Yesterday I came across a post from Jen Smith (here) where she can laugh at herself wearing a massive weightlifting belt during 11.3. While I had yet to make the leap and purchase into weightlifting belts during the 2011 Open, you can see that I sure exhausted all of the other gear: Headband, wrist wraps, oly shoes (early adopter), knee sleeves.
Gear. That gear guy. I was him…400lb Front Squat, but needed a belt for a 95lb thruster workout. Competition skewed so many of us in the early competitive days of CrossFit. There was more of a premium placed on scores, times, weights and performance than there was health, longevity, and correct movement. CrossFit globally still suffers from the ramifications of this thought process, and the damaging effects it had on many.
I am a firm believer in that failures, and mistakes are the best teachers. I am lucky to have made some horrible failures over the years, and then adopt new habits, standards, values, disciplines or systems to correct that issue. None have taken as long to fix as “gear guy” has. Gear is a warm blanket on a cold night to a poor-moving athlete. One that when you strip it away, leaves you feeling naked and vulnerable.
Luckily, I have constantly been utilizing my failures in the sport and pursuit of peak human performance to correct the way we do things at Friendship. This has trickled down to what some call “The Friendship Way” — basically celebrating technically sound movement and taking weight (ego) off the bar when necessary rather than grinding out bad reps. Taking people through an appropriate and in depth introductory course that dives deep into movement, mechanics, body issues, potential injury spots and nutrition. Having experienced, 5-7 year athletes remove the gear and go back to the basics in a class setting. For many of us, it seems common, but trust me when I tell you that this is rare. We are not all the way there yet, but we are making steps in the right direction.
I began adopting the Friendship Way immediately after the 2016 Regional season. We worked extremely hard that year, loads of hours, mobility, massages, chiropractor, food prep, sleep and of course….multiple training sessions. We did not work smart. To some, even me at times, that was glorified. Oh the failure of that thinking…I am so lucky to have it in my bank of failures now, so I can help others avoid it. It has taken me almost 2 full years to really turn the corner.
No belts, no oly shoes, no knee sleeves in conditioning efforts. Barefoot lifting because I have ankle and foot mechanic issues. For me, that meant taking the bar back down to 185 on back squats and starting over. I could barely squat 185 without Oly shoes or a belt. On one hand, it was hard to swallow that, on the other hand – I knew that my body couldn’t last, and frankly wasn’t improving, with the duct tape I was smacking on every day. I struggled to do an air squat when I coached due to knee and back pain….some “competitor” I was.
So, the Open will come and go this year. I will have my 9th consecutive year of competing under my belt. This year, I am the healthiest I have ever been. At 32 (33 for the Open), I am excited to have my first go at a competitive year with my only focus being: Do things the right way. PRs have come back into the fold. I have better energy, less pain and am generally a happier person. It will be fun to see what that means this year for the Open, just throwing down with my friends with no stress, no video submissions, no redos or cares in the world.
For those stuck in that “Gear Lyfe” or “PR everyday” mode, hopefully this can be a call-to-action. I promise that on the other side of the journey will be some PRs, a healthier mindset, and a revitalization of the fun of fitness for you. Start that journey:
- Meet with your coach, come to a conclusion and establish a plan.
- Tell your training partners, there needs to be full support of the plan.
- Leave the gear at home. Don’t even bring it. Barefoot or nano/metcons, thumb tape and maybe pull-up grips (rips are injuries too).
- Your motto is “If I can’t lift it without a belt on, I can’t lift it.” You haven’t really earned that strength yet…step up to a lighter weight, and earn it.
- If Oly Shoes are your thing, get on a dedicated ankle mobility, and foot/ankle strengthening program. Do it everyday for a full year. (Reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org if at Friendship).
- Stick. To. It. There will be days where you CRAVE, you NEED to beat the guy next to you, or want to do kipping pull-ups in the workout when your shoulder is tight. Don’t. Stick to your plan.
- Learn the value of a non-stressful day. We program “easy days” into your weeks at Friendship. You should also be taking easy days on your own. The value of those easy days cannot be understated. Letting your body move the joints into their end ranges in a non-stressful way, creating good blood flow and gently massaging the aerobic system allow you to recover so well. Let them be easy! ENJOY them being easy! They are easy SO you can recover…adding extra, or adding weight, or making an intentionally easy day hard is the quickest way to the “Gear Guy Grave.”