesson, business lesson and fitness lesson. Bad things happen all the time, credit card fraud, competitors opening right around the corner, injury, etc. It is easy to think that it can be the end of the world. But if you step back, take a few deep breaths before passing judgement on a situation, you may find that this bad thing can be an opportunity to learn and improve. Competitor opening near you can mean that you need to step your game up and improve your experience, injury is an opportunity to improve your movement, your flexibility or your stability.
# 7 Balance Flexibility And Stability
Flexibility is important in performing CrossFit, but so is stability. If someone is super tight (too much stability), they are at risk of injury. Being that tight does not allow for good positioning for leverage especially doing loaded work (barbells, sandbags, dumbells etc). Someone too stable needs more work on flexibility. Being too flexible is the opposite problem can get in a good position but cannot support the load. This person needs more stability. Flexibility without stability equals injury. Stability without flexibility equals injury.
# 6 Strength Matters
Being strong enough is advantageous. In CrossFit workouts, having requisite strength in many of the movements allows you to move in the proper intended workout stimulus. For instance, with a workout like Fran the prescribed weights are 95/65, ideally one would have the requisite strength of being able to do a front squat at twice the weight for set of five. It is also important on the gymnastics side of things as well. One should be able to do controlled sets of weighted ring dips and pull ups to have the required strength to do muscle ups. Strength provides options in life and in the gym.
Strength of mind matters. Challenge, adversity, obstacles, and struggle help to develop mental fortitude. The tests we face in life prepare us for greater tests. I am pretty convinced that going through some of the previous trials in life prepared me for having the strength and mental endurance to care for my ailing parents last year. Strive for a strong body AND mind.
# 5 Nutrition Is The Base Of The Pyramid For A Reason
Nutrition is the foundation to better performance and body composition. Proper fueling is a must. Food is the fuel that runs the machine. If you constantly fill your machine with crap then you will likely feel like crap and run like crap. Consistently eating good quality food in the right amounts leads to lasting results.
#4 Minimum Effective Dose
Fitness is addictive. Sadly, it leads to a “more is better” view, meaning long two to three-hour bouts or even two a days. The reality is unless you are training for a sport or competition you only need a minimum effective dose. Time is limited. Do not overdose. Sure signs of overdosing burn out, getting sick, sleep disruption and injury. Listen to your body, balance practice, recovery and intensity (some of that we do for you in programming).
# 3 What Comes Around Goes Around
Fitness is an interesting industry and practice. Practices come and go. Physical Culture goes from gymnastics/bodyweight to bodybuilding to aerobics to functional fitness. Almost all these things come around again. Even in CrossFit, when this movement began it was the anti-bodybuilding movement. However, as it has evolved you are seeing elements of bodybuilding coming back into play. While it is not sexy or exciting, bodybuilding has a place in functional fitness. The function is not in the bodybuilding traditional sense of building massive amounts of non-functional mass, rather its best use is to address muscle imbalance (think midback weakness and hamstrings), rehab or pre-hab joints, and just looking better in the mirror.
#2 You Can Not Out Train A Bad Lifestyle
In the early days of CrossFit West Houston, we used to have a sign that said “You can not out train a bad diet.” While this is essentially still true (see # 5 on this list), we have expanded it to include lifestyle. And by lifestyle this includes sleep, stress management, environment, relationships, habits, addictions, etc. All the above play into being a healthy, fit, and happy person. Having any of these things out of balance affects the whole being. Search for balance and peace in all parts.
#1 Always Be A White Belt
In martial arts, most consider the white belt as the beginning. It is white to represent a lack of knowledge and a clean slate in which to fill with knowledge. As one progresses through the ranks, the belts begin to have color and eventually progress to black. You might think that is the end of the journey, most true martial artist realize that is also a beginning. In other words, always keep an open mind to learning new things, even if you think that you have things figured out. Closed minds do not allow for new knowledge, innovation or skills. Seek opportunities to practice basic exercise(such as squat, hinge, press, pull, lunge/step up, carry), practice basic gymnastics movements, seek out new skills to learn (not just exercise) and be open to things that challenge your views. Be open to growth opportunities!