Knowing what you know now about fitness, if you could go back to your past self and change some things when you were younger, would you do it? When I look back at my fitness career, it’s easy to wonder “what if.” When I wrestled, I knew nothing about proper nutrition and cut weight through dehydration and starvation, which is sadly, a common practice. When I started lifting weights, I had no program to follow, no coach, and no direction. I did a lot of “junk volume.” Looking back at my earliest CrossFit days and into my past competitive career, it’s easy to wonder how much more competitive I could have been if I had had competent coaches and if I hadn’t been forced into the administrative side of competitions during my prime. While reflecting on the past is important, it can be a double edged sword if we don’t keep the proper perspective.
What do I mean? Open WOD 23.1 provides us with a good example since it was a repeat of a WOD from 9 years in the past. For those in the gym that have been doing CrossFit that long, did your score improve, or was it worse? For me, I was 10 reps shy of my 2014 score. It can be tempting to look at this as a failure and lament the fact that maybe I’m not as fit as I was in 2014. I think this is common for anyone who has achieved a high level of fitness, not just in CrossFit. Runners may see a decline in their race times as they age. Lifters may never hit the same heavy weights they did when they were younger. Life happens, and it’s important to frame things properly.
For example – in the early 2010’s, I was in the peak of my competitive CrossFit career. I worked for the Department of Defense, which meant that when I left work, I couldn’t bring it home with me. I also hated my job, so I used CrossFit as an outlet and frequently trained 2x per day. I lived by myself and was only responsible for myself. Much of my decision making was based around CrossFit performance.
I’m not that guy anymore. I’m a father, which any parent will tell you, changes everything. I run my own business, which means I don’t have days off and work follows me constantly. I no longer have my competitive drive for CrossFit, I do it for fun. I’ve suffered several injuries since then as well. Most importantly, I had chosen to focus on strength sports and competed in those from 2014-2019, which required a deliberate shift in training.
Why does any of this matter? It can be easy to look at a decrease in a specific performance measure and beat yourself up about it. We are our toughest critics, and we have expectations of ourselves. We can also project these expectations on to other people, and worry that they may judge us for our perceived lack of performance. If you find yourself doing this, STOP. Focus on where you are now, and how to move forward from here. Kill the past if you can. If that’s not helping, then look at what’s changed in your life since your competitive prime. I guarantee you’ll find that you have more balance in your life than you did at that time.
CrossFit uses several models to illustrate their definition of fitness, one of which is the health-wellness continuum. In it, they define fitness as a kind of “super wellness.” It’s important to remember that fitness goes beyond the physical; mental is a HUGE component. If you’re less obsessed with your scores now, you’re fitter. If you no longer suffer anxiety before an Open WOD, you’re fitter. If you’re more content with your daily life because there’s more to it than exercise, you’re definitely fitter. The point of exercise is to enhance life, not to dominate it. See you in the gym.